As part of establishing this first “challenge” or more aptly titled “project,” I said I would visit the discussions in my classes every work day, by which I meant Monday through Friday. That doesn’t mean I didn’t work today. I read Jill Christman’s “Paddling the Middle Fork: A Love Story in Low Water,” from RiverTeeth Vol 10, Fall 2008/Spring 2009, to see if it might work as a future course reading. I exchanged emails with possible students.

I also researched more for an essay that is nearly due, and which has recently changed direction completely from the place I was originally headed with it. This sometimes goes well and sometimes goes poorly. We’ll see. This research includes the WayBackMachine, old VH1 specials, and John D’Agata. I don’t even much like D’Agata, though I have found him charming, but he seems to come up a lot when I talk about essaying. He’d love that, I’m sure, which has got to be where some of my distaste springs from.

I did this work on top of a long walk into town and spending a few hours cleaning: scrubbing windows, doors, and ceilings. Did you know that your doors and ceilings need to be washed periodically? If you said no, you’d have something in common with this home’s previous occupants. It is easy to take the sort of cleanliness that lives (or doesn’t) in crevices, like door jambs and window tracks, or high up over your head, for granted. Until all of the details you see are dingy, dust-blackened, cobwebbed, or splattered with some mysterious decades-old food sweat. It is satisfying, if exhausting and joint-shearing, to take off the yellowy haze of anthropocentric sediment. It is even more so if you take pictures, so you know just how much you’ve scrubbed away.


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