Friday, June 06, 2003

attenuation: 1. The making thin or slender in transverse measure; diminution of thickness; emaciation. 2. The making less dense; diminution of density. spec. in brewing and distilling. 3. The process of weakening, as if by dilution; diminution of characteristic force. spec. of a disease, or of the pathogenicity of a micro-organism.

there is a rhythm to academic life, a musical pulse that I have let myself slide out of in the last five weeks. trying to get back into it at this point in the rhythm is like trying to fight my way into the heart of a current rushing down the middle of a cold cold river, just at the point where it’s picking up speed and depth and strength. it’s insane, and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to succeed, but oh I really have to. and I’m not so sure it’s not going to pick me up by the scruff of my neck, fling me around for a while, and then spit me back out somewhere, worn out, soaked to the bone, and dying for more. so much work to do! at the same time, though, I am glad that I feel this renewed urge to participate in the life of the mind, as the U of C likes to call it: when I’m browsing the shelves and shelves and rooms and rooms of books in the seminary coop, and feeling the intense desire to buy all of them and move them to my library where I can live and read the rest of my life, or when I’m walking through the quads, bookbag over my shoulder head down walking fast in the sunshine between two crazy economics classes, I can feel the pull of academia and sense of belonging that made me fall in love with this college when I arrived here last fall. never mind that all my seniors and upperclassmen housemates were confidently predicting that I would learn to hate this place and it would break my soul =) I love how everyone in the Sem Coop walks around conversing in hushed voices as if they were in a library despite the fact that every thing in there you can buy and take home with you, to scribble in and dog-ear, and love to pieces – and in a way the Sem Coop is like a giant library, a repository of books on everything you could ever want to know about anything, just waiting for you to come and take them out and pass them on to other people. ‘hey, you need to read this, this is amazing.’

it’s on days like these when I am reminded of how I really want to live the kind of academic life that people like Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath, and Ted Hughes used to live. or perhaps like Hedda’s husband Jorge in Hedda Gabler who delighted in cutting the pages of brand new, unread books, looking forward to making them his friends, more so than his flesh-and-blood friends. people who didn’t seem to be concerned with the publish-or-die-because-you-can’t-get-tenure mentality; or the backroom politics that seems to pervade so many departments all over the country until that’s all you seem to hear about. I want the sleepy cambridge/oxford -lots of reading and writing about what you’ve read- lifestyle. I want the life of Virginia Woolf in The Hours where she sits in her room with a board over her knees scribbling industriously and painfully with a quill pen and an ink bottle in the mornings, forgetting and not caring about eating or drinking or other mundane things. except, of course, her cigarette. =) Plath’s scribblings in her journals about ‘must read _____ and write a paper about what he/she thinks about ____’ and ‘must write tomorrow: a poem about ___’ made me yearn, really yearn, to be able to do that, to constantly be inspired to write, to read good stuff constantly... I can see it in my head: a house in drizzly but beautiful cambridge, a fountain pen filled with pitch-black ink, parchment-style paper or perhaps smooth smooth lined foolscap, a pot of tea on my huge walnut desk, and surrounded in every room on every surface with the lovely lovely vision of stacks of books read and unread. to walk around permeated by the scent of paper and ink.

I want to be a small, forgotten piece of history somewhere, left alone to read and write and learn by herself from the great voices of the past and the present. I want to be the eternal graduate student. I don’t want to make a name for myself, but I do want to be able to write something that I can be proud of and that means something to me. fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose. especially poetry, my first love.

will I ever get a chance to do that? and if I do, will I feel that I can take that chance, leaving other responsibilities to put myself to work elsewhere behind?


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