I thought I would post a few more pictures of Bok Tower Gardens in Florida, but mostly in this blog post I want to take stock. I actually took stock once. When I was a teenager, I worked for one summer at the jewelry counter of a discount store. I pierced people’s ears and replaced watch batteries. It was my only experience working in retail. After that summer, I worked in summer camps. So in a way, I was always preparing to be a teacher. That summer, one weekend, we took inventory, which is the same as taking stock: you catalog what you have on hand, in stock.
This is more metaphysical, of course.
I haven’t been posting, and I think that’s because of my impulse, now that the semester is over, to retreat into myself. I’ve been through one of the most difficult years of my life. (Since I teach, I always think of years in terms of academic years, September to September.) It was the year in which I finished my PhD, the year in which various personal crises happened. At the end of it, I’m tired both physically and in a deeply existential way. What I want, more than anything else, is to get on a bus or into a plane and go, which may be why I’m traveling so much this summer.
I should say that in the midst of all this, some wonderful things happened to me as well: I finished my PhD! I actually made it through the year . . . And I do believe, firmly, that what does not kill you makes you stronger. In many ways, I’m a stronger person than I was two years ago, when I began to work on finishing the PhD in a focused way. I’m a stronger person for having made it through the personal crises as well. But they’ve taken their toll.
What do I have in inventory? I have a PhD in English literature, years of experience teaching undergraduates, and a writing career that has started slowly because I’ve had to put so many projects on hold, but that I now have the time to focus on. I have determination, a knowledge of craft, and some wisdom (I think). Something to actually say.
So I think the stock is pretty good, actually. I have plenty in inventory. What matters now is what I do with it.
The plan is to recover, to find myself again after this incredibly difficult year. That’s something I haven’t done yet, but I think I’m on the way there. I’ve started working on the novel, and writing always helps. When you’re a writer, the cure for whatever ails you is always writing. (Someone quote me on Goodreads. That’s the secret, in good times and bad: keep writing.) To figure out, or remember, who I am as a teacher, a writer, even simply as a person. To act out of that knowledge, rather than out of stress or anxiety.
I’m going to try to get back to posting more often. That’s good for me too. But in the meantime, here you go: more pictures.
I love secret gardens, and the old estate near the tower has a number of them. Look at these magical doorways.
There was one wooden building were you could go and watch the wildlife through the window. The diversity was amazing. (Yes, that’s the back of my head.)
And finally, here is the tower again. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
Photos by Jesse Walker