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The Bulletin

The Alumni Magazine of Swarthmore College

  • Winter 2024

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  • Flight Patterns

    THE CRANE, often an international symbol of peace and longevity, landed on our winter cover by a fortuitous route. A decades-old wreath of folded paper cranes tucked away in the Swarthmore Peace Collection called out to be noticed (“Looking Back”), a poignant reminder of the persistent partnership humanity has always had with violence.

    Even in the shadow of atomic dust, art and the human spirit persevere.

    With nations embroiled in wars and conflicts across the globe, our aim was to elevate. And nature led the way. Illustrator Mayuko Fujino’s crane inspires us to remain in a place of hope. “Seeing Change” shares the stories of alumni working to “be the change they want to see,” committing to making it real in their daily lives. Offering insight across disciplines on the ongoing debates around war in the Middle East, our faculty ask difficult questions in “The Emotional Weight of Words”. They encourage students to do the same. Stories on art, at the end of this issue, refocus our conversations with an opera about Malcolm X and an exhibition on migration and war.

    With so many earth-shaking concerns, a small moment with students this fall sustains. On a freezing Friday night in November, the Swarthmore Bird Club gathered at the Willistown Conservation Trust in neighboring Chester County. The van ride through lightless, twisty back roads brought about 15 students to a field station to explore how banding ­(a way to to identify and collect data) helps us understand more about the elusive northern saw-whet owl. With the staff’s guidance, the students learned about the species’ habitat, conservation status, and migratory behaviors. Then they had the chance to gently hold one of the diminutive raptors. They marveled, they smiled, they gazed into the bird’s round eyes.

    But it was the release that was something to behold.

    At the end of the night, the group tramped out into the dark field following the staff member who was holding the owl. They stopped near the woods’ edge. The rule was no talking. Not a sound. In frigid air, they waited for the tiny northern saw-whet to make its move. It was magic, in a way, to realize the students were so invested in learning about something new, and small, and often invisible — and that they were willing to gather in a field in silence to wait to watch the journey begin.

    Then, soundlessly, the bird lifted off and flew headlong into the night.

    Kate Campbell

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