Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Leaves Still Turn in September

I'm currently visiting Carleton College, my alma mater. It was exactly 50 years ago this month that I arrived on campus as an incoming freshman, and it's a rush to reflect on all that has transpired over the past five decades. There are many new buildings, and some old ones repurposed. Student enrollment has swollen to 2100—up from 1350 back in the day—but the maples are still turning toward their traditional fall raiment at the end of September, just the way I remember. Some things don't change.

Yesterday I was the guest presenter in Anna Moltchanova's philosophy class on Utopias (providing a three-dimensional contrast to the utopian literature the course is based on—they're reading Thomas More, Plato, Edward Bellamy, Aldous Huxley, etc.). I did 70 minutes of solid Q&A and it was great fun. Today I give a noon-hour talk entitled, "Why Intentional Communities May Save the World" (why aim small?). Between that and free pizza we should have a good crowd.

During an afternoon break, I took a walk yesterday in the cool sunshine and wound up outside Myers, where I sat quietly for a while on the bench dedicated to my old college friend (and Susan's late husband), Tony Blodgett. (For my remembrance of him click here.) As it happened, yesterday was the 13th anniversary of his death so it was a potent time. The bench is situated with a view across Lyman Lakes to Goodhue, the dormitory where I lived my sophmore year and Tony was the proctor's roommate. 

Later I had an animated visit with Renay Friendshuh, a junior this year who was born at Sandhill and grew up there. It was a day of circles within circles as my life folded back on itself.

Preparing for today's talk has given me the chance to reflect on what I've done with my life since the foment of my undergraduate days, during which time the college abandoned in loco parentis; the Vietnam War was raging, casting a shadow over my post-graduate options; I first got personally acquainted with racism and bigotry, and the seeds of the feminist movement were beginning to sprout. 

In 1967 students were not allowed to have cars on campus, everyone was required to live in dorms, and Minnesota winters were long and cold (it was before global warming and Al Gore had not yet invented the internet). One of my political science professors was Paul Wellstone. It was an intense and magical time, and I loved it.

Amazingly enough, my total immersion in Carleton connections will extend seamlessly into the weekend. Though I'll depart Northfield this afternoon, I'll rendezvous with Susan (also a Carl) for dinner at the MSP airport before flying with her to Denver. After overnight altitude adjustment at 5,000 feet (staying with Susan's daughter, Britta, and her partner Brian, both Carls), we will ascend to 10,000 feet Friday when we drive to Alma. Although the name of the town is not Alma Mater, it may as well be, as we will be guests for three days of old Carleton friends, Peg & Caesar Sweitzer, staying at their mountain aerie. There is definitely a theme to the week.

In Colorado we're hoping to enjoy the yellow and golden seasonal flaring of the cottonwoods and aspens—as well as the camaraderie. Susan and I will linger in Denver one more day after coming down from the mountains, to take Britta out to dinner on the occasion of her 36th birthday next Monday.

Whether we pay attention or not, the wheel keeps turning. I figure the best we can do is to enjoy the ride, each opportunity in its own season.

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