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Occidental Oriented - October 2016 - MacKenzie Nekton

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Occidental Oriented - October 2016 - MacKenzie Nekton

When I think of Occidental, I think of this: a nondescript afternoon, the weather ambiguous, the sky clear, the leaves still green. I’m walking from town to my house, and have stopped at the bottom of the hill to investigate the trickle of the creek that presently ran below the road. I scramble down the bank to below the bridge, slosh through the inch or so of water, and sat down on a precariously perched rock. In front of my feet, a small pond expands, fed by the infinity pool waterfall of the bridge. Blackberry bushes slope down from above me, a few tendrils of which decorate the concrete frame. Trees shade the water, the sky is clear, the day is still. Nature exists in its fullest here, even with the gash of the road running through it. I think of birds chirping, wet leaves, squirrels, and forget-me-nots. Occidental exists in an idyllic bubble – I feel somewhat dreamlike when I am here, and it feels not quite real when I think about it. Home too, has also had this diaphanous quality. The contrast then, to the city, is extreme. The visible dirt and grit of the city, the way is sucks you in and leaves you sitting on cement, feeling all too alive, appeals to me. At home, in Occidental, it feels like you could drift away – leave Earth entirely, or slide into a shadow and never reemerge. In the city, I have always felt that there was no space for drifting away – the buildings would catch me, if the streets ever relented with their constant pull (unlike gravity, a city street is not the weakest of the strong forces). In a city, there is always someone nearby, always a bright light or a neon sign. A city feels solid and opaque to me. 

As I walked around New York and Boston and looked at colleges, I found myself buzzing with the energy of a new beginning. The air was new, the trees and streets unfamiliar, and I wanted to know them. Every school inspired daydreams and excitement, and a fleeting sense that the world might be too real for me. Even as I loved these places, a little sliver of sunlight from home kept reminding me – you can never float away from here, there is no space to be the clouds or sun here; here you are only one human among many. Nonetheless, I plan on going away to college, to a big city. If only for a new experience, I feel I must venture outside of my bubble. 

That said, I will miss Occidental dearly. My family is here, my childhood, and the people I love best. I will cherish Occidental as a refuge and asylum from the outside world. I, almost certainly, will find myself longing to come home, or to see redwoods, or even to slide into the forest for a few hours. Occidental has taught me the true value of nature, of having space to expand into, and of closeknit communities. These things, I will look to carry with me into the wide world – because a family of friends can be made, and their presence will help shield me from the rough edges of life, and I will always know where the nearest park is, so that I can find a tree to rest under, or a creek to sit by, or a hill to climb. The true spirit of Occidental, the part that makes it feel so gossamer, is the sweet kindness and open arms that live here. This, I believe, I can take with me to someplace grimy, and when they meet, I hope to find the middle ground. I hope to find a place where I feel grounded, but safe and loved, with trees and taxis, both metaphorically and physically. 

I hope as well, that your summer was as revealing as mine, and that fall is bright and beautiful.