Benjamin Acosta '23
Once upon a time there was a wintered land. A sleeping land. Serene. To a wanderer the land might have seemed dead, desolate, without the bears that liven the wood with terror. To the one acclimated to merry peoples, vibrant towns, the lives of the local minks and millipedes were utterly unaccountable.
There once was a springald called Springy from Springvale, and he would come to trek those yonder lands. He was called such on account of his tendency to spring high into the air when startled in addition to the springy nature of his locks. For both of those things he was teased, and his family felt terribly embarrassed, so one year during their spring cleaning they said to him, “We are spring cleaning you out! Come back when you are springy in the right kind of way.” So with a heavy heart he embarked on a voyage in a sturdy spring wagon.
All he had with him was a box of springerle cookies and a Springfield rifle. “I’ll become springy, all right,” he said, and aggressively munched at a cookie. He sat sulking and munching in his spring wagon while the horse dragged him aimlessly over the hills until he ran out of springerle cookies, and then he just sat in his hunger. While he was thus engaged a sudden springing silhouette caught the corner of his eye, and, as he was known to do, he himself sprang from his seat, startled. There it was, bounding high in the air, a majestic springbok. But without his box of springerle cookies all he could think was, food! and he pulled out his Springfield rifle. Bang! Bang! Blood sprayed across the sky but the springbok was nowhere to be found.
Springy began to despair. His stomach was annoying him more and more and his body was feeling weaker and weaker, and what’s more, this land had winter weather in what should have been the springtime. He curled up in his spring wagon and dreamt of delicious spring rolls and grilled springbok flesh. Then he heard echoing in his dream: “Springy in the right kind of way…”
If he had thought the location un-spring-like the night before, when Springy awoke, he especially noticed it now. A land wintered, sleeping, serene, in the spring. His first thought was his hungry stomach, but then he remembered the echoing words of his dream, and asked himself, perhaps springy means spreading spring around the world, instead of spring rolls. But his stomach grumbled and Springy hyahed his horse onward. Throughout the whole day the quiet stillness of the wood pressed down on him, and he missed the lively Springvale.
Eventually he came upon a hot spring, and decided to take a bath. While he bathed he pondered how to catch a springbok, but noticing that a mild croaking heightened the silence, he pursued its source. Alas! plump spring peeper frogs gathered in a spot on the ground. He found some spring onions and a hidden patch of spring beauty, with which he seasoned his raw spring peepers. It was quite chewy, but had to do for now. After eating spring peepers for several days straight, Springy wondered how much longer this would have to last.
In the night, he dreamt again, “Springy in the right kind of way…” but this time a dog appeared, and helped him save the day, though the details were blurry. The next day a springer spaniel came barking out of nowhere. “Hey cute doggo! Wanna tag along?” Springy said.
“Woof!” was the springer spaniel’s reply, and it started running ahead. Springy remembered his dream. “Hyah, hyah!” and the spring wagon lurched forward.
After following the dog for some time, Springy spotted a springbok. “Good dog!” he exclaimed, thrilled, when he noticed that the springbok had a limp, and could not spring quite so high. Is it the same? he wondered, loading his Springfield. The dog seemed to be cutting off the springbok, and the shot was clear. Bang! The springbok went down. Springy went over to say “Good doggo” to the dog and, mouth watering, start carving the meat, but upon approaching the carcass, he saw that the dog was tearing at the springbok’s ribs. Suddenly the creature’s heart was in the springer spaniel’s mouth, being offered to him. Springy took it and suddenly knew what to do. This was the right kind of springiness he had been waiting for.
“Let’s go springtime this wood!” He gave the springbok meat a longing look, but recalled how he wanted to return home, and, with a heavy heart, parted with it. The springer spaniel led him to the heart of the wood. There was a tree with a hollow; in the hollow was a heart; this heart was not one of spring, but was subtle, discolored, quiet. Springy ripped out this heart, and shoved in the springbok’s. “Time to waken, you lonesome wood!”
All in a moment the trees blossomed forth, the minks and millipedes made themselves visible, and the air was filled with the sounds of spring. The tree at the heart of the wood bent a branch and garlanded him with a flowery crown.
“I reckon I can return now, eh doggo?” said Springy, and he smiled and embarked in his spring wagon.
At home his family saw the spring garland and welcomed him with open arms. “That’s our Springy!” they said and lived happily ever after.
But not for long. The bears were not done sleeping, for the spring of that wintered land comes later than that of Springvale. The springbok knew her timekeeping, but she had been interrupted, and the restless bears arose. “Is it spring already?” they yawned. But then they saw the springbok’s corpse, and were furious. The springer spaniel left a distinct smell, and they followed it all the way back to Springvale, where they mauled the citizens to death in their outrage. Then Springy’s family regretted ever spring cleaning him in the first place.
Jack Thomas '23
Readers of The Exchanged, who will soon, or have already commenced with springtime festivities, I am writing today to discuss the origins of one of the most prominent figures of springtime celebrations: the Easter Bunny. For those who celebrate Easter, the Easter Bunny is a mythic creature who hides colorful eggs and candy for children, brightening up the holiday for many young children across the globe. He comes and hides his eggs at night, similar to how his winter counterpart, Santa Claus, delivers presents. The Easter Bunny however, does not have a clear origin like Santa. The character does not appear in scripture, and it certainly did not evolve from an old saint, like St. Nicholas. So let's take a close look at where the Easter Bunny came from, and how he came to be.
Easter symbolizes new life for Jesus and thus, we should begin our search there. Eggs are a symbol for new life, and according to TIME, churches “had their congregations abstain from eggs during Lent, allowing them to be consumed again on Easter”, hence the celebration surrounding eggs on the day. But this origin has more to do with eggs than the Easter Bunny. The pagan Festival of Eostre (which incidentally sounds quite similar to Easter) had much more to do with the Bunny itself . The festival celebrates Eostre, the goddess of fertility, whose symbol was bunnies. Bunnies symbolize fertility due to the number of their offspring. Eostre is referred to in Bede’s De Temporum Ratione or The Reckoning of Time, written in 725 CE. So, we see that the Easter Bunny has existed in some form over a millenia ago, and was likely adopted into the Christian faith when Anglo-Saxons were christianized around the 8th century.
Hares seems to have integrated themselves into the Christian faith quite well. The image of “three running hares joined by the tips of their ears to form a triangle” can be found on several medieval cathedrals in Britain, such as St. David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, and Chester Cathedral, as well as churches in Scarborough and Yorkshire. The symbol is not limited to Britain. Other instances of the three hares can be seen in Europe, the Middle East, and Russia (The Field). This image appears most often in the central rib of the roof or nave. These places are important places in a church. The appearance of the hare indicates the large extent to which the hare has entered the Church.
But how did the hare become the easter bunny that many Americans have come to love? The answer lies with German immigrants in Pennsylvania. The German celebration originated from farming traditions in Germany. The Lenten fast meant that farmers “had a surplus of eggs, so they would often pay these dues [rent] with cooked eggs and hares they had killed in their fields”. By the 18th Century, the association between hares and eggs and Easter had grown into the” Osterhase” or Easter Hare, who left eggs in nests that were prepared by the children. When German immigrants came to Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s, they brought with them their Easter tradition, introducing it to the American continent. This tradition spread throughout the nation. Many Christian families celebrate Easter with the Easter Bunny, who now brings candy as well as eggs. Rutherford B. Hayes held the first White House Easter Egg Roll in 1878. In 1974, It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! aired and is still a popular Easter special. So if you celebrate Easter this year, you now know that the eggs you are receiving are due to a pagan Osterhase from Germany.
Harvard Library at Easter Island
Maryan Mohseni '24
Every year on February 2 we wait for the Groundhog’s prediction of an early spring or six more weeks of winter. This year the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter and sure enough that’s what we’ve seen so far. However, while the prediction is correct thus far this year, studies have not found a connection between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather or six more weeks of winter.
The most popular Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. According to the lore, there is only one Phil, and all other groundhogs are impostors and that Phil has lived to make weather prognostications since 1886, sustained by "groundhog punch" or "elixir of life" given to him at the annual Groundhog Picnic in the fall. According to the Groundhog Club, Phil speaks to the club president in the language of 'Groundhogese', which supposedly only the current president can understand, and then his prediction is translated and revealed to all.
The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a Celtic and Germanic tradition that says that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2, the pagan holiday of Imbolc (known among Christians as Candlemas), winter and cold weather will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early. In Germany, the tradition evolved into a myth that if the sun came out on Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast its shadow, predicting snow all the way into May. When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they transferred the tradition onto local fauna, replacing hedgehogs with groundhogs.
Each year two scrolls are prepared by the vice president of the Inner Circle: One says early spring and the other says six more weeks of winter. These scrolls are placed during the ceremony on the stump and after Phil is awakened by the crowd, Phil communicates in Groundhogese to the President, who is then directed by Phil to the proper scroll and forecast. However, records show that Phil’s prediction is not as accurate as one might assume from all the attention he gets. In fact, according to records held since the 1800’s by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil has predicted 105 continued winters and only 20 early springs, giving him a 39% accuracy rate.
Although the Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney is the most popular, other celebrations are held elsewhere around the country. In Milltown, New Jersey, the groundhog Milltown Mel, had offered his weather predictions for the past few years, becoming something of a local celebrity. However, this year, just days before the big annual ceremony, Mel unfortunately passed away and the celebration in New Jersey was canceled. Although the news came as a surprise to many, it is not unusual at all, since the average lifespan of a groundhog is 3-4 years, and Mel was six years old. In a Facebook post his handlers announced to the public that Mel “has crossed the rainbow bridge” and gone to groundhog heaven. Although they scrambled to quickly find a replacement before February 2nd, they were unsuccessful, as all of Mel’s fellow groundhogs were in hibernation at the time.
The six more weeks of winter that Phil predicted this year are coming to an end. Hopefully, next year he’ll predict an early spring, but even if he does there’s only a 39% chance, he’ll be right.
Holden Lombardo '23
Notice: Any criticisms of this article are void.
Alright. Here’s the thing. Spring is the worst and I hate it. Listen. Woodrow Wilson was a racist. His “Fourteen Points” about self-determination and such: lame. Look. No one likes you, Woodrow Wilson. Even the one school named after you wants to change its name. So anyways, this is The New Fourteen Points, this is The Better Fourteen Points, this is The Not Written by a Racist Fourteen Points, this is The Spring is the Worst and I Hate It Fourteen Points:
Wait. This article isn’t over. We’re only 246 words in. We have to make it to 500.
Alright. Here we go again. Spring is the best and I love it. This time, we’re leaving Woodrow Wilson and his stupid fourteen-point format behind. We have to be ambitious this time. Here we go. 95 Theses on Why Spring is the Best and I Love It:
Alright. We’re done. Congratulations. You don’t have to read this article anymore. You can return to living your boring, menial life, but remember: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” (Exodus 3:78). I used to think that quote only applied to kings or other people who wear crowns. However, I now realize the quote really applies to spring. I will elaborate no further.
Anna Groninger '24
Have you wondered what it might be like to step inside one of your favorite paintings? I have, on many occasions, and recently I was able to do this by attending the Van Gogh Immersive Experience here in DC.
Artsy or not, I am sure you are aware of Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, with his famous impressionist movement inspired paintings––for example, the abstract landscape of “Starry Night”, with its bright blue sky covered in yellow and white stars. This striking painting has popularized all of art culture, becoming important to today’s mainstream media––one reason why the Van Gogh Immersive Experience is able to attract such a large audience.
An immersive exhibit’s main goal is to engage the viewer in ways that aren’t done in an ordinary art gallery. This kind of immersion forces the viewer to experience the art using more than one of the five senses. Though newer, immersive art exhibits have quickly become favorable in our culture because of their appeal to the hyper-visual and tech-immersive audience. Many who are used to rapid-fire visuals and loud sounds coming from their devices may quickly lose interest in an unmoving painting displayed in a museum. Essentially, immersive art exhibits invite a larger audience, many of whom would skip the traditional museum.
The creators of the Van Gogh Immersive Experience successfully lure an unexpected audience towards the artist and his famous paintings. The viewer’s ears are stimulated by various calming background noises when entering a dark hallway. The use of light in the room immediately draws the viewer’s eyes to a series of glowing paintings projected onto blank canvases. I found myself pondering the future of museums and whether it was morally correct to profit from displaying images on walls while the real masterpieces exist elsewhere.
Already a fan of his paintings, I found myself glued to the informative paragraphs on the walls, where I learned about the briefness of Vincent Van Gogh’s career due to his long history of deep, family-rooted mental illnesses. I also learned about his relationships with his friends, a memorable one being his friendship with French painter Paul Gauguin. I gathered that the two influenced one another’s painting styles.
Thirty minutes into my visit, I found myself wondering if this was as immersive as this experience would be. I was not prepared for what came next. Looking for one of my friends, who had run off somewhere else, I remember another friend telling me, “I think she’s been in that room this whole time.” My friend pulled back a black curtain at the very end of the dark hall and revealed to me a massive room entirely different from the others. It was bright, full of color and liveliness, with a 360 degree movie projected around all the walls that looped repeatedly. Chairs and bean bags were placed so any viewer could leisurely watch the movie. It was difficult to contain my excitement after just entering a thrilling Vincent Van Gogh wonderland, full of color and emotion. Having found my lost friend, we all sat down on the carpeted floors and just existed in this magical cube for 45 minutes. It was indeed “immersive.” Beams of light taking the form of rivers and bubbles, as well as his signature sunflowers, were projected all over the floors. Many of Van Gogh’s famous paintings came to life through animation. As a lover of music, I enjoyed listening to the tunes that played in coordination with the visuals on the walls, and I surmised that the artists intended to evoke emotions in the viewers, such as sadness and joy, during certain parts of the movie. After spending a half an hour sitting here, I began to wonder whether this movie with little dialogue was an interpretation on Van Gogh’s life. The mystery of this space had me under the impression that this room, although about Van Gogh, was itself a work of art. This wonderland experience, with all its light and sound, was truly the artwork that a Gen Z teenager had been searching for all along.
Information for visitors:
The Editors of The Exchanged
In the last edition of The Exchanged, the editors sent out a poll to gauge where the student body stood on different issues. We received a significant amount of responses, and we would like to unpack these responses for the public. Before we start, however, we want to acknowledge the fact that the administration at St. Albans has an incredibly difficult job, and the opinions expressed in the poll are not the opinions of the editors at The Exchanged. By publishing these results, we simply want to make known what students are thinking, and hopefully the results will encourage spirited discourse about potential issues at St. Albans.
The first three questions on the poll were about the administration’s response to COVID and the masking policies at St. Albans. In the last few weeks, St. Albans has gone from enforcing a double mask/KN95 policy to being mask optional, so the responses to these questions are somewhat irrelevant. Despite this, students’ opinions on these issues are still useful in revealing how, at the time, people regarded the COVID policies at school. Of the respondents, only 25% approved of the administration’s response to COVID. This number has almost surely increased since then, but at the time students felt that school leadership was not listening to them, and felt that the school had enacted policies that did not have the support of the students. For example, only 12.5% of the respondents approved of the double mask policy (73.2% disapproved). School leadership kept in place a policy that students actively disliked, and this was not received well by the student body. In the “If I could change one thing about St. Albans, it would be…” question at the bottom of the poll, two types of answers showed up time and time again. Students wanted a single or mask optional policy ( DC had required at least single masks in school), and students also wanted their opinions to be taken into account when decisions that directly affected them were made. While students thought that it took much too long to do away with the double mask policy, we commend the administration on quickly implementing a mask optional policy as soon as DC revoked their stringent guidelines.
Overall, 34% of respondents approve of the administration’s general performance, 41% disapprove of the administration’s performance, and 25% have no opinion. It is likely that these numbers were largely affected by people’s opinions on how school leadership handled COVID, and they have probably gone up in the last two weeks. However, these percentages still show that students were upset with the administration. In the final question, many people said that they feel that school leadership never listens to them and is too removed to understand what the students actually want and need. The administration has made many steps forward recently, though. We are back in the refectory (which 93% of students are pleased with), breakfast is back, masks are off, and school feels almost completely normal now.
School leadership works extremely hard, and most people recognize this—students just also feel that they should be listened to more often. Students continue to support members of the school leadership team, and people hope that, as one student put it, “the administration works hard to run the school in a way that accurately reflects the wishes of the student body.”
Lauren Lucy Caddell '23
Back in my family’s local tourism phase, we had a tradition of seeing the cherry blossoms every year. Even if you don’t actively make an effort to go see them, it’s impossible to avoid noticing the many blossoms around the district for those few days each spring. It’s one of the aspects of DC that feels genuinely unique and has become part of the city’s culture over time. Every year, thousands of tourists come specifically to see the cherry blossoms due to their acquired fame over the years.
A little bit of history – cherry trees were first planted in DC in 1912 to symbolize the camaraderie between the United States and Japan. Cherry trees have been ubiquitous in Japan since the beginning of the nation’s history. In Japan, the cherry tree symbolizes both impermanence and renewal, and are part of many viewing festivals, a practice that has been adopted in the US also.
Similar to Japan, DC has cherry blossom season down to a science. The peak of the season depends on the weather, although it normally occurs in late March to early April. Temperatures are tracked starting at the beginning of the year to predict, down to the day, when the season will begin and the blossoms begin to emerge. When the weather is warmer, as it has been in the last few years, the season begins earlier. Perhaps season is a strong word, because the blooming can last as short as a few days and never more than two weeks. To someone who has never before seen the cherry trees, it can be difficult to explain the obsession with flowers that bloom only once a year.
All flowers are temporary, but cherry blossoms are the briefest of them all. A very windy day, or even, as occurred a few years ago in DC, a surprise late-season snowfall, and the blossoms are gone. They have an unusual ability to cover trees, roads and lawns as they fall, throwing what looks like a blanket of white-pink over the landscape. It is programmed into human disposition to appreciate more dearly what we know will soon be gone, which is part of what makes the cherry blossoms so beautiful to us. There is a Japanese term for this, mono no aware, that has no direct English translation. (Many thanks to the STA French IV class for introducing me to this term.) It refers to the awe that strikes us as we look at something before we even have time to process what we are seeing, a spontaneous and inexplicable feeling of sadness at the passing of time. Some Japanese scholars take this idea further and argue that the term applies not only to the appreciation of temporary things such as the moon and the seasons, but the understanding of the essence of all parts of nature.
I have never been a huge believer in the transcendence of mankind, but there is a certain kind of peace that strikes an observer of a cherry tree in bloom. It’s almost like we are tapping into the ancient well of emotions and thoughts that have been trapped in the branches of these trees over the generations, and adding our own contributions. If you do find yourself visiting the cherry blossoms this year, let yourself focus on them for a few moments. It is a widely practiced form of meditation to truly attempt to see and reflect on them, and their transient beauty.
Shreyan Mitra '23
I began listening to Eastern European songs long before Eastern Europe was a topic of daily discussion. Nowadays I chuckle to myself as I look up Ukrainian folk songs that I’ve known for over two years and see them blowing up on YouTube. It’s entertaining and somewhat comforting when I can just speak the first line of a song and my friends enthusiastically reply, “Oh yeah, that one!” Perhaps you are riding this “Ukraine hype” wave, discovering new things every day about the Eurasian steppe, its people, its culture, its history, and its identity. With the advent of spring, there’s one aspect of that identity that you may find useful in your philosophical debates regarding the uniqueness and beauty of the home of the Мати Русі.
See if you can find anything special in the first line of this song (first link below):
Ой, у лузі червона калина, похилилася.
Here’s the Romanization: “Oi, u luzi chervona kalyna, pokhylylasya”
And the translation: “Oh, in the meadow, the red viburnum, has bent down low”
Not seeing anything yet? That’s fine. Have a go at this one (second link below):
Хай цвіте, хай цвіте, червона калина…
“Khai tsvite, khai tsvite, chervona kalyna…”
“May it bloom, may it bloom, the red viburnum…”
See it now?
Although the sunflower—a modest but beautiful choice—is the national flower of Ukraine, another flowering plant holds a special place in the hearts of many Ukrainians. Sunflowers, known as “sonyashnyky” (соняшники), are a symbol for peace, partnering with the wheat to face the sunrise that gives Ukraine’s flag its trademark golden color. Ukraine is also the world’s largest producer of sunflower seeds, which also happen to be popular in both Ukraine and Russia, where they are eaten roasted as “semechki” (семечки). Anyway, enough about sunflowers.
You may have noticed that both songs mention the “червона калина,” or the red viburnum. If you consult Google right now, you may notice that “Viburnum” is an entire genus and not a specific plant. In this case, Ukrainians refer to Viburnum opulus as the red viburnum. English speakers colloquially call this plant the guelder-rose. “Guelder” comes from the Dutch province “Gelderland” where V. opulus supposedly originated. The flowers are white and come in decently sized clumps—don’t ask me why we call them roses.
And the guelder-rose’s cultural significance doesn’t just stop at Ukrainian folk songs. The general insignia of the Armed Forces of Ukraine sports a pair of arching red viburnum branches. In the world-famous Russian folk song Калинка (“Kalinka”) (third link below), the singer expresses his admiration for the snowball tree—another name for V. opulus. The word “kalinka” itself is a diminutive of “kalina.”
Калинка, калинка, калинка моя!/В саду ягода малинка, малинка моя!
“Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka, moya!/F sadu yagoda malinka malinka moya!”
“Viburnum, viburnum, viburnum of mine!/In the garden, small berry, small berry of mine!”
Slavic paganism, which existed far before Ukraine or Russia but was practiced by the ancestor of both countries, has many meanings for the guelder-rose. One legend ascribes the plant an important role in the creation of the universe. More practically, the red berries stand for home, birthplace, blood, and family roots. In Russian, “kalina” comes from the verb “калить” (kalit’) which means “to make red-hot.” In a romantic sense, both Ukrainians and Russians view the berries as a symbol of the love and beauty of a young lady. Artistic renditions of the plants are common on traditional ceremonial clothing and the Russian “khokhloma” (хохлома) painting style.
If you want to show your support for Ukraine or peace in general (I would suggest the latter), you can plant guelder-roses at home! V. opulus is naturalized in North America and is a non-invasive species. The flowers bloom in late spring and the berries are at their peak in the fall. In case you want to eat them (or make kalyna jelly from them), be careful not to overindulge—guelder-rose berries are mildly acidic and can be toxic if eaten in excess.
A final tidbit of symbolism: the bitterness that comes with eating the berries is generally seen as the grief that comes with romantic separation. Perhaps someday, when this chaos is all over, those berries might be ever so slightly sweeter.
Links to songs:
Rishi Kannan '23
I want to be honest with you. You really irritate me (Ba Dum Tss). Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything you do for the Earth—the beautiful flowers, the nectar for bees, the growth of plants all over the world. But still, do you really need to be so—how do I say this?—annoying?
Spring is a time of beauty, growth, and warmth, but you make it so that I can’t see or smell any of it! I mean, seriously, why are you so sticky, and what about my eyes are so attractive to you? What joy do you get out of seeing my sinuses suffer?
As soon as March begins, I can’t stop thinking about you. How could I, when I see yellow, sticky dots sprinkled all over the ground, and when my eyes puff up like Hot Cheetos waiting to be eaten? I’ve tried everything to lessen the effect of your demonic presence. Whether it is Claritin, Claritin chewables, Benadryl, Children’s Benadryl, Zyrtec, even nose spray, nothing can defeat you. The pharmacist will tell you that someone (i.e. yours truly) bought all the allergy meds two days ago, but if you’ve looked at me any time recently, it doesn’t seem like anything has been working.
Spring would hands-down be my favorite season if you didn’t constantly get in my face. The weather is perfect, the leaves grow back on trees, the flowers bloom (thanks to you), animals are lively again after a cold winter. But spring also means tissue boxes that are used up within a few days. Spring also means tears, not of sadness, not of joy, but of aggravation. Spring also means eyes red as the fires of the underworld. Because of you, spring means an unhealthy balance between joy and irritation.
So I beg you, for all allergy sufferers’ sakes, please just get your job over with, then disappear. It’s nothing personal. I know you don’t irritate me on purpose, but do you think I want to interfere with the plant reproductive process? If it wasn’t clear already, that doesn’t appeal to me.
I really hope that we can build a healthy relationship together. Maybe, I can find the right medicine to be less affected by you. Maybe, you can be less everywhere. Maybe, both of us can learn to see more of the good in one another.
Okay, this letter might have been a bit harsh. You make the season of spring what it is, and for that, humanity is forever grateful. But for the sake of the people who you discomfort, please understand our side of the story.
Rishi (a fellow seasonal allergy sufferer)
Elizabeth Khludenev '23
NCS’s ALS Club plans many exciting activities this Spring! First of all, do you recognize the two people in the pictures and how they relate to the three letters “ALS”? Let me do some explaining.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—sounds like a mouthful, right? ALS is a disease that causes a person to slowly lose their muscles’ ability to contract. This disease starts with difficulty to walk and move one’s arms and legs, progressing to the inability to speak, swallow, and eventually breathe. In the human body, these functions are accomplished with the help of different types of muscles. However, if a muscle does not receive a signal, or impulse, “to move” from the nervous system, it cannot do so. Cells within the nervous system which are called “neurons” receive impulses from other cells and transmit them to different parts of the body, including muscles. Neurons that transmit impulses to muscles are called motor neurons. ALS affects motor neurons and makes them dysfunctional leading to the inability of the muscles to work properly.
The name “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis” reflects the intricacy of the damaging changes that can occur in the human body when someone develops this disease. The word “amyotrophic” comes from Greek and means “no nourishment to muscles”, the word “lateral” means “to the side”, the word “sclerosis” means “hardened” and reflects the loss of muscular flexibility and hardening of the muscles which occurs with this disease. Aside from ALS, some people call this condition “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” as it was named after a famous New York Yankee baseball player who was diagnosed with it. And that’s the person in the first picture! The person in the second picture is Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot who was a physician that first described ALS in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, ALS affects up to 15,000 Americans today and has no cure. Although much research has been done, more research and new discoveries are desperately needed to find treatments and cures for ALS and other diseases of the nervous system which cause neuronal degeneration.
A few months ago, in December 2021, the United States Congress passed a new law called “ACT for ALS”. It was a huge win for the ALS community! This law supports research and establishes grant programs and public-private partnerships to develop disease data collections, conduct research, and find new treatments for ALS along with other neurodegenerative diseases. To fund these initiatives, Congress authorized $100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars) every year for the next 5 years!
Now that you know all these exciting facts, come participate in our Club activities this Spring! I, as the Club’s Chief Scientific Officer, and my fellow co-founders Helen Prince and Retta Nash have so much in store for the Club! Our ultimate Club goal is to raise money and spread awareness about ALS to help find new treatments and improve the quality of life of people living with ALS. Get ready for more bake sales, information sessions, and industry-renowned speakers like the Vice President of the ALS Association!!! Look out for more information and events coming soon via email!