I begin my trip around Coe's Campus at the front door of Armstrong Hall,
mentally reciting a list of tasks I must accomplish today. As I enter
the cool October air, a fine mist createsa haze, bringing me back to the
confusion I felt when I first arrived at Coe. I know the general direction
I want to travel, though I cannot make out my destination. Earlier today
I read Corinthians 5:7 and it comes back to me now: "We walk by faith,
not by sight." I head straight across the lush green quad and spot
a giant peach suspended in the air. Is James hiding inside? I take another
look and see that the orb is actually a young maple tree. Its leaves are
changing colors between a deep yellow-orange and rich scarlet, creating
the illusion of a blushing piece of fruit. Nearing Gage Memorial Union,
I notice small sparrows making a ruckus as they dart and dance around
a mature ash tree.
To my direct left is the PUB, a happy haven for students seeking an alternative
to meals in the cafeteria. Ivy grows up the sides of the small prick octagonal
building. I venture onward toward the globular Gage Memorial Union. Its
large windows are full of posters designed by the many on campus organizations
advertising upcoming events. As I navigate my way down the sloping pavement
toward the building, I can see into the cafeteria; it is empty because
most of the lunch crowd has cleared out. I admire a sidewalk chalk mural
of the earth surrounded by ivy and doves that was created by one of my
friends in a silent demonstration for peace.
I probably never would have associated with this girl in high school, but she was incredibly warm and inclusive when I met her; people gravitate toward her. In describing her to another friend, I once said, "Iris knows what makes her happy, and she does it, without stopping to consider what others will think about her. That's why I love her." A few days ago, I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to admire a leaf that had fallen from a maple, smiling at such a beautiful discovery. A haiku by Basho came to mind:
Since befriending Iris, I have found myself more and more
engaged in moments such as this, and deriving more joy out of life by
As I enter the building, I am in the center of a photo from
a college brochure attesting to the 'hip, free spirited atmosphere' of
the college. I remember this picture from pamphlets of every college I
investigated before choosing Coe. To my left is the bookstore, and as
always on rainy days, the umbrella display is set up near the door. The
Stomping Grounds coffee shop is straight ahead of me, and a warm drink
sounds tempting considering the weather, but the shop is closed. That's
probably a good think because I left my purse in my room, and walking
past the counter with the smell of brew in the air would have been sheer
torture. I glide to the nook just past the bar just past the shop and
enter the mailroom. No mail today.
I proceed alongside Stewart Memorial Library, one of my
favorite buildings on campus. The side view is nothing spectacular, but
in comparison to the plate glass walls of Gage, the large, white framed
windows set in the red brick of the building have a look of much greater
class. Nestled below a tree near the building is a bench, inviting me
to take in the fall colors. Today is just too wet though, and I have many
more errands to run. I cut across the front of the library. Its intimidating
stone pillars contribute to the classic style and create contrast with
the modern looking bench sculptures in the front of the building. The
benches are made of orange-red stone, almost the same hue as the library,
but their slanting asymmetrical design and rough edges set off the clean
lines and polished look of the rectangular building behind them. Another
statue sits on the top of the stairs. It is a small boy reading from a
book and for the first few weeks of college, when walking by the library
in the evening I repeatedly asked myself who was lurking in the shadows.
A student on a skateboard shoots through the door of Greene
Hall, the all male residence building. He sways a little on the rough
patch of brick in front of the door, but doesn't completely lose his balance
as I have seen him do before. He is honing his skills. The building covers
a large area because it is L-shaped, mirroring Voorhees Hall, the all
female dorm across the lawn. Both buildings are of white stone and fairly
simple in style. These two buildings seem to herd the rest of campus away
from the library and the buildings behind it.
I am nearing my next stop, following my normal route to Spanish in Hickok Hall. This is another of Coe's brick buildings, and it is a gem. The overall shape and feeling of the building is very similar to that of Stewart, but Hickok is less daunting because it is smaller and has no columns guarding its entrance. To the right of the path is a small tree dedicated to a former nursing student. By the maturity of the tree, I assume she passed away rather recently. I walk by this tree almost every day with Jessica, but today is the first time I've stopped to examine it. A quote by John Burroughs comes to mind:
"To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday."
* * *
I hopped up from my desk, excited at the thought of company
since I hadn't made as many friends as I had anticipated during orientation
week. I swung the door wide to see a girl from down the hall standing
sheepishly in her pajamas.
"Mind if I come in for a while?"
"No, not at all, make yourself at home."
"I'm Jessica, by the way."
"Oh, yeah; Kaitlyn."
She sat on my roommate's bed and gazed around the room.
"Umm, so what do you think of Coe so far?" she
"It's nice, but I don't really know what to expect
"Yeah, you're in my Spanish class right? What do you
think of the professor?"
"Yeah, she's ok, and the homework isn't too bad, but
I wish she'd speak English at least some of the time."
"Mm-Hmm, so umm it's been a lot harder for me to make
friends than I've expected."
"Yeah, me too, I guess."
"I was talking to my boyfriend; he lives here in Cedar
Rapids and he was like 'I don't mind if you feel like coming over, but
I think you should spend some time getting to know people at college,
too, I mean, you do live there.' I've peen to his place almost every night
since I moved up here. So I told him I'd try and then I thought, 'Oh,
that girl's in my Spanish class, and she's always been pretty nice, I'll
talk to her.'"
We continued talking for half an hour or so about how college
had defied our expectations and how different it was from high school.
"Well, I'd better let you get back to your homework;
it was really nice to meet you. Thanks for letting me get that off my
chest. I'm in room 508 if you ever want to talk or hang out or whatever.
"Yeah, well, I wasn't looking forward to doing this
stuff anyway. I'll stop in sometime. Have a good night."
With that, she left, but we ran into each other in the hall the next day before Spanish class, so we went together. We still often find ourselves wandering into each others' rooms to share events from our days or make plans for the weekend. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we meet after lunch and walk to Spanish together, thankful to have a friend to share the journey with. When I think about our first conversation, it seems a little odd. We both blurted out things we hadn't been able to share with our closest friends from back home, but we found out that we were experiencing similar emotions. Through helping each other, Jessica and I became close friends.
* * *
Entering the wooden double doors to Hickok, I dart up the
stairs to the second floor to speak with my professor, but he has apparently
left early to get a start on his weekend.
No great loss; I can wait until Monday to see him. Only
a few more tasks remain on my to-do list. I circle the Voorhees/Greene
quad, passing by Marquis Hall, a small, unassuming brick building, and
see the ghastly steeple of Sinclair Chapel poking at the grim looking
sky. When the weather is pleasant, the graying steeple stands in stark
contrast to the blue crystalline sky. Today, it matches the weather, piercing
the clouds, changing the mist to rain. I hurry along since I left my jacket
in my room. Today has become, as Henry David Thoreau explains, "One
of those gentle straight down rainy days-when the rain begins by spotting
the cultivated fields as if shaken from a patter box." I march up
the few stairs to the entrance of Peterson Hall. This is the science building
at Coe. From the outside, it appears to have been built with no particular
design in mind, as if the college had been forced to omit the all important
step of actually having the building designed before construction began.
I find the disorder of the structure ironic; after all, it is the science
building, shouldn't it be more logically organized? The interior of Peterson
takes on a utilitarian style. The floors are varnished concrete, the walls
cinder block. For some reason, the building gains a sense of organization
on the inside. On the third floor, which is devoted to chemistry, I visit
my professor's office where I hand in my lab report and turn on my way
out the door to offer a quick aside.
"Have a nice weekend!"
"You too, wet though it may be."
Leaving the comforting science-y smells of Peterson behind,
I cut across College Drive to the Nassif Admissions House. All the buildings
on this part of campus are new and very attractive. Made of the brick
which unites most of Coe's buildings, the Schlarbaum, Brandt, Spivey,
and Morris House apartments for upperclassmen are set far back from the
street, leaving an open plot with trees sprinkled sparingly around it.
These buildings are all identical, and look like large homes in a subdivision,
as opposed to the dormitories which resemble office-buildings. Along the
street near the Morris House, I come across the Nassif Admissions House.
Here I find the financial aid office and conduct what business I have.
I wander back across College Drive to return to my room. It is raining
harder, flooding the sidewalks, and my flip flops have become terribly
slippery, seemingly arguing back and forth with each other via squawks
echoed with my every step. Ahead I spot Murray Hall towering above everything
else on campus. Its overall shape is of a square, and the windows line
up vertically, making it seem even taller. On the interior, all the rooms
are based around the elevators and bathrooms, so each room has a unique
shape, similar to that of spokes on a wheel. Last weekend, a few friends
and I hung out in the lounge of Murray playing board games and I was comforted
by the was all the students treated each other, smiling and laughing together.
The residents of Murray show a great sense of community and the board
of directors poster in the front window this week proposes a 'smashing
pumpkins' party open to all residents.
To the right of Murray are faithful old Armstrong and Douglas,
the conjoined twins of campus. The two buildings are nearly identical,
made of brick with five floors each, and connected at the hip by a large
lobby area with windows facing the quad. This year Armstrong had been
made into an all first year dormitory, so I am very familiar with it.
A few weeks ago, two of my friends and I took a self guided tour of Douglas
and managed to lose our sense of direction, even though the building is
a simple rectangle with only one hall on each floor. We were surprised
to find that all of the staircases had orientations opposite those of
Armstrong, making it difficult to navigate. We joked about being trapped
inside Bizarro Armstrong like characters in a Superman comic book. I am
glad to think of that time and I'm sure getting lost in Douglas will be
one of my cherished college memories.
As I near the door to Armstrong, I notice Eby Fieldhouse lurking to my right, reminding me that I skipped my workout yesterday and I should get some exercise today. When I mentally argue that today is Friday, my day off, Eby doesn't seem to care. Its stately dark brick and large rectangular shape remind me that it is the bully of the campus and doesn't take well to whining. I compromise. When the weather looks better I'll go work out, because I'll feel more motivated then. As I climb the stairs and stop to visit with Amy, I hope it rains all day. Sharing my deepest feelings with this person whom I met only a month ago helps me understand what Henry David Thoreau felt when he said "To obtain a true relation to one human creature is enough to make a year memorable."
This web site created and maintained by the Coe Writing Center. Copyright 2001.
E-mail Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.