April 22, 2020
Despite the snow blowing around my window right now, this weekend did feel like spring. Perennials poked their way through the softened ground, daffodils shouted their sunny arrival, birds called to each other in song, warm breezes cleared out the cobwebs and pesky weeds began invading my backyard. Even the weeds were a welcome sight to break up the monotony of what seems like a never-ending season of cold and despair.
A friend had recently posted that hearing her husband mow the lawn brought back memories of her dad doing the same. Immediately, I was taken back to my own childhood and the low grumble of the mower, the fragrance of cut grass, my dad in his baseball hat and the sound of Ernie Harwell and Tiger baseball on a scratchy transistor radio. Simpler times. Normal times. Times that are nothing like what we’re dealing with right now.
As I looked at my lawn, and those irksome weeds, I felt the overwhelming need for the normalcy and accomplishment that comes from walking back and forth in the sun, pushing a mower and watching the rows of newly shorn blades appear. I pulled out my Honda and prayed it would start. After a trip to the gas station, a dozen or so pulls on the cord, it roared to life, and off I went. Music in my ears, sun on my face and a normal spring day in front of me. What has often been a chore was a respite for my weary soul.
I later mentioned to another friend that mowing my lawn felt good because it was so normal. He replied in a beautiful way that summed it all up, “Like you’re living in a world you still know.” There it was. That was exactly it. For a few hours, it felt like I was living in a world I still knew.
Today, on Earth Day, our world is so very different. But underneath the pandemic, unease and sadness, there still is a world we know. In it, Spartans continue to adapt, innovate, lead and take on the challenges this bizarre new world has presented us. In addition to the many ways we’re working to address COVID-19, we’re still finding ways to protect our planet. We’re making buildings greener, using data to help farmers with climate variability, helping students go green and finding other ways to be responsible and sustainable partners.
Alexa Marsh, a senior majoring in environmental studies and sustainability and minoring in entrepreneurship and innovation, is the president of the Sustainable Spartans club. Though her year of in-person studies was cut short, the club had a lot of successes. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Improving safety and sustainability on campus, to learn more about their efforts.
For students like Alexa, I know this world feels anything like one they know. In the one they know, they would be gearing up to celebrate commencement with all their friends and family at the Breslin Center. Trust me, the entire Spartan nation feels your disappointment. This week, the university announced a virtual commencement for May 16. It’s not meant to replace participation in a future in-person ceremony, but to offer a way to celebrate now while classes and finals and accomplishments are fresh. I’ll be there cheering you on.
At least college students can better understand this strange, new world we’re in. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have young children at home right now. It’s hard enough for me to get through the day — having to care for small kids during this time seems like it must take a Herculean effort. I applaud each and every one of you doing this right now.
Jada Phelps Moultrie, an assistant professor in the K-12 educational administration, understands your challenges. She put together some information for parents and caregivers in her FACULTY VOICE: Keep home education simple. Check it out and learn some helpful tips like using your village and sticking to the basics.
We all need our villages right now, even if we can only connect virtually. We need each other to help each other out, pitch in where we can, check in on our friends, reach out with a kind word, make each other smile, offer comfort, share some laughter, make connections and remind us of a world we still know. #SpartansWill.