When I was an undergrad, there was only one place you could find me on campus if I didn’t happen to be in class at the time, and that was on the Ralph Ellison bench outside of Carpenter Hall.
The bench faces a fountain that is made from rocks from all 77 counties in the state. Admittedly, they are primarily rose rocks, but there are definitely some fossils and other stones mixed in as well. Beyond the fountain, there is the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden and a plaque honoring her. Beyond the garden is a large open green space where students play frisbee or lay on blankets while cars on Boyd Street whizz by.
Carpenter Hall also happens to be where a lot of the music and dance majors take classes. So, on any given day, you can hear tap dancing, opera singing, piano playing, or pretty much any other form of performance you can think of. That, mixed with the gentle sounds of the fountain, has always been supremely relaxing for me. Couple that with the shade directly over the bench, and you have yoruself a little paradise right on campus.
But, admittedly, the thing that drew me to the bench was Ralph Ellison’s name on a plaque. I used to sit there as a student and write terribly “profound” things in a Moleskine that I would later regurgitate in either my fiction or poetry classes, only to have the instructor helpfully inform me that perhaps they weren’t quite so profound. But still, I like to think that was a spot where I could channel Ellison’s genius, even if I will never write something like Invisible Man.
Now, as an instructor at OU, I don’t do much Moleskine writing. It’s 2015 and I always have some electronic way of capturing ideas. But I do still enjoy the bench, and soaking up the shade, sounds, and Ellison energy when I get the chance.