Today I'm down with a cold, but I refused to let it affect my experience of a glorious fall day. My mom shopped for ingredients for chicken soup and made a large pot for all of us. After enjoying a steaming bowl of some delicious broth I perked up and went out. On a whim, we visited the campus of Guilford College to view some fall color and the incredible stickwork art of Patrick Dougherty. Elliot was enthralled with this castle made of sticks and asked if we could return every day. This masterpiece is currently inspiring the development of a stick fort in our back yard. Visiting the sight of Dougherty's castle is a great way for Elliot to discover that artistic expression is not confined to paper or digital media.
While we walked, Elliot remembered visiting the campus when I was a student and then later as an employee. He wondered,
"Mom, where are all of your old friends?"
Even with temps in the mid sixties and trees bursting with color, not many folks were out. We decided to venture into Hege Library, a building that is a sacred space for me. Eight years ago as a new student, the library felt intimidating with its stacks of complicated, dense and dusty books. By the end of my academic journey in 2007, the library had become my sanctuary and a rich resource for writing. Later, as a member of the staff, Hege became my home away from home. Although I left my position in order to venture into business, being the library's housekeeper was a spiritually fulfilling experience. I'm drawn to libraries the way some people love to be in church.
For months I've wanted to return to Guilford. Yet I needed time to shed the last residues of that uncomfortable "I used to work here and I'm just a tiny bit resentful and ashamed of my status as a common laborer" feeling. Staying away for a substantial amount of time helped to restore those wonderful feelings that attracted me to the campus from the very beginning. Today while walking under protected and revered trees, I felt a deep appreciation that Guilford College was a part of my life's path. There were years of slow going struggle and triumph, of excruciating choices between books, a new baby and a new relationship. My constant companion was an all pervading sense of anxiety, of being judged and evaluated. There were tears and joy in learning to write deeply and critically. An unexpected benefit has been the gift of being able to confidently speak publicly and to ask more from life. Years later, I'm still discovering that it's okay, that it's essential, to take the leading role in changing my personal circumstances and life path.
From Guilford I also received a new faith practice and now enjoy the bliss of silent worship.
Today even the harsh memory of overly critical and demanding English professors did not make me feel small and insignificant. I'm no longer more of a "reader" than a "writer." I no longer feel like a worthless, impoverished single mom starting an academic journey with no connection to anyone. Those days are thankfully behind. I am not the cleaning person. I am not even the greenhorn graduate who is clueless about job searching, networking and letters of recommendation. Today I was June's daughter and Elliot's mom and we were out together, smiling and taking photographs on a great day to be alive.