16 June 2014


I think I watched six minutes of Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final, and that was the balance of the end of hockey for me. And that hurts me, somewhere in my hockey heart (damaged goods at the moment, thanks to Pittsburgh's fizzled season and off-season travail).  It's unsettling, too, that I can't quite remember what I've seen. I know, at the end of May, I watched some of Kings-Blackhawks because I was in a small, dark, Dickensianly damp hotel room for a week, but I know also that I fell asleep before any of the games were over. It's all half-memory, scores and highlights and Twitter reactions and forgetting what is first-hand and what is second. It's the same with baseball, though it's a long season and what I'm missing isn't the last firework burst for months.

But I have been seeing a lot. With two weeks of my fellowship now complete, I can say I don't lack for what Annie Dillard calls eye-food. The days are all about diving deep, about filling both lungs with air and fixing a light on the brain, between the eyes, and plunging. Coming up for breath at the end of the day has actually been difficult; the first week, I couldn't. After the archive closed at five (eight p.m. on Wednesdays), I spent nights reading PDFs, something both charming and uncanny in electronic versions of documents three hundred years old. (And painstaking: I discovered that I would much rather turn physical pages than execute the several clicks it requires to advance to the next page and size it to readability, even if that means re-typing large passages of notes instead of digitally highlights or annotating them.)

There have been books, too:

This book, Seamanship, Both in Theory and Practice, has been immensely valuable (not to mention immensely beautiful).

The diagrams are consistently excellent, including this primer on knots (one of several), and it includes written explanations both of the physics of sailing (why sail A on mast X drives the ship in N direction when the wind strikes from Q direction at H force) and how to execute specific maneuvers on-board (like the very particular process of dropping the anchor on a ship of any particular size). If you are going to be time-traveling and expect you may end up in the Age of Sail, or if you are the sort of person who may be marooned on an island where an eighteenth century ship is moored, take David Steel's book with you.

I am very much adrift in the contemporary world right now. There are some lunchtime snippets of World Cup, and President Obama spoke here in Worcester last week and that precipitated some conversation about this city on that particular day, but there is otherwise little talk of here, of now. But everything in this project I am researching feels anchored well, encompassing, whole. It is hard to cope with that sometimes--there are many conversations happening in the places I usually spend my time (both online and in Wyoming and in Pennsylvania) that I know I'm missing and feel I shouldn't--but there are also many conversations here (with actual human beings and texts and the funny writerly place inside my skull) that I would not miss for the world.


And a little plug: my short essay, Final Mica and Final Mare, is the second piece in Narratively's Tales from the Pitch folio in The Beautiful Game feature, in which I wrote about an intercollegiate soccer tournament in Sibiu, Romania.

02 June 2014

Panic early and often.

I've done that thing where I get incredibly precious about posting and thus do not post for months. Working on it. Feeling like I've got something to actually share helps, and all at once, I'm brimming with things.

One, let's start with some excellent, conflicting, perfectly apt advice I've received today. Exhibit A:
"Panic early and often."
Exhibit A was given to me this morning during orientation at the American Antiquarian Society. The person who delivered it was spot on: fellows have an entire month to research; fellows have only a month to research. (The archive, of course, isn't going anywhere, but the point is to do what needs doing now.) That means that one has to be well-organized and pro-active. Don't wait to wade into something--you may need to go deeper than you think. "Panic" here reads as urgency: don't wait. Look now. 

In true and marvelous Madame Clairevoyant fashion, though, my favorite purveyor of horoscopes (and the only one I read because they always contain something I need to hear) offered up Exhibit B: 
Aries: It’s going to be easy to feel like everything is urgent, this week. It’s going to be easy to feel rushed. The world will pick up its pace around you, maybe, and it’s going to require a specific kind of bravery, a strange quiet kind of courage, to move at your own speed, to move slowly and intentionally through even the strangest of days. Try not to let the world chase you off your own path. Try not to let the world make you panic. There’s plenty of time, there’s so much time, there’s all the time you need. ~The Rumpus 
I don't believe in horoscopes in the sense of expecting anything in them to actually come true, but Madame Clairevoyant's whimsical and lovely work strikes the ideal advice-giving balance between koan and fortune cookie: the brush is broad enough, soft enough, to fill in the background behind whatever I'm doing.

And this one is just right. Everything is urgent--but it's up to me to control the rush of it. Nothing has to be rushed. Nothing, dear hobbits, need be hasty. But there is so much: there's this marvelous, overwhelming, exciting residency I've really just begun. I'm working on The Pirate Novel while at the American Antiquarian Society, and there's just so wonderfully much to dive into. But my process is well-organized. The librarians/curators/staff/archive genies/microfilm fae/periodical wizards/map magi are rockstars. All will be well.

And all will be well in time to move. Because I am moving in July, back to green Pennsylvania, to Lebanon Valley College, where I've accepted a position as Assistant Professor of English. It's slightly old news if you follow me anywhere else online, but that's adding to the urgency: I've come to the residency directly from a week spent looking for a place to live in Pennsylvania, and I will leave the residency to finish packing and then do an about-face and drive across the country again. 

There's so much happening--so much good--and everything's so green. There's time.

Lebanon Valley College's McGill Field.