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Just Starting Out

In which Greta gets to college, rides a bike, and plants a tree

In which Greta gets to college, rides a bike, and plants a tree

Arriving at Carleton means discovering dozens of paths all at once;

like, say, taking my bike out in the Arb for the first time. There I was, pedaling up a hill I thought I knew, when suddenly I cleared the rec fields and the Hill of Three Oaks, and everything before me was new. I could have gone in any direction: some through woods, some over prairie, some paved, some not. All beautiful and challenging and thrilling to explore. Merely being out there on my bike was a new path, as the last time I remember riding on grass, I was ten and following cautiously behind my mother. But here, I decided I wanted to try it, and I just did. This is the wonderful thing about college.

In fact, New Student Week was dedicated to telling us all the things we could possibly try. I was shuttled between talk after open house after activity about every resource and opportunity available to me in my four years at Carleton. It was exciting and exhausting, to say the least, like looking at a map and wanting to go everywhere, just not knowing where to start. But it’s better to know the lay of the land than set out blindly. And it was well worth it for the moments when we literally ventured out onto the trail.

On Saturday morning,

buses flocked to the Weitz Center for Creativity to take hordes of new students out into the furthest reaches of the Lower Arb. At 11:30, my New Student Week group (shoutout to Group 31!) was deposited in a field with one simple instruction: plant a tree. I formed a group with three of my new friends, and we picked out a baby oak and a muddy little hole. The actual planting was simple. Take the tree out of its pot, place it in its new home, and fill in the hole. The hardest part was choosing a name. We floundered for a bit: Ollie the Oak? Too much like St. Olaf. Then someone asked what our initials were. Greta, Ellen, Emma, Becca. G-E-E-B.

There is now, somewhere out there, a tiny oak tree named Geeb who uses they/them pronouns. We have vowed to check on them, and, as someone’s parent said, harvest their acorns next year. Because that’s how trees work. We laugh affectionately about Geeb almost every day — thanks to them, three people that I wanted to get to know since day one have become my favorite group of new friends, complete with a living connection to this place we now call home.

New Student Week is now over.

We are all pedaling forward, into classes and clubs and sports and social lives, without much of a map. But out in the Arb, I realized my favorite thing about paths: you can only travel one at a time. Sure, you can switch directions in a heartbeat, but you can never be in more than one place at once. The best you can do is to appreciate the beauty of that particular trail. The butterfly fluttering gently between wildflowers and stalks of prairie grass. The sun setting behind a magnificently large tree. Or the intricacies of one particular short story, or the vast interconnectedness of Earth’s geological history. I have spent the past year following many paths across the globe, all of them leading to this one. But now that I am here, there is no point in planning my route any further.

I am on my path. It’s time to go.

Greta is a proud Vermonter who must have fallen hard for Carleton if she’s choosing to spend the next four years without mountains to hike. Instead, you’ll probably find her wandering the Arb with a book and a journal and a pen behind her ear, playing piano in Weitz, or telling another unsuspecting soul about her gap year. And eating dark chocolate. She wants to learn everything, but is particularly interested in Sociology/Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and, of course, Creative Writing. Meet the other bloggers!

A little oak tree


Four friends around a tree

Greta, Ellen, Emma and Becca with their new tree

A gravel road with a wind turbine

Out in the Arb