Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On the Grapevine

"255 Grapevine: An Evening with An Address and A Certain Zip" was the newest part of Gordon’s Homecoming festivities this year. The 90-minute variety show opened with this piece, written by Provost Mark Sargent, and read by President Jud Carlberg and June Bodoni, director of the Center for Educational Technologies:You can always hear a lot on the grapevine. From the hotel at 29 Grapevine Lane, in Brighton, England, you can hear the waves as they retreat through the rocky shore. Children laugh at the old arcade on the pier. A gray-haired, washed-up street musician tries to play Led Zeppelin on his over-ramped guitar

At 301 Grapevine Road, in Martinsburg, West Virginia, you can hear the insects buzzing in the creek that meanders toward Harper’s Ferry. At the Shenandoah Bookstore, the tune of “John Brown’s Body” moans in the speakers overhead. In the aisles you can still hear talk about guns and government raids.

At 403 Grapevine Road in Tampa, Florida, you can hear the sounds of evil blaring from the loudspeakers at nearby Steinbrenneur Field, as the voice of the Yankees announces the line-up for spring training.

From the ranch house at 443 Grapevine Road on the old California “ridge route,” the diesel trucks grind their way over the Tejon Pass. You can hear the sound of a coyote as it descends from the dry Tehachapi canyons.

At 74 Grapevine Road in Wenham, Massachusetts, you can hear the shrill cry of a siren. Another Gordon College professor has just been caught speeding by the Wenham police.

At 255 Grapevine Road, Jon Tymann thinks that he has just heard the howl of the coyote on the quad. Barry Loy wonders if it was only Chester stalking the aisles of Lane. He skips out to get a drink—at Dunkin Donuts.
In her room, Heather Lobe is practicing her strange noises, and Cami Forester is practicing dance steps. In the shower, Scotty Prichard sings his favorite songs—and perfectly on key.

At 255 Grapevine Road, Zach Reynolds and Andrew Fondell dive to catch Frisbees, dodging the geese that have come to fertilize the grass. Skateboards roar down the Phillips Walk. The sound of a French horn at practice escapes from the music building. Before heading home, Dan Tymann logs on Facebook. In his lab, Craig Story is making ice cream.

On 255 Grapevine Road, the wind thrusts the fallen leaves against the low stonewall by Ferrin. Turtles and small-mouth bass glide among the Gull Pond reeds. At the edges of Coy the moss covers the roots of the barren trees, and the damp pine needles blanket the Chebacco paths. In the quiet before dusk, you can sometimes catch the sound of a deer leaping over fallen trees, or hear the beavers at the water’s edge.

At 255 Grapevine Road, in the quiet of Frost Hall, Laurie Truschel meets a student for prayer, a promise made after her father’s death. In the bustle of their lounge, a group of men meet to read Colossians. In the stillness of her car, Val Buchanan arrives from Lynn, her mind on a South African township. Tomorrow’s email will bring messages from Orvieto and Egypt and Belize.

At 255 Grapevine Road, the library is full of students cramming for their Old Testament exams. In the PDR, Mark Stowell talks of Mexican orphans and long nights on the floor of a Tijuana church. In the sanctuary of A.J., the chapel band practices a new song.
For most of this night a philosophy major will be reading Hume. An English major will write on Homer. A piano major resumes work on Bach. Tomorrow, the Great Conversation classes will descend together into Dante’s inferno or read of Job’s resurgence. Tomorrow, Marv Wilson will describe the Hebrew raphah—the call to “be still and know that I am God.”

Fall always provides still moments—and sights for contemplation. All along the borders of Grapevine Road, the sumac turns red and gold. The vines on the oak trees begin to brown, and Lilly pads wither in the wetlands. The morning frost begins to burn the edges of the Concord grapevines on the backyard trestles of a few Wenham homes.
Grapes still flourish in small fields and backyards in New England. Their slip-skin covers are often purple and dark blue, their flavor strong and musky. One and a half centuries ago near Boston the first Concord grape was squeezed to make juice for a Methodist communion. Today, in hundreds of white-steepled New England churches, the dark juice still recalls the Savior’s blood.

No one knows for sure the kind of grapes that were squeezed to make wine for Jesus and his disciples. Some of those old grape species in the Middle East are now extinct, victims of drought or medieval wars that decimated vineyards. Invading armies slashed the long vines and burned the roots, leaving the stems and tendrils to wither in the sun.

“I am the vine; you are the branches,” Jesus told his followers. “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like the branch that is thrown away and withers.” Yet, “if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. . . This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples.”

We do live tangled lives at 255 Grapevine Road. Our best hopes are often rooted in the love and care of those around us—friends and roommates, professors and RDs, and families linked by the tendrils of email and cell phones. Our eyes and minds are bound—by satellites and cables—to the farthest corners of the world.

And our faith still clings to the words and thoughts of more than fifty centuries. “Return to us, O God Almighty,” David sings. “Look down from heaven and see. Watch over this vine. . .”
Today is a day for coming home. A day to be thankful that God still watches over our home at

255 Grapevine Road

But the place we call home gets ever longer. The road that runs through campus weaves through rocks and trees, and then spreads into a thousand limbs and branches. It stretches into urban homes and rural farms. Into churches and clinics. Into schools and labs. Into places where there is a deep longing for comfort, justice, joy and hope. And where the branches of the vine can best bear fruit.

1 comment:

Angela said...

Wonderful images, wonderful school. What a privilege.