Scott Amphitheater at Swarthmore College
I hardly know where to begin to tell you about this day! It all started like this. A month or two ago, I received an email invitation to join the Penn State "Arboretum Volunteers and Friends" on their very first ever bus trip. For a reasonable fee, I could come along. The bus would leave our Arboretum at 7 a.m. and arrive home around 9:30 p.m.
We would visit not just one but TWO arboretum sites in the Philadelphia area: Bartram's Garden (founded in the early 1700s, the oldest botanic garden in the United States) in the morning, and Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College in the afternoon. We would also have the opportunity to buy plants at a special plant sale at the second locale; a long list was provided for our advance perusal. So of course, I wanted to go!
I was both excited and a little worried. It's been a while since I left my house around 6 a.m., and as one of my chief nightmares is missing the bus, I knew it was likely to be a somewhat nervous night for me. But I awoke bright-eyed around 5:30 a.m., and I was in my car by 5 minutes after 6, headed off on a grand adventure!
Bartram's Garden, along the Schuylkill River, was our first stop, and we were treated to a two-hour tour by one of the head gardeners. He introduced us to pretty much every plant and tree (including what is believed to be the oldest ginkgo tree in the U.S.), and shared the history of the place. The area in front of one of the main buildings (you may see it in the extras) displayed a gorgeous array of blooms in every color of the rainbow, and I saw several fancy butterflies and even a hummingbird as well as a hummingbird moth there.
The trip organizers had ordered Subway hoagie meals for each of us that included a foot-long hoagie (ham for me, topped with lettuce, tomato, and cucumbers), a small bag of chips or fritos or doritos, plus a cookie and bottled water, which we consumed quickly at picnic tables in the shade, before departing around 1 p.m. for our second venue.
It's hard for me to even describe the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore. It was, in fact, MANY gardens and plants (lots of them labeled), completely imbedded in the campus of Swarthmore College. There were pollinator gardens and lilac gardens and rose gardens and hydrangea gardens; too many kinds of gardens to list. And the TREES! Oh my goodness, the TREES!
Well, there were in particular TWO special stands of trees that caught my attention. The one, Metasequoia Alee, is a formal walkway lined with dawn redwoods. Let me tell you that redwoods are NOT something you see every day in Pennsylvania! You may see a photo of that in the extras.
But my favorite of all was the Scott Amphitheater, in the main shot above, a nifty performance venue featuring grassy tiers lined with trees. A link to information about this site indicates these are tulip trees and white oaks. Do you see how beautifully the afternoon sun was shining through them?
Do you have any idea what I would give to be present to photograph this scene in every kind of light and every kind of weather? I would show it to you dressed in autumn splendor. I would photograph it at dawn with snow on the ground and the air glistening with hoar frost.
And do you want to know what else? This place enjoys a very special place in the Bruce Springsteen rock history pantheon, as it was (as our guide told us, when he was still "a nobody") a place where Bruce & Co. performed for about 300 people back in late April of 1974. Here's a link to photos from that concert, which they call "Without doubt the most beautiful, magical location Bruce and the band have ever performed."
Hot diggity dog! And I finally got to see it! A nobody, huh? But Bruce was a nobody who was getting ready to become a somebody. For it was less than two weeks later that he performed at the Harvard Square Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in early May of 1974. There were two shows; a music critic named Jon Landau attended the second one, and it was that very show that led him to make this famous quote:
"Tonight there is someone I can write of the way I used to write, without reservations of any kind. Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square Theatre, I saw my rock'n'roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time."
And I somehow finally (quite accidentally) got to see this beautiful place, where - among all these glorious tiers of trees, in beautiful light - music history was about to be born. Lucky, lucky me. What an unexpected gift on this sunny, blue-sky day.
After our tour of the campus, we were taken to the plant sale, which took place in a hot, sunny field. (A side note: the climate in Philly is MUCH warmer than it is where I live, in central PA.) I looked at hundreds of plants, but finally settled on just one, and it was a bumblebee that actually sold it to me. For there was a bee who came and sat on the plant and ate at it voraciously. And I was convinced by its example to buy it for my own bees.
The plant I bought is called Agastache Blue Boa, also known as hummingbird mint or hyssop, and I rode home on the bus with it clamped carefully between my legs. I planted it already today, less than 24 hours after I got it home. We will hope that it provides nectar for many a bumblebee, hummingbird, and butterfly. So may it be; as it grows and flowers and feeds the creatures, it will help me remember this day.
We departed the plant sale shortly after 6 p.m., and got on our bus to return home. With such an early start and so much walking during my day (plus running off on side trips hither and yon with camera, as I am prone to do), I was one exhausted pup by the time I finally crawled - and I mean CRAWLED - off that bus and got into my own car at 9:30 p.m. to drive home. What a day!
The soundtrack to this image has to be something related to the music history event I talked about in this posting. I included the Jon Landau quote about Springsteen's second Harvard performance on May 9, 1974, in which Bruce opened for Bonnie Raitt.
Here is a recording of the first show he performed that night. It includes New York City Serenade, Spirit in the Night, It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City, Rosalita, the E Street Shuffle, and several others. You may listen to the entire recording here.
The set Bruce performed here less than two weeks earlier cannot have been much different than in the link. Can you imagine those songs ringing out in this venue, among these trees? And people hearing Clarence and Bruce perform Rosalita for one of the very first times ever, and looking at each other and saying WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT??? Stop and imagine those magical sounds ringing out here, among these trees, as you listen to the music.