One of the difficulties of grad school has been getting used to living in Eugene. It’s a nice little town, really it is, but it’s quite a bit smaller than the cities I know, and it seems like most everyone I meet is fairly similar: white, outdoorsy, economically secure, and usually associated with the university somehow. Last quarter I let myself imagine that Eugene is monotonous, and I found myself longing for Washington, Michigan, Oxford, Budapest, anywhere! I had all kinds of complaints: you can’t even see the mountains! I can’t walk to a grocery store! Everything smells like marijuana! This quarter, I decided to enjoy the place for what it is, and on my first weekend back I went for a walk, and something clicked.
It turns out that all this time I’ve been living a five-minute walk from a gorgeous view of the city. Skinner’s Butte, which my neighborhood is named after, is a short jaunt through some cedar woods, and on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I felt like I was wandering up a miniature version of Gellert Hill, the Budapestian landmark that I frequently wandered around on when I studied in Hungary.
It’s nothing spectacular, but on a clear day, you can see snow-covered peaks up there, and it’s enough to remind me that Oregon has plenty of charm if I just get a little perspective.
So as I thought about Budapest, I got an idea. The professor who facilitated that semester gave us a great set of journaling assignments to complete in Budapest and other cities we visited, and I decided to replicate something like that for Eugene. I’ll give myself a series of assignments: coffee shops and restaurants to visit, church services to attend, places to go people watch, concerts and sports events to attend—this is Tracktown after all. And even though I’m swamped, I’ll try to take a little time to write about it all so that when I eventually leave this place, I’ll have something to remember it by.
Topophilia does’t always come easily; sometimes you have to work to love a place. But I know one thing, school can be miserable enough, and there’s too much to love about Oregon to let myself be miserable about it as well.
(I guess it’s worth mentioning that I don’t actually find school miserable very often; it’s fun most of the time, and sometimes it’s downright thrilling.)