I am hoping to make significant writing progress on the blog to book project over the next few weeks. I am reading travel lit like crazy, sorting and categorizing the old posts and working on a scaffolding that can bring it all together. In terms of my research, I think Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor’s Traveling with Pomegranates nicely balances travel accounts and musings that are loosely woven together. My material will be very different, of course, but I am using that book as inspiration as I try to pull everything together. Here is a bit from the intro (first draft):
I hadn’t spent 20 minutes in Montpelier before I felt it – a keen sense of being in the right-place-ness, of familiarity and comprehension that was itself out of place given this unknown town and its people. It was an affective reaction that can only imperfectly be translated as a series of observations and feelings. The way people smiled and stopped to talk to Jie-jie, aged 2. The way the baby sling holding 5 month old Mei-mei blended in with the other slings. The small but comprehensive downtown trafficked by as many pedestrians as cars. The blue sky, red leaves and fragile warmth of a bright October day. Newness, familiarity, welcome, consonance – things I had not experienced during my 4 years as a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin – a city in which I increasingly felt problematically odd, unassimilable to the community and incomprehensible even to the people who had grown to be friends.
“I need to live here.” I told Jason that evening, “Being here today I remembered that I’m not all that bizarre. I’m just misplaced.” And over the next several months we endeavored to make it so. Jason left his faculty position and accepted a new faculty appointment at Vermont Law School. Even though all signs pointed toward tenure track employment in Milwaukee for me as well, I set my sights on Montpelier. Conversations with colleges and universities in the area suggested that there would be plenty of tenure-track openings for sociologists. Come on over, I was counselled. The best way to get a job in Vermont was to be in Vermont. We sold the house, our first home and began to extricate ourselves from the life we had built in Milwaukee. In May the movers arrived to pack up our things and keep them in storage until we found a house. We loaded the car with summer essentials, 2 children and 2 dogs and made our way east to the furnished apartment we would call home until we found something permanent. I expected that I would live in Montpelier the rest of my days, or at least until we retired and decided to divide our time between Montpelier and apartments in Paris and New York City.
That was the summer of 2008. By the end of that summer we had purchased a small, simple house within walking distance of downtown. We already had more friends than we could boast after 4 years in Milwaukee. We traded in our minivan for a Volvo wagon. Our social schedule was jam packed with community events and the down-time effortlessly filled up with impromptu potlucks, conversations and happy hours spent hiking the forests and improving the yard. We were so busy that we had not yet finished unpacking. Several boxes of photographs, knick-knacks and other nonessential possessions occupied a substantial portion of the office. We unpacked them intermittently.
Then, one day in mid-August, Jason came home from work talking about applying for a position as a Fulbright Scholar in China. It turned out that I was loving my new life in Vermont but he was struggling a bit with the transition to such a small-town and rural setting and from his prior nstitution to the small, stand alone Vermont Law School. A year in China, he claimed would help him to carve a role out for himself at the Law School. It would also, I suspected, reinsert adventure and excitement in a life that had suddenly come to feel tame and settled.
I decided ages ago that I wanted to be the kind of person who encourages people to push their limits and not the kind person who tells people that they can’t make their dreams reality. So, of course, I told him I would be willing to entertain the possibility of moving to China for a year. He explained that the Fulbright application process was long and grueling. It would be many months before we had to make any real decisions about going to China and I suspected and secretly hoped that Jason would feel differently by that time.
All the same, that was when I stopped unpacking and stacked those final moving boxes in a corner of our bedroom. They would gather dust for the next 2 years.
So, what do you think?