Having had quite a bit of fun on our this autumn’s two previous farm outings (alpacas and pumpkins, you’ll recall), today we went to a lovely little farm on the western edge of town for more of the same. We were joined there by a family with girls the same age as ours, and proceeded to have a ridiculous amount of fun. A sandbox filled six inches deep with corn kernels! Gourd sculptures! A “hayride” that was actually a long wagon-borne tour of the farm! Cows! Gorgeous autumn colors everywhere! Suffusingly warm sunshine! A haybale maze that was also an excellent climbing/balancing thingy!
Today, in my new role as the coordinator of Carleton’s part of Northfield’s (and the country’s) United Way campaign (“Live United”), I schlepped all over campus to deliver more than a thousand pledge packets to every last employee – or actually, to the diligent volunteers who will get the packets to the actual employees.
Though this task took the better part of the day, and proved that those plastic USPS mail trays are meant to sit on carts, not to be carried around, it was actually a fun job. I probably met 20 people whom I didn’t know, explored some of the campus’ interesting corners (or non-corners: Goodsell Observatory is a very cool, very round building), and felt like I was contributing in some small, stair-climbing way to the campus campaign
I also witnessed the raging insanity of Family Weekend. What a madhouse. Current students with their parents, prospective students with their parents, (probably) prospective parents with their prospective students. Campus maps on a third of the eye-level vertical surfaces. Free food everywhere, much of it being consumed by tired-looking adults standing in the middle of the sidewalk. Audiae, Mercedeses, Acurae, and Lexuses crowding the streets. Young kids trailing after mom, dad, and the big sibling, taking advantage of the others’ distraction to help themselves to that free food. (Caramel-covered apple slices and ice cream!) Grown men and women attired unflatteringly like their children. Kids attired flatteringly like their parents. Britney Spears songs blasting from speakers in front of the campus center. The pleasing smell and sigh of damp leaves. Grown-ups standing perfectly still except for their swiveling heads, trying to figure out where the hell they were. Endless Carleton swag flying out of the bookstore. A lot of people looking pretty happy with the whole situation, and with the college.
An old friend delurked today to fill me in on her life since the last time I talked to her; among other interesting features, this life includes finishing three marathons. *sigh*
I can’t run that far once, much less three times (gawd, I hope she hasn’t run all three this year – or this summer!), but I can offer a slideshow of the scenery in the Carleton Arb last weekend. Tell you what: ambling through this sort of beauty makes the ambling a lot easier.
Just like we did last year around this time, today the Tassavas headed out to Thorn Crest Farm, a lovely little homestead southwest of town. Once the littlest member of the family emerged from her post-nap funk, we had a blast trooping around the piles of pumpkins and gourds, choosing a few apples for later, petting the cow and the horse, and generally soaking up the fall-on-a-farm ambiance.
I’ll leave to Shannon a more detailed account, but suffice it to say that the girls were happy to find some pumpkins for the house
I realized a second ago that today marks the beginning of my fourth year at Carleton. I started my job here on October 3, 2005, which seems both a long time ago (I only had one kid then!) and not really that long ago (I only had one kid then!). It’s been a great three years, I must say. When I have another three years under my belt, I might finally stop feeling like a newbie.
I celebrated this milestone by inadvertently resolving an issue I’ve been considering as long as I’ve been riding my bike to and from work: is it faster to bike than to drive? I’ve thought so, but never had the chance to actually test it, since I can’t really race myself.
But this morning, pedalling up the street, I saw one of my neighbors, a professor who works one building away from me, getting into his car. Gentlemen, start your engines! Or your lungs, as the case was. I adjusted my speed so that I passed his driveway just as he finished backing up, giving us a more-or-less equal starting point.
I rode to campus at my usual speed, expecting his Grand Caravan to zoom by on my left at any second. As I approached the turn onto the the straightaway to my building, he hadn’t yet caught up, and I thought that I just might beat him outright – and right there he passed me, trying to break my spirit. But I had a plan – beyond even the application of superhuman willpower. Oh, yes: I would still be riding when he had to make like a hominid and start walking.
So I maintained my speed, and sure enough, I passed him back in the parking lot, where he was getting out of his car for the short walk to his building. 200 yards later, locking my bike to the bike rack, I looked back down the sidewalk to find him still strolling toward his building. Two wheels good, four wheels slow!
Sorry for the crappy cell-phone picture, but I had to post this: a big old maroon Cadillac, parked outside the union this noon, wearing a Dominos roof sign. It looks like a way to get cheap pizza, but it’s actually a metaphor for the American economy – something about ridiculous ostentation culminating in the hollow satisfaction of pathetically simple needs.
With fall now incipient, I restarted my rollerskiing regimen this weekend with my usual route on the country roads around our place. The weather was agreeable, the roadkilled animals were few, the traffic was very light, and the scenery was amazing. I almost crashed admiring this view (the “Kane Avenue High Point” on my rollerskiing map):
The new playground in our neighborhood is worth its weight in gold – or in the sweat of the volunteers who assembled it. I think we’ve visited it every day since it opened last week, and never been disappointed. While, amazingly, pretty much every part of the play structure is suitable for both girls, they are currently enamored of the double slide:
On the way home from the park, the girls are now asking to call Mama to tell her about what they did there. Julia actually holds a conversation, while Vivi pretty much just says, adorably, “Iiiii, Mama!” and then “uh-huh” or “no” until I hear Shannon ask her to give the phone back to me. It’s still cute.
Between the unbelievably beautiful weather – the first of what looks like a week’s worth of sunny, warm days – and the opening (finally!) of a new playground at the park a block away, it was a banner day. Some visual proof…
(For what it’s worth, I shot this on a walk in Northfield when the girls spontaneously starting reciting the letters in the interesting sign across the street. They did it long enough that I could pull out the camera to capture it.)
My friend Todd pointed out this tree, catercorner from the starting line of last Sunday’s race. It was, for both of us, the first tree we’ve noticed to have significantly changed colors. It’s not a bad pioneer.
Today’s the day the freshmen arrive at Carleton and “New Student Week” begins in earnest. I remember my arrival at college very, very clearly – right down to picking my roommate out of the crowd based on his NY Yankees cap.
What better day to read the first page of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, a brilliant novel which starts with the arrival of students to a liberal-arts college? (Click through for a good annotation of this all-important first page…)
Over the weekend, Julia and Genevieve and I went to a small little playground tucked away at the northern end of Sibley Swale Park here in Northfield. It’s a gorgeous setting: ringed by trees but open to the sky, shady but not dark, grassy but not just a field, quiet but not somnolent. The girls love the place. Some days, they like to go up and down the play structure. Other days, like Saturday, they like to swing.