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UNC Football: On Hope and Eternity

Hope is the thing with feathers.

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Pitt at North Carolina Photo by Michael Berg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of renewal, even as I watch the renewal of nature taking place each time I step outside. Each day slightly greener, each morning sun a shade brighter than the last, as we slide into the dawning of the spring with one final puff of yellow pollen. There are truths that nature knows, the deepest truths, the ones that we sometimes forget. I’m guilty of it, to be sure; too tied up in my work, in my admittedly limited social life, in worrying about the ways I trade my time away and to what end. It’s easy to get stuck in these ruts of our own creation, these great divets left by the things we drag around without really even knowing. As the years pass, I find myself ever more amazed with exactly how time washes around me, eddying and tumbling in a way that can somehow make a week feel like an eternity, but two months feel like the blink of an eye.

There are few enough constants in our lives, and fewer still that we can bear to pay attention to. The changing of the seasons comes to me with the air of an old friend, promising change and something new, and it never fails to remind me to pause and look around, however briefly. The first robin of the spring has been noteworthy as long as I can remember, as well as the first bloom of daffodils. These are touchstones, things I can depend on regardless of anything else that is happening in my life, unchanging and always there to tether me in the times when I find myself adrift. My biological rhythm is set specifically to the woods around the place I grew up, the place I’m still lucky enough still call home.

A college town like Chapel Hill has other rhythms, of course. The ebb and flow of students on Franklin Street from summer to winter to spring, for example, or the traffic backed up behind one of the Chapel Hill Transit Park & Ride buses on a game night; these are other things that remain more or less constant for someone who is lucky enough to live full-time in the southern part of heaven. If I set my heart to the birds and the flowers and the natural world, I could set my watch to the comings and goings of the University in this town.

To that end; UNC Football held its annual Spring Game last Saturday, the first concrete sign that we are making progress through the offseason. We’ve still got a ways to go before the season kicks off on September 2nd, of course, but it’s never too early to begin to hope. After all, if hope springs eternal in any place, there has to be an impressive fountain of it flowing right through the heart of college football.

Each season brings with it a promise of change, and a dearly-held hope that maybe that change is for the better. This is equally true for the pair of robins that have built a nest between the rafters on my porch and Tar Heel fans across the country. Changes have happened within the UNC football program, and time will tell if these changes were for the better. If hope really is the thing with feathers, as Emily Dickinson famously wrote, then maybe Drake Maye will spread his wings even more this year under a new offensive coordinator, and reach for eternity in the form of UNC’s first-ever Heisman trophy. Maybe the Heels will grow into this newly wide-open ACC, stretching toward the proverbial sun in the form of an early-December trip to Charlotte.

For now, at least, we can hope.