10/31: designing time

I took part of the morning and dedicated it to designing this year's holiday postcard. (I know if I wait much longer, things will get too busy at the end of the semester & making a card will be an added stress rather than a pleasure). I really like the result of my computer tinkering (though it feels immodest to say so!), but I don't know if it's going to print properly. I uploaded it to my print service and ordered some test copies--here's keeping my fingers crossed that the print version is true enough to what I saw on my screen.

Regardless of the printed result, the good thing is that I enjoyed the time as I worked on getting the image and effect that I wanted to emerge. Usually when I sit down to digitally tinker with photos, I'm not aiming at anything consciously--I try different things and see what comes of them. Today was different: I had something in mind, and I wasn't sure if I could actually effect it. I came pretty darn close, and there was real pleasure in that.

10/30: on & off my beaten track

I did a lot of around-town chores today. One of the chores was going to the post office, which I've been meaning--and needing--to do for two weeks, but which I've had trouble working in. As I was driving here and there, I was feeling the satisfaction of being mobile and of getting things done.

I managed to find time for some not-so-task-like things, too. I put on my boots and walked around in the lake-bed to see what I could see. (They've drained the lake this month, and it's been strange to drive by it in its diminished state every day.) The mud was thick and soft in some places, and it's a good thing my boots go up to my knee! At home, I experimented with photographing light reflected onto color paper. I think it'll need more experimentation (and more knowledge of my new camera's settings) before I get results I absolutely like, but it's something I've been meaning to try for a long time, so I'm glad I finally gave it a go.

10/29: rebounding

I had a bit of a downer at the very end of the school-day and work-week. Not a good thing. But what's good is that I set my mind to "moving on" mode and have gotten some things ready for tomorrow's post and am now going to take a walk at the track.

10/28: magically orange

Most of the trees' leaves have turned brown this year due to lack of rain. But as the sun was setting this evening, the slanty light shining through the leaves transformed them to orange, and they seemed to cast a luminous orange shade.

10/27: micro-community

The students I went to London with this summer did their final project presentations today. It was so nice for our group to be together again--and to realize that during our time in London we really did forge ourselves into a little community. A reminder of that intellectual camaraderie, along with an assurance that it was indeed real--was very welcome.

10/26: a handful of things

Our Peter Pan reading/discussion group meetings today went really well. The only regret is that because so many students signed up (which is a good thing!), Chris and I had to split into two smaller groups, with each of us leading one, so we didn't get to spend the time together, as well.

I took some honey to school today for my building's housekeeper (her grandfather used to keep bees, and she was reminiscing about it), and she was so happy to get a jar of ours. It made it a special pleasure to give it.

I unexpectedly finished a round of Gender Studies grading before class today, so it's not hanging over me for the next few days.

And a friend from Little Rock came up to campus for a poetry reading this evening. I decided not to go to the reading, but she, Chris, and I had a chatty dinner together beforehand.

10/25: unexpected guests

My former student whose wedding was on Saturday was still in town today, and she and her spouse came by my office to chat with me as I was eating my lunch. I wish I had had more time, without having to sandwich them into my schedule and eat while we talked, but it was unexpected and fun to get to see them at all before they headed off for their honeymoon tour (a 2-week road trip).

10/24: three curled up

I was having trouble staying awake and alert this afternoon, so I laid down for a little nap on the futon in my home office. Both Pippin and Wilkie came and slept with me. Cozy.

10/23: wedding

I've been invited to a number of former students' weddings over the years, but I haven't gone to any of them--until tonight. Something about my relationship with this particular former student made me feel like I should go. I'm really glad I did. It was a sweet, low-key ceremony. The minister started his sermon by saying, "I think we should pay attention to the verbs in the passage we just heard"--how could I not smile at that? And my student chose one of the readings from the Book of Ruth; I know it's a common passage to be read at weddings, but she had translated the Vulgate version of it in a Latin class with me, so that made me teary, in a good way.

10/22: aster patch

Some wild asters took hold in our yard, and as everything else is beginning to brown, they're going strong. I love looking out our window and seeing a splotch of happy white flowers.

10/21: cookies & coffee

I telecommuted today because we had workmen at the house, installing a new HVAC system. (My students were turning in papers today, so it wasn't terribly bad for me not to be there--they could just slip them under my office door.) I had a mostly quiet day at home; the low-level construction-y noise in the background wasn't distracting. But what was distracting (in a fun way) was having day-long access to our coffee machine and to a batch of cookies we had made. It would be dangerous to do this work-from-home thing too often, but today it was a nice (and tasty) change of pace.

10/20: sweater weather (kind of)

It's been unseasonably hot here, but today I hazarded a sweater. It probably would have been too hot to be wearing a sweater if I had been outside during the heat-of-the-day, but I was mostly out and about in the morning and the evening, and a sweater seemed just right at those times. I could almost believe that we're in the normal autumn temperature range.

10/19: rain

Today! For the first day in a long, long time. Everything needed it. I can't remember the last time so many people said that they were happy that it was raining.

10/18: closet time

I've let my closet get into an unfortunate state, and I always seem to find excuses not to straighten it up. Excuses no longer! I'm off--right now--to tidy it up. And that will be a very, very good thing.

10/17: browsing

I don't go clothes-shopping much; most of my clothes I order online. But today I needed to run some errands in the part of town where T. J. Maxx is located, and I decided to go in. I'm only fond of T. J. Maxx in a second-order kind of way: my dear, dear mother-in-law always loved going to the T. J. Maxx near her, and so the store makes me think of her. Today she would have been proud of me. I browsed and browsed, seeing nothing that was really me, and then I found something lovely: a grey boiled-wool sweater jacket with a shawl collar decorated with wool rosettes. I know that if Mrs. C. had been with me, she would have been excited at my find. Not only is it really my style, but it was about 1/3 the price it would have been if I had ordered it from a catalog.

In my upper-level Latin course the students will be working independently on unprepared translations in class tomorrow. Which means that I got to browse through Martial to find 4 poems that I think are manageable on a limited-time, limited-reference-book basis (the students will be able to use only their dictionaries). It was fun to poke around in Martial (he's so capacious!) and pick the poems, and I'm interested to see how the students will fare with them.

(How many times has paging through Martial been compared with sorting through the racks in T. J. Maxx? I don't think Martial would mind the analogy at all.)

10/16: school-free saturdays

I'm in year 13 of full-time teaching, and it's the right job for me in many, many ways. But I find it difficult that there's no real end to any of the work: it could take all my time, be all of me. And for many years it was most of me for certain. For the past few years I've been trying to make sure that there's a bit of a Me beyond my work, and though it's hard to unlearn habits of involvement and immersion, I think I've succeeded in small ways. Still, Chris and I often find ourselves thinking of work and talking of work while we're at home (it doesn't help that we work at the same place). So this school-year I'm trying an explicit strategy of no school-work on Saturdays. It means that other days of the week are a bit tighter, but I think it's worth it. And this Saturday is the mid-point of the semester, so I've been successful for at least half the term. (As I type this, I'm realizing the perversity of celebrating the fact that I'm managing not to work! Working at not working....oh the weirdness of me.)

10/15: peter pan

Chris and I are hosting a discussion group about Peter Pan at the end of the month. We read it out loud to each other years ago and loved it. Today I've been re-reading it, and it really is so good. We're not reading it out loud to each other this time, but for some of the afternoon we were each reading our own copy on the porch, and we'd look up and remark on some funny bit.

10/14: halves

The moon was split sharply, beautifully in half in tonight's sky. My day was split happily, thankfully in half between work and pleasure.

10/13: on a quiet note

We have an abbreviated work-week this week, since tomorrow and Friday are fall break (no classes). Almost everyone I know--students and professors alike--will still plan to do catch-up work of some sort over the next few days, but it'll still feel holiday-ish because we get to set our own schedules. My last hour of work in the office today was a great start to the break: pretty much everyone else had cleared out by that point, so it was just me and my computer. I got some things done surprisingly quickly and enjoyed being so quietly efficient.

10/12: evening walk, with company

Two good things conspired so that I could take a walk this evening: the weather was inviting (cool and clear), and I had gotten enough of tomorrow's preparation done that I could take the time without worrying about the consequences. Part-way through the walk I met up with one of my neighbors, and we walked together for awhile. I hadn't seen her in weeks, so it was good to spend a little time with her.

10/11: sweets & a little earlier

One of my advisees popped in this morning on her way to class to give me a little baggy of chocolate chip cookies she had baked! What a great pick-me-up for a Monday morning, and so unexpected. It was sweet of her indeed.

This afternoon, I managed to leave my office about half an hour earlier than usual. I had still put in a full day, and I brought some work home for the evening, but leaving when I did felt a little like playing hooky.

10/10: an exhibit taking shape

Chris and I have three black bulletin boards in one of our main rooms, and we call them "the gallery"--we like to use them to put up recent photographs we've taken. After our trip to the state fair yesterday, we have a whole bunch of new stuff. We've spent little bits of time today, amid other tasks, editing and tinkering with our pictures. I look forward to getting them printed and up on the wall for a themed exhibit in the upcoming days.

10/9: around arkansas

Running errands in town this morning, driving to Atkins for a pupusa lunch, working in our yard this afternoon to finish the honey harvest, and spending the evening taking pictures at the state fair in Little Rock. And for some of that time I didn't even think about work.

10/8: family on friday

Family dinner. Family time on the porch after dinner. Family hanging out. Human and feline, we're glad we're all together. It's good it's Friday.

10/7: small world

I've mentioned a number of times here that I participate in postcrossing. And I really enjoy it. Over the years I've been sending and receiving cards, the computerized postcrossing address assigner has matched me up with 2 graduates of the small college where I teach and 1 international student who applied to the college but (sadly) wasn't accepted to enroll. In one of the alum cases, she and I overlapped a little bit at the school: we both knew about the other, but never really met. In the second case, the alum graduated before I arrived but knows some of the same people I do. Today I received a second snail-mail note from her--what a delight.

10/6: upright

A book-buyer named Meg comes by campus a few times each year, but last spring a friend of hers came in her place because she had been in a bad car accident which had crushed some of her vertebrae. Today she was back, and it was so nice to see her happy and healthy and walking and strong.

10/5: stars and spells

Tonight we heard a visiting speaker (a former student of mine) lecture about an inscription on an ancient amulet. It was a well-attended talk, and there was a lot of interest and enthusiasm in the room.

When I got home after all my hosting duties were done, I saw the thickness of the stars above me. It's so nice to live in a low light-pollution place, where the stars really can look like a Milky Way.

10/4: lovely day for a walk

This afternoon was one of those gorgeous fall afternoons. And lucky me: I had an excuse to ramble outside and enjoy it a bit. I'm hosting a visitor to campus over the next two days, and so today I got to walk around with him, chatting and enjoying the beautiful autumnal light on campus.

10/3: dogs

We don't have dogs, but I do like them. Chris has pointed out that whenever we see a dog, I'm 95% likely to say, "Oh, that's a nice dog." And dogs often run up to me, singling me out of a group to meet first. I also have fond memories of helping a friend with her dog-walking job over the Christmas holiday I spent in Athens. Here on the ridge, I'm in dog-luck. Lots of people have dogs, and many of them let their dogs run free in the neighborhood (we're outside the city limits so there's no leash-law). Often I have canine company as I walk on the ridge, and today one of the neighborhood's newest dogs--Scout, a border collie--kept Chris and me company for our entire walk.

10/2: at the end

Today I finished reading The Price of Salt, published in 1952 by Patricia Highsmith under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. I started it because I enjoyed Highsmith's craft in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and I had read that The Price of Salt was one of the first novels about a same-sex relationship to have a happy ending.

For most of the time I was reading it, I wasn't sure I liked it. It didn't seem to pull me in narratively and psychologically the way Ripley immediately did (although, having grown up in a theatre family, I enjoyed Highsmith's choice to make the main character a fledgling stage-designer). Last night, when I put the novel down with 30 pages to go, I didn't see how a happy ending could be possible. I finished it this morning as I ate my breakfast and drank my coffee--and, yes, it does have a happy ending. It comes only at the last possible minute, and yet it doesn't feel pulled out of a hat. By the time I finished the last paragraph, it all seemed right. Patricia Highsmith doesn't sound like she was a pleasant woman in real life, but she certainly knows how the machine of a novel can be made to work on the mind and emotions of a reader, and there's a kind of pleasure in being taken on a narrative trip by an expert.

10/1: first swap of the school year

At school, a student and I run monthly swaps of index-card sized pieces of art. Everyone who submits something receives something that someone else submitted. Last year we had a good time with it, so we decided to keep it going this year, and today was the deadline for the first round. We got some great submissions, and we spent a pleasant hour visiting with each other and doing the random reassignment of pieces.