Hello from a rainy autumn night in Harrisonburg. I went walking in the woods at dusk and saw no one, several times standing with eyes closed trying to filter out the Interstate 81 noise and just hear the ancient sound of steady rain hitting leaves and limbs. All things considered, it was incredibly beautiful. Otherwise, I've been inside all day writing the new book.
I am happy to report that I have drafted the first third of the book, writing about my experiences in New York, Mexico City, London, Gettysburg, and Yosemite. I've also written about 8000 words on my visit to Treblinka in Poland. This I found quite difficult to write because it's hard to say anything that seems to match the history of this ground where 900,000 people were murdered. I'm now about to write my chapter on soils. When I told my class the other day that I was thinking about how to write 20,000 words on soil I definitely saw some stunned faces.
The first week of September I was lucky enough to return to London to give a talk, and while I was there I visited a site where the new Crossrail tunnel is being constructed underneath the city. This new tunnel, which will take a train from one end of the city to the other, is an unbelievable bit of engineering. They're having to find their way through (and under) pipes, subways, wires--you name it--sometimes passing within a foot or two of already existing spaces. I was there to talk with archaeologists who are reveling in the opportunity to learn more about the ground under this amazing city, including graveyards underneath one of the city's busiest streets. One guy I talked with told me they'd found the skeleton of a woman holding a plate, which they figure must have been her most prized possession--she's been lying undisturbed for 300 years just feet below the living feet walking the street above her.
Here's an action shot:
There is so much work to be done on the new book, but it feels wonderful to be in the drafting stage. I mean, it USUALLY feels wonderful. Sometimes it feels agonizing, or stressful. And sometimes it all feels as though it's going to collapse. But right now, I'm feeling lucky to have the work I do, trying to create something beautiful to give back to the world.