My good buddy Rudyard Kipling once said, “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” There might have been a bit of singing but it was more like “Oh, me achin’ back,” as students, staff and faculty worked together this weekend to replant the slope in front of admissions. I mean, I’m not talking about pulling a couple weeds and separating some lilies. This was like planting a whole spanking new ecosystem, a veritable miniature Amazon jungle that will probably double the biodiversity on campus and reverse global climate change.
I’m talking about bending over and planting 2,000 little plants of 30 species, all of them from native plant communities like the “sunny, rocky, weather-beaten outcrop where almost nothing can grow” community. Professor Jenny can’t wait to bring her botany classes down to peer at all of these little guys through impossible little hand lenses. Okay, so right now it looks like a whole lot of bark mulch with some little plantlets poking out, but by this time next year it should be a mighty inviting entrance to the college.
Just when Marlboro students are feeling like their entire universe has shrunk down to the neutron star known as Potash Hill, with 800 pages of Dostoevsky to read and a density equivalent to a Boeing 747 compressed to a grain of sand, an inspiring event awakens them to the wide, wonderful world around them. I’m not talking about the Democratic National Convention, or the Paralympic Games in London, or the world premier of Resident Evil: Retribution, or even National Grandparent’s Day. No, I’m talking about the 30th annual Marlboro Community Fair, five miles down the road on the ol’ Muster Field.
Yup, along with the usual displays of heirloom tomatoes and misshapen zucchinis and dwarf rabbits and crocheted doilies and hard cider and other cool stuff, there was a hearty delegation of students and other college community members in evidence. In the community tent, students in anthropology professor Carol Hendrickson’s Food and Culture class (right) were collecting local recipes to include in the revised version of a Marlboro community cookbook. There were amazing photos of the new college greenhouse, scheduled for completion this fall, and the farm committee served up yummy salted cucumber slices. Appreciative fairgoers nibbled on the latter while they watched the world premier of a dirt-shattering new video on the farm, which you should totally check out if you missed. A great line-up of music featured the MacArthur Family (aka retired physics professor John MacArthur’s kids, including health center manager Megan Littlehales ’82, and John’s great-grand-daughter Ava on ukelele (right)).
The weather for the fair was less than agreeably fair, maybe unless you are a misshapen zucchini, but that did not dissuade students from participating in th’ fun ‘n’ games like the skillet toss (for women, or men who are willing to wear a dress) and the nail-pounding contest. Philosophy professor William Edelglass led the egg toss with an iron fist, so to speak, and everyone was so drenched from the rain it was hard to tell when their eggs drenched them. But the highlight was the tug of war, where Marlboro students, and William of course, pitched the full weight of their reasoning against the giggling masses of all the rain-soaked elementary school students in attendance. After several close matches, with mixed teams on both sides, this orderly and dignified activity totally regressed into the youngsters ceremoniously dragging anchorman and freshman Brandon Batham around the field.
Let’s just forget for the moment that T.S. Eliot considered the last two lines of John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” to be a blight upon an otherwise lovely poem. Keats wrote: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Okay, let’s also forget that the quote is craftily lifted from Sir Joshua Reynolds, an 18th century English painter. Finally, and this is my favorite, let’s ignore the fact that our man Keats distilled this fetching bit of wisdom, with the sleek simplicity of a mathematical proof, from contemplating a dusty old vase. At face value, I mean really, can you imagine a finer description of beauty than John’s?
If you can, and you happen to live in the captivating psychological thriller known as the teenage years, you might want to consider submitting your idea to the Marlboro College Beautiful Minds Challenge. I know, I know, it sounds a little un-Marlboro to have some sort of cleverness competition for high schoolers, but just consider it an exercise in thinking like a Marlboro student. The object is to come up with something you think is beautiful, whether that’s an “Ode on a Double Latte,” or a computer program that randomly generates the mating calls of all known mammals, or a kinetic sculpture of the Big Bang constructed entirely of matchsticks. You know, the kind of crazy, way-out-of-the-box, cross-multi-inter-disciplinary, Virginia-Woolf-meets-Miles-Davis thinking that so permeates the Marlboro mind.
And if you do not live in that captivating psychological thriller known as the teenage years, perhaps you know someone who does, someone who occasionally casts you in a cameo role as the schizophrenic landlord or village half-wit. And perhaps an “Ode on a Double Latte,” or an ode to some other similarly enlightening vessel, might be right up their alley. Finalists will be invited, expenses paid, to a student symposium right here on th’ Hill, and first prize is $1000 or enough for a Grecian urn full of lattes. I kid you not—beautiful, eh? And that is all ye need to know.