July 21

Punting along a river
Courtesy of Charlotte Salley

On a typical Sunday, I spend the afternoon lolling around Newnham’s gardens, moving from the rose beds to the linden tree allée to the immaculate lawns after I finish each chapter in my book. When I return home in the evening, the sun is still high above the chimney pots. Somehow the light is stretched, though, thin but not weak. Strong enough, in fact, to carry cottonwood tufts from the river all the way in through my windows. They pile on my kitchen floor as I putter around, getting ready for dinner.

Things are different this week. It is my last Sunday in Cambridge, and yesterday I graduated. It was a solemn ceremony in Latin, with academic gowns either billowing in the wind or threatening to catch on heels. Today I’m packing. Along with my books and bike gear, I’m compartmentalizing these last 11 months. Nerd Camp had to end at some point. Since the reason for graduate school was to become qualified for better jobs, I now need to find one. LinkedIn Arcadia Ego.

Of course I’ll remember a year’s worth of pints and gardens and old churches with stones that mute your footsteps. What I’m most grateful for, though, is time. I had plenty of books to read and papers to write, but I was able to do so without the crunch of daily meetings, inexorable email threads, staccato conference calls, and Metro delays. Every afternoon was my own, as were my mornings. Life was quiet, especially after I handed in my dissertation. Alexander Chee says that, for writers, “There is almost nothing they will not sell in order to have the time to write. Time is our mink, our Lexus, our mansion.” Add to that list long country rambles, and I can slice this past year into slabs of gold. There was time to look, time to note, time to absorb. I’ll always be grateful for that luxury.

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Charlotte Salley is a former assistant editor of the Scholar.


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