Spending your summer in the same city as your university, a city that pretends to be a college town but really isn’t and that is known only by one of two things—your university or the rape case that made national news—doesn’t sound very promising. But really, it’s not that bad. There are adventures to be had here…
At the beginning, the small adventures of starting utilities, paying rent, and figuring out how much food to buy at the grocery store were enough to keep me occupied and overwhelmed for a week or two. Now that these grown-up adventures are a regular part of the schedule of work, eat, and sleep, I’ve had some time to realize that the best adventures so far have come not from being an adult, but simply from being young, wild, and free with plenty of time and very little money on my hands.
A local hiking trail in a West Virginia state park has become one of my favorite refuges, and although I’ve only ever walked to the mile and a half point—a swimming hole in the next-door creek—I fully intend to walk further down the trail before the end of the summer.
Or sometimes when Bry, my housemate, and I get restless and neither of us feels like driving the seven minutes to the trail, we will drive three minutes to one of the nearby cemeteries and go walking or jogging there. “It’s so weird to me that cemeteries are something beautiful to walk through around here,” she says. Apparently Southern Californian cemeteries lack the beauty of small town Ohio cemeteries.
I laugh at Bry’s comment and soak up the beauty of the peach-colored sunset between three sentinel oak trees that are probably older than the town itself. The cemetery is enchanting in the dim dusk-light and I can almost imagine little fairies dancing in the woods over there or hear goblin men’s footsteps as they come to hawk their fruits.
But the “scope for imagination” isn’t why I like coming here. No. It’s a fondness for thinking about the people who are buried here and whispering a small and childish prayer that they are sleeping peacefully. I read their names, turning them over like a hard strawberry candy in my mouth, and the joyful hope rises in my chest that one day I will meet them all, that I will see their beautiful and ugly faces, and that I will hear their stories of life and the road to heaven. When I’m here they seem very near to me. It’s like visiting long-lost friends.