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Inner Peace in the Maelstrom

I have made some foolhardy decisions in my life. For instance, when I was four years old, I thought it would be fun to grab a bumblebee off a flower. That was the day I learned about bee stings. Then there was the time I decided to walk to the Prague airport and almost lost myself at dusk in a Czech forest. Indeed, these were not my brightest moments.

As I round the corner into November, though, I am forced once more to face the ramifications of a rash choice. In my infinite confidence and limited wisdom, I filled out the paperwork to enroll in five classes this semester. The grand and ominous list stands thus: Advanced Latin, Intermediate Greek, Ancient Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy, and (the intimidatingly-titled) Visual Epistemology. Egads! What was I thinking?

Oh well, life goes on, and I keep trucking away. In the next week or two I hope to share more about the research process for my term papers. Because, although it has been a lot of work, I must admit that I am enjoying each of my classes, and that I am incredibly excited to write on topics like Where is the information in a graph? and How do people conceptualize themselves as objects in the presence of different gazes?

Those fascinating questions aside, I want to spend the remainder of this week’s blog talking about what I like to do when I simply must have a break from all of the books and essays. Everyone ought to be have a way of finding peace in the midst of a maelstrom, and I figure that I might as well share mine.

On the weekends, I love to take the five-minute walk down to the riverside. There are a couple of wonderful, rocky beaches protruding into the water, and these are peaceful places to spend time skipping stones or watching the river flow past. This semester, though, I have developed a fantastically meditative pastime; I have taken to building small structures from the many scattered stones, and, in doing so, I am able to live, if only for a time, through my hands— and with my mind suffused by thoughts purely aesthetic and structural (How will these best be balanced? How will this best be seen?).

One feels close to something primordial, yet very human, this way. Pictured, is my most complex endeavor, hearkening to the stone circles of England. Perhaps it is only my imagination, but when I look at my crooked collection of pebbles, it seems like something as enigmatic as Stonehenge; and knowing that I have taken part in a tradition of symbol-making nearly as ancient as my species, I feel a touch calmer and better prepared to weather the semester’s final fury.

So here’s to readings and essay writing and research; but also to those moments of retreat that make it all endurable.

Stacking rocks has become a bit of a pastime this semester.

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