A Letter to the readers by Jon Volkmer
Just after the start of each new year, outside of my third floor window in Olin Hall, the starlings captivate me. In the hour before sunset, I watch the flock alight on the Japanese pagoda trees between Wismer and BPS. The early ones, on the topmost branches, trickle downward as if on tiny escalators, making room for new arrivals, until every twig is twittering with glossy black shapes, furiously feasting on the pale green fruit of winter. Defectors swoop away, followed by more, until the entire assembly launches and banks rightward in perfect synchrony toward the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art. My eyes stare through the empty branches, all the way to Patterson Field, where lacrosse players, birdlike at this distance, swirl across the turf in a synchrony of their own, weaving and unweaving, until my view is obscured by returning starlings. Amid these alternating murmurations, avian and human, something inside me turns—not yet inspiration, but an urge, in E.M. Forster’s famous phrase, to “only connect.” My mind’s eye swirls across campus to perch where dancers make meaning across a hardwood floor, where paint and pencil meet canvas and paper, where digital audio and visuals blend. To Bomberger basement where a lone saxophonist saws a melancholy note, to Main Street houses where the poet’s fingers thrum a silver radiator, and to the Kaleidoscope stage, where students strive still to embody Hamlet’s edict “to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature.” The starlings cruise in from the rooftop, refilling the trees, and I hold my breath for their deft ballet of departure. I am grateful for this moment, and grateful to be a small part of the upheaval of invention roiling art into existence at Ursinus College. Artists here may be athletes, scientists, and entrepreneurs, but they are also encouraged and enabled simply to create, a value we hold to be self-evident.
Professor of English
Director of Creative Writing