Settle Down

I’m writing this alone, in a big empty house, on a dark cold night, in a city I don’t know. Every couple of minutes or so I hear a thump from behind the door I’ve closed in anticipation of creeping, knife-wielding burglars, and while, granted, the thumps could just be coming from one of the two noisy cats that I’m supposed to be looking after in my sister’s big empty house, on a dark cold night in San Francisco, they could just as likely be the footsteps of a murderer. I’m not taking any chances, so this means maintaining a constant loud one-way conversation in a dramatically masculine voice with the two cats, just so the knife-wielding burglars downstairs know that I have backup.

It’s nice to walk around this beautiful home and act like it won’t be another 15 years of student loan debt before I can actually afford one myself. Holly and Sean and their noisy cats are so close now, it’s almost unbelievable. While seeing them still means forty minutes of traversing a bridge, a freeway and the mountain range hills of San Francisco, it’s a helluva lot easier than the numerous time zones I had to traverse just to visit them in the past. Sometimes when I feel I’ve had enough of graduate life and its endless parade of periodic tables and hydrogen bonds, I pack up my little car and cross the bridge and the freeway and the hills, and ring a doorbell and suddenly my older sister is standing right there in front of me. For most of you, a sibling you can access without first buying a plane ticket may be the norm, but for me its a novelty I still haven’t quite become accustomed to. Holly and I sit in her kitchen and eat fruity salads and retell inside jokes we’ve been had since the mid-90s. Then I start work at the dining table, and she goes back to work in her office, but she keeps the door open so that we can crack each other up every fifteen minutes. It’s the kind of working environment that makes you forget you’re in a working environment.

When Sean comes home a few hours later, we eat together at the dining table, trying to carry on a conversation while fending off the noisy cats with our deftly placed thighs and elbows. By the end of the meal we’ve given in and the cats are licking our plates clean while we watch something trashy on TV. Then it starts getting late, and I get back in my little car and drive over the hills and the freeway and the bridge, where I catch glimpses in my rear-view mirror of the receding fog-blurred lights of San Francisco. Soon I am back on campus with my nose in a book, my stomach full of home-made spaghetti bolognese and my mind still anchored to that pretty little house in Sunset.

Moving to Northern California and starting a pre-med course here has been one of the Greatest Decisions of My Life. Coming from a sociology degree to a degree that requires me to learn the equation for determining the energy of a photo emitted during electron transfer* has its hiccups. I am by no means disparaging sociology; in fact if anything, I struggled more with the endless questioning and philosophising and theorising required to properly engage with the social sciences than I do now with the cold hard maths and logic of the natural sciences. My maladjustment is more to do with the fact that I’ve had to spend the last few weeks fumbling around for a lightswitch in that dark, cobweb-infested attic of my brain where fractions and quadratic formulas have been left untouched for the past decade. Turns out, though, that the bulb still works, and its actually getting brighter by the day.

The first week spent painstakingly converting the transmission of my brain was hellish. I was overwhelmed and undernourished, I was confused and tired and forcing myself to accustom not only to a new discipline, but a new college, a new city, a new country. I was up at 7 and in the library at 11, with an intervening day of lectures to attend and forms to fill and friends to make. Then suddenly, like these things tend to do, I woke up and everything had sorted itself out. All the knots became untangled, the square peg found the square hole and like the complementary wavelengths of two photons of light with equal constructive frequencies (that’s right), I found my own momentum propelling me forward. This is where I find myself now, careening through a frenetic world of concepts that mean nothing to me on Monday morning but by Wednesday afternoon have totally transformed the way I view the universe. It’s fast-paced, it’s tough and it’s scary, but I’m loving every second of it.


Now step away for just a second from that part of my life that’s still moving at light-speed**, and head back with me to the rainbow-drenched streets of San Francisco. Sure, right now I may be surrounded by textbooks and unfinished homework, but there’s a purring cat on my lap and I’ll be in bed in a few minutes. In between dashing to lectures and somehow finding the time to clothe, bathe and feed myself, I’ve had brief moments of beautiful folk. Little songs have crept in here and there without me realising, so that I’ve suddenly got a fleshy list of tunes to show you over the next few weeks. Late at night in this dark house in the city, I stumbled upon something else that’s going to keep me up for a few minutes longer. My experience with Rachael Yamagata doesn’t go much further than a bit of Wikipedia research, and all I know of Ray Lamontagne is that his song ‘Lesson Learned’ accompanied me as overplayed soundtrack fodder through a teary breakup a few years ago. Pairing them together initially didn’t quite serve to excite me very much.

These quick judgements, though, suddenly faded when I actually listened to their heart-achingly complementary voices on the track below, titled, suitably enough, ‘Duet’. There’s just something about male/female covers that drives me crazy. You know I’m always looking for good folk, and if you like this Yamagata-Lamontagne partnership as much as I do, you’ll share your favourite duets (folk or otherwise) in the comments below. I’m in this house by myself for a few more days yet, and I need a little bit more noise to stifle those mysterious thumps coming from downstairs.

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*E = (-RH/nf²) – (-RH/ni²)

** 3.00 x 10⁸ m/s

9 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Hunter Carman says:

    Honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less. Great to see you’re doing so well man, keep it up.

  2. Crystal says:

    Luke, I’m visiting from Holly’s blog. When I read a post of hers and then come and read one of yours I feel as if I’ve just been sitting round the breakfast table visiting with you guys and hearing about what’s going on with the two if you. What I mean is, both of your writing is so natural and descriptive that it’s akin to catching up with my own family. The two of you meld together so well and it’s as if I know you both. Thanks for sharing that and the music links. I enjoy both immensely!

  3. Katrina says:

    Love the track Luke. I’m using it to pull me through the Court’s interpretation of Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Folk music works wonders on law school as well as med school :).

  4. jessie says:
    • jessie says:

      Last one I promise, I’m becoming that bossy person in a tut who has way too much to say.
      Your Call – Hermitude – definately isn’t folk but it’s fun, and Australian :)

  5. jessie says:
  6. jessie says:

    k last song. i really need to do some work. this isn’t a duet but the lamontagne duet kind of reminded me of it, and it’s quite a beautiful song

  7. jessie says:

    actually wait no it is. there you go.



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