There’s nothing quite like the University of Mississippi in the spring. That’s when the colorful hues of nature found on our campus– officially recognized as one of the nation’s most beautiful– shine brightest. And nowhere is this more true than in the Grove.
I vividly remember my first spring semester in the Grove. It was 1978 and I was a sophomore transfer student who’d just come through the worst term of my entire academic career. On top of that, I’d not made many friends (two roommates bailed on me within the first month I arrived). Ready to put my wintery past failures and social disappointments behind me and to start anew, I welcomed the arrival of warmer weather and better days.
The Grove brought me both. Strolling around on the spacious grounds, I breathed the fresh air in deeply, basked in the sun’s rays and listened to the birds chirping. I gazed at the purest blue skies and saw lively squirrels running up and down the trunks and limbs of green-leafed trees. And for the first time, Ole Miss began to feel like my second home.
A year later, I was back in the Grove and no longer alone. During the course of the months between, I had met and become fast friends with several people. One of these persons became particularly close. She was my prayer partner, confidant and girlfriend (whom I married shortly after I graduated the next year). Together, we shared the sights, sounds and smells of the Grove in spring. Sometimes we talked; other times we picnicked. We found we enjoyed eating in the Grove better in the spring, as neither of us cared much for tailgating among the crowds in the fall.
Years later, I returned to work in the UM Office of Public Relations. By this time, my wife and I had two young children. Once again, we took in the Grove and found it was still an excellent space for all the members of our young family to spend precious quality time together. The kids learned to ride bicycles, toss balls and jump rope right there underneath the canopy of trees providing shade from the Saturday and Sunday afternoon sunshine.
Of course, the Grove is the place for commencement exercises every May. Last year, as I covered the event, I was able to combine work with pleasure. Sitting at one of the picnic tables, I had an ideal spot to watch graduates and their loved ones arrive. Civil Rights movement icon Myrlie Evers-Williams delivered one of the most inspirational addresses I’ve ever heard. (View excerpts here). The cloudy skies of early morn rolled away and sunny skies appeared, highlighting the specialness of the occasion.
And once again, I had more Grove memories to keep and reflect upon.
The Ole Miss campus has changed significantly over the years. New buildings here. Old buildings no longer there. Departments playing “see if you can find me” with their locations. Still, the Grove remains one of the few constants in the midst of the flux of change. I like to think of it as a Graceful Reminder Of Valuable Experiences or GROVE.