Dover and I were on our three-mile, early-morning stroll a day or two ago and as we walked past the college chapel, the tower bell suddenly rang out over the still sleepy streets. Dover gave an initial start and then kept on his nonchalant way, always on the prowl for garbage in that high student density part of the walk. I added a little skip to my gait; I knew the bells announced Mountain Day, a day to suspend classes and meetings so students and faculty (alas - not staff) could bicycle out into a beautiful fall day to enjoy the New England countryside. I have always regarded Mountain Day as a free gift, much the same as snow days. Neither plays a direct part in my life now, but I always see the announcement, by bell or radio, as a recognition that schedules and routines are made for interruption and surprising turns.
Some faculty complain that Mountain Day makes a hash of their teaching syllabus, and some students complain that they would rather Mountain Day be a known holiday - for better planning - and that it preferably be scheduled on Friday or Monday so they could depart for other cities or campuses for long weekends. But - Mountain Day drops uncontrolled into their lives, and, frankly, I think it is great. I wanted a Mountain Day when I heard the bell that cool and crisp morning, but I didn't think the dentist would understand that excuse.
Just looking around, there are other free gifts close at hand. The morning glories on the front fence are my free gift to the street; Dover's belly-up, groveling greeting to his walkers is his free gift to them, college students in search of dog company. One day a few weeks ago, I was out of town at a meeting and despondent at a surly turn one session had suddenly taken. That night, as I checked the email one more time before before turning out the light, I received news that in my absence, Dover had invited friends over for a party. The pictures that came with the message lifted my despondency and sent me into uncontrollable hilarity. In that one moment, I received free gifts of relief and laughter - relief that Dover was okay in my absence, and laughter at the irrepressible exuberance of dogs, who with infinite good nature, will submit to any article of clothing to have a good time with friends, good eats, and and exciting party games.
Go dog, Go!