Silliman Cupola

The Silliman cupolaMy home senior year was in the mansard of the Hillhouse Avenue gateway, looking up Hillhouse toward science hill. Inside the room, in a long skinny closet, a steel ladder rose to drum of the cupola topping the Hillhouse arch tower. Another ladder ascended up the side of the drum into the tall space of the cupola. I installed cross beams and a floor right below the windows. I had a new retreat, one with a vista to the compass points.

 The view to the west was the Silliman dining hall, and the dome of Commons/Woolsey. In the distance was East Rock and its monument. When I was very young my grandfather Thomas would take me on hikes from his Livingston Avenue house, crossing the river, and climbing up a steep trail which, at one point on the cliff face, crossed a vertiginous gap opening into the cliff with a tiny metal bridge. My life-long mountain hiking habit began there.

Looking north was the view up Hillhouse with its elegant houses ending in the tubular bricks of the Kline Bio Tower. To its right was the Peabody, another landmark of my youth: the place where I first met dinosaurs, bought bronze dinosaurs, and marveled at Rudolph F. Zallinger’s mural, The Age of Reptiles.

Looking east my view was dominated by the United Illuminating Company’s plant across the river. It became the subject of various pieces of art I created that year. To the south was the view of the Silliman Courtyard, our grand little spot of urban quiet. The grey Silliman buildings along the Wall Street include another gate tower, where I had lived the previous two years.

I watched many sunsets. As the earth turned away from the sun the clear light of day disassembled into brief and moody color, hastening reflection on my feelings and intimations of the divine.

John Boak