Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Taking Bike Rides



I am sad to say that my beloved car, after a decade or so of effectively driving me and my family to many, many places, is on the verge of giving up the ghost. It was never a very good car; it was in constant need of repairs, both large and small, and the check engine light frequently came on for no reason at all. But it was my car, and I will be sorry to see it go, particularly because I needed it to get to work.
Which is not to say that I don’t have other ways of getting places; mostly, I’m just horribly lazy.
With that said, this post will address the bike ride I took this past Saturday.
I haven’t ridden my bike in a long time. Truth be told, I feel a little slighted with regard to my bike. When I got this bike, about 5 or 6 years ago, I was unimpressed with the quality. It squeaks a bit, one of the caps for the gear changers on the handlebars is missing, and the seat is very uncomfortable. That same year, my sister received a very nice, newer road bike. Needless to say, I was and continue to be jealous.
However, my bike does have a lovely pair of baskets on the back, into which I placed my bag and jacket on Saturday morning at 7 and, with dew in the grass and the morning mist dispersing, set off for the Poudre River trailhead, which is a little ways from where I live and goes right past the bustling downtown area of my little city.
I’d forgotten how much I enjoy bike rides. The feeling of wind whistling past your ears, the slight burn that builds up in your legs as you propel yourself forward, the great, deep breaths of air that you pull into your lungs as you ride, all of these things are sensations found in very few places. In addition, unlike driving a car, you are not separated from nature. Indeed, it’s close enough to touch, to run your hands through.
As I reached the trailhead, I marveled at the number of people I saw. Joggers jogged, bikers biked, dog-walkers held tightly onto leashes as their dogs hurried forward, eager to taste all of the things they smelled.
I biked along at a leisurely pace, and soon found myself pedaling alongside the Poudre River. Our little river is nothing compared to the grand expanse of the Mississippi or Missouri, but it is straight from the snow in the mountains, and the water is clearer than any other I’ve ever seen.
I recently finished the book for the FYS class I’ll be a fellow for this fall at Coe. The book was called Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis by Cynthia Barnet. It is a great read for anyone, but particularly if you’re interested in conservation and the green movement. As I rode along the river, I thought about one of the messages of the book; getting closer to natural water makes people more aware of their water usage.
I pulled off to one side of the path and dismounted. Untying my shoes, I skipped over to the icy cold water and dipped my feet in, feeling the grains of the sand and the stones beneath my feet. The water was so chilly my feet felt like they were on fire, but at the same time I felt more at peace than I have for some time. It may sound silly, and even a little bit clich├ęd, but there is something about spending time in nature that serves to calm me, causing me to become more reflective. As I stood in that frigid water, I thoughts about how incredible water is; life clusters around it, trees, bushes, and animals. The ecological systems of water are just as important as those of land, even if they are harder to see. It’s these ecosystems that provide our planet its life-support system, and it is also these ecosystems which we find easiest to ignore because they are not immediately apparent. I thought about the fact that rainwater collection in Colorado is still illegal for many people, and how silly that law seems to me. I thought about the fact that most people can’t imagine the world 1000 years from now, and that, without that imagination, we may very well not make it 1000 years.
At that point, my feet began to grow quite cold, so I stepped out of the water. But I didn’t forget, as I pedaled off, the feeling of being surrounded by water, of returning to the place where life had begun. Everyone should, I think, take some time to stand in a river, to feel the water rushing around them, and to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Just some food for thought.
As Always, Yours,
Julia

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On the Importance of Doing Things

Summer time always allows a sort of atrophy to come over me. Rather than getting up at the hour of seven, I find myself wanting to stay in bed until ten. I don't usually want to get up and go to work; I'd much rather curl up in bed with a book all day and not move. Similarly, I don't want to put any effort towards any of my other pursuits. I have to force myself to write, to knit, to practice my instruments.
I sometimes wonder why it is that I don't experience something similar during the year. Why is it that during the school year, I am able to get out of bed at 7 and function for 15+ hours a day with no naps (yes, I do take naps. Don't judge me to harshly)? Why am I so excited for things during the school year, an excitement which is leeched out of me by the summer heat?
I think its a combination of things. In part, I think it comes from my extreme passion for learning. If I could spend the rest of my life in classes, learning everything I could, I would happily do so. I love the act of sitting in a classroom and making new connections with old material. I also love the people. I have friends in college who I've bonded with over our mutual love of intellectual pursuits.
I suppose what I am attempting to say (very clumsily) is that doing things makes me happy. I love school, and I love all the things I've had the opportunity to pursue there. So, if you are like me and the summertime blues sometimes overwhelms you, just remember that in a little more than a month, you will be doing more than you ever wanted to once again.

As Always, Yours,
Julia

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On the Importance of Change

This summer, my mother has started moving a lot of furniture around. Of course, this is nothing particularly new; in fact, I would say it happens almost every summer that dissatisfaction occurs with the arrangement of our furniture and chairs begin to move, almost magically, from one room to another. End tables follow, and discussion of new furniture is always had, though rarely acted upon.
However, this summer is different. This summer, we are contemplating painting.
Now, before I go any further, I must tell you that my parents have always had one color they painted any room in any house we lived in; white. Not cream, tan, beige, no. White. It frustrated me to no end that they denied me the joy of painting my room garish colors that I would of course regret a few years later.
But this summer, there is talk of peach. Of blue. Of green. Of colors that catch the eye.
This summer, there is also, for my part, the recognition that my life is starting to change. I will be a junior next year. I am (hopefully) going to study abroad. I am thinking about grad school and jobs and what I want to do with my life. Frankly, its very scary.
And yet, change is necessary. Change is how we grow and, though we may first fear it, I think that often change should be welcomed, in the same way we welcome new seasons. A lack of such shifts leads to stagnation rather than growth, and even when growing is painful, it is usually necessary.
So, as my mother thinks about how to best match the walls to that painting that she really likes, I will occupy my time preparing for this coming fall, and thinking about the importance of change.

As Always, Yours,
Julia

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On Recieving the Staff Summer Newsletter



Writing Centaurs! I hope you’ve been checking your mail because the staff summer newsletter has gone out and it is full of exciting news and information. If you haven’t received it or dislike reading anything on paper, here are some highlights:
·         Ryan Rey, the illustrious author, divulges that he is from Plainfield and associates it with Harry Potter.
·         Important deadlines!
o   New Staff Orientation begins on August 19th. If you are a new staff member, you should be there, and if you are a returning staff member who would like to help, contact Ariana Uding to let her know!
o   The MWCA conference is happening in Chicago in October!
o   The NCPTW conference is happening in Tampa, Florida in November!
o   There is a Writing Center open house on Thursday, August 22nd from 4 to 6:30
o   The first staff meeting of the year (yes, aren’t you excited?) is on Sunday, August 25th at 7:30
o   And the Full Staff Retreat, beginning on Sunday, September 1st, is occurring on campus this year at the Clark Alumni House.
·         The Chicago Conference will have six presentations. If you want to participate in the conference, contact Ariana Uding no later than Friday, August 2nd
·         The Tampa conference is happening November 1-3. If you want to participate in the conference, contact Ariana Uding no later than Friday August 2nd!
·         There is a selection of stuff regarding Dr. Bob’s life that is pretty fun to read!
·         And also, lots of awesome bios about all the awesome people who are doing awesome things over the summer before returning to Coe for an awesome fall semester! Good job, Ryan, for tracking most everyone down!
Again, all of this is in the summer newsletter, so hopefully you have received it by now. And thanks to everyone who responded to my email pleas for correct addresses.
As Ever, Yours,
Julia

Friday, July 12, 2013

On Summertime



It’s 90 degrees outside, and I am way too sweaty.
I always think, during the year when it is freezing cold outside and I’m exhausted from school work, that summer is gorgeous, that I’ll have all this free time to do things that I’ve been meaning to get around to, that I will finally not be exhausted all the time.
Inevitably, however, I perpetually have the wrong idea. Summer does have more free time, in theory, but much of that is eaten up by working and reading for the coming semester. Summer would be gorgeous, if it were temperate enough for me to go outside without roasting (sunburns are the bane of my existence). And summer would allow me to not be exhausted…if it weren’t for the fact that I wake up at 3 a.m. because of the extraordinary heat, even at night.
Basically, what I realize every summer and forget every fall is that school is my favorite time of year. The phrase “the grass in always greener on the other side” certainly applies to my divergent mentality on these two periods during the year; no matter which one I’m in, I think the other is better. During the school year, I’m exhausted, but it’s an exhaustion which stems from a job well done, and my “free time” is turned into fun classes, dinners with friends, and early mornings making coffee in the writing center.
So, when I looked at the calendar today and realized that the semester is only about seven weeks away, I couldn’t help but feel a little excited that soon I would be plunging into the world of academia and late nights once again.

As Always, Yours,
Julia

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

On the Art of Conversation



I pride myself on having many interesting friends. One such friend of mine, a linguistics major whom I’ve known since high school, recently returned from a four month long foray in Europe. Whilst there, she farmed in France, played harp and flute in market fairs, and looked at strange, modern art in a museum which professed itself to be a center for archaeology.
We went, yesterday, to enjoy a cup of tea and to catch up. After all, we hadn’t seen each other for several months, and my dear friend always had plenty of stories which I could be entertained by for hours. In addition to this, my friend and I have something very important in common: neither of us quite know what we are going to be doing with our lives. This is a state which, I have discovered, many people, young and old, find themselves in but which they do not like to talk about.
In any case, while we sat and drank a pot of Glenburn Autumn Oolong tea, I realized something was going in my brain; while my friend told me her stories, I was actually listening. I wasn’t thinking about what to cook for dinner, or what points I wanted to bring up when it was again my turn to speak. No, indeed, I was completely absorbed in her story. I wanted to hear all about the olives she received at a market in Italy. I wanted to know which manuscripts she’d looked at in that library in France. I wanted to be as engaged as possible in the conversation.
Let me say, I don’t think I’m a bad listener. Mostly, I just lack an attention span when it comes to conversation, a problem which has plagued me my whole life. But, I suppose, the thing which was different about this conversation was my earnest desire to participate in it, and to be a good participant, it’s crucial that you be able to listen. Otherwise it’s just a monologue, and though Shakespeare thought all the world is a stage, I tend to disagree.
When I conference people on their writing, I try to cultivate this Art of Conversation. I try to listen so that I may participate as best I can with the other person. Even if their story isn’t as exciting as farming in France, it means something to them, and I owe it as a consultant to be the best conversationalist that I can be. Conversation is an art which must be cultivated over time and, I have found, the best conversationalists are also the ones who are the best listeners.
So the next time life just gets a little to hectic, sit down with a mug of tea and remember to listen.

As Always,
Julia