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The joy of obsession

June 29, 2012

Well, you know, it was gonna be like this. When I was finished fieldwork, I was going to have a more moderate lifestyle. I was going to get eight hours sleep a night. I was going to work regular hours. I was going to blog more. I was going to upload some sound to my bird pictures. There was going to be a piece on the wheatears of Achill, wheatears generally, their wonderful markings, their phenomenal migration (some of the poor dears actually migrate to Greenland. And Canada. They cross the Atlantic! From Africa. Twice a year. Crazy birds). There were going to be photos of the Deserted Village in Achill, some musing on its mystery, those gable walls facing the ocean like the stone heads on Easter Island. There were going to be raptures over the THREE DAYS OF GLORIOUS SUNSHINE. On the west coast of Ireland. That’s not to be sneezed at in anybody’s world.


Well, there’s been none of that. Obviously. First the good news. My talk’s accepted  for the Behavioural Biology conference in Essen ( I’m going to Germany. A little nerve-wracking but should be fun. Second, I’ve been invited to Science Meets Poetry III at Trinity College, Dublin ( I’m going to meet other poet-scientists. Looking forward to that, although I feel a bit of a fraud, because I haven’t even tried to write a poem with any seriousness in nearly a year. Still, I have a track record. So I’m just going to rest on my laurels for a bit poetry-wise, and enjoy the fruits of the labour of my previous life.


So where’ve I been? Well, you wouldn’t believe. I’ve waded through rivers, slashed through jungles, I’ve climbed mountains, traversed canyons. I have been wrestling with The Paper. And it’s been great. I’m grappling with theory at a level I didn’t know possible. I didn’t know I could be this engrossed, engaged, enraptured. I haven’t felt this level of freedom, of intellectual excitement in a very long time. And I’m gasping not only at the thrill of the work itself, but at my own mind, how it is greedy for this, rushes to meet it, expands along with it. The reviewers pushed, and I took that pushing to heart, and it has thrown me out into new territory, a huge abstract space to dance in. But I’m discovering the map as I explore. This work is really mine, and I really do have something to say about it. It’s not even about the results any more, although of course they’re fundamental. It’s about where they slot into the bigger picture, and how what I say about them can genuinely contribute to that bigger picture. Believe me, it’s very exciting.


So, we’re talking 12 hour days, not remotely enough sleep, inability to think about anything else. There were floods in Belfast; I entirely missed them. The queen came and went, the famous handshake happened very close to where I live. I was completely oblivious. I am literally away with the birds. But I am finding that this is indeed another way to write. I miss writing poetry, badly at times. But not enough to miss this opportunity, to grapple with language in a totally different way, to grasp for definitions, meanings, that accurately convey what I’m thinking, that may actually reflect an external reality. A totally different genre, yes, but the struggle’s the same. The joy’s the same.


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  1. I am so happy for you! Though we’ve never met, I feel that I really want to cheer you on. There’s something so exciting about being swept away in a glorious rush, pursuing a dream you’ve obviously had for some time. And now to be accepted by those who appreciate your work, want to hear your presentations, and applaud you for the hard work mixed with talent and creativity…all so great. I’d let the world go by…at some point you’ll probably bump into it again headlong, but while you can, just get carried away! An obsession can be such a joyous mystery! Debra

    • Debra, you are so lovely! Thank you for this. It really is great to have you cheering!

    • I’ve been grinning about this for ages- and then I remembered I hadn’t told you how much I love this post! It’s bubbling with excitement, and full of inspiration.

      Go, you!

      *imagine a virtual cheerleading team- Debra and I are far enough away that one of us is bound to be awake when you need a cheer. I hope Debra has pompoms…*

      • Fiona, I know you’re cheering! You’ve always been cheering for me! But it is good to have both of you – the person I’ve known for decades and the person I’ve never met both cheering about the same thing. Thanks!

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