For me, Vanderbilt has always been about the trees. They felt safe, comfortable. They were permanent, they could not be moved or changed. Moreover, although they may appear innocuous, they are markers of our history. Just as I watched their leaves burst into flame and drop to the ground, so had students of the 60’s, and for a few of them, the men in the university’s earliest years. I used to challenge myself to try to name each species, when I saw one I particularly liked, I would close my eyes and memorizes its name. There is a gorgeous species known as the osage orange, with colorful bark, which writhes upwards like a wrinkled man. If you look to your right on your way down to 21st there are young redwoods, one of the most ancient species of trees. When I look at Vanderbilt’s trees, I feel rooted (no pun intended). I feel academic. I was very touched by the story during our tour of the students throwing books out of burning Kirkland, of the commitment to education that implies. A need to learn. Now the trees, like the decaying mansions of the Ottoman Empire, are the only witnesses.


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