To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
This weekend Sandy and I had a scare which you have heard about if you follow me on Facebook. I won’t repeat all of it here, but our furnace was leaking carbon monoxide, the alarms went off, firefighters came, then left, then came back later to greet us as we sat on our stoop in our robes and pajamas, agreeing the second time that it wasn’t bad monitor batteries as they walked slowly through our home, waving their magic CO meter; they stayed a very long time and aired out rooms and closets and… well. I could see that big crow walking over our graves, its eyes shining, before its wingspan unfurled and it rose into the night, disgruntled to have lost us back to the living.
After a chilly (but not unbearable) weekend in an unheated house, our landlord, who is a doll, immediately and graciously replaced the 26-year-old furnace with a spiffy new model that is quiet and efficient and not likely to kill us anytime soon.
Meanwhile, we both had colds (every major crisis in my life seems to be accompanied by head colds), and I was trying valiantly to edit my dissertation proposal for issues major and minor that my committee had shared with me. Actually, at first it was a struggle, but then it became a refuge. Had I known I would be grappling with the CO issue later on Saturday, I would not have found so many errands to run that morning, my favorite method of procrastination. But by the next morning, editing my proposal seemed like a really, really great thing to be doing, me with my fully-alive body. I had a huge batch of posole cooking on the range, and the cat snored and Sandy sneezed and when I got tired of working on the dissertation I gave myself a break to work on tenure and promotion letters or to contemplate statewide resource-sharing scenarios (because I am such a fun gal).
I really liked my Public Editor idea for American Libraries and would like to see something happen in that vein, but after ALA I see that it is an idea whose idea needs more than me as its champion, at least through this calendar year. There’s mild to moderate interest, but not enough to warrant dropping anything I’m currently involved in to make it happen. It’s not forgotten, it’s just on a list of things I would like to make happen.
That said, this ALA in Boston–ok, stand back, my 46th, if you count every annual and midwinter–was marvelous for its personal connections. Oh yes, I learned more about scholarly communications and open access and other Things. But the best ideas I garnered came from talking with colleagues, and the best moments did too. Plus two delightful librarians introduced me to Uber and the Flour Bakery in the same madcap hour. I was a little disappointed they weren’t more embarrassed when I told the driver it was my first Uber ride. I am still remembering that roast lamb sandwich. And late-night conversations with George. And early-evening cocktails with Grace. And a proper pub pint with Lisa. And the usual gang for our usual dinner. And a fabulous GLBTRT social. And breakfast with Brett. And how wonderful it was to stay in a hotel where so many people I know were there. And the hotel clerk who said YOU ARE HALF A BLOCK FROM THE BEST WALGREENS IN THE WORLD and he was right. It’s hard to explain… unless you remember the truly grand Woolworth stores of yesteryear, such as the store at Powell and Market that had a massive candy counter, a fabric and notions section, every possible inexpensive wristwatch one could want for, and a million other fascinating geegaws.
Sometimes these days I get anxious that I need to get such-and-such done in the window of calm. It’s true, it’s better to be an ant than a grasshopper. I would not have spent Saturday morning tootling from store to store in search of cilantro and pork shoulder had I known I would have spent Saturday afternoon and evening looking up “four beeps on a CO monitor” and frantically stuffing two days’ worth of clothes into a library tote bag (please don’t ask why I didn’t use the suitcase sitting right there) as we prepared to evacuate our home.
But I truly don’t have that much control over my life. I want it, but I don’t have it. Yes, it’s good to plan ahead. We did our estate planning (hello, crow!) and made notebooks to share with one another (hi crow, again!) and try to be mindful that things happen on a dime. But if I truly believed life was that uncertain, I couldn’t function. On some level I have to trust that the sounds I hear tonight–Sandy whisking eggs for an omelette, cars passing by our house on a wet road, the cat padding from room to room, our dear ginger watchman–will be the sounds I hear tomorrow and tomorrow. Even if I know–if nothing else, from the wide shadow of wings passing over me–that will not always be the case.
Onward into another spring semester. There aren’t many students in the library just yet. They aren’t frantically stuffing any tote bags, not for their lives, not for their graduations, not for even this semester. They’ll get there. It will be good practice.