Serendipity

A new year so often signifies a fresh start; a clean slate; a second chance. 

But I find starting over easy, the promise of new adventures exhilarating. It’s the staying which can be hardest. 

I opened so many new cans of worms last year it would be simplest (and shallowly gratifying) to throw them all out the window and begin again. 

But in my heart I know that won’t help. Running away only alleviates if the problem is external. 

So I’m spending the first quarter of this year making good on promises already made and dreams already dreamt. 

My current project roster is hugely weighted toward the grist of planning and research. Design, case studies, benchmarking, structural planning. 

I spend pretty much all my time reading, writing and thinking. 

Some days it’s marvelous; some days it’s mindbendingly quiet and nerve-wracking. 

So this morning, on a whim and hungry for words more sustaining than reports and journal articles, I detoured a few blocks on my way to the bus, intent on skimming our Little Free Library for a meaty novel with which to nourish my insides. A pick-me-up of sorts (other people smoke or drink coffee, I imbibe novels to keep going).

And what did I find there? A brand new copy of Walden. A book I’ve been meaning to read for years, and espcecially this last six months.

You see, one of my biggest adventures for 2016 will be giving a series of talks as part of the Smithsonian’s Museums on Main Street program. I’ll be lecturing at small community and cultural venues in Illinois. 

It may not sound like much, but it’s a big (and rather scary) step toward my own professional development goals and exactly the sort of challenge I asked the universe for this time last year.

Why Walden then? 

Well my talk is a cultural history of water; how it shapes communities and cultures, not just physically and economically, but inspires our stories, words and language, in turn shaping how we perceive and connect to the world around us. 

Part of it will focus on the American landscape and it’s influence on American writers and poets, and I’ve been meaning for months to delve into a canon I’ve long ignored, including Thoreau’s musings on a quiet life pond-side in rural, Victorian Massachusetts.

Sometimes you want a compelling narrative of vivid lives lived long ago and far away. 

And sometimes you need to slog through research and digest meaningful things to further a passionate dialectic.

And sometimes the world hands you a paperback that can be both at once and you remember you’re one whole person, not a bunch of semi-colons and conjoined clauses. 

As one of his successing American poets Wallace Stevens would say, “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake”. 

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