Category Archives: travel

Mind the Gap


Since my last post, a month ago, I still haven’t quite gotten back to the relentless single focus that characterized the preceding six months.  The continued pull of opportunities from the big professional group to which I belong (and recently, its annual conference), continued conversation about an opportunity at my home institution (requiring a few meetings here and there, a new vein of literature to attack briefly and furiously, and plenty of personal reflection), a family spring break excursion, and suddenly required computer maintenance have all taken their toll on my work on The Great Work.

This all makes me antsy, and worry that in the future, especially after the new academic year opens and my time is no longer my own, I will regret not having lengthy spans of time to devote to research and writing.  But hopefully I will remember that the majority of this time has been spent in worthy pursuits, and that, likewise, I would regret, in future, having not taken advantage of some of the surprises that came my way in these last few months.  Sabbatical is a wonderful opportunity to retire from the normal routine and demands of academic life, but not a place of absolute sequestration.  I am glad I have been justified in saying no to a certain number of requests for my time–typically when my participation could have been replaced by some other person or when my absence would not really make a big difference in the grand scheme of things–but at the same time, have needed to say yes so as to not be too far out of the stride of my discipline and my university once August rolls around.

At the same time, the Great Work continues to loom large.  In part thanks to the recent conference, I have a renewed energy to tuck in again and, what’s more, today should have the meeting that finally puts one of the extra-curricular issues to rest.  Several months remain. Inhale, exhale.  Inhale, exhale …

Picture: Original drawing for the London Underground roundel symbol designed by Edward Johnston.  I would have liked to have made one that read “Distraction Street,” but didn’t need the additional . . . well, you know.

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endI am writing this just a few hours before liftoff (hopefully), the very last day of my two months in Washington. I haven’t yet counted up the numbers of pages of notes and scanned documents that I have gathered in the five libraries and archives that have been the sites of my research, but I’m sure they number in the thousands.  And then there are a lot of photos too, and general memories, of the great extracurricular events that I’ve enjoyed here.  Given a hasty scan of my pictures and files, I know I amassed and ingested a load of information on mid-nineteenth century architectural practice, especially as it relates to the construction of the Capitol dome, as well as wringing Washington dry of my favored recreational activities.  With some certainty I am willing to name the two greatest revelations of these two months as: the Benjamin Brown French papers (Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress) and the crème brûlée donut (Astro Doughnuts, 13th & G).  Thanks, Washington: although it’s been, almost daily, wicked cold with a chance of bureaucratic cloudiness, it’s also been illuminating, and delicious.

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Worst Snow Day Ever

snowYesterday the government, due to threat of inclement weather (my nineteenth-century friends would have said “skeered at the snow”), shut down the joint.  Actually all of the joints, separating me from a gazillion documents I need to read.  On top of that, I am without my dog and there’s no yeast in the house, so normal snow-day activities were impossible.

And in the end, 4″ of fluffy snow fell prettily all over the District and my part of Maryland.  The sun shone and the sky was blue and it was a very pretty, if frustrating and boring, day.


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