I don’t know if I really ever gave you a chance. When I first stepped foot on campus, the end was already in sight. I knew I would finish in two years. I knew this was the homestretch. I knew this was the end of my degree. Three years at Lethbridge and I understood my strengths and weaknesses enough to know I could finish on time. I had planned to at least this point in my future, the point where I sit now. What lies beyond remains unknown, but I’m not sure you will be part of it. Augustana, you were to only be a season in my life, the in-between progression towards an end. And that’s the only chance I ever gave you.
Everything is snow covered. I feel like this is your natural state, the spring leaves and summer greens so far and distant in my memory as if they hardly existed at all. Was that a version of yourself you keep hidden, not letting anyone close, or was it my distance that kept us apart? Your blank openness echoes a dormancy at this time of day, dusk at 5:15, no voices to break the liquid silence. As if you sit with your back turned, waiting for me to speak first. So I, too, turn my back and listen. There is the odd squeak of doors in the first year dorms as students rush away towards supper, the far-off squeak of snow.
I came outside seeking to know you better, but why do I think the goodbye would be any more genuine outside when I spent 80% of my time here within the halls and classrooms. 80% of the school year in winter. Twilight ebbs to dimness, void of sunset, draped in clouds. Snow sits static on tables and benches, still barren branches texture the immediate sky. I sit on the steps of Founders Hall – like those old pictures, seeking some sense of past connection. The wooden steps a little warmer than the concrete everywhere else, the only cleared space apart from paths.
Has anyone else taken the time to know you? Do all these transient students take you for granted? The snow covered lawns lay glittering and untouched in the outdoor campus lights. No one this age plays in the snow anymore. The cleared paths hide the sheer number of footsteps which traverse them, mask the routine and mindlessness of racing between buildings to class. We are here to absorb the knowledge within, but we stop at that which we can easily sift from your surface. The depth remains uncharted, unexplored, the present pressing the history further down, but for the signs in the hallways. Those seedlings surfacing leaves from the loam below, the past enriching our growth which we hardly recognize and simply step past.
As the light continues to fade, contours in the snow reveal contrast and texture. I find it pressing to know what lies below. Will the snow melt before I leave for good? Or shall I cast off my myth of adulthood and play once again in the snow? The mystery calls to me, but not enough to lure me back from what the future holds. So as I stand, my last look back is my final goodbye.