Final Post

Last week I completed my final product and emailed it to my advisor. It ended up in the vicinity of seventy pages, this written child of mine, and I hated and loved and loathed it all at once. Working the same track of words for so long, one loses all perspective. By the time I was through I had no idea whether I’d written the best piece of life or the worst. The possibility that it fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum never crossed my mind. I was set on extremes. I emailed it off with relief and forgot about it for a few days, to clear my head.

What did I learn from this project? I learned that the calls of transient orca whales are unimaginably desolate, that the secret to a delicious gluten-free muffin is excessive amounts of xanthan gum, and that I have a terrible sense of direction (although I already sort of knew this). I learned that live sand dollars are chocolate-brown and furry, that ochre sea stars are not just ochre but are purple and orange. I learned that I am a little more obsessed with Annie Dillard than even I realized. Summer began with days rife with pebbled Pacific shores and the sweet luxury of reading Walden slowly, carefully, wonderingly. It continued with alligators and hoopoe birds as I worked my way through my project’s reading list, and ended in marathon writing sessions during which I carried my laptop from room to room and pounded keys in a mad frenzy of frustration and inspiration.

I suppose I learned perseverance as well. Seven weeks is a long time. Seventy pages is exhausting. There was a lot of giving up in disgust, and a lot of returning to the point where I left off, tiredly picking up the end of the string again, tiredly feeling my way forward again. Who was I to write? Just someone who had been somewhere, done something, and wanted to remember it again. I had no claim, no claim to any of it. I felt as if I were stealing the words, bluffing my way into a position of authority from which to write. Bluff I did, shaking the last phrases from the swept crevices of my head, and out of that agonized wracking came this thing, this computer file, seventy pages, which I now call a final product, as if it were a car or a tub of yogurt. And I love this thing, love it for being wholly mine, love this research for carrying me to Puget Sound and back, spurring me to write this final product, which ought to be called a starting product, because every word smacks of beginning.