Framing My Travels


Dear you,

Good journalists, lawyers and scholars all know that there's a moment at which one must cut off the research process and start writing. There's a reason for this: you can research forever and never put that research to use. Each new discovery prompts new questions about the context of whatever was discovered. You have to constrain your research, or all you'll do is dig.

Still, I've not quite finished wading through the information I'll need to tell Mel's story the way I want (though I'm starting to see the shore). Moreover, when I was at the Library of Congress in March, I only had so much time to work (and I'll have to go back to the National Archives, as I've discussed before). Fortunately, many Library of Congress materials concerning notable figures have been microfilmed and made available for inter-library loan. That means I can request some materials to view at my own library, on my own schedule. That's why yesterday I was in a crowded reading room on the second floor of the central branch of the Multnomah County Library reading a Roosevelt Administration cabinet member's once-secret communications. While I scrolled the microfilm,a man behind me studied old Oregon newspapers, some middle-aged guys at the other end of the table played video games on laptops, and dozens of people with nowhere else to go spent the day studying newspapers, finishing homework and grooming themselves in the building's restrooms. It was a jarring departure from the cloistered, high-security research facilities at which I've spent much of my Spring, but this space is these people's space as much as it is mine.

In any case, it was exciting to do real book work with the added knowledge I now know who's going to publish it. Oh, how I thrive on deadlines, and I'm loving the idea of setting a schedule to finish this book. I bet it will feel much like the training schedules I used to run my first and second marathon last year. Those schedules nourished me because I'm so used to, and tired of, my unconstrained freelance life as it seeps and leaks without form or direction.


As much as I have to corral my writing and my research, I find if I have a camera in my hand instinct takes over. When I travel — whether across the country or across the city — I begin to see potential photographs framed everywhere I look. It's a delicate approach; one doesn't want to miss the moment in the search for memories of the moment. What's more? Some moments are meant to be transitory, to be fully experienced, not boxed by lenses and mirrors. Still, I've been enjoying photography as a counterpoint to my writing, and, since I often travel alone, the chance to share what I see with people I wish could be there with me (by the way, are you following me on Instagram?). Friends and family who know me as a writer often tell me they're surprised to see how many photos I've taken. I don't pretend to be as great a photographer as many of my friends (check out the work of my Salt Institute collaborator Whitney Fox, or my old friend Jennifer Livia, to see what real pros can do), but photography is an ever-growing, ever-improving pursuit of mine, and I'm proud of what I have done so far. Some of the things I see stick with me, like the above photo, which I took in December, 2011, while dog-sitting for some friends who lived near Portland State University. I think you might enjoy some of what I've shot before, which you can do by clicking the "photography" link in the portfolio section of my main web site.

Okay, enough shameless marketing, but know that I want you to see the photos because I want you to know a little bit about me. I'd love to know a little bit more about you. What passions do you want to share?

Envisioning you,