Come with me on a research trip to Princeton University.
Make the approach under a canopy of trees on a drive one could easily imagine Model Ts or horse-draw carriages traveling. Cross a slim channel and a set of athletic fields, freshly mowed and lined. Walk with me up a hill, past historic brick and stone houses where the echoes of rowdy egoists still linger on the leaded glass windows and important stone crests.
Enter the great Princeton Arch, just one of many passages from here to there on campus, that act as portals or as frames for the views through them.
Pass the ivy covered buildings and social halls until you enter the great shadow of the chapel, imposing its silent discipline on the courtyard.
As you approach the Library you are conscious of those who’ve tread these cobblestones before you, the sounds of their footsteps mingling with your own, the air of old money.
On the approach to the Special Collections Wing, you walk through an exhibit on Irish writers. The eyes of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Oscar Wilde stare out from old sketches and photographs as you pass, quieting you. You may not bring your camera or personal possessions into the research room. You are only allowed a pencil and paper provided by the University for what you seek.
While you wait for the assistant to bring your materials you bask in the unexpected pleasure of the primitive note-taking materials: the scratch of the pencil over the orange paper, its woody scent mingling with the wood of the wall panels. You reflect that the act of erasure is a lost art–the revelation of old words under new words, that not all thoughts are finished thoughts. There is purity in these layered marks.
When the folders are brought, you are astonished to see exactly what you crave is here waiting for you. The records begin in 1932, right in the time and place your new novel begins. Then you accept the gift because you know down to your bones that when the Universe winks at you, you are on the right path.