I am certain that you know all about getting so busy with something new that you put aside other activities that deserve a greater place in your must-do-them list.
For me, the distraction that has kept me from writing more here is that I started a new doctoral program in journalism in August. If all goes well, and my mind and stamina remain strong and a dissertation is written, I will be able to call myself "Doctor." That word will dance about my ears four years from now, and I will be 61.
So far I have had to remaster research and study skills acquired 11 years before when I was working towards a master's degree in public affairs journalism at The Ohio State University. I thought at that time that 45 was a stretch for attempting that academic leap. I now know better. This idea of working toward a Ph.D is an Olympic-size hurdle. Now, in my child's mind, I, like so many, can truthfully say that yes, I always wanted to be an Olympian. But I envisioned myself in that capacity skating, or fencing, or ever so wistfully competing in the biathlon. Those leaps were not to be. I was meant for mental gymnastics or so I've been told.
So much has changed in three months. I was aware from my teaching experience that this was to be the case if I jumped into this new, fancier regalia-headed torrent. But it doesn't hit home with that concrete whap on your skull, until you must pack the burden bag and throw it over your own shoulder again. My shoulders are aching with the heaviness of it, and yet, I am also acutely aware that this is a mental exercise that has the potential to keep my shoulders strong for other more dramatic burdens. Aging for example. Or holding on to these twilighting moments of my treasured mother's life. Or watching my children grow and make their way off on their own, that tethered line that connected me to them growing fiber optic thread thin but no less brilliant. What keeps you from going in too many directions or second-guessing the value of the leap? Art in any style, whether it is writing or photography or painting. That joyous qualitiative side of life.
I have sincerely missed writing about the esoteric minutiae that defines the inexhaustively uncaptured part of me. It is why I chose the odd and somewhat eyebrow raising moniker, mistress of ephemera, for a blog and email. That title reminds me to be aware of the castaways, the fleeting, the butterflies of knowledge gliding by, waiting to be held for a second and let go. Researchers and doctors in the making are not supposed to be mistresses--at least in print, and I can acknowledge the tactile wisdom of it. Ephemera. That is a different concept all together.
Since returning to school, my camera has been at my side, most recently documenting a young Snow White in costume catching a pre-Halloween dinner at a Mexican restaurant. One evening the Titanic-aholic that I am was able to lift and hold the Oscar that Jon Landau received for that film. Its weight and smoothness shocked me, in a way that lifting a friend's cobra had a similar effect. I was able to sketch in red and black ink, a quick likeness of Johnny Depp at a showing of his newest film, based on a book written by one of my favorite journalists, the late Hunter S. Thompson. Just handing that to him on a star-filled night was that kind of ephemera I am talking about. It is not about needing to know so much as it is needing to make the connection, eye to eye. Thought to thought. And most intriguing of all, one day a few weeks ago, I walked through the hallways of my first Presidential library. In all my years, both as a teacher and a journalist, I had never visited one. I suppose there is irony in the fact that the museum and library to be my first is the one dedicated to Lyndon Baines Johnson. I remember so well the day John F. Kennedy died and LBJ came into office. My 1963 memory is now sharpened forever by standing in front of a glass case that protects a small black book, a Bible that was on Air Force One on that November day in Dallas. It was a day that started with a chance for rain and turned to sunny skies. That made all the tragic difference. Whose lives weren't altered on that day? That small black Bible. What energy is harbored there? All the pain and fear and worry and momentum of a nation was stopped for those few moments as we all hoped and prayed that as one man had to take an oath, it would somehow represent and protect all of us. As journalists, those are the stories you live to write about and also hope never to have to write about. And there it was before me. I must admit I was awestruck by the significance of it. How ephemeral is one small black book in the floods of information that engulf us today?
Maybe that is why I am back in school. We should never abandon the desire to reach into the glass cases and unwrap the knowledge tucked inside. As my new life continues, I will certainly share it here. Research comes in many disguises.