Richard Paige — The pause lasted 12 seconds, so I knew the answer was meaningful.
During a recent visit to Phoenix, where Stephen Batchelder ’15 teaches eighth-grade science, I asked him about his favorite Wabash memory, and he took that long pause before responding.
“There are a lot of favorite memories,” he starts slowly, “but the one coming to mind right now, I think because its April now and the Springtime…”
He went on to describe “Poetry Hour,” a time during the spring semester his senior year that he and classmate Ryan Horner would carve a free hour out of a week and meet at the Senior Bench to share things of interest, whether it was a piece they had discovered or something one of them had created.
“We would kind of sit there and be quiet with each other and do some writing of our own,” Stephen remembers.
Ryan fondly remembers that shared time well, including the text message that started it all.
“Stephen sent me a text completely out of the blue, saying that he would be at the bench at so and so time, probably reading or writing a little bit of poetry, and that I’d be welcome to join him,” he says via e-mail from UC Davis, where he is finishing a master’s in creative writing.
It didn’t take long for these Poetry Hours to become a regularity, even a necessity. Nearly everything about the get-togethers were malleable. Sometimes they read (Horner started reading David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” during one of these sessions), other times, they wrote. They even took it on the road to places like Sugar Creek or Shades State Park. The only constant was friendship.
“We hardly ever talked,” Ryan shares. “Occasionally we would read aloud from whatever we held in our hands, no intro, no context, just conjuring poetry out of silence and then returning to silence afterward. Stephen is one of my best friends, someone who I look up to and who I know I can trust with anything, and the bench was our kind of shared space.”
Anyone’s senior year can rush by, and for Stephen and Ryan, those moments on the Senior Bench were much-needed respites of calm as a new chapter of life was dawning.
“When various responsibilities had piled up and the real world was calling out from beyond the gate of graduation, that’s when the promise of a silent hour, spent in mutual appreciation of something beautiful, at a special place with a dear friend, was enough to keep holding the world together for another week.”