A couple of weeks ago a map came through the cataloging unit at the Library where I work as a copy cataloger, a resoundingly clerical occupation. The map didn't come to me but as a federal document it came to our Federal Depository cataloging clerk Cheryl. The map being large and rather colorful caught my attention as she processed it, and I went over to have a look. It was titled Bedrock geologic map of Vermont. Even though it was a Federal document in this guise I could see it was originally produced by an organization called the Vermont Geological Survey.
I paused at this point and scanned all the names of the fairly sizable team that contributed to the survey, looking for a particular name I thought might be there. But I didn't see it.
The name I was looking for was of a childhood friend from my home town. His name was George and he had moved from Massachusetts down to Spartanburg South Carolina in our junior year of High School (to a town called Inman actually). He was my best friend and it made that last year of school drearier than it already inescapably was.
Things progressed; I went into the Navy and had (a not all-together conscious) working class outlook stamped on my psyche. Which years of college later on never undid. George went to Clemson and became a geologist. It was around this point that we lost touch with each other. Losing touch with things and people could be regarded as my life's work, I excel in it. I knew he transferred from U. Alabama at Tuscaloosa to U. Mass Amherst midway through graduate School. He did this while my younger sister Susan was going to school there. I had the impression that after completing school he moved to either New Hampshire or Vermont. Whether I knew this for a fact or whether it just seemed a very reasonable guess I could't say.
It did not seem reasonable to suppose he would have nothing to do with an organization like the Vermont Geographical survey, so I went on to their website Vermont Geological Survey. You can see the map that caught my attention as a thumbnail link in the upper right hand side. I went methodically through all the Links on the left hand side navigation pages until i did turn up a document he had co-authored with them in the Stream Geomorphology section.
I forget the exit trail I followed from there, but soon I was on the website of Vermont's Norwich University Norwich is actually a military school, while George was not a military person, his father a mechanical engineer who worked most of his life with Drapers a loom manuactuer had been in the army during the war and a colonel in the Massachusetts reserves. I found George in the Geology Department faculty section Our Faculty and Staff | College of Science and Mathematics: Geology and saw further that each faculty member had an individual spotlight page for themselves. Here he had written a small testimonial about why he became a geologist. He talked about the hometown Holliston that he and I both came from. He gave tribute to teachers I also knew, and in Mr. Tosti's case had as a teacher as well. I was struck and humbled by this quiet affectionate tribute to these mentors and educators. I still remember our class field trip to Cape Cod and Mr. Tosti's passionate environmentalism.
I have never written about Holliston in all the years I've run this weblog. I feel guilty in this and wrong as well. I liked most of the years I lived there growing up, and most of the people. It was a quiet rural town that became suburban to Boston in the great boomer flood of the sixties. If, in the last teenage years i lived there it seemed empty and claustrophobic, that wasn't Holliston's especial fault. I note that George has moved on to New England's eternally existent frontier.
I write about my years in the Navy, but not my years at college (or really any of the years after). Not of the campus radio station; vortex of a strange avante-punk radicalism and horizon broadening awareness of American music subcultures. The Navy years I follow a tension between trying to give the experience, the places and people justice. I want to write with fine grain detail and even with dramatic cast, through dimming memory. With the insight of a Joseph Conrad. And thre are readers for this. At the same time I don't want to fixate on a small period of the past when I was very young. I suspect, that if I could find a way to bring the thing off with my limited talent and tools - no one is less of a writer than myself. I would draw a line around the Navy years as an outlier let simple direct narrative tell for that. But let some set of stories, a controlled weave of fiction and observation shuttling back and forth speak for the rest.
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