Sitting on the Quad on Tuesday, I’m the only one. No one crosses it, no one uses it. Maybe it’s because it’s still wet, but that doesn’t bother me. I have an old Emory sweatshirt that I throw into the grass, and I plop myself in the middle of the sunny expanse far away from the shade of that one tree I call mine because the rooted nook at its base holds my back with strength and sturdiness. I pull out my Chipotle lunch bag, and I remember I’ve forgotten my fork. I push the bag aside, arranging my now grass-stained book bag under my head, straps worn with the weight of library books I have yet to return. I recline to feel the burn of autumn sun on my shoulders, itchy from the wool of cold weather sweaters.
Maybe everyone’s at the farmer’s market. I sat on Cox Bridge early today, during a class hour that saw the brick roads empty but for cars and trucks unloading what’s delicious onto booths covered with uneven and mismatched tablecloths that manage to be completely and entirely perfect. Walking between the market and Quad under the shade of the leaves turning trees, the gnats swarm. Somewhere scurrying among them are campus squirrels that seem to be particularly hungry this season, acorn-mouthed and on edge. I think there has been a noticeable increase in the chipmunk population, hiding around the Candler Library building bushes and in the woods behind the Carlos Museum, but I could be wrong.
I daydream into the green tuft tops of the trees around our flag pole, and what I see is brown closest to the heart. It’s almost time. The trees sway, and at the corners of the top of the Quad, some branches are impatient. The leaves begin to pile, and maybe that’s why the gnats are swarming and why the critters are defensively nutting in a frenzy. I’m a little frenzied too this week, and I think a lot of us are feeling the compounded crumble of letting time go by and spending too long and pushing too hard for too much or not enough. And somehow, the squirrels, the chipmunks and the muddy brown leaves manage to cheer me from my overscheduled stresses like a classic Disney movie.