12/31: last time for 2011


Last trip out on the lake for the year. I hope the first paddling of 2012 won't be too long in coming.

12/30: in the world

I've been staying mostly sequestered over break, and it's been nice, but today I needed to head out for a variety of reasons. And, as is often the case, I was struck by just how pleasant people can be. The people at the coffee shop where I met a friend, the friend I met there for a conversation in the sunshine, people at the walking track, the woman who works at the post, and the young man at the cash register at the store. I am grateful for all their smiles.

12/29: some good ones near the end

2011 hasn't been a record year for me and movies. We've gone to very few because nothing seemed to call out to us, and we haven't even ordered that many from Netflix. But we've chosen some goodies in the past few days: Trollhunter, Meek's Cutoff, and (Christmas-themed, but in a dark way) Rare Exports. Two of the three are Scandinavian films (Trollhunter from Norway and Rare Exports from Finland), so maybe I should check out more Nordic cinema? And Meek's Cutoff was a sharp reminder that there are American filmmakers out there who are doing very interesting things.

12/28: vegan version & someone else's good news

Our Meyer lemon tree was ready to be harvested, and we weren't sure what we wanted to do with the fruit. We thought of lemon curd, since Chris has fond memories of it from his time in England, and we enjoy it from time to time in the States, too. It turns out that most lemon curd uses eggs, which Chris prefers not to eat. The world-wide web to the rescue! Several recipes are out there for vegan lemon curd. We tried one of them this evening, and the preliminary taste tests are encouraging.

And I found out this evening that a former student of mine was named an "artist to watch" by artinfo.com. This made me very happy. He came back to campus to give a lecture this fall, and I loved seeing his work and hearing him talk about it, so I knew he was doing good stuff. It's nice that other people think so, too! He's such a good spirit--it's nice when spirits of that sort get some wind in their sails.

12/27: back to light

A longish walk in the late afternoon, with lovely sun and clear skies after yesterday's rain.

12/26: activities & attention

It was wonderful to be outside yesterday, but today's been rainy--a good day to be indoors, doing indoors things: learning more medical etymology, working on a new abstract comic, and finishing The Little Prince in Latin.

I had forgotten how The Little Prince ended (I have a talent for repressing sad endings to books and movies), so I cried as I came to the conclusion. Wilkie came to guard me, to make sure I was okay. Faithful friend!

12/25: good sky day

On the ridge in the afternoon:


On the dock at sunset:

12/24: settling in

Getting ready for some holiday time by straightening the house, doing some cooking, and enjoying one another's company. It makes me happy when all four of us, two humans two cats, are all on the bed together, and I can hear Wilkie purr.

12/23: comfort food

Tonight's dinner: pierogi casserole. I'm Polish but didn't grow up eating pierogis, except at friends' houses. One of my parents' former students brought my family pierogi casserole once, though, and ever since I've lived on my own, I've enjoyed making it now and then. Chris likes it, too, and today we tinkered with our normal recipe (which is more of a feel than a recipe), and we enjoyed the results.

12/22: a strange treat

The Met's sometimes surreal, sometimes stark, quite stylized, and not-so-much-for-children production of Hansel and Gretel. We watched it here in town at the movie theatre as part of the Met's broadcast series. It was an interesting experience to hear music I remember from my childhood while watching such a grown-up vision of the story.

12/21: holiday habit

During the semester I don't seem to be able to write in my journal in a steady way, but I miss taking the time to slow down and reflect. Over summers and holidays it becomes part of my routine, and I'm glad to be returning to it this break.

12/20: wide-ranging & long ago

A phone conversation with a friend this evening, touching on so many topics and a pleasure throughout.

I also got a holiday card from a childhood friend today. On the back of the envelope she had put a sticker depicting a set of ice-skates, and she added a hand-written note: "Remember when we used to?" We had done a good amount of skating on frozen lakes during the winters of high school, and it was nice to know that she remembered those times as much as I do.

12/19: water, weather, and friends

Some quite not-good news from work today, but both Chris and a departmental colleague were supportive and sanity-inspiring. They actually saw the not-good news as having a substantial silver lining--and it is probably the case that they are right.

And the weather was nice enough that I could venture out on the lake in my kayak to take a break from email and worry. Here's the glorious water:


Here it is again, digitally altered:

And again:

12/18: toggling between languages

One of my new students this year told me that over the summer he listened to the English audiobook of Winnie the Pooh while following along with the Latin translation. I thought it was a clever thing to do, so I decided to give it a try. This evening I listened to the first half of The Little Prince while reading the Latin at the same time. A cute way to build vocabulary, see idioms at work, and increase reading speed.

12/17: the right one

I have a deadline coming up for submitting an abstract to a conference. I've been mentally tossing around ideas, and I even started to type some preliminary outlines for various possible papers. Everything I thought of seemed okay, but for whatever reason nothing grabbed me as the paper I want to be working on now. This afternoon I think I finally found something that feels right, and a sign of that was how easy it was to sit down and tap out some thoughts on my laptop.

12/16: a day of many--untimed--parts

Beginning a new book, mailing packages, going out to lunch on a lark, cleaning (or at least beginning to clean) my home office, walking with the neighborhood dogs, addressing holiday cards, and working on medical etymology (which means learning some truly crazy words)--all without wearing my watch, the sign that the semester break has truly begun.

12/15: out loud

I was working through a problem today, and Chris said what he believed was at the heart of it. He was right, and I immediately knew he was right, but I had been avoiding the crystalline articulation of it. It was good to hear it--the first step in owning it and moving on.

12/14: early & late

I woke up early on a day when I could have slept a little later than usual! Not a great thing, but I used the extra time to be leisurely with my coffee and then to take a walk on the ridge. Some of the neighborhood dogs kept me company, and they put me in good cheer.

This evening I decided to keep on working until I had all my grading for the semester done. I'm glad that I gave my efforts a final push: I especially enjoyed the last two sets of assignments I read, and tomorrow morning I won't wake up to grading.

12/13: before the end of the week

This is the fourth December I've kept this blog, and I just reviewed a few entries from past years. In 2008 and 2010 it looks like it took me nearly till Christmas to finish my grading for the semester--that's not necessarily a bad thing, and it was good of me not to rush it if I was feeling tired and pressed. It seems that I was more timely in 2009. This year I'll at least even the score, and (as in 2009) I'll be able to be done just a day or so after final exam period ends. Taking time in the past, when needed, was a good thing--but not needing to take extra time is also good.

12/12: across (many) decades

I enjoyed Molly Hughes' childhood memoir so much that I started reading her account of her late teens and twenties, A Victorian Girl of the 1880s. Today I read about her two terms as one of the first students of a new teacher training college for women at Cambridge. The excitement and interest of those days lept over the more-than-century distance.

12/11: spiced tea

A gift from a student. I'm enjoying sipping it today.

12/10: reciprocity

I went with Chris this afternoon on an errand, and this evening he went with me on another one.

12/9: home-schooling

I'm home-schooling myself! I am going to teach a Medical Etymology course for the first time this summer, and though I know all the Greek and Latin involved, I'm not familiar with all the medical-specific combinations of the Greek and Latin elements. So it's time that I start learning them. I began working through the textbook this evening.

12/8: home and school

At home today: banana bread for breakfast (a gift from a student) combined with cloud-watching and bird-watching. Last December we saw an amazing number of ducks and geese, and this morning's sightings made us think that the same might be true this year. The sky was so beautiful that I took my camera outside to snap a few photos, and while I was out some geese flew overhead and fairly low:


At school today: my upper-level Latin class met as a group for the last time this morning. They talked through their final projects in such a good-natured and thoughtful way; what a sweet final meeting.

12/7: one on one

For two of my courses this semester there's a final assignment involving a one-on-one meeting with me. I had a few sessions today, and it can be really pleasant to meet with folks on an individual basis, work intently on something together, and have some chit-chat before and after.

12/6: inside and outside

Outside good thing: First little snowfall of the season. Ah, when snow is pretty and sweet (and neither a worry nor a nuisance).

Inside good thing: Molly Hughes' memoir, A London Child of the 1870s. I'm usually not a memoir-reader, but this one is lovely, and I'm so glad I bought it (from my new favorite press, Persephone Books).

12/5: green tea

Ordered it with my dinner tonight. (Why, though, does it never taste as good when I brew it for myself at home? Is restaurant green tea a special blend somehow?)

12/4: mini-project

I haven't had much time to be arts-and-crafty lately, but today I put together a little something for a co-worker. It turned out well (I think), and it felt good to be making something with my hands.

12/3: preparing for spring

Chris dug the holes; I dropped in the bulbs.

12/2: double success

I managed to grade a whole set of Latin tests over lunch today so I didn't need to bring them home to grade this weekend--and the students did well on them. It's not that I expected them to do poorly; it's just that at this time of year they have so many other tests, papers, presentations, etc. that you're never sure if they'll have a chance to keep study well. I'm glad they've managed to keep the Latin ball in the air so far during their end-of-semester juggling.

12/1: three boys

All three boys--one human, two feline--were sleeping and cozy today when I left for work.

11/30: three latin classes, three good things

I'm teaching three levels of Latin this semester, and today I have a good thing related to each of them.

It's always a (fun) challenge to find Latin passages that the beginning students can read without too much grammar help from me--I know I can write Latin for them myself, but it's nice to give them something REAL to read. Today I found a Latin version of the country mouse & city mouse story from the 17th century that's manageable. (There's a Latin version of the same story from the 1st c. BCE, but it's too tricky for beginners.) In any case, I hope the class will enjoy the tale--preparing a hand-out for it today made me smile.

In my intermediate Latin class we've finished our main text for the semester and are spending the last few class sessions reading some short poems by Martial about the Colosseum. It's great to spend time with the poems as I prepare to teach them--they pack a lot into a small space--and today I felt like the students started to see how the poems are doing interesting things. It's only our third day with poetry (we had been reading prose before), and so they had been a little vexed at the new complications that come with translating poetry; today maybe they saw why the vexation is worthwhile.

Right before the Thanksgiving break my upper-level Latin students and I had a book-binding workshop, since part of what we're doing this semester is studying the history of the book as a physical form. This evening I read their reflections on the book-binding workshop, and they did some careful thinking about the books they made, about the process we used, and about what books as physical objects are.

11/29: discoveries

I've written before about my morning apple-cutting ritual to reveal the star at the core. Almost every day I think, "I should take a picture of this sometime." Today I did. The light was poor, but here's today's particular apple-star:

And almost every day as I cut my apple I think of two lines which I came across when I was in high-school: "There's part of the sun in an apple / There's part of the moon in a rose." Over the years I've googled the lines but couldn't find their source. Today I realized that I should try searching specifically in GoogleBooks--and I discovered the author: Augustus Wright Bomberger. The poem in which these lines appear was published in a 1913 edition of The Outlook.

So today's good things are celebrating my daily morning-star discovery by finally taking a picture and--also "finally"--finding a name to attach to those lines!

11/28: morning migration

On my way to work this morning I saw these geese. I didn't have time to pull over and take a picture, but I snapped this through the windshield while waiting at a stop sign:

11/27: enough

I had a long list of work-related things I hoped to do over the break. I got a good number of them done, but I realized on Thursday that I needed to give myself some down-time, too, in order to be prepared for the last bit of the semester. I'm glad I made that choice, and I'm glad I still got enough done to feel okay heading into tomorrow.

11/26: magic in the corner

Heading out on a rainy day, I saw these water-drops caught in a spider web in the corner of our car-port.

11/25: afternoon out

On the trails at Cadron Settlement Park.

The creek at the start of our walk:


Sugarberry bark:


The path at one point:


The quiet curls of dried leaves:



And a few berries:

11/24: tradition with a twist

When I was growing up, our family would assemble "Thanksgiving bouquets" each November: we would collect dried plants and branches, and my parents would arrange them in vases to decorate the house. I have lots of memories of our driving around Cambria County, PA, with clippers in the car, ready to snip interesting grasses or frizzled flowers and take them home. Chris and I don't make Thanksgiving bouquets, but I think my experiences have led me to enjoy photographing dried plants at this time of year. Here's a picture from today's walk.

11/23: having a crush

...on a UK publishing house: Persephone Books. They specialize in republishing 20th century books that have fallen off the radar, most of them by women. It's their edition of The Making of a Marchioness that I enjoyed so much nearly a year ago (and recently re-read). I signed up for their lovely Persephone Biannually newsletter; I received it today, and just paging through it and the catalog they sent makes me excited to dig in. I discovered that their store is just a short walk away from the place where I've been staying when I go to London; next time I'm there, I'll be sure to stop by. They run a lot of events at the shop and in general seem to want to create a community around their publications. They even have an internet forum/book club for people to read and post about one of their books each month. I know it's smart marketing, but I also feel like they really care about these books and want to make connections with other people who might enjoy them. Yep, I'm smitten.

11/22: revisiting seneca

My students in the beginning Latin class take a pronunciation quiz at the end of the semester, and today we started practicing the passage they'll be tested on. It's an excerpt from a philosophical letter by Seneca, and I just love it. I felt lucky to get to say the Latin words out loud.

11/21: not going out

Once the end of the semester draws near it gets especially tempting to eat out. We're tired and busy, and sometimes it's just okay to not cook for ourselves. But today we resisted the urge and had a great dinner at home: salad, ravioli with pesto, and fudge for dessert.

11/20: not really a weekend day

I worked on campus today for basically a full weekday's worth of hours: not normally the best news for a Sunday, but today it was a good thing. It helped me catch up, and my tomorrow will be much happier as a result.

11/19: part picnic

We got lunch to-go at Sonic; I got a grilled cheese with pickles (which I find very comforting). We drove to a pier on the lake and ate while looking over the water. A big blue heron flew by.

11/18: being remembered

By a childhood friend. We're not in frequent contact, but she does send me a birthday card every year. This year's card was waiting for me in the mail when I got home after work. Just seeing her handwriting made me smile.

11/17: mistakes and corrections

Mistakes and corrections are regular parts of any teacher's life and any student's life, but today I got to spend time with very special mistakes and corrections: mistakes made around 1200 on a leaf of the Latin Bible by the scribe who was creating the manuscript, and then corrections of (some of) those mistakes, sometimes by the scribe himself and sometimes by a later reader. It was so (so!) fun to analyze where and why both the mistakes and corrections were made--not because it gave me a feeling of superiority, but because it provided a glimpse into the real human workings of two people long, long ago. When have mistakes given so much pleasure? Thank you, medieval Italian scribe; thank you, later reader/emender of an unknown time and place. You two made my day. If your manuscript had been perfect, it would have been much less sweet.

Here's an instance where the scribe seems to have corrected himself:
If you look at the line that starts near the top of the big red E, you'll see [E]Rat aut[em] danihel. The aut[em] danihel has dots underneath it, because it's a mistake. The scribe accidentally started to repeat something he had already written--just two lines above it you'll see Erat aut[em] danihel. The dots--or puncta--tell a reader to disregard it; it's been puncta-ed out, which is the origin of "expunged."

And here's the later reader at work:
In the middle line shown you can see two things squeezed in, written in a different color ink. The first one is an e with a bar over it (meaning est or "is"), and the second one, which looks kind of like a z (or a 7 or a 2), is a sign for et ("and"). The reader decided to break one clause into two by adding a verb and then a conjunction.

11/16: panis angelicus

In my beginning Latin class we translated Aquinas' Panis Angelicus and then listened to Sting and Pavarotti sing César Franck's musical rendition of it. I liked it a lot, and I think they did too. (You can see/hear it here.)

11/15: cookies for breakfast

Leftovers from our bakery-run yesterday.

11/14: second wind

My get-up-at-5-a.m. catch-up plan mostly worked, but by 2:30 this afternoon I wasn't thinking very clearly. Chris and I quickly nipped off campus to go to the bakery and get some cookies for a reading group meeting we were having with students before dinner. I also got myself a cinnamon roll. The combination of the cinnamon roll and good conversation about the book we read did the trick for me: energy, smiles, and coherent sentences returned.

11/13: taking time anyway

Even though--from a work perspective--we didn't have the time for it, Chris and I took a walk in the late afternoon, and it was the right thing to do. I'll have to get up super-early tomorrow to compensate, but I don't think I'll regret having spent that time in the autumn air, strolling while listening to Chris talk about Mark Twain.

11/12: wilkie's weight

Our cat Wilkie has been having some health issues for almost a year now, and as part of monitoring his situation we weigh him regularly. Today his weight was the highest it's been in a long time.

11/11: on the radio

The Bee Gees, just as I was reaching home. So I smiled a double smile: one for seeing the lights on in the house and knowing that Chris & the cats were there, and another for hearing the sweet Brothers Gibb.

11/10: not good--but good!

My alarm clock stopped in the middle of the night, and I didn't wake up until the sunlight coming into the bedroom woke me up. So I started the day an hour behind, but I got an extra hour of sleep. Happily, despite my late start, I got everything done in time and am even ready to turn to "bedtime reading" a half-hour earlier than usual.

11/9: in the text

I had a good time today getting swallowed up by the Latin text I'm teaching tomorrow, an apocryphal add-on to the Book of Daniel.

11/8: not just me

(Today's good thing is a little odd in that it's a good thing that came out of a not-so-good thing.) My joints have hurt (a lot) all day, and this morning I couldn't understand why I hurt so much. Then a few other people mentioned that they felt the same way and that they thought it was because a storm front was moving in. It didn't make the pain go away, but it did help to know that I wasn't alone.

11/7: bookends to the school day

Yellow ginkgo leaves which seemed all the yellow-er against a grey morning sky.

And a student working at the pizza place on campus who gave us a free taste of a peach & gorgonzola flatbread special.

11/6: a collection of good things

Starting the morning in the comfy robe provided by the hotel I stayed in.

Getting so caught up in the novel I was reading (Swamplandia!) that my time in the airport and on the plane seemed short.

Seeing the autumn leaves on the drive home from the airport.

Smelling the air on the ridge when I got out of the car and thinking, "Yes, this is home."

11/5: change of venue

I'll be in Atlanta on Saturday, giving a paper at a conference. It's a quick jaunt--I'm looking forward both to being out of town and to returning so soon.

11/4: time for an addition

Last night, as I was falling asleep, I realized that it would have been nice to add a particular illustration to the hand-out for my paper tomorrow. This morning I got my luggage packed with enough time left over to scan the picture and make a revised hand-out. Now no chance for regrets of the "If only I had...." variety.

11/3: three things

1. I took my car in for an oil change and check-up today, and it turned out that some not-minor work needed to be done. I am grateful that we had the money to pay for it without having to worry or feel squeezed. When I was a child and money was tight in our family, things like car repairs were sources of anxiety, and I am glad that (luckily, for now at least!) that isn't the case.

2. I got enough advance-work done at school in the last two days, so I don't have to bring any grading or prep on my conference trip this weekend.

3. When I booked my flight to the conference, I got myself on a plane that leaves early tomorrow afternoon--which means that I have time to pack tomorrow morning and don't have to think about it tonight.

(And whenever I post three things I think of Meri and her blog; it's good to prompt myself to recognize more than one good thing in a day.)

11/2: powerfully fragrant

We have a new lemon tree, and it'll be spending the cold part of each year indoors. Today a couple of its buds opened and the scent is unbelievably strong (in a good way). I'm amazed that so few blossoms can make their presence so known.

11/1: flu shots, candy bars, and free books

Flu shots were free at work today. I know it won't completely keep me from getting ill this winter, but at least I'll feel like I took preventive action.

My parents used to take us for flu shots every November, and by the time I was in high school I had developed the habit of bringing a bit of chocolate along to eat right after I got the shot. Today I slipped two little candy bars into my coat pocket, one for me and one for Chris, and we ate them on a bench next to some rose bushes after we had made our way through the shot line.

And another freebie of the day: two copies of A Little Latin Reader. I had ordered one as a desk copy, and the publisher sent me a second copy as a substitute for a different book. So I gave one to Chris, and he translated the first sentence in it (a piece of Pompeian graffiti) on the spot.

10/31: good timing, good time management, and a sweet spur to memory

I just finished my evening's work, and I've just started getting sleepy. In addition to doing my schoolwork this evening, Chris and I made a trip to the grocery store and I cooked up a chili for tomorrow.

It's Halloween, but we don't get any trick-or-treaters at our house (too far off the beaten path). However, our building's housekeeper at work showed me a picture of her grandson dressed up in his Halloween costume as a bat, and that made me smile not just because he looked very cute (and he really did!), but also because when I was about his age I went as a bat for Halloween myself.

10/30: in the sun

A bright walk in the farmer's field below our house. Chris' idea, a good one.

10/29: a view and a treat

After dinner this evening we drove out to Petit Jean Mountain to watch the sunset. Then we went to Waffle House, where Chris had pecan pie and I had an eponymous waffle.

10/28: box of bounty

Chris, a colleague, and I recently received a grant to develop some courses, and now we're allowed to start spending the money. I ordered a big box of books, and they arrived today. On the one hand, I'm excited to dive in. On the other hand, I also like the feeling of knowing they're all waiting for me, surprises packed between the covers.

10/27: gift of christmas past

As one of my presents for the holidays in 1989 my parents gave me a facsimile edition of the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry. It's travelled with me all over: from Pennsylvania to upstate New York, then to California and back to upstate New York before coming to Arkansas. It's a lovely book and a steady, friendly presence on our bookshelves. I have some good memories of paging through it with a friend at college and also with Chris over the years. Today it came in handy for class. Thanks, parents.

10/26: colors

I thought that we might not see much autumn display this year because it had been so dry at the end of the summer: sometimes when that happens, all the leaves turn brown rather than red, orange, and gold. But as I drove to school today, and as Chris and I walked this evening, I was grateful to realize that we really are having a pretty fall season. Everything seemed glowy.

10/25: email

I try not to email students when I'm at home (so that neither they nor I will treat 24-hour access to one another as the norm), but tonight I was grateful that I could send them a quick note. I gave a too-long homework assignment, and it was nice to be able to email them to tell them not to do one part of it. Thanks, technology.

10/24: a voice

I don't often check my phone for messages, and today I realized that a friend had called me yesterday and left voice-mail. I'm sorry I missed her call, but she left a long message which gave me time to really appreciate hearing her voice.

10/23: a modest goal achieved

Making a vegetarian Caesar salad dressing.

10/22: off-plan

I had thought I would hole up this weekend and work-work-work on school stuff.

But in the afternoon Chris and I decided to do some bee-keeping, and in the evening we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the last night of races at the I-30 Speedway below Little Rock.

It was good to let myself depart from the plan.

10/21: delayed departure

I was feeling a bit unwell this morning so decided to work at home (where I could be warm and cozy longer) before heading to campus. Curled up in my home office, I got through my work more efficiently than I thought I would, and it was so pleasant to be home for just an hour longer.

10/20: changing perspective

My good things spring from the two comments waiting for me when I checked my blog today.

Meri's good thing reminded me that I, too, have been using music to work some magic on my morning outlook. I've been enjoying listening to some news on the way to work and then switching half-way through the drive to a music station. I'm glad to get the low-down on the news, but I like pulling into the parking lot at work with something up-beat in my ears.

The anonymous poster reminded me to keep my own frustrations and difficulties in perspective and to be grateful for every single opportunity for genuine laughter.

10/19: good ideas

For today's assignment the students in my intermediate Latin class had to prepare some interpretive talking points about a passage we had just finished translating. When they shared their ideas in class today they made a really great collective pool of thought.

10/18: taste of autumn

I've written about my enthusiasm for apple cider in years past. Today Chris found some in a store, and it was waiting for me in the refrigerator when I came home at the end of a long day.

10/17: advice from 1994

One of my professors in graduate school supervised a group of us who were teaching Latin in the 1994-1995 academic year. She said that we should figure out a way to grade Latin translations that would be systematic, consistent, and straightforward from the get-go. This might have seemed like obvious advice, but it wasn't: plenty of Classics professors don't have a particularly objective way to grade translations. I started developing my own system that year, and I've been using it ever since. This evening a round of grading went very quickly because of it, so I'm feeling especially grateful for that old advice.

10/16: victory through math

I've been wanting to edit my photos in a particular way before having them printed as postcards, and I'd been having trouble with it. After some thwarted attempts yesterday, this morning I realized that it was all just a set of math word problems. I made some equations and worked them--and the vexation was over. It was one of those math-is-magic moments that are all too rare now that my days of formal schooling are long over.

10/15: one of my favorite arkansas views

Pinnacle Mountain, which I've always enjoyed seeing as we drive on the I-430 to Little Rock. Now there's a more leisurely way to view it, from the recently built pedestrian bridge connecting River Mountain Park and Two River Park. We visited the bridge for the first time today, my fall break reward for finishing my paper.

10/14: alight

I'm still working on my paper today, but I took a short break this afternoon to wander outside in the sunshine. The air was so alive with a flurry of flying things. This sweet moth was on an aster patch which many bees, flies, wasps and moths could not resist. We can see it while sitting at the table in our main room, so I just had to go and check it out more closely.

Now that I've resumed sending postcrossing cards more regularly, I'm getting more mail. Today's post included a gorgeous photo of dandelion seed balls. The sender hoped that my receiving the card would count as one of my daily good things--and it definitely has! It's already propped up on my desk to keep me company as I write.

10/13: inside the box

The think box, that is. We call it "going into the think box" when one of us has to hunker down and write a paper. My paper on the Wonder Book is due on Saturday, so I'm spending fall break writing it. Today's work inside the box was smooth. It's good to put words together about Hawthorne again. It's a comfortable mix of feeling like I'm on familiar territory and discovering that there's always more to think and say.

10/12: a day to remember

Not because anything huge and spectacular (hugely spectacular?) happened, but because lots of nice things happened. When days are frustrating and tiring (like yesterday), I need to remember that there could be a day like today right around the corner.

The day's good things include: a conversation with a new Classics major; a midterm in Latin that seemed to go well; general group appreciation of one another in my intermediate Latin class; hearing about one student's animals (goats, a peacock, and a miniature cow!); a pleasant meeting with a senior major sorting things out; unexpected time to grade a few midterms over lunch; news that Chris, a colleague, and I received a grant for course development over the next two years; a drive to Little Rock through the rain while listening to Prince's Purple Rain on the radio; a successful visit to a specialist where I got a cleaner bill of health than I had expected; dinner out with Chris; a walk on the ridge with the weather cleared and air freshened; another tour-de-force chapter by George MacDonald on my audiobook; five of the neighborhood dogs milling around while I walked; the first taste of lemons from our new Meyer lemon tree; playful cats.

Of a different kind of goodness: the fact that this morning (and before any of the good things began) I was able to not get distractedly frustrated by something that could have made me both distracted and frustrated--yesterday I wasn't able to face down the potential frustration as successfully, so I'm glad that today started more auspiciously.

10/11: soothing

Well, I hoped to go to a poetry reading this evening, but the combination of getting over a cold and having to write midterm tests for tomorrow kept me from it.

So this evening I spent just a few minutes doing something I've been doing off-and-on since 2008: looking through poems and making lists of words beginning with the S sound. (I don't count words with the SH- sound.) It's not an academic project or anything--I just find the sibilants pleasing.

Here are tonight's words: saint, scorned, see, seen, served, sighing, since, sit, slackened, snow, so, sodden, sometimes, speak, speechless, stars, straight, streets, stubble, such, summer, swallows, sweet.

A soothing list is a good thing for a tired self.

10/10: looking up


As Shakespeare writes, "This most excellent canopy, the air...." Excellent indeed.

I've been photographing clouds for four years now. I have thousands of cloud photos and yet haven't gotten tired of taking more. I took this one after an early dinner this evening, as I was heading back to my campus office to do a little more work before coming home.

10/9: ahead for now

I had a list of 30 people I wanted to write, call, or otherwise contact in September. I did make it through the list, but had to run a little into October to do it.

I made a new list of people for October, and I'm nearly halfway through it. I like being in touch with folks, but I think I need a list so that I have a visual reminder that it's important to do, even when work is busy.

10/8: balancing

I try to keep Saturdays free from school-related work, but I don't always succeed. This week I've been sick so I needed to work some today to catch up. I made myself a realistic list of tasks, and I managed to get them done while still getting a little resting-time and a little hanging-out-with-Chris time.

10/7: asters

It's their time to bloom. I was walking around the yard in the late afternoon and saw both white ones and purple ones.

10/6: revisiting

I have to decide which Trollope novels I'll be teaching in my spring semester course. I was thinking The Bertrams might be good to include, but I read it in 1997, so I need to double-check my hunch. The beauty of the Kindle app on my iPad: I got a free copy of it in seconds. And it feels great to sink into Trollope again.

10/5: cocoon

Not feeling well today, but not feeling ill enough to justify staying home. I spent the morning preparing my classes in my office, but I made the space--as much as possible--into a cozy shell for myself. Blueberry coffee. Fluorescent lights off; sunlight, and a single lamp with a pink light-bulb on. Soft soft music in the background.

10/4: Francis feast day

I grew up across the street from a Franciscan college and monastery, so Francis of Assisi is dear to my heart. Today's his feast day. By a happy chance in my Vulgate class today we were discussing how Franciscan monks contributed to the development of portable Bibles in the 13th century. And--also by a happy chance--while I was poking online today I came across this snippet attributed to St. Francis: "What you are looking for is what is looking."

10/3: light

My head got in a whirl (whorl?) this afternoon, and I'm afraid I wasn't great company for Chris when we went out for pizza this evening. We drove back from the pizza place along a country road, and when we passed through the rice fields the sun was setting at just the angle to turn the rice stalks amber. Thank you, kind sun. And thank you, kind Chris, for making sure I noticed it.

10/2: warm room

It really is beginning to feel like fall, and even our indoor cats can tell. They've started hanging out more in my room because it's the warmest place in the house. During the summer, that's not necessarily a good thing, but when the air gets a little chillier, oh it's cozy. Today I enjoyed reading with one cat on either side of me. Sometimes I'd stop reading and just feel my good fortune.

10/1: two-book afternoon

Chris and I were both feeling under the weather today, probably (ironically) because of all the beautiful things blooming outside. So we spent the afternoon with books, the cats, warm drinks, and one another for company. Not much to complain about there. And I finished both The Secret Garden (for an upcoming book group meeting) and A Visit from the Goon Squad (because I wanted to know what the hype was about). I can't remember the last time I finished two books in one day.

9/30: dog club

Here's another Los Angeles memory: we would walk to the LaBrea Tar Pits park in the evening after dinner and watch all the dogs brought by their humans to play there. We called it dog club. On the ridge we have our own sort of dog club. There's no leash law outside the city limits, so a lot of our neighbors let their dogs run free (and, truth be told, we know some of the dogs better than we know our neighbors). At one point in our walk tonight five dogs were keeping us company. A happy kind of mayhem.

9/29: tea with jam and bread

Mid-morning snack: chai tea, LaBrea Bakery bread, and orange marmalade!

When we lived in LA, the original LaBrea Bakery was in our neighborhood, so I was very excited this week, though also surprised, to see LaBrea Bakery bake-it-at-home bread in the local Arkansas grocery store. The take-and-bake bread is not as wondrous as the kinds we could buy at the actual bakery, but since I'm now a thousand miles away from the bakery, I'm not going to complain...and I will happily buy it again, for both the taste and the nostalgia value.

9/28: substance

Three good conversations in a row in office hours today. Not that conversations in office hours are ever bad--just today I felt like I was able to click really well with the students who came by.

9/27: at low volume

I don't usually like to listen to music while I'm working, but today I enjoyed having some music playing very softly in the background while I was in my office preparing for my classes.

9/26: in between seasons

Maybe in-between is the best place to be? This morning I heard geese on their way south. This evening I smelled honeysuckle on our walk.

9/25: late-morning sweetness

There's the smell of autumn in the air, but my cantaloupe still tasted like summer (even like sun).

9/24: not alone

Chris was taking a nap this afternoon when I decided to go walking, so I was solo on the ridge. But not really solo: I listened to the very excellent opening chapters of The Princess and Curdie, I caught sight of a hummingbird, I said hello to some neighborhood dogs who walked with me part of the way, I stopped to chat with a neighbor I rarely see, and I smiled at all the flowers (in the family Commelinacaea?) along the road.

9/23: on a calm note

It's been a busy, busy week, but this afternoon the work-day drew to an end in a gentler-than-expected way, a grace to be grateful for.

9/22: artist alum

A former student returned to campus to give a public lecture this evening. He was a Studio Art major and Classics minor, and he's recently finished his MFA. He has an exhibition on campus for the next month, and tonight he talked through slides of his work. It was great to see him, to see his art, and to hear his thoughts.

Seeing him in person was a kind of funny thing. I see him (in a way) every work-day since he's in a series of photographs taken by another Studio Art major which now hang in my office building. Those photos have kept my picture of the student frozen, and today it was wild (in a good way) to see the difference between that image and the person he is now.

9/21: presentation presented

I had to do a talk in front of the full faculty at a meeting this evening, and I made a gamble when deciding what tack I'd take--I opted for idealistic/theoretical over bureaucratic, which seemed risky since I was going to be talking in a bureaucratic environment. But I'm glad I made that choice.

9/20: snippets

Fog and light. Moths and chocolates. Neighbors, a bat, and fireflies.

9/19: writing myself...

...into clarity. On a number of topics. And also realizing which of these bits of writing should be shared, and which are for myself alone.

9/18: solo serial printing

We have a stack of foam printing plates, and today I pressed a few prints of a plate I had made last week and a few prints of one I made this morning. Chris and I first started making linoleum prints back in the 1990s, and I enjoy carving blocks--but it takes time. Printing with gel and foam is quicker and allows us to spend more time on experimenting and less on preparation. I'm glad for options.

9/17: monoprinting as a duo

I recently bought some gel slabs that allow you to make gelatin monoprints without using actual gelatin (and, unlike actual gelatin, you can keep using them forever). Today Chris and I gave them a try and enjoyed playing around with paint for part of the afternoon.

9/16: salad

My salad for this evening's dinner came out amazingly well. (It may have been one of the best salads I've ever made.) The ingredients weren't particularly special; I've used them all before: romaine, diced carrots, mild pepper rings, black-eyed peas, vegetarian bacon, pepper, olive oil, and pomegranate vinegar. Despite the fact that I've made similar salads dozens and dozens of times, something about the proportions of the ingredients tonight was just right.

9/15: one for each time of day

morning: I don't teach Thursday mornings. It's my catch-up time. It's also my time to feel like I don't have to watch the clock while I'm talking to colleagues.

afternoon: Good observations from my Latin students about chapter 2 of the Book of Ruth (we're reading and interpreting the Vulgate version, which I love). The students interpreted certain aspects of it in very keen ways.

evening: When I pulled into the driveway at twilight, Chris was watering the plants outside. He had just finished watering the basil, and its smell filled the air.

9/14: inbox progress

My email inbox at work had become unmanageable. Today I was able to sort through it and bring it down to half its size. There's more work to be done, but it feels so much better already.

9/13: emptying the jar

Last year the jar rubber-stamp which Barbara bought and wrote about on her blog caught my eye. She suggested one way she might use the stamp to prompt reflection, and that resonated with me. I ordered a similar stamp online, and I stamped an open jar on a number of pages in a sketchbook. Whenever I feel overly full (often of worries, it's true, but also sometimes of ideas and images), I open the sketchbook and spill my thoughts out of the jar and onto the page.

Today I felt frazzled after work and I wanted to clear my mind before doing my evening preparation for tomorrow's teaching, so I turned to one of the jar pages. And as I wrote I realized that there were only three things really frazzling me. It was nice to get them out, and it was additionally nice to discover that the number was so finite.

Thanks, Barbara, for writing about the stamp! I think my jar-book is going to be with me for some time.

9/12: a trio of good things

I worked so efficiently this morning that I pulled a little ahead. And that's a good thing because a late-afternoon meeting went on so long that if I hadn't gotten ahead I'd be behind tonight. Now I'm just where I should be for a comfortable tomorrow.

The outcome of the long meeting seems auspicious, though, so even if it was long it had a good end.

I got to see some professors today whom I don't usually cross paths with, and that was a welcome change. It feels nice when people actually seem happy to see you.

9/11: bubble sunday

Tidying up today included soaking glass bottles and de-labelling them so that they can be recycled.

When I was growing up my parents opted against getting an automatic dishwasher, and my mother called washing dishes by hand "hydrotherapy." Today it did feel therapeutic to get my hands in the water.

9/10: summoned

This morning I was working in my office when I heard Wilkie meow from another room. I thought he might be perturbed or might want more food. Nope--he wanted to play. Born in 1996, he's an older cat, so he doesn't play all that much anymore, but it's sweet when he does.

9/9: dinner discussion

I met with a small group of students this evening for dinner, and we had a good conversation about books they read over the summer. A nice note on which to end the work week.

9/8: olfactory function

I'm still taking antibiotics for my infection, but today I didn't need to take any other medications to deal with symptoms. My nose works again, and I was able to appreciate scents on my evening walk: the sweetness of blooming flowers and the mustiness of fallen leaves--a strange (in a good way) sensory combination of spring and autumn.

9/7: early evening

We went on a walk after dinner, and my allergies are under enough control that I could truly enjoy all the things that are blooming. Here's a twilight look at some of the blossoms on the trio of crepe myrtle trees that we call The Graces:

9/6: cosmic, intimate, revelatory

The scene in George MacDonald's Princess and the Goblin in which the Princess Irene visits the bedroom of her mystical great-great-grandmother. A fire of burning, purging roses, a bath as deep as the starry sky, a lamp as bright as the moon, walls that disappear to reveal the night, and the princess' great-great-grandmother herself with hair of shining gold.

9/5: well enough

To take a walk along the ridge after dinner. The green-gold light of the sun setting through the trees. Cool air. Honeybees on the blooming alium. Even a bluebird.

9/4: another Forster

Today I finished E. M. Forster's Longest Journey--another excellent novel. I don't know what got me to start reading Forster's work about a year and a half ago, but I'm glad I did.

9/3: alarm-free sleep

I slept in (way in) this morning. My body needed to recoup, and I feel like my health has been ratcheted up a couple of notches simply from rest (of course the antibiotics must be helping, too).

9/2: positive energy

Lots of good vibes from students and even a former student today. Wonderful anytime, and especially welcome on a Friday when I'm still working through my allergy issues.

9/1: connections

A number of positive interactions at work today on substantive topics. Too often talk with colleagues tends toward gossip or complaint, and that's a tendency I'm trying to veer away from. Today there were good emails and conversations about curriculum-related issues: ideas took center stage--hurray!

8/31: knowing when

As soon as I woke up, I realized that no number of soothing warm beverages was going to be enough to even temporarily allay my symptoms today, so I didn't go to school and went to the doctor instead. My allergies blocked me up enough to cause an infection, and now I'm on antibiotics. I'm glad I didn't try to "tough it out"--I hate cancelling class, but in this instance it was the right thing to do. I'm grateful that I made the decision with minimal hoopla and that Chris supported it so enthusiastically.

8/30: smoothly soothing

I've lived in Arkansas for 12 years now. For the first autumn I was here, I had what I thought was an unshakeable cold for weeks. A doctor told me it was allergies instead. I had never had allergies before! Welcome to Arkansas, the doctor said. Obviously this is not a good thing, and every fall I get allergies in a pretty bad way. It feels like the flu, but it isn't. And there's not much I can do to shake the feeling; eventually the air will change and the ailment will pass. In the meantime (and here's the good thing): I know what's going on, I'm getting better at being patient with my body at this time of year, other people are in the same boat so I have company, and I'm grateful for all the warm things I can drink which temporarily soothe the symptoms.

8/29: new leaves (always a good thing, of course, but especially at this time of year)

The summer was droughty, and the big willow-oak at the bottom of the hill below our house suffered. A lot of its leaves went brown, became withered, and then fell off. But August has brought some rain, and the tree has rebounded. Fresh leaves right before fall! I thought we'd have to wait until next spring to see bright new growth.

(Okay, so this photo is highly stylized. But the effect shows off the new green, I think, and is more refreshing to look at than my original, merely "documentary" photo of the willow-oak, a tree which is too marvellous for me to photograph well.)

8/28: bookends to the day

Yesterday I went to bed with a migraine, but this morning I woke up without one.

This evening we went out on the lake. As we were paddling back at sunset, minnows kept jumping out of the water like little arcs of light.

8/27: morning sighting

A hummingbird sipping water-drops from the holly leaves.

8/26: starting off on a good foot

I'm teaching all levels of Latin this semester: beginning, intermediate, advanced. The beginning of the semester can be especially challenging for the intermediate and advanced students, since they have to get back into the language after a summer without it. In both of those classes, though, the students did so well on their first translation assignments this week--they were more ready to hit the ground running than I had anticipated, and of course that's a very good thing.

8/25: nipping out

Chris and I were at the same meeting from eleven to twelve. When the meeting ended, I realized that I probably could take time out for lunch (instead of having to eat while working at my desk in my office), so we headed off campus to grab a bite. A stolen date in the middle of the day. Not glamorous (we got vegetarian hamburgers & fries at Burger King), but sweet nonetheless.

8/24: on the track

The start of the new academic year has been more chaotic than usual, with the unexpected resignation of a colleague in my program at the start of August and subsequent scrambling to get the suddenly-professor-less classes covered. As a result of that extra nuttiness on top of the usual back-to-school craziness, walking and kayaking have been harder to work into my schedule than I'd like: I've just been drop-into-bed tired at the end of the days. But this evening I made sure I'd have time and energy to go to the indoor walking track--nice and cool on these muggy nights--and I was glad to move and resume listening to The Princess and the Goblin.

8/23: a good day

Seeing yellow flowers blooming along the roadside.

Writing clear emails about difficult topics.

Being back in Latin class after the summer break.

Having good in-person exchanges with a number of people.

Hearing that a meeting of Chris' today went well.

Going out to dinner with Chris and enjoying both conversation and silence together.

Logging in to find congratulations on my 1,000th post waiting for me--thank you, Meri and Honoré!

Reaching this milestone and appreciating all the people I've crossed paths with on this blog.

8/22: 9 p.m. cut-off

I try to stop doing schoolwork by 9 p.m. each night; otherwise, I have a hard time turning my mind off and getting to sleep before midnight. I just finished working for the evening and glanced at the clock: 9:02. Perfect timing. I'm ready for tomorrow, and I kept to my deadline.

Another (related) nice thing: my last bit of work for the evening was writing email to a colleague who had given Chris and me some great feedback on a proposal we're drafting. I feel really grateful to the colleague for taking the time to think carefully about our proposal and send us substantive thoughts back.

8/21: decision revision

I found myself at a cross-roads: should I take the low road? the high road? one in the middle? For awhile I was convinced that the middle road was actually the right one, but at the last minute I switched to a high-ish path instead. I have to remember this feeling the next time I'm at a place where three roads meet.

8/20: lemonade & a happy coincidence

There is a secret logic to lemonade, making it the perfect drink for a day in which the air is hot and close.

This morning I made a bit of mail-art for my friend Sam in Australia. We haven't been in touch for some months, but we recently reconnected on goodreads so I thought I'd send some real mail her way. I dropped it in the post box near the grocery store and then went grocering; when I got home I checked our mailbox--and in it was a packet of goodies from Sam!

8/19: summer tasks done

At the beginning of the summer I had a list of some professional things that I wanted to do before classes started again. Today I finished the last one (sending an article off for consideration). I find the submission process stressful, so I've procrastinated until basically the last possible moment. And, I'll admit, I was largely motivated today by the idea of how disappointed with myself I'd be if I didn't manage to do it before summer's end. But I re-read the article one more time, tinkered with some wording and formatting, wrote the requested summary--and drank a celebratory beer as I readied my paper to be sent.

(Hats off to my friend Sandy, who manages to send her work off much more regularly and seemingly with much less angst.)

8/18: even time for a syllabus

It was a day of nearly back-to-back meetings from 8:15 until 4:30. The meetings went very smoothly, and a couple of them didn't run as long as I thought they would, so I had an unexpected bit of extra time. I used it to work on writing one of my syllabuses for the semester, and now that's one less thing left to do before the start of classes.

8/17: a surprise & a comfort

I gave the Latin placement test to the new students at school today. It's unfortunate that they have to take a test (even a low-stakes one) on their second day on campus, but they need to know what level of Latin they would fit into in our system. They're actually surprisingly good-natured about the whole affair, taking it in stride, and today's group was no exception. One student did outstandingly well on the test: the highest score anyone's ever received on it in my 12 years of giving it. He and his high-school Latin teacher should get big gold stars. And, happily, he thinks he will continue in Latin in college, so I look forward to seeing him in future classes. (Disclosure: I love students no matter how good or not good their Latin is. It was just a special delight to meet someone with such finely honed Latin skills so young.)

And since I'll be back in the office on a regular basis, I needed to stock up on my favorite blueberry coffee. I got some today and am enjoying a cup right now at home before I take it all to work tomorrow morning. I like keeping it at work so that it's a pleasure associated with my office in particular.

8/16: more twombly in my future?

In July I wrote about my happiness at seeing the Twombly/Poussin exhibit in London. Today I got an email from a scholar in Canada who is putting together a conference panel on Twombly's relationship to Classical antiquity; she had read an article I had written some years ago about Twombly's Fifty Days at Iliam, and she asked me if I'd be interested in being part of the panel. It's sweet to hear that someone (who isn't a friend or relative) has read something I've written, and it's a nice prospect to develop some further thoughts on Twombly.

8/15: grouped together

Chris and I had a full-day faculty meeting at school. We got put in the same group for breakout sessions, so we were able to spend the whole day together. Usually when we're at school we barely see each other.

8/14: water & watermelon

We went kayaking this evening, and I was so glad to get back on the lake--since I've returned from London I've been kept off the water by the high heat, the threat of thunderstorms, and/or my own exhaustion. This evening, though, was perfect.

One of our neighbors was at our shared dock when we returned to shore at sunset, and he invited us to stop at his house for some watermelon. It was the best watermelon I've ever had, and it was nice to spend time with him and his spouse.

8/13: back to bases

For the past few days my schedule has been largely set by other people rather than myself--a definite transition from summer-ness. Today, though, I got to chart my own course, and I returned to a habit I developed a couple of years ago to make sure that I don't get lost or imbalanced in my days. I make sure that I try to touch 4 different "bases" in some way in a day: 1. communicating with someone other than Chris (what I call the "outside world" base), 2. doing something related to my job or my research ("professional" base), 3. exercising (corpus sanum!), and 4. taking on some task related to the house or my own well-being (dubbed "house or self"--it may be strangely significant that I automatically combined these into one category when I devised the bases years ago...where does the house stop and the self begin?). Today I fulfilled the 4 bases by writing to my friend Katy, updating my program's webpages and writing emails to a student and a professor, going to the walking track, and buying a stylus and a keyboard for my iPad (which I've been meaning to do for quite some time but have kept putting off). Of course, those things didn't fill the day, but focusing on them and getting them done gave me momentum which helped me stay on track as I moved on to other things.

8/12: chocolate pie & shared excitement

When our neighbors came over earlier this week I made some chocolate pie. I sent some home with them at the end of the evening, but I kept a little bit for us. We had it for dessert after dinner today, and with the space of a few days since my last piece it was almost like I had forgotten how good it is. I got to be delighted by it all over again.

Another good thing for today is my happiness at something good that happened to someone else more than a week ago (but about which I only learned today). Another faculty member went with me to London, and she also worked in the British Library. During her whole time there she was wanting to see a particular manuscript of the Bible (a French translation commissioned by Charles V), but it kept being used by another reader--and that reader had dibs on it for as long as they needed it, so there was no way of knowing when or if she would get to see it before leaving. Of course, she had other research she could do, but as our time together in London came to an end, she still hadn't had a chance to work with the manuscript. (The other reader was even in the same reading room, so it was tantalizing to know the book was that close and yet unavailable.) I knew she stayed in London a day longer than I did, so when I ran into her at a meeting today I asked her if she got to see the Bible on her extra day--and she did. I was so excited, and so was she as she told me. We laughed and may even have squealed.

8/11: kind people

I was walking around campus today and saw some of my favorite people. During the school year I don't cross paths with them all that often, so it was a pleasure to run into them today and remember how truly kind they are.

And then I saw a little "shout out" to me on Meri's Count to 3 site, where she posted a picture of some lovely beehives. Thanks for thinking of me, Meri!

I'm lucky to know good people in the world, both near and far.

8/10: five things

1. The Assistant Registrar at school today was very friendly and extremely helpful as I was trying to work out some late-breaking school-year complications.

2. I was able to be helpful to someone else myself: I went with a newly hired professor to scout out some apartments around town, and I think we found a good one.

3. Chris and I received a very clever wedding invitation from some former students. Though we probably won't be able to travel to attend the ceremony, it felt really good to be remembered that way.

4. A friend from my childhood wrote me a sweet email.

5. I have managed to stick to the pace of reading one Hawthorne short story per day for more than a month now.

8/9: good tastes, good company

We had our neighbors over this evening for dessert and a sampling of the liqueurs which Chris brought back from Portugal. We talked until dark and then sent our neighbors home with some of the chocolate mousse pie which I love to make and share.

8/8: cool air and crazy clouds

It's been more than usually hot and dry here this summer. When a flash of rain came through early this evening, it was a relief to have the water and to feel a cool breeze for a change.

And the sky was doing some wild things, what a pleasure for cloud-collecting me.

8/7: mini-holiday

A jaunty road-trip to the small town of Altus to spend the afternoon with a friend. A sweet end-of-summer thing to do.

Here's a glimpse of downtown Altus:

8/6: hemming

My mother is a costume designer, so of course (and thankfully) she taught me how to sew. Throughout my high-school years and during college vacations I spent many hours making my own clothes. I don't do much extensive sewing these days; time is at a premium, and fabric prices are such that it's nearly as expensive to sew clothes as to buy them already made. I do, though, hem my own pants (which is always necessary, given my 5-foot stature). Today I hemmed two pair. It's nice to have them ready to wear, plus I enjoyed remembering what it felt like to spend time in the sewing room back at my parents' house.

8/5: susan's book

I'm not a book collector. Undeniably, I have a lot of books, but I don't buy them with an eye to building something coherent like "a collection." Today, though, I acquired a book that is the kind of thing collectors buy. I've been doing research on Hawthorne's Wonder Book for a number of years now, and I recently found a first edition for sale for an unbelievably low price. (Copies can be more than $5,000--and this copy was nowhere near that, not in the same ball-park nor a neighboring ball-park nor even a ball-park in a neighboring state.) So I ordered it, not knowing when I might find a similarly priced copy in the future and really feeling such affection for the Wonder Book that I wanted to have it in the form in which it first appeared to the world in 1851. It arrived today. The copy is in good shape, and it has a handwritten inscription: "Susan M. Dana. from her father. November 12th, 1851." Chris immediately went online to find out who this Susan M. Dana was, and he thinks he's found her family tree!

8/4: a spirit of the place

I love seeing rabbits especially in the early evening hours; I think of them as "spirits of the place." As I drove home this evening after walking at the track, one was scampering up the hillside, and it made me smile.

8/3: clarity, correspondence, conversation

Today my head was much clearer than it was yesterday, and I could address some of yesterday's weirdnesses with action.

I wrote my one piece of back-logged correspondence for the day, so that's three in a row. Not quite a streak or a habit yet, but getting there.

I called the friend who wrote me email yesterday, and we had a long talk mostly about professional stuff (but shop-talk can be fun when it's done with a friend). I also went out for coffee and a chat with a friend from school who is back in town now that summer is ending.

8/2: making it through

Coming to the end of a day which has had unexpected loops and unpleasantness. Sometimes it's just good that the sun sets and will rise afresh.

I did, though, manage to write my "arrears" correspondence for the day, so that's something. And a friend to whom I am still in arrears wrote me a fresh note today, which was very kind of him and makes me feel encouraged about the correspondence catch-up project. It's nice to be reminded that people do want both to hear from me and to tell me about their lives.

8/1: day one of a month with a mission

Among my hopes for this month is working my way completely through my "arrears" correspondence list. I got started on that today. If I can manage a note or letter a day, I should be able to do it. I really do want to write to all the people I owe notes to, and I'm embarrassed that I've fallen behind (and in some instances, even beyond what "behind" might reasonably convey). I'm thinking that a bit of structure and a goal in sight will help keep me on track, and that would be a good thing. It felt good just to start--now the trick will be keeping going.

7/31: getting ready for a new month

I feel like I'm still fuzzily transitioning between being away and being home, but I'm spending time today helping that transition along (without being too frustrated at myself for its not being done already). Everything from my trip has been sorted and put in its proper place, my desk is reasonably cleared, and I'll be ready to start tomorrow on a small list of things I hope to do in August before school starts again. Though I was a little sad to take my subway card and British Library reader's pass out of my wallet, there is always something good about a new-page, fresh-slate feeling. July had more happy things in it that I had anticipated, and I'm going to be optimistic about August's horizon.

7/30: a fresh fig

From one of our small fig trees. The trees don't produce a quantity of fruit, so each fig that ripens (and survives the birds) is special. Chris doesn't enjoy fresh figs as much as dried ones, which meant that today's perfectly ripened fig fell to me to eat. I didn't complain!

7/29: letting myself

be tired...and letting myself rest.

7/28: countryside sounds

I liked my time in the city, but I was grateful to fall asleep to the sound of frogs last night and wake up to the song of birds this morning.

7/19-7/27: a London list

Some good things from my time in London: elderflower pressé, Planet Organic, the British Library (and sitting across from the same other researcher in the reading room for 3 days in a row), Freud's London home, The Masks of Mer (a documentary film shown at the British Museum), Marlowe's Doctor Faustus staged at the Globe, the Twombly and Poussin exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, new sculpture at the Saatchi Gallery, Pisoletto's installation at the Serpentine Gallery, a short photographic venture into Kensington Gardens, successful seminar sessions with students, and spending my last few pounds at Heathrow on British chocolates to bring home.

7/18-7/27: i'm off...

I won't be posting while I'm in London, but I'll be back at the end of the month. Until then, please feel free to add good things from your days in the comments!

7/17: lake-time

Today is full of things, mostly related to packing for my trip. I have to be expeditious about it because we are meeting friends for dinner, and I don't want to leave the packing for after that. But I got up early and so felt that I had just enough extra time to go out onto the lake this morning. Chris and I kayaked into the middle of the lake and then slipped into the water for a soak.

7/16: twombly on my calendar

One of my favorite artists, Cy Twombly, passed away earlier this month. I have very strong memories of times spent with his monumental and amazing paintings, and I am sorry that he is no longer with us.

I was poking around on the Time Out London website today, trying to get an idea of what I'd like to do on my one non-work day in London next week. And--oh what fantastic luck--there is a Twombly/Poussin exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. I booked a ticket pronto, and I am so (so!) excited. (Honestly, the thought/anticipation of it makes my heart race and my eyes tear up...in a good way.)

7/15: morning, afternoon, evening

This morning I had a hair-cut. I like the man who cuts my hair, and I like the way he cuts my hair.

This afternoon I mailed off a pile of packages. It felt good to send them on their way.

This evening Chris and I both came down with a mild stomach bug. Not a good thing, but from it comes the good thing of hanging out together and watching old TV shows on Netflix.

7/14: trio of titles

My Nathaniel Hawthorne short story today was "The Great Carbuncle." (An unfortunate title, since now "carbuncle" has an unpleasant definition; in Hawthorne's day it could refer to a red gemstone--I guess it still can, but I've never heard it used that way.) In any case, I enjoyed the story, and it had some connections with Hawthorne's Wonder Book, so my pleasure-reading dove-tailed into my research-work today.

I'm nearing the end of Trollope's American Senator. I've read it before, but Chris and I both decided to read it again this summer, discuss it, and write the commentary on it for the Trollope site. I know the "real" heroine of the novel is Mary Masters, but--gosh--I do love Trollope's presentation of Arabella Trefoil and her sheer pluck. (When discussing one of Arabella's actions, Trollope has a sentence on the usefulness of pluck which is one of my favorite sentences of all time.)

I'm listening to Austen's Northanger Abbey on my walks. It's so cutting as a novel. For that reason, it can be uncomfortable sometimes, but also funny.

7/13: company

Chris kept me company at a workshop at school today. Wilkie kept me company as I worked on my computer at home. This rainbow kept me company while I walked this evening:


I am grateful for all these kinds of companionship.

Or shall I put it the other way around? I was glad to keep Chris company at a workshop at school today. I was happy to keep Wilkie company as he sat next to me. It was sweet to have the chance to keep a rainbow company.

7/12: two notes

I got two emails this evening from people I haven't heard from in awhile and whom I really like. I've been feeling a little disconnected recently (always the risk with summers out of the office and classroom), and it was great to be reminded that my connections with these two people are real.

7/11: needed detour

I've been trying to keep to a work schedule--I find that it's necessary for me to create some structure for my days during the summer, else they'll just slip away. But this afternoon I couldn't get my head into the right place for work, so I went with Chris to run some errands. It was good to take a step back: I cleared my head enough that when we got back I still managed to get all the work-related things done today that I had hoped.

7/10: perfect timing

Chris and I went out on the lake at just the right time this evening. We paddled out of the cove, dropped anchor, and slipped out of our kayaks into the water. The sun streaming through the clouds was wondrous, and I felt lucky to be floating in the water and watching such a sky.

7/9: unexpected connection

I'm trying to read a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story every day. It sounds like a sweet plan, but I'm only on day 3 so I don't know if it will stick as a habit. Today's story was "The Minister's Black Veil," which I do--but very vaguely--remember reading back in high school. Today I was struck by the symbolic similarities between the veil in Hawthorne's story and the veil in C. S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, one of my favorite novels and one which I'm re-reading this summer for a book club. I think that Lewis must have known Hawthorne's short story; some of the resonances seem too clear to be coincidences? I'm sure other readers and researchers have studied the relationship between the texts, but I guess what I enjoyed is coming upon it in an unscholarly way today--just drawing an unexpected line connecting two literary dots, and enjoying the fact that books talk to one another and I get to listen in.

7/8: a conversation and an invitation

(I apologize in advance for posting another profession-related good thing. It's especially hard to write about job-related good things without sounding puffed up, so I apologize if I sound full of myself.) This afternoon I spoke on the phone with someone from the Council of Independent Colleges about my Trollope/Classics web project with students. As a result of our conversation she asked me to come to a conference next March and give a presentation. Sometimes I feel like my work is in a vacuum, and so I am very grateful for the support and interest shown by people in the wider educational arena.

7/7: oh, ovid!

Every time I return to Ovid's Metamorphoses, I find something new to think about. Today I was looking at two stories I thought I had wrung quite a lot out of in the past--the tales of Orpheus and Midas. But today I noticed many new things--some of them discoveries, some of them puzzles. I was thinking about it all so hard that it actually made my head hurt. Although I'm not generally a fan of my head hurting, in this case it counted as the equivalent of what one feels when one exercises well, so I was glad to put my brain through its paces while spending time with such a great poem. An extra bonus: Chris talked through some of the more puzzling things with me over ice cream. I am lucky to live with such a willing and smart interlocutor!

7/6: chromophobia

Okay, chromophobia itself (a deep-seated cultural suspicion of color and colors on moral, aesthetic, and/or spiritual grounds) is not a good thing. But Chromophobia, David Batchelor's book about the phenomenon, is a good read. I finished it this morning.

7/5: migration complete

Back in 2005-2006, some students and I created an online guide to the uses of Classics in Trollope's Barsetshire novels. The site eventually went offline (alas), but I've been wanting to resume and expand the project. This summer I received unexpected--and very welcome--technical help from the Center for Hellenic Studies, and today I finished moving the material to the new site (a process which took longer than I had anticipated). There's still more formatting (etc.) to do, but it's great to have the site in place and ready for moving ahead.

7/4: better rested

I was too exhausted yesterday--and I'm not even sure why. I'm in better shape today, and it turns out that with enough rest things that were difficult yesterday are a pleasure today. Thank goodness!

7/3: ginja

I'm a little hesitant to post food-related good things two days in a row, but ginja really is fantastic. It's a liqueur made from Morello cherries, and Chris brought some back from Portugal. (I had never had it before.) It's flavorful, but not heavy like some liqueurs. It somehow tastes like sunshine.

7/2: tasty treat

I had a chunk of work that I wanted to get done this afternoon, so Chris went grocering on his own (which, since it's usually one of my tasks, was very kind of him). He bought us some treats, including Ben & Jerry's Late Night Snack ice cream. I hadn't had it before, but we ate it this evening in lieu of dinner, and it's very good.

7/1: emerging

Chris and I worked on two bee-hives this morning. In one them, we needed to change part of the hive equipment. In the other, we wanted to make sure the bees were okay. Happily, there were all stages of young, from eggs to larvae to capped brood--a good sign. I even got to watch one bee hatch from her little bit of comb and then begin to go about her business.

6/30: last tour, last listen (for now)

Since Chris returns today, my watering duties come to an end (though I've gotten a little fond of it so may take over from time to time). I finally got so used to the watering system, that I didn't need Chris' diagram to help me remember this or that tree. I did a last round of watering this morning, and, in a happy circumstance, as I finished watering I also finished listening to The Last Chronicle of Barset on my iPod.

Okay, my uses of "last" feel a bit ominous. There is something pleasing about my time without Chris (symbolized by the watering) drawing to a close at the same time that my long listen to Trollope's novel ended. But there's also a pleasure in knowing that these "lasts" are not entirely final. I can water the trees whenever I choose, and I'm sure I'll revisit Barsetshire many more times in Trollope's pages.

6/29: getting ready

Chris comes home tomorrow. I'm so glad he had a chance to go on his trip, but I'll also be happy for him to be back again. Today I've been tidying up in anticipation. Farewell to my temporary bachelor lifestyle!

6/27: another abstract

In March I had an abstract accepted for presentation at the Children's Literature Association annual conference this June. It turned out that I couldn't attend: because our dear cat Wilkie now needs regular medication and attention several times a day, Chris and I didn't want to be out of town simultaneously, and the conference was scheduled during his stay in Portugal. Although I was a little disappointed in a vague way not to be going to the conference, I'm not at all regretful about my decision--it definitely was the right thing to hold down the fort with Wilkie and Emma.

There are some silver linings. The theme for next year's Children's Literature Association conference is an even better fit for me, so I'll apply for that when the time comes. And since I didn't have to write a paper in May, I worked on an abstract for another conference this fall, which again is a better fit for me. I found out today that it was accepted, and that was sweet news. I re-read my abstract this afternoon, and I really like it (if that's not too immodest to admit). I'm glad I'll have a chance to develop the abstract into a full-fledged paper.

6/26: countdown to a milestone

I've been at this blog for quite some time now (as today's sweet visitor in the comments noted). In fact, I'm closing in on my 1,000th entry. If I've totted up correctly, today's entry is number 950. This blog has been a good thing, and a good habit. Many thanks to everyone who stops by, has ever stopped by, will ever stop by.

6/25: into the lake

It's hot, and as a reward for working steadily this afternoon, I took my kayak out this evening. I dropped anchor and slipped overboard to swim. After I had finished, had climbed back into the boat (not gracefully), and paddled back, I realized that I wanted to swim some more, so I jumped off the dock and enjoyed the water just a little bit longer.

And it's always a good thing to come to my blog and see that someone has already left a good thing from their day. Today I found a comment from my friend, Sandy--thanks for stopping by!

6/24: hard won, but won

I'm working on a website for a research project, and I'm using a Wordpress platform for it. I needed to customize a template in a particular way today, and since there's so much documentation online, I found advice for what I needed pretty easily. But the advice wouldn't work, and wouldn't work, and wouldn't work. Then I figured something else out, and finally--it worked. I probably spent about 3 hours just on this problem, and I am so so so so so so glad that I can claim a victory before closing up shop for the day.

6/23: time with a page

I saw the animated film The Secret of Kells a few months ago, and I really enjoyed it--it is visually amazing. Though it's a very fictional view of The Book of Kells, the movie made me want to incorporate The Book of Kells somehow in my Vulgate class this fall. Today I spent time with a high-quality photograph of single page and worked through its Latin. I had a good time, and I think my students will have a good time with it, too.

6/22: turning pages with delight

As I'm reading E. M. Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread.

6/21: solstice sunset

I was driving this evening at sunset, and the sky was wonderful. I couldn't pull over to get a good photo of it, so I'll just have to remember it and be glad that it was.

6/20: inside, outside, and at school

Inside: doing some weight lifting, which I haven't done in quite some time (too long!).

Outside: enjoying watering the trees while listening to Trollope.

At school: tidying up my office just a little, which I didn't do at the end of the semester.

6/19: all ordered

I'm helping to run two different summer-reading programs at school: students have their books sent to them at their home addresses to read over the summer, and then small groups convene for discussion once school is back in session. Over the past few weeks I've made arrangements for about 80 books to be sent to different people; today I placed the last set of orders. I love promoting leisure reading and discussion about leisure reading--but I'm also glad that the sign-up and procurement stages are over. Now that the preliminaries are dispensed with, all everyone has to do is read!

6/18: generosity

The kindness of a friend, who listened to me talk (at much length!!) through some thoughts and feelings. She was so perceptive and warm and funny and loving--and generous with her time.

6/17: sharing a meteor

Chris is in Portugal, and he called me this evening as he was sitting on the roof of his house there. As we talked, he paused suddenly. He explained: it was a shooting star. I didn't get to see it, but I still got to experience it with him in a way.

6/16: index card Zen space

I'm doing the Index Card A Day challenge at Daisy Yellow. Today's card is inspired by Zen gardens. My sister first showed me the iZen Garden app for the iPhone, and I really enjoy it--I'm even thinking of constructing a real Zen garden here at home. The index-card Zen garden I doodled today is lower-tech than an app and more portable than one of real stones.

6/15: holding steady & jumping high

Our cat Wilkie is having some health challenges, and I took him to the vet today for a check-in. The doctor says that although some things can't be decisively cured, Wilkie's doing well and his conditions are, it seems, being managed successfully for now.

Our other cat Emma feels perhaps a little neglected while Wilkie is getting so much medical attention. Today I made a new string toy for us to play with. It's not elaborate: just a piece of string tied onto a long dowel. I hold the dowel and move the string around, and Emma jumps to catch it. He was glad for the fun.

6/14: blue box bonding

I am fond of the US Postal Service's blue mailboxes. They used to be fairly well sprinkled through cities, but the USPS has been removing them over the past few years. My favorite one (which gave me an excuse to walk across campus each morning) was taken away last year. I recently discovered a new one outside a bank which my errands sometimes take me near, so I've started using it when it's convenient. Today as I was turning away from the box, having just deposited my mail, another woman came up with hers. She had popped off her bike for a second to drop it off; she planned this stop on her route, too. We smiled at each other.