For the record, if anyone's reading: I did pass my candidacy exams, after being grilled generously and rigorously by a wonderful group of brilliant people: Brian McHale, James Phelan, Sandra Macpherson, and Robert Holub. It was much more terrifying than I had expected, each minute skulking slowly by, a sludge of questions and answers and thoughts and anxiety and knowledge and conviction and insecurity and vociferousness. Sometimes I talked for longer than I needed at a question merely to forestall the coming of another question. Sometimes I answered in single words. Sometimes I spoke and knew that the words I was saying were hopelessly a mess, and I turned them slowly into sense, as best I could. I looked at my watch a lot, and drank coffee to hide my grimaces when they came. And I kept my suit jacket on the entire time, perhaps as a sort of security, or perhaps I didn't want them to see my sweat. But finally, finally, it was over, and the pacing feverishly in the halls was mercifully short, and I was met with smiles and handshakes.
As always, the birds were there, a red-tailed hawk swooping far above on my bike ride to campus, and after, the white and blue herons waiting and fishing patiently in the river as they had before and will I hope always. Auspices in the east, which is the source of all beginnings. (See the etymology of "origin.")
An image stays with me of the white heron swooping along beside, flying to its roosting-place as I pedaled vigorously southward, it outpacing me but only by a margin, those white feathered wings moving slower than my legs: I may feel the world moves more quickly than I do, but perhaps if I move quickly I can see it closely even as the years speed onward.
To living and working quickly, which is my goal, because I have been relaxing and recovering and meandering, and feel much too slow. This stack of books must go on--
(Reading William Vollmann and thinking a lot about death and deep time and meaninglessness and humanity. See "Trench Ghost" in Last Stories and Other Stories. I had the goodfortune to have dinner with the man tonight after his reading and it was a wonderful and curious time, meeting such an exceptional and distinct human being.)