Taking Bearings: The Inaugural Issue
What Taking Bearings aims to be . . . [read on]
Welcome to the newsletter, Taking Bearings! Formally, TB will launch in August, but this issue sets the expectations and explains the approach. Read on. Then, please subscribe and share if you know people you think might enjoy it.
What Is Taking Bearings?
If you are out on the land or water and don’t know your location, you take a bearing. With tools--a map and compass--you can figure out where you are, where you want to go, and devise a plan to get there. But taking bearings is not only limited to figuring out our physical location. We can take bearings to figure out our temporal location--that is, our place in time. That means history can be a tool to take our bearings, too.
How did history bring us to this point? What might the past teach us about the present? How can its lessons point us toward the future we desire?
Taking Bearings explores time with the conviction that we live richer and better lives--and create a more meaningful world--when we consider how the past produced the present in the places where we live.
Taking Bearings is written by me, Adam M. Sowards. I’m a historian by training and a writer by practice. For a quarter-century, I taught college students and wrote mainly for academic historians. Now, that scope has widened.
TB is one way of still sharing my thoughts about time and place and ideas.
More About the Author
I am a historian and writer who focuses on the environment in the American West. I have written or edited five books and dozens and dozens of articles and features and columns (with an occasional opinion piece when I get riled up). Most of that work has investigated and explained the history of conservation (broadly defined), especially wilderness and public lands. But my curiosity rambles across the historical landscape in all sorts of interesting corners.
I have always lived in the American West (except for two months in western Pennsylvania I try to forget). Currently, I call Washington State’s Skagit Valley home.
Structure for Taking Bearings
I have a plan for Taking Bearings. I aim to alternate through different weekly features. Once a week, a new issue will be sent and posted. Each week will have a distinct focus, alternating in a regular fashion.
That’s the plan. For now. TB is experimental, as is all interesting writing. And as with all experiments, when new information arises, I’ll adjust as needed or inspired.
But for now, this is The Plan:
I taught college students for a quarter century (I started very young!), and most of the time when I sit down to write, I attempt to explain something. I am a teacher at heart. So, one week’s feature is called The Classroom. I’ll offer some historical lesson. I may tell you about a person or a law or event or a place that you know, or thought you knew, or might have no idea about. It might be relevant to current events or just something interesting to know.
The Field Trip
I’m a homebody by nature. However, I’ve learned it is important to get out. In other words, I need to take a Field Trip now and then. Over the years, my sense of place and time have deepened when I’ve spent time outside the archives and my office. So I plan on regular field trips to see interesting things or beautiful places. Sometimes they will be places new to me; sometimes I’ll revisit a favorite place from my past. I might report on a place I went yesterday, or a place I went three years ago. I hope my field trip reports inspire you to go to places and to think about them, especially considering time as a factor.
I read. I read a lot in fact. It varies, of course, but on average, I finish a book about every three or four days. Most of those are not related to what I’m aiming to do with Taking Bearings. But some are. So, I will read and reflect on books. Especially, I think, I’ll consider some older books, which will allow me to reflect not only the texts themselves but the contexts in which they were produced. I also plan to read classics I’ve never read, or re-read ones I’ve not visited in decades, or just an old book I have on the shelf. These TB trips to The Library will be yet another way to see how history enters our cultures and enriches our world.
The Wild Card
Once every four weeks, I’ll do something else. Who knows what it will be? That’s why it’s The Wild Card. Probably each time, I’ll offer something new. Perhaps it will be a reflection on current events. Maybe I’ll report on some ongoing research I’m doing, giving you access to a work-in-progress. It’s possible I’ll share some recommendations. You can count on it being connected to the main themes in my thinking and activities through the rest of the weeks. Maybe.
Each issue also will briefly include information about my other writings--my books, articles, and essays. When a new article or essay gets published, I’ll let you know. I might provide access to an older piece I’ve published and offer its backstory. This is meant as a reminder that I write other things that I hope you'll want to read.
For instance, you can go to the link below to see my most recent essay, published just this week.
Issue 15: Wild Roof Journal — wildroofjournal.com
My creative nonfiction essay, "Submerged Stories, Breaching History," in Wild Roof Journal is now available.
And if you go to the next link, you can find my affiliate shop on Bookshop.org where I've gathered together all the books I've published or books where I have contributed a chapter.
Adam's Bookshop.org Affiliate Page
You can find all my books and volumes that have a chapter by me on this page, and if you purchase one, I'll receive a small bonus from Bookshop.
And that's all, folks. I hope you are as excited to see what comes next in Taking Bearings as I am. Again, please forward or share to people you think may be interested, and thanks for your patience while I get this enterprise up and running and iron out the inevitable broken links and such.