Last Wednesday we went to a spot on campus where I had never been. It was the quiet little river that feeds they lake, a river that I have always known of but had never taken the time to go see. Having spent a year and a half living on campus, I believe I am familiar with this place, with the paths that I walk every day to classes and to Dhall and the few secret places I have discovered while exploring. So, understandably, it shocked me to be looking upon a piece of river I had never seen, especially one so close to my dorm.
Since that day I have been wondering about how much I really know about campus, and realizing that it is very little. I know that this land was once a plantation, and then later an amusement park. I know that the lake is not, in fact, natural, but instead a man made reservoir. Even the part of campus that we consider to be most natural was shaped by man. I don’t think many students here know this.
I doubt it is possible to be anywhere on campus and not hear the sounds of man. The sounds of the cars on the road and the voices of students. The music that pours from dorm room windows and the ever present low roar of the heating or air conditioning whenever you are indoors. The low hum of civilization that we only hear when we think to listen to it. It is probably impossible to be in the dark outside on campus. The lack of darkness makes us feel safe, but means that we cannot see the stars. These are the trade offs of civilization, sacrificing tranquility and beauty for comfort and security.
Online I found out something I never knew about our lake. Four people have drowned in it. One of these deaths I had heard rumors of, a freshman drowned in the lake during Investiture in 1999. The other three took place at various times in the preceding decades. These stories can be read here:
The lake is the central geographic feature of campus. It was made by people, polluted by people and every year it is drained by people. And it has killed people.
I look forward to exploring more of campus. I intend to learn more of its history, and perhaps to find more secret places, to see the nooks and crannies where I haven’t been before.