Summer Postcards from Our Three Campuses

Postcard from New Mexico

Three of us spent part of the last afternoon singing and strumming guitars on a balcony looking southwest over the city. I thought again about how fortunate I was to have passed these days in a place of such beauty and with such people. The music went on, and a moment of profound cohesion came upon me: somehow every part of my time here—the classes, the hikes, the conversations, the trips to Taos, the hours of reading and writing, this jam session—seemed inseparable, intertwined inextricably in a unified experience. But then the moment, much like the last six weeks (and, as I’d feel soon after getting home, the whole summer) was gone, and the song ended.

Later, I knew, I’d pack the car, try to sleep, and leave before dawn for the first leg of the 2,000-mile return journey. As I shook my companion’s hand in parting, guitar slung over my shoulder, I inwardly lamented that it would be another year before I could discuss Walker Percy with someone in person. I hope I’m wrong. Either way, I left Santa Fe with my sights already set on next summer.
—Bob Uhl

 

Postcard from Oxford

There we were: the Bodleian Library. It was our second day in Oxford, our first in the library’s hallowed halls. We were getting inducted into the ranks of Bodleian readership, which was a big deal. We sat on benches older than the United States. The light was dim, the wood paneling was dark, and the portrait on the wall glared at me, daring my jet-lagged eyes to close.

So I listened carefully as a robed don related the library’s storied history, including the time it refused to lend a book to King Charles I. That’s how seriously the Bodleian takes its mission to protect and keep books on-site and available to all. No exceptions, even for royalty.

And so I, too, raised my right hand and recited the vow required of every Bodleian reader: not to injure, deface, or remove any book, and “not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame.”

It was that last line that made me look around and silently ask, “Is this really happening right now?” And I kept asking that question all summer. Are we really going to see Ralph Fiennes play Richard III? Is our professor really taking us punting on the Thames? Did librarians really find me a first edition? Does the Bodleian really close at 7 p.m.? Really? Even though my paper’s due tomorrow?

Yes. Yes we are and yes she is and yes they did and yes it (sadly) does. It’s all rather wonderful and slightly absurd, and I wish I could do it again.
—Jessica Bonnem

 

Postcard from Vermont

My friends are convinced I go away to visit a cult each summer; I kinda get it. After all, I love Bread Loaf the same way we all love Bread Loaf—in that crazy, all-consuming, body-fatiguing, punch-drunk, zealot way. And we Bread Loafers do drink a lot of lemonade. And then there’s that minor detail of our coming home different people each summer, having been reprogrammed by intensive intellectual and socioemotional experiences. 

I officially gave up trying to dismiss my friends’ cult notion this year after spending the 2016 term smearing myself with chicken blood . . . in the name of art and literature, of course. You get it. You’re a Bread Loafer. I’m not crazy: I’m inspired.

If we are a cult, we’re a cult of the inspired—the dreamers, the eager beavers, the lean-in-ers. We believe anything is possible . . . or, at least, that very little is impossible . . . and this energetic limitlessness makes us a dangerous cult, indeed: one capable of great production and impact.

Another summer of leaning in with amazing professors and peers yielded a great deal for me, at least. In Multi-Genre Writing, I produced pieces that not only honed skills but also opened surprising and satisfying introspective windows. I scrambled through one of these windows—an essay about my mother—in a solo performance for Doug Jones’s class (enter chicken blood as symbol of family bonds and legacies). Both the window and my journey through it gifted profound personal insights well worth enduring a little skepticism from dear friends. Certainly, they were worth the bloodstains.
—Eloise Lynch