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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Look But Please Touch: A Weekly Musing By Alissa Pajer; Bike Rides and Shooting Stars Across Campus

<day I took a long bike ride around Northfield. I didn’t plan my route; I just pedaled along to see what I could see. I made my way out of the suburban part of town and into the farmlands. The road changed from pavement to dirt, and I had a view of the horizon all the way around me. The faster I rode the more distance I covered, but the slower I rode the more details I saw. Although I do desire to see as many places as possible, I can’t help but wonder if I would have seen more by crawling from Sayles to Evans with my nose an inch from the ground rather than riding my bike around town.

When I returned from my bike ride I sat in front of Sayles for an hour; I watched the people walk by, and I watched the wind blow the leaves across the road. As the people walked past, they almost always stayed on the paths. They walked up and down the stairs leading to Sayles and usually arrived and left on the paths leading to the Libe and to Willis. The leaves moved about in a similar way. Although they always blew in the same direction across the pavement, and the people walked in two directions on their paved pathways, the leaves moved just as systematically as the people did. Sometimes they got stuck along the curb and built up in a little pile until a big gust came along and pushed them onwards, just like the people occasionally congregated in front of Sayles before continuing on their ways. It was as if a force similar to the wind controlled the people as they walked past, keeping them on the paths and, every once in awhile, building up a few of them in a tight cluster only to disperse them a minute or two later.

Then last night, tired out from my bike-riding and leaf-watching adventures, I lay on my back on the Bald Spot and happened to see a shooting star. But I didn’t make a wish. When I was a lot younger my father and I often went out into our backyard to look at the stars. Whenever I saw a shooting star I’d wish that somewhere in the world some kid who wasn’t always safe would, just for one night, have a warm meal and a comfortable place to sleep. I figured that if some higher being had the power to change the whole world at once, then that higher being would already have done just that. So I didn’t wish for anything huge. Instead I hoped that that higher being had the power to make one kid’s life a little bit better just for one night. Now when I see a shooting star I don’t make a wish; instead I just keep looking up at the stars, hoping that at any moment another star will let go of its hold on the sky and fall. I like to make observations based only on what I can experience with my senses. Since I can’t tell with my eye that shooting stars are meteors entering the earth’s atmosphere, I prefer to look at them as actual falling stars.

I can ride my bike and notice just from my experience how the pace at which I travel affects how detailed a world I see, and I can watch the wind blow the leaves and notice how their movement resembles the movement of people walking around campus. And so when I see a shooting star I like to notice it with just my eye. I see what it looks like: how it flashes and then disappears, drawing a line through the sky from one star to another almost as if it’s playing connect-the-dots.

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