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Give me the splendid, silent sun

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MAY 10, 2018

Give me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-dazzling.

All my youth I didn’t pay much mind to the sun. I grew up in southeastern Louisiana, where the sun felt like the rest of the atmosphere: a muggy mahogany heat that tired us out before early afternoon. Sweat built up under our armpits and down our lower backs, and we rarely felt the sun’s coziness as something separate from the heat that always swallowed us up.

So maybe it was the cold saltiness of the Bay, but sitting in the sun became a new kind of respite for me here. It gave me a sense of comfort and a better sense of place. On any brisk day, the sunlight could peak through cloud cover and soon soothe my nerves. The feel of it on my skin seeped in all the way through.

I longed for the sunshine when it wasn’t there — the long hours I spent in lecture halls and in libraries, the rigid indoor schedules I took on to work myself raw. The solar rays hugged my hurt away. Sunshine was my best teacher. I’d skip class in my first few years here just to stretch out under the weight of it. The sun was for me what my dog’s ThunderShirt was to him: a comforting pressure, a feeling of ease. You’d look up, and there was the sun, exactly where it should be, exactly where it’s always been.

I talk a big game, but I’m a small person, really. I unfold slowly, tear easily enough. All of the times I sat crumpled in the warm sun, waiting for a man to come sweep me off my feet or waiting for something larger than life to change my circumstances, I felt at least that the sun was on my side, quietly filling me up with a little bit of strength. On any patch of grass, on any stretch of campus, my friend the sun took time to love me without condition. It was hard to ask that of any of my new friends for some time.

There were places I was welcome, and there were places I was misunderstood. I don’t totally make sense to plenty of folks I meet. The act of explaining myself in college was often an isolating, lonely experience. I wrote a weekly column for this paper for that very purpose, and in some ways it was still just as obtuse as I almost always am.

So to those people and places that have made me feel understood, even briefly, I’d like to extend my appreciation.

To Wolf House, thank you for giving me a place to call home for the past two years. I’ll treasure every moment I’ve had there. To my book club, thank you. I’ve rarely had a more deeply stimulating set of friendships.

To The Daily Californian and to the people I had the privilege of working alongside, thank you. To Rosie and Joshua, for giving me a shot after I listed being a Scorpio under “strengths” in my interview. To Karim and Hooman, for setting an example against which all other bosses in my future could only pale. To Aslesha, for keeping my ass on track through our summer together. To Lindsay, for stranger’s kindness and for conspiring with me in shared dark energy. To Kayla, for wrestling law school applications to the ground hand in hand with me this year.

To those I love back home, I never have enough to give back to you for all the love you’ve given me the past four years. To Dad, for being a man to live up to. To Mom, for being a woman to live up to. To Nanny and Nana, your love has wrapped me up tight, and I still feel it across state lines. To Nat and Tim, for your care. To Olivia and Evann, for your coddling. To Madeleine and the Carolines, for letting me feel like a kid alongside you.

To my chosen family here, I want to say on the record that I love you. To Dan, for being a light in dark places. To Katie, for making perfect sense of the everyday so even dumbasses like me could understand. And to Kalila, for teaching me how to nurture and for being the best friend that I could ever ask for.

And finally, to Greg, for letting me live my life for you. I’m lucky every day that I get to wake up next to you. You are my sun, my moon and all of my stars.

And now the sun is setting on my time here, if you’ll forgive me such a cringeworthy metaphor. I began my piece with the first line of a Whitman poem of the same name. To close, I’d like to share a couple more lines:

Still I adhere to my city;
Day upon day, and year upon year, O city, walking your streets,
Where you hold me enchain’d a certain time, refusing to give me up;
Yet giving to make me glutted, enrich’d of soul

Here, then, is my last toast to you, Berkeley. For giving to make me glutted and enriched in my soul, for teaching me to treasure the sun so much. You refuse to give me up, and so to you I still adhere.

Justin Knight joined the Daily Cal in spring 2016 as an arts journalist before becoming an arts columnist in fall 2016, assistant arts & entertainment editor in spring 2017 and opinion editor in summer 2017. He is graduating with a bachelor's degree in linguistics.

MAY 10, 2018