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Four Years at the Mount

On the Promise of Spring

March 2015

A mountain of gold

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

There once was a man who lived on a mountain. His modest house sat at the end of a narrow lane that wound its way through the surrounding woods. The man had lived there, with his wife, for such a long time that they had become a constant presence to the few neighbors that knew of their existence. The man adored his wife and loved the home and life they had built together in their little pocket of the world.

They moved into their modest home after they were married forty-nine years ago. They experienced lifeís hardships and pleasures; the peaks of their marriage helped them through the valleys.

Life on their mountain was a simple one. They had a small garden and whatever else they needed could be retrieved from the town that lay a few miles away. By then, they knew most of the trees and the flowers that grew on their mountain by both sight and name; the man knew that the Silver Maple and Aspen were the first to announce the autumn and that the crocuses would proclaim the coming of spring.

It seemed that this mountain was made especially for them. They had become a part of the life that surrounded them, and year by year, they learned how to survive the elements. Together they had been there through the bitterest winters and the most scorching summers, and they loved every moment.

Years passed and the man and his wife watched as the verdurous summers were set alight with the colors of fall, how the silent winters melted into the familiar sounds of spring. The man loved how the trees turned scarlet in the fall and how the pines and spruces added their fragrance to the cold winter air. He loved how the trees cooled down even the hottest of summers. But while he loved each season in its turn, he treasured spring the most.

During these months, he would wander through the surrounding woods and watch how the sunlight found its way through the lush canopies just to spatter the ground with its golden light; sometimes he would fall asleep against a rock, warmed by the sun, as the birds sang and chattered around him like a symphony. It was during one of these outings the man had an idea.

His wife noticed a change. In the late summer, he would come home late in the evening, his face sun-kissed, smiling like a fool, and hands smelling of freshly turned earth. She would ask him what he was doing and he would just smile as if he had some private joke and say, "Not much at all."

It came to be their new routine until the trees caught fire with the coming autumn and the manís excursions dwindled until they stopped altogether. The winter was harsh and bitterly long, and the manís wife started to notice an unusual air of impatience that hung around her husband. Every so often, she would catch him looking out the window, as if the seemingly endless snow would vanish if he just stared at it long enough. Alas, the winter lasted, and it was not until late March that the weather finally changed. It was not until then that God flipped a switch and turned on spring.

With the warm weather, Mother Nature realized it was time to decorate the world with new blooms and fill the air with their fragrant perfumes. Almost immediately, crocuses could be seen pushing through the frozen ground and buds started to appear on every tree and bush. As the snow melted, so too did the manís impatience, and his wife soon realized why.

She finally saw what it was he was doing those late summer evenings. In almost every place touched by the sunlight lay clusters of daffodils. Watching their lofty green stems proudly bearing up their golden heads, the wife looked in awe as they danced in the wind. Watching as they rippled in the warm breeze, she imagined music rising out of the aureate trumpets and joining with the melodious symphony of the birds. She smiled and looked to her husband, who held in his hand a bundle of the flowers that seemed to be made out of sunlight. She took them in her hands and inhaled their sweet, delicate, perfume, and together they stood grinning proudly out on the veins of gold that dotted their land.

Every year, as summer reaches its end, the man will come back to his house and his wife, face sun-kissed, smiling like a fool, and hands smelling of freshly turned earth. Together they will wait as the flaming trees of autumn are cooled by the winter wind and as the melting snow awakens the sleeping buds of spring. They will watch as little by little, and year by year, the number of gilded trumpets grows, and one day they will look out and see their mountain has turned to gold.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


The promise of spring

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

I open my eyes, take a deep breath, and literally breathe it all in. The automatic doors shut behind me and I feel the weight of my suitcase hanging from my left arm.

I look around me and everyone is movingóhurrying toward the busses, waiting to bring people to the parking lot, running into the arms of anxiously waiting family members, or walking with friends, ready to accept reality again after tropical vacations. All of this is happening in a whirlwind around me as I stand outside baggage claim 11 at Baltimore-Washington International Airportóoverwhelmed, anxious, and excited for the next three months of adventure.

Now, you may ask, who goes to Maryland for an adventure? Well the truth is Iím not really here for an adventure; Iím here to study for a semester away from home. I have spent the last 20 years in Flagstaff, Arizona and my mom finally told me around Thanksgiving that I donít need to stay at home to take care of the dogs anymore. That sounds ridiculous. It was a real problem. I live at home with my single mom and six high maintenance Chihuahua puppies. I love them, but my social life and calendar has always suffered at the paws of these dogs. I guess I whined enough and my mom hired a 15-year-old boy to come take care of them for a few months before and after school. As it turns out, Iím a little protective over my dogs and Iím not sure how this makes me feel.

Okay, I could go on for hours about life at home. Thatís not the point.

The point is, Iím standing outside of baggage claim 11, ready to take on Maryland with absolutely no idea what lies ahead. Iím concerned about strange things. I donít think Flagstaff has adequately prepared me for the light rail system of Baltimore or the obnoxious amount of seafood that they eat on the Eastern Shore. Luckily, Iíll be spending most of my time in a town calledÖwell, I canít remember the name right now. Iím a little nervous, but I donít think it will be too bad. My biggest concern is the weather.

I donít know how to dress for this place.

I didnít know what to pack, or what to buy.

I looked at the weather app on my iPhone every day for the past few months and there seems to be no pattern at all.

I look on Facebook at what my Internet friends are wearing and I see hats and scarves one day and windows down on the Jeep the next day.

So instead of trying to figure it out, or over pack, I got overly stressed and just barely packed anything. I guess weíll take it day by day as the weather seems to do. Supposedly this place is so great because there are four distinct seasons, and Iím excited to experience this as long as it happens slowly and I have enough time to get to a Wal-Mart in between seasons.

Iím getting distracted again; letís get back to standing outside of baggage claim 11.

Iím standing still, a little cold, looking around for my ride, when suddenly it hits me. Iím cold and everyone around me is wearing short sleeves. Iím anxious for a new beginning and most people around me are returning to their comfortable Maryland home. Iím taking my first independent steps as spring begins. Itís not just a fresh start for me; itís a new beginning for everyone.

Thatís whatís so great about this season of spring, at least from what I can tell so far! Everything is beginning again, everything from the grass to the graduating class gets a new start. The flowers bloom as people come out of the cold months and use the Easter season to better their own lives. Itís a time of renewal, allergies, spring break, Lenten promises, spring cleaning, and spiritual, physical, and emotional cleansing. Too often itís a time spent in a constant state of anxiousness for the coming summer months when we should be marveling in the wonder that is the first fresh cut lawn smell or the rejuvenated vibe present all around.

So yes, Iím nervous. Iím nervous for a new beginning in a strange place with strange people. Well, hopefully the people wonít be too strange. Iím nervous but I know that just as the season begins with a fresh air about it, so too will my experience. If only I had the constant knowledge of an impending spring season to serve as a reminder of new beginning characterized by color, beauty, and innocence.

I may not have all the clothes I need; I may end up severely underdressed some days or homesick for my mom and dogs. I might get lost on all this public transportation or cry until I make a friend. Regardless, I will remember this moment, the moment I realized taking on a new experience is no different than preparing ever February for the next season. So now here I stand with a new mindset, outside of baggage claim 11, prepared to face this exhilarating and nerve-wracking experience with an unparalleled gratitude for the simple promise of spring.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary


Bundles of daffodils

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

Gavin sat in the living room, looked outside the window, and sighed. His mother looked up from her magazine and rolled her eyes, "Gavin, you are only grounded for a week. Stop acting like it is the end of the world." Gavin kept his fixation outside, knowing that arguing with mom would only make him become grounded for longer since it was what got him in trouble in the first place.

Gavinís house was situated in a beautiful neighborhood. The majority of the houses had young children or ones in their teenage years like Gavin. The house that sat directly across from Gavinís belonged to Mrs. Manson. Mrs. Manson was a woman in her late seventies with bleach white hair and tired looking eyes. She had been a widow since Gavin could remember and wasnít exactly the kind of neighbor you would go to if you were short one egg when making a cake. Mrs. Manson never seemed to go anywhere. Most days she could be found sitting in one of the two rockers on her front porch as she drank coffee and stared into the distance.

As Gavin looked out the window in his living room, he couldnít help but notice Mrs. Manson siting in her wooden chair, rocking back and forth. "Ugh!" Gavin sighed. "Even Mrs. Manson looks like sheís having more fun than me!" Gavinís mother laughed quietly and said, "Then I grant you permission to go and hang out with her." Gavin was taken back by his motherís response. Surely she must be joking! There was no way he was going to be hanging out with Mrs. Manson.

On day three of his grounded sentence, Gavin was walking back from his bus stop wishing he could go and hang out with his friends. He kicked pebbles across the sidewalk as he got closer to his house. Before turning the corner, Gavin looked across the street and noticed Mrs. Manson had migrated from her front porch into her front yard. He stopped and looked at her as she lowered herself to the ground and began pruning the bushes that lined her fence. Gavin was confused and wondered what would make her have such a desire, but his hand reached his front door knob and he turned his back as he went inside.

The next day, Gavin noticed Mrs. Manson working in her front yard once again. Surely, being grounded for so long was making Gavin lose his mind because he found his feet propelling him toward Mrs. Mansonís front gate. When he reached it, he stood there not knowing why he was there or what he wanted to say. After a moment or two, Mrs. Manson looked up and said, "Are you just going to watch me or are you going to help?" Gavin was surprised by her response but quickly grabbed some yard work tools and began helping Mrs. Manson clear out the leaves and old branches from her garden. The two worked in silence for a while. Slowly, Gavin found some courage and managed to ask Mrs. Manson why she was doing this. Mrs. Manson didnít stop to look up at Gavin but continued to work as she responded, "It is almost time for the daffodils to come up from the ground. We must make sure they have enough room."

After a couple of hours, Gavinís mother approached the gate of Mrs. Mansonís house. "Gavin itís time for dinner. You can come back and help Mrs. Manson tomorrow but you must come eat and do your school work now." Mrs. Manson nodded and Gavin put away his yard work tools before following his mother back to their house.

Gavin continued to stop at Mrs. Mansonís house every day to help her with the yard work. After the first occasion, the conversation between Gavin and Mrs. Manson seemed to improve on a daily basis. Gavin started to learn that daffodils were Mrs. Mansonís favorite flower and that her husband had lined their yard with them one year as a surprise.

By the time Gavin was done being grounded, he and Mrs. Manson had cleaned up both her front yard and her backyard. The flowerbeds were thoroughly raked and filled with enough nutrients to support flower growth. After Gavin gained his freedom back, he stopped going over Mrs. Mansonís but still noticed her sitting on her front porch and would wave as he walked to his house.

The daffodils grew slowly. First, their green sprouts pushed through the dirt, and then they reached toward the sky until their yellow blooms opened proudly. Much to Gavinís surprise, Mrs. Mansonís yard was not covered like she said it would be. Rather, random clutters lied here and there. Gavin was disappointed and went over to Mrs. Mansonís porch.

"Why arenít there more?" he asked. "I thought you said they used to cover your yard."

"They used to, but that was in the past. The frost must have gotten to them, or maybe it was the squirrels. I guess our work wasnít enough."

Gavin wasnít satisfied. He wanted her garden to be as beautiful as she had remembered it. He had his mother take him out to the store where he bought dozens of pots of flowers. When the weekend rolled around, he gathered all his friends from the neighborhood and they all headed over to Mrs. Mansonís yard carrying yellow bundles. They got to work digging and planting in the early hours of the morning and then headed back to Gavinís house. Gavin and his friends all huddled around the window in his living room and watched as Mrs. Manson opened her front door. She headed to her rocker with her coffee in hand and sat down before she realized. A smile broke across her face and tears of joy fell from her eyes.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen


Spring arranging

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

It is a little hard to picture the freshness and beauty of spring as I sit here huddled in Terraceís Brute Lounge. Outside the temperature of the air happens to be lower than the number of years that I have been alive. Inside Iím huddled in a blanket, nursing the final vestiges of a cold with a plate of leftover Pizza Hut and some cranberry juice. Despite this, there is a certain something in the air that seems ready to break at any given time, a sense that at any moment the cold is going to give way to something warmer and more pleasant.

With the coming of spring, there is of course the issue of spring cleaning. Everyone and everything seems hard set on selling the idea that once a year, we need to change our lives around and somehow get rid of the things that have made us who we are. While I am always one for self-improvement, I canít help but be a little appalled by this concept. Getting rid of everything that came before and sweeping our lives clean seems like it would do a great disservice to the lessons we have all learned throughout the year. I would therefore like to submit, for humble consideration, the concept of "spring arranging." Instead of cleaning out the past I say embrace it, enjoy it, and with a little work, learn from it. As always, please take all of the advice I give with a grain of salt, and pick and choose what works for you.

Reevaluate Your Relationships.

The average spring cleaner will tell you that itís time to start cutting cords or mending fences respectively, that spring is the time when you should cut relationships that have been detrimental to your success and repair ones that you have allowed to atrophy. This isnít necessarily a terrible place to start, but it does paint the complex breadth of human relationships with some pretty broad strokes. This year, instead of doing the drastic thing, why not take some time and reevaluate your priorities and how those relate to the people closest to you in your life? Perhaps there is an old friend that you usually kept in touch with, but who recently doesnít receive the attention they perhaps deserve. Consider shooting them a text or a phone call once a week this spring just to catch up. Even if you donít have the time to devote to being with them, the constant communication can be a nice reminder of their importance in your life. You could also take some time to devote to learning from your mentors. We can get so wrapped up in the never-ending race of life that we often forget that we never stop learning, and that a lot of the lessons we glean come from the people we know. So this spring, donít cut; calculate. Choose to reapportion your time and give it to those who have helped mold you and shape you in a positive way.

Get a Healthy Amount of Exercise.

Normally the idea of going for a vigorous workout gets lumped with New Yearís resolutions and gym advertisements, but I think it can certainly be a part of any good "spring arranging" routine. However, there is always the chance to combine something that is good for your physical well-being with something that will be good for your emotional life as well. Part of the benefit of living where we do is that there is a plethora of amazing opportunities to enjoy the beauty and majesty of nature. In addition to our lovely mountain, there are several lovely national parks, a system of waterfalls, numerous bike trails, and plenty of other opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. With so many different ways to stay active, spring is a great time to get some exercise. And, with an entire world just waiting to be enjoyed, why not bring friends and family along for whatever expedition you decide to embark on next? The world is your gym, so trade in the treadmill for a hiking trail and your gym shorts for some sturdy walking poles, and enjoy the world you have been given.

Take Time to Reflect.

The father of philosophy, Socrates, is famous for saying: "The unexamined life is not worth living." It is an oft-quoted expression that has been repeated a great deal, but it has stood the test of time so well because it continues to be as relevant today as it was in ancient Greece. Self-reflection is often the difference between learning who we ought to become and staying the person who we are right now. Numerous studies have shown the importance of getting to know oneself, so I wonít reiterate the benefits here. I will, however, mention that for the purposes of "spring arranging," nothing is more important than the study of oneself. Taking two to five minutes in the morning when you wake up and doing the same thing when you go to sleep is a great way to frame your day.

Well, friends, as always, I hope that you have found something useful and informative. Remember to keep yourself and those closest to you in mind this spring and to always take the chance to improve.

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

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