Dandelion Dreams

There’s something incredibly funny about two adults making wishes on dandelions. There’s also some undoubtable childlike sweetness in the act. This was my most recent trip to the Meadows. My friend and I went there on a walk to have an arduous discussion about some rather “adult” topics. Our conversations lasted all evening and into the night, mulling over all the things we probably should have mulled over a long time ago. Hours past and suns set. And after all those hours and as we got ready to head out of the Meadows, we had to pause one more time. The silly, seussical weeds that surrounded our feet were absolutely screaming our names.

In a cleansing moment of relief, wishfulness, hope, and pure love, we expelled all of our troubles on these poor unsuspecting dandelions. With each humid breath of April air, I felt my worries of the past and my insecurity about the future fade into the breeze alongside the fluffy dandelion seeds. As self assured as the children who confidently make wishes on the same flower, I sought to regain that sort of whimsy. I can’t exactly remember what it is I wished for on this night, but it’s reminded me to keep making wishes. To try to look at the world through a child’s eye sometimes. To take things seriously and participate mindfully in conversation with myself, with others, and with the space around me, but not to forget that there is still silliness in nature. I think we have to find these moments of childish joy and delight amongst all the density and drudge of human society.

Oddly enough, on a totally separate yet recent occasion with a different friend in a different part of the woods, I went on a quest for dandelions to make wishes on. We walked all over Guilford’s campus, which was not yet covered in dandelions as it is now, searching for the opportunity to make a simple wish. We need these things! See how hard we work to find them? We need to have little glorious moments of hope sprinkled in between the towering pines and across the scratchy grasses.

Sunset magic!

I always want to go out into the Meadows at sunset. I like to see how the space transforms as the light becomes warm and golden and then sharp and blue. I savor the last glimmers of light coming through the branches of trees and in between the spaces in the pine needles. I’m not sure what it is about the Meadows, but I always see the most beautiful sunsets there. There are rows of pine trees in silhouette that perfectly frame the shining hues of orange, pink, and purple. I feel like I’m watching a painting shape shift as the sun continues to set. It’s a magical sight frankly.

I also feel like sunsets symbolize the beauty of change and moving forward. They represent grace and humility in times of transition or challenge. Or in the face of criticism. They remind me to grow. They remind me to let go of what I thought I knew or what I thought I wanted. Because of the sunset, I do not mourn the loss of the sun each night. I appreciate the time as a moment of gratitude for what the sunlight has brought and look forward to what the mysterious hours in darkness might hold. Hope ascends over the Meadows as the sun sets. It illustrates in vivid color the promise that things just might be okay.

Memories of the Meadows

Finally venturing into the research portion of this assignment, I decided to do some fumbling around the Guilford archives. Now I personally feel like research in general is one of my weakest suits. I get so easily distracted and frustrated by not finding exactly what I want to find, I’ll just move swiftly past things that might actually be beneficial to my research. Plus, I have a lot of trouble leaving behind my preconceived notions and allowing the work to just speak for itself. For this project, I didn’t have any idea what I was really looking for. I wanted to know what the Meadows were before they were the Meadows, sure. But I also was looking for some historical context. What I did find was this map from 1917 that showed all the segmentation of the campus, labeling broad areas as “Orchard” or “Woods” or “Quad.” The Meadows was roughly in “Woods,” perhaps spilling over slightly into “Orchard” but it was hard to tell exactly. I took that information to mean that before being grass fields dotted with various pine trees, the Meadows were simply more trees?

The disc golf course that now occupies the Meadows was built in 2012, a few years after the cross country course was added to the landscape in 2009. And some of my sources tell me that the Meadows, more or less the way they are now, have been here at least since the 70s. Around the same time that the disc golf course was built, Guilford College administrators actually decided to sell a 2-acre portion of the land to a medical company. I’m pretty certain this is now Eagle Health, a facility that gives mostly free care to Guilford students. In a 2012 Guilfordian article, faculty secretary and former Greensboro zoning commission member, Janet Wright was quoted saying, “This could be a domino effect. I don’t want to see us slowly taking offers and saying we need the money and selling off parts of our land.” This is a legitimate fear, and the fact that the land ended up being sold regardless is very telling of the financial crisis facing the college and the value placed on our natural spaces over other parts of campus. Even now, we see parts of the woods being demolished for new development. This is normalized now, to see us quickly jumping to sacrifice woodlands and other natural places being sacrificed for the sake of Guilford paying off debt.

The farm, which was rebuilt in 2011, also ate up some of the land that was once part of the Meadows. The farm is certainly a necessary part of the college too. It offers students an opportunity to work in agriculture, which is extremely rare amongst our generation, and to participate in some of the food justice work that revolves around our farm. At the same time, the farm is a huge selling point for students coming to Guilford. The marketing team knows what sort of demographics it will attract and, as students at this school, we can identify what sorts of tactics were effective in getting us to come here. I know that the farm was a selling point for me. I wonder if a little extra Meadows might have had the same impact?

A Guide to Being Barefoot in the Meadows

02/22/2019

So…it’s been about a week of continuous rain, it’s a friday afternoon, I’ve slept far less than I would care to, and what I want most in this world is to sink into the comfort of my warm home. Sadly the bitterness of this post being an actual homework assignment started to overpower the sweetness of a solo trip to the Meadows. Despite all that, I brushed off my shoulders, bundled up, grabbed my umbrella, and took off. The slipping and sliding around in the mud was kind of annoying to me at first. I wore my Crocs without any holes (I call them Winter Crocs) to stay waterproof, but sacrificed any hope for traction in doing so. Quickly and impulsively I decided I would be better off with no shoes at all. I stashed my shoes and socks in a frisbee golf…net? Is it a net? Basket maybe? I’m going to come back to frisbee golf in a future post, so I’ll figure it out by then.

Anyway, what came of that is this! A somewhat comprehensive guide to being barefoot in the Meadows. In this extra special edition, we’ll be talking about the ins and outs of being barefoot in the cold, rainy, oversaturated, squishiest-ever Meadows. How to find a moment of warmth and regain the feeling in your toes. I am also a very tactile person, so part of this is me just wanting to feel all the textures between my toes, but I think it will serve as informative for those in a very specific jam.

Content warning: Turn back if you hate feet!

  1. Plain old mud

I do not recommend that you walk in this mud. As you can tell from my very visceral foot reaction, this is not the place to be. It is the wrong type of squish, the little puddles are extremely cold, and I slid all sorts of ways in this mud.

2. Grass

Should you find yourself in a pinch, this grass will do the trick. Stay still in your footing for a few minutes and your body heat will warm it right up. The overall sensation is not the greatest, but when you stop being able to bend your toes, you can’t be too picky about that sort of thing.

3. Moss


Now you might think that since moss looks like an actual rug, this would be amazing, as I did. I was very wrong. The carpet-like quality of moss soaks up water so much so that it feels like you’re walking on a cold, dirty sponge.

4. Pine needles

I have some mixed emotions about pine needles here. If you are looking for heat on your feet, this definitely works. The sort of insulation that the layers of pine needles gives is quite nice, but you have to get past the rigidity of the needles to begin with. Personally, the feeling of walking on uncooked pasta outweighed any comfort or warmth the pine needles had to offer.

5. Puddles

Yeah, don’t stand in puddles. They are fun for splashing around and cleaning mud off your feet, but that’s about all you’re gonna get from this.

6. Funky wooden bridge

Maybe I was just extremely cold and slightly delusional but this felt absolutely fantastic. The wood totally warmed up my feet and got my toes wiggling and feeling good. 10/10 would recommend in an ideal world with these sorts of accommodations.

7. Plastic traction mats

No. Just don’t do it. These little holes suction to the bottom of your feet and it feels like you’re walking on an octopus tentacle. Plus, the open spaces between your foot and the ground is like a tiny, freezing wind tunnel.

8. Bathmat

This is a one way ticket to a fungal infection. I did it so you never ever have to.

9. Surrendering to the mud

You run around barefoot long enough in the muddy Meadows and eventually you get tired of fighting the slips and slides. When the moment’s right, let go of your inhibitions, and slide on!

The Enigmatic Meadows

02/21/2019

I have always wanted to be someone who felt confident in the woods. I’ve long admired those who can pick up a rock or look up at a tree and know exactly and immediately what they were looking at and what it took for that thing to get there. Having spent my whole life in a New York suburb, I never had much access to any natural spaces besides a few landscaped parks. Plus I suppose I never tried especially hard to find anything more. Part of that came from the way I perceive people who “get” the outdoors. These are the people that have all the name brand gear, the camping stories, the ability to namedrop every state park within a 100 mile radius, and were born hiking the side of a mountain. Intimidating stuff.

Not until coming to college could my connection with nature really blossom, so to speak. One of the spots that is most meaningful to that connection is the Meadows. Weaving in and out of scattered pine trees, my steps squishing around in the soggy needle-covered ground, I feel nostalgic for the bonfires and picnics and stargazing that has happened in the Meadows. Confusion, laughter, tears, wonder, butterflies in your stomach, and serenity all happen in the Meadows. Recklessness happens in the Meadows.

Coming here to be critical and analytical feels wrong in a way. It feels like I am going into someone’s home and talking about how ugly their furniture is. Still, I wanted to choose a place for my Habitation Journal that I already knew at least a little bit and that was actually going to be accessible for me on a regular basis. And now standing inside a little cluster of pines, I remember exactly why I had the feeling to come here. On top of all the other emotions of the Meadows, this place has a mysterious energy. There seems to always be fog in the Meadows. A lingering feeling that there’s something there that you can’t possibly see. Yeah, I do happen to believe in spirits or ghosts or whatever you want to call it, but it doesn’t exactly feel ghostly in the Meadows. I can’t say I really know how to describe what it feels like. Maybe in my research of what the area once was I’ll discover some sort of ancient burial ground or haunting story of some evil pine tree nymphs. Who knows? But, either way, I like that it’s a feeling that is completely unique to the Meadows.

I’m hoping that the future of these blog posts are a little less of me just rambling about vague memories and alluding to odd times and more of an investigative take on this very special space, but I don’t think I can commit to making that promise right now. Working on it.

First Post-Addie Ronis

As a young person I almost never felt drawn to the outdoors. My family did not emphasize the importance of spending time in nature and, since we lived in the New York suburbs, stumbling upon natural spaces did not typically occur. There was one day though that sticks in my mind as one of the first times I ever had that feeling of belonging in nature. I was in sixth grade and wandered off the bus from school with two other kids that lived on my street. The bus stops at the corner of the busiest boulevard in our town and Marino Avenue, where we lived. We walked away from the bustle and car rumbles of Port Washington Boulevard, past each one of our homes, down the meandering slope of the street, and into the woods that had maintained their mystery over the course of my sheltered youth. Weaving in and out of the trees, over the concrete wall covered in graffiti, along the quiet stream, I felt safe in the arms of nature. This area was not majestic by the standards of a well-versed nature-seeker, but it made my heart feel full. We stomped around in the stream and dug up silky mud. As we squeezed mud through our fingers, I began to unlearn all the fright and uncomfortability and doubt I connoted with the woods.