Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hail, Colby, Hail

I'm in Maine. I've come east to participate in my 30th college reunion. My alma mater, Colby, is a small liberal arts college in central Maine. The winters were long and cold, and I was a long way from finding myself and my personal peace. And yet, I have overwhelmingly fond memories of the place.

This was Leon's first visit to Colby. After giving him the obligatory campus tour, I showed him some of the other places that mean a lot to me. I was a biology major (yes, I know, you're all totally SHOCKED), but more importantly I was already very much a biology geek. I spend a lot of time in the woods and fields around campus. Colby sits near the summit of Mayflower Hill. In addition to mayflowers (long past blooming), there are a whole bunch of spring wildflowers in the woods.

Bunchberry - Cornus canadensis

Bunchberries are abundant and were in full bloom. They are not typical wildflowers. They are dogwoods, and despite their diminutive size are shrubs rather than herbacious plant. The stems really are woody. The flowers will be followed by clusters of berries that turn bright red in the fall.

Pink Ladyslipper (Cypripedium acaule)

We were fortunate to find about a dozen of the obscenely scrotal blooms of pink ladyslippers. This has been a ladyslipper spring for me. I have seen and photographed three species of Cypripedium in as many weeks.

Starflower - Trientalis borealis

Starflower is a plant that I remember from where I grew up in Massachusetts. They also thrive in this part of Maine. I really miss them- they don't grow in the Chicago area.

Barrens with no tiger beetles

At the summet of Mayflower Hill is a barren area with exposed bedrock and lots of lichen. I was really eager to get back to this spot. I was sure that I'd find tiger beetles- maybe even Cicindela longilabrus. That spot just screams tiger beetle to me, but I did not see a single one there.


Friday night, we met up with classmate Kathy and her husband Greg (who was a year ahead of my class). Kathy and I had been very close at Colby, and she was eager to meet Leon after all these years. We had a delightful evening together. After dinner, we met up with more classmates and had good conversation long into the evening.

Lining up for the Parade of Classes

Saturday is always the main event at class reunions. The first order of the day is the parade of classes. Everyone lines up by class an we troop from the alumni center to the academic building. There are speeches and awards in the gym, then everyone troops into the field house for lobster and hamburgers. Leon had gone to the art building during the parade. Kathy, both Gregs (Kathy's husband and my former roommate) and I decided to cut the lecture (bringing back lots of old memories in the process) and caught up some more while walking around the duck pond. The class dinner was in the evening. Leon and I sat with Bruce and his wife Teri, roommate Greg, Kathy and husband Greg. It was everyone's first time meeting Leon, and I was pleased though not particularly surprised at how easily he blended in with the group.

Lorimer Chapel from on high

This morning, we got a guided tour of the library tower. The tour does not take you all the way to the top (though I have been all the way up in an illicit, late-night visit while still a student). Still, the view is splendid and everyone took many photos.

Looking north and west towards the mountains. On clear, cold winter days, a snow-covered Mt. Katahdin is visible on the horizon.

Goodbyes always come too soon at these things, and promises to be better at keeping in touch come too easily. Still, things have a way of working out. I've been marginally better at keeping in contact with Kathy since the last reunion (thanks, Facebook), and Bruce wants to bring his son out bug collecting with me sometime while I'm out in Arizona. Who knows? It was fun.

Bruce, Greg, and I. Can we really be on the far side of 50?

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At 22:29, Blogger JWPboss said...

Nice set of pictures and comments on plants and college reunion.

At 05:43, Anonymous Pablo said...

What a coincidence! I spent the weekend in Colby too. (Mine was Colby, Kansas, but still!)

At 06:12, Blogger Lemuel said...

What a beautiful campus! (Of course, I consider Maine a most beautiful state!) I'm glad you also included a picture of bunchberries. They, along with balsam firs, were the plants that took my heart on each visit there. I tried growing them in PA, but we are too far south.

At 07:35, Anonymous Ann Downer said...

I have hopes my son will end up an someplace like Colby. He loves Maine. We ordered the Univ of Maine Ice Age Trail map, to follows geological traces of the Ice Age when we go back to Milbridge in August.

At 07:38, Anonymous Ann Downer said...

I do think Bowdoin wins for cooler mascot, though.

At 08:49, Blogger Doug Taron said...

JWP- Thanks, and welcome to the Tapestry.

Pablo- I've been to Colby, Kansas. Only once, back in the late 70's while still attending Colby in Maine. It felt like it was way out in the middle of nowhere.

Lem- I completely agree about balsam fir and bunchberry conveying the feeling of the north woods. The bunchberry was in full bloom.

Ann- I'd be more than happy to make a sales pitch for Colby as a great place to get an education. As for that little community college down in Brunswick- I guess I'll agree that polar bears are kind of trendy at the moment.

At 10:20, Blogger Amila Suwa said...

What a nice reunion. Sounds like you've had lots of fun. That Pink ladyslipper is a strange creation!

At 10:23, Blogger Kirk said...

Good to hear you made it to the Pine Tree State!. Those tiger beetles you are looking for are hiding out in the mountains. Bogs are really starting to pop too.
Enjoy your stay and please feed the bugs.

At 10:43, Blogger Jim Lemire said...

Hmmm....as a loyal Bowdoinite, I may now need to rescind my offer to help hunt for tiger beetles...

White mules? Please.

Though at least we can join amicably in taking potshots at Bates!

At 22:54, Blogger Ur-spo said...

What lovely photographs, as always.
And I give you credit - I have no interest at all in going back to any of my reunions mercifully, magic memory has wiped out most of my recall of high school.

At 00:43, Blogger wcs said...

Beautiful campus - that tower is spectacular. While I grew up in upstate NY, I never made it to Maine (where my dad honeymooned with my step-mom). One of these days...

At 21:13, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Amila- I agree, the flowers are bizarre.

Kirk- I fed the bugs. The only tigers I saw were six-spotted (Yawn).

Jim- But Bates is such an easy target.

Sop- I have absolutely zero interest in attending a high school reunion.

Walt- The winters were very cold- but that was probably true in upstate NY, too.

At 20:07, Anonymous Mark H said...

Fabulous notes on old friends, lovely pictures, romantic places....thanks Doug! I TOO have NEVER considered a HS reunion, and they really pushed me THIS year to go. I used the vacation as an excuse even though the dates are different for both.


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