I’ve spend too much time today inside. I’m typing these words here in my office at school: I just spent the last few hours working on Moby-Dick, the dissertation that won’t die. I’m revising a chapter on seashores–Thoreau’s & Beston’s Cape Cod, Annie Dillard’s Puget Sound–but as I revise these words I’m facing a wall far from the ocean here in Keene, NH.

I can’t even see the window from where I sit; it’s just before 4 pm, so when I turn my head to look out the window, I see oblique slants of setting sun. It’s clear and cold today; this morning I took the dog for a long walk. But that walk felt more like an errand than a true ramble: we went to the video store to return DVDs, the library to return a book, and the bagel shop to pick up croissants and bread. My mind was on my to-do list more than on the world around me in its crystal clarity.

And so now I’ll post these thoughts then walk home. What’s the point, I eternally ask. I’ve always asked that in my handwritten notebook: why scribble words in notebooks that no one will ever see? Now that I’m “scribbling” here online, though, the question remains: what’s the point? In fact, writing in a medium that others can see seems (at least right now) even more absurd than keeping a private journal. With a private journal, there’s the excuse of therapy: “I’m writing this to make sense of my own thoughts.” With a public blog, there’s the absurdity of egotism & its delusions of grandeur: “Somehow, I think that other people CARE that I’m facing a wall with a huge Lord of the Rings movie poster–not mine–while I type this!”

So, I still haven’t sorted out the “why’s” of blogging yet, and I suppose it will take a while: why am I writing this, and why in the name of God would anyone want to read it? But remaining true to the advice I give my writing students–all of them, semester after semester–I’m seeking clarity through writing. Instead of sitting here THINKING about why I should write, I’m sitting here WRITING about why I should write. Instead of worrying about the futility of it all, I’m tap tap tapping at my keyboard.

In the meantime while I try to figure it all out, I try to ground myself (again, again, and again!) in the present moment: right now, shadows from that setting sun–streaky grey tree limbs–trace the gold-illuminated facade of Fisk Hall. On my walk home, I will face east, with my back toward the sunset; if this night is like other recent ones, however, even the eastern sky might be diffused with a pinkish hue, a broadening blush. But from here, from this office with its damn wall, I can’t tell. Only after I’ve left to go home will I see for sure.