I’ll be the first to admit that the conditions under which I think best are finicky. It creates an added struggle with time management every time I have a lot to do: I can’t get work done in my room because there are so many distractions better than reading or papers around me and sitting on the lawn isn’t an option because at such a small school I’m bound to run into someone I know and spend the next three hours talking to them, leaving the library as the only realistic place to accomplish anything much of the time. But even the library can be a challenge, as it is often crowded with even more people I know and sometimes even the quiet section is full of groups loudly studying. If that is the case, earbuds are always an option as long as I’m extra careful to not focus upon the lyrics of my favorite songs too much.
In “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold has it lucky for thinking conditions, as he observes nature from his isolated Wisconsin farm. He spends an entire end creating meticulously-detailed images of his land throughout all four seasons through his writing, turning something as simple and taken for granted as bird songs into a grand spectacle that makes the reader want to put down the book and experience it for themself. I wonder if he would be able to create such a complex impact if he was writing in a different environment filled with man-made distractions.
Kylander’s home on campus is a unique combination of distracted and isolated: while he is surrounded by campus buildings and the main street running through Carlisle, he is far enough off the road and away from the center of campus that very few students walk by. So when I went to spend some time with him the other day, I brought a little bit of reading that I hoped to get done for another class out of curiosity about how these surroundings would be beneficial for thinking. In some ways, doing work with Kylander was less distracting than anywhere else I have been on campus: he didn’t interrupt me to ask if I wanted to make a food run or talk too much, let alone at all as I tried to read, making him a better study buddy than any of my friends here. As for those friends, if any of them had been walking down the street I wouldn’t have noticed, and the only people who even came close to where I was sitting were a few prospective students on a tour.
While students on the road weren’t a problem, trucks were. It felt like I thrown off by the sudden consistent growling of an engine every five minutes only to look up and find a tractor trailer driving past, bulky and out of place in the middle of the picturesque campus. These also posed a problem with getting to Kylander to begin with, as I ride my bike everywhere. It can be a little disconcerting while on a small bike without a helmet to suddenly have a vehicle about a hundred time your size engulf the entire road.
Despite the fact that it is mid-October, Kylander’s leaves are still entirely green, just like many of the other trees on campus. Maybe it was just because I had ridden my bike over in a sweater, but it also felt much warmer than usual for this time of year, with the exception of the occasional breeze. Every morning this week though, I’ve needed a jacket while sitting outside and the other day I saw what I think was the first pile of yellow leaves in a parking lot while riding home from class. Hopefully after fall pause next week, it will finally start to feel like fall for Kylander!
Leopold, Aldo. 1949. “A Sand County Almanac.” Oxford University Press.