Oh, Just Lately

A lot has happened since I last wrote to you all. I finished my junior year of college with a bang and a flash— actually enjoying some of my finals which made it all the more special. Particularly, my favorites were writing about “Commodified Reenactments to Cure Terminal Trauma in Tom McCarthy’s Remainder” and an analytical and creative piece on the legacy of Tupac in Kendrick Lamar’s “Mortal Man” in To Pimp a Butterfly (yes I sadly, but perhaps more concisely, wrote this just weeks before Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers came out). My other Growth & Structure of Cities and History finals were methodical but satisfying. And since then along with feeling grateful for some of the extra awards I also completed a three day training seminar for my big fellowship that I am using to advance my research this summer. It was interesting to see that my project was inspired by a moment I had interning at the museum (which was inspired by a dream about a lighthouse) versus the subject of a paper or a class. If anything, it only solidified the idea that I want to get my PhD in English because hell no I will not stop learning yet. 

The day after I submitted my last final I honored my mom’s tradition of reading a non-academic book in one day. This time it happened to be The Backyard Adventurer by Beau Miles. I have loved his youtube channel for a while because his eccentric quirkiness where he develops these rich and nuanced stories from experiences and spaces we oftentimes or otherwise overlook is something I’ve actually found extremely relatable. While his comments sections often contained long winded accreditations about the creativity of the subjects themselves I oftentimes find myself thinking, hey I’ve had an idea just like that one before. His book was great, a little quirky in the grammar department, as I am myself. Here are some of the best passages:

“Then a chunk of dumbarse porridge gets caught in your beard and all of a sudden, the very act of adventuring and expeditioning becomes as routine as home life. A fork in the road, or a rough landing on an unnamed beach in a foreign country, becomes no more or less engaging than having your shoelaces tied by 06:45 in order to make the 06:52 express, putting you at your desk by 08:05 in time to drink your third cup of coffee by 08:30. You dramatise the hum-drum routine of making a particular train, to the point where it takes over your imaginations and desires, much like the tantalising prospect of paddling yourself to a coastline of coconut palms and few people had inspired you years earlier”


“Every time I drive from the city to where I live in the country, there is a moment in the journey where I exit the multilane highway in a perfect arch, slowing to a T-intersection that heads off onto a small country road. Everything industrial and fast-paced seems to instantly slow down and simplify in that moment. I feel the transition every time. Home is then 15 minutes away, up a small road with bends and cracked edges, where overhanging trees make it hard to make out water from shade or roadkill. I tend to take stock of things every time I re-enter home range. I count animals and inspect farmers’ sheds, wondering when or if the owners have seen that their east-facing hayshed has two sheets of iron missing on the southern wall. I watch trees grow and die, notice weeds that colour the paddocks in different unnatural shades every other month, responding to rain and the tilt of the Earth. It’s the best part of the journey as I pinball through the moving parts of my district, navigating towards the bells and whistles of home”


“I’ve often heard people say that taking a book on expedition distracts you from the place you’re in. Sure it does, but I can’t fathom how that’s a bad thing, it just loads you up with more comparse points to think about the very place we find ourselves. Animatice of words becomes an immensely satisfying story as the viewer of one scene and thinker of another. It’s a hell of a thing to have two hemispheres of brain conjuring two hemispheres of Earth, ail at water, dirt and sand”  


“Besides, I secretly love habits and routine, finding myself  constantly using one spoon and a particular cup, and wearing the same four pairs of undies on high rotation. Most of the stuff in our kitchen is used by Helen, or the occasional visitor, and there are parts of the couch I’ve never sat on. At work, running in the deep shade of a room on the wide rubber band of a treadmill with the fan on is utterly fine. My peeve with routine and repetition is therefore riddled with contradiction, resting squarely on my shoulders as a conundrum of perception. I know this”


I also read Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour of Europe which was way too close to what I learned in my pre-modern Architecture class this semester but still a good read. I’m a fan of McCloud because of his awe inspiring television series Grand Designs, which is my second favorite show of all time. All four architects that he looked at were ones I did projects on in my cities class so it was definitely good to be reminded of their importance. 

The third book I just finished is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The gravity of this nearly 600 page book is going to take a while for me to fully sit with so a review is coming in the future but not now. I read it because all of the literature I encounter in my classes often references this extraordinary work and I knew I had to get to the bottom of this origin. 

And so now I’m just living day to day in the garden state until I head up to the Quietside for the next ten weeks. I know soon I will be completely enthralled in Ruth Moore and American literary regionalism only! So until then, I am trying to read those loose ends that I still desire and crave. Between planning for the fellowship, getting IRB handled, and reading these genre-bending, as creative as me types of words, I know I’ll be busy enough.

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

One thought on “Oh, Just Lately

  1. Ella, you dazzle me. I so enjoy vicariously your flights of imagination and adventures. You’ve certainly” found your voice” So proud❣️

    Sent from my iPhone



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