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Monday, July 16, 2012

Post #8: The WFS (Week Four Shift)

Hey folks! It's Monday, July 16th, and as of 9:00 am today, we've officially started the second half of Bread Loaf. It's time to discuss the Week Four Shift. With three weeks remaining in the session, one can detect a palpable focus gripping the campus. Students and teachers alike have acclimated to the idiosyncratic rhythm of the typical Bread Loaf work week, which is marked by the dynamic balance between relaxation, fellowship, and intense study. It is in this fourth week that the English Nerds truly come into their own and embrace their Nerdery in a way that---dare I say it?---makes them kind of cool. Even fearsome. One can't help but admire the way Nerdus Habilis will hunker down with 4-inch thick texts and devour them, tearing through passage after densely- written passage with savage intellectual fury. In sum, the festive atmosphere of the first half of Bread Loaf is replaced with the whizzing thrum of locked-in minds.
Whatever you do,
do not come between Nerds and their text.
 You will pay.

Front Desk Mavens are not immune to the effects of the Week Four Shift. Each of us is engaged in our own creative pursuits, from reading and writing, to knitting. Suddenly we find our lives awash in a flood of half-read books, manuscripts, trivia questions, spools of yarn, and recording equipment.

Maven MacNair will soon inform her friend of her plans
for an all-white, one-woman, upper-middle class knitting sweatshop. 

As for me, the Week Four Shift could not have arrived sooner. I came to Bread Loaf a man on fire. For starters, I wanted to record at least a dozen conversations with some of the many amazing teachers up here at Bread Loaf in service of my podcast, Minilessons. I had other goals as well, less concrete ones aimed at being a better person. I was going to be a man of restraint and composure, right the wrongs of the previous...30 years. My plan was to eat less, move my legs faster on purpose, and do something creative. But somewhere along the way I fell by the wayside. For instance, I did not realize Ripton Country store sold bags of potato chips.

"A man of restraint and composure." 

Dick, owner of the Ripton country store and shameless potato chip pusher. What a...nevermind. 

Thankfully, my priorities have shifted. My interests are trending inward. I'm honed in on the tasks at hand. Like the other Loafers, this Maven is getting down to work, going about the business of Mavening, Christian style. 

This is what Bread Loaf currently means:
 empty coffee cups,  books, and microphones.

This is David Wandera.
He is Kenyan. He is a PhD student at Ohio State.
He taught English Literature in Kenya for many years.
He has been coming to Bread Loaf for 9 summers.
Somehow, this totally amazing guy let me interview him. 

What it comes down to is this: Bread Loaf is already a place where people come to be a better version of themselves. The Week Four Shift is a way of recommitting to those goals, a mid-session tune-up, if you will. It's a second chance at a second chance to fulfill all those wild New Year's Resolutions we abandon by January 5th, the ones where we fantasize what our lives would be like if we exercised more, ate less, and read good books. How awesome would could we be, we wonder, if we could finish that novel we started years ago or if treated our fellow man with more kindness? And then we find ourselves tired out by the mere act of imagining such a life and go to the nearest McDonald's and take a nap on the sidewalk. 

Pre-Bread Loaf, Pre-Fourth Week Shift, Post-Trip to McDonald's. 

But the Week Four Shift is when we wake up. 

Christian Patrick Clarke
Front Desk Novitiate, 2012
Hic et Ubique

And now for today's installment of Edward Insults Me: Recently, at a school-wide picnic, Edward introduced me to a visitor, a Bread Loaf graduate, as Christian Clarke, the front desk "trainee." The visitor remarked, "Oh. Three weeks into the summer and still a trainee?" Edward responded heartily, "Let's just say that if Christian was here for ten years he'd still be a 'trainee.' Okay?" 

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