EN340 / IN350 Global Haiku Tradition
Dr. Randy Brooks
Spring 2002

Meg Schleppenbach

Meg's Haiku



Meg Schleppenbach

My project, cornerstone, is a reflection on my years and experiences at Millikin University. This work contains eight haibun, each describing a personal memory associated with some of the more famous campus buildings. Some of the haibun are "place haibun," and include elaborate descriptions of the buildings themselves. Others are "people haibun" and reflect my feelings about the people within the walls of a particular building.

To write these haibun, I meditated on each building and tried to decide on the strongest image I remember from it. Each page has a picture of the building that inspired the haibun, garnered from the Millikin website, in addition to the haibun itself.

I have entitled the project cornerstone because I believe that my experiences at Millikin will become the cornerstone of the life I will build after I leave this institution. I have also met many people on this campus who have been cornerstones for me at one point or another.

Leighty-Tabor Science Center

the coffee shop

Perkinson Music Building

Staley Library

Gorin Hall

Shilling Hall

Richards Treat University Center

Pilling Chapel

Leighty-Tabor Science Center

Since its opening this spring, the Leighty-Tabor Science Center can only be described as the most criticized new building in recent memory, and indeed it’s path to fruition has been plagued with problems and suspicion. Months before it opened, rumors circulated among the students that budget cuts in the university would prohibit it from being furnished, which could be viewed as something of a matter of importance.

It was also built on the parking lot in front of the fine arts center, diminishing the size of an already tiny lot. Upon its use, science faculty complained of air pressure and room temperature and all those good factors of atmosphere about which scientists like to complain.

I myself had no personal opinions about the center until my brother, a former Millikin student, visited a few days ago and wanted to see the new building. We went to the roof of the building, to a place called the observatory, and we stood in silence as we looked over the campus that was such personal part of each of our lives, a part which will always bond us together.

the observatory
with every step on the roof tile
siblings talk of mutual friends

the coffee shop

If the increasingly worn, irregularly tall seats surrounding the two-person tables in the coffee shop could talk, they certainly would have a number of stories to tell of awkward first dates among Millikin students.

One can only imagine how much water damage the cushions on those chairs have incurred from the sweaty palms of hopeful lovebirds. Though lacking the rustic charm of an older establishment or the mystique of a modern, chain-smoking philosopher-filled café, the coffee shop is Millikin’s closest thing to a campus mixing grounds, and students have adjusted to using it as their classy-yet-casual first date stopping point.

Situated across the street from the block of Millikin that encompasses the academic buildings, the coffee shop maintains a feeling of isolation from the daily grind of classes, and thus has a more carefree and perhaps honest vibe than any other campus locale.

after his reply
to her question
only the creak of the table

Perkinson Music Building

In small, out-of-the-way office on the third floor of the music building, she sits in her break between theory classes with the sheet music for a new oboe serenade in one hand and a student’s first attempt at composition in the other.

Her walls are cluttered with framed pictures of her and her husband (a vocal jazz specialist), drawings from her children, and a somewhat hidden letter from the director of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra proclaiming her excellence as oboist. On the piano across from her desk lie several half-made reeds, waiting to be the ones chosen to rest in her mouth during breaks in rehearsal. In the midst of her forties, her still-blond hair gives her a youthful and enthusiastic appearance that matches her buoyant and refreshingly optimistic personality. This demeanor lends her a genuine and deep interest in her students, which pulls many of them through the difficult subject that is music theory.

my teacher’s tears
as I thanked her

Staley Library

Her glasses have a way of making her eyes seem larger than possible, and indeed it feels like she must have some special secret to seeing all the activity in the Staley library at all times. She sits behind the big front desk at the library, engrossed in the computer screen where she is most likely reading the names of delinquent students with overdue books. I’ve never learned her name, and she probably doesn’t know mine, but we’ve certainly developed a relationship over my years in school.

On more than one occasion, she has heard me talking to my friends from all the way back in the stacks of scholarly journals. Even when I sit behind the large staircase and am completely out of her view, she still manages to recognize my whispers with my colleagues. She has reminded me of the fact that I am in a library so many times that I often believe I am in a library when I truly am not.

However, she has a keen sense of when I am in the library at the eleventh hour, desperately trying to finish a project. Despite my status as a chatterbox, she always assists me in a calm and kind manner, as though she has never had to quiet me at all.

after closing the library
she shushes
the microfiche machine

Gorin Hall

Though it serves as our admissions building, Gorin Hall is perhaps the least welcoming of all of our campus haunts.

First of all, it has an accessibility ramp for the disabled that is so winding, I can only assume it makes the wheelchair-bound person feel like a rat trapped in an elaborate scientific maze.

It also includes a large, marble, descending staircase that leads to financial aid and quite literally feels like a descent into the netherworld, which, for many students, it probably psychologically is.

However, it seems somehow to fit the expectations of prospective students. The building provides the austere impetus that makes the nervous students truly believe it would be an honor for this school even to flirt with their acceptance.

Having worked in the admissions office my entire sophomore year, I have seen many a prospective student go through the scholarship interview process and leave with a look that is only otherwise found on a person who has just received a large dose of morphine. But the most humorous of all are the parents of these students, who mask their fear and anxiety in either obnoxious overconfidence or a feigned interest in the lives of admissions counselors at the school.

following the interview
her parents
give her another

Shilling Hall

As the all-encompassing academic building and also the most student-frequented spot on campus, Shilling Hall holds the unique position of both social mecca and serious place of scholarship.

Lining the walls of the building are subdued posters for speakers on issues of labor abuse in Africa juxtaposed with loud neon signs advertising the coffee shop debut of the latest campus rock band. This odd dual role often leads to conversations that seem humorous and out of place within the building, like the boy I once overheard discussing the sexual activities of himself and his girlfriend outside a class in which feminist writers were the focus of the lecture. It is an odd, but somehow familiar balance, that almost begs students to fuse social and academic lives.

the test on issues in poverty finished
she meets her friend
to give her beer money

Richards Treat University Center

The Richards Treat University Center (RTUC) always reminds me of freshmen orientation and training as an orientation leader. Its three multipurpose rooms in the lower level are used to house the first social mixer for the freshmen in the fall, and coincidentally are the location for all of the major meetings between orientation leaders themselves. During these meetings, I have traced the outline on the ugly, yellow-orange carpet so many times I could never count.

However, these rooms have also housed some of the most exciting moments of my life. It is on those floors that I went to a formal dance with my two closest friends and cemented our best friendships. It is also on these floors that I have witnessed major emotional moments, including students asking others out on dates, professors expressing their best wishes at the annual Christmas cookie party, and even friends getting involved in accidents (an acquaintance once sprained his ankle in this room). Thus, RTUC is eclectic in its purpose and in the scenes it witnesses.

night before freshmen arrive
two soon-to-be role models
wrestle on the ground

Pilling Chapel

One of the newest buildings on campus, Pilling Chapel is the home of religious services, some fraternity and sorority meetings, and the occasional musical performance. It is a multipurpose building whose name lends sobriety to whatever event is held within its walls.

Since the beginning of my career here, I have attended weekly catholic mass at the chapel. Interestingly, the chapel is not really designed for many of the parts of religious service itself. Its seats contain no kneelers on which attendees can get down on their knees during the appropriate sections of the mass.

However, I have noted that one girl continually kneels, despite the physical arrangement of the church and the protestations of the priest against the necessity of kneeling. I continually marvel at her shut-eyed prayer and look of determination, as she does her best to look more devout than the rest of the students around her.

while everyone else sits
the kneeling girl
shows off her humility

~Meg Schleppenbach

©2002 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors