Monday, August 13, 2007

elegy to a fallen season

Last week, while walking to work in my usual morning ritual, the air hung crisply, a chill running through it. Just as inexplicably as the summer's heat had set in, the forebear of autumn's sweater-necessary weather had invaded early August. With this sensation that a new season whispered its inevitable arrival, I have started thinking about endings.

Within a week and a half, Let's Go Italy, the book over which I have sacrificed my eyesight and into which I have poured a lot of memories and experience, will be finished and out of my hands until its November publication. Even though I have done the job before, this summer has been a new experience in teamwork, compromise, leadership, and balance. With a whole new team of editors and two researchers to take care of, I found myself readjusting to a job I thought I knew well; the pace of the job depends on those people working together and the success of adequate research on the careful attention shown for those on the road. It's amazing that Let's Go operates the way it does, with a near 100% turnover every year, however it continues to be a dynamic and exciting student-run organization and it continues to stick around. At the end of it all, I greet the looming final deadline with welcome arms, knowing that I've suffered at some points and thrived at others, clenching my teeth while staring at a computer screen and laughing at the anecdotes sent back from the road.

The hot summer months that took me away from dorm life and the frenetic Harvard pace brought me into a restful apartment space full of time for reflection. Seeing the evocative Edward Hopper show yesterday, its main themes resonated with me deeply. Solitary individuals dominate his urban canvases, whether they be alone or in company. Similarly, life in the 'real world' (away from the artificial bubble of college) can be exacting and isolating. Reaching out to close friends takes energy and time, making you vulnerable to others but, in so doing, open to a strong connection; in the end, your own strength of spirit carries you through. With the 'real world' looming less than a year away beyond graduation, plans for the future swirl along with ideal hopes. My friends remain dispersed a bit all over the place; being a quiet guy who loves sitting, absorbing conversations, and remaining slightly aloof, the friends I make tend to be a few special individuals—leaving me with strong friendships lived in a few unpredictable moments of connection and giving me a strength and independence of spirit. ... Hopper's poignant canvases, although somewhat heart-weighing in their anonymity and disconnect, for me reflected the emotional fabric of Internet-cellphone-21st century life.

The chill in the air has called me out of quiet reflection and brought me back to my senses, out from rabidly reading Harry Potter to tackling the thesis reading I said I would do simultaneously with GRE studies over the summer. The courses of instruction for the final year were posted online and once again I find myself disappointed with classes I hoped to take that I've discovered won't be offered until the fall of 2008: a ritual I've gone through every semester. And with that return to ritual, return to school, summer's end means a new beginning (a lesson I often forget, too enraptured in the finality of finish).

But as ambiguous as everything else in life, the transition has no set point and, before I arrive in new beginning, move in and start taking notes, I will need to put finishing touches on a travel guide, pack up an apartment, head home to prepare for a new year, celebrate my sister's wedding and escape for a week of research to Italy.

Too often I forget what a beautiful, mindful, and inspired life I lead.

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