Half an hour ago, as I walked back to my dorm after class, a pair of gorgeous monarch butterflies flitted across my path. Now, I have seen butterflies at home in Oregon — the white-winged kind that are actually just a prettier species of moth — but these were not Oregon butterflies. Dancing in front of me was a pair of true, orange-and-black, fluttery-winged monarchs looking for all the world like two butterflies in love.
I smiled and kept walking, but movement on a nearby tree caught my eye. I stopped and stared as two dozen more monarchs, which I had mistaken for orange leaves, took flight. They paired up as well, dipping and diving. Orange and black wings flashed and fluttered all around me as I stood breathless under the tree’s dappled sunlight, my eyes wide and my mouth agape.
I had flashbacks to the reactions of my high school teachers and friends when I told them I was going to Iowa for school. “Iowa? Why are you going there?” I’d shrug and tell them, “Because Grinnell is there,” as though that were the be-all and end-all of Grinnell.
But tell that to my roommate from China, who stood in the middle of Mac Field and looked up at the sky for 20 minutes because she had never seen stars before. “That’s the Big Dipper,” she squealed. “There’s Scorpio!” And I nodded, looking up at the sky with new eyes.
Tell that to a friend of mine who woke up in the middle of a particularly loud thunderstorm and couldn’t get back to sleep, not because she was afraid, but because she was fascinated by the unmistakable feeling of energy in the air, by the pregnant pause that came between eerily silent flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder, by the soothing sound of the rain.
And tell that to the classmate standing next to me in the cloud of monarch butterflies, trying futilely to take a picture with her cell phone.
There is so much more to the town of Grinnell than a college. It’s an adorable and caring community of 2 a.m. bakeries, ice cream cones as big as your forearm, farmers’ markets, hardware stores, and cafes ready to welcome a group of college students who just want to get off campus and play a loud game of cards. In fact, when it comes right down to it, everything you could ever want or need you can find in town, whether it’s a knitting store or a professional photography studio.
Most importantly, however, Grinnell is a place where it’s easy to take the time to have fun. It’s not uncommon to be walking around on campus and see students happily climbing trees, reading on the grass, or even trying (and failing) to hang up a tire swing. Grinnellians know how to work hard, but they know how to relax just as hard and to make their own fun by just appreciating the little things in life … like a cloud of dancing butterflies.
Debora Berk '12 is undeclared and from Clackamas, Oregon.