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.
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!
be tired...and letting myself rest.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.