Sophie Henry

We photosynthesized together on Cross Campus on top of blankets, couches, jackets and the plain old grass over these past few weeks. We fell fully in love with the promise of spring and all the season of renewal has to offer.

We walked away with sunburnt shoulders and noses, smiles on our faces — a clean feeling of replenishment brought on by the transformation of a space from transitory to lingering. Cross Campus became a place of indulgence rather than a place to walk through. Folks migrated onto the grass rather than cutting through it, their legs and arms and feet connecting with the ground in a way they never do on days that aren’t like this.

The world feels at my fingertips when I sit on Cross Campus on a good, sunny day. Music plays faintly, slightly distorted, blending into the background like an “X song but you’re at a bathroom at a party” video on YouTube. It feels unreal, so many people I’ve never seen before with their to-go boxes and sunglasses and sandals. And the people I’ve met once or twice, exchanging salutations that leave me beaming for hours. 

Cross Campus’ transformation has made me realize the value of recognition. There’s so much good behind the breeze, behind the grass, behind the dogs and their frisbees. But while I feel myself relax, soften when the wind caresses my arms or when I see a dog roll over on the grass or when a particularly good song starts playing, I become almost unbearably energized when I’m recognized or I recognize. I’m reminded I belong. I’m secured in my spot here. I’m doing things right. 

It’s the way the arms spread out wide for an embrace. Or the way the eyes shine brighter, capturing more light. Or the smile that bursts out across the face. I match it, heighten it, throw myself fully into the brief moment of emotional exchange before the conversation starts. I see you, and you see me, and we are so happy to see each other right now without having said a single word besides maybe an exclamation of each other’s names with “hi” or “howdy” or “how are you” or … 

It’s a small love letter from me when I greet people I know, regardless of how well I know them. I could know nothing about you but your first name and yet I love you endlessly in that split second I say hello. 

Or if I don’t greet you because we’ve in fact never formally met before and we just share that one discussion section during which our eyes never meet — not for a lack of trying on my part — I spend a couple of seconds admiring you as you stand under that perfect Cross Campus sun, maybe turning to my friend to whisper giddily about just how smart and gorgeous I think you are. I wish I could greet you, engage in that spark of emotional exchange, and that wish alone is enough to make me pleasantly lightheaded.

In that way, Cross Campus in the sun is the perfect setting for dreaming. No, you are not going to make any progress on that problem set right now. No, you will not read the pages of that book you need to finish today. No, that essay won’t get more than a couple of sentences added to it, and no, this change in scenery won’t magically induce lasting motivation.

But you will sit with the people you love the most. You will talk about the best parts of your classes — whose work you’re abandoning for the moment — and the class you’re looking forward to the most in the fall. You’ll dream about Spring Fling and the summer and the next few years. The sun opens you up like that, stops you in your tracks, bakes you right into the earth as your eyes wander, your mind floats away, your heart becomes separated from your body and attached to the nearest person of interest. 

We dreamed together on Cross Campus on top of blankets, couches, jackets and the plain old grass over these past few weeks. We fell fully in love with the promise of the rest of our lives and all the people we’ll meet throughout it.

What the Cross Campus sun doesn’t do, though, is grant me the confidence to do anything more than lightly, passively and hopefully dream. I know I’ll have to find the courage some time or another, but until then, dreaming is enough. And dreaming on Cross Campus is even better.