Late fall surprises at Williams College

Students are out with jump ropes in front of Chapin Hall — double dutch, supple as dancing. They are relaxing in the late afternoon sunlight, and I am glad.

The sun has come out for the second time in six weeks, and I’m walking in circles around the music building, looking for the rainspout sculptures. They are supposed to hit different notes in the rain; maybe I should have come yesterday?

Instead I find flageolets and serpent horns … and a bronze monolith in a garden of winter berries, and a pencil drawing by Meleko Mokgosi. A photograph tells me the earliest minerals known on earth are 4.4 billion-year-old zircon in Australia.

I haven’t walked into the Schow Science Library in 15 years or more, not since an old roleplaying group used to meet there. (We were exploring a kind of alternate-universe 19th-century mid-Western America … with a black hole generator and a diving bell. Williams alums, like Williams students, tend to make their own fun.)

Today a question from a friend reminded me of that those years and old science classes. Even a confirmed old English major and likely to remain so has those moments. I spent spring evenings in the astronomy obseratory trying to learn to photograph constellations. We took a geology field trip once to a damp rock face with impressions maybe as wide as a finger-tip, the imprints of fossil shells. I wish I could remember where.

So I decided to take a walk through town and look for places I’ve never seen. Even after 20 years, even in the middIe of Williams College, I keep finding them.

I walk home around sunset. A frisbee team was setting out goals on Dodd lawn, and outside West someone, somehow, has found a way to rake a leaf pile.

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