Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Soul food

At this time last weekend, I was sitting in an armchair, studying the intricate architecture of a tree as I listened to three Kentucky poets share their work. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of a much-needed weekend away from the daily grind. Of course conferences are part and parcel of an academic's work; they just happen to be one I enjoy. Here are five reasons why:

1. Hotel rooms.
Hyatt Place Bowling Green

I bet you didn't see that one coming. After all, academia and poetry exist on a much higher plane, right? Yet we all have times in our lives when we ask nothing more than a clean, quiet space that we don't have to clean ourselves (BTW: tip the hotel housekeeper. She's the reason you get this break!). After all the hectic preparation it takes to get to a conference, coupled with the socializing that takes place once I've arrived, I LOVE coming into the hush of a dimly lit room, turning on the coffee maker, and flopping down on the crisp, white bed. That this room provided the option of a sofa was icing on the cake.

2. The conferences I attend are entirely about words, language, and literature. I have been doing this for more than 20 years and I still feel like I have won the career lottery. If I had known as a child that there was a whole line of work where you could do nothing but talk books with people who share that love, I wouldn't have worried so much about that age-old question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

3. I'm good at it. I'm a pretty decent reader, occasionally even insightful. Plus I have the blessing of being able to read in three languages (and the accompanying curse of wishing it were closer to six). I like to talk books, and there are people in the world who actually want to hear what I have to say. The group I was with this weekend was gracious enough to let me have the floor twice, once as a presenter and once as president of the association. Again, I'm pretty sure I won the jackpot when I fell into this line of work!
KPA members and supporters at Lost River Cave

4. Socializing with people who get me. Yes, I am an introvert who gets burned out by too much interaction. At conferences, though, it takes a lot longer before I'm looking for the sanctuary of that quiet hotel. It is refreshing spend time with people who "get" me. We don't think alike -we are, thankfully, way too idiosyncratic for that- but we all share common ground.

5. Conferences feed my wanderlust. Truth be told, I often choose them more by place than by theme. They have taken me from Chattanooga to Chicago, from Frankfort (Kentucky) to Paris (France). I love that the KPA belongs to such a beautiful, diverse state and that I am blessed to call this state home. This time, the aventure du jour was Lost River Cave, an experience that pushed me ever so slightly out of my comfort zone. The ceiling was a little close to the boat for a few seconds, and I'm not a huge fan of tight, dark spaces. Yet much like a book that might get off to a slow or disconcerting start, it was worth it. After all, it's a privilege to travel to strange and beautiful new places, both in the real world and our minds.
Lost River Cave - Entrance

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