I must be nearly recovered from the lingering tiredness of the semester because today I woke up earlier than I have been. I took my coffee and breakfast (and Macbook) onto the porch and enjoyed some cool morning air with Chris and the cats.
This afternoon we drove out to a cemetery about an hour from our house. We had visited it before, in early 2008, to take pictures, and at that time the ground was covered with snow. Today was quite a contrast: clear, bright, and hot. We took more pictures and puzzled together over some inscrutable iconography. We also stopped at a panaderia on the way and went out for pupusas afterwards, so the outing was a success on at least three counts.
At the start of last summer my watch stopped working. And I didn't buy a new one. Instead, I meditated on the fact that I had worn a watch basically non-stop since the second grade. I had even taken to wearing a special watch while swimming! So I decided to experiment with watchlessness. It was great to spend a summer without a time-piece strapped to my body. I tried to keep it up during the school year, but I really do need to be able to keep timely time during the semesters, so I bought a new watch and have been wearing it dutifully for the past months. Today I realized that it's time to revert to last summer's practice and unstrap!
One of my suite-mates from work joined me for kayaking on the lake this morning. We had a good time--and only now do I realize how much we paddled. At the time I didn't feel tired at all; I was just so happy to be out on the lake with a friend. Now I feel wiped, but how nice to feel wiped from such a cause.
In the battle of PC (me) vs. Mac (Chris), I finally caved. Lured by the crisp loveliness of Chris' Macbook and indebted to Chris' decisive click of the "buy now" button earlier this week, I've got my own new Apple. I'm typing on it now! I'm a bit daunted at the thought of getting used to a new system, but my old computer was starting to make weird sounds and I was getting frustrated with various PC-related quirks. So it's time for a change!
Women in British novels seem to spend part of their morning working on their correspondence. Usually I do my letter-writing or postcard-writing in the evenings. But the summer is giving me a chance to try out this civilized British custom (or British-novel custom); most of my morning today was spent on correspondence of various sorts. And I have to say that there's something good about writing when one is fresh.
A former student was passing through town today, so we met for lunch. He'll be back in the area in late August, and we talked about the possibility of his giving a talk on campus then. His topic would ancient Roman environmental pollution--and though it's a grim topic, we both got excited talking about it.
I enjoy Jane Austen's novels, and I've watched most of the movies and mini-series adaptations of them that come out. Of course, that's always a little disappointing: what are the chances that someone else is going to see Austen's world exactly as I do? Today I watched Miss Austen Regrets, and I wasn't disappointed at all. It's not a version of any novel, so I didn't have the cognitive disconnect to contend with. But it still had quite a high bar: presenting a convincing, subtle portrait of a complicated person in a complicated life in a time not our own. I think the film did a lovely job, and it's now my favorite bit of non-Austen-authored Austeniana.
The summer before I first started teaching here (9 years ago), I met another Classicist who teaches at a small college in the South, and over the years we've maintained the friendship. But sometimes we go for quite some time without connecting. For instance, we played phone tag for 2 weeks last winter before giving up on finding a mutually convenient time to talk. Now that school is out, we both have more flexibility, and he called me this morning for a good chat. It was really wonderful to catch up with him; we picked up the thread as if months hadn't passed since our last contact.
2009 had--until today--been kayak-less. There were days earlier this year on which I had hoped or planned to go kayaking but then was stopped by tiredness, illness, too much work, or sudden bad weather. Today nothing got in the way, and after dinner Chris and I took our boats out on the lake. Hurray! My paddling muscles are out of practice, but I'm looking forward to getting myself and Tiger Lily out as much as possible in the summery weeks ahead.
We went to the Arkansas Arts Center today in Little Rock before heading home. We visited one of my favorites in the permanent collection: a cubist painting of two women by Diego Rivera. And I realized that a painting of Andromeda in the permanent collection is by Odilon Redon--although I remember having seen it before, only this year have I started to recognize Redon's distinctive style, and now I'm glad to know there's an actual exemplar so nearby. Then I saw a new-to-me piece, a ceramic sculpture called "Rat Krater"--which I thought was fantastic but which I won't be able to describe successfully, so the evocative name will have to do the trick here.
We're meeting some friends in Little Rock this evening, and we're planning to stay the night in the city afterwards. Little Rock is only 45 minutes away, but if we have something to drink, it's better not to have to worry about when it's safe to drive. So we reserved a room at the somewhat posh Capital Hotel in downtown Little Rock. We've stayed there before as part of a mini-vacation, but it's been renovated since then, and I'm interested to see what they've done.
I thought I was in better health today, but by mid-afternoon I needed to retreat to my bed. I had more Hawthorne to read so I didn't (so much) mind. And near the end of The House of the Seven Gables Hawthorne uses a classical allusion (about the Aeneid's golden bough) to marvellous effect. It makes me want to re-read the book from the beginning to see if the other classical allusions in the novel are similarly productive. What a pleasure to stumble on and think about.
I'm a bit under the weather today, so I've been reading in bed. Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables has been keeping me good company, and it's been intriguing to see Hawthorne's characterization of Hepzibah Pyncheon unfold.
The rhythm of the school year is fairly fixed, and over the years I've developed a summer rhythm, as well, which allows me to get through my summer reading and research in a steady yet pleasant way. Usually I try to move from my school pattern to my summer pattern quickly, but this year I'm giving myself some transition time. It feels good to just breathe for awhile.
I was brooding on some work-related frustrations today. In the late afternoon I went for my walk, and one of my neighbors was coming home from work so she joined me for part of the way. We chatted about this-and-that (mostly our families), and it was really good to get my mind off my brood-nest and into a less vexatious part of the world.
We opened some Arkansas elderberry wine for dinner this evening. It tasted as if I were drinking May. And then later this evening we sat on the porch and I sipped cold water from my Sigg water bottle. The tactile pleasure of holding the cold aluminum reminded me of summer days when I was young and a neighborhood mother would serve us drinks in brightly colored aluminum cups.
We made good time on the road and got home a day earlier than we had originally planned. We could have detoured more along the way, but we did stop when so inclined. I guess the lure of getting back was stronger than the appeal of poking around various by-ways. So we're all reunited now: the household is back to its usual composition of 2 humans and 3 cats.
We moved Chris' stuff out of his apartment by 10:30 this morning, and then we began the trip home. We drove through the Winnebago reservation one final time, and we took a leisurely detour from a direct route by going on Bureau of Indian Affairs 50, a winding dirt road. Chris said he'd only been on it once before--the snowy winter and wet spring made it not-so-passable at other times. But today was dry so we gave it a go. And it was beautiful: spring trees, spring birds, spring air. I'm grateful that Chris shared it with me.
The first thing we did today was take a walk on the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. It's too early in the spring here for there to be any prairie wildflowers, but the hills were green and welcoming, and many unseen birds were singing.
We went to Red Cloud today, which is where Willa Cather spent a good part of her childhood. Taking a tour of the Cather's home, we saw Willa Cather's tiny room tucked into a corner of the attic. It was covered with old, peeling, faded, fragile, and sweet wall-paper. Our guide told me that Cather had worked at the drugstore to save up the money for the wall-paper and then hung it herself.
Today I go to Nebraska to move Chris back home (and see a little of the spring-time prairie). A friend is driving me to the airport in Little Rock, and we need to leave at 9 a.m.: this means that my friend is waking up early to help me out on her first day of summer vacation--a friend indeed!
I've been going to the same bakery for years (I buy cupcakes for my students there). But I don't seem to be able to make a personal, friendly connection with the women who work at the bakery. Today, however, was different. The cupcakes weren't fully decorated by the time I arrived, and the woman who was finishing them up chatted with me and chose really cute cupcake-toppers that she thought would make my students smile. A breakthrough moment.
By this morning it had finally stopped raining and the birds were happy. On my drive to school I cross a little bridge where there are often a couple of swallows swooping. But today there were dozens and dozens, maybe a hundred swallows enjoying the clear air.
My Greek students took their exam on Friday afternoon. It was a very comprehensive test--it needed to be. I finished grading it this evening, and not a single person failed the exam. Not only that, but every single one of them did fine work on the section of the test asking them to translate a passage of "real" Greek which they hadn't prepared in advance. A year-long adventure ends with success. I hope that they are pleased with the results of their hard work.
It started raining around midnight, and for at least 5 hours the rain was accompanied by heavy thunder and lightning. It's still raining (nearly 18 hours later), but the thunder and lightning have stopped. Earlier this afternoon the rain let up just enough for me to go on my walk with an umbrella. By the end of my walk I was a bit wet, but it still felt good to be out in the elements.
In my Greek class this semester we talked about the ancient Athenian practice of ostracism, and I showed my students a picture of some pottery shards from an ostracism vote which had Themistocles' name scratched onto them. Today at the final exam some of the students presented me with pottery shards they had made with my name inscribed on them in Greek letters! Who would have thought it would be such a sweet joke to be ostracized?