Vanderbilt’s Trees

In Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, he claims that Istanbul “draws its strength from the Bosphorus” (47). I believe that Vanderbilt draws its strength from its trees. As a natural arboretum, Vanderbilt’s campus is filled with many diverse varieties of trees, but what I love about them the most is seeing them change with the seasons. Every time a new season overtakes Vanderbilt, the whole campus takes on a new appearance. In Fall, it is clothed in vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange, covered in leaves and cool autumn breezes. In Winter, everything becomes dim and bare as all of the leaves fall off and a chill remains permanently in the air. Some years, a blanket of snow will also cover the laws for days at a time. This then lasts until almost overnight, it seems, the campus bursts forth in color and life as all of the trees begin to bloom and pink, white, and purple flowers cover nearly every tree on campus. While this phase is always short-lived, it is one of my favorites, until the trees turn back to green and berries take the place of the beautiful blossoms for the Summer.

There is another tree on Vanderbilt’s campus, however, that I will also never forget – The Tree of Learning. A permanent fixture on Library Lawn, it scared me enough to keep me out of the library it seems to guard for nearly the entirety of my freshman year. Never once have I understood why it is that “The Tree of Learning” looks as foreboding and ominous as I believe that it does, but looking at it now, frozen in the same spot it has stood since 1997, it strikes me that although I will graduate and time will continue to move along with all of the seasons, this tree will never change. And while I took this picture today, nothing short of changes to the library behind it will reveal roughly when this photograph was taken. So while photography freezes moments in time, it is also to think about how much that is needed to identify a photograph can be left outside the frame. Could I return and take this exact picture in twenty years? Would photography be able to show the progression of time?

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