Christi Taylor-Bird, Contributing Writer
In my more than three years here, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the nature of campus beauty. The most fruitful time in my exploration of beauty was freshman year, when the various nooks and crannies scattered around campus provided fresh discoveries at every turn. By this point my perspective has become slightly more jaded, but the search for understanding and experience of beauty is still a prevalent part of my life.
Some places on the earth are distinctly and universally recognized as beautiful and awe-inspiring, but anyone who expects the qualities of such places to be found at the University of Dallas campus will be let down. At the same time, I refuse to concede to the opinion that this campus is simply ugly; rather, UD has a beauty that is subtle and mysterious. In this article I don’t intend to give a comprehensive guide to campus, but rather point out a few spots that reflect UD’s particular beauty.
One of the most interesting aspects of our campus is that there are places in which one can be disposed to quiet meditation and yet in the mix of life. In my four years at UD, I’ve come to the conclusion that the greatest part of campus life is the sense of love and camaraderie within our community. Throughout our campus, there is a tension between spots that are both quiet and meditative yet spatially present amid the liveliness of the campus community.
One of the places that best reflects this play between the individual and the community is the bench in front of the Church of the Incarnation. Whatever your views on the church as it stands today, one cannot help but understand the mystery and meditative comfort that is easily felt here.
At the same time, it is not a completely solitary experience. As scattered groups of students trail through the grove of trees between classes, professors slip into the chapel below, and the music on the Mall warms the heart of anyone taking comfort near the Mall every sunny Friday, one can’t help but feel deeply that one is a real part of “Bubble” life. As a freshman, I spent hours there, especially in the days of Professor Dan Hammett’s Design Foundations class. This spot was the single most inspiring place on campus.
Something else I would recommend that people take note of is the great mesquite tree behind Braniff, along the pathway to the seminary. The gnarled trunk of this tree has twisted and contorted to such extremes that it offers a perfect seat to any passersby. This is an especially great place to encounter beauty at sunset. Here we have been blessed with amazing sunsets, a fact that I, as a native Texan, took for granted until my Rome semester.
There is one last place I would like to draw attention to, because it is one of the most modest places on campus but offers a view similar to those which can be seen from the top of European fortresses. I am talking about the peak of Carpenter hill, at the top of the stairs that connect the back of Carpenter to the O’Connell parking lot. I can understand why, at first glance, someone might call me crazy for choosing this place. After all, the stairs don’t even entirely connect and many people are eager to tear Carpenter down.
I would, however, ask such people to withold their judgement until they sit there in silence, in the dead of the night, and simply look at the bustling city below. Here at UD it is easy to forget that we are still a part of something larger than ourselves. Although our school is small and often vastly misunderstood (much like dear Carpenter) its mission is great and noble in the context of the Church at large.
Again, this is by no means a comprehensive list of “the best places” on campus. That endeavor would be too subjective and presumptuous. Instead I would like people to take this as a list of suggested places to go to and experience for yourself. Please forgive me if I have been too flowery in this exploration. If nothing else, I would like to invite people to simply stop, listen and seek to understand the beauty that is before them. We may have our own personal preferences of how the world should be or should look, but the world would be much more exciting if we didn’t limit ourselves to such a small box. God calls us constantly to share in His beauty, no matter where we are, and I find that it is our job to be open enough to hear His voice.