January 25, 2018
Around 10 a.m.
A sunny but frigid morning on College Street in the village of Middlebury
I hope this finds you well-contented and in good health.
I myself have been in reasonable condition, save for a minor setback a fortnight or so ago…
Aside from this small hiccup, I have been lavishing in the free time Winter Term affords, and have spent the majority of my time reading in the cozy chambers of the NER office, skiing (when the weather permits), and binge-watching The Crown.
How have you been enjoying your winter term thus far? Do tell me what you have been up to…
Subject: Winter term etc.
The Crown? Dude. Have you gotten to the episode in season two where you find out the Duke of Windsor—agh, nevermind. Spoilers!!
Total bummer re getting sick. Woke up pretty congested this morning myself. Gonna have to go back to doing the nasal rinse twice a day, which is always fun when the linebacker who lives across the hall walks into our communal bathroom.
Sounds like a pretty decent January aside from that. I’ve also been reading a ton for NER, working on producing the NER‘s first podcast (which really has meant perfecting my best, most serene and nasal NPR voice), and doing other website and research miscellanea. Oh, and totally taking advantage of the break from dining hall coffee. Not a bad life.
D’you ever read stuff other than NER submissions? What kind of things? I’m an English major, so during the year it’s a lot of Kafka and Sylvia Plath. My favorite novel is Stoner though, by John Williams. It’s about a quiet country boy who goes to university, falls in love with English academia and becomes a prof. Something to aspire to, maybe . . . you grew up in the country, didn’t you?
From the window seat of NER headquarters, sipping tea
I am truly sorry to hear that you too have been affected by the plague spreading across campus. How dreadful.
Something I have been considering lately regarding the nature of watching The Crown . . . can it truly be considered “spoiling” if it’s history? It did, after all, already happen . . .
Anyway, I am so glad to hear you are enjoying your tenure at NER. I, too, have enjoyed learning about the new technology of “podcasting,” and anxiously await the release our first episode to the masses . . .
What a delight to hear that you also share a love of literature. How have you liked Kafka? I find him . . . quite strange. Humans morphing into bugs in their sleep? How on earth are we expected to believe that? I suppose, however, he is quite skilled at writing—so I’ll permit it.
As an English major myself, I also spend a good deal of my time reading for my courses. Mostly short stories, of late. I am attempting to learn creative writing, so studying short fiction has been helpful in my writing practice. In fact, reading poetry, prose, and essays for NER has also been enormously informative . . . there are truly delightful pieces in these volumes, which I do think deserve more attention.
I try to indulge in pleasure reading whenever I get the chance. I recently enjoyed a long holiday to visit my mother in Florida, which provided ample time to lounge outdoors and read some modern novels. My favorite recent read is The Vegetarian by Han Kang. I myself am an avid meat eater, so it was fascinating to get a glimpse into the twisted mind of those that choose only to eat vegetables. What a dreadful existence! Despite this, it was a truly beautiful book and I do recommend it to everyone.
I would like to note, with emphasis, that I am not a Florida native . . . you are correct that I grew up in the rolling hills of Vermont, just a few hours south of Middlebury in a small village called Putney. I believe we also have a strange connection in relation to my home town that is worth noting: we attended the same summer camp as children! What an odd coincidence.
I hope I am not presumptuous in assuming you are a Canadian? These past weeks, I have noticed a distinct inflection in your voice, particularly when you say the word “about.” If I am correct, may I ask how you are enjoying your time in America?
A couple of years ago I might’ve been sad about the whole Canadian-accent thing, but honestly, these days I’m pretty proud of it. You’re right on the money—I’m a Torontonian, although I grew up on a farm an hour or so outside the city. Good place to be a kid: I built igloos, played hockey with older brothers, fulfilled other Canadian stereotypes. Toronto definitely worked when it came time for high school though . . . gave me the sort of subway-system-induced freedom you so don’t get at the end of a long dirt road. Plus, it’s over 50 percent “visible minorities,” so it’s pretty darn diverse and interesting. The ethnic food is unreal. And yeah, how funny about the summer camp? Summers at the Putney School were pretty key for turning me into a relatively functional adult. Jealous you got to grow up there . . . I got so into Vermont those summers I applied ED to Middlebury the minute I could and never looked back.
Florida works though, climate-wise. What’s up with the freeze/thaw this year? Makes January a headache and a half. Freezing rain makes the walk down College Street from my dorm to the NER offices seven minutes of mortal terror.
Back to nerd-ing out about literature (because books are sort of the best). Can’t do Kafka in the winter. Too gray. More of a Romantic poetry gal. Give me Shelley or Wordsworth and a library window looking out on the mountains? Pff. I don’t even need course credit for that.
I agree, reading submissions for NER has been super fascinating. I especially like the cover letters—good inspiration for all the fabulous lives I might lead if I ever get over the crippling fear of sharing my own writing. Pretty rad you’re into writing short stories. I do that a bit too, but lately I’m trying my hand at nonfiction, op-eds and all that jazz.
Gotta say, though, it’s tough to find time to write outside of class. Especially when I’ve got other creative stuff to do, like painting, or doing the cartoons for the school newspaper. Busy life. Makes me wish J-term (and this internship!) would never end.
P.S. Realized I never answered your question. America’s pretty good, so long as you don’t pay attention to the news. I also get kinda wigged out every time I go to the health center and they ask me, “how will you be paying.” What’s up with that?
Mid-winter . . . nearly noon
Back at my desk, pondering lunch
My Dear Elspeth,
My, Canada sounds like a wonderful place. Though I can’t quite wrap my mind around this “free healthcare” idea . . . what a confounding concept.
I am, though, glad to hear you have settled in to the peaceful lull of Vermont life. I am sad to be leaving the state so soon . . . just next year I’ll be wrapping up my 23-year stay here, and though I am anxious to see what is beyond these mountains, I will surely miss the fields full of
snow ice, the quaint old villages, and the rabid Bernie Sanders fans . . . I do hope you relish the two years you have left here.
Reading cover letters is certainly a highlight for me too. What interesting lives writers lead! Meditating in caves, studying marine biology at Cambridge, traveling the world. Perhaps this is what I should be doing if I want to truly train to become a writer . . . I may need to reconsider my plans for next semester.
Anyways, there is something I have been considering all this time I have written to you . . . Do you find it slightly odd, communicating in this fashion when we are sitting mere feet from each other, at our respective desks?
Besides, it’s been a while since I last ate, and I’d like to beat the mobs at Atwater Dining . . .
Sincerely, Truly, Yours,
Yeah, bit weird. Nice distraction from what I normally do, though, which is sit here and be jealous of your desk chair. You totally won the lottery on that one . . .
. . . and sounds like a plan re lunch. Could definitely go for some gluten-free ravioli, or whatever’s on the menu today.