The Gustavian Weekly

Spending time thinking | The Gustavian Weekly

By Olivia Karns Commentary Editor | January 21, 2011 | Opinion

Looking in the sparkling snow, you can see only a shaky shadow. Creative Commons.

I am that kind of person. The one who fills every single slot of the schedule with meaningful and meaningless activities. You know the type: always a little late, always spilling a little bit of coffee, yawns frequently, has a laugh that makes you think it could very easily turn into tears—there are many of us on this campus. And the truth is—I like being that busy.

Unfortunately, for people like me, that sort of harried discombobulated existence becomes more difficult during the post-holiday season and January Interim Experience. I went home to Alaska for Christmas Recess at that point in the year when light extends no more than three hours and 20 minutes per day and the temperature rarely graces you with anything above about -20 degrees. And Alaskan winter light is not like normal light—it isn’t the sun full and high in the center of the sky. At home, the sun just peaks its head over the hills to bathe you in a thin, pale light, only to begin its tired descent an hour later. These kinds of conditions are not conducive to great activity—it’s possible, but only with careful planning and forethought.

Being home in the dark and cold was very difficult for me. It wasn’t necessarily the Alaskan winter that bothered me per se, but the lack of schedule, the lack of routine was extremely unsettling. I, for the first time in many months, had time to think.

And, you know, it’s those little issues. The ones that seem so small when competing with the slew of papers, tests, readings, projects, sports, music lessons. social time and volunteering. The personal things seem so little and trifling. It is the thoughts that you had promised to “deal with later” that become so inconsiderately immediate. All of those once minor questions clamor for answers.

Quality contemplation, I realize, is something that I really like to avoid—the slow but temporary upset that it causes is too painful for someone who prefers the instant gratification of hard work on a project equating a good grade. But, back in Minnesota, sitting in a chair, looking out on a smooth cover of snow with nothing to do but write, I wonder how I ever avoided it in the first place. Looking in the sparkling snow or the smooth ice, you can see only a shaky shadow or a warped reflection. The darkness allows for no distractions, only time and stillness. January allows for no escape, but demands that careful thought and searching that refines scope and desire. January Interim Experience is about education outside the classroom, education that is the most difficult and the most important.

1 Comment

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  1. Jeannie says:

    Very well written and thought provoking.

    Thank you!