The prodigal son (daughter) returned home (SLC) this week and was warmly welcomed with tons of hugs, plenty of couches, and one brunch at Bates... it felt good.
My homecoming began the night before I left Chicago. Wednesday night a friend of a SLC-friend came to town and joined me at the Regina Spektor concert. -- Regina Spektor played at SLC during my first year of studies. My peers and I fell in love with the music, bought cds, burned copies. Soon after there wasn't an hour in which Ms. Spektor played somewhere in the house of 26 girls. -- The show was pretty great! She is one of the most talented musicians I have ever seen live. The way that she uses rhythm and manipulates her voice is awe-inspiring. Plus she is adorable, clever, and silly.
And then Thursday morning I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to complete several sudoku puzzles in the terminal. At one point a woman sat behind me and started talking on the phone. I wasn't paying attention until I heard her say, "I can't believe that I just met Angela Davis!" At that moment I turned around and looked at her with shock and awe. After she got off the phone I asked her what happened. Turns out, Angela Y. Davis was at O'Hare at that same moment, eating a salad, and this woman, Teresa (I think), happened to recognize the revolutionary and happened to have her book on her at the time. So Teresa got her book signed (I saw it, I can attest) and her card (I saw that, too) and was asked to send Ms. Davis some of the Spanish speaking political hip hop music she's been writing. Ms. Davis's seeds have been sown and are blooming into the immigrant rights movement happening now. I was happy to share Teresa's excitement.
Then in NYC I met up with my former roommate, Nicole, and we walked around the east village and ate falafel and cake. We discussed our lives and our experiences abroad and our potential futures and feminism. During this last topic, I turned to Nicole and said, "You are so smart!" And she laughed and thanked me and then acknowledged that I have been devoid of SLC-thought for a year now and so I am just not used to conversing with such a cosmopolitan, interdisciplinary thinker.... this is true. While I knew that I had been craving intellectual dialogue, I didn't really realize exactly what was lacking.
I didn't get on to campus until around 11pm. Silly as it may seem, my first stop was the library, where I was faced with the aftermath of a new SLC controversy. I was greeted by a security guard who asked me to sign in and deposit any food or beverage I had. It seems that after several loud and annoying mobile phone conversations, some litter, and a rowdy game of "strip study," Michelle punished with excessive security. This was the first day of the crackdown, and in proper SLC fashion, by the time I left the library, 45mins later, I was able to participate in a petition and letter writing campaign. You will be glad to know that our protests were not in vain, by Monday afternoon, the food and beverage bans had been lifted, allowing students to study 24 hours per day with the comfort of a granola bar and water bottle.
SLC is a campus which changes significantly annually because the student body. Most Juniors study abroad, first years are new, and seniors return from abroad. So stepping on campus, there were many, many unfamiliar faces, everything seemed a little bit strange. I guess this made it more exciting, warm, and surprising everytime I ran into a familiar face. I exchanged a lot of "You?!" "You!!"
I don't think I engaged in so much dialogue this weekend, but tons of hugs. After the initial period of looking at each other's face, and scanning the brain to place the familiar features into context, we would say each other's name, hug, look at each other, hug, talk about life, hug, kiss, hug. It is as if we needed to physically feel each other in order to believe that we were there. Our brains had filed this relationship away as recent history, but now that I returned to that space and we physically interacted, the relationship is reawakened.
I chose this weekend so that I could attend the Spring Dance Concert. And so I went Friday and Saturday nights. Everything was really great and well choreographed, but I have realized how much this semester of studying performance art has changed my perspective. I constantly thought about the audience's experience, my experience, and how I wanted to engage more with it. I wanted to feel the dance with the dancers, creating a mix of anxiety and excitement. One dance placed the audience on the floor, in a circle, surrounding the dance. While I am sure the choreographers thought about the symbolic representation and the multitude of perspectives, I was most attracted to the sensation given by the sprung floors. During that piece I could see, hear, and feel the dancers and their bodies. I am excited to return to this dance department and I feel more confident in my opinions, desires, and work. I am now an artist more than ever.
I also saw so much natural beauty this weekend. Chicago is really devoid of nature. Sure there are several parks and the entire lakefront, but everything is well furnished and within the sights and sounds of rushing cars. SLC has such a beautiful campus. Almost every building was built to preserve as much of the natural rock and tree arrangements as possible. I took midnight strolls and early morning walks, just to gaze upon the SLC treasures. I also joined a dear friend in Brooklyn where we ate a picnic in Prospect Park and then strolled through the cherry blossom festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The weather was absolutely perfect this weekend.
It was a great homecoming and a good time for reflection. Going back helps me see what I've gained and what I've missed while away. I think I will be able to return without getting too caught up in the bubble and be more thoughtful and wise when I fight for change.
Yesterday, May First, was International Worker's Day, and thus a time for protests and celebration. Many classes were canceled in solidarity of the immigrant workers strike and several professors spent their day marching. The Red Room is now running as a public space, meeting place, and infoshop. Progressive Produce organized a weekly farmers market on campus. Empty Bellies continues to run car-loads of leftover food to a food shelter in the Bronx daily. I am excited to return to such an energized, self-reflective, critical, and active state of being and environment. The prodigal son will return again.