A View from McHenry

When I started documenting my first month as a CLIR Fellow at UCSC, I used the hashtag #30SantaCruzFirsts because I anticipated taking pictures of things that would be new and exciting, as well as confusing and challenging. I thought working in the library would challenge the kind of things I had learned as a graduate student and as a historian. And, to some extent, this happens everyday at work. Not only am I amazed by the amount of things that happen in one day when you’re not just writing your dissertation, but the world of the library is so extensive. I never realized how much work went on behind the scenes at academic libraries – they have secret lives behind locked doors and in collections rooms where books get rebound, manuscript collections get processed, and maps get digitized.

However, the real surprise of documenting this first 30 days has been the deer. This is not a metaphor. I see deer EVERY DAY on my way to work. I take the bus up the hill – going from the ocean to the mountains on a short 15 minute journey. And, once up the hill, I get off the bus and walk through a forest path, across a foot bridge, and under a larger wooden bridge. Along the way, I see, alternatively, a doe, a family of deers, or a male deer WITH antlers. At the end of this walk, I end up at McHenry Library, which is surrounded by Redwoods, and where, most days, an entirely different family of deer are munching the grass on the library lawn.

I think the people who have gone to school at UCSC or have worked here for a while are no longer dumb founded by the persistent presence of deer. But, I spent 7 years living in LA, where the best view on a hike is the Hollywood sign and the vistas are largely scanned for celebrity sightings. To me, seeing deer everyday is magical. And some mornings, the fog weighs down on the hill, covers the library, and I really feel like I might wander into a fantasy land.

If you’ve been following my #30SantaCruzFirsts, you’ll know that I have not posted a picture of deer everyday. Mostly, because I thought it would be excessive. And, it would also be unfair – because most people do not get to go to work in the redwood forests. They do not get to watch deer chew grass as they walk to a job that is challenging and exciting in all the best ways. Nonetheless, these 30 days have not been all deer. They have also not been as contemplative or emotional as my last 30 days in LA. I no longer feel like I’m dwelling in multiple past lives or crafting a memory of my life. Rather, I feel like I’m celebrating the unbelievable setting that I get to work in everyday.