The seminar ends Friday. The entire thing has been busy, with few moments to reflect. Thus, this wrapup is going to be partial, a draft.
I was sitting in Beverley Minster again on Saturday and I looked up. See that back corner there? Behind a door, there’s a very very long very very narrow spiral staircase that goes from that back corner all the way up to the roof on top. Early on in the seminar we walked all the way up to that roof on that staircase, and across those big gold xes across the ceiling, and pulled up that boss, that circular decoration in the middle, and looked down to the floor below.
That is a long way up, and a long way down.
Early Sunday morning my knee locked up and has not worked since. The last few days have been a flurry of trying to keep up with seminar events and learning to manage a disability (temporary, hopefully, but even more important to manage well if permanent). I could not ascend that staircase in Beverley now, though I could still look up, up, up as I did on Saturday.
Moreso than the last NEH in which I participated, this one is full of the bittersweet of singularity. I will not climb the height of Beverley Minster again, but I did once. I will not walk through the Staff Only doors at the British Museum, or handle the Middleham Jewel, or the Hockley Pendant again, but I did each of those things once. I am not likely to get to examine the Ranworth Antiphonal again.
The manuscript pirate, viking-like, returns season after season to revisit treasures as well as discover new. In contrast, this seminar featured places that I am not likely to see again, ever. Soon I will be called upon to assess this seminar for the NEH. I cannot help but compare it to the one I attended years ago, but that one featured enrichment that I actively built on, year after year. Its impact has been accretive in important ways, laying down a new, important layer of my scholarly life. This seminar’s enrichment was more explosive, featuring unique events that cannot be equaled. It remains to be seen how that will shape my future career, especially as I face the particularly complicated crossroads tenure reveals.
Meanwhile I am paused. Physically I must move slowly. Mentally I ready for my annual dash through the archives, knowing that it could possibly be my last. But neither Beverley Minster nor York Minster were built all at once. They too paused and slowed at times. We will see where I go after this pause. Will it too be up up up?