by Cutter Kilgore
Whatcom glows in the dark. There is a subdued calm that settles over the campus when the sun sets and the college’s lights burn amber and yellow like the eyes of a jack-o-lantern.
“It is kind of spooky,” said student Anton Bursch, a pensive figure hunched over a book in the still silence of an artificially bright corridor. “Quieter. It’s colder and a little more miserable when it rains.”
But, amidst the stillness, there are pockets of life and activity in motion; there’s an after-hours mood nestled throughout the classrooms, where it’s business-as-usual for many students.
Student, Desi Williams, said that at night there’s a good variety of people. “I’m not a morning person,” she said, smiling. She laughed and glanced around at her communication studies classroom and at a few mellow students sitting with their heads down. “It’s much quieter. During the day, you see people walking around…not so much at night.”
Tranquil seems to be the order of the day…or night, rather. “There’s a nice, calm atmosphere in the evening,” said Ben Kohn, a professor of language, music and humanities. “You tend to have older students who work during the day.”
He added that he has no preference for teaching day classes versus nighttime ones but that, at night, “having different types of students makes it more interesting for variety’s sake.”
He took a long, thoughtful pause and sank back into his cushioned office chair. “The killdeer are much more active at night,” he said, referring to a type of small bird. During evenings in the springtime, they can be heard chirping noisily, calling to each other. “And I used to hear a family of coyotes, but I haven’t lately,” he added. “I’m not really sure why.”
Whatcom changes at dusk. There are different sights and sounds and places to rediscover. “I get a little edgy walking through campus at night but never scared,” said student Stephen Hawkins from a window seat in his second-floor business classroom. “Solitude can be good.”
Now, the air tastes like the electric transition of fall into winter as clouds swim across a bloated, gibbous moon. Most of the trees have shed their leaves, their branches like skeletal fingers of ink bleeding into the canvas of night sky.
“I have trouble with crowds,” Hawkins continued. “I don’t know if vibrant is the right word, but definitely there’s a higher energy during the daytime. At night it’s a lot more peaceful.”