By Emily Hunter, Field Book Project
Happy New Year from all of us here at the Field Book Project! As people who are constantly reading field notes, it’s hard for us to let a holiday pass without imagining what it was like for scientists who spent their holidays in the field, away from family, continuing to collect and study the specimens they so enjoyed.
New Year’s Day, for many of us, is filled with promise—a new start, a new dream, new resolve to finish our projects, perfect our character flaws, strive to be better human beings. Even field scientists felt this way; they looked up from pressing plants, packing fish, and taking field notes, and resolved to better themselves.
In 1941, Floyd Alonso McClure wrote in his diary,
I started the day off rather badly, considering that it is ‘New Years,’ and that I still consider that I could and should do everything better than I do.
Who hasn’t felt this way about a New Year? He continues,
As I look at this page, it seems that even my handwriting lacks character that statement however, cannot be true, for handwriting surely reveals character—or habit—to a certain extent, at least. Perhaps mine reveals my character more clearly as it is than it would if it were more regular. I believe, however, that the practice of a particular style of writing would have a beneficial effect… I must write more by hand.
As catalogers who spend a good deal of time trying to decipher handwriting, we can’t scoff at that resolution! (As an aside, McClure was being a little rough on himself—his handwriting was not even close to the worst that we’ve seen.) A lighter and simpler resolution might also be a good direction to go. Like this one, that McClure penned on the first day of 1925:
As for New Year’s resolutions, we read at the table at noon the list of twenty which I made out for myself at Nodoa, in Hainan, on the eve of the end of 1921. They still seem to cover the ground fairly well and so we let them stand. In short our resolution is ‘To make the most of life’.
Here we are, over 90 years later, and McClure’s resolution to “make the most of life” still sounds like a good one. We’ll toast to that one. Happy 2013 everyone!