Dear Campus Community,
“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.”
These words from the beautiful Christmas hymn aptly describe this present season in the majestic West Virginia mountains and the scene on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. The recent snowfalls over the past few weeks have blanketed the area and painted the landscape a striking stark white. The evergreens weighted by snow and the deciduous trees with it piled high on their limbs take one’s breath away with their beauty, serenity and stillness. It is the bleak midwinter in all its splendor.
Into this setting of scenic beauty, the cyclical life of a college campus moves forward. Trudging through the snow come the students of D&E to begin anew and afresh as the spring semester commences. The new year rings in new opportunities, new challenges, and new expectations. Rested and refreshed, they return to campus from across West Virginia, more than two dozen states, and six continents to learn, interact, study, compete, engage, absorb, and grow. In short, they return to campus for a Davis & Elkins College education.
In this area of the country a bleak midwinter is a necessary forerunner to the new life of spring. Within the dormancy of the towering oaks, maples, hickory and birch trees of the Appalachian Mountains lie the seeds of new life we will witness following our bleak midwinter. The beauty and stillness we experience today will give way to the explosion of the buds of spring. In God’s grand design, as theologian Henri Nouwen writes, “… life and death are not opponents but do, in fact, kiss each other at every moment of our existence.”
As has occurred on this sacred piece of ground overlooking Elkins for more than a century, we celebrate this annual new beginning for our students in this bleak midwinter. Among their many educational activities, and despite the COVID pandemic, they will manage to make memories of cold walks to 8 a.m. classes, snowball battles, sledding down D&E hill, hiking the snowy paths around the campus and so much more. Like alumni over the decades, their cherished memories of their time at this unique college will be peppered with the opportunities presented by the bleak midwinter. Many of our students have been raised in areas with four seasons, but some hail from tropical climates and Elkins provides their first experience of a true winter. For many they look forward to the experience, but for all it provides the foundation of the memories they shall cherish from their future alma mater.
As we embark on a new year, let us be grateful for the gift of opportunity that it brings. May we vow to make the most of the time we are given, to be open to new challenges, to savor the people we encounter, and to enjoy life’s journey. In the bleak midwinter, the journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College