Stars and Broken Seashells

I haven’t posted in a while. I apologize. Life has a nasty way of putting things we enjoy doing to the edge of our days. But, in any case…

Raindrops slapped the tinted leaves and rolled onto the path, now dyed black by moisture. I kept my hood down, sheltered by leaves, and took in the ruddy hills and open fields, the trees around me sighing with the weight of rain.

The air was wet and subdued, while a rumpled gray spanned the sky, tucked into the horizon like an old blanket. I could feel things slowing down, fall coming, a dimming twilight before winter, the air changing.

I started talking Sunday walks–once per week–after I stopped going to church last fall. The empty ritual and hollow chants didn’t nourish me. I figured a walk in the woods held promise, unbound by the time-soaked labels of the Latin Rite and the Christian cannon.

Even if I didn’t call it God, something in nature holds the same transcendent immanence for me–even if it’s just an illusion of experience. It’s something I can cling to and feel cradled in.

I also use my walk as a time to think. Today was no exception.

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Echoes and identity

I’ve been reading Camus’ preface to Jean Grenier’s The Islands, published in 1959. Like much of Camus’ later work–he died Jan. 4, 1960–the preface is nostalgic, yet mature.

The Allegheny River Trail at dusk, taken by me.

Grenier’s book proved a major influence on Camus as a young man. In return, Camus dedicated his first collection of essays The Wrong Side and the Right Side and The Rebel to Grenier.

In the preface, Camus describes how he felt when he first started reading Grenier’s The Islands:

A garden of incomparable wealth was finally opening up to me; I had just discovered art. Something, someone was stirring dimly within me, longing to speak. Reading one book, hearing one conversation, can provoke this rebirth in a young person. One sentence stands out from the open book, one word still vibrates in the room [. . .] Already, at the same moment, in response to this perfect language, a timid, clumsier song rises from the darkness of our being.

Reading The Islands pushed Camus to be a writer. Other books aided the decision, but as Camus says in his preface, only The Islands lingered. It transformed his worldview, and he continued to quote it for the rest of his life, repeating the phrases as if they were his own.

There are moments, words, people that define who we are, that consume us like kindling in a violent flash. From there, we rebuild on a new foundation. But the fire never burns down. It continues to smolder.

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Crinkled, old books

The school library gives away excess books, usually obscure philosophy titles that have lingered on shelves for years, dusted with age and the prints of wizened grad students. Wednesday, they had a table full. I survey the jumbled piles on a table by the main entrance, pluck and shuffle them as I scan the titles.

Now and then, I open one. The binding crinkles, as if glued into place, and the yellowed pages exhale their pale aroma, a warm, dusty tang that has always reminded me of cigars and cedar wardrobes.

I can’t help but steal a few: some Heidegger, Dostoevsky, a Kaufmann anthology of Existentialist writings. I slip the delicate volumes into my backpack and continue.

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Update: Finding an Honors Project

With school and all that comes with it, I can’t put the same time I’d otherwise like to into my blog. I apologize. However, I’d still like to continue it in a series of “updates,” petit posts to fill the interim as I write my thesis, lead clubs, and cram classwork via tea and naps.

That said, I can’t put the same level of polish and professionalism that I’d otherwise like to, but hopefully a few phrases still ring and a few ideas linger after that final punctuation point.

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