木曜日, 9月 09, 2004

When the appointed day came, I packed an overnight bag, turned off my computer and telephone, caught a cab to Grand Central Station, and boarded a Hudson Line train for Cold Spring. It was hot and rainy in Manhattan and warm and noisy on the train, and I squirmed uncomfortably as I watched the river roll by outside my window, feeling more than a little bit nervous at the thought of all that time on my hands. An hour and ten minutes later, the train pulled into the Cold Spring station. I was the only passenger who got off. I couldn’t see the village through the trees and wasn’t sure what to do next, so I called the inn on my cell phone and asked for directions. Three minutes later, I was standing in front of the Hudson House Inn, looking across the street at the broad, tree-lined river and listening to birds chirping away just over my head. On the far shore was Storm King Mountain, shrouded in the light gray mist of a muggy June afternoon. For no reason at all, my eyes filled with tears.

I checked in—I was the only guest—and took a shower and a nap. Then I went out again and planted myself on a rough-hewn park bench a stone’s throw from the water. Behind me was the inn, before me the mountain, beside me a neatly painted hexagonal bandstand whose cornerstone proclaimed it to have been built in 1929, three years after my father was born. A pier lined with old-fashioned streetlights, all but deserted on that quiet Tuesday afternoon, jutted out into the river. I sat for a half-hour and watched the freight trains rumble down the tracks at the foot of the mountain. A white sailboat glided by in the warm orange sunlight. Some wry impulse had led me to tuck a copy of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Shadows on the Hudson in my shoulder bag, but I didn’t feel like reading, or using my cell phone to check my messages, or doing anything other than sitting on the bench, gazing in silence at the river and the mountain and the summer sun.
--Terry Teachout

The beauty of American colleges (as opposed to Taiwanese ones) is that they give you so much free time. It'll be another ten years before I can afford to spend two nights at Cold Spring on a whim, but I can easily skip a class, walk to the river, and enjoy an afternoon of doing nothing. And, to be honest, no undergraduate class I took in the past year has changed me as deeply as finishing Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series. Twenty books, spread out from November through April, and it felt like a lifetime. Correction: two lifetimes. The proper way to enjoy those books is to finish Blue at the Mizzen and start Master and Commander again. You literally feel the weight of those years lift from your heart, and, like Jack and Stephen, you are young again.