Fall in Alaska means it's rare to be still long enough
to enjoy the fire you need to build every day.
The to-do's are too many and there's still enough daylight to do most of them.
One of the best fall activities is cranberry picking.
It's a slow process,
as the berries are individually tucked into the muskeg.
When you find one, if you're lucky it will have a few friends hanging around.
Otherwise, it's back to the slow, meandering search.
It leaves you time to let go of what you're supposed to be doing
so other thoughts are able to percolate instead.
I was out of town for two weeks of October.
Partly to visit loved ones,
and also for the conference "Revolutions!: Past, Present, and Future"
by the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs, or AGLSP.
I attended a full day of the conference.
It contained four panels, with two to four different presentations within each.
You could say I've had a few other thoughts rolling around since then.
Focusing has been difficult.
It's going to take some time.
That was the best lesson from graduate school.
I learned from the best how to find your way to the root of a question,
and avoid settling for easy answers.
Better yet, how to talk about complex ideas without creating a false dichotomy
just for the sake of an interesting argument.
Questions don't always have answers,
and asking the same ones
is just repeating the story we already know by heart.
Because this is a blog,
and the internet is a place where things happen quickly and frequently,
I find myself wanting to take shortcuts.
"Just post something."
"It doesn't really matter, just write something really quick and post it."
"That's good enough."
That's when I know it's time to go do something else,
because anything worth doing is worth doing right.
I read a lot.
I always did, and now I work at a bookstore.
Some of the books I read are popcorn.
Jenna Woginrich lives on a farm in upstate New York,
and writes about her decision to quit her corporate job and do the homestead life.
My favorite is One Woman Farm, and you should read it.
Another is a writer in Haines, Alaska.
Heather Lende writes for the paper, her blog, and has had multiple books published.
She writes about her life with her husband, children, and a growing brood of grandchildren
in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
These books are popcorn.
Enjoyable, light, and with a few great kernels tucked in.
Popcorn is also a poor substitute for a meal.
When you're cranberry picking you have to stop and look up every once in awhile.
If you aren't careful you lose sight of the familiar.
But sometimes it's nice to lose your bearings,
and the best berry picking days are the ones where you don't need to know what time it is.
There is a time and place for something light.
But I was taught to write about ideas and questions that refuse to lose substance over time.
And I reject the idea that there is not a place for that on the internet.
Jaron Lanier, part of the web from the beginning, sees it as a product in a state of constant flux.
One of my favorite ideas of his is the idea that we, as users of the internet,
should be the ones who play a role in its reform.
Part of this means putting deeper thought into what you post.
That there is a time and place for spontaneous thought,
and it isn't always on the internet.
I can be a bit of a perfectionist.
Anymore that means I have to limit what I get involved in,
because there's firewood to stack and things to do.
Berries to pick, paths to wander.
I couldn't even follow through with a free online class.
I'm enjoying letting my mind loose
after so many years of having it trained on what other people pointed to.
I was also taught to remove myself from my writing.
In academics there is a mythic space in the mind of every scholar
where you find evidence and create your thesis.
A place where you remove bias and influence.
That's why I will always love my Women's Studies and Ethnic Studies classes,
because they taught me it's okay to be influenced.
It's okay to admit you have bias.
But I still like to think about questions in a way no one else really asks.
Though in reality, somebody has already had that thought, too.
So you walk it back further,
do more research,
and keep asking the questions.
You remove your own ego and experience from the equation,
because if it can't be depersonalized then the question probably isn't big enough.
Which is also not what the internet, or blogs, are supposed to be for.
So now I'm finally writing about why I'm not really writing.
Because like I said, I was in Philadelphia for a conference.
I was also surrounded by my favorite people in the world
for the better part of two weeks.
These are people that I care for deeply.
That I love.
Some live hundreds of miles away from me,
For a million different reasons, I don't talk to many of them as often as I would like.
And I don't know when I'm going to see most of them again.
Fall arrived without warning, and I found myself unprepared.
I live in a place where the cast of town characters are as seasonal as the birds.
I should be used to this by now.
But this time feels different.
Right now when I sit still
I find my heart hurting anew every few days.
Good thing it's fall, because I don't really have that kind of time anyways.
Soon I will be able to step back,
find my questions,
and refuse to settle for the easy discussion or angles.
But today is not that day.
And that's alright.
I'm not here to make popcorn. And if you're still here reading,
something tells me you aren't looking for that anyway.
A combination might be nice, but not today.
So just check back when you think of it.
And thank you in advance.