With a Whimper

Vermont is served by a series of local commentary networks collectively called Front Porch Forum. It’s where you turn to get the date of the next Fire Association meeting, or to recruit strong young people to help you load a truck for $15 an hour, or let neighbors know about road conditions or missing guinea hens. It can get a little heated around election time, or with particular pieces of legislation moving through the State senate, but mostly it’s a neighborly, congenial place.

Sometimes, there’s some unspoken tragedy. A meal train gets set up, and we know without it being said that someone’s wife has passed. A sudden move, precipitated by a financial downturn. The messages are gentle, but the backstory can be hard.

And then there’s this, from about an hour ago:

Final College Free “Sale”

There are more student, staff and faculty items that have been removed from buildings—mini-fridges, appliances, books, clothing, household goods, and some furniture. Please come to Green Mountain College’s Bogue Hall at the intersection of College Street and Rae Terrace in Poultney between 10 AM and 2 PM on Saturday, June 1 to grab remaining items for free.

This is what it looks like when a 185-year-old college goes dark. The final commencement was a couple of weeks back, the younger students have made their transfer arrangements to partnering schools, the faculty and staff have done as well as they can for new jobs. And now the trustees just need to minimize their costs of solid waste disposal, giving away staplers and half-broken chairs, mouse pads and coffeemakers. The last clothes that a student left behind in her dorm room. The last flower vase that an administrative worker left in her cubicle.

The meat and organs of the carcass are already spoken for, by banks and bondholders who’ll convert those nutrients to a new energy, ready to invest elsewhere. This weekend will be the meager feast of the scavengers—the crows plucking the eyeballs, the coyotes stripping the last muscle fibers off the stringy tendons.

At the Fall, when God casts man from the garden, he concludes his remarks with this final judgment: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And the stapler shall remain a stapler, the mouse pad a mouse pad, until the landfill reclaims it all.