The Melt…

Today, the snow slumps sodden and wet with melt. It looks like cold lutefisk under poor light. Treewells sink downward, pulled into the earth, drunk up by the roots of their trees while snowmelt runnels slide along pavement toward storm drains, their concentric arcs bending like the belly scales of upturned snakes in the sun.

I hear the dull thud of rain on snow, the wetness of it all, the saturation of the season. It smells like dirt. The grass lies brown and matted, pressed into the dirt by the accumulated weight of a twelve-week snow, now exposed to the sun and air where the snow has pulled back its gums. Once snow-trapped debris litters the grass–prehistoric bodies regurgitated by receding glaciers: A limp and molding orange; a capless pen; a blue bag of dog shit tossed aside by some bastard too lazy to carry it to a can.

Later, back in the classroom, I ask, “Which way is north?” and my students catch each other in a crossfire of points before settling in a general direction the way one starling shapes the murmuration of an entire flock with a subtle wing dip. North.

-Mr. Bre


Welcome to Lit and the Land


Dear L&L Crew 2015,

Welcome to Literature and the Land, a field-centered Harkness class.  Before we begin, I want you to know that by taking this course, you are aligning yourself with a line of Exonians who took this course during the 28 years it was taught by longtime Exeter English Instructor, Peter Greer. This course was one of the first of its kind in secondary schools, and is responsible for inspiring many, many Exonians to a more deeply connected relationship to the natural world. As we look backwards this term to contemplate the scope of human engagement with landscape (and how we fit within that compass), it strikes me as important to recognize our place within the history of our own school, that when we notice the final melting of the river ice and the arrival of the Red-Winged Blackbird, we see along with those who have taken note alike before us.  Our stories and theirs, entwining. I sense a power in that truth.

Mr. Greer passed away last year. Before he died, he and I shared a lunch at Front Row during which he shared with me how much this course meant to him during his career and how much it meant to him to know that it would continue to inspire Exonians.

This class invites you to reflect upon your own relationship to the natural world. It asks that you slow down and observe. It asks that you begin to learn the names of the trees and plants and birds and mammals of seacoast New Hampshire. It asks you to pay attention and that you render yourself open to the natural details around you.  This course takes place during a pivotal moment in the arrival of spring, what Donald Culross Peatie deems “the slow turn of the seasons.” Most obviously, the ground still holds a foot or more of snow on this first day of class. On the last, the trees will bear full summer’s verdance. Our task together, will be to bear witness to this magic as it unfolds around us beautifully, myriadly.

This class is going to be different from most Harkness classes you know in that a portion of our conversations will occur during transport to our various excursions and activities–on the bus, for example, to Mr. Hiza’s orchard, or as we walk together to our observation spots in the campus woods. It means that I’m going to ask you to be opportunistic Harkness learners; that is, during our field trips and excursions, I invite you to invoke the readings, to make connections between what you’ve read, what you think, and what you see and do. Mostly, though, I invite you to create a community of learners together, to laugh, to get to know each other, to bring your disparate passions and identities to this course–your music, your art, your wit.

It would be impossible for me to be more excited for our time together this spring.

Sincerely, Mr. Bre