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Little Lights

February 2, 2024

Si Ting Chen

I have always preferred lowlight. Streetlights, headlamps, starlight. Daylight filtered through the trees, sunrises as a wake-up call, sunsets coming like a surprise present. It is here where the most beauty seems to occur.


A little spot of shade, early September. My friend approaches on her bike, Moulton Express in hand. “Can I eat with you?” she asks. “I’m not eating,” I laugh. A light breeze passes through. Some of our mutual friends walk past. What’s happening? They sit down. Soon, we’re all cackling—laughing harder than ever with people I’ve known for less than a year. “How did we get here?” I wonder after some time.

Headlamp I.

On my day off, I drove to Farmway to get a headlamp. It was teal and said the level of light was adjustable. That convinced me. I went back to camp that night with my headlamp, picked up two cups of cereal from the dining hall and hiked up the hill with my light to where my friends sat on in-camp duty—staying to supervise overnight. One was reading “Six of Crows.” “You like it?” I asked. “Incredible,” she gushed.


I drove myself home from dance practice. We’d end late, usually after 9:30 p.m. Homework was sitting in the backseat, waiting to be done. I drove with quiet music playing, Lord Huron and Hozier. Passing through the little town I called home, I stopped at a stoplight with no one else around. Green, and I’d go. Keep going, past the school, turn left. Down the hills, toward rural New York. I passed under the streetlights and realized I was no longer a child.

Starlight I.

My friend Hayden and I went for a night canoe this summer. He’d been canoeing most of his life; I’d canoed for maybe a cumulative two weeks. We weren’t going far. Canoe in, bow seat in, stern seat in. Push off. With no destination in mind, we canoed into the abyss. Lake Fairlee was jet black, and all the lake house lights were dark. At almost midnight, we pulled our paddles in and laid down in the canoe. There, every challenge of the day disappeared. The water was silent. The stars were rhinestones, poking through the satin fabric of the sky. Hayden pointed out Orion; I pointed to Venus.

Fairy Lights.

I had bunk beds once; I was always on the bottom bunk. In a fit of boredom, I ordered some cheap fairy lights online. I threaded them between the slats of the bed above me. Then, when the lights were off and it was “bedtime,” I could keep my fairy lights on and stay up a little longer, reading, journeying into another world, transported by the glow.

Standing Lamp.

Occasionally, I’ll stay up later than the rest of my roommates. Our lamp is opposite our bedrooms. I type, study or crank out my problem set under our standing lamp. It’s taller than all of us, standing at six feet. Ironically, it’s right in front of the light switch for the overhead. We almost always choose the standing lamp. We’ve had our best discussions as a room with it on. Once, we confused genes and jeans.

Headlamp II.

5 a.m. Sharp. I scramble out of bed, silence the alarm and quickly pack my bags. Computer, iPad and notebook in one bag. Extra sweatpants, extra socks, raincoat, rain pants and baseball hat in the other. Leggings, sweatpants, long shirt and sweatshirt on. I grab my headlamp and tiptoe out of my room. I flick the headlamp on for guidance, place my bags down and start on the Keurig. One cup of coffee: little sugar, little milk. I taste it. Perfect.


My hands have frozen. We are heading towards Bombazine Island on a mission: the longest row of the fall season, at least 10,000 meters. Instead of turning at the island, I push the tiller to my left, and our sturdy four-seater boat, affectionately known as the 2015, careens to the left. The sun is in my eyes, its pinks and purples and bright, bright yellows straight into my irises. First light.


We went out on the water this afternoon, for fun. Neither of us had much work yet. He drove us back, just behind the white vans. We missed the subtle shift from blue to pink, busy laughing at moments on the launch and queueing songs the other would appreciate. Pull into Farley. Hop out, still laughing. Hold on, “I want a picture of this,” I stop. “You can’t just enjoy it?” he says. “I could, but I’d rather have this for later,” I said, training the camera on him. The picture turns out blurry.

Starlight II.

A few of us decided to go stargazing. It was too cold, but none of us were tired and we needed to do something new. We walked to a dock at the edge of camp and laid down at the end. We asked each other about everything. The stars drew the truth out of us. What difference we wanted to make to the world. If we were feeling the growing separation from our old homes. I started to shiver. Two of my friends made space for me to lie between them. It was the closest we’d ever been. One of my friends showed us the Big Dipper. Another noted Ursa Major. I pointed to Venus.

Piper Wilson is a member of the Class of 2026.


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