Editor’s note: On a recent day Mr. Hagen’s classes took a break from their window-less classroom and ventured to the courtyard to write. This article emerged from the experience.
By Sage Preble
Feet beat down on stone steps, taking an irregular rhythm. Cafeteria goers stop their socializing to watch the spectacle of our descent, a reflection of their boredom. We’re on our way outside, into the courtyard for a reprieve of the heat of prying eyes.
The doors swing open to the outside world, truly a gift compared to the next 6 or 7 hours spent inside being lectured to, living one 7 minute passing period of freedom to the next.
A droning, white noise hits us firstly, followed shortly by a breeze, dragging with it the scent of grass and something sweet and natural. The rushing of cars passing by is so steady it becomes a buzzing monotone in the back of my head. I look away from the empty greyness of highway and chain link fences, out into a deserted football field. The leaves on trees surrounding the field capture my attention as I sit on cool concrete. Autumn must have begun its reign while I wasn’t looking. Golden yellow leaves adorn branches still heavy with life, a startling contrast to the lush emerald of grass.
I move to a spot nearer the trees that have my focus, leaning up against the surface of a broad trunk. With this new location comes the advantage of being closer to the creek nearby, and therefor able to distinguish the rush of water from the rush of cars. The sound was so similar, I hardly ever stop to think of nature carving its name into rock a mere 100 meters away. As time passes by overhead, I begin to feel the still dewed grass soak my clothes, another sign of the strengthening season. It must have bejeweled the grass all day, casting a translucent film on the field.
Upon my last move, I select another tree to lean on, this one with a thinner trunk. I lean back into the natural concave, staring into the sky. It looks weighted and depressed, the patchwork of clouds hinting at the growing chance for rain. Leaning forward once more, I observe the knobby trunk this tree has, marveling at the way the roots look like veins in a hand. You can almost see the years passing in front of your eyes, revealing the constant battle between wood and mud, the ocean waves of dirt never quite concealing the roots, the wood cresting just above the surf at the moment, pulling and pushing over and under in the physique of geology.
A hush has fallen as we write, not an impeding silence, but a soft one. It feels akin to the way one feels to be intruding on some alternate plane when awake at night. I would always imagine that the cold months were some kind of well-deserved respite from the busyness of humans, and that one was seen as a trespasser in their own world lest they bring solitude as their only friend. The isolation of the outdoors seems uninterrupted in this time, despite our human actions, like if one were to visit the woods alone, the trees would sit and watch you watch them, sharing the same kind of magic they saw every day in winter, perhaps a bit glad for the company to break the monotonous whiteness. Grass would doze beneath your feet, the trees settle into a comfortable stance, awaiting the intrusive but necessary sunlight that they can never be suite certain will return.
But the skies hold their secrets for now, and they will let us keep our freedom at the moment. It’s time to step back inside, return to stale air and staring at textbooks until your vision blurs. I sit back into my hard plastic chair, remembering how the tree actually supported the natural contours of my spine. This place, though, this school is unrelenting in its stiffness, its cold impersonality. I sigh, settling back into my own form of dormancy, waiting for the ring of a bell to signify my freedom. To quote my parents (and many other people from the past generation I’m sure), back at the old grindstone.