“On a Saturday afternoon in winter, when nose and fingers might be pinched enough to give an added relish to the anticipation of tea and fireside, and the whole weekend’s reading lay ahead, I suppose I reached as much happiness as is ever to be reached on earth. And especially if there were some new, long-coveted book awaiting me.”
I’ve always looked forward to summer reading, and while I didn’t mind it in grade school because it taught me to seek out novel recommendations from my teachers, I found even more enjoyment in the summers during and after college. I didn’t set a quantitative goal, but I wanted to get through a mix of books I’ve been wanting to read and those I feel I ought to read. Fortunately, I committed myself to several that fell in both categories.
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
- The World According to Garp by John Irvine
- It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
- Looking for Alaska by John Green (reread)
- All My Sons by Arthur Miller
- The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
- Next by Michael Crichton
- My Friends The Wild Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall
- Naked by David Sedaris
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Surrender by Sonya Hartnett (reread)
- Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
- The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency edited by Chris Monks & John Warner
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Misery by Stephen King
- The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich
It has been one year since my arrival. To the many hours we spent exploring the rolling green hills of this island: hopping fences, scaling walls, walking along railroad tracks, climbing in, over, on ruins, braving spiders and bees, trekking through vicious blackberry bushes and dense brush, always going quite literally the extra mile and sometimes more, everything: these are the hours we remember with laughter. To late summer days spent in Cong: days which proved to be the most perfect compilation of crumbling abbey ruins, dusty bookshops and tiny pubs, trails that wound through impossibly green, middle earth-esque forests; a town I never knew I needed to know. To the day spent venturing up the coast, most of which we spent packed into a small car, occasionally tumbling and unfolding ourselves out of to see a new landmark or stop for a pint. Every time I stepped out, I fell in love all over again. Those few short hours we spent walking along the road from Dingle into the next town, and lying out in the grass by the river, not talking much, taking in the increasingly rare sunshine. These are the hours we remember fondly. To dark grey days and the feeling of finally getting dry after hours of traipsing about in the rain. Each shade of this country complements those of my soul. To the people– who showed me as a stranger kindness and reassurance, who had me as their friend in tears from laughter, made me appreciate the nuances of life back home and here, a new home. These are the people I remember with the utmost affection. To our fortuitous exposition to unknown yet incredibly skilled musicians upstairs at the Roisin Dubh: those nights spent crowded around small, candlelit tables, each of us grateful to be a part of this little community, and then venturing back out into the night, going pub to pub until the sun had begun to rise. These are the nights we didn’t always remember. To the busy streets filled with buskers and vendors and families and puddles, weaving in and out of one another endlessly, seemingly oblivious to the rain that is just as much a part of life as the cobblestone roads below and the towering, cramped buildings above. How could I not love the rain, whose steady and gentle falling played hours of a noteless score upon our roof? To a place I can only thank over and over: I will return; this is not the end. This is a place I remember as home.
One of the greatest life lessons I’ve learned so far I learned from middle school math.
I am known for being a word person, not a numbers person. I took math up through Calculus my senior year of high school, and never took another class on the subject. I did enjoy the occasional unit, but generally speaking, we weren’t friends– I cannot count how many nights were spent in tears over advanced algebra homework.
Fast forward to my early college years, where I was introduced to and completely taken with minimalism. I cut my possessions in half, and even now am always trying to find ways to streamline, minimize, and simplify both my belongings and my life.
The one thing that softened the harsh complexity of an extensive algebra equation: the introduction of simplification. Suddenly, I could condense long lines of variables into only a few components, and the equation was more manageable because I had space to see it clearly.
I place this word intentionally through the spaces I occupy: framed on my bedroom wall, on bookmarks, on my shopping lists, in my office. For once I applied this term formerly associated with the evils of mathematics to other aspects of my day to day life, I found myself seeing things more clearly, found tasks more manageable.