Sunday, August 12, 2007

University of the South

University of the South By Leigh Bratina

Sewanee is the familiar name of the University of the South, a liberal arts college and Episcopal seminary, which was chartered in 1858 and opened its doors just after the Civil War. It is also the name of the unincorporated village that contains, besides the college, several churches, a handful of shops, 1 stoplight, and about 2,000 residents. And it is the name of the “Domain” that surrounds both village and college, 10,000 acres of woods, caves, lakes and streams, sitting atop the Cumberland Plateau about 2,000 feet above sea level.
One of its early graduates, the poet and memoirist William Alexander Percy, claimed that “there is no way to tell of youth or of Sewanee, which is youth”—but then went on to make this attempt:
"It’s a long way away, even from Chattanooga, in the middle of woods, on top of a bastion of mountains crenellated with blue coves. It is so beautiful that people who have once been there always, one way or another, come back. For such as can detect apple green in an evening sky, it is Arcadia—not the one that never used to be, but the one that many people always live in; only this one can be shared "
Physically the University looks, as some visitors have remarked, like a college in a movie. It is an architecturally coherent collection of Gothic buildings, built of locally quarried sandstone, some more than a century old, others built just yesterday. In between are expansive greens, ancient oaks and hickories, quiet streets and faculty houses.” In Sewanee, I had the most peaceful feeling. This type of quiet setting evokes such feelings and the longing to stay-to become a part of this little community that time has seemed to pass by. I visited the campus bookstore on my visit and flipped through pages of books of historical information and photographs. To take a photograph from the early 1900’s and hold it to one of today, there is little difference.
While visiting the campus, be certain to bring a camera. You will be entranced at the architectural and historical elements and want to preserve it all by both film and memory. I have three children (none of which came with me on this day trip) and all I could think about was returning to Sewanee to allow them to explore this magical setting. Visitors are allowed to roam many of the buildings and churches on the grounds. There are buildings with turrets and spiral staircases. I can imagine my two youngest children would make a day of make believe of knights and princesses while I could sit on the lawn and enjoy a good book in the peaceful surroundings. After a day of exploration, I highly suggest capping off the day by going to the giant cross to watch the sunset. Almost anyone on campus can give you directions. The cross can be scene from anywhere in the valley and was placed there in memory of those that have served in war. It is another quiet spot, where you can look out over the farmland in the valley and watch the sun bid farewell to another day. Bring a picnic supper for a perfect ending to a day!

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