Midnight on Middle Path

Almost every night this year I’ve walked from one end of campus to the other, often late at night. If I were on any other campus I’d be a little nervous about this, and probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much, but because Kenyon is what it is, the walk has become one of my favorite rituals.

The walk takes me from the little suburbia of the NCAs, past Mather and McBride, through town, and down Middle Path to the Tafts. It’s a late-night perambulation that allows me to appreciate the physical presence of the campus without the hustle and bustle of the day to fill my attention. There’s a grace and beauty I don’t experience during the day when I’m rushing from class to class.

The quiet and dark draw my attention to small details, like the color of pine needles and leaves on the sidewalk and Middle Path, and the wonderfully human quirk of seeing one or two rooms in a dorm lit up. The physical presence of buildings is much more apparent at night—it’s hard to explain in words, but in the day the energy of other students and adults distracts from the buildings as things in and of themselves. At night humans are mostly hidden away in dorms and the environment can just breathe.

That being said, on Wednesdays and weekend nights there are generally more people out and about when I’m walking back, and on those days it’s kind of fun to see the different way people group themselves as opposed to during the day. I might go past a group of Greek siblings on their way to or from a formal, or an a cappella group or theater cast returning from a party. I’ve started recognizing patterns—certain people gather at the same table, others smoke cigarettes in the same place, and one or two people make the same walk as I do, but in the opposite direction.

I love encountering wildlife as well. At night all different types of animals lose their inhibitions and wariness of human spaces and venture closer to buildings. One night when I was walking past the bookstore I heard what sounded like hooves down the side street. “That’s odd,” I thought, “What on Earth could that be?” It turns out a deer had walked past the buildings, almost to the street. I’ve seen deer cross Middle Path and gather near the science quad, a skunk walk along right near me for a good ten feet near the library, and a raccoon going through a trash can near Mather. Kenyon: it’s not just for humans. I don’t do this all the time, but sometimes it’s also nice to listen to music or a podcast on my walk. I’ve discovered that in the time it takes me to get across campus and ready for bed I can listen to the entirety of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, which is a lovely way to end the day. Some of my friends started a podcast called The The Vampire Diaries Diaries, which is, you guessed it, them talking about the hit TV show The Vampire Diaries. It’s like listening to an extended dinner conversation, and makes me feel cozy and among friends as I make my way across campus.

I think one of my favorite things about my walk, though, is the chance to appreciate the sky. The other night, when the supermoon made its appearance I was able to marvel at its brightness, and the next night to marvel again as it shone through the frost-like clouds. On nights with no cloud cover the stars are achingly clear, one upside of living far from a city’s light pollution. Orion, my favorite constellation, currently welcomes me from over Old Kenyon as I near the end of my journey.

I love Kenyon at all times of day, but there’s a magic about the night that I’m grateful I get to appreciate.

Image Credit: Katie Dembinski, Kenyon College, Drew Meeker