Late last summer, the editorial staff of Middlebury Magazine recorded their observations as the campus came to life for the new academic year. This dispatch marks the conclusion of the semester, which happened on May 22, after the graduating seniors had left campus.
It’s nearly 7:30 in the evening on the very last day of the semester. Although the sun is hidden behind curtains of clouds, the air is as warm and moist as rising dough. I am crossing campus.
Only a scattering of cars remains in the parking lots. Old Chapel Road and Storrs Avenue are vacant—except for one police cruiser parked by the library, officer inside, watching. Muffled traffic is the only sound I hear.
The tents set up for Commencement are still on the lawn behind McCullough; they look ghostly and hollow. Up the hill, a red squirrel scampers beneath a row of hunkering Adirondack chairs. And around the corner, a public safety officer removes lawn signs posted for Commencement.
The chains that normally block the lanes leading to Middlebury’s interior have been removed so that vehicles may enter to load up, but these lanes are almost deserted. A last car coming from the Chateau slowly edges toward the street.
As I walk past dorms, the Drop Off zones scattered about look like mushroom blooms. Students have piled bags of trash and various unwanted items at these spots. A quick scan reveals rolled-up carpets, a metal single-bed frame circa 1960s, a white and blue- checkered tablecloth, and an apple press.
In front of Franklin Environmental Center, a young man wearing a stark-white dress shirt hovers near a Drop Off sign. He flips his cell phone open and then stands motionless, looking toward the horizon.
A mist is moving in; the light is fading. Two tall, skinny youths scurry down the path from Atwater balancing a mini-fridge between them. They stop at the street, open the hatchback of their beetle-blue Subaru, toss the fridge inside, and head back toward Atwater.
At the recycling center, a perky, bounding German shepherd leads several people, who are laughing and talking excitedly, through the vacant parking lot and up to Ridgeline.
Just up the road, the streetlights flicker on as a female figure steps out of a campus house, onto the dim porch. She checks to be sure the door is locked, shoulders a backpack, and heads toward town. She recedes into the darkening night.