In the Neighborhood

As someone who lives “in the neighborhood,” I reap many benefits: a two-minute (on foot) commute, the pleasant serenade of bells atop the library and daily conversations in my front yard with current, former and future students who stroll, bike and scurry to and fro (each providing a youthful energy and enthusiasm to living, as we call it, “in the zone”).

Although we’ve always adored living adjacent to campus, last weekend proved to be an exciting opportunity to fully embrace the richness and to witness the extent to which we really do live in – to borrow Father Dease’s recent words – the best place. Our newfound appreciation of life in the neighborhood was all thanks to our dying “Big Old Tree.”

The fateful red ring of paint seemed to appear out of nowhere. Like many old trees that fill the boulevards and yards surrounding campus, the one that has loyally provided shade to our yard and to our neighbors was marked last week with the fateful ring of red. “What?” “How?” “Why?” A disease, of course. But an opportunity, as well!
Being the glass-half-full types, my neighbors and I quickly organized a party to bid farewell to our “Big Old Tree.” We gathered last weekend around her mighty trunk. We lifted our glasses in her honor and, well, we stayed up way past our bedtimes. It was a night none of us will soon forget. Why? What? Do tell!

It was, quite simply, one of those magical evenings “in the neighborhood,” a blending of young and old, early and late, musical and lyrical, chit and chat, alive and (nearly) dead (the tree, that is). Our hearts were warmed by students who added words of adoration (“We’ll miss you, Big Old Tree” and “Thanks for being here so long”) to the notes we already had lovingly attached to her massive trunk. We enjoyed the folksy, fabulous music provided by two English professors. Yes, have you heard? Professors Andy Scheiber and Liz Wilkinson are not only smart academics, but talented musicians and songwriters, too! They have a CD and might be willing to play at your parties. A huge thank you to them for making our neighbor party most dreamy. Your debut of “Big Old Tree,” written just for the occasion, brought deep gladness and stirred many emotions. (You can listen and download a free MP3 of “Big Old Tree” at Just click on “Additional songs” and then into Andy’s song annex.)

Long after the notes were hung, songs were sung, food devoured and lights strung around the mighty trunk, our neighborhood proceeded to come alive, right before our very eyes. Students enjoying the warm fall air strolled to and from gatherings with friends. Many of them stopped to inquire about our Big Old Tree, taught us “older folks” some of their hip slang and reported about their entrepreneurship majors and journalism minors. We reminded those getting in cars never to drink and drive. Our laughter wafted onto Ashland and Summit. We enjoyed their youthful energy even though it was well past midnight and way past the older folks’ bedtime.

What do you get when you add neighbors + students + live music + a dying tree + lights + markers + love notes + tasty snacks and drinks? A really great reason to live where we do, just a few steps from campus.
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