As the semester nears its end I find myself returning to a method of planning for the fifth time in my college career. Realizing that this is the end, and work becomes inescapable, I discard my planner and place a blank sheet of paper on the table in front of me. I write out everything I must do before my flight departs at six am on the twenty-first, the date and time at which it must be done, and a star if it will take more than four hours to complete. This is when time begins to feel like an enemy. I text my father, requesting a pep talk, and he texts back a few hours later: “Home stretch. Stay on it.” Is the end of the semester a race? Should you cross the finish line emotionally out of breath, brain filling with lactic acid?
When the weight of time feels like my rival, I crave to exist in an ancient Celtic idea: thin places. It’s the belief that there are some places, for some people, where the barriers thin between the physical world and the metaphysical one. Here, time can collapse inwards, reality subverts, and, most importantly, you are uncovered. You feel the hold of time and reality reduced and you must face the space, and perhaps yourself, as if you are watching from the other side. The idea of thin places rears itself anonymously in culture—perhaps most famously by C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia, and most recently in Netflix’s Stranger Things—but, as an Irish American woman, with a love of Celtic knots and drinking songs, I’ve experienced it in my own life. For me, thin places arise, in vastness and repetition: on a long dock, staring off into the foggy Øresund with a dear friend by my side; sitting in the passenger seat as my mother navigates through the snow-cleared highways hidden in the miles of the Deschutes forest; alone, wandering through the miles of literature in Powell’s books, of my home city.
I stare at the sheet of paper. I stand up, stretch my neck, then sit back down. I stare at the paper again, wishing for more blank space and fewer stars; for a body of water shrouded in mist and a disassociation from this burden of time.