I really liked the Weekly Writing Challenge that WordPress put out there this week. Along with many other folks, this week I’ll be reflecting on something that I just can’t seem to throw away. 

There are two copies of John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding on my bookshelf. They are identical, and each contains an equal amount of underlines and margin-scribbles in my handwriting. I don’t know how or why I have two copies of this text, and they look pretty stupid sitting next to each other in the middle of my shelf. But I can’t seem to get rid of the extra (which one is the extra anyway? How am I supposed to decide which one is worth keeping?). So, they sit there redundantly.

I don’t consider myself to be a packrat. I move pretty frequently, which gives me regular opportunities to purge and organize my belongings. Nor am I super sentimental. I like to live in the present and not hold on to things simply because of what they mean to my memory. My books are the exception here. Each time I move, they get strategically boxed up and lugged to their new home, and reshelved with great thought and care.

A little over half of my books, circa the last time I moved.

A little over half of my books, circa the last time I moved.

But I haven’t picked up most (any?) of them since they were most recently unpacked. I’ve read most of them once, but probably won’t read them again. Some were gifts or assignments I ignored, and I won’t be reading them at all. Some are duplicates – Locke’s Essay is joined by a few other classics in my roster of books that should probably be donated, which also includes Shakespeare’s complete works (I have two copies of the largest book in the English language — why…). If I were more logical, I would part with all but a few of my books, especially when it comes time to once again pack them up.

That’s not going to happen though. Some people collect photographs or sentimental trinkets, but somewhere along the line I subconsciously decided to collect something much heavier and harder to move. In addition to being wildly inconvenient, my books are basically useless, especially if I never really read them. But I’m sitting here looking at their spines, and each one is a part of my story (plot twist!/double pun/sorry). Each one was purchased for a reason, and most are associated with a professor, or classmate, or question, or idea that has formed me in some way simply because it was there and it happened. Some of them make me smile, but not necessarily because of their content. All contain ideas that I’m not ready to dispose of yet, and I’m not sure I ever will or ever should be.

Maybe I am sentimental after all.


I love the topic of the latest weekly writing challenge, so I thought I’d give it a shot, while simultaneously fooling around with some story telling. Cheers!  

A couple of weeks ago I found myself at the bottom of a mysterious valley somewhere in southern West Virginia. It’s still not totally clear to me how we got there – in search of a state park, we simply followed a GPS down a cliffside dirt road. Typical Saturday afternoon.

There was a river at the bottom of the valley, and after an…adventurous…ride down, we thought it would be nice to get out of the car and check out the scenery a bit. We were also still under the delusion that we had followed the GPS correctly and were just in a really weird and remote state park.

As we were nearing the lake, a truck was driving away from it. From the look of the vehicle and the litter they left behind, they had probably camped there the night before. So this spot wasn’t totally off the grid, but by the time we got there, we were the only people around.

We parked the car by the edge of the river, got out, and began walking closer. This place was quiet. Music from the radio still ringing in my ears, coupled with the sounds of our laughter and apprehension from the drive down, I began trudging through brush and slushy mud, trying hard not to get my cheap cloth shoes too dirty (I have a tendency to dress inappropriately when it comes to mysterious-valley-adventures). But it wasn’t until I got to the edge of the river and let myself sink into the mud a bit that I realized the silence.

I live in a city. When I want to “get away,” I go to the suburbs. This was the first time in who knows how long that I genuinely could not hear traffic. Or people. I remember being surprised to notice that there weren’t even any birds making noise in the distance. Even the sound of my feet walking through the muck was something, compared to this. The silence, the void.

And it was unnerving. Of course, I took in the view, which was serene and comforting given the general busyness of my daily life. But that can only occupy my brain-space for so long (i.e., 30 – 60 seconds; I’m terrible at scenery), and with no auditory stimuli, I was at a loss for thoughts. So my mind was just there, in this valley and this void.

On further reflection, I think I thought something along the lines of “this is an experience. I’m going to write about it.” But that was it, the only thing I thought in all of five minutes.

Now, as I write this, the only things that I hear are some cars and airplanes, a couple of clocks ticking, and the sound of my typing (also, my stomach just rumbled, if that counts). I haven’t spoken in over an hour. But in the last five minutes, I’ve made plans for tomorrow night, produced a couple of to-do lists, noticed all the dirt on the floor that I need to sweep up, tried to decide how to phrase these paragraphs, and written and re-written a couple of hundred words. I have not been unnerved by tonight’s “silence,” because I am in my comfort zone and perfectly content.

That silence in the valley was uncomfortable. Not because of any baggage or emotional strife or anything like that, but because of how little I could do with it. And I knew then that I probably shouldn’t have been so uncomfortable, and that bothered me too.

I broke the silence first, and it was in a whisper. I didn’t want to disturb the void.