"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The clock seems to be ticking very fast these days, and I don't think it's just because I have a couple of chapters of my thesis due in six weeks. Do you ever get that feeling that you're working too hard and yet not working hard enough at the same time?

On the one hand, I'm struggling to get through the stacks of books I've checked out of the library, all the while researching more books and articles to flesh out my already-five-page-long bibliography. I'm enjoying the reading, so why not step it up and just read and reflect full-time?

On the other hand, what I really want right now is to spend a day going for a hike and having a picnic or wandering through a city and visiting a museum. I already feel like I just don't have enough time to do all the things I want or to do them with the attention and care I'd like. And yet there are always more - or other - things I'd like to be doing.

On a day during which I completed some time-consuming assignments, had a successful meeting with two of my favorite professors, sat in the sun with friends, and spent an hour reading a great work of western literature, my happiest moment was the five minutes of walking back to my dorm over the lawn with a hot cup of tea in my hands and real grass and dirt under the soles of my shoes.

I've been at this school, on this campus - a square mile? It's not big - for going on four years now, and I think my sense of dissatisfaction comes down to the feeling that nothing in my immediate environment can hold my attention because nothing is new to me. I was shocked today when one of my friends greeted a girl I'd never seen before - but is it really that bizarre for a friend to know someone I don't? Around here, actually, it is.

As lonely as I was last year in Paris, I miss the possibility and flux of cities, and as much as I admire the manicured lawns and the charming fountains on this beautiful campus, I'm longing for the rough edges and the constant change of real nature. Here, the seasons and the temperatures are all out of order. Yesterday it was practically raining it was so damp and cold. Today the sun shone all day. The air-conditioning can't seem to keep up - the other day, it was warmer to sit outside in the rain than to sit inside with cold air blasting out of every vent. I'd like to be in a place where I could really feel the season changing, where I could curl up in a warm tea shop and stride against chilly autumn winds, where I could watch the leaves falling off the trees or the scarves getting wrapped more snugly around people's necks.

Time's flying by, but nothing's changing.

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