Author Archives: Joan Thompson

The Light Though

Something I’ll never quite get used to at Midd is the evening light. The “golden hour” which happens right after the sun goes up in the morning and before it sets in the evening is universally a wonderful thing, but I’ve never seen it quite as beautiful as it is in Middlebury. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t even necessarily require a beautiful day. Sometimes the best evening light comes from days with funky clouds or a little rain. Maybe it has something to do with the hills and dales the light seeps through, or maybe it’s because it catches you by surprise as you’re walking to dinner or to a meeting.

Tonight was a beautiful one. So we made some sandwiches and wrapped some pie up in paper napkins and walked out to the garden. Still a little chilly, especially as the sun went down, we snuggled together on the hill, ate walnut bread and avocado, watched the sun set, and talked and laughed.

We have three weeks until graduation and three more weeks of being bathed in these beautiful evenings. I hope these next few weeks are filled with lots of dinners outside in the grass.

Got my carrel!

I finally got my thesis carrel!

At Midd, seniors have the option to sign up for reserved study carrels (not carrols, carolls, carels, carrells, or carells and I now confidently know) in the library. Last semester I did not have one because I was not yet working on my senior project, and, while working at a library table or at a friend’s carrel, I nerdily pined for my own. These carrels become campsites where you can hunker down with your fave snacks and work away. And now I have one, and it’s lovely.

I’m writing my senior essay on the role of governesses and haunting in Victorian novels. Victorian governesses operated in liminal space because of funky dynamics with their class and gender, as do ghosts because of their being neither alive nor dead. The books I’m examining (Jane Eyre and The Turn of the Screw) both have ghosts and governesses with a lot going on between them, and it’s the area I’m exploring for this essay, which by May will (hopefully) be around 40 pages. It’s a topic that I know enough about to want to learn more, and I’m currently doing a lot of that at my carrel (and checking email, reading articles, and taking Buzzfeed quizzes). 

So if you’re ever around the the North Side Main Level Mezzanine in the Davis Family Library, come say hello. I might even share my snacks with you.


Never Too Late

In Midd-December (get it??) my 97-year-old grandfather, Preston, died peacefully in his sleep. He was a man of few words and constant projects. Always an engineer, he devoted his retired years to transforming old railroad tracks into bike trails, building boats in his garage, riding his recumbent bicycle, and learning to play bridge. Not only did Preston remain active into his aging years, but he did so despite the fact that cataracts had made him legally blind. While Preston had many sustained lifelong interests, what characterized him equally was his constant attraction to new and exciting ventures. He was always looking for the next way to sharpen his mind or skills.

When I was seven years old a few of my friends began taking piano lessons. I felt anxious that I had missed the boat and my friends would all go off on musical adventures without me, and that I would never ever be able to play the piano if I didn’t begin NOW. Unfortunately this attitude was not new for me and my parents had the wisdom to say “no” to many things I had fleeting interest in like horseback riding, harmonica lessons ( mostly because they don’t really exist), tap dancing, etc. But I was positive piano was different and that is was REALLY important that I start. But my parents held a firm “no” as I was already quite busy (and prone to melt-downs when starved for downtime).

Anyways, it was around that time Preston began taking piano lessons, meeting weekly with his teacher and tapping out progressively more complicated melodies on the keyboard in my grandparents’ living room. I found this image of an old man struggling with the same tunes my friends were learning to be incredibly calming. If Preston could start playing piano in his eighties, then I had plenty of time.

I remember this moment whenever I feel like I’m too old to start something new. This J-term it was cross-country skiing. My friends Becky, Gregg, and I all decided to take lessons together. The people at Rikert are wonderful, patient, and  excited to share their love of the sport. Tiring and fun with beautiful scenery, learning to ski has been a great thing to do this month, even if my instructors have been younger than me.

Here’s a picture of me and my fellow nordic newbies Becky and Gregg in the bright, bright sun!


Missing Midd

In the words of current hit “Let Her Go” by Passenger (check out the cover by Jasamine Thompson– it’s better in my opinion) “you only know you love her when you let her go.” While the song’s sentiment is a little more dramatic than my life is right now, it is true that sometimes it takes distance to reflect on how much I love something. For me and Midd, winter break often provides that time. It’s a break just lengthy enough that I begin to long for my bed at school and my friends and Proctor apples. This is my fourth winter break during which I anticipate a return to Middlebury in early January, and it being my last one it is particularly thoughtprovoking. Some things I am missing about Middlebury right now:

– Burger Night at 51 Main. A quasi-religion for me, burger night provides the iron and companionship that makes me my best self. I live in a vegetarian home, and sometimes I just really miss Vermont beef and the friends I eat it with.

– Wilson Cafe Booths. Great light. Just enough activity to provide the white noise I need to focus best on whatever it is I’m doing.

– Sunsets. I say it often, but there is something about Vermont sunsets, something that sets them apart. I think it’s the way they take you by surprise. People often observe sunsets when they expect them to be beautiful: at a mountain’s summit, at the beach, at your cousins new condo “with the greatest view”. But at Middlebury, the sunsets sneak up on us as we leave class and cross the street, head to the library, or sit at an early dinner. The seep under doors and through windows. They intercept your regularly-walked routes. The everyday sunsets in Vermont have an undeniable edge on the competition.

– My friends being near. Next door, down the hall, or across campus, friends are all close. The convenience and closeness it brings is something I take for granted when I’m there, but miss most when I’m away.

It’s about to be 2014, and I’m looking forward to returning to a familiar place for a new year.


It got cold

Every year around this time a similar phenomenon happens at Middlebury. While we know it is coming, it inevitably always is a slight surprise: it gets cold.

The other morning I woke up and it was 7 degrees. Granted, this is particularly cold for November, but not unheard of. I happened to be driving up to Burlington that day when I passed a local middle school. They had one of the those signs that displays the name of the school, and space to post various announcements in change-able letters. Instead of the usual notifications like dates for Thanksgiving break or congratulations to the district choir champions, this sign said just one simple phrase: Pray for Snow!

Oftentimes when people are visiting Middlebury, particularly those from warmer climates, the weather causes them a lot of anxiety. It does indeed get very cold here, but unlike a lot of places that get equally cold, the winter brings excitement in Vermont in a way it does in few other places. I am from Philadelphia. In Philly it gets pretty much just as cold and snows some, but most people consider the cold a drag and the snow a headache. In Vermont, the cold is exciting because it means snow is not far behind.

While I still don’t identify as someone who loves the cold, when I am in Vermont I find myself praying for snow a little bit too.

PCI Young Alumni Showcase

Middlebury’s Project on Creativity & Innovation in the Liberal Arts (PCI) has been the nucleus on campus for tons of interesting projects since it’s inception in 2007. PCI is an office on campus that supports lots of different student initiatives including, but not limited to, Middlebury’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship, The Old Stone Mill, and MiddCORE. Every semester more students get turned onto PCI programs. What this means is that every semester PCI has new alumni, alumni who go out into the world and do awesome things. This weekend, as part of homecoming and the Alumni Leadership Conference, PCI hosted the first “Young Alumni Showcase: Creating Impact Through Design”. Over coffee and bagels young alums talked to current students, faculty, staff, and community members about their jobs, what design means for them, and their “next big idea”. These alums are doing things from founding their own companies in apparel and GIS mapping, to teaching, to working for National Geographic, to working at non-profits like Ashoka Innovators for the Public.

A wonderful addition to homecoming weekend, I hope this event happens every year.

Young Alumni Design ShowcaseYoung Alumni Design Showcase

Film Lab Number 1!

Getting involved in film production has been one of the best things I’ve done at Middlebury. Having always been intrigued, and then encouraged by friends and advisers, last spring I took Sight & Sound I, the Film and Media Culture Department’s introductory production course. It was demanding, hands-on, collaborative, creative, and exhausting. In other words, it was wonderful.

This semester I’m continuing the challenge and taking Sight & Sound II. This course expands on the foundations laid in Sight & Sound I, both expanding our technical skill set, and delving into all facets of the question “what makes a film ‘successful’ ?” Over the course of the semester we will make three individual short films and collaborate on one as a class. This collaborative film is written and directed by a current Middlebury senior and stars students and local residents. Our class will shoot this film over the course of ten Tuesday nights, swapping on-set roles every week.

This week, I was on the boom operator. I’ve done some work with audio recording, but never in a way that was such an arm-toning experience.

Check out some of these stills from this week’s shoot and stay tuned to see the final product in early December.

– Joanie

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