a new topogrophy
Outside our living room window is a long tract of prairie-like land, a view which, even though we’ve only been here a month, I’ve already grown attached to. Our walk to campus goes through a field, then crosses a public street, a railroad track, then a small forest, then another field, and then another, more shady, tree-lined road which deposits you behind the basilica. As university property goes, all of this land seems a forgotten corner, fallow, of negligible significance, frequented mostly by birds and butterflies, then ducks and swans, frequented by quiet baby strollers. On the one hand, it seems unfair to the graduate students’ families to be relegated to a distant corner of the university in bare, communistic buildings while the undergraduate students inhabit the architecturally interesting heart of campus, in stone castles with gargoyles, vines, carved saints, and stained glass windows. But on the other hand, it is nice to feel set apart and off the grid of campus tours and bustle, in a place no one would clamber for or covet a spot in, but which is in fact a nice place to live. I’ve grown to feel like the University Village is a best-kept secret of sorts, and I’ve grown attached to the tract of unused land that spreads out before our front window.
So, I was disappointed to find that our little house on the prairie is soon to be marred by a strip of asphalt, a road that will cut rudely through the very center, built for one purpose: as a conduit to football parking. Football patrons will be able to exit the interstate and roll their vehicles succinctly toward their parking spot, thus being spared the current inconvenience of making three tiresome turns. Turns, after all, are troublesome and potentially confusing. It is a lot to ask of football patrons, after a long road trip in a cushy SUV, to get off the highway and follow a maze of clearly marked signs. What if, right at that point, the kids are tired of the DVDs brought along for the trip and are ready to get out of the car that instant? The task of finding their way via turns might just, at that point, put them over the edge. Ticket sales might start to drop.
The road will only be open on football weekends– that’s six weekends per year– and closed the rest of the time. Hey, a road used six times per year is a road worth building, especially if you have the money for it just lying around. At the moment, if I look out of our window, dump trucks and plows, workers with surveying equipment, and wooden stakes with fluorescent flags are jumbled up together in my view. A new view, a new topography, is in progress.
I’ll adjust to the new view and so will everyone, and soon no one will really remember that there once was no such road. But it does seem a symbol of the kind of growth and development that happens in this country, with priority given to the convenience of cars and paying customers over a host of other possible priorities that might result in a more beautiful, more interesting landscape…less spoiled in more ways than one.