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.