I was on the phone with a colleague the other day and he asked how my leave is going.
I groaned. He laughed. He told me that when he’d seen our colleague for the first time, back at work after a year’s research leave, he looked like he was still at the bottom of a deep well. We both laughed and then we talked about the well for a while.
I like that metaphor because that is what it feels like when I spend the day in the library. It doesn’t take more than three or four hours for me to turn into a disoriented, blinking mole, shocked at the clamor and noise of the world around. When I get deep enough into my work to actually break ground—which is rare—it can be hard to return to family life. Most days, however, I have to be so conscious that I need to leave at 4:30 in order to fetch the girls that all I do is peer down into the well, imagining what I might find in the distant darkness.
Peering down isn’t enough, however. If you want to find the treasure that lies beneath the surface, you have to dive down into the well.
Merry little magpies like me find many reasons to peck around at the ground instead. The sky is blue. The children are charming. Smart friends and acquaintances are tweeting away, updating statuses with wit and energy. Why leave this happy conflagration for the mysteries of the deep?
Because the treasure is at the bottom of the well.