“Find the Place that Sustains You”

Steve Charles—The spring issue of Wabash Magazine came out last week, so I’m thinking of all the good stuff that didn’t make the cut.
Here’s one. From David Krohne’ s Earth Day Chapel Talk, "The Nightmare of Sustainability." This excerpt was supposed to make the Faculty Notes but was grotesquely edited by yours truly to fit the space we had.

Here’s the excerpt, which we’d titled: “The Dark and Bloody Ground Under Our Feet"

"Mike Bachner ’70 discovered Sugar Creek as a high school senior on a visit to the College. For the next 40 years Sugar Creek was his preferred habitat, the place that sustained him. It’s that kind of connection to a place, to a habitat, that we’re in danger of losing.

"I think we need to shift our focus to think about here. And “here” is getting paved over at the rate of 12 acres an hour in Indiana. Twelve football fields every hour of every day, 365 days a year. “Here” is the natural habitat where we really live. This is the habitat that actually sustains each of us.

"Every acre that NICHES Land Trust protects in Central Indiana filters the water we eventually drink, and it gives us one more place to feel the actual earth, what Aldo Leopold called “the dark and bloody ground” under our feet.

"Every protection the Friends of Sugar Creek ensures that the creek will continues to do for all of us what it did for Mike Bachner.

"So find that place that sustains you day in and day out, body and mind and spirit, your preferred habitat.  Protect it; restore it—and it will do the same for you." 

A Magazine By and About Young Alumni

Steve Charles—A colleague stopped me in the Kane House parking lot yesterday to tell me the latest edition of Wabash Magazine“39 Under 39”—was not a good idea. That focusing on only 39 young alumni on the website (or 47 young alumni, as we did in the mathematically challenged WM) would smack of exclusivity. Would leave those young alumni not included in the issue wondering, “Why not me?”
Nothing could be further from our intent. We saw the theme not only as a chance to meet or catch up with some remarkable Wabash alumni, but as an opportunity to explore a time of wonder in all of our lives—those years after Commencement when so much happens, so much changes.
This is an issue of Wabash Magazine by and about young alumni—in their words and images. But I hope that as older alumni read it, they will (like me) be reminded of that time in their own lives—the weddings (being a best man, groomsman, usher, or groom), the career decisions, the mentors, the miscues, the confusion, the clarity, the miracles.
We turned to Adam Cole ’98 for images that illustrated the themes that cropped up as we talked with young alumni—big risks taken, faith, the desire to find a home, the need to define oneself, romance, bouncing back when romance or a job went bad, the desire to serve and be a part of something bigger than oneself. You can see more of his work at I hope this will be the first of many collaborations with this photographer whose works of art just happen to be wedding photographs and portraits.
But for the issue to work and get beyond the trappings of a “top young alumni” propaganda piece, I needed our best young writers to write honestly about their personal experiences—their failures, their successes, what they learned, what they still can’t figure out. And I needed them to take us to those moments, give us the details, to help us older guys remember what it felt like to be 25, 30, 39.
Evan West ’99, Kyle Nickel ’03, Jacob Rump ’05, John Deschner ’97, Jacob Pactor ’04, Joe Warfel ’04, and Kyle Hall ’00 all did so, and in their own inimitable voices. I can’t thank them enough.
And in his End Notes piece, "A Wabash Man, Ten Years Out," Tyler Bush ’99 expresses thoughts I believe many Wabash men have had: The Gentleman’s Rule is an ever-elusive thing when you attempt to practice it in the real world. What does it mean to be a gentleman? How do we become good men, even in the face of tragedy?
So if you’re turned off by the "39 Under 39" theme or think this is going to be some half-baked rip-off of TIME’s Top 100 newsmakers or in the spirit of IBJ’s “40 Under 40,” I hope you’ll take a closer look. Give our writers and young alumni a chance. Read about their lives, hear about them in their own voices. See if you don’t recognize something of yourself, something of Wabash, in them.
And if you’re still thinking, Why not me?, send me a note at charless@wabash. edu. I’d love to hear your story.

Bon Appettit Shucks For Students, State

Howard W. Hewitt – In all lines of work effort is sometimes underappreciated, if noticed at all.

Bon Appetit employees put in some special effort Friday morning to benefit not just Wabash students this fall but also the state of Indiana! See a photo album here.

General Manager Mary Jo Arthur has been buying meat from Moody’s Meats in Ladoga for some time. But Friday Mary Jo and Adam Moody were tackling a far different project.

Mary Jo noted her cooks only serve corn on the cob to students during the school year because fresh corn isn’t in season. That corn comes from a supplier, but obviously isn’t local during that time of year.

She wanted to buy and prep some fresh corn this summer to serve in the fall. It turns out her desire was a perfect fit for a project Moody was planning.

Moody is working with other producers on a state grant out of Lt. Governor Becky Skillman’s office to determine the feasability of establishing food processing plants for products like Indiana sweet corn. Moody noted that at one time Indiana had 40-plus food processing plants and now just one.

So the opportunity was great for both sides. Bon Appetit wanted sweet corn and Moody’s group needed some research in the processing side of the research project. Mary Jo got her corn at no cost and Moody took detailed notes on the process from shucking, to cutting, to blanching, freezing, and finally taste. His research could lead to the establishment of a processing plant and help him determine profitability.

Bon Appetit kept 50 percent of the corn it processed for providing the labor and preparing the corn. The other half of the processed corn will be used to further Moody’s research on profitablity of a processing plant.

That meant the staff shucked some 1,400 ears of corn! They planned on freezing the corn and will serve it in Sparks this fall.

It wasn’t a task without some fun. Mary Jo and Catering Manager Kecia Tatman took up work stations right along side the entire crew. The "corny" jokes, "aww shucks" attitude and a bright beautiful morning might have convinced most observers that they weren’t working at all – just having fun!

The fresh corn is an ongoing effort of Bon Appetit to provide fresh, locally-grown products in meals served to Wabash men. The corn was grown just north of the Montgomery County line in Tippecanoe county.

The end result is not just fresh corn for students but the College helped play a role in potential economic development for Indiana.

In photos: Upper right, Kaleb Dulin and Arthur show its not all work, but some fun as well. Lower left, Moody jumped right in to help when he wasn’t taking notes on the process.

Bert Stern: Wabash Poet

Steve Charles—The journalist chases the story, the essayist the idea, the memoir writer the dissipating vapor of her life.

But the poet loves the word. The logos. The “in the beginning was the word” word. Today, I need the poet.

I’m spent. Scattered. I can’t write one more thing about anyone here. All my words look the same. None of them do these people justice. None gets to the essence of the person I’ve met.

It’s the middle of summer, and I need to hear poets. Not just Garrison Keillor reading a poem a day on the Writer’s Almanac. I need to hear a poet in his own voice, or at least a poet whose voice I trust.

In the last capital campaign we built this alumni terrace with bricks, each inscribed with a dedication from the giver. Mine read, “To Baker, Petty, Stern, and Hudson: Wabash Poets.” They were some of the first poets I knew outside of their poems, whose life and voice I could hear in their work. (Even though Bob Petty died before I got here, his words have been my field guide to this place.)

Our culture tends to undervalue poets. Few of them can make a living at their craft. But I can’t imagine life without them. They resurrect the words I suck the life out of.

I’m no poet, still it is the poet’s voice that calms and focuses me. The attention paid and devotion to one word at a time calls to me to slow down and consider.

I write fewer words and much more slowly than most on our staff, so I have no excuse for this, but every year, it seems, I get “written out.” I never tire of meeting and interviewing and photographing people; I tire of my words not being up to the task. Of the fact that they never will be up to the task, and that the gap between who I meet and what I can express seems to widen every year.

My antidote is usually a writer’s workshop, where other like-minded failures get together to remind ourselves that falling short is inevitable, that the joy is in the pursuit, that we’re blessed to do this work and, really, what choice do we have? Sort of a 12-step program for English majors.

But this year, no workshop. So I need to hear a poet.

Enter Bert Stern. Professor Emeritus of English, teacher, and poet whose collection, Steerage, was published earlier this summer by Ibbetson Street Press.

I knew some of these poems. I was blessed to read many in manuscript form, and we published a few in Wabash Magazine. But to see the work as a whole is different. More like a journey from beginning to near end. My favorite piece and others I’ll write about later. But here are some lines of the sort that remind me of how much we can mean to one another, and that rejuvenate my faith in the word to express that meaning:

I didn’t know that angels could get tangled
in the winter branches, or that the sun in winter
only seems to shine on an alien planet.
All that I held in my arms got broken
until you came and I learned that flesh could marry.

It is always like this. Even now children are being born
They are sucking milk because they were made to,
and staring at their mothers from across a great distance.
          —from “Testament”

When the ship came into the harbor
my spirit was waiting for me,
dancing on the shore,
a bird on the edge of the water.
      —from “America”

 A scene from childhood:

Evenings that went on forever
still unfolding. Deep Buffalo
winter, living room soft auburn
daddy asleep on his back, evening
News over his face, mother
knitting in her chair, reading
the book on her lap, I at her feet,
reading. Silence. I can hear
our breathing.
     —from  “Buffalo, 1938” 

or this, from the poem “Wait,” in which is the speaker is trying to call back into life a dying girl, a poem written by a man whose own little girl died of leukemia when he was a professor at Wabash:

Wait, he said, listen. He knew
a thin song that birds steer by. Wait,
he said, I’ll sing it. The rain falls
in torrents, coats the earth with
its own sheen, under the reflected
lights of stars. Wait, taste water.
It is a cold night. Pull the covers up,
press your body against whatever will hold it.

In an earlier version of that poem, the last line was "press your body against whatever will touch it." What a difference one word makes. 

Finally this, from the short poem “White-Throated Sparrow”:

Always a white-throated sparrow
singing on a mountain top, and somebody
there listening to it for the first time.
That’s what you need to believe …



“It’s About Making a Life”

Steve Charles—At the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis last Friday, I heard this inspiring thing.
I was interviewing David Orr —not David Orr ’57, trustee emeritus, citizen of Crawfordsville and San Cristobal, Chiapas, but David Orr 92, philosophy major, actor, co-founder with his wife Bonnie of the Sapphire Theater in Indianapolis, and listed in our alumni director as a “carpenter/artist."
David’s work includes building and finishing “sets” for the Children’s Museum, and I interviewed and photographed him in several different settings he’d made to help kids experience what it is like to live in modern Egypt. The work is not unlike writing—get a few concrete details right, and the imagination, thus directed, can do the rest. He pays remarkable attention to detail.
He also built the furniture for the Museum’s magic show, and while we were doing a photo session on the stage where that show takes place, I asked him about the connection between this work, the liberal arts, and his life as an artist.
WM: What does all this work at the Children’s Museum have to do with being an artist? 
David Orr: It’s about making a life. I’m an artist. If I don’t keep making things, making art, then I really don’t stay sane. So figuring out how to keep a life going trying to work as an artist, you tend to learn to do a lot of different things.
WM: Any connection to your liberal arts education?
Orr: For me, liberal arts is all about learning how to learn. I wasn’t told, “Here’s a formula, now go apply it, and just do your task.” In the liberal arts, there are all these ideas to explore, and it became all about learning how to learn. Once you’ve cracked that nut, you can do anything.
Doing a piece like this [the carving of pharoah on the “magic box”] becomes like creating a piece of sculpture for me.
I used to think that I was only an artist when I was painting on a canvas. I would separate my art from the jobs that I would have to do in order to support my life. But I realized that I couldn’t live that way.

So now, I look at the things I do as opportunities to be an artist. I use my talents, my eye for detail, and I hold myself to a high standard. Then all the things I do turn into works of art, and I get to maintain my sanity as an artist.

We’ll have a story with photos of David’s work in the Winter 09 issue of Wabash Magazine.