Garden of Rest and Respite

My Favorite Place on Campus at UT Chattanooga

By Iris Mahan

I know a place where the wild thyme grows. As an ordinary college student both immersed and submersed in a life of barely controlled chaos, I’ve often found myself seeking, over the course of my several semesters here at UTC, a space to enjoy a little fragrant peace and quiet. Tucked under the wing of Patten Chapel, I found what I was looking for in the Shakespeare Garden, where the time of the Elizabethan sundial is out of sync with the peal of the chapel’s bells. Here, tomorrow, as the Bard said, has a way of creeping in at a petty pace.

I’ve often spent my stolen moments here reflecting on the many other stolen moments that have led me to this current one. I am reminded of my great-aunt CC, who attended UTC when it was still the University of Chattanooga and would play the organ in Patten Chapel on her lunch breaks from her job at the business office in Founders Hall. I imagine the hours she spent later, studying calculus, a subject that seemed like a foreign language to her, when she returned to UTC to complete her bachelor’s of science degree as an adult.

Aunt CC would tell me that the biggest lesson she ever learned from her time at the university was that tenacity is worth the time it takes to cultivate it. The human spirit is like chamomile —the more trodden on, the faster it grows. Tenacious UTC students built this garden, built the amphitheater where CC saw me as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, made UTC’s NAACP chapter the best collegiate chapter in Tennessee, convinced hundreds of blood donors to sign up for the national bone marrow registry and completed service projects here at home and internationally.

Soon other students will find rest and respite here. I’ll steal a small sprig of rosemary as I go for remembrance. I think I have Shakespeare’s blessing.

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Iris Mahan, niece of Celia Mahan Hill (Chattanooga ’48, ’80), graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in August 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in English.