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Commencement

Started: 2004-06-13 10:08:00

Submitted: 2004-06-13 11:46:00

Visibility: World-readable

I'm sitting in Centennial Green at the moment in the bright morning sun listening to the commencement speaker while I write this changelog, longhand, on engineering paper. So far, it's looking like today will be as warm as last year, a far cry from my own rained-out graduation ceremony two years ago.

Wandering around campus Friday afternoon, something dawned on me: I associate the campus with everyone I knew here. I failed to find anyone I knew, leaving the buildings empty shells. Seeing the empty field in place of the administration building was especially bizarre. I found one geocache without my GPS; I knew exactly where to go.

Last year, when I wandered around campus, it felt like I had not been gone at all. This year, I realize that I've been gone, and that I'll never be able to come back to the same place I knew.

(Three names into the graduates, the PA system died. After a few minutes, the problem was resolved, amid chatter in the audience wondering how soon, if at all, the problem would be resolved.)

Friday evening we attended consecration in the church, which included another PA snafu; one of the speakers' wireless mikes died, which involved far more tweaking before the speaker gave up and just used the wired podium mike.

The next suggested-attendance event was church. I remembered how different the College Church is from Boulder.

After church, I tried to find people I knew and didn't do quite as well as I expected. Gem and I headed as our advance party to Rooks Park to stake out tables for Tristan's entourage. We grabbed two tables and carried them into shade that lasted at least halfway through the meal. When no one showed up for a while, I headed off to a nearby geocache, which I managed to find without trouble, and dropped off a travel bug I picked up in Louisville on Wednesday. By the time I got back, the entourage had arrived.

After lunch, I spotted Darcia Gillham at the next graduation celebration over. I wandered over and we updated each other on our lives. She graduates today with a degree in graphic design. After going to Union College for three years and a year as a student missionary in Japan, she decided to head to Walla Walla for amusement value, even though it set her graduation back. She actually finished in December and has been selling insurance, still living in her parents' house in College Place.

In a fascinating "Small Adventist World" moment, Darcia's mother was good friends with Gem's mother in academy long ago. Darcia was even named for Gem's mother Marcia, with the initial letter being substituted for Darcia's father's first initial.

(With the names of the graduates still underway and unlikely to stop soon, and any hope of cloud cover gone, I've retreated to shade on the back side of the lawn. i did manage to clap when Darcia's name was read.)

Rachelle was present as well. She's getting married in a week in Walla Walla to a mechanical engineer (whose name I heard, but I don't remember for sure) working for Parker-Hannifin in Minnesota designing quick-disconnect connectors. She'll be unemployed for a while after getting married, but she'll be occupied playing with his house for a while. Having seen many of the people we knew in common last month in Lincoln, I was able to update her on their status.

I headed south from Rooks Park and the water diversion structure to Bennington Lake, guided by my memory, my GPS, and an official map I found in the cache. Along the way, I ran into Heidi Gruzensky. (Anyone who knows her should now sit down and release any heavy or sharp objects.) I noticed a plus-sized rock on her left ring finger and wondered if it meant what I thought it might mean. Before I figured out if I should ask, she volunteered that she was in fact engaged to Peter, the guy she started dating her freshman year. (I'll confess that he continues to give me a weird vibe, although not nearly as odd as some people I've met recently.) They're getting married in July 2005, which I assume is after she graduates.

I found the geocache I was seeking with a bit more trouble than I hoped for; the coordinates were five meters off by my GPS.

By the time I made it back to Rooks Park, my combat boots had horribly abused my feet and everyone else had headed home. I still had possession of the van keys, so I headed back to College Place and showed up at the Strawberry Dessert Reception, located this year on the lawn in front of the Fine Arts Center. (I thought it would be amusing to have the event on the site of the administration buildings past and future, but no one else seemed to think so.) I milled around the people and realized that I didn't know anyone. I didn't even see Gem (or the rest of Tristan's entourage). I talked briefly to Nic Ivy. I took off my boots and wandered around barefoot, which felt better than my boots. I wondered if I've ever walked barefoot on front campus and concluded that I must have taken off my sandals once or twice and walked in the soft grass.

Graduation has concluded, so I'll watch the recessional and resume my documentation later.

You will always find those who think they know
what is your duty better than you know it.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"