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Leaf’s Eye View

By Meg Bernier ’07, M’09

The wind rustles the other leaves and me as we await the moment when we will fall to the ground and feel the vibrations from footsteps of students running to class or practice or to meet up with friends. They’re already dressed in layers, anticipating what I can only imagine will be a brisk winter here in the North Country. But I will be long gone by then.

I can see the Steiner Townhouses from my spot on this tree; they’re constantly alive with activity. In the distance are the golf course and Elsa Gunnison Appleton Riding Hall; the colors on other trees enveloping the links, the arena and Canton reflect the vibrant nature of this campus in the fall, as motley shades of greens, oranges, yellows and reds paint the sky with color before snowflakes fall–I find myself to be a deeper red. I describe myself as scarlet to the others.

Today’s wind is brisk. The sky is dancing with clouds as the sun breaks through, and suddenly I’m whisked away from my branch and into the air on the wings of the breeze. I’m one of the lucky ones; now I’m on my own personal tour of St. Lawrence, a fitting way to end this season.

As I’m carried high in the sky, I can’t help but notice the beauty of the campus below me, especially this time of year. The ground is green and sprinkled with purple, blue, yellow, red and orange flowers in front of the buildings and along the walkways that make the campus such a welcoming place. The view takes my breath away.

Up and over Madill Hall, I come to rest just outside Johnson Hall of Science. It appears it’s an Admissions Visit Day on campus, with excited high school seniors and their families on tours with one of our energetic student tour guides. “This is our largest construction project ever on campus,” I hear a guide explain before reeling off some statistics: “130,000 square feet … state-of-the-art facilities … teaching and research labs, conference rooms … highest award for sustainable design….” 

The tour moves inside the building as the wind lifts me up over Park Street and toward the athletics facilities. I glance at manicured practice fields and MacAllaster Soccer Field and pass over Newell Field House before coming to rest in front of the tall windows of Stafford Fitness Center. Students, professors, staff and community members congregate here throughout the day to take advantage of the facilities, which were recently ranked as among the best in the collegiate world. “I’ll meet you in Burkman for noonball,” one student says to another, while I spot a woman heading inside, perhaps for one of the many fitness classes. A couple follows with their tennis rackets, probably for a midday date with the indoor courts. The treadmills, ellipticals and other machines are all occupied as the day quickly marches on.

North Country Field has a couple of field hockey players practicing on the turf, while many runners enjoy Merrick-Pinckard Track, which embraces Weeks Field inside Leckonby Stadium. This spot will be much busier later today as our football team prepares for another game this weekend.

If there were any kind of rain today, I fear I’d remain stranded here and miss the rest of campus, but the wind has something much better in store for me. I’m sent back up into the air and past a busy Brewer Bookstore, a hot spot every day of the week, and down Millennium Way toward Sullivan Student Center and Dana Dining Hall, another hub of activity. Students take a moment between classes to sit outside and enjoy each other’s company, while others run in and out of the buildings before heading to their next obligation.

The breeze sends me past Dean-Eaton and around Sykes, Hepburn and Carnegie Halls. All of them have stood for decades as guardians of traditional beauty, balancing the newer buildings. From the top of Owen D. Young Library, I can see stately Richardson Hall, the oldest building on campus, and Gunnison Memorial Chapel, home to the bells that can be heard across campus and into the village every afternoon as they “sing out the ending of each day.”*  Not far from Richardson’s steps sits Herring-Cole Hall, where I see students, faculty, staff and townsfolk strolling and enjoying its soothing tranquility.

The leaves on the venerable maples in Herring-Cole Grove sway as the wind and I pass through and swing near the Quad, which watches closely as renovations continue in Griffiths Arts Center. Adirondack chairs are occupied by students reading, chatting or watching a game of Ultimate Frisbee. The grounds between the new Pub 56 and the Noble Center are often alive with students on mild fall and spring days, and today is no different. From my vantage point I can peer down the Avenue of the Elms and gaze back to the place where I began, still dazzled by the fall colors.

The wind dies down. I come to rest near the Romoda Drive entrance, with a perfect view of the gentle slope up to Gunnison and Richardson sitting atop, almost as if they know how prominent and distinguished they are, with late-day sunlight flowing between. For many, this is a place where the St. Lawrence experience begins, but for me in this year, it’s where it ends. I realize why for years to come, Laurentians will remember these falls, the color and the campus and the town, and today, an easy day that somehow slipped away as my scarlet color melts swiftly into brown.**

*From “Chapel Bells,” by Eugene Wright ’49.
**Adapted from an untitled poem by Mary Martin ’43.

After working in various capacities for the University communications team for several years as both a student and an alumna, Meg Bernier melted swiftly into green and gold last summer when she took a job in admissions at Clarkson, although she knows well for whom to root come hockey season.

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