Sometimes, no matter what the rest of your life looks like, you have a day where nothing fits the way you think it should and the things that you counted on as steady and reliable suddenly seem unfamiliar and uncertain.
I’ve been overwhelmed with work and deadlines these last three weeks, in early and out late, yet have somehow maintained my balance and a quiet sense of accomplishment. I’ve pushed through it, tired but with my head down, focused on the projects at hand. The rest of the world has mostly passed by without me giving it much notice, unusual for someone who, I’ve come to realize, is addicted to information.
So this morning, when Michele emailed me with a link to a story in the Cape Cod Times, a paper where I worked three different jobs in the newsroom over a nine-year stretch, I somewhat reluctantly took a minute to click through. What I found at the end wasn’t by any means a new story, or even an unusual story, but it was a story that surprised me.
One of the reporters at the Times, a woman with whom I share an alma mater and for nine years shared a boss, turns out to have been making up sources, primarily for her fluffier pieces, going back to at least 1998, just two years before I took my leave of the newsroom. She and I were never close, but despite her spelling challenges, I considered her a very good reporter and an amiable colleague. What she did was undeniably wrong, yet I feel for her, her journalistic carcass splattered across the internet for the carrion crows to pick apart. I feel, too, for her editors—some of whom I know – left to sift through her stories, searching for the truth amid the rubble of people and events long gone, betrayed and besmirched by one of their own. It cannot be anything but a grim task, and not one they ever expected to undertake. Before I left for the day, I emailed a friend there, an editor, to tell her I was thinking of them.
From work, I headed to the pottery studio to finish off some pieces from a class that ended last week, but most everything was stuck in the kilns. I found two bowls to glaze, but it was an awkward process that I don’t expect to end well. As I struggled by myself off to the side, the room gradually filled with the laughter and camaraderie of people I barely know.
In this place that was once my second home, I felt very much alone. Here, I met one of my closest friends, who died of cancer three years ago. I cultivated a social circle that has since unraveled, knew most everyone who walked in the door, and felt, mostly, that I belonged. This evening, as I dabbed in vain at the excess glaze in a crevice of fired clay, the contrast was vivid. I was a stranger in a familiar land, home but unrecognized. I can’t help but imagine that my disgraced former colleague is feeling somewhat the same way. I pray that she finds a safe harbor in which to anchor.