Thursday, March 17, 2011

Out of Focus

No, it isn't your eyes...this IS way out of focus.
(Interior, St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC.)

I've struggled a lot with what I wanted to write about this week and my focus has, it seems, shifted every few hours between the uprisings in the Middle East, the labor protests in Wisconsin and other midwestern states and of course, the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And as much as I've been deeply moved by each event in one way or another, every time I open the laptop to try to put something together, the words simply refuse to come. I wouldn't say it was a case of writer's block so much as a case of failure to focus. You know how the lens on your point-and-shoot camera will sometimes just continually zoom and retract refusing to focus on the object or scene you wish to photograph? Well that's been my brain this past week--though thankfully (mostly) without the annoying noise that usually accompanies a non-focusing camera.

Added to this already murky mixture are the pitfalls, roadblocks, and detours associated with researching and writing. Fits and starts seem to be the way of it lately for me and I must say that from time to time I feel as though I've hit a dead end and begin to wonder if I have utterly lost the plot. When you're researching and the trail cools down--or seems to disappear completely--it's a challenge to persevere, particularly when you don't even know exactly what else you're looking for, let alone where it might be found. Then, just as the inky many fanged beast of doubt begins to rear its ugly head, once in a while, from nowhere, a small glimmer appears on the horizon. Not exactly an instance of the fingerpost, perhaps, but a welcome guidepost and something for my mind's lens to focus in on.

Yesterday an accidental guidepost appeared, bringing with it a bit of much needed focus. With the focus came a little luck. You often hear about how sporting teams that are good also tend to be lucky. I'd like to think that sometimes, by virtue of perseverance alone, luck can be encouraged and coaxed into yielding a small, but precious dividend. In this case, a ridiculously lucky and unexpected souvenir found for sale on e-bay that maybe raises as many questions as it answers, but is still an important find.

Predictably, I was hooked again and focus began to be return. As I've said before, I love the research aspect of most projects because while it can be thankless and frustrating, it can be so satisfying and exciting. Granted, discovery of real linchpin moments is few and far between, but it does happen and when it does, even on a small scale, it's energizing. The doubts about the project begin to dissipate and with a renewed sense of purpose, you forge on ahead. I guess that's the nature of life, the pieces, the things we need ebb and flow, toward us and away from us...recognizing that has been a real revelation for me. I'm often surprised by both what does still exist when it comes to paper trails and what doesn't. And when it's not extant in a nice, succinct package, that's when you get creative and search differently. I guess that's part of the fun of it as well, I love a puzzle (crossword, Scrabble, etc.) and I get my kicks sorting through and putting together all the seemingly incongruous pieces.

Thus, with a modicum of focus restored and armed with a menu and a mere passing mention of chocolate filled little wax turkeys (yes, you read it right, small wax turkeys that when cracked open were filled with chocolate) I head off tomorrow in search of more official and concrete kinds of documentation. Wish me luck!

OH...and Happy St. Patrick's Day! If you thought you'd find a boozy reverie (and you'd have been right to think you might) here's a post from last St. Pat's with a few fond Guinness soaked memories... Slainte!

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