My Year Away. And Back.

The Joys of Getting Back into Academic Life after a Year-Long Sabbatical.


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Water, Water, Everywhere. An Ideal State of Being.

Finding books to expand my thinking during My Year Away has been a serendipitous treasure hunt. I knew I would spend part of this year reading presidential biographies. Nothing like a list to keep a person organized! Just in case you’re counting we’ve had 43 different presidents. (I include Grover Cleveland only once considering he served two non-consecutive terms—and I’m definitely not reading two biographies of Cleveland!) That’s a doable list—especially when you discover books like The Bully Pulpit, which covers two presidents.

Still, I can’t just read books about presidents. So far, I’ve also read books on rowing, the perils of higher education and Alzheimer’s. Today I write about water. Wallace J. Nichols’ Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do (ISBN 978-0-316-25208-9) is a book that made think about water in ways I had never imagined—and I thought I knew quite a bit about the stuff.

photo[2]Apparently there is a whole group of scientists around the world who conduct experiments about the properties of water. They publish their research (in journals this social scientist has yet to discover) and they even get together for academic conferences in exotic, water-oriented locales. (I might need to put one of these conferences on my Bucket List.)

In a nutshell, Blue Mind lays out the science that provides convincing evidence that being around water is a good thing.  It not only reduces stress, it can even make us smarter! The importance of water is multi-layered. It’s the actual water, it’s the sound of water, and it’s even the color of water.

Is blue your favorite color? According to Blue Mind, it’s lots of people’s favorite color for the basic reason that blue makes us all feel better. With apologies to Elvis’ crooning that he’ll be blue, blue, blue this Christmas, research indicates that blue lifts our spirits, cures our depression, lets us concentrate.

Before reading Blue Mind, I knew I loved the beach. I knew I was a more productive writer on the days I could hunker down at our beach house. I knew when faced with a choice for new house paint or new dishes, I tended to pick blue. But I didn’t know that this was all related.

Blue Mind is not the kind of book that you can read in one sitting. You might even want to have another book on your nightstand to reach for periodically while you’re making your way through the science presented in this book. But, it’s definitely worth a read.

As I journey through my sabbatical, I’m trying to better understand who I am as a scholar, writer, teacher. I think knowing just a little bit more about why I’m drawn to water will help me navigate my academic life wherever it takes me.

Blue, I love you. (And that’s the only line from Joni Mitchell’s song that is even mildly coherent.)