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The Pastoral Life

April 9, 2008   This afternoon after dinner, I was standing in the Farmhouse debating what to do with my evening. I thought about walking to the art studio to do some drawing. I considered going to Marshalls to look for some cheap exfoliating scrub. I contemplated going to the gym. But the lovely weather was just too perfect to waste. It was time for a walk.

I put on sneakers and a jacket, grabbed my sunglasses, and headed out the door. It was about 7:00 p.m. and a breezy 65 degrees. I walked past South, my freshman year dorm, down to the turf. The women's lacrosse team was just finishing up a match. I passed the turf and walked to the edge of the practice fields towards the woods. I was looking for something.

My roommate, Liz, recently told me about the Rogers Glen. It's basically a bit of forest, with pathways, that engulfs a ravine. She said it was a really nice place to walk, so I set off to find it. In general, I'm very fond of walking--especially the type that feels like exploring. I crossed through a thin patch of woods onto a gravel road. I followed the road a few hundred feet and came to a lawn. The lawn was nicely manicured, perhaps 100'x50', and surrounded by short pine trees. I crossed to the center and picked out a nice spot of grass to sit on.

This lawn is my new favorite place at Hamilton. Not because the lawn is particularly wonderful or the trees look like Christmas trees, but because the view is spectacular. I've written about the hill before from a fitness point of view. Aesthetically, an unobstructed view of the Clinton valley is really beautiful.

For one thing, there are no McDonald's arches anywhere. Interspersed between the trees and fields are church steeples, silos, farmhouses, small shops and schools. I neither saw nor heard an automobile. It was completely peaceful. Looking down on the valley was a bit like looking back in time.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned before that my mother's family is from Clinton. I tried to pick out my grandparents' house, but it was hidden behind trees. Though my grandfather often talks about what the college was like when he attended Hamilton ('46), looking down the hill it struck me how much the area has remained the same. I could be looking down at the same scene my grandfather saw, or his father, or his father.

I never really thought of Hamilton as "rural" before. Though I've passed farms many times on the way to Colgate or TexMex, I just think of the mall ten minutes away as a sign of suburbia. However, there is real charm about a small town like Clinton. Instead of landmarks like supermarkets and fast food chains, we have the Clinton Green, the crosswalk, and the blinking light. I enjoy walking downtown for a cup of tea at Mojo's or the College Street Cafe instead of Starbucks. I appreciate cider more if it's made at the mill in town. Though the winters can be harsh, I understand why my grandfather would want to live in Clinton his whole life.

I lay back with sprawled limbs and was shocked at how close the clouds seemed — perhaps a hundred feet up. The sky was bright blue, and the clouds were like white and yellow daisies blowing by. I remained in this manner about twenty minutes daydreaming and enjoying the smell of grass, the first time I've smelled it since October.

Though life at Hamilton can be very hectic and social, an hour alone can be the best hour spent all week. If you have a chance to look for my lawn while you're visiting the Hill, I highly recommend it. As for me, I'm planning a picnic there some sunny weekend soon.