Full of Memories

The water may be gone, but Lake Lag lives on.

May/June 2010

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Full of Memories

Linda A. Cicero

Walk with me for a moment.

We're passing through Tresidder, out the back, past the patio amid the pleasant hum of conversation. We cut through Kennedy Grove and along the driveway next to Harmony House. We cross Lomita Drive and skirt the cool, dark shadows of the New Guinea sculpture garden on our right. We pass around Roble, dodging a bicyclist, and scamper up the short hillside at the rear of the parking lot. And here we are: Lake Lagunita.

If it's February, there might be water in it. By May, it's most likely a dusty basin etched by a serpentine path. At just about any time of year, the shore is populated with runners, walkers and sunbathers.

Lagunita (literally "little lake") these days is more of a pasture than a pond. That's okay—a Farm can use either one. What was once a haven for sailors and windsurfers is now primarily a venue for sleepouts, parties and romantic rendezvous. It remains a popular destination for students.

When I arrived at Stanford in the spring of 1999, I spent the first few months getting to know the campus. One of my early forays was a jog around Lake Lag. It was a relatively wet year and the lake was about half full. I didn't think much of it at the time; it's a lake, it's supposed to have water, right? But in the 11 years since then I have seldom encountered any water other than the puddles I must navigate on the swampy sections of the perimeter, often conveniently equipped with a haphazard boardwalk. I have become accustomed to thinking of Lake Lag as a former lake.

Today, water in the lake comes from the occasional overflow from nearby San Francisquito Creek and is quickly gone. Keeping Lagunita full would require pumping water from Felt Lake, which would be expensive, environmentally unwise and imprudent due to limitations on water usage in the University's General Use Permit.

But whether Lagunita is technically a lake or not, it's a place beloved by alumni who have forged special memories in, on and around it for decades. Among its charms are its location—far enough from the center of campus to provide solace, but an easy bike ride from anywhere on the Farm. It provides habitat for wildlife of many descriptions, including that interesting creature known as Undergraduate. How many students have thrown sleeping bags on Lake Lag's grassy interior and fallen asleep to a heavenly panorama, then awakened to see dew glistening in the morning sun? It's a place that gives rise to memorable experiences, some of which are depicted in our cover story.

Every school has its legends, an oral history of the places and times that collectively announce, "This place is special." And in that spirit, Lake Lag lives on, watery or not. What would alumni experiences be like without those remembered moments? Well, a little emptier.

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