Maples in Massachusetts

If education is not about simply getting a degree that serves as a passport to enter the job market, what is its true purpose? I get a part of the answer looking, meditatively, at the mesmerising landscape in rural Massachusetts. In some deeper sense, education is all about getting to know one's relationship with the earth and the sky, and with all that is sustained by them, which includes our own lives, in the never-ending cycle of seasons. Here in Massachusetts, it also includes the maple trees.

The summer is over and the autumn has ever so gently set in. With this has begun the magical transformation of the maple tree, whose leaves are slowly turning from dark to light green. Soon, the unseen painter will add to them many colours from her palette—yellow, orange, golden, many hues of red and, later, many hues of brown. Finally, when the snowy winter arrives, and the trees shed their foliage, all colours dissolve into white. But white is not the colour of the shroud. Months later, spring's arrival is inevitable. Robert Frost, the famous poet who was born in this part of America, has captured the essence of education hidden in nature's—and in human societies'—ceaseless self-transformation and self-renewal: "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life—It goes on."

My wife and I have come to South Hadley, a tiny town in Massachusetts, where our daughter has secured admission in Mount Holyoke College to pursue her graduate studies in liberal arts. She was a growing child until recently. Now she's an adult. We've seen many joyful colours in her changing life, many more we'll see as the pace of change quickens. Life's journey is marked by such milestones. But when is the last mile? We never know. As we take long walks in the thick forest both inside and outside the college, Frost verbalises my inner reflections: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."

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