An Essay By Ben // 4/17/2003

I'm at home with all the home sights, home voices, home tastes and touches. I'm on break. This will be the first time in four years I've managed to be home for Easter, amazingly (Texas and Rome, Italy being my past Easter locations). Our magnolia tree has sprung its soft, white flowers; the peeper frogs have begun singing at night, and the brook across the street is horseback brown. My youngest sisters and I climbed the magnolia tree and visited the brook today. In honor of spring I shed my beard and about half the hair on my head, and as result I hardly recognize myself in the mirror. But the same is true for most things. Spring feels so fresh and sweet it is as though this were the first time I am experiencing it. And my family looks so clear and whole and full of personality I hardly believe we are the same people I knew ten years ago.

Over the past week I've probably taken about 200 photographs. We finally bought a digital camera, and this has opened up a whole new world of creativity for me. At last I can experiment without feeling bad about the wasted film and money. For all the times I have told myself, "that would be a great picture" I can now try to take that picture. We took the camera with us to the ocean this weekend, and I took it to an old, unused stone bridge in the woods. But my favorite pictures have been taken around our house, in our yard. The camera includes a great "macro mode" option for shooting close-ups of objects. I've taken some pictures of flowers and buds that you would think to find in a National Geographic article about some exotic island or jungle! You'll just have to believe me (unless you've experienced it yourself) that the unique beauty of each, individual flower, its detail and dappled pattern, is as beautiful as all of spring put together.

Of course break has been relaxing. However, I've also had to do a lot of work on my junior project. The first week of break I gleefully added more and more material to my Hopkins reading list, never realizing the terrible consequences. This, the second week, finds me with about 25 books I'm dipping into and reading, knowing full well that I won't read them all. I've only studied really well a few days of break so far – days I went to the public library with a backpack full of books, pencils and snacks and left seven hours later, triumphant, and in a sort of crazed ecstasy over Gerard Manley Hopkins. Can spending so much time on one poet be bad for your health? It certainly hasn't done harm to my poetic vision of the world. The photographs I shot this week reflect a new awareness on my part of the specific, varied life of nature. The way our tulip shoots emerged from the wet soil in all their green glory, delicate bands of lighter green running around their circumferences and inner energy pushing them up and up and out – it makes me think of Hopkins' words, "These things, these things were here and but the beholder / Wanting; which two when they once meet, / The heart rears wings bold and bolder" (Hurrahing in Harvest).

Spending so much time away from college reminds me of the world outside academics. It puts me in the awkward position of being both engrossed in "what I have to do" for school and full of thoughts for summer and a future after graduation. I just need to remind myself that always looking forward isn't a good thing. Spring is happening here, now, outside this house, and for this family. It would be a pity to miss it.


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