As I made my way to class the other day, I ran into a professor whom I had a class with last semester, but I was a little distracted during our exchange.
Now, when I say I “ran into” this professor, I literally mean I ran into him—I was running to class, inexcusably late, and as my former professor, walking in the opposite direction, said hello, I muttered a quick “Yo” in response without looking up, and proceeded to run directly into him. Mortified, apologetic, and relieved that no one else was around, I walked the rest of the way to J-Chap, thinking about how I had managed to screw up so monumentally.
Why do I tell this story? It illustrates how unaware I’ve become of this world around me. I no longer walk around wide-eyed. I take for granted that I know where I’m going and that I won’t rudely interrupt faculty members’ leisurely strolls over to Lewis-Sebring for lunch. But more to the point, I feel like I’m paying less attention to the little things—like nature, for instance.
I walk across the freshman quad from Converse to Merrill twice a week, and over the course of the semester, that walk has quickly become mechanical and hollow. What used to be novel and exciting—occupying the space of that gorgeous quad and feeling like part of the physical campus—became unpleasant routine, just a barrier, just a mindless transition from point A to point B.
But that’s not the way it should be! The great outdoors are supposed to refresh us, , to provide a respite from the daily grind of classes, meetings, and the expectation to perform as a functioning social being. I’m certainly as guilty as anyone of letting the cold and snow get me down over the long winter, but I appreciate the lushness of our campus nonetheless. Birds are chirping again, it’s sunny and (moderately) warm, and the snow is nearly gone—it’s time to show some love for our beautiful campus!
Nature has been important for me for a long time, and at Amherst, it’s become a comforting, relaxing presence in my life. Last summer, in my thirst for knowledge of all things Amherst, I happened upon the statistic that our campus comprises 1,000 acres of land. This impressed me—on my visit, Amherst seemed to be much, much smaller than that. Moreover, the campus sizes of comparable schools were more modest: typically, only a few hundred acres. I wondered if, in my pre-frosh ignorance, I had completely missed some tremendous swath of campus.
Then, I found out about the Wildlife Sanctuary, a conserved space that lies southeast of main campus and occupies 500 acres of woods, trails, and trees. For a kid from rural upstate New York, this was a godsend, the sign from home that I needed to comfort me in an unfamiliar place. I spent countless hours over the course of the fall semester wandering around the bird sanctuary and the trails, sometimes bringing homework or books to read with me. These were the times I felt the most at peace at Amherst. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not thank our Grounds Shop and Custodial Shop for the incredible job they do of and landscaping the campus and maintaining buildings to keep Amherst looking so fine.
Over the winter, I explored further and further, climbing Mt. Norwottuck and skiing at nearby slopes. Now that it’s spring and our campus is looking prettier again, I’m hopeful to get back outside and enjoy hanging out on the budding quad, watching the sunset from the back of J-Chap, flying kites on Memorial Hill, stargazing on the War Memorial, and of course, exploring the Wildlife Sanctuary. I can’t appreciate enough just how pretty our campus is.