I'm back from my mountain top retreat, back with that surreal sense that it all went too quickly, and that I barely perceived I was there before it was time to leave.
And then I returned to my daily life of endless e-mails and interesting interruptions. Yesterday, I looked up to see a young woman who said, "They told me you were the only one who could help me."
This could be intriguing, I thought. Did she have a poetry question? A theology question? Something more mundane, like the location of a class or a teacher?
Turns out, she had broken her shoe and wanted me to tell her Math teacher that she'd be late because she had to go home to get a new shoe. But I knew that once she drove to her home, which was at least a half hour drive if the traffic cooperated, and then drove back and then hunted down a parking place, she'd likely not make it to Math class.
"Can't we fix your shoe?" I suggested. Her shoe was a flip flop kind of jeweled sandal, where the straps had come apart from the small stem that connects it to the sole.
We looked at it together. We tried to fix it with some office supplies. I knew we needed a safety pin. Luckily, I had a friend nearby who has everything in her purse, from safety pins to band aids to bus fare to an extra pair of underwear and socks. She was happy to donate a safety pin, and with a few, decisive stabs, I fixed the shoe and sent the student on her way.
I saw her a few hours later and the shoe was still holding together. Hurrah! We saved her a trip, some gas money, and perhaps her Math grade.
Just a day in the life of an administrator--the kind of day that seems surreal in retrospect. My PhD in British Literature didn't really prepare me for this. Or did it? I'll spend some time thinking about the literature I read and think about how it prepared me for my current life--something pleasant to ponder during the next boring meeting.
Or maybe I'll adopt my own secret slogan that will amuse me: What would Wordsworth say?
Wordsworth would be appalled and tell me to get back to the mountain--but he'd also be appalled at the Super Wal-Mart that sprawls across the formerly pristine mountain top. When I was a kid, if you forgot to bring something with you to camp, you were stuck--there wasn't a place close to buy a replacement. Not now.
So, Wordsworth would be appalled, just as he likely was in real life. But I suspect someone like Christina Rossetti or Elizabeth Barrett Browning would observe my life and smile; they would understand. And they, too, would have a band-aid or a safety pin to give me if I needed one.