Originally published in Spring 2019 in News from the Head of School, Volume 2, Number 2.
“The kids were anxious to go home [for vacation] but they were just as anxious to get back (as were some of the parents in their behalf)—they are normal young animals belonging to the human race.”
—Cardigan founder Hap Hinman, Cardigan Mountain School Bulletin, April 7, 1948
Reflecting on the boys who had just returned to Cardigan after March break in 1948, Hap Hinman shared an observation that still offers powerful insight today. No matter what they wear, which car their parents drive, or where they call home, Cardigan boys—then as now—are all evolving young human beings. While this might seem an obvious statement, there are times when we on The Point become more conscious that students have a different, younger perspective than some of us further down life’s path. Our April “season,” defined by mud (and the occasional snow squall!), is one of those times.
Cardigan boys leave campus at the beginning of each March with a sense of accomplishment at having “made it” through a New Hampshire winter. From November to March, we have lived with the impulse to huddle and lean into one another for warmth and support. These are the cold times, when the sunlight loses its fight far too early with the long winter’s gloaming—those hours when the lights in houses start flickering on, and the smell of the evening wood smoke from chimneys overpowers that of the evening meal being prepared by the dining staff. When our boys leave Cardigan at the end of February, they hope also to leave behind the darker days of winter. They often depart for warm climates and warmer vacation experiences; they trade their skis and skates for baseball mitts, lacrosse sticks, and tennis racquets. Each boy returns to campus with more bounce in his step, now leaning into the idea of spring. It is this natural optimism—that spring will return—that keeps all of us in rhythm, adults and students alike.
Of course, those of us who have lived here on The Point know the dark secret that, more often than not, the birds and tulips aren’t waiting to greet the boys when they return. It is more likely that there will still be snow on the playing fields, Canaan Street Lake will still be covered with bob houses and several inches of ice, and the wind from the west will still freeze a boy’s freshly washed hair on the way to breakfast in the morning.
Even so, the boys all seem to know what’s coming. Heck, a 13-or 14-year-old boy is spring personified, full of bounce and possibility: he is a reminder to us all that there is joy in the simple. (These same “young animals” gave a hearty cheer when I announced our ski holiday at breakfast this winter, despite the fact that it was pouring outside—they still got to go skiing!) Their buoyancy in being back together in community with their Cardigan brothers propels our whole community forward. We take our lead from the young Cougars, who embody great expectations of what is to come.
Soon enough the birds will find their way back (as will, regrettably, the black flies). The bulbs that have slept inches under the frozen ground will begin to seek the surface, and sunlight; the fields on campus will slowly become green with lush grass. Even the ice on the lake will eventually release its grip on the shore, float to the middle, and melt away—just in time for our boys to greet each May morning with a traditional Polar Bear plunge.
As the daylight lengthens and the sun grows warmer, after dinner games of catch on the quad will begin to bump up against evening study hall. The sound of the Victory Bell each evening will signal boys to haul their grass-stained clothes and breathless, sweaty bodies inside to buckle down to work. They will flick off the lights at about the same time that the recently-arrived birds will sing their last songs of the day. The boys take it on faith that all of this will happen, so we do too.
It’s the Cardigan Way.
Christopher D. Day P’12,’13
Head of School
Originally published in Spring 2019 in News from the Head of School, Volume 2, Number 2. Please download the newsletter in its entirety: