I think part of what keeps me writing here is the temptation of having a record. Of not wasting this time - forgetting lessons I've learned. It seems the learning comes at some emotional cost - there's pain and joy and progress, but so much of it is forgotten. Over the past months, I'm sure I've forgotten details and conversations, but the idea that I can come back here to remember is appealing.
I also take pictures. I often travel alone, so I'm likely to photograph the sights I find interesting - that way when I tell my stories, I'll have pictoral evidence that I was somewhere or saw something. But the idea that some of these images can appear in my journal makes me drag the camera out more often that I otherwise might have.
I ate a quick lunch after the morning sessions, thinking about how well the organizers had done for this particular meeting. We have tables in the conference room - a space for water and notes and laptops, as well as something to lean on when the sessions get long. They provided snacks at coffee breaks - a big deal when I decided to skip breakfast in a desperate attempt to get more sleep. The talks are uniformly of high quality - even when I zone out, I quickly regain my focus because the work is of such importance. Well, and I sit next to Boss so the idea of making a decent impression is a good one.
After lunch, I raced back to my pretty room and traded black pumps for old sneakers, then grabbed a map and my camera and headed out into the cool afternoon. It was cloudy, but the sunshine made pretty patterns as it peeked through the clouds. I enjoyed crunching through the layer of leaves on the ground as I made my way down a hill. I smiled when I thought - more than once - about how hard it was going to be to get back. When you go down, down, down on the way there, there's the inevitable up, up, up that must come later.
Realizing the time to be back was fast approaching, I consulted my map again and frowned when I saw I'd have to retrace my steps. I like to make loops and constantly see something new. But often there's no choice - to get to some places, you have to travel downward. Then you look around - maybe take a picture - then head back up the hill. If you're lucky - and today I was - there's beauty everywhere. The leaves on the rocky path, the sun shining on the few red leaves that remain on some trees, the rustle as the wind pushes through the forest.
Even as I started to pant as I quickly pushed myself up the hill, felt myself sweat despite the coolness outside, I said "pretty" out loud in several moments where the colors were too vivid, the light too exquisite too ignore. Then I winced when - upon returning to my room - I saw my face. Quickly washing and trying to acclimate to the inside temperature, I waited a moment before applying new makeup, stepping back into my pumps, and walking back downstairs. The people here are friendly - it's an environment of intellectual interest at a casual, approachable level. I enjoy this particular meeting very much and am glad to be here. I just have to remind myself of that as I sit through another 3 hours of lectures on a Saturday afternoon.
But as for the pictures, even as I uploaded them and watched as they appeared on the screen, I sighed and said, "pretty."