Brandon writes: The sound of working brains

If you have grown up in a big family amid a symphony of household commotion you may have harnessed the power to block out noise; inversely if you were an only child (like me), then the sound of another person makes your ears jump and tune-in, allowing you to celebrate the existence of another human in close vicinity but makes focus hard to find in the ruckus of the world.

Enter Harvard campus, a haven for clear thinking, where silence is a readily available and cherished commodity. Widener Library reading hall in particular is magically effective for powering through a paper or a pile of notes that require rapid consumption. And, even better, you are not alone in your challenge; you have the silent support of all the brains around you sharing in your toil, each with gritty determination written beneath the surface of their quiet faces.

The large wooden tables have the space for all the class materials in your bag and more, the juice you need for your laptop, the light you need for reading, wooden chairs with just the right balance of comfort and support, and at each end of the long reading hall cozy wing chairs await for relaxed reading glazed with warm sun. Oh, and look down, a cork floor covers the whole expanse! Why the excitement you say? Cork flooring is a renewable resource because it does not involve cutting down trees, rather the bark is masterfully pealed from the outside in a manner that does not harm the tree and in about nine to twelve years the bark will be ready to harvest again. The list of advantages to cork flooring is extensive, from its surprising natural antibacterial qualities to its sound buffering ability, all making it an ideal environmentally wise choice for the quiet reading hall at Widener.

Another great work space, this one with what seems to be an unwritten code of silence, is the down stairs lounge of Harkness Commons building overlooking a beach volleyball court outside. The other day while making strides on my Japanese homework (Extension school class JAPA E-1) that silence was pleasantly interrupted; classical piano chimed-in of just the right fashion to enliven the blood flow making the focused work a joy. The source was a mystery that needed solving so I wandered around the corner into the adjacent lounge to find a student on the upright piano. Further investigation unveiled that she was a student of the music school practicing on a lovely piece of Mozart. Ahhhh, can you hear it now?… Heaven for the ears it was, streaming live, as we went back to our work.

What are your favorite silent spots on campus? Please share them in the comments section below, and I, and the other readers of this blog, promise to respect the space when we come visit.

Bonus: When you need to stretch your legs at Widener walk down the main stairs from the reading room to the middle landing, follow straight ahead into the open room before you and feast your eyes on the Titanic artifacts, the beautifully engraved gold key, the silver spatula used to lay the corner stone of the library and the beautiful history illustrating the conception of the library as a gift from mother to her son who died in the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

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