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Meaningful places: Nichols Arboretum

Nichol(s) for your thoughts?

A path in the ArbA Michigan Daily article from 1998 floated the possibility that Robert Frost might have written the poem”The Road Not Taken” about his time spent in Ann Arbor’s beloved Nichols Arboretum. Frost was, after all, a poet-in-residence at U-M in the 1920s. But with this particular poem being penned back in 1915 in New Hampshire as part of a letter to his friend Edward Thomas, that inspiration appears to be wishful thinking.

“The Road Not Taken” is all about the way we alter our perceptions of past experiences. In the poem, Frost illustrates the way in which we often fret over our decisions. We try to know where our potential choices will lead us and then blindly justify the ones we finally pick. Though Frost claims to have written this as a more playful and mocking poem, it can be read much more deeply, and even strike a nerve with those who put great thought into their decisions–as it did for his friend, Thomas.

But ultimately, Frost uses nature in his poem as a setting for reflection and contemplation about life and humanity. With such great beauty and diversity, Nichols Arboretum stands as our immediate and grand access to nature for our own personal reflection and contemplation.

What are some of your favorite memories of the Arb? Please tell us in the comments section below.


  1. David Krause - 1962, 1986

    In the winter of ’57-58 (or was it ’58-59?) AA had snow, then thaw, then re-freeze. I took a sled to the Geddes arb entrance and started down the path. Amazingly, the slope was just enough that the sled kept moving at a nice pace over the frozen snow as I went downward, and a few minutes later I ended up almost at the river. It was like being given a private winter tour by nature itself, and I have never forgotten it.


  2. Tom and Tina Tolin-Scheper - 1970, LS&A, and 1970, Rackham

    On August 27, 1972, before one needed a permit, we got married in the Arb. Although the parking area no longer exists, and the pine grove looks different, we will celebrate our 43rd Anniversary, in a few days, remembering the rain in the morning, and the clearing for 1 1/2 hours during our wedding, and the rain that resumed, soon after we left. Glad you asked for favorite memories!


  3. Rosemary (Clair) Buchmann - BFA 1988 School of Art

    From the “bowl” in the Arb I remember watching a late night meteor shower on a warm summer night with the “then” (and 1st) love of my life.


  4. Pat Cardiff - 1990

    As if randomly, I heard an interview on NPR, taking my firstborn to college, about Robert Frost, by poets who lamented peoples’ mis-interpretation of this famous poem. Thanks for this very welcomed and wonderfully co-incident piece – against Nichols’ small memories.
    RW Emerson and HD Thoreau told us that nature taught us how to worship.
    I hear: Why concern yourself about things of this world? Don’t be anxious! Go to nature and try to be like her.


  5. Andy Paliszewski - 1988, BSIOE

    It was the winter of 1987 and living by the arb entrance we would commonly use the hills for sledding. It was almost always fun except when my roommate Mark (BSEE 1989) broke His collar bone on a crash.


  6. Todo Ocio Revista - 1989

    From the “bowl” in the Arb I remember watching a late night meteor shower on a warm summer night with the “then” (and 1st) love of my life.


  7. John Panourgias - 1987

    During my first couple of days at Markley, we went over to Arb as a large group and enjoyed the perfect late summer/early fall weather. First time I saw it and it was just beautiful. Have been back many times since and it never disappoints.


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