02 August 2011

August & Everything After

August second. Where have I been?

The last month seems to have slipped away into a fog of writing, sleepless nights, and shuttling relatives back and forth to the airport. The M1 announces that it leads to 'The North' not 'north', a destination, not a direction. I see this, have seen this, every time I drive from Heathrow to Milton Keynes, but it still strikes me as odd. The North.

The M1 sign, metaphorically speaking, serves as a foil, a way to connect the narrative of my life to the empirical elements of it. July was full of directions rather than destinations. Suddenly, we are not talking about the M1, but about my experience of it embedded in a series of experiences that become a narrative.

The narrative picks up where I left off: Yoko's parents here for the first half of July and me submerged in writing. When I came out of my office to go somewhere, I was distracted and disoriented, thinking about word counts and pronoun usage. They went back on 15 July and the house was left emptier than it had been in a month. Just the five of us. I went to work for a week and wrote more and more, pulled an all nighter on 21 July and was finished, completely 100% finished, at 2pm on 22 July. Exhausted, I turned in my laptop to the IT department to fix my grinding hard disk and headed home for a week of leave.

I only worked three weeks in July, but they were the most productive weeks of my career. I fell into my writing. It consumed me, kept me awake at night, became frighteningly central to my well being. I wrote until my eyes wouldn't stay open; literally, not metaphorically.  I'm not sure about what I produced. I'll know in the coming months and I can be more explicit about what I did. The metaphor, the extended metaphor is from American football: when it's first and ten and you have receivers open, you throw long. I threw wicked long; we'll see where the ball drops.

My parents came on 23 July and the house was full again, but in a different way. Yoko's parents tip the scales to a Japanese orientation, mine to an American. We all, of course, adapt either way: both are equally accessible and both sets of grandparents are incredibly deferential and patient and joyful, making life exceedingly easy. We went to the zoo and to the American Embassy in London (to get Mia's citizenship/passport). We went to Rainforest Cafe and walked up Regent's St. My mom brought new jeans: 30x30s as I finally had to give up on the 32x30s. They fit perfectly and I feel like I have a new lease on life in them. When your clothes are too big, you feel baggy and deprived, like something is missing. With two inches off the waist, I am confident with a straight, narrow line that leads up to a freshly pressed shirt and cleanly shaven face and haircut. Yes, confidence, something I normally pretend to have, but actually don't.

And then, like before, on 30 July, this last Saturday, everyone was gone and we were back to the five of us. In Japan, August is filled with the sounds of Cicadas and returning of your ancestors for the Obon holiday. Here, in Milton Keynes, August is accented by the sound of the crying baby, regular and normative like a clock tick. We're also back to playing musical beds during the night. Yesterday, I started on the floor of the lounge with Mei, moved to my own bed with Mia and Yoko, then with just Yoko, then Mei and Naomi's bed with Naomi, and I woke up there, alone.

It's now 6:45 on Tuesday morning. I didn't go to work yesterday because I misunderstood that the UK bank holiday on my Google calendar only applied to Scotland. No matter: my computer was still being fixed, so I was limited in the work I could accomplish. I ran again--my dad is training for a marathon so we ran 26 miles in the week that he was here and I ran another six and 11 the last two days. I am happy to be running and not worrying about the weight flux that comes with it.

I'm not worrying about anything now, actually. 14 months of my PhD left. 13 grant payments. 9 months until I hear about Lancaster. 5 to Christmas. 4 to Berlin. 3 to New York (I'm going to New York, I think). I'll take another week of leave in August to ride my bike and run. I have done enough for a lifetime. Next, maybe craft three journal articles which I need to start to organise this week. One on metaphor for Text and Talk. One on categorisation for Discourse and Communication. One on impoliteness for either The Journal of Pragmatics or The Journal of Politeness Research. We'll see how those go.

Autumn is creeping up on us: oddly, I felt it the last week I was at the OU. There are touches in the air when I ride my bicycle past the Buddhist temple and monastery at Willen Lake. A smell that reminds me suddenly of Thailand, the trip I took in Autumn of 2005. The memories cascade, one to another: yes, Yoko and I were starting to get serious at that time. There was so much convergence. And then I am remembering the Shinto temple in downtown Niigata when it was getting colder, drinking some hot coffee from a can that I got at the convenience store and eating 100 yen cookies. And then memories of the move here, of the bittersweetness of the ferry ride away from Niigata. And then the temples in Kyoto, the small single B&B we stayed at when we came 17 September 2008 (the first time the M1 declared the presence of the North to me), clotted cream and afternoon teas, and Oxford. Memories like a chain reaction. This and then this and then this and then this. I've spanned three years and three countries, why not another: why not a memory of standing in the Jardin de Tuileries in the sun with Yoko and Naomi and Mei, eating pastry, chocolate on our faces. Autumn is so perfect.

But Autumn has not actually taken hold: yesterday was still quite hot. We walked around in the sun, finding ourselves at Starbucks to get coffee and let the kids play in the fountain at the Hub.  I sat and watched them and didn't think of anything, my mind blank in a way that it hasn't been in years. Mia was crying: she always cries. And then another fleeting moment, a new memory like a postcard you keep tucked away in a cigar box: I looked across the square to see Yoko in jeans and a new blouse with the girls--she's so beautiful. My wife, my children's mother, my lover.

Perhaps I will go running this morning. Perhaps not. There isn't anything to run from anymore.