Gustavus Adolphus College, April 21, 2005
I will warn you that these are the most tedious kind of pictures: the nostalgic kind. They have a great deal of personal meaning, and I'm not sure that meaning can be conveyed all that clearly without a heck of a lot of "oh, you had to be there."
I graduated from Gustavus Adolphus in the spring of 1999. That's six years ago as I type this. I hadn't been back since graduation day. I'd kept in contact with the physics faculty on e-mail, but that was it. I finally made arrangements to have lunch with my old advisor, Dennis ("D.C.") Henry, because we'd been saying we'd do it someday and someday is a long time coming if you don't get organized, and also because they're tearing down my old dorm this summer, and I wanted to say goodbye to it. I think it would have been unbearable to say goodbye to Wahlstrom if it hadn't been such a nice time seeing my physics profs again (5 out of 6; Dr. Fuller is retired, but I swapped howdies with all the others).
Olin Hall from the back. Olin houses the physics department as well as the math and computer science departments. (MCS is on the third floor, leading to references to the math prof of the semester as "the man upstairs.") Olin was one of my two homes for the time I was at Gustavus. I love it still.
This is the front of Olin. This is how I came to it most of the time. See that pointy glass thing on the front? There's another on the other side, and it's important because...
...there's an easily accessible ledge. It didn't have flowers in it, "in my day." As a result, it was more than big enough to fit a M'ris. I used to curl up there to write. It was a little chilly, but the back stairs were generally quiet except for the occasional physics geek running up and down to the labs or, less frequently, MCS folks running down to the IT department. Dennis teased me that they're going to have to put a plaque up labeling it my corner. I started the story that eventually segued into my first novel while I was sitting on that little ledge.
One of Timprov's favorite scribbling spots, on the other hand, was this ledge behind the music building. It was quite wide enough to sit safely on without worrying that you'd take a header over the side, and one knee up made plenty of desk for one's journal.
(We are both less perch-y since then.)
So, as I said, they're tearing down my dorm. I'm worried about how they'll handle it. Here's why: you see that picture, right up there? That's Johnson Hall. No, squint harder: see? In the bushes. It was the oldest dorm on campus. The tornado took it. This is what they put in its place. Notice the commemorative plaque?
Yeah, me, neither. And that was the most historic dorm and the one that was destroyed by a force of nature rather than by choice.
I looked out over the Minnesota River Valley on my way home every day for four years. See that little twisty road in the middle, on the opposite hill? After dark, you can't see where the hilltop is or the road. You just see blackness, and the cars' headlights are little shooting stars swarming back upwards.
I really hope someone finds a reason to look that way once they're not going home to Wahlstrom in that direction.
And that's Wahlstrom Hall at Gustavus Adolphus College. That tan stone is Kasota Stone. It gets into your blood. I'd have a house of Kasota Stone now, if I could. (It's even more fantastically expensive than stone houses generally are.)
That big evergreen is clearly a tornado survivor. It just barely hides the window for the room I had my senior year, which was halfway into the basement. (Wahlstrom works on half-flights.)
These are the bas reliefs that flank the doors. Why? I don't know. What do they symbolize? I'm not sure. But they're tangled weird people, and we're not sure what they're on about, and that, my friends, is the essence of Wahlstrom.
That's my hand on the Kasota Stone. Because I'm a sap, essentially.
These are the windows you can see right above the door. The far left one on the top row was mine my sophomore year. Same left one in the next row down was mine for junior year. They were luxurious L-shaped rooms, with a 6x5 bit tacked onto the general Wahlstrom 6x10 template. (They claimed 8x10. The 8x10 included the closet along one wall. We didn't love them for their spaciousness.)
I didn't take pictures inside. I was very conscious of the fact that it isn't my home any more, and I wouldn't necessarily have wanted some stranger taking pictures of my section lounge. But I looked in, and everything was as it should be, the laundry room shabby and strewn with oddments, the main floor lounge utterly abandoned, the whiteboards covered with scribbling, the walls postered with geeky projects.
I don't miss living there per se. I wouldn't go back to college again if you paid me; four years was quite enough (and, in fact, about a semester too much by some measures). I don't want to live in Wahlstrom again, at all at all at all. I like being a grown-up and having a grown-up house and all that. It's good. What I want is for someone to be living in Wahlstrom.
Ah well. I will hope for its functional equivalent, even without the sickly pastel walls and the horrible banging heaters.
On my way out, I stopped through the arb. (Arboretum. No Gustie ever says Arboretum.) I had to go out and see the stone circle.
The stone circle was another writing spot, but more memorably, it was where we went to watch the meteors for Twig's birthday.
You can sprawl on the big flat stones, and the Perseids cooperate pretty well even if the Tennis Bubble is being a light-polluting Pimple off in the distance.
It was a good place to be.