Today I finish up the second week of grad school. For the first time of my life I am living away from home, ostensibly independent concerning my social, academic, and spiritual life, and even making a little of my own money (small though it may be). By the grace of God I was settled into the home of a remarkably charming and generous couple, complete with two delightful Australian Shepherds that remind me of my own two dogs I left back home. From there I can step out the front door and walk – to a literally colorful village on the ocean or a private, cliff-locked beach. As someone who is accustomed to driving at least half an hour from a backwoods country home to get just about anywhere, the freedom this brings is nothing short of exhilarating. And the neighbors – good heavens, the neighbors! – it’s like one big family. Everyone is getting ready for Halloween and excited to see all the neighborhood kids in their cute little costumes and showering them with candy. They apparently have an annual fireworks show in October over the ocean, and it was like a block party with all the neighbors merrily walking to the beach to catch a spectacular, booming show.
All this is nothing compared to my delight in the courses I am taking. Few things make me so genuinely happy as working and discussing math and science problems with friends. I am studying the oceans, with my current favorite class being Physical Oceanography. Not only is the lecturer delightful (complaining, at his squeaky piece of chalk, “My nerves are going to be shot by the end of this” - in his British accent), but I absolutely love seeing multidimensional calculus and physics concepts combine into models of fluid dynamics and turbulence we use to study the ocean and its currents.
Not to mention, we’re going on a geology field trip next week. The geology of the coasts is not only breathtaking, but fascinating.
I was so worried about the move. So nervous about what I’d do without my family and friends and ballroom dancing like I have nearly every Friday since I was fifteen. But again, God is good. Not only is the couple I’m living with intent on showing me beautiful beaches and hiking trails and sharing delicious meals (corned beef & cabbage in autumn, anyone?) but I stepped into a church Sunday morning and was delighted with the welcoming atmosphere and in-depth service (any sermon referencing Gnosticism and using the words “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” is sure to catch my attention). They host small group worship/Bible study/prayer/social sessions for college-aged students and young adults Sunday evening, and that was a delight as well. Another activity that brings me genuine happiness: discussing the Bible and Christian life with friends. And did I mention I met a young woman there who goes swing dancing Wednesday nights? Ok, so maybe that’s not the best plan if my school schedule gets particularly crazy, but dancing may yet be in my future here too!
There's a 10-year-old homeschooled boy I’m tutoring in math and science. His eagerness to learn is a joy for me to see! I take walks to the Village, sit on the beach close to the waves or on a bench overlooking them, and enjoy long chats with my mom. I send my family snapshots of what I’m working on – doesn’t this just look so cool? Doesn’t it look like a work of art? And the place I’m staying at has a piano! Oh, the joys of topping off an intense study session with Chopin’s Little Dog Waltz or Joplin’s Entertainer. And they never seem to mind if my lack of practice induces mistakes.
I love life right now. I love the incredibly in-depth challenges these studies bring. I love driving my cute little car to school and back each day. I love being able to smell salt in the air when I drop by the grocery store, and savor a panoramic view of the ocean when I walk back to the school's parking lot. I love my new church. I love the people in this neighborhood. I love cliff-locked beaches, and the little girl on the block I've beachcombed with, eagerly asking what each little treasure she finds is and receiving the answer with wide eyes (and then asking, "So, how long are you going to be here? Like, a year?" *smiles happily at my affirmative reply*).
And I love that this Friday, I was able to go home. To visit my family and tell them all this in person. To step into my own rugged Sierra backyard and savor the very different beauty it possesses. And that I’ll also be able to go dancing again, at least this one last time before the quarter is over.