Paper clips in the lid of an old tin can. Pink quarter-sheets of paper. Full canary-yellow sheets of paper. Mint green sheets of paper. A very sharp pencil. A box full of folders that are filled with fragile pieces of paper covered in handwriting that has browned with age.
They aren’t fancy things. No computer-aided technology of any kind. Just the rudiments of research, and I love them.
I can sit in that quiet room and focus completely on the task at hand. One folder, one piece of paper at a time.
It’s as if the world slows down around me. I lose myself in the story of Richard Lee and Fanny, two historical figures that could very well have been models for Austen’s romances, if the time periods lined up. I wrap myself into the context where the man I have called “The General” for over 20 years becomes Jack, and I see a young man still trying to define who he is in the world. I wonder at what it means that “Old Lucy” has been down for a few days because her arms are weak and try to figure out whose mother she might be – Primus’s? Ben’s? Lucy’s?
By peeling away the connections of now, by allowing myself the space and time to be there in that time, I find the stories I have been seeking. But I have to peel away the now – the computer, the phone, the list of things I have to do – and be there.
I definitely need more of this, not just for my research, but for my writing, and for my life. I have got to cut away some of the tethers and let go. The emails will wait, the texts will wait, the class plans and cleaning lists will wait. My research, my writing, my life – it won’t wait.
Where do you feel the tethers of technology binding you? Where do you let them go?