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!).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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...!
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.
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....