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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Shower thoughts, quarantine edition

As I struggled, yet again, to come up with a topic for the dreaded inside column, my cabin fever-addled brain hit upon the phrase, “if these walls could talk.” I paused, wondering what the walls of the tiny house I’ve shared with three of my best girlfriends for the past seven months would say about us.

Do they think we’re as funny as we think we are? What do they think about our tastes in music? Did they think it was pathetic when we planned on having “a glass of wine” and instead ate a full brie, finished three bottles of wine and listened to Taylor Swift for two and a half hours? Do they have opinions about the posters and flags we’ve chosen or, more likely, the methods we’ve used to hang them? Do all the walls have the same opinion or are there internal feuds? Do the walls of my bedroom like me?

I wondered if the kitchen walls have a favorite smell and if the walls opposite our west-facing windows get overheated in the afternoon. I wondered if our walls have opinions about our boyfriends and exes. Mostly, I wondered what it would be like to be a captive observer of the most intimate details of a life or group of lives and whether, in a sort of Stockholm Syndrome effect, a home could come to love its inhabitants.

Really rolling now, I began to think about the other places that have watched me grow up: my real home in the suburbs of Chicago, my old dorm rooms, my high school and the two classrooms that house 90% of my classes here at Notre Dame. But the most thought-provoking, for me, was trees. Trees seem more constant, more stoic than buildings, despite the fact that they are constantly growing and changing as we do. Trees don’t get remodeled or updated. They don't get a say in how they look.

My eyes landed on the pair of tall, mangy pine trees outside our kitchen window, and I realized they have been here longer than our house, longer than our street, perhaps even longer than campus. They’ve endured countless thunderstorms, lost limbs under the weight of blizzards and probably lost some friends along the way.

Do they notice the birds chirping like my mom does when we talk on the phone? I wondered how many trees on our campus are older than the buildings that have come to define it. What did those trees think as campus burned in 1879? Would they express alarm at the dearth of students walking the quads these days or are they taking it in stride? Do they remember the snowball fights, the ROTC ceremonies, the students who hang hammocks from their branches? I wondered, with a natural life span so much longer than our own, whether and how trees differentiate the routine from the earthshaking. If these trees could talk, what would they say to us now?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.