Homecoming: My Heart & Mind

I went back to my alma mater, Cornell College, the beginning of the month and I've wanted to write about the experience for several days but haven't found the time.  I had planned to do so this weekend, but in between play dates, church, social gatherings, and Fall Festivities combined with mounds of laundry, it didn't happen. Last night, as I was ironing the last piece of the pile and realized I did not have time to write, I had an aha moment... life would be easier if I didn't have any needs of my own.  My family's busy life is stressed even more because I have too many needs of my own -- to read, to write, to sleep 8 hours, to have a clean house, to work out, to have manicured nails. . .a long, silly list.

A part of me thinks that I should just silence my own needs and become a robot -- trade this sham of finding balance and focus on getting things done. Maybe I should just say to hell with the endorphins of exercise,  give up on the intellectual fulfillment from reading, the emotional release of putting my thoughts to words by writing, the satisfaction of enough sleep. Yet there is this part of me that can not be contained -- my heart and my mind and this nagging feeling that I deserve a piece of it all. This leads me back to my trip to Cornell College.

I took two days off of school for a long weekend and when storms threatened my trip, I decided to fly into another airport and make the drive across a piece of Iowa.
 It reminded me that a piece of my heart is in Iowa.  How can I be separated from it by five years at a time? 
 Memories of adolescent summers on RAGBRAI (which is another story) combined with the coming-of-age experiences at Cornell make this place a piece of home. A  big piece of my heart is here in these corn fields.

Going back to Cornell on any particular reunion year is coincidence and chance since I had friends in many classes, but I was so blessed by the people who were here this year.

Being with my Cornell friends was like getting a great big hug in life.  My dear friend Lisa, from Denver, CO, talked me into coming back this year, and I'm so glad she did.

She, Kate and I shared a room and it was special and easy beyond description.
We three figured out how to make the most out of our days there.

On Friday, I went to sign up to attend classes but I was not happy with the offerings set forth by the Alumni Office, so I found out where my favorite college professor and advisor was teaching.  When I saw his door was closed, I peeked my head into an open room near by and asked if I could stay. It was a fabulous lecture on 17th century Philosophy, on Descarte; the prof was charming, wise, witty, beautiful and about about 38 weeks pregnant. God, I love the way the midwest and a liberal arts campus breaks down the barriers this small-town souther girl puts on life and on women.

 At the break, when I introduced myself to her, she gave me her first name and I enjoyed small talk on philosophy as I was in awe of her wisdom and charm.

 After I grabbed a cup of coffee and admired the school spirit of the candy rack,

 I found my former History professor's door open for the break. He remembered me and I enjoyed listening to a lecture and class that is quite similar to one I was in over 15 years ago. Things of the mind, stories of human experiences don't change so much over the years. Like the beauty and feel of campus.

After lunch with my friends, I took the time for myself to go on a long run, to soak up the splendor of Iowa and spend more time on campus.

Being by myself on campus and seeing the purple touches rejuvenated me. I joked with a friend that when I was there, I was the only thing in purple. Now it is everywhere.

 I wonder if I appreciated the beauty, the heart, the mind of the Cornell experience when I was there as a student.

I certainly did on this weekend trip.

On Saturday, I met my dear friend Kristy for another walk and trip to the cafeteria for breakfast. I felt a little as if I'd turned into my father. When parents weekend came, my Dad (and Mom) thought the weekend was about him and he wanted to eat on campus, so we did.

Lisa, Kate and I also enjoyed the flavor of Mount Vernon, a beautiful small town.
 I connected with friends in various social circles,

and with the scenes of Cornell.

Before I left on Sunday, my college roomate Angie hosted a lovely breakfast for our friend Cheez (Andrea) and me.

Sitting around this table with Angie and Cheez, these two girls I met the first day I moved into college, I found myself thinking that there is no other place on earth where I am more "me" than with them.
 How dear so many people who crossed my path in those years are to me. I feel so loved, so understood and so appreciated there in Mount Vernon. What a life gift it was to go to college there and a blessing to revisit it now.

It is impossible to put words into what this trip or what the Cornell experience means to me, but I will try to tie it up with this vignette. When I was a student, I was asked to sit on the alumni board (I've always had friends older than I am) and I remember hearing a former student say something like this: the Cornell college liberal arts experience made me think that I can do and deserve the best.  While the degree I got here was important, what was more valuable is the confidence to go after what I want, what is meaningful. 

This still rings true for me. This life, or at least my life, is about the heart and the mind, the things which we proponents of the liberal arts value as utmost importance. Thinking, feeling, analyzing, and experiencing deeply are paramount to education, to life, and to a meaningful participation in all our endeavors. It happens in classrooms as a student, and on long runs as an adult. It happens when people discuss the meaning of life in a dingy midwestern bar or a sleepy mom finds time for her thoughts by writing a blog. The gumption to peek my head in a philosophy classroom because I can learn something or the courage to track down my advisor with the hope I'll be remembered was nurtured in and outside of the classroom at Cornell. Sitting in those classrooms, reconnecting with alumni of all ages and getting a big ol metaphoric hug from my friends I see far too little was just enough to remind me of who I am and what I value about life and about myself.

I'm a heart and mind type gal, and these heart and mind endeavors are worth my time. I am not a robot or productivity machine, but a human being whose fulfillments are worth the efforts. No other place on earth reminds me of my soul and its worth like my alma mater and the people to whom she introduced me. 

 Timothy 6:12

New International Version (NIV)
12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.