Dear Governor Ducey,
I’m working on writing a poem for the new university president’s installation. It might be a bit prosey. Maybe pedantic. It might read as kind of a list of the cool things that happen a the university. One researcher studies how mycorrhizea work with plants. Mycorrhizae are these little filaments of fungus that grow in the soil. They have a symbiotic relationship to the roots of trees, for example. The roots give the mushrooms carbon. The mycorrhizae return the favor by helping the root systems absorb water and nutrients. The mushrooms may sequester carbon into the soil. Another researcher recently discovered how a fungus may stop bark beetles from decimating trees. Some engineering students, worried about climate change and about people suffocating from carbon monoxide poisoning when cooking with traditional stoves, have invented stove that are completely carbon neutral. One Saturday, last fall, my husband, who films the research and art that goes on at NAU, took me to work with him. He filmed David Williams’ art students rolling ink over woodcuts 10 feet by 8 feet with a gigantic steam roller. The students hung their sheet-size artwork from the buildings and from the trees. Woodcuts amongst the woods! One of our graduates is working at the literacy center. One teaches in Maryland. One just got a professorship in Iowa. Her mom works here in the criminal justice department, researching borders and how they serve to reinforce weakened nations. Another forest researcher studies why Ponderosa trees need their space and how fire keeps them healthy. My colleagues teach the teachers at my daughter’s school. My daughter comes home to teach me about the prominent female poet, Adele Zumadio. One colleague writes bilingual books for kids. One colleague finds a way to send books to kids in deportation centers. It’s not like our research impacts each other’s research directly, but, like those mycorrhizae in the soil, the idea of the university is that we, under the surface, almost imperceptibly, we feed each other the carbohydrates of ideas, the nutrients of inspiration. If you listen closely, at the ground of the university, you can hear those tiny fibers twist together, idea building idea, building idea.