Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 1, Week 3

I spent the better part of the day reading about mobility paradigms and remote sensing, and sticking address labels on postcards. After playing with the dogs for a bit, I decided there was nothing wrong with a glass of wine in front of a smoldering fire, and I remembered I was supposed to write. I glanced over my page of random ideas, and wasn't struck by any of them. I didn't feel like revising, or working on something I'd already started. I needed something new.

I'm in my second semester of grad school for geography, and I'm still unsure whether I want to write a thesis or do an internship. They both have their benefits and un-benefits (yeah, I make up words sometimes. So what?). An internship might lead to a job, which is certainly a good thing, but it will also tie up my summer. A thesis would be pretty fun, but I don't have anything in mind that I'd like to spend that much time on, and it might not be as useful in the job realm, though it would allow summer vacations. Anyway, the point of this aside is that I've been on a geographically-related (thesis potential) title kick recently: "Roads to Nowhere: Emerging Traffics in Mobility Tourism," "Maps of Nowhere: Literary Mapping and Cartographic Cognition." So my title-generation has had a geographic bent, and I often start writing stories when a title pops into my head and I just have to see what comes next. So as I sat down with my wine and embers, "The Cartography of Bees" popped into my head. I like bees. I mean, I like the idea of bees, and I like honey, and I used to like bees before one sent me to the emergency room. I don't know anything about bees. And it sounded too much like "The Secret Life of Bees." So I ruminated. And drank. And listened to "The Script," one of my favorite new bands (new for me, not for them). And lo and behold, "The Cartography of Salmon" appeared. Great! I like salmon. To eat. To catch, theoretically, though I never have. To watch as they struggle against the current. I don't know anything about salmon, but I'm not going to die from contact with one. And they migrate. And struggle. They're very metaphorical. And I've yet to write anything satisfactory about Alaska. Salmon live in Alaska. And salmon are animals, so they fit into my current animalistic writing theme. Here's what I wrote in the first couple minutes (hopefully there is more to come, though I certainly will not bore you with it):

It used to be the West, this mythical place where you could lose yourself, or find yourself, start a new life, end an old one, discover something of the world that was missing where you came from. But as we moved West, as we settled the frontier, those mythical places became actual mythologies, woven into legends and tales told in crowded bars and nightclubs, around dinner tables, spread across the globe in movies and books. The West became the norm.

And the North became the West. The land of mountains and rivers and dancing lights, where men were still dependent on their aim with a rifle, their skill with a boat, the natural cycles of the earth. I didn’t come to Alaska for any of that. I came because I had a car full of life and I didn’t stay anywhere else along the way. It wasn’t a decision so much as a lack of one. Suddenly I was there, reading that “Welcome to Alaska” sign against a backdrop of evergreens. I realized I was going to run out of road, and I either needed to stay or turn around.

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