in Bright Sunlight
Pomonas physical and symbolic center, Marston Quadrangle is many
things to many people.
Every college viewbook tries to look like Edenin
bright sunlight, kids lying out to study under trees, a friend of
mine once said. Whats funny is, here, we actually do it.
At the end of February, a few brown leaves are still feathering to the
ground, butmake no mistakesummers begun. During these
first days of the season that is winter everywhere else, Marston Quad
succumbs to its familiar warm-weather pandemic. All over the lawn, students
sprawl with books and blankets, as if just waiting for the photographers.
In a very real way, this enchanted garden is the heart of Pomonas
campus. With its color, foliage and open space, Marston Quad may be precisely
what Pomonas founders had in mind for their college in a garden.
As you stroll down Stover Walk and look up at the enormous live oaks lining
the path, its hard not to feel a sense of history here. In 1908,
architect Myron Hunts preliminary plans for the Quad aimed to capture
the beauty of nature within the refined structure of the classical style.
His landscape designs incorporated axes, vistas, proportion and symmetry,
to evoke a serene environment in which to promote discussion and
learning. Today, in both academic and recreational spheres, Marston
Quad is the unifying center of our diversified community. During the course
of a day, the Quad will be different things to different people.
In the first hours of daylight, time seems suspended in a peaceful mist.
The whole area is deserted, save a black and white dog paraded around
the perimeter and a sprightly power-walker strutting a vigorous cadence.
At this time of the morning, the Quad shows no signs of the crowds of
students who have come to know it as their personal backyard. In an hour
or two, the first herd of them will traipse through, cutting diagonals
across the wet grass, already late for class.
Around 10:30, an English class comes out to perform scenes from a Shakespeare
play. Students laugh at their overdramatized verse and impromptu blocking.
They share in a sense of delight at having successfully transformed Marstons
west side into a fairly convincing Forest of Arden.
A little before noon, an artist comes to set up a folding chair under
a tree. She sits, cradling a large, white sketchbook in her lap and gazing
patiently, peacefully, at the landscape before her. After a few minutes,
she proceeds to describe it in charcoal.
The main lawns are populated by a multitude of sycamores pointing out
of the ground at sharp angles, as if their peeling white trunks simply
refuse to grow straight. On the west end, an imposing redwood has been
christened Franklins Tower by the proud few who have
been crazy enough to climb it. On the east end, there is another sycamore
that has earned a special reputation for being a perfect photo backdrop
for weddings and alumni gatherings. Its massive branches that bend and
unfold along the ground tempt one to sit, climb or crawl to a favorite
perch, shaded by thick foliage.
As the big front lawn of Bridges Auditorium, Marston Quad is also enjoyed
by people outside of the college community. After attending a matinée
performance, swarms of schoolchildren stream out all over the Quads
east end. They run and laugh, fascinated in their new mystical playground.
When the schoolbuses come it seems hard to leave.
Perhaps the quad emits some contagious spirit on these first summery days.
Maybe its the suns warmth, the blue sky, or the lush green
of the grass that seems to beckon bare feet. Whatever it is, by late afternoon
a rowdy bunch of boys seem to have given in. They kick off their Birkenstocks
to mark end zones for ultimate Frisbee and play on into the early evening.
The quad is known for inspiring free-spirited frolic, even occasionally
at inappropriate times. Years ago, it is rumored, graduation ceremonies
were chased out of this magnificent space and into the stuffy confines
of Bridges Auditorium by a few daring streakers. Even today, its
not too hard to find students who proudly volunteer stories of running
naked through the sprinklers at two in the morning. And it was just
as refreshing and debaucherous as wed imagined! one of these
once told me.
Maybe all of this only serves to show that the wildness of youth cannot
be tamed. Or maybe its more than that. Maybe its the myth
of the gardeninnocence reclaimed. Maybe its a sense that the
real heart of Pomona is right here where everyone can feel it, some prevailing
spirit that harmonizes the diverse personalities of the communityathletes,
sunbathers, martial artists, even streakers.
Evening comes. A small group of townspeople dressed in T-shirts and sweatpants
slide through the slow stately motions of tai chi. Joggers and dog-walkers
move through the gathering dusk, among the trees and the shrubs and the
fading flowers. The sky lights up vast and purple, glowing over the Carnegie
Building. Its hard not to stop and stare.
Night falls in the garden.
Caroline Potter 04