The pasture is a large grassy hill, sloping down North to South towards Riceville road. Its uppermost extremity meets the Suicide Ridge trail and seems as high itself as some of the low-slung mountains that lay close by. In winter the intense green of the grass is muted to a gentle sage struck through with pale white stems, and the cattle tracks are easily picked out winding along the ridges and down the hill like secret Indian highways.
Every evening the pasture is visited by people in ones and twos who sit in the grass, on the slab that covers the old well, or who climb into the branches of the pasture's few old trees. They are not the same people from one day to the next--as if everyone, in their turn, feels the call of the setting sun and moves down the dusk-darkened trails towards the field. As the sun sinks, the brown winter mountainsides turn a delicate shade of heather then darken into violet-gray and gold and maroon where the low sun strikes. Where the little knots of people have been talking, they stop. Where a girl has a journal raised on her knee writing, she pauses and traces the horizon with her eyes. The sun sinks and ignites the sky with golden fire, the wispy winter clouds turn first gold, then deeper orange, then a gentle pink. The sage in the grass fades into a kind of dusty silver.
When it's over and the sky has faded into a deep indigo, and the clouds are little more than deep gray shadows moving slowly against the emerging stars, people trickle away in ones and twos as they came--only they're quieter this time. Where they would shout and laugh before, now they whisper or say nothing. The woods that border the East side of the pasture are filled only with the sighing and rustling of dried leaves in the wind.
Warren Wilson harbors a little over 700 students on more than 1100 acres of property in the rural Swannanoa valley. Much of the land is wooded or devoted to farming--Dogwood is sometimes filled with the quiet shapes of sleepy cows in the evening. On the miles of trails that crisscross the land, every student has an opportunity to make their own pilgrimage privately or with friends. Whether it's moving through the woods West of the dorms towards Dogwood and the setting sun, climbing out to lay on a rock in the middle of the river, or else just finding a quiet stand of laurel and rhododendron to sit in and read a book--there's a unique place for everyone here.
For those times when the student center is too noisy and crowded, when eating indoors is a waste of a good picnic afternoon, when the moon through the window of the dorm is too alluring to resist, Warren Wilson provides an environment unlike any other. Sometimes this environment--where you learn and grow, making changes and commitments that will last a lifetime--is just as important as what you learn. Call it an issue of perspective, or of the health of the mind. Whatever the case, there will come a time when you have to go seek out your own personal place--your own sunset on Dogwood. It's often on one of those little pilgrimages that the land stops being a campus and becomes a home.