The Bituminous Time It Takes to Rebegin ⏳

The obvious pattern here is that I write Earth Wide Moth entries on breaks. This time it’s Wednesday of spring break, the middle of a week in the middle of a semester—that temporal middlemost divot for a slouch and an exhale and a say.

I was thinking of bitumin because ever since I learned of the (by now well-known?) Queensland U/Professor Parnell pitch drop experiments, bitumin comes up as a terrific example of patience and the taffy-pulled reward of studying for many years things slow, old, and transforming though inobservably so. I’m no geologist, but this solid-seeming bitumin fascinates because even while it is friable, or ready to crumble, so too is it viscous. Given time enough, it forms and relinquishes droplets to gravity. Bitumen drips, if you leave it alone. Wait for it. Wait.

This spring break, like so many other breaks I’ve shoe-horned in and amidst WPAing responsibilities over the past five years at VT, has meant once again driving 500 miles from SW Virginia to Michigan, jeans and sweatshirts shoved into a luggage, watching the weather along the route so as to avoid freezing rains or patches of snow, fetching groceries, and upon arrival generally going along with the anything-whatever of granddaughter time, Is.’s club volleyball schedule, and then some. The practice, if it can be called a practice, is to be easy with it all. Equanimity-crafted lifestyle. And this time of year, there are thesis and dissertation chapters to read and comment upon (two on Monday, two more on Tuesday), continuing teaching prep and some comments on the short-form writing we’re practicing in Food Writing, a boomeranged second-time-around review task due next Tuesday and too long put off across the accelerated and travelsome and also cough-hacking throes of February. Yeah, sure, it’s work, but I experience it as slowed down during the break. Meanwhile, the email inbox has quieted. This week it has lessened to a trickle of reply-all-good job-all-well done-all congratulations among faculty colleagues and a few one-offs about the latest surveillant impulses and precise questions people have about AI-screened computing activities disguised in the protective father logics of cybersecurity, like if robotic dogs chased aggressively a twenty-first century suspicious hermeneut. If you can imagine these as blue-skied comforts, it’s some kind of time at some kind of beach or the like.

Warming up again to the ms review is next on today’s to-dos. I first read the manuscript and wrote 914 words of reviewish guidance ten months ago, May 2022. And because those ten months since have proven to be the most locally extreme and austere in what is now a decade of WPAing, I find it’s requiring more concerted effort to prioritize and focus upon this routine work, to muster a bituminous rebeginning and to return to the manuscript so I can read every bit as generously as before. At sloth’s pace, it stably holds together; quickened, it crumbles and fragments: I get it.