Communal Motion: Walking on Middle Path
Kenyon College is designed to be a walking campus. As a student, you hear this statement over and over again. Living sans other forms of transportation has its drawbacks — I know never to wear white sneakers on warm winter days, for fear of Middle Path mud — but on the whole, I’m grateful for the fact that, most days, I never need to see the inside of a car or bus. Everything I need is in the village, within walking distance. The through line of the path encourages community, a sense of togetherness. One of the original purposes of Kenyon was to create a tightly knit community of scholars in the wilderness, and while current students have much more access to, say, Chipotle than our 19th-century forebears, the sentiment still rings true. We’re all here, on our one campus in Gambier, living and learning side by side with one another.
My sophomore year, I lived in Manning Hall at the southern end of campus, just behind Old Kenyon. It was a challenging year, academically. Like many Kenyon students, I’d overcommitted, so passionate about all my extracurriculars that I struggled to see the necessity of taking time just to be alone with myself. Though my roommate went to bed at 10:30 p.m. on the dot every night, I often stayed up later, sometimes working in Manning’s common space but more often in the library. Walking home, late at night, I was never alone on the path, even at 2 a.m. There was always another student, always someone else who’d just finished a paper or a test, trudging home to bed.
Middle Path is rarely empty, bustling during the day with campus tours and students hurrying to class, and at night, dotted with pairs or trios of students walking from the library to their dorms, or to a cappella rehearsal, or to the Market to buy a soda. Even walking home alone after a night of work, exhausted and stressed, felt like a communal experience. So many students have walked this path before me, feeling exactly as stressed and tired. They made it through, and so would I.
The first week of senior year, one of my best friends and I walked the length of campus, zig-zagging across Middle Path to visit our old dorms and apartments. It was evening, and the insects were singing, the air heavy. We talked about memories, good and bad, from different spots on campus. We started outside Norton, our freshman dorm, and ended in the Aclands, where we share an apartment. As someone with many different interests, my activities at Kenyon pull me in a lot of directions. I’m constantly hurrying from Peirce to Storer for a rehearsal, or from Storer to Lentz House for class. But, though I often take the beauty of Kenyon’s campus for granted at this point, there are still moments that make me pause. The beginnings of a sunset above the angel statues in front of Rosse. Birds roosting on the chapel steeple.
Walking is meditative, encouraging reflection. As my time at Kenyon has gone on, I’ve broadened the scope of my walks. I often run on the Gap Trail, but just as many times I’ve gone down there not for exercise but just to think. The act of physically moving forward tends to clarify my mind, spurring it into action. As the deadline for my senior project looms and all the imperatives of senior year become hard to put off (the job search, graduation), free time is precious. Walking around campus has become one of the few quiet parts of my day, whether I’m going north to my job in Sparrow House or south to the KAC.
As I headed home last night from the library around midnight, I took a moment to look around, at the yellow lights lining the route north, at the half-melted snow on Ransom Lawn, and, for the first time in a while, I felt relaxed. Kenyon has many beautiful, historic buildings, but in some ways my favorite part of campus is Middle Path, designed to bring people together. It’s where, last semester, my advisor signed my add/drop form using his briefcase as a writing surface after I cornered him outside the library. It’s where you see friends and acquaintances for the first time after breaks. It’s where I go every day, no matter what, because Kenyon College is meant to be a walking campus. So I walk.