Published in Inkstone, the literary magazine of the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, this essay describes my tranquility as I traverse the campus in autumn dusk.
I finish my charts early this day, as I close the evening’s assignments and head to my dorm. Burdened by Environmental Science and Elementary Physics, I drop my backpack onto the concrete stairs and plop onto my favorite bench, oak slabs knit from curves of wrought-iron, resting between the sidewalk and the parking lot. White pines line the street with straw-colored needles and meander past the Ericksen Center down to the unnamed pond.
Fog hovers above it as a hazy line nesting across the spots of dark water poking through the cracked ice. Near the shore, tangled weeds merge among mucky pebbles abroad distilled mud. Layers of pines form a web with their boughs, each branch splayed at acute angles like bristles from a comb. They fade into a whitened blur.
The lamppost shines brighter than the hidden sun, accents the bristles’ silhouettes, stark against fading gradient. Blush meshes with gray like sooty ice. Clouds the color of peach puff then fade as if soaked into the mesh, while hazy lines of pines stick like spokes behind naked maples.
Near my bench, a bonfire blazes for the Ericksen athletes. Teen guys in jerseys whoop as they commemorate some athletic success. Streaks shoot like firecrackers as flames crack open the logs in mini explosions, curling the bark from dirt to smoke to ashes leaping onto my bench as I brush away specks of soot. Elms glow golden as shadows flicker. Umber leaves, still clinging since autumn, flake as if rusted from winter’s frost. Whippoorwills squeak like a piccolo out of tune. Skateboards clip-clop over dents and cracks in the sidewalk. Cars whizz by on crunching gravel, their lights an interruption, their sudden flash illuminating the forest in a quick blaze like pale sulfur.
There is a certain restfulness in this place. A certain refreshment that though deadlines have crammed me into boxes and dates, there is a beauty even in the momentary sitting, when I ease myself from these burdens. I sit on the bench, breathe in this sulfur, and simply bask.