There is a certain vibe to public buildings that are mostly empty with those still left still having work to do. I am sitting in a university library over spring break. Desks are empty and computers are plentiful, but the people around me are working with a relaxed focus, much as I did through almost every “break” in college. There is none of the frantic wasted energy of finals, just the determination of the tortoise taking advantage of a nap in the college schedule to slowly pull back into the race.
It’s the same feeling as an airport or bus station at midnight, or a shopping mall an hour after closing. Whatever mania the day may bring is replaced with custodians trying to repair the frayed edges of the day gone by, and the occasional traveler trying to catch a nap on a bench. Everyone trapped inside a living space as it takes the time to breathe.
Reflection is itself a reflexive action. When running full out, if forced to slow down the mind still keeps going, keeps making connections. So, I’m sitting at a public computer, a Foucalt Pendulum swinging in the background, the rattle of library carts as a student workers re-shelve in peace, and surrounded by tortoises. My people. I’ve been there often enough that it’s hard to not feel a kinship with those around me who are quietly, urgently moving forward while the library around them breathes deeply.