April 24

Redbrick building
Courtesy of Charlotte Salley

It has been a rainy spring, and that makes it easy to spend the whole day in the library. I’ve found that the University Library is the best place to set up shop: a coat room to stash your wet jacket and backpack; a cavernous reading room with pendant lamps and muffled coughs; a tea room for afternoon coffee and cakes; long hallways to stretch your legs; stacks to get lost in and tiny radiators under every window. It is the literary Mall of America—a world of books, where you never have to set foot outside.

On sunny days, though, the library is but a memory. The garden is all. Over Easter weekend, during a surprise heat wave, I played hooky, ambling through the gardens at nearby Newnham College. At first, I tried to convince myself that I could be productive outside, but that quickly faded. Instead, I began to meander between flowerbeds and pruned hedges. The pea gravel pathway led me around the college, redbrick buildings with Queen Anne curls and sashed windows. All Saturday afternoon, I wandered in a reverie: I stood beside the circular reflecting pool, staring vacantly at snails turning in water curdled with red and brown leaves. I nodded at the tulips and caught the scent of wisteria. I tried my best to imitate their photosynthetic chill, absorbing these harbingers days of summer.

Sunday was the laziest. I didn’t even think about the library. I went straight to Newnham with a book for pleasure, joining all the other students flouncing onto the soft grass. When I finally made my way home late in the afternoon, I could feel how the hours in the sun had loosened my joints. My gate lengthened and my spine stretched upward. On this spring afternoon, with its unusual warmth, I looked up at my Juliet balcony and was glad that I hadn’t shut the windows before leaving.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Charlotte Salley is a former assistant editor of the Scholar.


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