This whole week I've struggled with low mood, but sad is just the opposite of happy, and you need to feel both to be truly alive. Sunday was Geoff's birthday and that set the stage for it, then Nan leaving after a week filled with the stimulation of interesting people and new sights added more weight. The shops in Norwich are in full swing for Christmas, and walking through the lanes in the evening, looking into colourfully decorated and brightly lit shops makes me feel nostalgic. The biography of Edgar Allan Poe by Peter Ackroyd hasn't helped. I'm required to write a book review of a recent (past five years) biography and I chose this thin volume at Waterstone's Books only because it was the tiniest biography on the shelf. There's so much reading to do for the program, and I wanted to lessen the load a bit. Ackroyd describes Poe's life as being tragic from the beginning. His mother, who he adored, died from tuberculosis, which she contracted before he was even born. Then, each of the women he loved during his life: adoptive mother, friend's mother, and wife, all died of consumption. Another one died of insanity. One explanation for this succession of tragic losses, according to Ackroyd, was that Poe was attracted to "frail or damaged" women. Not exactly the kind of reading one needs when one is down in the dumps, feeling frail and damaged.
Yesterday was cold and cloudy, but I decided to get on my bike and take a ride to clear my head. I cycled aimlessly for about an hour, over the bridge and along the Wensum, and my mood soon lifted from the benefit of oxygen and endorphins. When I got back to the flat, my biographical subject was working on getting herself ready to leave for Morocco tomorrow, so I made myself a cup of tea, grabbed a plate of cookies, retired to my room and settled into Poe again. I'll be glad to be finished with him.
Around 8:00 pm Nancy called down the hall and invited me to join her for a G&T. We started talking about her early life in Vancouver and her time at art school. It's fascinating stuff and she's a wonderful raconteur, stories flowing out like water over river rocks, taking different directions, circulating back. We talked for over an hour and then made a supper of crisp bacon, boiled potatoes, and salad, continuing the conversation that will form my dissertation. I presented my biography proposal in a workshop last week and got some good feedback, especially in regards to the opening. It's more interesting to start a life story from anywhere but the beginning, so I plan to begin with Nancy's present life in Morocco, reflecting back on the past at various points. I hope that spending time in Morocco at Christmas will inspire me to write a rich account of her life there. I can't believe I'll be flying to Marrakesh in exactly a month. Yesterday I had a request to edit two dissertations, and even if it's adding to an already heavy work load, it'll bring in a bit of extra cash. It's all good.