End of the line

End of the cog railway on Pike's Peak in Colorado

End of the cog railway on Pike’s Peak in Colorado

I’m in the last six weeks of completing my second book (and third monograph!) and the end of my last research trip to Québec, so it’s the end of the line for me.  As much as I’ve been itching to get this book done, it’s a little sad now to think of not returning to Québec.  It’s too bad, because I’ve got the condo situation sussed out, my favorite épiceries and boulangeries figured out, the vagaries of seventeenth and eighteenth-century French navigated, and now this information will become irrelevant to anyone (including me) in the next few years.  Isn’t it always the case that just as we get good at something, it’s time to wrap it up and move along?

I guess the only way to avoid this feeling is never to finish a project, which is just a bridge too far for me.  I take pride on being the kind of historian who can get stuff done, get it out, and move along.  I’m a perfectionist, but I also recognize that there is such a thing as the best book I can write right now.  I just can’t nibble a project to death.

All this week, I’ve had two alternating thoughts as I’ve reviewed some of the archival material I’ve taken notes on already, as well as a few new items:  first, omigod, how did I miss this the first time around??? and next, OK, this helps you and merely adds a few choice details to the story you’re already telling.  Still, don’t most of us wonder how many wonderful, awful stories we’ve missed?

quebewallsIt’s a lovely afternoon–breezy and warm, not too humid.  I’ve got my feet up and am enjoying a glass of vin rosé.  There’s a big Fête d’été here this weekend, so I might just put my sneakers back on pretty soon and head out to hear what I can hear.  The Tragically Hip are playing tonight–seems a fitting way to end this last trip to Canada, for at least a little while.  Maybe I’ll go down there and see the other geezers that show up for this gig, especially considering who paid for my plane ticket to Québec in the first place.    (But more on that later.)

You know me, friends:  I can get behind anything.

11 thoughts on “End of the line

  1. “Still, don’t most of us wonder how many wonderful, awful stories we’ve missed?”

    I feel like that is my life everyday. The records of the federal agency I work for are in such disarray, it is a miracle I can make any consequential decisions for my resources.

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  2. Every project ends with the “dang, I wished I could’ve used [insert cool research material here]. Good job with finishing up the book, enjoying free time in one of our country’s most beautiful cities and having had a great sabbatical!

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  3. Oh, yes, I share those feelings, especially the worry that I’ve missed good stories. And that’s very good advice: this is the best I can write now. Still, putting a project to bed always has a touch of melancholy to it.

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  4. On a less serious note, I hope you motivated to hear some free Hip. One of the great tragedies of life south of the border is lack of access to live Canadian music.

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  5. I’m totally with you on “the best I can do at this time”. You have to finish (which is what I’m saying to myself.).

    Many years ago I was at a scholarly meetings awards ceremony, and the winner of a book award mentioned that Pan Am had lost the luggage with all his notes for the book, so he had had to re do his research. I’ve often suspected that that terrible accident – rare today when we mostly take notes on computers – made it a better and richer book. (Historical note for the young ones: I kept my dissertation notes in a refrigerator (fireproof) when I travelled, and people routinely kept copies of things in different places.

    Enjoy the end of your last research trip to Quebec!

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  6. Just back from the research trip and this post says it all. You can never get to everything, and yes–“how did I miss this the first time around?”

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  7. Pingback: Public engagement: ask not why, but why not? | Historiann

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