Big winds and big storms – and reflections

Ah…the fickle weather of Wyoming. Storms do not move–they develop and disappear in place, so that clear sky may become rain in an hour or an approaching storm may dissipate before it arrives. Today brought rainclouds around noon – storms that immediately dropped the temperature about 20 degrees with a 40 mph wind. Hailstones and lightning strikes, then back to calm and 70. More storms in the late afternoon. High peaks may see some snow today and tomorrow, but weather still looks perfect for our planned Fremont Peak ascent this weekend.

49 lynx points today – a new record. Not too surprising, as most of the areas were aspen or open sagebrush and so easy to write off as inadequate denning habitat. Both Kate and I are beginning to tire of the daily grind to tick off the points – now at 240 of 458. Should be another two weeks.

Bought backpacking food and final supplies this evening. Now watching Planet Earth (someone has DVDs) and packing – we plan to leave at 4 pm tomorrow to get a good start. Ryan is battling a potential hernia so is worried that he might have to turn back.

Finally got a chance to open the “remember” document – memories of graduation prepared by parents, friends, and relatives. Quite a lot of work went into that! Brings back memories – some wonderful, some sad. Too bad that I really didn’t appreciate what Carleton meant to me until a few months before it was time to leave for the last time. I am supposed to add my memories. Perhaps I will sometime, but I really don’t have much to say about most of it. Good to see relatives again, but same old questions – what’s next? – and just like any other reunion or gathering. Lunches were – well – just food, and the ceremonies were as dry as any other grand production of that institution revered as high academia. Of course it feels good to receive hard-earned honors, but that is not what life is about.

What matters to me is not the ceremony – the end. Perhaps the only importance of the ending – aside from forcing a jump from a comfortable home into the “real world” – is that the knowledge that the end is approaching provides an impetus to step above the daily routines of studying and related anxieties in order to take advantage of all that is offered and to make a lasting difference. In my case, this meant a trip to Louisiana, a song of my own arranging, an geeky but award-winning video, IM sports, various escapades of streaking, and an Arb booklet that was an attempt to give back some of the knowledge and experience gained from four years of intimate relations with Carleton’s natural lands.

The last term brought my first attempt to create a social environment of my own design – Wednesday night bonfires. Sparklers, instruments, voices, wings of light in long exposures, Polish mead, homebrew and better brew, and a weekly gathering of friends. Looking back on graduation, I mainly remember my final bonfire – the hurry and scurry to relocate and tell everybody, Ed’s original songs, homegrown rhubarb, Aaron (not Erin – Erin is a girl’s name) and his improv violin, Heather the elf and her “Caledonia” solo, sad final goodbyes to Heather, late-night discussions with Aaron. The academic achievements and awards are important to me – if I had done poorly I could not have been satisfied with myself or my Carleton experience – but aside from that they mean little. They help me to feel good about myself in some ways, but they are but cold recognition. I will miss the love and acceptance, my role as naturalist and Arb consultant, the community of liberal (if unfortunately atheist) intellectuals as eager to toss a volleyball or a frisbee as to understand the theory of kin selection or the fundamental theorem of calculus. I will miss the A Cappellicans, both as a group of friends and a chance to express through music.

In short, there is very little about graduation itself that I will remember. It is important to those who had few or no other chances to visit Carleton, or to those who count milestones along a life path. But to me it is only a transition – a time of bustle and formality. I can only hope that I will manage to find another community of like-minded people in the coming years, and that when I do I will realize what I have found before the end approaches.

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