The reintroduction of in-person classes this semester means that the varied, twisting and sometimes hilly streets of Ann Arbor are once again being strolled upon. Pathways of crunchy leaves or gray slush welcome back the trails of University of Michigan students marching with a caffeinated buzz and residents with their leisurely peanut-butter pace. Campus Culture writers tackled the challenge of picking their favorite of these treasured avenues. Take a stroll through five of their reflections.
— Grace Tucker, Campus Culture Senior Arts Editor
An ode to the Law Quad
My first thought while drafting this article was “love poem.” Humiliated before I even put pen to paper, I realized that writing a love poem to a set of intersecting paths would be absurd. But from the moment I first walked through the Law Quadrangle, I’ve been enamored.
Within the enclosure of the University law school’s timeless buildings lies a sunlit courtyard with a series of intertwining paths, secluded passages and striking archways: the Law Quad. Apart from the towering, Hogwarts-esque Law Library, the classical stone buildings go largely unexplored by the undergraduate population. The mystery of the Law Quad is half the draw.
As you observe the million-colored stained glass windows, tiny gargoyles and worn stone embellishing the quad, you feel transported to another time and place. As I stroll, I imagine brilliant students in secret societies, the smell and feel of vintage books and (okay, I’ll say it) magic.
The bumpy stone paths — worn down by the trails of countless University students over the years — set the Law Quad apart from the concrete sidewalks of central campus. The stones beneath your feet feel different, therapeutic even. It’s oddly silent, and the stately buildings feel like a forcefield against the outside world. As your feet patter on the aged stones, it is easy to get lost in your thoughts.
Though I love the Law Quad for its mystery and grandeur, from the first day I walked the paths, it felt like home. Maybe it was because of my love for antiques or fascination with fantasy books; something about the Law Quad felt welcoming and familiar.
In the morning, as the sun shines from the center of the courtyard into what feels like a private path, a sense of calm washes over me. At night, as I aimlessly stroll through the Law Quad, the street lamps’ warm glows illuminate my path, easing all my worries. And as I walk home from the Law Quad at any hour of the day or night, I know I’ll be back tomorrow.
— Kaya Ginsky, Daily Arts Writer
A Sunday morning on East U
11:37 a.m. on Sunday morning — or at least the morning to me. It is unclear if my sour mood is a result of the lack of Diet Coke in the Sergeant Pepper’s General Store or tripping over the dead Spin scooter strewn sideways across the sidewalk. (And on the seventh day, Jaden rested.)
I shrug it off and head north, quickly glancing across the street to check if the intimidating art-major seniors clustered on the rickety porch noticed my fall. I make eye contact with the one dressed like Francoise Hardy, leather jacket and all, and as much as I want to be her friend, I speed walk past them.
To avoid further eye contact, I turn my gaze to the landscape. The pattern of beige Amazon boxes and red solo cups dotting the lawns remind me of Seurat’s pointillist paintings we studied in my 19th-century modernism class last week. Speaking of my art history class, I recognize the frat boy who sits two rows ahead of me sashaying/staggering (I can’t decide) toward the house on my left. We wave to each other and I spend the next few moments wondering why he chose to trek across the lawn and circumnavigate its many obstacles instead of just walking up the concrete path leading straight to the house.
I eventually give up because I realize it’s probably just another one of life’s mysteries I will never understand, and because the blood orange box that looked like a Rubik’s Cube from Sergeant Pepper’s is now overpowering my field of vision. My journey is almost done. As I walk home along the same path from which I came, I feel complete, even though I am without the Diet Coke I left my house for in the first place. In the end, a walk down East University Avenue is always worth it.
A gust of wind blows down the street and a pair of soggy brown Converse, probably once white, plops on my head.
— Jaden Katz, Daily Arts Writer
Forest Court on a summer’s evening in Ann Arbor
The air was warm-dark, the night sprinkled with twinkles of fireflies and flashes of stars. It was my first night back in Ann Arbor after a summer away, but it felt like my first night in Ann Arbor maybe ever. I could go on and on to you about why, but I won’t. What’s important about this night is that it was, and I was, inundated with possibility.
I was surrounded by friends, and each step we took led me further down the path of that possibility. There were a few certainties — it was night, we were going out and we were going to have fun. Beyond that? A fairer House than Prose. Possibility.
As we waltzed through and toward the rest of our night, we were —
Record scratch. No wait, not a scratch, just a part of the record.
The shortcut. We’ve gotta take the shortcut.
The shortcut? What’s that?
Everyone but me:
(with many gasps and shouts of dismay)
You don’t know what the shortcut is?
I didn’t, but I was ready to find out.
When I was little, one of my dreams was to live in a mansion. I’m not sure I really knew what a mansion would look like. I just knew it was a big house. Yet, I didn’t want to live in a mansion because of its size, nor because living in one would mean I was wealthy, but because I assumed any mansion would have a variety of secret passageways. (“Clue” must’ve been more influential to my childhood than I thought.) It would be cool, I thought, to wake up and walk to the kitchen. But not down a hallway. Instead, I would walk to the kitchen through a secret tunnel, which I would, of course, access by activating the secret bookshelf door that was right next to my bed. As I’ve grown older, my mansion fantasy has faded, but my fascination with the secret passageway has not. Call it the child within me, or maybe the human, but I love secrets.
So off we turned, my group and me. Down a driveway, into a church parking lot, around a corner and came upon it.
Forest Court. The secret passageway of Ann Arbor.
The street is narrow, and although there are sidewalks on either side, they seem too thin to actually walk on. As though they’re only there for some ornamental reason. So we walked down the middle of the road.
Our feet crunched the pavement below us, a few of my friends buzzed around, more concerned with the jokes they were telling than the route we were taking. They’d already seen Forest Court, but I hadn’t. I was in awe. String lights were thrown across porches, people sat on a few rooftops, legs kicking, beer slurping, watching us pass them by. Muffled screams of delight echoed out of various doorways and windows — the night was ours, all of ours, and this secret shortcut was mine.
A few students live on Forest Court, and from my brief sleuthing, a few Ann Arbor residents too. It’s really just a dead-end street that spits out into the little downtown at the southeast corner of the Diag, but on that night, it was my secret little passageway.
The air was warm and dark, the night sprinkled with twinkles of fireflies and flashes of stars. And into the night we went, down my secret passageway we went.
Excited to take on the night ahead; Forest Court, to our futures, it led.
— Peter Hummer, Campus Culture Beat Editor
Granger Ave: Where dysfunctional college students meet happily retired couples
In my sophomore year, Ann Arbor still felt foreign. Unfamiliar. My first two years in college had been narrowed down to two intermittent semesters and two-too-many plane rides home to Spain from Michigan within a year. The pandemic! It wasn’t until this past spring that I started to become acquainted with this town. Until then, I hadn’t really let my roots down on these streets because I didn’t have a place to do so.
Last January, I came back to Ann Arbor in fear that if I stayed longer in Spain I would completely disassociate myself from the University. The winter was brutal, lonely and static. I moved into a new apartment where the days had no numbers, where the city narrowed down to my matutine bike ride to the gym, or the block-long walks I would take in between Zoom classes because my body was desperate for movement. Routine became as dull as the skies that overcast my days.
And then spring came — my first spring in Michigan. I got vaccinated and so did my friends, fear turned into hope and routine ended with that last exam submission in April. My block walks turned into neighborhood walks, which then turned into longer discovery strolls. Alone or accompanied, I slowly managed to form a map of this town and, finally, allowed my roots to be established. The Burns Park neighborhood was this place of rooting — more specifically, Granger Avenue.
That year, when the snow started melting around March, the ground began revealing small buds that were gradually exiting hibernation. As the weeks went by, the cherry blossom in front of my balcony became redder, then pinker, then whiter and then the leaves fell — which I learned was the natural cycle of flourishing and withering, but it still made me sort of sad.
In the mornings, I would walk toward Granger and make my way up Baldwin Avenue, the small street above Burns Park, and then zig-zag around the lovely houses in that area. Every street had its charm, but there was something about Granger’s front lawns that kept me returning.
Flowers as next-door neighbors: Black-Eyed Susan, Poppy, Golden Alexander, Scarlet … the different blossoms made the vicinal ambiance richer, as lawns became bigger and brighter every day — turning a street I once knew to be ice and snow to a garden full of life.
Perhaps it is Granger’s protean nature and how it changes with the seasons. I have recently noticed how quickly decorations switch from pumpkins and ghosts to hollies and stockings. Houses camouflage in accordance with celebrations — although some houses take it more seriously than others — it is always wondrous to see, as there is not really a parallel in my native Spain.
I have come to regard this street as the delimitation between the college and the outside world — where a porch may have a swing, a hammock or a beer-pong table. A wonderfully curious sight.
— Cecilia Duran, Daily Arts Writer
South for the winter
In the years to come, you will be remembered as some back avenue, home to a slow trickle of students filtering through the Michigan Union, past the University of Michigan Museum of Art and Tappan Hall, gracing the brick walkway leading to the West Engineering Arch but never entering therein: South University Avenue. A site of transience, not a place to linger or dwell upon, merely one to pass through. You lack the glamor, the hubbub, the constant hum of life that your neighbors share.
Perhaps you were never meant to be known by moonlight. Perhaps the ever-diminishing flow of traffic through your veins was meant to sleep as you did. Perhaps your true legacy will live in the hearts of those who traversed your puddles and potholes amid the chill of a Tuesday evening. In that still February midnight, we travelers found home in the star-studded asphalt and the faint crunch of castoff salt. When the snow flutters rather than falls, we pause for a moment and breathe in the silence, tiptoeing across your spine vertebrae-by-vertebrae.
We take nothing from you, you expect nothing in return. You fall asleep to the gentle hum of a life at pause, and the sacred pulse of steps that lie somewhere between Here and There: the electricity of State Street’s nightlife and the steady presence of East University Avenue’s academic buildings. A sense of South for the winter, as it were, if we had wings instead of feet. Nevertheless, we walk along your skin, safe in the knowledge that tomorrow we must leave, but tonight, we may dance.
— Darby Williams, Daily Arts Writer