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We have a new housemate, a girl named Juliette.  A first-year grad student in the clinical psychology program, formerly of Indiana University, Bloomington.  Someone who was abnormal enough to be interested in a non-air conditioned, crooked-door, green living room with mismatched furniture and bamboo roll-up shades, and two guys as housemates.  When her deposit check arrived back in June, we figured she must not be too up-tight.

Juliette provides great reminders of how to live more extensively.  The image of extension is the one I’m shooting for, because the past week has been a series of reminders of what there is to do outside of Wake Forest.  Of what there is to do outside of the doors of our house.  Like hiking at Pilot Mountain.  Like biking around downtown.  Like eating breakfast, lunch and dinner on the patio.  Because we’ve got a patio, by golly.  But after last fall, Tommy and I forgot how to use it.  We also forgot how to moderate the inevitable personality clashes aside from avoidance.  But with the third variable of Juliette added, our house dynamic becomes much more stable.  Nice.

Over breakfast Juliette wanted to know what my plans were for the day.  “Eh, not much….run, do rock rings, eat, go listen to the freshman orientation pre-law talk.  That takes me up to 3 PM.”  “How about after that?”  “I don’t know.”  “You should take a nap.”  I don’t think I showed it, but I was shocked.  I would never consider such a radical idea.  If you don’t know what to do, why not do….nothing.  Just switch off.  As opposed to dinking around on the internet, or poking at math you’re not focused on, why not just sleep?  I am so darn driven, the idea of taking a nap as a viable activity would never cross my mind.  

I was going to entitle this post something like “The wisdom of small children,” but that’s not accurate.  Because as a kid, I hated naps.  They were a maternally-generated obstacle to awesomeness.  Naps were not fun.  Naps were the anti-fun.  I knew kids who liked naps.  They also tended to enjoy sitting still and smiling and picking grass, as opposed to assembling arsenals of pine cones or building complex structures out of sticks and scrap steel.  I thought they were lame.

But Juliette is right, and while I’m still not napping (no, I’m writing this – I once again succeeded in finding something to do), she’s got an excellent point.  Hopefully I’ll take her advice this semester.  And I suspicion I’ll do well to listen to her advice on more points than just napping.


The joints of my toes are swollen and painful enough that I’m walking like a duck.  We lost the game 6-0.  I re-opened a nasty, weeping skinned knee gained Monday in beach volleyball.  And I have grass stains on my Appalachian-beat-Michigan shirt.  This is fabulous.  Seriously.

Because this is the first time since high school that I’ve played ultimate without ankle pain.  And I was BAREFOOT.  I got pulled into a pick-up game while wearing flip flops.  Sprinting, cutting, diving, losing ignominiously on the upper quad in front of Wait Chapel, there was nothing but glory.  Even with easing back into running, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to chase down a long intercept again.  But I did.  And the belief in my physical self that returned with that catch was amazing.  The belief in myself as whole person, not simply as sadder-but-wiser goods.  Such a little thing.  But so nice.    

Weird how confidence should be so tied to the physical.  Weird how the mending on that front should coincide with my research starting to look up, and overcoming house tensions with Tommy, and no longer being apologetic about getting through grad school in my own way.  I knew things were getting better when I stopped caring whether Dr. Berenhaut thought I understood things in our research – when I started shrugging and pausing discussions with “You know, I don’t have a clue why that’s true.  Could you re-explain it?”  When I stopped caring about whether I ended up with some flavor, any flavor of doctorate.  Because oh yes, that was definitely part of the drive to jump into a JD after AmeriCorps.  But no, I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to teach first.  Maybe sail around the world second.  I can’t know if I’ll help more people as a lawyer or as a teacher, but I know teaching will make me happy.  So I’ll try it.  Law will always be there.

All of these developments served on a platter of ultimate frisbee.  

And I need to say, to all of you, to God, Thank You.  I did not get here alone.

When I was journaling about the Appalachian Trail I hit a point where I stopped writing about the bad stuff – about the unceasing pain, the loneliness, the absence of physical affection.  I would write about the exceptionally bad days, certainly.  They made good stories.  But I got good at keeping the baseline suckiness (and there was a lot of it) firmly under my hat.  And I didn’t choke on this unspoken sadness because I could vent in my stories about the bad days.  The bad days were dramatically bad.  Like waking up to find a river running through your tent, or being chased five miles by a cloud of rabid Massachusetts mosquitos.  Nothing boring about that!

But how do you make it into a good story when you come back to Winston-Salem from a weekend in Asheville and the shift is so depressing that you have a simultaneous flair-up of your dandruff and your (previously conquered) toenail fungus?  

I should have had some good things to say about Bele Chere.  It was wonderful.  As were my swing-dance-binge weekends earlier in July.  But my weekends are like being drunk: you’re happy while it’s happening, but the resulting hangover almost isn’t worth the escape.  Almost.  (N.B. I have never actually been hungover.  I attribute this to particularly good Italian and German genes.)

They are playing the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez on WFDD 88.5 right now.  Some of the greatest guitar music in the world.  Even more enjoyable because we played it in Appalachian Chamber Orchestra two years ago.  Rodrigo writes the most stunningly sad, passionate central movement I’ve ever heard.  The beginning and closing allegros don’t develop the piece significantly.  You think the opening’s going to.  You’re all set for this to happen, and then you hear the second movement and you realize you’ve merely been given an idea of the heights from which you can fall.  And the ending – the ending’s more a recovery operation. It might be tempting to look for redemption in the ending, but Rodrigo’s sadness does not need a resolving endcap.  Peace is found internally, at the end of the central movement.  The final allegro stands as a restatement, a reminder of a shell wrapped about sadness that is not bitter, not killing, but that will find its rest only in death.  An overly dramatic interpretation?  Maybe.  But then, he’s Spanish, so maybe not…

I don’t need to be listening to Rodrigo right now.  Even if it’s radio, this still counts as groveling.  But, at least it’s very high-brow groveling.

And really, that’s all for now.  No good resolution, no self-revelatory development in the writing.  And now I’m leaving for another weekend in Asheville.  

These things will end soon enough.  And they’ll come clear in the end.  Just, right now, could you pray for an unhappy person?