Monday, February 15, 2016

My Many Years Aboard the Welcome

Historical writing is like cooking. Some essays are as easy as a quick stir-fry, moving from inspiration to finished product in a flash. Most require more simmering, time to let flavors mix and new ideas emerge. But occasionally, a writing project ends up on the stove for an inordinate amount of time, way longer than any recipe would call for. Maybe you got distracted by other meals. If you're really lucky, when you get back to it, your project hasn't reduced itself to a scorched pot of goo.

I was reminded of this when I was cleaning out some old files after our recent move. Not because I found any scorched goo. But because, amid papers from high school, I found a portfolio I prepared almost exactly ten years ago, in my senior year. Among the list of my various accomplishments was a photograph of a wooden ship suspended from a crane. This was a reproduction of the 1770s sloop Welcome, built in the 1970s and refurbished for a number of years by the Maritime Heritage Alliance of Traverse City, Michigan, before they relaunched her in 2005.

Under the image was a line about my own involvement with the Welcome:

"I am also currently working on researching and transcribing the logbook of the Welcome. Through analyzing the daily log entries, it will be possible to chart the Welcome's service when employed by the British crown during the Revolutionary War."

Well, eighteen-year-old Tyler, I'm happy to report that you finally did it, albeit a decade later. Improbably, that pot managed to cling to the back-burner for quite some time. It wasn't a project that took ten years of arduous labor. But it did take on-and-off research, a graduate writing seminar, and many rounds of editing. I have other dishes on the menu in the coming years, and it's nice to see this one leave the kitchen.

Sometimes what matters, at the end of the day, is that you get a meal on the table.

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