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The grove of academe

The grove of academe

by Wolf Pascoe on April 29, 2013

Dream of Arcadia - Thomas Cole

This is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. — Psalms, 118:24

“I think I want to stay in town for middle school,” Nick said the other day.

“I thought you were into Portland,” I said.

“Not so much now,” he said.

The Portland idea has been with us for a couple of years, but nothing is decided. We’ve taken several trips there and like the lifestyle, slower and saner than here. More house for the money. Better school choices.

Nick will be starting 6th grade next September, his last year at Fern Hill. Don’t get me started on that. Many of his friends from there are moving on to a local school I’ll call “the grove of academe,” a small and private place Nora and I visited today.




A while back, after a lot of soul searching, I had made my peace with a move to Oregon.

“I think I can swing this financially,” I had said to Nora. “And I can go back down for every other men’s group meeting.”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “Oregon’s a better place to live. But we didn’t know about the grove of academe before.”

“I thought you were set on Portland.”

“I’m thinking of all the support we’d be leaving behind, too.”

It’s hard to argue with this—we know exactly two families in Portland. The prospect of completely starting over in a city hundreds of miles from here seems daunting at our age.

So the idyll of the Northwest, though not entirely gone, recedes in the Pacific mist.




Which brings up a question. What if this is it? What if things are never going to be any different, any better? Can peace be made?

Repent the day before you die.Talmud

Which is another way of saying:

This is the day the Lord hath made.

Of all Biblical wisdom, these seven words have always seemed to me the wisest.

To be sure, coming to terms with a move to another city has shaken a lot of cobwebs free in my head. Every time we’d come home from a trip up there, I’d noticed new things to like down here. Anything seems possible now.

I guess, if you’ve done your repenting, you can roll.




I liked the grove of academe. The director seemed a fine young man, the classes small. The grounds were nothing to look at, nothing like grove in the painting of Arcadia above, but the students were friendly and full of energy. They sat in desks arranged in circles, or hunched over computers, or practiced music, or worked on art projects. Arcadia, I guess, is a state of mind. I wouldn’t mind going to such a school.

I might not even mind, I thought today, being a teenager again.

Umpteen years ago, when I went to my 20th high school reunion, I noticed I had a strange, nervous feeling all night. As the evening wore on the feeling grew more familiar. Then I realized: this was how I’d felt throughout high school—nervous. All the time.

I wanted to ask these kids—they looked so self-assured—are you nervous? Are you worried about your future? About getting a job?

I suppose I’d been nervous about the future in high school—at least about getting into a good college. I’d been nervous about people liking me. My youth, it seems, was Arcadian only in retrospect.

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”




I think Nick worries about people liking him. But I don’t think he worries about the future. He’s ten, for God’s sake, and lives in an Arcadian grove for the time being. He’s got Nora and me to worry about the future. And I do. I watch the relentless decline of our corporatized state and I worry and worry and worry some more.

I wouldn’t worry in Arcadia. But I’d worry whether here or in Portland. I’d worry in a new house as much as in this one.

I worry too much, I know. And there’s always this to console me:

History assures us that civilizations decay quite leisurely. — Will and Ariel Durant

It seems to be what the Lord hath made.








Tom O’Bedlam reads Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Never heard Tom O’Bedlam read a poem before? There’s no one better.





Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara May 2, 2013 at 6:27 am

I remember the agony of trying to decide whether we should move to the Austin area from the Houston area, or not. We left the support of family and friends and all things familiar. I knew one person in the Austin area. Of course, you know we decided to move and haven’t looked back. But then, we were only moving 4 hours away. Good luck on making yours! And once you do, run with it and don’t look back. Embrace it with no regrets.


Wolf Pascoe May 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm

“Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” — Satchel Paige.
Who also said, “Avoid fried foods, which angry up the blood.” I hear they don’t fry foods in Portland.


David May 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

“This is the day the Lord hath made.”
What was he thinking?!

I like the grace and eloquence with which you address your worry. Just stopping to read this piece makes me feel downright pastoral.


Wolf Pascoe May 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

It’s a downright meandering stream it is, my worry.


Privilege of Parenting May 3, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I like streams, and besides—you had me at messing around in boats 🙂

may this eternal day soothe us with its Arcadian rhythm


Wolf Pascoe May 3, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Next you’ll be showing up on a Grecian urn.


D. A. Wolf May 7, 2013 at 10:02 am

I can feel the understandable angst, the natural worry over starting over at any age and so much more complex when our children are depending on the quality of our decisions and when we, dare I admit, are no longer quite as spry and adaptable as we may once have been.

I also recognize those “is this it?” moments, in part bearing witness to our own aging, acceptance that we may not become all we wish, or travel the paths we had our hearts set on, even as we hope to remove obstacles to our children being able to do so.

I suspect that Nick will be well-situated wherever you and Nora deem best. He has the presence of two extraordinary parents – a sort of grounding that I know you understand makes all the difference in whatever is to come.


Wolf Pascoe May 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm

“no longer quite as spry and adaptable “?


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