Storms are prevalent in fall and spring. In the fall, winter wants its way but summer won’t relent. In the spring summer strives for dominance but winter is reluctant to let go of its long frigid spell. So battles rage in the throes of transition. But between the storms, the beauties of fall and spring are unsurpassed. That’s the way it has been in my life during times of great change: beauty in the background of the battlefield as a new season unfolds itself.
One such circumstance was when we moved to south Florida for my deanship at Palm Beach Atlantic University. There was a lot of work to do, both on a personal and a professional level. Moving is a chore and starting an academic unit from scratch, as I was required to do, was challenging. And yet, in the frenzied activity, physical, mental and emotional, we could look out over the ocean in the evenings and find peace.
Palm Beach Atlantic University was and is a beautiful place, probably the most lovely urban institution of higher learning in our country. Nestled in the heart of Palm Beach County, population one-million plus, it is a campus full of art deco buildings, palm trees, fountains, alcoves and stained glass windows. It was impossible for me to carry the academic burdens of the abundant meetings all the way across campus. I always walked very slowly and often paused to sit on a bench beside a tropical fountain to watch an ibis or gecko and my troubles would vanish in the warmth of the Florida sun.
One of my friends said this at lunch in the cafeteria one day. “Do you know how you can tell Dan Ford is walking across campus?” My lunch companions came up with several witticisms, but the one who asked the question gave his answer, “Observe the distance between Dan and a palm tree and if the distance decreases slightly in an hour, he’s walking.” There was considerable mirth expressed over my friend’s observation, but the benign ridicule did not quicken my pace.
I am in the midst of another transition even now, as I approach the threshold of old age. On the one hand, I’m having trouble admitting that I need to slow down, mainly because I think I’m going pretty slow anyway. On the other hand, I realize, like Tennyson’s Ulysses, “I cannot rest from travel; I will drink life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those that loved me, and alone. . . Always roaming with a hungry heart, much have I seen and known.”
So, in this autumn of my life, I know that the summer is hanging on, wanting to remain. I know winter is coming, but there is a storm within me resisting its cold. And, strange as it may seem to some, I sense a springtime, too, a springtime in which beauty is the backdrop to my slow walk towards a whole new kind of sunshine state.
Daniel G. Ford, Ph. D.