the start*: spring, 2020
*of this project and the COVID-19 pandemic
As I gather materials from my intellectual past and my creative writing, running, and losing my central vision present, I’m archiving them here. As of right now (spring 2020, the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic), I’m using this page as a place for loosely organizing and working through my ideas. In some future time, I hope to make this more organized and succinct and coherent as a series of stories/theories/ideas about how to be.
Over 2 months into this pandemic, I am struck by how many of these ways of being are helping me to endure this strange, uncertain time.
It has been over a year since I started working on this page and almost a year since the pandemic/isolation hit. Slowly I have been adding quotations, poems, questions, and exercises here. Ideas are coming together and hopefully soon this will turn into something more. In one ambitious vision, this project could be the materials for a degree in undisciplined studies, which I have been undertaking for the past 5 years, both as teacher (with the help of many poets, philosophers, podcasters, runners, theorists, swimmers, scientists) and student.
I still like the idea of the degree in undisciplined studies but, in the meantime, I think I’ve embarked on a graduate program in it! Right after I posted my last update, I got the idea to devote more time to individual poets/themes. March was Emily Dickinson, April Mary Oliver, and May is birds. Difficult to put together an entire course of study in the midst of that (and vaccinations and graduations and enjoying the spring weather).
One other I had on what to do with all of this work: Write some lyric essays or hybrid pieces weaving together some of the key elements for each virtue or attitude or approach (not completely sure how I want to refer to them). Of course, that’s a lot of work and it’s a BIG project. I like this idea; it seems more manageable than crafting an entire curriculum.
I’m starting to think that this project is a very slow one, probably decades, maybe never finished? Anyway, I’ve been busy doing lots of learning and experimenting, and not spending as much time documenting it. Every so often, I find a poem or a quotation that fits and I add it to this site (just added part of a Jane Hirshfield poem on the undisicplined page today, nov 11, 2021). Currently, I’m working on a sequence poem about haunts/haunting/haunted that brings together running by the mississippi river gorge with ideas about habits, rituals and routines, feeling approximate, residing on the edge, and longing for connection and distance at the same time.
I continue to plug away at these resources. This past summer (july 2022), I used them for a class I taught — the first one since the fall of 2011! — for a local literary center. I added another section, How to be…a fish, which is resources about water and open water swimming. I’m working on a series of poems about open water swimming and (not) seeing. I’ve also added to my Habits/Practices section. For the rest of the fall, I need to add in some more ideas/poems/quotations from my class.
A similar update to Sept. 2022. Slowly, I’m adding more passages and ideas. I taught another version of the class (a winter version) that I taught last summer. Also added the section, How to be…a Poet and How to be…enough. I’m pleased with what I’m doing here and wonder if I could try to shape some of it into some small somethings? An essay? A poem? A list?