(Recreated from my Honours blog, just letting you all know I’m still alive)
I’ve been doing the work. I haven’t skipped any set readings, and am working on-topic reading into my available time more and more. I’ve started writing vignettes for the creative component of my work. I’d like to have read more, of course, but I’m plodding along at a realistic pace and doing the best I can. I’m not dangerously behind.
The fact that I’m working into a void scares the shit out of me. While I’m working, I’m not working to a known end-point, and I’m surprised at how confronted I am by this. I am making work, and I don’t know what it is, and this makes me panic. It’s a new way of working, and I need to constantly remind myself that it’s alright. I will end up with a thing, and because I’m doing the work it will be a considered and good thing. Breathe.
Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost is helping with this. In it, she talks about how “lost”ness allows us to see things in new ways, and keeps us open to the strangeness of life. The question (raised by Socrates, repeated by Solnit) is “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” – and that’s really the question I’m faced with now. In Research Strategies on Tuesday we talked about Ross Gibson’s model of research, which involves letting the intuitive side work hand-in-hand with the analytical side, without prizing one over the other. This is a possible (well, necessary) research method. Another is raised by Solnit, and which is my working model currently – “…to calculate on the unforseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us.”
She talks about captives and explorers becoming “lost”, and returning as different people, undergoing those deep “transitions whereby you cease to be who you were.” In a way, similar to Gibson’s requirement that good research and art “causes surprising transformations.”
“The important thing is that the doors are left open,” Solnit says.
Read an essay called “L“ by Pam Rasmussen. It’s about so many things that I can’t quite pick the through-line, but it contains a particularly good exploration of her family’s two Easter celebrations (“Regular” Easter and Orthodox Easter). Memory, right throughout the essay, is tied to the body. The sound of the L train, the smells and tastes of Easter, bodily awareness when the L train tackles a particular curve on its route. I find this coming up in my own writing. Memories of by grandparents lives in the tart bite of raspberries, on the edges of my tongue as their flavour fades.
Similes and metaphors often refer to food, while writing about actual food is written using language about bodies and sex.
(Her uncles retire after Orthodox Easter to discuss highlights from the meal):
“Like lovers, they sighed over memories of each dish – that pastichio as alluring as a sea siren, those snowy mounds of kourabethia plump and white as breasts, those olives dark as Maria Callas’s eyes (they were all in love with her), that feta as firm as a woman’s derriere. It was as much poetry as it was sex education to me…”