McGaw Trail

Perhaps you’ve never been down here before. If you haven’t, tread lightly. This is the path I took from Old Main to Taylor hall every day for three years while I finished my math minor. Nestled in McGaw’s pit is a gravel path only a foot wide. As you walk, look around. See the plants? See the ivy enveloping the gravel hill? See weeds growing up into the sun? There are very few places on campus that Grounds considers unnecessary to maintain. This is one of those places. It gets a little crowded back here with all the plants. A little tricky to find a place to stand in the narrow gravel path. The only maintenance I’ve ever seen payed to this area was my sophomore year when a bramble of vines had clawed it’s way into the path and began to threaten the walls of the building. Grounds had come in and hacked everything back to the hillside, but that was it. They don’t plant flowers or trees–nothing charismatic–back here where no on will see them. It’s not worth their time.

In amongst the ivy I’ve found squash plants creeping down over the path. I don’t know how they got there, but I waited anxiously through the spring to see if they would bud. I never saw the fruit, but the flowers were nice. Everyday I would pause, and look up from the Youtube video I was watching on my phone to see how much it had grown.

You may be wondering why I take this path, it’s so narrow and uneven. I think in part it’s because it’s the shortest route to Taylor, but also I also think it’s also because, living here on campus, I have to walk the same paths day in and day out. The routine rapidly became dry, and I welcomed any change whether or not it made sense.

In the chapter “Spring,” Thoreau says:

“Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness… At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us… We can never have enough of Nature.”

It’s the same feeling that every child has when they dig in their backyard. A little bit of wanderlust, and a little bit of pride. When we go off the beaten path, especially into terrain that is not easy to travel, we feel invigorated by it. Our imagination wanders, and we feel powerful. We’re drawn out of the monotony of our daily lives which often make us numb to the world, and we’re pulled into the moment in a way that practical architecture can never inspire us to do.

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