Time

IMG_6941As you’ve noticed, my posts here came to a nearly screeching halt with the start of the semester. I had hoped to keep posting more regularly, but have been short on time when I have the energy, short on energy when I have the time, and short on interesting things to talk about on those rare occasions when I have both time and energy at once.

We’re coming off Fall Break, here – today has been our last day of freedom before classes pick up again where they left off last Friday afternoon. Relative freedom, anyway – I spent all day doing homework in preparation for tomorrow. All told, this long weekend has been very busy, full of people and not a whole lot of actual rest by introvert standards. But it’s been a good weekend nonetheless.

Amidst the flurry of Becca’s parents and sister visiting, a trip to Grand Rapids, games played, conversations had (on their part) and listened to (on mine), cooking, shopping, and cleaning, there have been moments of calm. Friday afternoon, Becca and I ditched everything, homework, cleaning, the lot, and went for a walk in the park. Even though we live together, it can sometimes seem like Becca and I don’t ever see each other, much less spend time together. I value the time we get to spend doing homework together, of course, especially now that we’re both seniors and our homeworking-together time grows limited. But that is not constructive time together – we don’t get to discover things about each other or deepen our relationship because we’re too busy discovering things about and deepening our relationship with dance in the early 16th century or Welsh nationalism or Old Norse verb endings or exponential growth and decay. These are all very important things too (except perhaps exponential growth and decay – but I will refrain from starting that argument because I’d lose as soon as a mathematician came along). But the fact remains: spending time in the same room or even on opposite ends of the same uncomfortable college-issue pseudo-futon does not equate with spending time together.

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So spending the afternoon walking around Centennial Park and drinking hot cider and enjoying the first few fallen leaves of Autumn (which comes much later here in Michigan than anything I grew up with) was a gift. As were the few hours spent reading together – Becca is introducing me, slowly, surely, and in a lovely Welsh accent, to the Prydain Chronicles, which are fantastic.IMG_6971

I’ve also had a bit more time to contemplate the future, and to get homesick. The visitation of Becca’s parents served as a bittersweet reminder that I’ve not seen my own for two months, and won’t get to see them for another slightly-over-two-months more, either. I’ve missed another round of Sheep Festivals, Leaf-peeper B&B guests, Tunbridge World’s Fairs, Fall shearings, hayloft-fillings, wood-stackings, and evening walks up the hill when it’s cold enough for a jacket and gloves but the sky is lit up like fire by the sunset over the mountains, which are already burning with the loss of chlorophyll.

Yes, Father, you heard me right: I did say I missed heaving the final, desperate loads of hay into the barn. And stacking the final desperate cords of wood in the basement. It’s good fun, and good hard work.

As for the future, I’ve had many conversations with myself, my roommate, my advisor, my parents, my sister, my dance teachers, my pastor, and just about anyone else you can think of. I’m taking the GRE on the 17th, but I haven’t studied and have no desire to go to a IMG_6974big graduate school, or even a small one. I feel obligated to get a Masters at least, because I don’t want to ignore gifts and passions God has given me, but I don’t have career or life aspirations that would require one, and don’t know what I’d get it in anyway. I don’t want to cease being a professional student, but all I really want to do is get my own little apartment and a real job (no matter how mind-numbing or dead-ended) and a cat. And all I can think about this Autumn, like every Autumn before since leaving Vermont for college, is how much I miss the Farm, and wide open spaces, and real woods full of fernbrake and ticks, and meadows full of fox holes and crickets, and the drafty old barn with dustmotes shining lazy and cold in the light that blows through the knotholes in the door.

I wanted to go for a walk this evening, but there is nowhere to go, here. It’s all pavement and manicured walking paths and noise. I hope I never get used to that – I hope there is always an autumnal longing for the wild land my roots cling to. All the same, it will be nice when I can settle down in my own place and grow attached to a new home, wherever it may be. How long does it take, after graduating from college, to find a job to stick with for several years at least? I’d like a bit more certainty, a full-time home, the knowledge that I can grow attached to a place because I’ll be there for a while.

I’d also like a cat.

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[photos from last fall, later in the season – the leaves aren’t nearly so golden yet]

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. CKG says:

    The hay and wood pile will be here……you run off and have some fun!

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  2. vtgrandview says:

    Cats are nice……

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  3. mariertps says:

    I love how your posts come up every so often. :} It gives me an excuse to stop beating myself over the head with homework and enjoy some reading for a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, don’t overlook us at Signum U :) We are still very fledgling and seeking accreditation, and I don’t know how much we can offer (at the moment, anyway) by way of proceeding on to a PhD, should you want to go that route. However, if you are looking to work and do an MA on the side, more for your own personal benefit, it is worth looking at; most of our students have day jobs, and because they are driven by personal interest, they are all quite engaged and interested – which at some larger theory laden grad schools sometimes happens less often than one wishes. We are also a university sort of founded around Tolkien and the Inklings. To be sure, if you plan on going on and have better opportunities, definitely take them – but keep us in the back of your mind if you find yourself in a situation where you would like to do an MA by distance online.

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    1. AnnaEstelle says:

      Signum U is honestly the first graduate-school-related program I have ever gotten excited about. As I don’t plan to pursue a PhD, I don’t mind so much about that, and completing an MA online on the side while I do other things and get a real job is the option I’m most interested in right now. However, there is still pressure from friends, family, and academic advisors to go to a “realer” university – attend a school that will get me an MA that could lead to a PhD somewhere, instead of doing a program like Signum U online. I do resent that pressure a bit, but I also recognize that it might be legitimate. But all that to say, yes, Signum U is definitely in mind, and has been since I discovered it. I’m just not sure yet how I can reconcile doing a graduate program that is for my own personal benefit because I want to keep learning, rather than to set myself up for some more lucrative job than working at Starbucks.

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      1. That is all very tricky, and I will keep you in my prayers. Honestly, there is a part of me that likewise would encourage you to do an MA and PhD somewhere too, because you clearly have what it takes to do it, and we as Christians need more people – and particularly women – who can do deep and serious academic thinking in matters of faith and life. In any case, whatever you do, don’t give up thinking and writing. One of the benefits of doing a Masters and leaving open the possibility of a PhD is that it gives you enough of a taste to know if you are called to do more, but it is not so much of a deep commitment as a Doctoral program. If you are able to get funding somewhere – and I imagine you will be able to – one can simply look at the MA as a full time job for a couple of years.

        Of course, that said, it is hard to do it if you feel ambivalent about it and end up sacrificing things you love due to pressure from others or utilitarian concerns, which are factors on both sides of your decision. Sorry for all the unsolicited input, but I suppose I feel a bit of kinship because I went into university intending to become a medical missionary and came out twelve years later as an English scholar – a couple of years into my program, I realized it was authors and not doctors who had touched my soul, and I wanted to be part of that. It has throughout at times been a struggle to remember that – after the gauntlet of a PhD program, my program of recovery has involved revisiting my first loves (hence some of my posts on my blog).

        But I am also glad I did it – even if finding jobs is difficult, I know and have worked with and do work with some wonderful people, and I might not still be a Christian otherwise – part of what has kept me a Christian has been the opportunity to dig into the depths of Christian tradition and imagination. I hope I am not so petty that I would abandon Christ were it not the case, but deep and sustained thinking about and around and with Christianity has certainly been a bit of a lifeline out of some of the shallower forms of faith that have frustrated me from my Evangelical background. Coming from the background I come from, that sounds especially weird, given that university was always considered the place where people were supposed to get corrupted and lose their faith.

        Of course, it is also true that some departments can be miserable places, particularly when a collusion of administration and particular kinds of theory suck the soul from them. I have had fairly positive experiences at secular universities, and I do not complain, but I do have fears about directions the humanities are going, and wonder if we are not coming to a point where the preservation of real learning might again fall to the Church as it did to the monasteries in the Middle Ages. I suppose I see places like Signum as being in a way part of this – not that it is overtly Christian, in the same way that one didn’t have to be Christian to be part of the Inklings – but that something happens when one gathers around Christians such as the Inklings who love learning. There is of course the part of me that understands the fear some academics have of being “mistaken” for a mere fan or cosplayer or something in connection with Inklings – it is maybe a little like the frustration I have when the border guards ask me if I’m going to be presenting in a suit of armour when I go to Kalamazoo (no, really – this is a serious academic paper – I’ve studied twelve years to give it etc.). However, when I encounter people like my students who love learning and are invested in a way that seems less and less common in some of the larger, more factory-like universities, I tend to recall Christ’s words, that “by your fruit you shall know them” – one can make fun of the Inklings all one likes, but if they inspire a zeal for and love of learning that modern deconstructionism cannot, well, it is clear to me who the real winners are.

        I should go and do actual work – like marking OE – but did want to respond because matters of academics and faith are part of my vocation. A couple of further thoughts. Is there a possibility of doing an MA with your current supervisor at Hope? From what I have read on your and Rebecca’s blogs, he seems ideal, and I happened to come across his paper the other day in Speculum on Piers and riddling and spirituality etc., and he is doing some marvellous stuff.

        Second suggestion: to get away from it all, you should go and enter Signum’s current Almost an Inkling flash fiction contest, still going on for the next few weeks. It is a way of taking one’s mind off troubles, and the fiction is short enough that it doesn’t require a too steep time investment.

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        1. rebeccadfox says:

          Thank you so much for this thoughtful reply! Anna and I have been thinking a lot about vocation and what we will be doing when our senior year is done. I’ve deeply appreciated your insights into being a Christian academic. It’s so easy to get burnt out by requirements and frustrated by theory, and remaining “receptive” (in Lewis’s sense of the word) has become a discipline–one that neither Anna nor I have completely gotten the hang of yet. As you know, our academic interests are intimately connected to (and driven by) our faith, but Anna and I both often struggle with feeling like we have to justify or (worse) apologize for our projects for being frivolous or biased. It’s good to have some encouragement! My paper from this summer has been accepted to the undergraduate panel at K’zoo, so hopefully Anna and I can meet you there at some point this year.

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          1. Yes, it would be lovely to meet you at Kalamazoo – and I’m glad you are in a session. I do hope it doesn’t overlap with mine, so that I can hear it, but that might be tricky, as I am involved in three. Whatever happens we should plan lunch or something to talk about matters of faith and academics, if you are both amenable to it – it is too rarely that I get to talk about them openly together, though Kalamazoo has oddly been one of the places it has happened frequently.

            As a side note, in an odd moment of crossover, Dr. Gruenler is on one of the panels I put together. It is a panel on proverbs and proverbial culture, and I was looking for a Piers scholar; most of the people I found were OE people, but I wanted the panel to be broader than that, and it seemed a shame not to have something on Piers, given its paremial orientation. In any case, I came across his essay on riddling spirituality and Piers, and something about the name of the author sounded familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place it – and then realized it was your blogs. That of course made me all the more eager to invite him, and I’m so happy he accepted.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. rebeccadfox says:

              Haha! It’s a small academic world after all! That’s wonderful! Anna and I would be very glad to meet with you this summer, and I think hat Dr. Gruenler would be too! Thank you so much!

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        2. AnnaEstelle says:

          Thank you very much for your kind words of wisdom. I appreciate all the advice I can get. =) And I don’t plan to give up thinking and writing and doing my own small research. I just know that if I am not plugged in to an academic community one way or another, that thinking and writing and research will be very difficult – and knowing myself, if I lack community support, I’ll end up not doing it. And I don’t want that to happen. It’s very encouraging to hear your perspective on this – thank you for sharing it with us.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. joctavianr says:

    Loved this post Anna. You have such a beautiful way with words. And it’s nice to hear your thoughts. =)

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