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Kris Wedding: Finding Middle Earth on Campus

The last page had been turned. The credits are rolling. Reluctantly I rise out of my chair or theater seat, blink my eyes, and begin to slowly reintegrate into the world. I sift through the images left in my head, the souvenirs I’ll carry with me from my experience. Sadly, souvenirs tend to fade within hours. Memories, even the richly textured ones from the Lord of the Rings, can get lost. One key to maintaining access to my treasures is recognizing sights and sounds from my own world, which resonate with Middle Earth. At Carleton I have found two places particularly prone to Middle Earth moments: the Arb and the Bald Spot.

What if Hobbits did not have hills into which they could dig their cozy holes? Perhaps they would opt for an abode reminiscent of the gently curved twig sculptures that have resided at the edge of the Bald Spot for the past two years. Walk by quietly at the right time of day and you may even hear the twigs giggling as two-legged beings no taller than three feet run in, out and around the structures. Who knows, maybe some descendants of Sam and Rosie have moved in.

Any elves who found their way to Carleton would undoubtedly take up residence in the Arb. This was most clear to me one morning when a thick layer of snow had blanketed the town. I skied to work that day, venturing through the Arb and I encountered an ethereal forest.

No one had laid foot in the Arb since the snow had started falling. (Of course elves would not leave footprints.) Untouched powder was sprinkled everywhere, completely transforming the usually familiar trails. Saplings heavy with snow arched over the trail. It wasn't always clear where to go, but I soon learned the secret passwords. I raised a ski pole and tapped gently on the burdened saplings. The snow fell to the ground, and the trees sprang up, allowing me to pass.

The trees off the trail were also bowed down, allowing views across ponds and clearings that I had never seen before. I was able to see the connections between places, the flow of the land.

Meanwhile, beside me the river was flowing briskly. I'm not sure I've ever had the pleasure of skiing on freshly fallen snow accompanied by the soothing sound of running water. The visual contrast between the quiet, still, white snow and the dark, rushing water was striking, like a miniature Anduin running through Lothlorien.

The other service provided by the trees was that they sheltered the ground from the full brunt of the snow. The snow was the perfect depth for skiing, and I glided along smoothly, stopping only to whisper passwords and to help a fallen branch or five to a resting spot at the side of the road.

I stayed in this land for almost an hour. When I emerged, I had to blink my eyes, and re-enter my world. But look here in my pocket. Where did this Lembas come from?