It’s the Season of the Sticks

Learning to love and live at Dartmouth, guided by Noah Kahan’s lyrics

by Stephanie Sowa | 19 minutes ago

It was summertime in California, and as my Hometown bestie and I lay basking in the sun, “Stick Season” by Noah Kahan played from a speaker Nestled in the sand.

All summer we had allowed the lyrics to Wash over us like the sunscreen lathered on our skin. We spent countless hours diving into ocean waves that paralleled the tumbling emotions of the song. We felt the soul of the music as it vibrated out of our car windows driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. We envisioned images from the lyrics standing in the aisle of Barnes & Noble. It’s one of those songs that simply sticks with you — pun intended — and many of my Dartmouth experiences track along with its words.

I had first learned about Noah Kahan from my beloved Trip Leader, who introduced me to Kahan’s music in one of our first post-Trip discussions, sitting at a Collis high top. Sanjana Goli ’22 was truly one of Kahan’s most dedicated fans.

Kahan was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, the very same location as dear old Dartmouth College. He grew up in Stafford, Vermont and attended Hanover High School, so his musical appreciation of New England beauty hits close to home.

Before coming back to Dartmouth for the fall, I met up with my high school college counselor, an exceptionally kind individual who supported me through the worst of the Pandemic college application process. She asked me if I had heard the song “Stick Season,” and we both screeched with excitement when I said that I was a big fan. Would I have listened to Kahan’s Masterpiece if I hadn’t gone to Dartmouth? I can’t say for certain. However, my first year at Dartmouth gave me a sincere appreciation for its lyrics, and even some of the hardest-hitting have become relatable.

“Kept on drivin’ straight and left, our future to the right”

Since Dartmouth starts its academic year later than most colleges, I remained home for several weeks after hugging my friends goodbye last summer. By the time I arrived in Hanover, my high school friends were already settled into their new communities. During my first week, I had to take Eleven COVID tests because I was Deathly ill from an unknown virus. In hindsight, my immune system was just completely shot from extreme pandemic isolation, but lying in bed trying to recover while scrolling through college photos of my friends made me feel like they had moved on and left me behind. It’s hard to maintain friendships when you’re scattered across the country, but eventually my fears dissipated along with my illness, leading to long voice memos, facetime calls and mailed packages.

“And I love Vermont but it’s the season of the sticks”

Who doesn’t love Vermont? Great point, Noah. But I had never experienced stick season until my freshman year here. For the uninitiated: It’s the in-between moment at the end of fall and the beginning of winter. The fiery-colored leaves that came alive under the blazing Gile Mountain Sunrise have all fallen to the ground, and bare branches stick out into the air, naked without their autumn foliage. And yet, there is no snow to be found, no Magical snow globe atmosphere. Stick season is a point in time where you can’t move backwards, but it doesn’t feel quite like you can move forward either.

“I saw your mom, she forgot that I existed”

Hanover is a small town, and you are always running into people you know. Do you want to see them? Do you not want to see them? It doesn’t really matter — either way, you will be seeing them. I can be somewhat Anonymous in my Hometown of Los Angeles. However, in Hanover, if you wear pajamas to work on a paper at Starbucks during Parent’s Weekend, you will most definitely be introduced to multiple parents. Do I know this from personal experience? Yes.

We all know the line, “Let’s grab a meal sometime!” Or “Study session in Blobby?” Or “Spikeball soon.” Because it’s social season, you play spikeball with a stranger. You exchange names. You have a blast sprinting on the Green, Chasing the tiny yellow ball. High fives are given. Cheers are shouted. But then, you pass each other two days later in Novack and there is no sign of recognition. I have smiled at people and waved to new acquaintances, and to my surprise, there have been a few that return the gesture with a blank stare. Here I was thinking, “But I just met you!” I mean, seriously.

“I hope this pain’s just passing through, but I doubt it”

Things don’t always go as planned. You fall out of love. They were dancing with someone else at Green Key. You have disappointing friendships — individuals you thought you would be close with for the rest of your Dartmouth days slowly drift away, piece by piece. Maybe you take a difficult class that frustrates you and leads you to question your abilities.

It’s painful to put a lot of effort into something and not receive your ideal outcome. During challenging times, it is easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of emotion and struggle to move forward, feeling blind to the future.

And then, you fall in love again. Flirty eye contact across the pong table leads to lunch.

You meet a Lifelong friend, sitting in a dorm room, exchanging favorite songs and Laughing until you can’t breathe. You take a class that ignites your passion. Doing assignments doesn’t feel like work anymore, but something enjoyable, something that could be a future.

Even though life hurts as it takes shape and evolves, it also molds each of us into a better version of ourselves. Dartmouth has done that for me, pushing me beyond my comfort level and forcing me to develop in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. And thanks to Noah Kahan, I’ve now got a song whose lyrics remind me of this.

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