This is a post to commemorate my semester’s final landmark: the last weekend trip. From this side of Milan, things look a lot like they’ve looked since about week two. The onrushing train of departure is just far enough away, around a sharp bend in the tracks; we can feel it rumbling, faintly, but it may still just be a thunderstorm, or perhaps the snoring of gods. It is just barely possible to ignore the numbers and the implications.

But when we get back from Italy this Sunday afternoon, things will have changed. We will have one week of school left and then one week of finals. The wrap-up events will cause a pile-up, as they always do – last movie night in the Main Hall, farewell Christmas party, last classes both good and bad, last weekend of us all together here in this funny little town. Last chance for hugs, trying to express what words help but ultimately fail to get across: I love you. You are important to me. People like you don’t happen every day.

I wasn’t intending to get off on this train of thought today. But we’re painting portraits in art class, taking turns sitting as subjects, and so this afternoon I sat in the slanting late-afternoon light of the atelier for about an hour and a half, listening to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and considering a concept which my mother calls “non-dualistic thinking”.

So.

Two things which appear to be opposites, incompatible, or mutually exclusive can nevertheless coexist in the world, and in a human being.

I can appreciate the amount of effort it requires to host students and still wish that our living situation did not at all resemble the one we got.

I can be pleased that my classes this semester were so easy and also be quite furious with their uselessness.

I can be living fully, as a whole person, in the current and preposterously fortunate moment and still recognize that pieces of myself are missing – snug on the top of an Iowa hillside, roaming the sun-baked wilds of Australia, standing in cozy Denver kitchens.

I can be heartbroken at the thought of leaving and deeply, longingly delighted at the thought of going home.

…The natural segue-way at this point is better suited to a wrap-up post than this one, still two weeks out. So I’ll leave you with one of my all-time favorite quotes, memorized from childhood (long before I had any clue what it meant) from the square of paper stuck to a cupboard in my mother’s kitchen:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself.
I am large. I contain multitudes.”
– Walt Whitman

Will be on a flight to Milan in nine hours! (Which, contrary to the tone of this post, I am EXTRA PUMPED about.) See you on the flipside, readers.

 

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