At the end of freshman year, I remember feeling sad to leave. I was sad to leave a bunch of dear girls on a hall in MEP. But I was not too sad. We could write and call, and besides, we’d all be back for three more glorious years. So I went home for a stretching summer in Missouri.

At the end of sophomore year, I was drained and hurt. There would be people to miss over the summer, but I wanted nothing more than home. So all summer, I had home: its monotony, humidity, and comfort.

This year, I did not know the end was coming. In the last stretch of class after my birthday I had an unprecedented amount of stress land on my head and try to smother me like some heavy, hellish duvet, and by the time I crawled out from under that, it was study day, and I could count my time left on campus in the showers I had still to take.

I walked back to my room from turning in a last term paper and I saw they had the big roll-away dumpsters out for the end of the year and a heaviness hit my chest which has not left since.

This morning my classical ed class had a raucous, obnoxious breakfast together in Hicks and went merrily on our way to our nine o’clock final. As I took my last Edwards’ test my chest began to feel more and more full. I have never been more reluctant to leave an exam.

At length I did, and my feet dragged. And since then, I’ve been running into the rest of my classmates all day like we’re bunch of magnets who can’t stay apart. (Well, actually, I called Megan at one point and said “Where are you? I want to see you.” I’ll take responsibility for that one.) We talk about nothing and say “Well, isn’t this weird? I guess some of us will still be here after all this…” And then the weight swells a bit more.

This afternoon, I took my SSFT study guide to the chapel and sat while Michael played the organ. After a while, he asked if he could play loud and I said I didn’t mind. After another while, he asked what my favorite hymn was and I said how about “Come Thou Fount.” The weight in my chest expanded down to my toes as I sat with my knees to my chin on the hard pew. The fans clicked high above me and “songs of loudest praise” wrapped round me.

It’s just growing pains, I think. My God is “tuning my heart.” There’s no tears or melodrama, just an ungainly hurt that stings of eternity.

For now, I go to read for Lit Crit and clean the room for a favorite sister who’s coming. His goodness will continue to bind me even when I do not look for it.

The Sacrament of Birthday

Yesterday was my twenty-first birthday. At midnight Jackie and Renée came shuffling into our room singing, with a cake and lighters, because they’d forgotten to get candles. The four of us ate the cupcakes, and put on the little plastic rings that had come with them. I read them my Dad’s birthday poem and opened the package from home that had been on the top shelf of my closet for three weeks. There was jewelry and chocolate and a teabag-rester and a book on E.B. White, in which my mom had written “For Alice’s Web.”

Then that morning I got up at seven-thirty so that Sarah could braid my hair. She was listening to a contemporary piece for music history class, but then it ended, and I sat in silence in the dim light as her fingers neatly shifted my hair back and forth over and under itself. I thought of school mornings growing up, sitting at the breakfast table, gulping my milk, while my mother performed the same task. But it was not quiet then.

In Classical Ed, after a few false starts, they sang happy birthday to me and I didn’t know where to look. We had plans to hike and bring along champagne to celebrate. But that fell through so Sarah Bryan and Megan Rossi kindly walked Pinchalong with me. On the way back down Pine Street the rain and wind swelled up out of the ground, it seemed, and we were wrapped and lifted in it. Our eye makeup ran and we laughed.

The three of us went to Elephant and Castle for dinner. We had hot food and I had spiced cider with a bit of rum. We talked and remembered and I was grateful. When we got back on campus I borrowed Megan’s hair dryer, took a hot shower, and blew my hair out. I put on my third outfit of the day and was warm.

Then all us Classical Ed kids went bowling and Dr. Edwards and RJ came too. I bowled one spare and a lot of zeros and we ate leftover cupcakes. We sat close together and laughed, hands on one another’s shoulders and knees, and I made everyone take a picture at the end. They called me birthday girl.

And at the last Sarah and Jackie and Renée, my girls, took me out to Rachel’s. I had whisky and wine and peanut butter pie, which was tall and creamy. We stayed a while and sat. Then Jackie, the baby of the group, drove us back through the dark. I slept heavily till about five this morning and fitfully after that. Finally I got up, and listened to part of the morning prayers online, and then sat in silence with the softly greying sky.

My grandparents are ill and are suddenly in the hospital and I am frightened, but the sun rose this morning. The Son rose.

Good Company

Last week was Grove City’s Christian Writers Conference on George Herbert. My dad came and spoke and there was a poetry liturgy and I gave a paper and there was a banquet and my brother George sequestered himself and his laptop in a thousand different corners. It was a wonderful time and I am grateful to have had it. There were lots of careful words on truth and beauty, and one cannot have that much goodness poured into ones head without it getting stuck there.

But I don’t know if I’m going to get anything worthwhile out onto the page tonight. We have our windows open, because the air is warm and soft at last. I just got back from the last “Conversation on the Virtues” I’ll be going to with my Classical Ed class. This semester with them has been a tiring, tense, funny, and sweet adventure. I think the world of them, as evidenced by the gratuitous number of hours Megan and I spent making them sugar cookies last week. I’m looking forward to a long summer and a fall semester with a fiction writing independent study, but I will miss these people.

I have plenty of friends who are very dear to me, but I am usually best one-on-one. Yet, these kids (or nearly-men-and-women, if you will) are my favorite when we are together, when we are not myself and himself and herself and yourself, but ourselves, sighing and insinuating and reading and asking and contradicting. Actually, at the risk of sounding like I’ve learned precisely what I was supposed to, I’d say we’re learning the awe of neighborliness. I do not know which of us began Samaritans, and which began Jews (or perhaps I do, but I’ll never tell), but I know I have been humbled by unexpected friendships. As Lewis says in The Four Loves, “Who could have deserved it?” Not I.

But this marvelous spread of good company is what has been offered me, so as my friend George Herbert and more importantly, my God, would require, I will not delay, but “sit and eat.”


I slept for twelve hours last night and I’ve got an attractive bass cough. I’m not sick, it’s just been a full week.

I spent a huge amount of time with my classical ed classmates, trying to figure out what to do about our midterm and our class and our lives. By having us spend so much outside-class-time together, Dr. Edwards has kind of created a monster. I’m tempted to try to write you some hefty, ideological entry, because that has been my week. But yesterday, after our Hamlet discussion, when I told Dr. Dixon that I’ve just been in a really critical mood lately, he said, “Yes. You have.” So instead, I will be gentle.

Since I’ve seen you last, I’ve written an Easter poem, done my laundry, gotten a cuddle-wrap in the mail from my Grandma, walked Pinchalong, and cleaned and cluttered my desk several times over. I’ve had an interview for a summer job, planned for an independent study, cleaned up when a four-year-old didn’t make it to the toilet, gotten an apartment for next year, stayed up till three talking, and found rides to and from school for Easter break. Since I’ve seen you last, I’ve been blessed.

And now I am sitting here, not knowing what else to tell you, which is unusual. Usually I write my entries before I actually write them, if you know what I mean.

I guess the purpose of this is to tell you again (though I’ve told you before) that after twenty years, God’s goodness is still large and small, unexpected and regular. There’s no need to say anything more spectacular than that, and there never will be.