Another School of New

To the east, behind us, the lake laps easily against the rocks that line the shoreline. Long, powerful waves roll gently up to the huge boulders, sending white foam washing over the lowest rocks. Over and over the waves roll, mimicking the even rhythm of a breath; in and out, over and away, again and again.

To the east, beyond the rocks, the lake gleams wide, dark, immeasurably expansive; an ocean of movement as far as the eye can see. The sky above is dark, amorphous grey clouds revealing a star here, two others over there.

Here, looking west, the lake is at our backs. Over the green rise of manmade peninsula, beyond the manufactured breakwater of rocks, lies the lake. Here, before us, is the pond. Protected from the wind, the wide movement of water with water that creates waves, the pond’s surface ripples- barely- in the September breeze. Tall bushes, scratchy yellow grasses, line the perimeter of the pond; their withering blossoms sway in the same puffs of wind that moved across the water’s surface.

Above, a pine tree with long needs and bunches of fat branches that look like hearts obstructs a full view of the sky. Leaning to one side, then the other, I watch airplanes slowly glide across the velvet sky. There are buildings- classrooms, offices, auditorium- beyond the pond, and their white lights bleed into the night sky, painting the horizon a deep purple. The planes, one wing lit on color, the other, another, stream between the pine branches above me, before disappearing from view in the purple skyline.

Walking to this strip of wonder, through city, residential, and then campus areas, we walked around, through, behind, posses of freshmen. It’s their first weekend, their first days of campus living, and they’ve a schedule of events, games, sessions, to attend.

There are no freshmen out here on the Lakefill, but their silhouettes shadow the windows across the pond. Backlit bodies cross in the windows, revealing snapshot of profiles and not a sliver of the uncertainty, doubt, nerves that feel so intrinsic to freshman year.

Later, as the lights illuminating the soccer field to the north click off, we cross the bridge once more, stepping around the broken asphalt of a campus that’s seen much construction in the past years. Later, we step into a building teeming with faces new to campus, teeming with lives that have changed- are still changing, will continue to change- dramatically in the coming weeks.

Later, we walk through the building. Quickly, but not in a rush. We weave between booths intended to welcome, and yet somehow vaguely overwhelming. We pass a photobooth station, snack tables, long, low seating areas heaped with give aways and grab bags; welcoming students to campus with too much stimulation and a false sense of the frequency of free stuff distribution.

Then, moments after, we’re in the unpredictable shadows of the cloudy moonlight once more, and the sudden hush of leaving the new students behind feels almost eery. And we walk, move, talk, more, stepping north, then south, across campus, but in the quiet moments, as the trees above turn mottled under the cloud-covered moon, I think about the freshmen. Think about the beginning of a four-year education. Think about challenges no one knows are coming, adventures not a soul could predict, for each of them.

And there are 2000 of them, here on this lakeside campus, and they’re starting classes next week, along with the upperclassmen who’ve not yet returned. And when those classes start, when the late nights are no longer by choice, but by dictates of the syllabus, when friendships are weird because people are both complex and broken, I’ll be downtown, speeding haphazardly through my own education.

But I’ll be thinking about them. Because school is big, new, and sometimes overwhelming, but there’s a lot of good, and a lot of growing, and I’m excited for them, nervous for them, cheering for them.

~Natalia

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