Billy Collins’ poem, “Consolation,” has been stirring in my head as I’ve been thinking about various goings on. John is currently en route for Ireland, a trip that is part sabbatical oriented, part vacation. Mostly, I think he plans destinations that are named after favorite whiskeys. I’m reminded by the poem because it attempts to suggest that it’s even better to not be going away to Europe, but in the process makes it clear that those of us left behind, here on the North American continent, aren’t so much better off:
Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.
I’ll eat my eggs and enjoy my ice while John is sampling those fine whiskeys and visiting quaint establishments, sweet accents included, no charge. But it’s more than this. Fall is the time of year when we’re usually hosting Crossroads. It’s not that there has been a lack of things to do: An extra obligation here, another department commitment there, plenty of other projects I’ve never quite caught up on. And yet, something’s still missing.
I think about recent Crossroaders and even lurk on Facebook pages and read over emails. People are busy, taking on new administrative roles, finishing graduate programs, starting new jobs, hosting new endeavors, working with teachers, welcoming kids on Saturdays, welcoming kids on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays . . . it’s all kinds of busy out there, and I know I only catch the small glimpses of it, peeking through the openings between slats in the fence as I run by.
Taking a sabbatical from Crossroads for a year was exactly the right thing to do. At the same time, I miss it just enough to think about next year, and the year after. So, while it’s a “year off,” it’s also been a chance to deliberate about future venues, guests, and directions. Yes, we think we know where we’re going to host the conference in 2011. And 2012. It’s infuriating that I can’t stop thinking about the future plans for this. And exhilarating.
To all of you out there not coming to Crossroads in 2010, I’m thinking of you. Nice work. Keep it up. Can’t wait to see you in 2011.
To John in Ireland right now . . . well, I just don’t want to talk to you. I’m here, eggs over easy, with the waitress known as Dot.