Thursday, June 14, 2012

A scholar's retreat

I had a dear friend, actually a couple of friends, ask me to write about my Scholar's Retreat.  I think they meant the place I stayed while I was doing research at Berkeley as much as the experience I had in my role of scholar.  Big ol' Venn overlap in that.

Having a room or roomlet of one's own is what I wrote about.  Having the comfort of a partner who encourages you to explore all parts of your life, is a luxury that's precious and contributes to this scholar's life.  Being able to call myself a scholar and not have people laugh to my face, is another.

Part of what I like about my scholarly retreats is that I can plan my day following my own measure.  I am silly in love with my husband.  He is my soulmate and my buddy.  I still smile when I think of him.  Point here is that he is comfortable with my wandering off to do some academic spelunking which helps me love him all the more.

I digress.

Traveling down a scholarly road has included finding a room that you can afford and then finding out that the toilet is down the hall.  Actually around the corner and being shared by folks who are attending a conference.  The balance to this; the person speaking is a Noble Laureate.  Sort of doesn't matter what his name is.

It's also about the details it takes to get to the manuscripts you need for your work.  In my case, I'm dealing with the Bandini/Elliott family - I'll write more about them next week. I'm dealing with materials in English and Spanish and trying to decipher 18th -20th century handwriting. There is a big cosmic laugh going on at my efforts.

There is the variance that exists at any of the sites where I do research.  In one case, I arrive and they are thrilled to know that my work has a connection with  Pasadena - the 19th century catalogues of a college are available at my convenience.  At another my driver's license serves as my research passport and I am required to fille out form after form.  At another I must wait as the kernels of history are brought to the library at specific delivery times.

And the Huntington where the hurdles are high to qualify, but once in, oh, my, what a place of researching bliss.  The acknowledgement of one's "seriousity" is a sweet thing.  There is an underlying assumption that the work being done merits support.  Somehow, for me at least, that makes me want to do my very best;  others have shared some of their knowlege and wisdom with me.

I have looked at doodles from the 18th century.

Yesterday I held the paper that was written and then read by individual who lived in the 19th century.  I read a report card from that same era.  I read the story of a young girl who nearly died and discovered a stack of letters that are written to the wife of one of the founders of Pasadena.

Somehow all of that balances my traveling on the cheap; being willing to take a day and a half to find the shower I can use and sharing the loo with the Noble Laureate.

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