February in Guelph

hallway

Last year I went to Guelph for spring break. I had only been away for a year, since I graduated, but it was strange to have been away that long as I considered it a transient home for several years before that.

February is not a nice place to be anywhere. I might have enjoyed February in Plymouth, but I can’t recall it distinctly. It was still cold, at least. But February in Guelph is a sullen month because the campus is filled with concrete and brick. Extensive planting and landscaping makes it radiant in the summer and fall. Big trees and vines climbing up buildings help you forget about how drab it is in February.

I spent a lot of time in that hallway in the photo. Nearly all the classes I took in undergrad were in that building. I’ve studied for Latin exams on those benches and haphazardly pulled together Art History papers there too. I walked down that hall after changing my major from Theatre to Classics. I cried there after exams – out of joy, mostly. Relief. It’s an emotional place for me even though it looks so empty.

Outside the windows there was a courtyard with grass and trees where guide dogs in training would meet for playdates. Students would line up along the windows to watch half a dozen labrador retrievers run around together, letting off stress after having to sit through classes quietly. The worst part of the year was when the lab puppies were issued, and there was hardly a single class I took that didn’t have a small puppy sitting under a chair, learning how to behave. It was also the best time of the year. I often wonder at the success rate of the guide dog program at Guelph. I don’t know if all the attention they garnered from students would do them any favours.

February has ended here and it doesn’t look like Guelph did. St. John’s is aware of how dismal it is in the winter and the buildings are painted in bright colours in defiance of the winter gloom. It doesn’t always work. But I look out my window over the city, and it’s dark and the lights are twinkling yellow across the neighbourhood below my house. If I tried I could picture myself somewhere else, with the same view in the dark. Cities all look the same at night.

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