09 August 2009

Greetings From Our Nation's Capital

I am up in DC where it will be around 37C tomorrow (100ish F) and humid as only a city built on a drained swamp can be. What can they have been thinking? Philadelphia (the original capital) has much nicer weather, if you ask me.

So far, I have not done much but drag myself out on walks in the heat, ducked into the National Gallery for the sculpture garden, gotten gravel in my shoes and blisters marching around the National Mall and made thick clouds of smoke in the guest room where I sit and worry for most of the day. The pleasant side effect of all this worrying is that it has driven me to reading novels with a speed and concentration I thought I had lost years ago. I'm glad to find I can still read like that, with total absorption.

So far I have made it through 'Mariana' (Monica Dickens), 'Someone At a Distance' (Dorothy Whipple), 'No Fond Return of Love' (Barbara Pym), something else too light for me to name without embarrassment - snobby of me, I acknowledge - and most of 'Persuasion' (Jane Austen). Next in the pile is 'Cheerful Weather for the Wedding', which I bought on the strength of the fact that Virginia Woolf compared the author, Julia Strachey, to Katherine Mansfield.

I have been here four days.

Unfortunately, spending time with the parents has made me more muddled than less about what I ought to do with myself. They are very sweetly concerned about my health but with the result that I am more confused about what course I should follow in the immediate future. Between that and the long wait to hear about what funding I will have for next year, my anxiety, never very well moderated, is assuming operatic proportions. I wish, in my cowardice, that someone more competent could take over my life for the next few weeks, sort everything out and then hand it back over. However, I must do as E.M. Forster has recommended and face both the external and the internal situation bravely. I aim to do better than Lucy Honeychurch; I should like to do as well as Margaret Schlegel.

Tomorrow is church, which always makes me feel better. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I do wish, though, that my mother's church's new organist would not play everything so slowly. I don't have the breath control to make whole notes (semibreves) last that long. 'Joy to the World' sounded like a dirge at Christmas midnight mass this last year and became slower and more grandiose with each verse. I was gasping by the end of it.

I never meant for this blog to become so personal but I cannot get my mind un-mired from from the Slough of Despond that has made up so much of this summer. We are past Midsummer Night now and it is a relief to think how soon it will be autumn, my favorite season, full of the smell of rotting leaves and gloomy skies.

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