Monday, August 24, 2009


I haven't had much time lately to sit calmly and observe the world around me. Dashing back and forth between my teaching obligations and my errands, I have failed to spend even a moment looking at beautiful things. I grant, too, that it is summer. Heat and humidity fail to interest me. The best flowers have faded into a verdant thickness. The trees can be lovely, but I prefer them in autumn, when their colors shift like a sunset's.

Today, however, is different. As you might have guessed from my coy introduction, I have found time this afternoon to sit. To look around. To enjoy beauty. Beauty has taken a particular form, too, this afternoon. Gilman Hall, the centerpiece of John Hopkins' Homewood campus, is being renovated. This lengthy process will come to an end, barring financial difficulties, in September of 2010. Meanwhile, a hideous scaffold sieges Gilman's historic exterior.

I'm currently sitting at a table on Q (quad) level of the MSE library on Hopkins' campus. I've sat here before. Many times recently. I have myself a little iced tea, or some water, and whatever lunch I've managed to scramble together. Sunflower seed butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches today. But, I've never looked out the window. Until today. I don't really know why. My curiosity has simply never directed me to turn my attention away from my work, from the people who bustle here, or from my own thoughts. I don't know what turned my head, but I'm glad for that little numen. For there, rising above everything else, is Gilman's clock tower. It is evidently finished. Sparkling white and copper. The time is wrong on the clock, as though trapped in a perpetual midnight, but the building is lovely.

We're also having a blue day here on campus. No clouds dot the sky, and so Gilman's bright, white form rises without competitor, a striking, handsome figure against the firmament. I've included a picture of old Gilman. It was lovely then, too. When the new building is finished, or as soon as I remember to bring my good camera, I'll take a few pictures. This process-- this beautification-- should be recorded. It should be noticed. I'm sorry that I haven't before now, but being sufficiently chagrined, I'll made a habit of looking up, taking a pause, and seeing the beauty around me.

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