April 30, 2009

Eye of the Storm

Architecture Hall is unnaturally quiet. Or perhaps this is a natural stillness, one which repeats every four months. It simply seems so different after the last fourteen weeks of anything but. The inside of this sprawling building matches the low overcast skies. The Barn, Attic, Labs - all dark. The faculty are only just beginning to slip quietly in, wearing somber trench coats and dark hats. I arrived, early if not bright, as the big hand ticked past where the eight should have been, had the clock in the studio had numbers rather than a squiggly "Whatever!" on it's face. Today is the Last Day.

The Last Day arrives each semester. It is the day of the final critique on whatever project has been burning up our minds recently. For myself, it is the same project: Windhorse. This Last Day is unlike other last days. I do not have the camaraderies of studio-mates to fall back on. The cheerfully cynical comparisons of hours awake, computer crashes, printing problems, holding doors open for carefully hand-glued models, standing on tip-toe to pin up the boards in the gallery. No, it's just me, sitting quietly on the empty planning floor, typing away while I wait for the media center to print my presentation onto two three-foot wide sheets. The traffic outside the third floor window, the hum of my computer, and the ticking of the clock that doesn't care are the only sounds.

This Last Day started a week ago. I returned home on Thursday and set to work. I found an entire extra day on Friday, thanks to the obscure state holiday called Arbor Day, for which the office where I work was closed. Since then I've left my apartment three times: twice to the DN offices and once for groceries. Most days I didn't leave my pajamas. When my brain started to seize up, I took a shower, sometimes at very odd hours. My jeans are inevitably looser today, not because I didn't have time to eat, but because I didn't have the ambition, and next week will be a wonder of caffeine withdrawal.

I used to hate this. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Some might mistakenly conclude that I've simply gotten used to it. Truth is, one never really gets used to this. What I have gotten used to over these last six years (has it really been six?) is the "woe is me" story that comes with it. "I've worked so hard for so long...we've all worked so hard...my project is crap...my professors don't understand...I had computer/printer/rendering/modelling problems...I haven't slept...haven't eaten...need to be fished down off the ceiling with a butterfly net." It's all true, but so what? Time to let it go.

Today is a good day. Not some shiny pop culture good day with rainbows and shopping and the love of your life in some funny storybook meet cute. It's drab and depressing and I'm tired and fuzzy and, maybe only for this moment, here, present. Thunder has been rumbling all week. It always seems appropriate that Dead Week happens during the height of tornado season. Now they tell us more storms are rolling in from the west. So I sit here on the third floor of Architecture Hall, work, and wait.

I have always loved thunder storms.

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