12/31: a loopy, lovely lear

Now that Timon of Athens is done, I'm on to King Lear in my Shakespeare project. For this play, I bought a surreally illustrated version--all Shakespeare's words, but presented in a graphic-novel format with pictures by Ian Pollock. (You can view it at Amazon.) It's interesting to read Shakespeare this way: it kind of combines the experiences of watching a performance on stage or film and of reading the text on one's own. And I'm really loving Pollock's off-beat illustrations.

12/30: finally understanding something

I've read "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by Fitzgerald a number of times over the years. And I'm puzzled afresh every time: why is it so quick and insistently breezy, only to turn serious and sad at the very end? Today I think I understood why. I went to see the film that's very loosely based on the story, and everyone in the film works hard to do a good job. But the film seems to be aiming for the wrong tone and scale. Unlike the short story, it tries to be epic, and it saturates itself with poignancy. And it doesn't work. The subject matter is both so odd (a man who ages backwards) and cutting-to-the-quick (mortality) that maybe one of the only ways to keep the story afloat and keep it from becoming melodramatic or sentimental is to be quick, breezy, and serious only at the end. A genius move on Fitzgerald's part, though I don't think I would have realized it without seeing a film that tried an alternate route.

12/29: shakespeare resumed

In early 2007 I started working through Shakespeare's plays in the order in which they were (probably) written. I hoped to finish by early 2008, but I got distracted by various things. I still have 10 left, and I'm going to read Timon of Athens right now so that by tomorrow I'll only have 9 to go!

12/28: flannel-lined chinos

How prosaic! But also how perfect! I recently bought a pair and wore them for the first time this afternoon on a sunny-but-wintry kayak outing. They enabled me to paddle in warmth and comfort while seeing some beautiful things: the sunlight glimmering on the water's surface, a sky of ever-changing clouds, turtles sunning themselves, and birds, birds, birds--herons, moorhens, seagulls, geese, ducks, and even an eagle.

12/27: business interrupted & a rainbow

I had originally posted a notice here that I'd be offline for a few days because I was planning to be on a business trip to San Francisco. (Thanks for the good wishes, Sam & Wolfidy!) But my flight was cancelled, and the airline couldn't re-book me to get me to California in a timely way. There's just so little margin for error for travel during the winter holidays, I guess. So I'm back at home, already unpacked. And I just came in from photographing (or trying to photograph) a rainbow arching over the northeast. The photos are dark, but so is the day--making the rainbow all the more welcome.

12/26: top-bar hive is okay

Right now, we keep our bees in three locations: 5 hives here at the house, 3 down on a farm, and 1 at a friend's house. The hive at the friend's house isn't the traditional kind; it's a "top-bar" hive that Chris built out of scavenged wood. It's cool. But to check it causes more disruption to the entire hive than checking a traditional set-up, so we've mostly been leaving it alone. Which means that every time we drive by it, we cross our fingers that it's still alright. The past two days have been mild, even balmy, and we've stopped by the top-bar hive to see--happily--that the bees are indeed flying.

12/25: an unplanned morning

We don't really celebrate Christmas in anything like a traditional fashion, but there are certain things we do almost every Christmas: take a walk or hike, cook good food, watch a film. We knew that we'd do these things during the afternoon and the evening, so this morning we just charted our course as we went. By mid-morning we were both sitting in my home office, with warm yellow sunlight coming in through the windows (to the delight of the cats). Chris was searching for relatively obscure but nevertheless lovely holiday songs on the web and then playing them for us through his Mac. I was binding some notebooks for the upcycled notebook program I run, off and on, at school. The rest of the day has been good, but I especially liked spending the morning this way.

12/24: a lake view (unexpectedly)

We live above a lake, but there are so many trees between us and the water that we don't have what you could call "a lake view." Today, however, the setting sun was reflected on the surface of the lake, and I could glimpse it through the dark bare branches of the trees. The reflection was so bright, and the color so strong, that at first I didn't even realize that I was looking at the lake painted a glowing orange.

12/23: further than i thought

I'm still operating on the vacation plan of mixing work & leisure each day (see 12/18). On the whole, it's been a good, sanity-preserving plan, but it had begun to feel as if my grading was going to extend into the new year. So today I've been working on the Myth exams and--beyond all expectations--I'm 3/5 done with them already. If I grade for another hour or two this evening, I'll be 4/5 done, making tomorrow an easy last day of grading.

12/22: a new sweater

Today's the coldest day thus far this winter. When we woke up it was 12 degrees, and even with a bright sun it's only worked its way up to 32. (I know, there are plenty of parts of the world which are much colder, but for Arkansas this is chill indeed.) What a perfect day to receive a new sweater in the mail! It's a holiday present to myself--a beautiful darkish berry color & sweetly styled. I'm very tempted to put it on right now, but I want to save it for a trip later this week.

12/21: other minds

I tried my hand at zine-writing earlier this year, but as much as I admire the medium I can't seem to make it work for me. On the back page of my ill-fated zine (which only made it to two issues) I put a feature called "other minds," which contained a few favorite quotations. Though I'm not continuing the zine, I have kept "other minds" alive in a different format: I make a one-sheet mini-anthology of quotations each season. Since today is the first day of winter, it was time to make a new edition. So I've spent the late afternoon searching, collecting, compiling--and "other minds winter 2008-2009" is now ready for dissemination.

12/20: a veritable flock

I've written about bluebirds before (see 11/16), but I have to write about them again. It's a grey-brown day, and--happily, miraculously--a flock of bluebirds is flying up and down our ridge, drinking water from puddles and eating berries from trees. I've never seen so many bluebirds together in one place at one time. And their amazing blue is all the more wonderful against the neutral winter background.

12/19: abstract accepted

I recently submitted a proposal for a paper to be given at a conference in Wales this summer (see 11/22). This morning a message was waiting for me in my email inbox to let me know that my abstract was accepted. (Truth be told, it was especially nice timing because last night I was feeling a little low about my scholarly activities.) I am going to celebrate by kayaking this afternoon--one good thing deserves another, yes?

12/18: mixing work & leisure

As usual, with the end of the semester comes a pile of things to grade and a list of bureaucratic ends to tie up. Usually I power through it all in a fairly intensive stretch of a few days. But this year powering through doesn't feel right (or even possible). So I'm going to do one set of grading or one bureaucratic task each day--and then turn to other things. Today, for instance, I wrote a grant proposal in the early morning, and once that was done we took a load of packages to the post office, went shoe-shopping, walked along Tucker Creek, and picked persimmons. All this felt good.

12/17: a surprise letter

There were a number of good things about today: we weren't iced in; I had my last meetings of the semester; we had dinner with a friend at a local restaurant. But a truly unanticipated good thing was waiting for me in my mailbox when I returned home: a hand-written letter from a fellow 19th-century-British-novel enthusiast. (She's actually more than an enthusiast in that she teaches British literature at the college level.) In any case, she got my address from sendsomething.net and sent me a great note and Christmas card.

12/16: a wintry walk & a slip-sliding chris

The roads were too icy to go to campus today, so we worked quietly at home. By the late afternoon I was a bit stir-crazy, and we went for a brisk and welcome walk along the ridge. Very slippery! My snake boots turned out to be excellent ice boots as well, and I didn't lose my footing once. Chris' formidable-looking hiking boots were less effective, however. He slid a lot, sometimes quite impressively. After one particularly long slide we both laughed out loud in the crisp cold air.

12/15: safe, sound, and warm

We had an ice storm today. Although the winter in Arkansas is milder than in Pennsylvania where I grew up, everyone here is less able to deal with the little winter we do get. Roads aren't built with winter conditions in mind, and towns don't have equipment and road crews to clear the roads or sprinkle them with salt when they get icy. I got to campus this morning without incident (my Greek students had their final exam at 8:30 a.m., so I was especially keen to get there), and coming home this evening was slower-going but mostly fine. That is, until I reached my steeply sloped driveway--I tried, but my little car couldn't make it up. So the Toyota is parked at the bottom of the hill tonight, and I'm cozy inside, glad for heat, light, warm food, and the company of Chris and the cats.

12/14: not getting lost

We were driving around on some small country roads this afternoon. We know from experience that it's easy to get disoriented during random, unplanned drives on twisty, twiny, tiny roads. But I guess we've lived here long enough--and explored the nearby small roads often enough--that even if we try out a road or lane we hadn't noticed before we eventually reach someplace we do remember. Maybe this is how you know that the place where you live really counts as home?

12/13: road trip

We're driving to Danville in a little bit to get some pupusas at a Salvadorean restaurant there. It's about an hour drive away, so it'll be a bit of enforced relaxation, and it's tucked away in a very rural county, so we'll pass through some lovely countryside en route.

12/12: the moon, part two

This morning as we were eating an early breakfast the moon was in the northwestern part of the sky, and we could see it through our big windows as we sat at the table. A day that ended with a large and lovely moon gave way to a day that started with one.

12/11: hey look at that moon!

We took the telescope out onto the porch this evening and aimed it at the crazy white moon in the eastern sky.

12/10: lunch at The Mean Bean

The Mean Bean is my favorite restaurant in town, but it only serves lunch and only on weekdays. It's across town from campus, so I don't have much opportunity to go there during the semester--there just isn't time in a normal day. But we're in exam period now, which means I have a little more flexibility with my schedule on some days. I took advantage of that flexibility today by going to The Mean Bean for an early lunch with a new colleague. I had a Veggie Reuben.

12/9: reading for pleasure in a little pocket of time

I had some extra time between student meetings today, and I happened to have a novel in my backpack (Murakami's Kafka on the Shore), so I pulled it out and read for half on hour.

p.s. Somehow this post got deleted; I've rewritten it (I happened to remember what I had written about), but I'm afraid that the comments which visitors made couldn't be retrieved. If you don't see your comment here anymore, please know it was an honest mistake....

12/8: for my personal record book

I saw the best sunset of my life (so far) in 1988, when I was on a boat in the Aegean Sea. I saw the best sunrise of my life (so far) today, when I was driving to work at 6:30 a.m. and looked east over Beaverfork Lake.

12/7: rearranging Christopher Smart

I was playing around with Christopher Smart's Hymn 1, which he wrote as a new year hymn. I made a list of all the words in the poem which begin with an S, leaving out words starting with SH or the SH sound. I then rearranged the words until I came up with something I liked. I didn't end up using "sally" or "steeds," but here's what I did with the rest. It's just a little lark, but a little lark can be a good thing:

Spirits sublim'd speak sweetly,
sounding speckl'd symphonies.

Strive, special spirits,

Send spirit-seed.

12/6: deferred no longer

All semester Chris and I have said that we would like to get together with a new colleague and his spouse, but either we were busy, or they were busy, or we all were too tired. Later today, though, we're finally going to do it: we're going to drive down to Little Rock to have a casual dinner and some drinks with them at The Flying Saucer.

12/5: boys who knit

My spouse, Chris, is a better knitter than I am, and a number of years ago he helped to start the knitting club on our campus. The club's new president is a student of mine, and a nice picture of him was in the campus paper today to publicize the club. In the photo he's sitting, wearing a multi-colored hat and scarf which he made himself, and intently knitting a new project.

12/4: euripides a proto-feminist?

Was Euripides a proto-feminist? Who knows. It may not even make sense to ask the question in those terms. But some people claim that he was on the basis of the Medea, and other people vigorously deny that he was on the basis of the same play. We discussed the issue in Myth class today, and though we didn't have tons of time to hash it out (thrash it out?), people said good, smart, cogent things to support both sides.

12/3: film festival ritual

The Lord of the Rings movies came out in successive Decembers, and now each December we re-watch the trilogy on DVD. It takes us several nights to watch each film since we can only fit in about 30 minutes before we need to sleep, so the whole process takes a week or two. We're near the beginning of The Two Towers right now.

12/2: gregorian chants at the ready

We're binding books this week in my Vulgate Latin course. We've spent all semester learning about how important the Bible is for the history of the codex form in general, so binding books medieval-style is a way to complement our academic study of the history of the book. Tomorrow we'll be sewing our sections together, and some of the students half-jokingly/half-seriously suggested that we could listen to Gregorian chants while we work. So I searched through our CDs at home and found a collection of chants to accompany us at our task tomorrow.

12/1: more on mountain pies

So today's good thing is getting to share more about mountain pies--thanks for asking, Sam & Nikki! I only had them twice (that I remember) when I was young--both times, parents of my friends made them for us over an open fire and it seemed so special. The pies must have made a lasting impression on my mind because when we bought a house with a big fireplace last year, I almost immediately wanted to buy pie irons. They're like two tiny skillets, each at the end of a pole. You put a slice of bread in each and then add some filling. (For instance, tomato sauce and cheese is a typical filling, or fruit pie filling for dessert.) You then hook the irons together and clamp them shut, sealing the bread and the filling inside. The whole thing goes into the fire for about 2 minutes, and then when you take it out of the fire and open it up it's like a sealed toasted sandwich (but better). It's harder to describe than I would have thought! Here's a link to a page which has some pictures of the irons (we have the round ones): http://www.wisementrading.com/outdoorcooking/pie_irons.htm

11/30: fire pies

We lit the first fire of the season in the fireplace this evening, and we brought out the irons to make mountain pies in the fire for dinner.

11/29: cameras in hand

We drove to Russellville today and wandered down the old Main Street, stopping to take pictures of interesting architectural details on buildings dating to first few decades of the 20th century. For some reason I had more trouble focusing my camera than usual, but I think I got a few sweet shots. And, in any case, it was fun to be out and about with a mission of sorts.

11/28: thankfully quiet and quietly thankful

There are no classes today because of the long Thanksgiving weekend, so Chris & I are enjoying a leisurely, low-key day at home. Next week is the last week of classes for the semester--which means that things will get a bit crazy and busy starting on Monday. I'm glad to have this little pocket of time to re-group, rest, and prepare.

11/27: a room with a view

The north side of our house is almost all windows. We have a long table in the main room where we can eat, read, and work while facing the outdoors; at meals we sit side-by-side at the table so we both can look out. This is what we saw today.

11/26: tiger lily's autumn jaunt

I call my kayak Tiger Lily because her color reminds me of the flower--and also (I'll admit) because of the Native American princess in Peter Pan. I haven't gone out on the lake in awhile; it's been chilly, and I've been busy. But classes were cancelled today as part of Thanksgiving break and the weather was mild, so as Chris was resting this afternoon I took Tiger Lily for a spin. We're in late autumn--the trees are bare and everything is more gray and brown than orange and red. As I paddled along my usual course I definitely felt like I was getting to know the lake in a new mood and different guise.

11/25: sparkling sisters

When we moved last year we settled into a house on a lane which has no streetlights. It's amazing how many more stars we can see here than we could in our old house in town (which isn't really that far away--so a little distance from city-lights makes a bigger difference than I would have thought). Tonight the Pleiades were twinkling more than I've ever seen before. Even though Chris is still majorly under the weather (and that's a major understatement), we took our new telescope outside to star-gaze for a few minutes.

11/24: amazing analgesics

Chris had to go to the emergency room last night. He's okay now (which is a very good thing!), but he was in a lot of pain for a number of hours. Thank goodness for knock-your-socks-off painkillers and the people who administer them 24/7.

11/23: the chill on my cheeks

In the part of Pennsylvania where I grew up it could snow as early as October and as late as May. But living in Southern California and then Arkansas has spoiled me; I am a wimp about cold weather. Today it's chilly outside so I planned to drive to the city's indoor track for my walk. Then I decided to be nice to the earth (and not drive) and be nice to myself (and get fresh air), so I walked along the ridge instead. I was well bundled from neck to toe, leaving only my face exposed to the cold air--and it felt good. I remembered the feeling from childhood.

11/22: an abstract in an hour

Sometimes it takes me an embarrassingly long time to write a page of prose. I knew that I needed to write an abstract/proposal for a paper today, but I didn't know how much time it would take me to do it. And there are so many other tasks on my to-do list that the idea of an indefinitely long writing session was making me panic. But I pushed down the panic and sat myself at the computer. An hour later, the abstract was done. And now it's on its way to the conference organizers: it's off my plate, so I'm on to other tasks!

11/21: a wish promptly granted

Yesterday I passed someone on the sidewalk at school and thought, "I'd like to meet that person." Today I went to a reading group discussion and there they were! I don't think I've ever had a random wish so quickly fulfilled.

11/20: white wisps

Victor Hugo supposedly called clouds "the only birds that never sleep," but it's rare that I truly feel the rightness of thinking about clouds as cousins (or versions) of birds. Today, however, there were some wispy clouds in the sky on my way to work--perfect birds really. I had no camera with me, so I'll just have to remember (and you'll just have to imagine) clouds actually winging their way through the sky.

11/19: an unlikely animal

This morning I sent an assignment for my Latin class to the printer, and I had to wait for my suite-mate's Spanish-class material to print out first. And out came...Mi Unicornio Azul! I don't know much Spanish, but I know enough to smile upon seeing lyrics for a song entitled "My Blue Unicorn" emerging from the printer. A silly, sweetly surreal moment.

11/18: a word that made me laugh

My Greek students have learned the words harma (chariot) and hamaxa (wagon). Today their reading passage from Xenophon contained the word harmamaxa, a blend of the two. And what is a blending of a chariot and a wagon? A carriage of course!

11/17: mail motherlode

I am a lucky girl, and the postal service is an amazing thing. Today I received: 3 parcels with various paper-goods I ordered online, 1 package with a book from my sister, 1 package with a birthday cake (!) from my parents, 1 packet with a Japanese graphic novel (in actual Japanese, which I can't read) from a former student, and 4 beautiful postcards from sweet-hearted strangers in Massachusetts, Madrid, Geneva, and Rio de Janeiro. My mailbox will probably be empty for the rest of the week, but a day of bounty is welcome fun!

11/16: a sighting

Getting out of town, giving my paper, seeing a few colleagues from other schools, and even spending time away from email and the web were some good things from the past few days. Today, though, a very good thing was seeing a bluebird--flying across the road and bright in the sunlight--on our way to a hike at Woolly Hollow State Park.

11/12-11/15: hiatus

I'll be away from the computer for the rest of the week, so I won't be writing entries. But please feel free to post good things from your days in the comments!

11/11: the eumenides

We've been reading the Oresteia in my Myth course recently, and today we discussed The Eumenides. I think it's fair to say that, over the years, I've consistently been least fond of this play in the trilogy, but I think I'm having a breakthrough with it. Last night I saw the Theatre Department's production of it (with unabashedly abjectified Furies and an astoundingly androgynous Athena), and today it was a pleasure to read the text before our class meeting.

11/10: a new (old) kind of reading

In my Vulgate class this semester the students are learning to read the Latin text of the Bible directly from manuscript leaves written in the Middle Ages. This is quite a challenge because on some leaves the writing is so small that there are 12 lines of text per vertical inch (!) and because nearly every other word is abbreviated in some way. Punctuation is scarce and unreliable. Knowing Latin doesn't guarantee the ability to read this Latin. But today my students worked solely from the manuscript leaf in class (digitally projected so we could all see it); no notes and no cleaned-up, laser-printed version of the text to compare it with. And they did it. Here's the leaf we used today:

11/9: when writing goes well

I've been writing my Margaret Atwood paper this weekend (for a conference later this week), and it's gone smoothly. Very smoothly. Maybe even creepily smoothly. But instead of being creeped out, I'm going to be grateful for the ease with which the words have come for once.

11/8: a gathering of deer

There are handfuls of good things to choose from today, but this is the winner: five deer frisking--yes, actually frisking--in the front yard near sunset. I think they had come to eat the ripe persimmons which had fallen to the ground from a tree at the northeast corner of our house. We're not good at knowing when the persimmons are ripe enough to eat, but the deer seem to have no trouble figuring that out for themselves.

11/7: loculus

Students in one of my courses have to do a project in which they survey the various meanings and uses of a Latin word of their choosing in a variety of texts. Today I met with one student to get him launched on his research. He chose the word loculus, which literally means "little place," but which is used of things such as small boxes, cubby holes, and even coffins. An interesting word with a perfect scope for this kind of study. As we talked about it I laughed and smiled, foreseeing a sweet final project.

11/6: reading, thinking, talking

The English department hosted a discussion this evening about books as objects, using as touchstones Borges' "Library of Babel" and Benjamin's "Unpacking My Library." I read the materials early this morning, and it was a pleasure to think about them, on and off, throughout the day. Students, staff, professors, and even one person just passing through town on a cross-continental bike trip (!) came to the event, and the conversation was interesting, thoughtful, engaging, and personal. So good.

11/5: grading done!

I've just finished grading the last set of essays for the myth class' midterm, and it's still a few minutes shy of 10 p.m. As my parents say, "Done is beautiful."

11/4: new rituals

I like habits; they make me comfortable, and they free me up to think about other things. I've recently developed two new daily, or near-daily, practices. I've started walking for half an hour in the early morning along our ridge, and I've come to enjoy taking a mid-morning break to stroll to the campus center and get a cup of coffee to bring back to my office.

11/3: two siblings, one day

When I checked my email this morning, a note from my sister was waiting for me. And when I just logged into my email account for the last time this evening, I found a message from my brother in my inbox. On 11/1 I wrote, "Yay for trees!"--now I can add, "Yay for siblings, too!"

11/2: a good round of grading

Awhile back I posted about a midterm I had written for my Mythology class; well, the time has come for me to grade the completed tests. This afternoon I read the set of essays about how hospitality scenes in the Odyssey compare and contrast to the hospitality shown in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter--and it was a very strong group of answers. I had built in a treat for myself as a reward for grading: some late afternoon kayaking on the lake (which is beautifully wreathed with autumn trees these days). But that ended up being a second reward because, honestly, reading the essays themselves was pretty sweet.

11/1: inter arbores

Today was Arbor Day, and we spent the afternoon on a long woodsy hike at Petit Jean State Park. Yay for trees!

10/31: voting

My county had early voting at the public library, so a colleague and I went after our afternoon office hours were over. It somehow feels right to vote in a public library, it's such a welcoming civic space. And today was a great day to wait in line because there was such much to look at: since it's Halloween, librarians-in-costume were giving out candy to children-in-costume, and at different tables there were craft activities and reading groups. There were a good number of other early voters; we had to wait an hour. But, all in all, a festive atmosphere for exercising a right and a privilege.

10/30: strangers met

I don't like meeting strangers, and I definitely don't like making conversation when if feels like an obligation. But two professional contacts (whom I've never met in person) happened to be passing through town today, and they asked if I wanted to get together for coffee and a chat. So I met them this morning. They were very pleasant people, and I even think I managed to not be my usually socially awkward self.

10/29: enclitics are sweet

Enclitic accenting rules in ancient Greek are a bit baroque, but I've devised a way to explain them that (I think/hope) makes sense. I introduced the rules to my students yesterday and gave them a worksheet to do for homework. Today we practiced applying the rules, and they had them down. I even got them to say "enclitics are sweet" in unison, though I suspect they did that more out of kindness toward me rather than real conviction about the nature of enclitics. So maybe I should amend my good thing: enclitics--and students--are sweet.

10/28: a successful talk about the meaning of feet

I hosted a visiting speaker on campus today. This evening he gave a public lecture about the significance of bare (or unbare) feet in ancient Greek literature, ritual, and art. It went so well: we had a pleasant dinner beforehand, the talk was very interesting and fun to listen to, and there were over 80 people in the audience--every seat in the room was taken!

10/27: dinner almost ready & waiting

I was at the office by 7:30 this morning, so my hope was to leave by 4:30 this afternoon--but it didn't happen, and by the time I did leave I was more than ready for dinner. When I got home and stepped into the house, there was Chris, putting some finishing touches on a pizza before sliding it into the oven! All I had to do was make a salad while the pizza was baking.

10/26: autumn hope scatter

This afternoon Chris came out of his office with a glass jar full of seeds, collected over the years. He said, "Let's go outside." As we walked through the grass, he poured the seeds into my hands for me to sprinkle and throw here and there. He called it the Autumn Hope Scatter.

10/25: psyche's sisters

The Greek word for soul--psyche--is also the word for moth. I love that fact, plain and simple. I also love the fact that there are more moths and butterflies here in Arkansas than I have seen anywhere else. And the autumn doesn't seem to be slowing them down much. Today they were flitting over all the roadside wildflowers.

10/24: a smiley face

When we moved to Arkansas 8 years ago, we needed a second car and I bought Chris' mother's Camry from her because she wanted to get a convertible. I loved driving the Camry, and I loved that it used to belong to Chris' mother. That connection became especially welcome after she passed away in 2005. This summer the car gave out, and I was so sorry to see it go. My new Corolla is a good car, but it hardly feels like it's mine, and (obviously) it doesn't have the connection to Chris' mother. In the Camry she had put a smiley face sticker on the dashboard, something I would never have done. Yet, because she had put it there, I never took it off. Today I added a smiley face sticker to the dash on the Corolla, making it feel a little more like my car--and her car.

10/23: trust

I just got back from the endodontist's office and a root canal procedure. At one point the endodontist reached some tissue that hadn't been fully anaesthetized, and I signalled the sensitivity with a little yip. He apologized and gave me some more anaesthesia, which worked like magic for the rest of the procedure. His apology made me think about trust; he said he was sorry because he didn't want me to think my trust had been misplaced. I realized how much I was truly trusting him, given how little I know of him. It is amazing how we humans do this trusting thing. I'm grateful for the trust that my students put in me every day.

10/22: to-do list--done!

I wrote an earlier post about the danger of devising to-do lists that are unrealistically long. Today I was either very realistic in writing my list of tasks or very effective in accomplishing it. It's not yet 10:30 a.m., and the list for the day is D O N E. To invoke one of my parents' favorite expressions: "Done is beautiful."

10/21: making a midterm

(This good thing is going to seem odd, I think.)

I get a very real sense of satisfaction when I've made up a test that I think is a good test. I don't judge "good" by whether the test is hard or easy but by whether or not the questions are sound, interesting, and capture what we've been doing in class thus far. This morning I wrote the questions for my students' myth midterm on Thursday, and it made me want to take the midterm myself.

(I think the students would just sigh and shake their heads if they read this.)

10/20: an invitation to a shakesfeare grotesque

In my mail today I received a free pass to my parents' Halloween theatrical production, and it sounds very exciting: it's a montage of scenes, lines, speeches, etc. from Shakespeare's works, all focusing on the magical, macabre, ghostly, and dark. I can't go (they're in Pennsylvania, I'm in Arkansas, and I can't cancel classes to make the trek), but I always get a creative shot-in-the arm when I hear about their artistic goings-on!

10/19: one me, one hundred geese

When I kayak on the lake, I usually head out to an island, paddle around it, and then come back home. Today, as I rounded the island, I disturbed flocks of geese resting in the high grasses there. I didn't see them until it was unavoidable. They flew up suddenly, lots of them, all around me, honking and flapping. It wasn't a good thing to worry the geese. But it was extraordinary to be surrounded by them.

10/18: an afternoon of latin

It's Saturday, and it's fall break--a perfect time to go into the office for some uninterrupted work. I spent five afternoon hours there today, working on arranging the second half of my Vulgate Latin course. I chose texts, wrote assignment sheets, typed up some commentary that might help the students, drew up schedules for them (and me), and copied CDs with manuscript images of the passages they'll be translating. It was a luxury to allow myself to get consumed by it all, to have such fun with teaching preparation and with Latin.

10/17: earl grey with lavender

My favorite tea for certain. And I sipped an over-sized cup of it all afternoon as I was taking notes for my Margaret Atwood paper.

10/16: ritual spaghetti

We went to see the movie Hancock this summer. I'm sorry to say that it wasn't a good film, but at one point in the movie the family talks about the fact that they have a "spaghetti madness" dinner-night each week. We decided to do the same thing, and it's funny how much I look forward to Thursday evening's spaghetti. We don't do anything fancy (indeed, could spaghetti be fancy?), but we have good tomato sauce, freshly grated cheese, and a salad on the side. Tonight we also had a little bit of blackberry wine and vegan chocolate cupcakes for dessert.

10/15: acquiring an ear for deer?

We've been living in our current house for a little less than a year. I think we're lucky to be able to see deer now and then--though Chris sees them more often than I do because he's up, about, and outside earlier and more often than I am. But this morning I was stepping out of the front door to put a bag in the trash bin (how glamorous!) when I heard a rustle on my right. I immediately thought, "That sounds like a deer." I turned my head, and there she was, just for a second before she bounded away.

10/14: empty backpack

I'm getting ready to leave my office for the night and I'm not taking any work home with me. Need I say more?

(I realized that I probably do need to say more: yes, I really am a grown adult who still uses a backpack.)

10/13: a moment of sunshine with a friend

Over the years I've gotten to be good friends with one of my colleagues in my department at work. We've had a busy year and our teaching schedules don't mesh well, so we haven't talked much recently, except in passing. But we both went to the same end-of-the-day meeting today and after it we decided to walk to the coffee shop to get some sandwiches for dinner. Although it had been raining earlier in the day, the sun came out and we got to sit, talk, and eat under the green dogwood tree while the setting sun cast its yellow light on us.

10/12: next best thing to a tidy soul

As much as I try to obey Mark Twain's injunction about keeping a tidy soul, I can't claim success on that front. But today I do have a clean house to start a new week!

10/11: pennsylvania smartweed

We drove to the Schafers' farm fields today to do some bee-keeping chores for our hives there. And it's the season for Pennsylvania smartweed! It was blooming along the roadsides and in the random spaces that haven't been sown with crops. I don't remember Pennsylvania smartweed from my days in Pennsylvania, but now I am glad to see it because its name is a happy reminder of my native state. A friend in graduate school once said she dreamt that I was an evening primrose, and she explained that that's a good thing since--herbally speaking--evening primrose is such a helpful plant. But I think it's more likely that I'm a Pennsylvania smartweed instead.

10/10: connecting around the world

As I was sitting at dinner this evening with Chris I said that I wasn't sure what I was going to write about for my good thing today. It wasn't a terrible day; it was just so very busy that I'm not sure I noticed much or gave myself a chance to enjoy anything that came my way. (For instance, I did register to myself that the sky was strangely bright and the clouds exceptionally luminous as I was walking to my car at the end of the day--but I was so set on leaving campus that I didn't pause to let that glory sink in.) But then I read a postcard I received via postcrossing.com: it was from an art teacher in Finland who constructed a wonderful handmade card with a bunch of pictures from her daily life--I felt that she really showed me part of her life and personality. And then I logged on to this site to record that goodness, and I found a comment waiting for me from Sam, whom I've not met in person but with whom I've exchanged some lovely snail mail recently. Here's to the wonder of meeting people across the globe through a combination of the internet and the good old-fashioned postal service!

10/9: enough sleep!

It's hard for me to gauge the effects of being sleep-deprived when I'm actually sleep-deprived. I mean, I can tell that I'm tired and groggy and slow--but I can best register the consequences of sleep deprivation by contrast, when I'm not directly experiencing them. Last night I must have gotten enough good sleep, so today I was able to read with a clear mind and finish all sorts of tasks in a timely and sane way. (And I didn't need to resort to caffeine.)

10/8: shimmering strands

As I parked my car at home this evening the setting sun was glinting off a spider's elaborate web, built on the beams on the south side of the carport. I remembered one night in New Jersey, when Chris, his uncle, and I spent hours talking while watching a spider build her web.

10/7: enthusiasm by email

I received a really lovely email from one of my advisees today. He's studying abroad, and we were corresponding about an independent project which he received a grant to pursue while he's away. His excitement for the project jumped off the page.

10/6: afternoon sunrise

One route from the parking lot to my office takes me past a lily pond. These days I'm going to school so early that the flowers aren't even open yet when I walk by. Today I was feeling under the weather so I decided to come home after my teaching was over, which meant missing a meeting and cancelling office hours. As I walked to my car, I passed the lily pond--and I had to do a double-take: two lilies were open and they were the most extraordinary color, a seemingly impossible combination of yellow and pink. How could those two colors, so different and usually distinct, blend into each other so smoothly and completely? The flowers were the luminous color of the sky at sunrise.

10/5: birdsong

When I lived in Ithaca, New York, I rented a basement apartment in a neighborhood adjacent to a bird sanctuary. There were times when it seemed as if hundreds of birds were singing in my backyard. Today, as I was wheeling my kayak down to the lake, I had a similar feeling of being surrounded by birdsong. It was the only thing I could hear; it completely filled my ears. Once I reached the main road, the sound of cars took over, and I almost turned back up the hill to rejoin the birds' singing. Almost--the lure of the lake was too great.

10/4: saint's day coincidence

Today is the feast day of St. Francis--I realized that as I was writing the date on a letter this morning. Along with the letter I was sending a photo I had taken of a sign near Pahrump, Nevada, last November. As I looked at the friendly Valley Homes giant with his avian companions fearlessly perched upon him, I was reminded of pictures of St. Francis preaching to the birds....

10/3: civilized and stimulating

Today Chris and I hosted a dinner/discussion group with six students about Persepolis. We have a grant to host two of these reading groups this semester--all the students receive a copy of the book for free, and we get money to eat together at a local restaurant to talk about what we've read. I only knew one of the students in advance (he was in last year's reading group). It turned out to be a good collection of minds, thoughts, and personalities. Conversation seemed both easy and smart. It was a long day after a long week, but this was a great way to end it.

10/2: an unexpected offering

I was working in my office this morning, trying to focus on the day's reading but distracted by various (mental) vexations. And while I was in there a student came by and put a very pretty thank-you card in the mail-holder on my door. I had written a recommendation letter for her last weekend. I taught her in three classes last year (though I haven't seen her in person at all this year yet), and she was such a good student that I was more than glad to write her a letter of support. It is part of my job, so I'm not sure I deserve extra thanks for it--but it is always nice to be thanked, and a sweet card is never unwelcome. Although I would have enjoyed seeing her had my door been ajar, it was also a good thing today to find a sunshiny yellow envelope waiting for me when I opened my door. It helped to disperse my clouds for a bit.

10/1: a walk downtown, twice

Wednesdays can be busy because I have two regular classes to teach, plus office hours, plus an independent study meeting. Often I'm translating for my independent study meeting up until the last moment. But today I got up early (5:45 a.m.), had a leisurely just-waking-up breakfast, and then was done with my translation before 7:00 a.m. The pay-off? I had time to walk with Chris down to the coffee-shop before my office hours, and we ate cinnamon rolls in the sunshine. Then after my independent study meeting (and after Chris' seminar) we were hungry so we walked downtown again for an early dinner at a restaurant we hadn't tried before. Leisurely strolls on a mild autumn day with my favorite company: what could be better?

9/30: a dream with emma

We got a new cat, unexpectedly, this summer. She sort of chose us. We had seen her out and about in the neighborhood ever since we moved in, and she looked healthy and happy so we assumed that one of our neighbors was taking care of her. (We also assumed that she was a she.) But by early July she started to stick close to our house, and she looked like she needed some food, sleep, and maybe medical attention, so we took her in. A trip to the vet got her in better order and also got us to realize that she was a he. We had been calling her Emma, so now we call him Em (or, truthfully, sometimes still Emma). In any case, last night I dreamt that we were all on a house-like boat, including the cats, and Emma jumped into the cold, rolling ocean. I watched as Em started to drift away; Chris jumped in to bring the cat back; I felt relieved and woke up. Thank goodness for Chris; thank goodness it was a dream. But such a dream is proof (isn't it?) that I think of Emma as one of the family now. And that is a good thing (even if the dream also betrays some anxiety about whether Emma considers himself part of the family!).

9/29: salad and a sweet

There are still some hours left in the day, but it's ticking down. And though today wasn't bad in any way, I'd have to say that the best thing about it so far has been dinner: a big salad with nice lettuce, dried cranberries, little cubes of feta cheese, and gently browned vegetarian "chicken" pieces, topped off with oil and vinegar dressing. Vegan peanut butter cupcakes (which I made over the weekend) for dessert.

9/28: reunion with a heron

I've been kayaking basically the same route on the lake since early summer, and a great blue heron has gradually gotten used to me. At first he would take flight at my approach, but by late summer he would stay still, even if I got quite close. A couple of weeks ago, though, I took a picture of him and hadn't seen him since. I felt guilty as soon as I took the picture--as if I were presuming on our friendship--and it reminded me of Sarah Orne Jewett's story about the white heron. Today, on my way out on the lake, I didn't see the heron, and I felt a little sad. But on my way back I was paddling close to shore, and I made the turn to the place where the heron often sits--and there he was! I moved away to give him space, and I thanked him out loud.

9/27: snake boots

Today I got my snake boots! I should've gotten them weeks--if not months--ago. We have enough snakes in the yard that I've gotten timid about poking around in the grass and the woods. Rightly or not, I feel like it's only a matter of time before I get bitten. But my knee-high boots will be a sufficient barrier--even if a bite gets through, the worst of it will be blunted. I went for a spin around the yard and into the trees with Chris in the late afternoon. The boots felt so comfortable and right, they made me want to dance.

9/26: a fresh perspective on mary poppins

I teach in a room that uses a white-board instead of a chalk-board, and all my markers are black. By the time I am done with my second class, there are black smudges all over my hands. If I happen to touch my face...well, I get marker smudges there, too. At the end of Latin today, some of my students wanted me to know that I did indeed have some smudges on my face, and I remarked that it was a little like Cinderella's cinders perhaps? One of the students suggested that it was more like Mary Poppins' soot. I said that I probably preferred the Cinderella route to the Mary Poppins route--and the students vehemently disagreed. They talked about Mary Poppins' abilities and the wonderfulness of Julie Andrews. And they reminded me to throw my stereotypical preconceptions of Mary Poppins out the window: embrace that inner (or outer) Poppins!

9/25: a good thing early

I didn't need to be at school crazy-early today, and I didn't get to go walking yesterday, so I went for a walk this morning along Northridge, the road leading west from our house. All the autumn wildflowers are out--an entire other round of blooms. I turned south to take a look at the mist coming off the lake before heading home. Returning east, the bright (bright!) orange sun was rising just over the end of the road.

9/24: a lesson about lists

One of my advisees came by to talk with me during my office hours today. We conducted our business, and then I asked if there was anything else. There was. She's a senior. She's applying to graduate schools and scholarship programs. She's working on campus. She's involved in a number of co-curricular activities. She's an earnest person, a really earnest person. And she said that she looks at her "to-do" list for each day and it seems like she should be able to get it all done--but then she can't. And so I told her that I make a list for myself almost every day, too, with the idea that it will contain what I should be able to do in a day. It's usually the case, however, that there's a gap between my assessment of what I think I should be able to do and what I can actually do. And it's not that either of us needs to learn to do more--it's that we need to learn to gauge more accurately what we can actually fit in a day. I feel for my advisee because I could see how stressed she is, and I know that she's skimping on sleep to get more things crossed off her list. I hope I can convince her that she needs to change her list, not herself. All this doesn't sound like it amounts to a good thing. But it does--in that I had to say this out loud to someone else. And I believed it. What's good for the goose...!

9/23: a new (?) connection

In order to prepare for class today I needed to re-read book 5 of the Odyssey. There's a part near the beginning of the book that I have a very vivid memory of reading for the first time back in 1986: Hermes' trip from Olympus, across the water, to Calypso's island. I've always liked the sheer descriptive beauty of the passage. Today I realized that Hermes' smooth trip over the ocean contrasts so well with Odysseus' problematic sea-voyage later in the same book--it becomes one of a number of contrasts between immortal and mortal that are emphasized in book 5. Maybe I made that connection before, maybe not; I can't remember. It's not a profound point, but it was a pleasure to make (or re-make) today. And if felt good to enjoy the passage both aesthetically and analytically--perhaps in earlier readings of it I just got swept away by the scene and forgot to think about what the scene could be contributing to the poem in other ways.

9/22: an unexpected email

Today I received an email message from an old college friend who now lives in Japan. The last time I saw her in person was 1989 or 1990, and I think we stopped corresponding about 10 years ago....

9/21: in the lake

It was warm and sunny enough that I could go swimming in the lake in the late afternoon. There were beautiful clouds to watch as I kicked and floated through the water.