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As Kingfishers Catch Fire

May 24, 2017

IMG_4836On Sunday we went to Oberlin for Walker’s graduation weekend, to walk through parts of the Allen Art Museum, see the kittens at the Ginko Gallery, meet some of his professors at Russia House, and have dinner with a few of his friends. We spent the night at a B&B in Wellington, about ten minutes away, and arrived on campus the next morning about 8:30 am to stake out some folding chairs, along with our college friends who drove up from Kenyon to see the last one of our children graduate from college.

The weather on Sunday was wet, with occasional thunderstorms and a beautiful full-arch rainbow right before sunset. On Monday morning, everything looked bright and full of promise. Some of the graduates, including ours, milled around with their families and friends before lining up for the procession.

IMG_4848The first speaker said that the reason for the ceremony was “to let our hearts catch up” with events, and that’s certainly what it felt like to me, under the warm sun in the wet grass in the middle of a campus I have become fond of but may never visit again, with hundreds of other people who were probably feeling about the same way.

Since Kent State, hats and gowns have been optional at Oberlin (the original idea was to donate what you would have spent on them to charity, although we didn’t know this until after the ceremony). So there was variety as we heard each name read out and watched each student cross the open-air stage.

I was thinking of some phrases from the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” as we had to listen a little faster than we’re used to at Kenyon, where the list is shorter and so we take more time “to fling out broad” each name. The Oberlin list is about 700 students long.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Each of the graduates appeared “lovely in limbs,” most wearing traditional caps and gowns but some using hats and clothing to help them cry “what I do is me.”

The address, by the Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker, focused on nothing less than the responsibility of these students to save our republic, and he noted that “ours is a nation where ideas have always existed in tension. The same country that declared all men to be equal was founded on slavery. The nation of the Statue of Liberty, which asks for the world’s tired and poor, “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” is the same nation that may build a wall along its border with Mexico.”

IMG_4838We have our graduate home with us for a few weeks, before we take him on a graduation trip to Spain and then wave to him as he embarks for Siberia at the end of June.

Our hearts and house are full, as Eleanor came for the graduation, Spain, and a few weeks beyond, and Walker’s girlfriend, a soprano from the conservatory, is also staying at our house for a little while. They will march with us on our town square a few times and then set forth to help keep the world safe for all we hold dear.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. magpiemusing permalink
    May 24, 2017 11:53 am

    congratulations!

  2. Elizabeth Johnson permalink
    May 24, 2017 7:16 pm

    Yes, congratulations!

    • May 26, 2017 11:07 am

      Thank you. He did the work, and we’re happy to share in the cheering!

  3. May 27, 2017 5:26 am

    Congratulations Walker! An author friend of mine (Barbara Claypole White) was at that grad ceremony, too, celebrating her son. I have pondering the thought of letting hearts catch up. ❤️

    • May 27, 2017 5:26 am

      Have BEEN pondering

      • May 28, 2017 9:17 am

        It was such a crowd we didn’t even connect with people we knew were there, like the parents and sister of a graduate who we’d met in Tucson. It’s kind of fun to know who all we were hobnobbing with, after the fact!

  4. May 27, 2017 4:59 pm

    How wonderful! We celebrated my son’s kindergarten graduation earlier this month. of course I cried. Quite a lot. (They played Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” for God’s sake!) Parenthood is so full of paradox. I wish all good things for your Walker!

    • May 28, 2017 9:19 am

      It is full of paradox. I never used to know why mothers cried at events.
      And thanks.

  5. June 1, 2017 6:43 pm

    Your title for this post caught my attention as I came looking for Ian McEwan, whom I couldn’t find in your category list. I don’t think you have a Search box on your blog?

    Anyhow, I’m a big Hopkins can. His lines, including many from this poem, often come to my mind.

    Congrats to your son on his graduation. Sounds like the address was just what’s needed for new graduates.

    • June 1, 2017 10:43 pm

      No, I don’t have a search box; should probably see if I can make one, but I use tags (you can look up McEwan by that) or I just type in the title of the book and the blog and it comes right up on google.
      https://necromancyneverpays.wordpress.com/tag/ian-mcewan/

      Is there anyone who loves poetry who isn’t a Hopkins fan?
      And yes, the address was just right for the times.

      • June 1, 2017 11:57 pm

        A search box is useful once people get to your blog. It allows searches on things you haven’t tagged which can be useful or fun. Anyhow I’ll come and try again! 😄

      • June 2, 2017 2:13 am

        I cant see your tags on you blog, just your categories,and he isn’t in that drop down because he’s a tag? I think if you have your tags visible and a Search box it can encourage people who discover you through Google to have a look areound?

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