Into the woods, into the woods.
Standing on the Diag, surrounded by the chaos of the college environment, some students might be surprised to learn that not far from the hustle and bustle of our concrete campus they have the ability to experience acres of preserved forests and waterways.
The Nichols Arboretum is a University-controlled park, offering wide-open space where students and Ann Arbor residents can run free — free to be you and me. Just like in the ’70s TV special — a Marlo Thomas-Michael Jackson-Gloria Steinem collaboration that I’m sure all true Ann Arborites cherish as much as I do — it is a invigorating departure from the rest of the city.
The tranquil Peony Garden and rushing Huron River may immediately come to mind when you hear about the Arb. But the hills made clear and barren by winter’s harsh hands and the canvas of falling snow is something from a 12-year-old’s dream.
Recently, I joined a group comprised of (almost) twenty-somethings to venture out amid single-digit temperatures in exploration of the great outdoors. We each represented fields of study so varied that we might have been a group of University orientation leaders.
I found it a curious feeling to walk out of a class on the Arab-Israeli conflict to feel the prickling wind stinging my cheeks and a sensation of flight and everything the world once seemed to be: open and wild, forgiving and terrifyingly vast — yet unknowingly narrow — all at the same time.
As so many before us had, we slid down hills on recycled boxes, dining hall trays, and $5 sleds. We rustled through paths and wore borrowed snowshoes that still held the dust of the attics from which they were retrieved.
We heard and felt silence. The buzz from someone’s new Tinder match was masked by the thick snow apparel we had donned, and our laptops were nestled in their cases at home. While rumor has it that a few lucky graduate students get to live buried away within the Arb’s grounds, the mystery house wasn’t found on this particular adventure, but there is always next time.
And there will be a next time, though I hope to be wearing shorts instead of three pairs of leggings.
Only a select few make it to the Arb this time of year. Maybe the townies know better than to leave their toasty abodes this time of year, but remembering that the Arb does indeed exist and experiencing it in all seasons is a great way to remind yourself that a world beyond Ann Arbor — and beyond the Diag — exists too.