© Jay Harden
Out on the house lawn they sat, joining the September sun’s goodbye. The gentle evening had possessed them in a meditative state, soft and unaware. Carolyn began to think out loud to Brenda, oblivious to the ebb and flow of sorority classmates.
“You know, we ought to do something… something for Athens – and for us – that would last, something that would keep going on, like sunsets.”
Picking up on her enthusiasm, Brenda mused without effort,
“Well, you’re right, we do need a pledge class project.”
Their easy chatter drifted through boyfriends John and Jay, the boggling homework from inconsiderate professors, the upcoming football game, and back again to their mutual idea forming.
“It ought to be something beautiful, that enriches our Alpha Chi Omega bond, too.”
“We are chock full of music majors. No surprise, considering our history,” commented Brenda.
“I have an idea. We could sing outside on the lawn at sunset. Something simple, short.”
“I can’t sing and you know it, Carolyn. And I’m not the only one. You can’t either!”
“Yes, well… then we can hum! You know, something like the Army bugle call – I think Jay said the name: Day Is Done. We could sing a cappella.”
“That would be great! Yes, I’m sure some sister could arrange it in a beautiful harmony, and we could wear our ball gowns!”
“So, let’s bring it up at the chapter meeting tomorrow.”
Together in silence, they watched the evening solar pageant ripple away the blue sky in layered shades of gold, red, orange, yellow, and pink, each one caressing the trees, the dorms, and the students in their shadowed shades, altogether a most satisfying vista and dramatic setting for their thoughts to come alive.
The weekly meeting was, as usual, boring as usual in the majority, full of tiny, passionate issues with no real significance, although still a good way to exercise argumentation and share the college life. The group drama had its sedating effect until Carolyn tossed their idea into the smoldering embers and Brenda seconded it into a blaze. Suddenly… gender-specific animation city!
Libby knew a professor in the music department who could arrange a multi-part harmony for, say, two minutes, tops. Rachel volunteered to organize practice and conduct. Linda suggested sound chanting or fa-so-la voices as an alternate to humming. And chanting it became.
“Perhaps we should wear gowns only on special occasions,” Janna suggested, “so it won’t be a drudge.” Quickly, the 52 sisters unanimously committed to every evening at sundown, regardless of weather (through open windows and doors), and to wear gowns every Sunday and Memorial Day.
The sisters agreed it was appropriate to begin on Thanksgiving. A senior on the staff of The Red and Black knew the town newspaper editor and promised local coverage.
Finally, Janna, the president, ended the memorable meeting with a prescient summation:
“Sisters, what we have decided is true to our purpose. We are giving something back to the town and creating meaning in our own lives. And I feel confident that future Beta Sigs will continue the tradition we are starting. Someday, I hope to bring back a daughter and hear Day Is Done at sunset.”
The narrow streets of Athens get really congested nowadays, especially on Lumpkin Street in front of the Alpha Chi house when the day ends. Drivers linger at unusually low speeds for a college town, mufflers curiously quieter, and on Sundays the UGA campus cops help with traffic. Students and townspeople quickly coalesce across Lumpkin on the lawn of Meyers Hall, a kind of ad hoc community interaction reminiscent of a tailgate party, only better and without the boozy rudeness. There is something about evening time and music without words that pierces the daily cacophony and restores the human heart to pay attention to the higher task of plain living.
The sisters of AXΩ did as they intended. Like countless small and unknown kindnesses across the globe, they added another part to the common connected consciousness, and it is repeated in Athens – every evening.
July 19, 2008