Familiarizing the Quiet

When I think of home, I think of the big brick fireplace in the living room of the house where I lived until I was fifteen. I think of the field of tall grass on my neighbor’s property and the daffodils that emerged there in springtime. I think of the dairy farm that I would ride my bike to just before sunset, and the peach orchard that lies between my childhood home and my teenage home. I recall the boy I was in love with when I was sixteen, and the way his bedroom looked cast in the glow of lamplight during winter. I think of my redheaded best friend, how her house smelled of vanilla and almond and there was always ice cream in the freezer. I remember driving through forests in summer, listening to the Garden State soundtrack. I think of singing along to The Beach Boys on the way to the best ice cream shop in the City of Roses. 

There’s a special attachment most of us feel to the place where we form our first memories. Having a sense of place that we identify with gives us something to be a part of that is larger than ourselves, a sensation that many of us find ourselves craving.

One day, I laid down to take a nap in my dorm room, but instead of sleeping, I started thinking. I thought about the ambient sound of a new place, how it feels different than the sound of one’s original home. I think that once we become accustomed to the quiet of a new place, we are a step closer to feeling genuinely at home there. I notice myself growing comfortable with Kenyon’s hum of cicadas, rustling of leaves, shouts of friends across the quad, and bird calls. These are the small background noises that share the quiet here. In the moments before I drift to sleep and the time spent alone, I find comfort in them. 

These little intricacies—the sounds that blend into the background, the people we pass between classes, the color of the sky, or the words we exchange with one another—form the tapestry of our time here. Creating a home is about taking the time to notice these things. It is about familiarizing the fragments that compose our environment, as well as the pieces that make up ourselves. To develop a deeper connection to a place, we have to develop connections to the people that belong to it. Thinking about this, I wanted to know what other new students at Kenyon thought of home. Did they miss the homes they left behind? Did they feel at home here at Kenyon? I decided to ask. 

Sitting at the picnic table in the freshman quad, Sydney Schulman, ‘23, talked about her home in Syracuse, New York. She remembers her house and a particular highway she and her family used to drive on every day. At Kenyon, Sydney feels at home when she is sitting outside of Peirce with new friends or looking at the stars in the freshman quad. 

When asked what comes to mind when he thinks of home, Bijan Khagani, ‘23, remembering his last night in Chicago before coming to Kenyon said, “The sight from Lake Michigan where you can see the entire city, specifically when you go there at six o’clock P.M. on August 23rd, [and] you look back at the summer.” Bijan said that now he feels more at home than he has in a long time, especially in Lewis Hall, where he has formed a close-knit community.

Photo of Bijan Khaghani

Photo of Bijan Khaghani

 

For Charlie Muller, ‘23, home is a myriad of moments: “biking around the streets of Brooklyn, being in Prospect Park, being with my dog, taking the subway, hearing sirens.” Charlie remembered hearing a siren at Kenyon recently and felt “oddly comforted” to be reminded of home in New York City. Charlie said that Kenyon doesn’t feel like home for him yet because he is still settling in and developing his routine here, but at Kenyon he feels most comfortable and relaxed when he is lying in the grass in the freshman quad. 

Grayson Knox, ‘23, talked about his family. “I think of my brother and his latest scheme he’s coming up with… I think of my twin sister. She rambles on about the newest Dateline show she’s watching [and] my little sister complaining about homework assignments,” he said. “I think of sitting down to dinner with my family and telling my parents about my day.” Grayson went on to say that although Kenyon is different from the home that he is used to, he already feels like he belongs here. “[I’ve met] people who just seem to get me ... people who are smart and funny and good to be around … I sometimes forget a bit about home because of how much I’ve been enjoying my experience here.” Grayson said he feels most at home at Kenyon when he is walking down Middle Path at night, especially this time of year with the autumn weather and the smell of fallen leaves. 

Photo of Grayson Knox

 

Here in Gambier, Ohio, I have yet to find what home is to me. I have predictions and hopes too. I hope home will be a table at Wiggin Street Coffee and a warm latte. I hope home will be dancing to concerts at the Horn. I hope it will be the people in the Lewis Common Room, and the ones I run into on Middle Path. I hope home will be watching a show before bed with my roommate and late night conversations with people I have yet to meet. I hope that the background noise of Kenyon will feel increasingly familiar in moments of quiet, and I hope that I’ll be a contributor to that noise during moments of excitement. 

I am striving to observe and familiarize the small beauties that surround me here. Whether it’s the way the sun hits one of the trees in the quad, the color of the sky in the afternoon, the configuration of bricks on one of the buildings, or another person, I try to take notice and appreciate the intricacies. Home is about the quiet details, the moments and places that are only special to you, like the brick fireplace in your childhood house, the highway that runs through your city, Lake Michigan at 6:00 p.m. on August 23rd, biking through the streets of Brooklyn, listening to your sister complain about homework, or Middle Path at night in autumn. 

Photo of Lewis Hall

 

Image Credit: Bijan Khaghani, Author