Faces and Illuminated Manuscripts

I wander into the throng of people, past the long table covered in delicious-looking food, and into the gallery. I haven’t been in this building in nearly two years; the tile floors and walls of windows remind me of creative writing classes and theatre monologues and my first interview for college admission.

Now I’m twenty-four years old and attending the senior project of a fellow lit-journal friend. I’m not sure who I’ll run into, who will glance at me from across the room and smile (or not smile). I rarely like to read about the projects first – the words get all tied up in my mind and crowd out what my eyes are seeing – so I skip ahead and look at the repetition of trees and brick building edges. In the center is a dark, tiny room, with illuminated manuscripts meticulously created. Candles flicker, and I want to reach out and touch despite the “Please Do Not Touch” sign.

I know it’s hers when I see the faces, familiar faces that I can’t put names to. The oil paintings watch us as we gaze, and I’m shocked at the enormity of time and material and space this takes up.

[My senior thesis was “Poetry and Music”, a mere hour and ten minutes of my hardest and best and most exhausting work. English, German, Italian : aria, song, jazz. That was two years ago.]

I know why I’ve come when I run into an old professor, a man who sat across from me in a Salzburg coffee shop and didn’t have to pretend he was interested in our conversation. We stand talking, he, his wife, another art professor, and I.

Teaching Latin at a Christian school. Love it.

What’s next?


You’ve got the moxie for that.

And even though I’ve never heard the word “moxie” other than soda, I know what it means, and I smile.

So it can be done! You did it – taught and created and studied – and now look at you! Yes.

My fear of being the one who “had so much potential” but never quite cut it ebbs as I see the lack of concern in their eyes.

We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.

– “Blue House” by Tomas Transtromer

2 Replies to “Faces and Illuminated Manuscripts”

  1. I relish that feeling. As we make plans to move back to Chicagoland and my husband will be teaching at our much loved undergrad I’m geeking out about the oppotunities to befriend these much loved professors. I’m still a bit dumbstruck by the few who have sought me out (via facebook no less!) to celebrate our return!

    Your coffee shop conversation sounds like such a gift, here’s to remembering the soul-boosting that comes from the affirmations of our mentors. Now if only I knew how to return that gift!

    1. That sounds amazing! I love that they don’t forget us when we’re gone 🙂 My English advisor told me: “You don’t know how wonderful it is to see a former student doing well and being happy.”

      Maybe that’s gift enough?

      Have a safe move! And enjoy your new (old) digs!

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