The Observer.

Between two elements. University of Alaska Fairbanks. Photo by JAH. 2018


At one point, someone thought it must have been quite funny to do what they did years ago. It must have been intentional, and quite brilliant actually. Perhaps, whoever this someone did such a thing as an attempt to convey a message to those passerby who barely took the time to appreciate this observer.

Or perhaps, the intention was to demonstrate proof that those seeking higher knowledge are often so involved and invested into acquiring such accomplishments that they have forgotten what truly matters in life.

But, I know and I see what someone did years ago. Let me explain.

I am referring to a tree.

This tree was planted between two man-made entities: two buildings. The two buildings on campus were ones I frequented in-between classes, and walking to and from the parking lot.

I have walked by this tree numerous times throughout the years (full disclosure about a decade and a half), and it has observed me at the start of my academic years when I was all excited about my classes, when I received my first “F” on a Victorian literature paper, when I was ambitious and took 12 credits one summer, when I finally graduated, when I was hired at a position, when I was pregnant with the Primadonna, when I passed my thesis defense (twice), when I finished taking my comprehensive exams, when I taught English 111x and held class on election night in 2016, and today when I walk to and from my office walking right by with a nod, and a whisper, “I see you, Homie. I see you today.”

Here’s the thing: the brilliance of planting this tree in between two buildings is significant.

The intention (I’d like to believe) is to demonstrate how anyone at any given moment may experience an episode in their lives where they are caught between two difficult places. This tree’s only option is not to grow sideways, but to grow-up.

To grow the hell up.

As homo sapiens–we have all been there.

One day, when I was one month from graduating with my undergrad, I walked by the tree, and stopped. I looked up and I whispered, “I’m going to have a baby. She will be my last one. Just wanted to tell you.”

One year, when a new career path took me to a different location on campus, I spent most of my days traveling or staying put in a cubicle.  After five years, life forced me to shifts by taking on a different job, and also working on my masters. The first thing I did was walk by that tree, and I whispered, “I’m back–a bit more experienced, can you tell?” I could have sworn the wind blew through Homie’s leaves as it whispered, “nahh girl, you still gots a long a way to go.”

When I took on teaching an English class to a group of undergrads, the classroom was located close to the entry way where the tree is situated.  A wall separated me from the tree. I was being observed by that tree–I knew it. The night of 2016 election after I sent my students home early because I wanted them to reflect on the evening, and to be with their friends; I walked outside and before I headed to the parking lot, I stood in front of the tree and whispered, “what in the world?” The tree was silent in the night. I walked to my vehicle unsure of myself and of the world.

Fast forward to the other day, a Monday actually–as I was going about being busy with my office tasks and solely focus on my duties–this phenomenal moment occurred as if to remind me of all the magic that still exists in this world, I was walking from the parking lot, and in that exact moment–the wind blew just right past the tree with all of its golden leaves, and there I was being showered with such beauty.

It was just me and the tree.

And, I whispered, “how did you know that I needed a reminder?”

Homie whispered, “because even a hot mess needs magic.”


As the leaves turn. A gray hair version on a tree. University of Alaska Fairbanks. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.


Morning glory. University of Alaska Fairbanks. Fairbanks, Alaska. October 2018. Photo by JAH.


When one is showered with leaves. University of Alaska Fairbanks. Fairbanks, Alaska. October 2018. Photo by JAH.


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