Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: B.O. Scott ’16

Hobgood, North Carolina • Aesthetics View Profile

A Fall Night

Sweet rain, sensuous leaves, a short walk

I leave my night photography class on one end of campus and begin to make my way to the other end, to my room. It is incredibly warm out, so I take off my coat and drape it on one shoulder, perhaps inspired by the matador. The ground is wet, a consequence of near continuous rain, though at the moment none falls. The diamond, star, heart, and otherwise eclectically shaped leaves from the trees stick to pavement, an autumnal collage in brown, yellow and red.

I cross Washington Street and under the lamps lighting the cobbled path I see a few leaves take their final swing and dance. For a moment they appear to reach higher, as if flying upward back to their branch, but each fall takes them lower until they join the unintentional art on the ground.

Along the chapel wall a tree is projected twice its size by orange and blue flood lights. The barren branch shadow across the cathedral stones is the image of romantic Gothic horror, always more attractive than truly fearful (when both are not overwhelmed by sentiment). I think for a moment, “If I only had my camera,” but then realize that would not mean much. The situation, not the image, is what I want to capture and convey — the ambivalent leaves, swaying shadows, my body against the scale of the chapel wall and the music.

From outside, I hear the organ ring, rumble and rise. I go in, but the music stops. From across rows of empty pews I only hear a page or two being turned. A false start. More silence. If the organ does not play when one is in the chapel, does it play at all? 

On the chapel steps I see dark puddles vibrating inside, moved from their stillness by a renewed downpour. I put my coat on and as I begin walking I pull my hood over my head. However, as soon as I do so, the wind pulls it off with a decisive, but not rough hand. “Why not feel my warm caress and wet blow?” it seems to ask, rounding my head and leaving beads to run from my hair to my brow, over my glasses and down to my mouth, where I taste an unexpected sweetness.

I pass a few others as I continue to my room; some are merely animating their rain jackets, while others are more open to the rain. I feel like tying my sweater around my waist and taking my shoes in my hand so that I can run, not for coverage, but for a reason more felt than known. But my glasses, covered in beads of water that diffract light, make things in front of me shift from the intelligible forms of the Impressionist to the murky near non-representational image of an Expressionist (Soutine style).

I almost walk into a young man cursorily moving under his petite umbrella. But then my door appears. I wonder, if only for a second, the young woman I pass thinks I am a mythical creature — dark, saturated front, light, dry back — dripping water from both arms and humming. Or maybe she does not look up from her computer, perhaps preparing for the mythical challenge we call midterms. Who knows?

In my room, I hang my damp layers, perform nightly rituals, and listen to brave crickets playing in what must seem rather diluvian to them. Some very fast flip-flop steps go by but anything else that happens is for the more nocturnal souls to tell.