Thoughts From That Quiet Place

[Columns in Richmond, November 2011.]

People will be going back to school soon.

On Monday, one of my college roommates posted a couple of things to my Facebook wall, and they made me laugh until tears ran down my face. It reminded me that my old friends are only one of those far away things in my life that makes me miss undergrad so dearly.

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I think a lot of it has to do with college. The packing and moving and starting over as the leaves begin to change--it does something to me. There's magic in the new notebooks and the old books on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, with treasures of underlining and notes just waiting to be discovered. When Rob and I first started dating, I was taking a Victorian class and we used to sit down together with my used copy of an extraordinarily large Norton Anthology of English Literature and read what the people who owned it before me had written in the margins.

I try every time, but I can never quite put my finger on it.

And so, for the third time on this blog, I quote:

"If only one could come back to this quiet place, where only intellectual achievement counted; if one could work here steadily and obscurely at some close-knit piece of reasoning, undistracted and uncorrupted...then, one might be able to forget the wreck and chaos of the past, or see it, at any rate, in a truer proportion. Because, in a sense, it was not important. The fact that one had loved and sinned and suffered and escaped death was of far less ultimate moment than a single footnote in a dim academic journal establishing the priority of a manuscript or restoring a lost iota subscript. It was the hand-to-hand struggle with the insistent personalities of other people, all pushing for a place in the limelight, that made the accidents of one's own personal adventure bulk so large in the scheme of things." --Dorothy SayersGaudy Night