I am in Oxford, England as part of the Bread Loaf School of English program offered at Oxford. Last summer, as some of you may recall, I was at the Santa Fe, New Mexico campus and that was an “interesting” experience to say the least. I wrote a very little bit about that summer here. I wouldn’t be here this summer without Middlebury College’s insanely generous funding for educators. It’s a true privilege and I am grateful beyond words.
I really like the Oxford experience so far. I am enrolled in the James Joyce course taught by Jeri Johnson who is a Joyce expert; she is also brilliant. I really like that the classes are more like seminars, only 6 of us in there, and we don’t meet in a “class” but in her lovely office which is covered, wall to wall (literally), with books. I also like that it is understood that there is no way we could ever know as much as she does about Joyce and so she is not there to coddle our opinions and feelings. She is like a floating bowl of knowledge and I actually feel inspired to listen to her. The Santa Fe experience was a bit awkward for a variety of reasons, the primary one being that Jamie’s family is from there so it was strange to pretend to be a visitor in a town that is already familiar. Sometimes I felt like a spy listening in on others’ conversations about Santa Fe or New Mexico and some of these chats were annoying. The Oxford experience definitely feels more independent and “graduate”-school-like as compared to the Santa Fe experience at St. John’s College. This had a lot to do with very childish behaviors by some of the New England students who came to Santa Fe to get a “spiritual spring break” fix and felt disappointed when the mountains didn’t speak to them.
My last post was in March. It feels like ages between March and July. I actually forgot the password to this website log in! True.
Since March, Jamie and I hosted my parents in Albuquerque for my birthday. We had a wonderful time with both of our families. What a gift to hang out with your parents as friends in your adult years! Then, we found a house. Then, we got approved for a loan. Then, we closed on a gorgeous house that’s exactly what we wanted! Then we packed! Then we moved! Then we set up house! All while everything else was going on at the same time since life doesn’t really stop when you are buying a house. Allow me to say just this much: buying a house is unlike any other thing I have ever gone through. It is an excruciatingly intense process that has you on your toes the entire time. We got very lucky; as in “angels competing to help you” kind of lucky. Every single person we worked with, from our realtor Theresa at the Ingles Company, to Bob at Bank of Albuquerque, to many, many others in between, was a ray of light guiding us through this very complex process. We are so blessed to call these people are close acquaintances and friends now.
There is much to say about being here after Brexit, much to say about how the writing process is similar to the home buying process, there is much to say about what I have been reading in the last six months, much to say about Joyce and Ireland and how it relates to the British colonization of Pakistan and India, much to say about not writing enough, much to say about growing as a writer and reader, much to say about outgrowing blogging but still wanting to post some thoughts in this space, there is much to say about much, and when there is so much to say, it’s hard to know where to start.
But I do know where to end this post. I received some photos from Shayne which he shared from his walk somewhere in the countryside of North Carolina. And he sent those while I was on my walk to Port Meadow in Oxford. And what struck me about his photos was that, if I didn’t know any better, they could have been from a city in some country in Africa, a village in Pakistan, or right here in Oxford. The earth doesn’t care where we are, the color green doesn’t care which latitude and longitude defines borders. As the poem below says, “It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much/ and too little.”
“The World Has Need of You” by Ellen Bass from Like a Beggar discovered thanks to Writer’s Almanac.
seems to need us
Rainer Maria Rilke
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.