Around me, there were little clusters of souls, talking, taking pictures. We were graduating, after all, some with their divinity degrees, others with their doctorates. I was there to pick up my poofy doctoral cap and rented regalia before scampering back across the river to walk the dog, shower, and then return to the city for the commencement ceremony.
In that moment, it seemed worth stopping, and remembering. The trees were there, quietly marking my time. I remember starting in seminary, beginning my Master's of Theological Studies, uncertain as yet whether I wanted to fling myself into tha ministreh.
It was 1996.
The trees were there in 1996, and I remember them from when I first bustled about from class to library to class. I remember what the light was like, in that courtyard. It was bright and hot in the yard on a late spring day.
The trees themselves stood young and new, not even the height of the buildings around them. They cast little shade, because they were just barely more than saplings. Their lower branches, barely above the height of my head.
Almost twenty years ago.
Now, they rise on up, well over the rooftops, their branches high. The courtyard rests fully in shade, cool stone on a hot early spring day. The place is different. The trees seem like they must always have been this way, like the brick of the buildings, or the rough stone of the paths.
Yet I know they were not. The memory of them as saplings remains, like an echo, an image cast into my recollection of both self and place.
It's like visiting a place from your childhood after a long absence, only it is not the place that seems strange and different, but the memory.
I am the same person, I feel. Yet I am not, and the trees are not, and in their quiet way they remind me.