Thursday, September 8, 2011

Comfort Me with Taciturn

The majority of the poundage I lugged with me to Nepal and back was made up of books-- history books, Nepali phrase books, notebooks, pleasure books... I had planned to read Travels with Charley on the plane to Nepal, and then Harry Potter once I got there, filling in the available minutes with gems from my Robert Frost anthology. I brought Lonesome Dove as well, in case I was in the mood for a manly cowboy adventure instead of a manly magical one.

However, only a few hours into my flight from Boston to London, I realized that Travels with Charley and Robert Frost were out-- they reminded me far too much of home and everything that I was leaving behind. As I flew over London spectacularly lit up at night, I couldn't help but pine for the fiery reds and yellows on the turning trees Steinbeck passes through in Vermont, the roadside stands of pumpkins, squashes, and crisp red apples he eyes near the White Mountains, and the taciturn New Englanders he sits alongside in silence at the roadside restaurant in New Hampshire (what a delightfully perfect word, "taciturn"...). Instead of the pleasantly chatty and self-acclaimed tea-addict Englishman beside me on the plane, Steinbeck finds "customers folded over their coffee cups like ferns", surrounded by a breakfast conversation that "is limited to a series of laconic grunts".

"A normal conversation is as follows:
WAITRESS: "Cold enough for you?"
(Ten minutes.)
WAITRESS: "Refill?"

"...The natural New England taciturnity reaches its glorious perfection at breakfast" (Steinbeck, 28).

Now that I'm back at Smith, one of my goals is to reign in my own natural tendency towards taciturnity. My initial inclination while walking through the library or along the pathways to and from classes is to look down at the ground or up at the trees to avoid the eye contact of people passing by. I'm really quite overwhelmed with the prospect of small-talk, a fear which makes me appear far colder than I would like. While I am head-over-heals in love with the image (and the reality) of the crotchety old farmer, that's not who I want to be. Instead of looking thoughtful and introspective, I'm afraid what I do just makes me look like an asshole. But fortunately, I'm taking a lighter course load this semester, which means I'll have plenty of time to stroll through campus and practice being friendly.

Other plans for this semester:

1. Purchase an upgrade to my faithful but far-too-heavy road bike.

2. Explore the valley with my new bike and old pentax.

3. Type up my findings once I get back to my cozy third-floor room with the big window overlooking the trees.

Off to my first Smith class of the year--Asian American Women Writers, with Floyd Cheung. I'm shakin' up my schedule a little bit by taking my first english class at Smith! Still focused on women and gender though, I'm not gonna go too crazy...


  1. dearest LS, your plan for the fall sounds smart and sane and glorious.

  2. The fern imagery was one of my favorites! I wrote it down in my notebook too :)