While introductory textbooks may introduce degrees of freedom as distribution parameters or through hypothesis testing, it is the underlying geometry that defines degrees of freedom, and is critical to a proper understanding of the concept. Walker (1940) has stated this succinctly as “the number of observations minus the number of necessary relations among these observations.”
Which, oddly, and probably in a laughably inaccurate way (to a statistician), sounds close to the dynamic of my relation to The Land and this project.
The Land was a distraction when everything was new. At first I hadn’t even walked the whole property. Then I hadn’t in spring. Then summer. Every weed and leaf and bird was a discovery. This materially inhibited my work on the house. I would catch myself going for a walk into the meadow for no reason, or taking Homer for an extra walk, or just staring out a window.
Familiarity breeds freedom. Just as the urgency of getting the house rehabbed has hit us freshly upon moving into the camper, so I have become more comfortable with The Land — it rests easier in my mind, freeing me to tackle the house full-bore. I walk by the large debris field in back, the collapsed shed, and rather than fretting over its individual components (a TV, a fridge, tires, etc., all of which will require special handling for disposal), I’m able to push it into a single simple compartment: We’ll get to that later.
But now that I’ve worked a couple of days in the house — away from all that, away from the outdoors, immersed in sawdust and power tools and measurements — I am discovering a new newness when I emerge in the late afternoon.
The Land is there, waiting for me. It’s not mine, I don’t have to grasp every stalk and tendril, I don’t have to sight every critter — I don’t have to carry it around with me like I’m developing a thesis or incubating offspring. It’s just there, incalculable, independent.