When I graduate from this campus in just 16 short days, the thing I will miss most is the Diag and the maze of paths that lead to it.

Ellen McGarrity

I love when I’m walking through and I come to a place where three or four paths meet and students are coming from all different directions. Some are riding a bike, some are speed-walking to their next class, and some take a slower gait while they chat with a friend. For a split second, I think it’s inevitable that two of us are going to collide as we pass that meeting point — each of us at our different pace and some of us with our minds clogged with what’s on the exam we’re heading to — but no one ever does collide. I mean, I’m sure it happens, but not often.

I love crossing the Diag early in the morning in wintertime after it has just snowed. The trees look like someone poured vanilla syrup through their branches and only a few footsteps have started to ruin the fresh snow that covers the ground. I am all bundled up with my Uggs, my Patagonia coat, my earmuffs, my scarf, my gloves — all but my face, which is exposed to the cold. I breathe in deep and the icy air hits my lungs and I almost feel like I’m choking. But then I look up at the flagpole, to the Graduate Library, then toward Rackham and the Bell Tower. I feel like all this beauty must surely have been made just for me.

I love approaching the Diag at noon or late at night and discovering what campus group is there that day. Freshmen year it was Festifall with the tables covering every inch of those paths — students smiling and wanting me to choose their group to be a part of for the next four years. As a sophomore, I remember going with my Singaporean roommate for a late-night Chinese New Year celebration. We feasted on moon cakes and were given pretty paper lanterns as souvenirs. Then there are the fraternities and sororities for Greek Week – teeter-tottering for hours to raise money for some good cause. There’s Goodness Day when they pass out candy and you can jump around in a ball pit like you’re a kid again. And just last weekend, I passed at dusk, and a Take Back the Night rally was going on. A tear rolled down my cheek as I stopped to listen before heading on my way.

I love in March when that first hot spring day hits. It might only be 60 degrees, but everyone comes out all the same. Girls in short skirts and tank tops and sandals, boys barefoot and in just khakis: some play Frisbee and some lay out to jumpstart their tan. Entire discussion sections will form circles on the lawn while they half-heartedly try to focus on the lesson for the day and whole-heartedly enjoy the outdoors. It is truly a celebration – one that can only occur in cold places like Michigan where people learn not to take a nice warm day for granted.

The Diag is the heart of this campus. The students are the blood pumping through it day in and day out. We have a rhythm, an ebb and flow. Like a tide, we emerge from our classes on the hour and crash through all her pathways. Then we subside again into the buildings for more classes and the whole process begins again. It’s actually extraordinary – this campus of students that are brought together for moments in time as they pass through the Diag. My moments are up. But I am thankful that if only for a brief time, I added my spirit to the flow.


Ellen thanks everyone who took a moment to read her columns and hopes students will continue to pass through the Diag and enjoy its rhythm. She can be reached at emcgarri@umich.edu.



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