12/31: writing

In 2012 I've read more than usual, and the reading has been of various sorts:  ancient texts, Victorian ones, novels for pleasure, Grimms' Tales, children's literature, drafts (and drafts and drafts!) of student projects, poems (and poems and poems!) submitted for publication.  I'm grateful for all of it.

But--partly as a side-effect of doing all that reading--I've written less in 2012 than usual, and I feel rusty.  Today I got to write for about an hour and a half.  Nothing elaborate:  some glosses on uses of Classics in Trollope's Claverings.  It was a pleasure to be putting words and thoughts together, and maybe I worked off a little of the rust.

12/30: phone call

...from a dear, dear, wonderful friend.  We used to live a few blocks apart in Los Angeles, and for a few years we were lucky in being able to talk together or see one other several times a week.  Amazing good fortune.  Also amazing:  how distances of time and space shrink when we talk on the phone, as if the neighborhood intimacy remains intact.

12/29: looking at letters

I spent time this evening formatting poems that will soon be posted on the Heron Tree site.  I am glad to have gotten something done today, since the morning and afternoon were filled with unexpected ups and downs; at least I can end the day feeling like I've moved forward a little, too.

Maybe I'm spending too much time thinking about typography, but the light and shadow on the water during today's sunset looked to me like writing.  Undeciphered characters from an untranslated script:

12/28: whole house

It took most of yesterday afternoon and evening for the house to return to a steady and comfortable temperature, so while that was happening all three of us stayed close to the fire.  During the power outage our living space had contracted to one room, a room which Emma the Cat usually considers his own domain.  He was gracious about sharing it with us, but I could tell that today he was enjoying the fact that we could spread out into the rest of the house.  What a luxury for us all to have rooms of our own to retreat to when we want time alone.

12/26-27: grimming it up, a visiting neighbor, & electricity back on

I couldn't write on the 26th because our electricity went out sometime around midnight on Christmas night, and it didn't come back on until lunchtime on the 27th.  Though it wasn't exactly fun to be without light, regular heat, and hot water, we are lucky to have a fireplace and so could use that for some warmth and cooking.  Now that electricity is restored, I'm looking forward to a hot shower and to wearing fewer than four layers of clothes and blankets.  I am very grateful to the various crews who have been working non-stop all around the state to get people's energy restored as quickly as possible.

As we spent yesterday next to the hearth, I read a lot, and my reading of choice was Grimms' Tales.  I had hopes of reading all 279 tales included in Zipes' edition by the end of 2012, as my own celebration of the bicentennial of the publication of the Grimms' first edition back in 1812.  I read steadily over the summer and into the early fall;  however, by October and November it looked unlikely that I would finish by the end of the December (though still possible to finish in early 2013).  A revised goal seemed fine.  Now, however, no revision is necessary:  the power outage kept me by the fireside with my book, and I finished reading the last tales just as the electricity returned.

Yesterday I saw this crow from our window, and it seemed atmospherically perfect for my reading:

And last night, when the sun had set and it had gotten too dark inside to read by firelight alone, one of our neighbors stopped by to make sure we were okay--he hadn't seen any tracks coming down the hill from our house, so he wanted to check in on us.  We sat in the near darkness by the fire for awhile, chatting and drinking cinnamon whiskey.

12/25: inside / outside

Chris and I haven't been listening to the news much over the past few days, so we didn't realize until this morning that a winter storm was on its way to Arkansas.  For us, Christmas was very unexpectedly white.  Ice and snow can be problematic here because there's less infrastructure than up north for taking care of roads and electricity lines.  But for now we have light and heat, and we don't have to be driving anywhere for a few days, so I'm very grateful.

I couldn't resist walking around outside a bit as the snow was coming down this evening.  It made me remember the good parts of growing up in Pennsylvania winters, where the snow could come early and stay late.

(photo taken inside:)

(photo taken outside:)

12/24: ritual

I know I've posted a lot of sunsets on the blog this year.  It started with my taking pictures while kayaking  over the summer, and in the course of the fall we've developed a habit of spending sunset by the lakeside when possible.  I'm appreciating the balance between repetition and variation, comfort and discovery.  It's kept me tethered during some difficult times.

12/23: taking definite shape

The poetry journal which Chris, our friend Sandy, and I are co-editing will start to publish poems online in January.  At our meeting this afternoon we decided which poem should appear first, and we set January 6 as the date of its appearance.  That's Epiphany, which seems fitting.  (We chose the 6th because it's the first Sunday in January and we want to post a new poem every Sunday--the fact that it's Epiphany is just icing on the cake.)

I set up the basic site for the journal back in August, but now it really has to be ready to function well--which means I need to be able to make it function well.  I'm no web-design expert, so it's very much a learn-as-I-go situation.  This evening I did some experimenting to make sure that I can actually present the poems the way I imagined presenting them, and happily (reliev├Ęd-ly?) my experiments worked.  (What is quite strange is that I read a bunch of advice in on-line forums to find out how to do what I wanted to do--I implemented the advice, but I didn't like the effect, so I was able to figure out a much easier way to get the result I wanted.)

In May, Heron Tree was just an idea that Chris and I mused about while kayaking.  Now it's getting ever closer to a reality.

12/22: happy returns

...to reading back issues of The New York Times Book Review,

...to Grimms' Tales with my morning coffee,

...to Trollope, as I work on the glosses for The Claverings,

...to Miss Buncle (now married but she'll always be "Miss Buncle" to me) in The Two Mrs. Abbotts.

12/21: the sun

The winter solstice is a joyful day for me:  every year I feel relieved when the sun reaches this particular turning point.

Today I celebrated by:

...ordering a copy of Bruno Munari's Drawing the Sun, which I had first read about on Barbara's blog,

...making some sketchy, spirally suns of my own,

(and, of course)

...visiting the sunset.

12/20: gift

We are lucky to have a good number of great blue herons living near the lake.  I usually don't try to photograph them because when I tried taking pictures of them years ago they seemed not to like it and so flew away.  It doesn't feel right to disturb them.  But today when one flew closer to me, right into my camera's field of vision, it seemed like a different situation.  Thank you, heron, for adding grace to a windy, cold day.

12/19: 52 & 26

I signed up with Postcrossing in the spring of 2007, and over the years the number of cards I can have in motion at one time has grown to 52.  That's a lot to keep up with, and I don't feel obligated to always be sending the maximum allowed.  But today I decided to send all that I could, so I now have 52 cards on their way to 26 different countries:  Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine, UK, and the USA.  It feels good to be making even fleeting connections with people all around the world.

12/18: kinds of company

Chris and I running errands in town today and going out to lunch.

Chris, the neighborhood dogs, and I walking along the ridge in the afternoon.

Two of the dogs, my camera, and I heading down to the dock for sunset.

The sky and I.

12/17: lines of light

The sunset painting itself along the ridges of the water.

12/16: time with...

poetry:  at our editorial meeting this afternoon we chose more poems for Heron Tree.

Emma:  a cat both tender and fierce.

Monica Dickens' Mariana:  against the odds, it didn't end with a death.  I am grateful for that unanticipated outcome!

the sky & my camera:  thank you, digital photography--I took about 170 pictures (mostly of clouds) today, something I never would have done with my traditional film-using camera.  Sometimes I miss taking pictures in the old-school way, but having a digital camera has made me feel more comfortable experimenting. 

(One of today's photos.) 

12/15: quiet surprise

This photo, taken at the lake near sunset.  The wind was playing with the reflection of some trees on the other side of the cove.  I didn't expect the camera to capture the color and light in this way, but I'm glad it did.

12/14: done with public events (for now)

Today's workshop was my last "in-public" obligation before the holiday break.  I got some nice feedback about my presentation (for which I am very grateful), but I think it was one thing too much this semester.  Though I love teaching, it is not easy for me to be among people, so I am very much looking forward to the next month of private time to collect myself, work on various projects, and get ready for the next semester.

12/13: working at home

Today I had to put together a presentation for a workshop tomorrow.  I wish now that I hadn't agreed to do it, but there's no changing that, so I had to keep pushing myself forward all day.  But at least "pushing myself forward" was made more pleasant by the fact that I could do all the work at home, with Chris and Emma nearby, with creature comforts like juice and brownies readily available, and with the luxury of wearing super-comfortable (and not office-appropriate) clothes.

12/12: new (to me) old wives' tale

Chris heard from our neighbors that you can "predict" the winter by looking at persimmon seeds.  Not having grown up in a place where persimmon trees thrive, this isn't a piece of local lore I had come across when young.  But now that I live in very close proximity to several persimmon trees, I had to give it a try!  Thanks to the internet, I learned how the prediction works:  you cut open a persimmon and then split a seed lengthwise along its seam.  If the sprout inside the seed looks like a knife, the winter will be cold; if it looks like a spoon, the winter will bring a lot of snow; if it looks like a fork, the winter will be mild.  Chris and I tried two seeds, and both of them seemed to have "spoon" sprouts inside of them.  We'll see if the winter bears out this prediction....

12/11: brave & bold

It was the first day that truly felt like December, and I was warm inside when I photographed this cardinal this morning.  His color caught my eye from a distance, and I admired his composure in the cold.

12/10: one down

The beginning Latin exam was in the morning, and by the mid-afternoon I was done grading them.  That might be a personal record.

12/9: before the cold

The temperature is supposed to drop substantially:  the high today was 73 degrees, but tomorrow's high is predicted to be 45.  We took advantage of the mild weather this morning by walking on the ridge, and we enjoyed seeing bees from our hives visiting the little speedwell blossoms lining the side of the road.

12/8: hooked again

A few weeks ago, I downloaded another one of Persephone's e-books; this time it was Mariana by Monica Dickens (a great grand-daughter of Charles).  I would read a bit now and then at night, but I think I was too tired to be a good reader.  I was also a little surprised because the description I had read made the book sound more light-hearted than it turns out to be.  After such a fitful, wary start, today I was able to do some reading during quality time today, and now I'm swallowed up in this novel's world.   It took me longer to reach this state than with other Persephone titles, but here I am again, glad that Persephone Books makes under-appreciated gems available once more.

12/7: time enough today

I had enough quiet time in the office today to put together Monday morning's final exam for the beginning Latin students.  Although I still have to proofread and photocopy it, I won't have to spend my Saturday afternoon writing it, and that's a good thing.

12/6: spreading sweets

My upper-level Latin class met this morning to deliver final presentations.  Because we were scheduled to convene at an early hour, I brought donuts.  At the end of the session there were extras, which I took into the Registrar's Office and the Alumni Relations Office to share.  It felt good to make people--students and co-workers alike--smile with an unexpected treat.

12/5: flora, fauna, and merry weather

One of the very first things I saw this morning was a deer eating privet at the edge of our yard.  As I was walking from the house to my car a little while later, I paused by our baby camellia bush, which has more blooms than you'd expect on a small plant.  I heard the buzz of honeybees, so I looked closely, and there they were:  some bees from our hives, checking out the flowers.

In the late afternoon Chris had to run an errand south of Little Rock (about 45 miles away), and I decided to go with him to get out of my home-to-school/school-to-home routine.  I enjoyed a chance to see a broader horizon, and I was grateful for the utterly benign light on the rice fields during our return trip:

I had gotten a little frustrated at school this afternoon (which is understandable but unfortunate at this stressful time of year), so a change in perspective was welcome.

12/4: singing in the rain

Campus was quiet today:  classes are over, and exams begin tomorrow, so professors were quietly working in their offices while students were squirreled away studying.  When I walked across campus at lunchtime, no one else was out and about.  It was raining (another reason that people were staying tucked inside), but amidst it all--rain, thunder, and general greyness--I heard so many birds singing.

12/3: traditional dinner

Chris and I are trying to use the free meals which we get at school each semester, so we ate dinner in the cafeteria last night.  We chose a good night:  it was the traditional pancake-dinner which is served to celebrate the last day of classes.

12/2: sun day

Another Sunday's sunset spent down at the dock.

12/1: confectionary punctuation

The treats from Chris' bakery splurge are still around (and will be with us for some time).  Today we used them as rewards between bouts of grading.  Maybe this should become an end-of-semester tradition?

11/30: nocturnal friend

Possums make me smile, and I was so happy to see one at the very bottom of our hill as I pulled up the driveway this evening.

11/29: meeting milestone

It's been a semester with a lot of committee meetings.  But after a faculty meeting last night and two committee meetings today (one first thing in the morning, the other the last thing before coming home), I can say that I'm done with them for the semester.  No more until January, knock on wood!

11/28: leaf love

One of the redbud trees outside our house said "take heart" this morning.

11/27: an abundance of sweets

Chris had to run some errands this afternoon, and on his way he passed by a good cookie bakery.  He went in and bought two of everything.  Yes, two of every cookie, brownie, or bar they sold!  We have good things galore now.

11/26: word studies

Over the past few days I've been reading and commenting on some of the upper-level Latin students' studies of particular words:  they each chose a Latin word they're interested in and then examined how it's used by different authors in different genres or time periods.  By doing so, they get a sense of the range of meanings of a word and its connotations.  I just finished reading the last draft, and I am so pleased with the students' work.  Not only did they take the assignment seriously, but they also each made it their own--their different personalities really come through in their analyses.  I think they will be encouraged when I hand the drafts back tomorrow, and I'll look forward to seeing their final copies at the end of the semester.

11/25: brother sun and sister moon

At the dock we watched the sun set and the moon rise.

A flock of birds framed themselves nicely in this picture pointed west:

And the moon's reflection rested on the rippling water to the east:

11/24: a gathering of things

Productive work of various kinds:  test-grading, article-reading, draft-commenting.

A long afternoon conversation with a friend at a coffee shop.

Postcard writing.  It's a habit I've fallen fairly out of over the past year, but during this long weekend I've written many Postcrossing postcards to people in more than a dozen different countries.

Seeing deer at sunset.

11/23: didn't feel like work

Truth be told, I did a bit of grading yesterday morning, so the day wasn't wholly a holiday.  When I logged on to post this evening, I thought I'd write that today I did actually take a holiday, doing no work.  But just a minute ago I realized:  I did do some school-related work late in the morning and in the early afternoon.  Still, it counts as a good thing--though of a different kind--that the work I did didn't feel like work.

11/22: sun and light

We enjoyed the mild weather this afternoon while visiting Cadron Settlement Park.  We've walked there during a fair number of Thanksgivings over the years.  These yellow leaves especially cheered me:  not only did the sun come through them, but they also seemed to cast a light of their own in the woods.

11/21: blues

Some blue-birds at the bird basin this morning.  I hadn't seen any in quite some time.

And brave little speedwells blooming on the ridge as if it were spring not late autumn.

11/20: time to regroup

The last 10 days have been difficult for a number of reasons, but we've reached a little respite:  no more classes for the rest of the week.  Chris and I are going to minimize holiday-ing and maximize resting.

11/19: a new dress

I'm glad I kept it waiting in the wings for a rainy day.

11/18: the reds of sumac

For weeks I've been enjoying the reds in the little row of sumac which we can see from our main room.    These colors will be gone soon, and I'll miss them.

11/14: a ribbon of color for wednesday

A band of peachy-pinky light seemed to stay near the horizon all day.  It lingered long after sunrise and was in the afternoon sky well before sunset.  (Was it there in the middle of the day?  I can't say for sure because I was inside, but I'd like to think it was.)

11/13: tuesday's tones

Today's mosaic comes from a picture I took this morning.  Standing on our deck, I was looking down into a frosty patch of grass and fallen leaves.

11/12: monday's mosaic

I think it's going to be a week of pixellated palettes.  The shades of autumn are so striking and shifting, and I'm glad to have an excuse to spend time with colors.  Today's mosaic comes from a picture I took this morning, looking west as the sun was striking some leaves on a neighbor's tree.

The yellows and yellow-oranges felt optimistic, a good thing for a Monday morning.

11/11: today's colors

Yesterday's colors came from a photo taken atop a mountain, looking down at the tops of trees with colored leaves below.  The haze and sun gave everything a soft cast.

Today's palette comes from a photo taken at home, looking east to the trees which mark the start of our little forest.  A grey and rainy day made things take on richer tones.

11/10: colors

All week I had been enjoying the autumn colors on my way to school.  Today Chris suggested that we take a drive to see more of them, so we went to the overlook on Petit Jean Mountain.  As is often the case there, it was too hazy for me to be satisfied with any of my photographs of the view, but here is a pixellated rendering of the leaves' colors at least:

11/9: two

Two deer grazing near our bedroom windows this morning.  I was especially glad to see them since I was worried that the coyotes' proximity would keep them away.  The sighting was also a happy consolation for having to get up earlier than usual.

11/8: bonding

I received a thank-you note (sent through the post, old school) from my sister today.  She was thanking me for letting her know what glues I like best for use in various art projects.  My familiarity with glue has been gained through lots of trial and error, and yet it is a topic so unlikely to arise that it was a delight to have her to ask about it and for me to have something to say.

11/7: fragment 31

This evening I'm at school preparing a presentation for tomorrow afternoon on Sappho's fragment 31.  It's a piece of poetry I've loved for years, and so it seemed like a natural choice for a campus talk--but then I worried that I would be rehashing my decades-old thoughts about it.  Of course, there will be some revisiting of ideas, but tonight I also found new things to notice and say, which has been fun (and a relief).

11/6: enjoying apuleius

It was a pleasure to prepare today's translation passage for the Apuleius class.  We were reading an excerpt from the tale of Cupid and Psyche in which Psyche is tasked by Venus, her angry mother-in-law, with sorting piles of mixed-up beans, grains, and seeds.  The ants muster to help her!  The language of the passage echoes moments in ancient epic, while the scenario looks forward to European fairy-tales--and all of it is funny and smart.  Oh thank goodness I chose Apuleius for one of my courses this semester!

11/5: music and hellos

I stayed on campus into the evening so that I could go to a concert of music by Haydn being played with historically accurate bows.  Just the sort of thing I would like.

Some students of mine were there, and two of them made a point of coming up to me at intermission to say hello.  I wouldn't have taken it amiss at all if they hadn't, but they really seemed like they wanted to say hello to me, and that felt sweet.

11/4: unexpected image

Last night we heard coyotes much closer than we ever have before.  They must have been in the woods right next to our house.  Really, just a few yards away.

This morning Chris did some research on habitats that coyotes favor.  It turns out that they like to be near a persimmon supply, and we certainly have that!  Our persimmon trees all produce fruit too chalky and bitter for humans to eat, but at least the coyotes can make a feast.  I can't quite wrap my mind around the image of coyotes eating persimmons in the middle of the night--it's so different from my past mental pictures of coyotes.  I'm glad to have this prompt to paint a new picture.

11/3: miss buncle

I'm enjoying Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson.  I downloaded the Persephone Books Kindle edition last night, so I didn't have to wait for a paper copy to arrive from the UK.  Once again, I have to thank Persephone Books for bringing a smile to my face.  I chose this book for sheer pleasure, but it turns out that it relates to my research.  I am always on the look-out for retellings of ancient myths which change the original genders of the mythological characters; it's a pretty rare phenomenon.  Although this novel isn't a full-blown retelling of a myth, Stevenson draws clear parallels between Miss Buncle and Pan--and perhaps you can't switch gender more than by having a middle-aged British lady become a stand-in for the pipe-playing Greek goat god!  I love it.

11/2: good-bye, hello

Watching the sunset to bid the week adieu and welcome the weekend.

11/1: another picture from the pier

Even if work today was a little odd, the view on the way to work was amazing.  Chris and I both took pictures.

The quality of the light, and the mixture of water with air, made me feel like I was inside a Turner painting.

10/31: time this morning and this evening

I left the house about 10 minutes earlier than usual today, and I used the extra time to pull in at a pier and take some pictures.  The haziness where the water meets the bottom of the hills is from vapor rising off the lake.

This evening I needed to go grocery shopping, but I stopped by the dock for just a few minutes on my way.

10/30: in the nick

I haven't been able to kayak much recently, and my while-on-the-water photos of August sunsets seem so long ago!  But tonight after dinner I noticed some colorful sky peeking through the branches of the trees that separate us on the ridge from the lake down below.  I decided to grab my camera and get to the dock before I missed the moment.  I even drove instead of walked because in a matter of minutes the light would be gone.  This is what I saw when I got to the lake:

I'm glad I made the dash.  Part of me wishes I had dashed without my camera so that I would have spent more time simply enjoying the sunset and less time snapping pictures.

10/29: sighting

...of the waxwings as they make their annual stop in town.

10/28: punctuating grading

I sat at our long table this morning, facing the big windows and grading Latin tests.  I took breaks to photograph the clouds.

10/27: successful Saturday afternoon

This afternoon I ran an activity with some Latin students that I've wanted to organize for awhile:  we listened to the audiobook of The Little Prince and followed along with copies of Regulus, the Latin version of the novel.  None of the students knew the story, so its melancholy came as a surprise, but I think they enjoyed the experience.  And an alum who's in town came, too.  I hadn't run many events on campus in the first part of the semester, but I have a few lined up for the rest of the term, and I feel like this afternoon was a good start.

10/26: favorite salad

Dinner included a version of a salad I've enjoyed since my youth:  romaine lettuce, sauteed vegetarian "bacon" pieces, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and a little sugar.  It's warm and crisp, sharp and sweet.

10/25: clarifying

Some progress today in clarifying some professional goals.  I had been thinking of some things that (theoretically) would be great to do, but I dreamt about them last night and this morning realized that they might not (practically) be the best routes for me to take.

Yes, every now and then I dream my way forward.  I'm probably not really dreaming when that happens--just existing in a part-awake, part-not-awake state, and it's the right grain of mental sifter.

10/24: today's visitor

Activity around the asters seems to have slowed, but I enjoyed the chance to see who was lingering.

10/23: morning and evening

By this morning, yesterday's unfurling rose had resolved into ruffles:

And I enjoyed walking with a neighbor at twilight.

10/22: second round

The roses bloomed in the spring but then went on a lengthy hiatus during the hot, dry summer.  Now they're flowering again:

10/21: flickering flight

For awhile this afternoon Chris and I set on the deck, watching the aura of activity around the asters.  So many winged things flying among the blooms!  The flowers themselves seemed to twinkle as a result.  This particular butterfly seemed to know when I was focusing my camera on it, so it kept flitting just as I was about to take a picture.

10/20: sitting, sipping, sun

The little aster patch in our front yard is blooming, and since it's one of the best things going right now, it's getting a lot of visitors.  Among, them, this butterfly enjoying the sun and the flowers while sipping nectar:

Later in the afternoon I met a friend at Starbucks.  We enjoyed sitting outside in the benign light, drinking our drinks, and having a good conversation.

10/19: before and after

Some sweet moments with the cats, both before I left for work and after I came home.

10/18: work then reward

Three faculty committee meetings today:  one first thing in the morning, one at lunch-time, and one at the end of the work-day.  But they all went more smoothly than they could have--and when the last one was over, a colleague and I decided to go out to an impromptu dinner together.

10/17: happy ending

Our monthly faculty meeting didn't last long this evening, which meant that when I got home there was still time to do some preparation for tomorrow's classes.  So I finished reading Daphnis and Chloe, and what a delight it has been!  I'll look forward to hearing what the students have to say about it tomorrow.  In the meanwhile, I'm grateful to be able to close my work-day with a novel that has a happy ending.  Happily-ever-after is not the norm in most of the Classical literature I teach; I appreciate this pastoral reprieve from epic and tragedy.

10/16: walking across campus

All my classes this semester are in the same building as my office, which means I see the same people a lot.  Today I had to walk across campus mid-day to get my flu shot in another building, and it was so nice to exchange words in passing with people I don't usually see.  It gave me a boost to have people smile when they saw me.  (I don't think the people in my office building dislike me--it's just they see me all the time--and I them--so there's almost no "oh-it's-so-nice-to-see-you" smile-factor at play anymore.)

10/15: air & light

A day of meetings at school, and my last one ran late:  I was leaving campus near sunset.  But the slant of the orange light and the softness of the air were some compensation for the later-than-usual departure.  There was even a floral hint of autumn blooms on the breeze, mixed with the smell of fallen leaves.

10/14: taking shape

At our editorial meeting this afternoon, Chris, our poet friend Sandy, and I chose the first poems for inclusion in the poetry journal we've launched.  There are many (many!) more submissions to read, and we won't start publishing for a few weeks or months, but this step toward making the journal a reality feels good.

10/13: up close & at a distance

An email and a text from friends who make me smile.  Plus company from Chris and the cats during an under-the-weather day.

10/12: pastoral world

I'm enjoying spending some time with Longus' Daphnis and Chloe, clever and disarming.

10/11: hundreds

...of moths flying in and over the high grasses.

10/10: launching

...into fall break.  An early dinner out, followed by sunset kayaking on the lake.

10/9: doing my share

Chris' teaching schedule is more flexible on Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester, which means that he's been taking care of a lot of practical things that have to happen during business hours.  Today I was able to arrange my work so I could take Wilkie to his vet appointment, and I felt glad to know that that was one less thing on Chris' list.

10/8: magical morning

What I saw as I walked from the house to the car at 8 a.m.:

10/7: an interesting article

...on Roman marriage laws and how they're used by Apuleius in his fairy-tale-like story of Cupid & Psyche.

10/6: both-and

I thought that this morning I would either be able to sleep in until I naturally awoke or be able to get my sister's birthday present packaged and posted.  Happily, I was able to do both.

10/5: up-note & filled-up

I felt like the work-week ended on a somewhat more optimistic note than I had expected.  That is a good thing.

It's a wet and chilly night.  Perfect for eating warm pasta and freshly baked chocolate cake.

10/4: off the radar

Some worries magically disappeared for a few hours this afternoon while I was teaching.  It was nice to forget those concerns and immerse myself in Latin with the students.  Thank you, Apuleius.  Thank you, students.

10/3: on the move

A tarantula crossing the road this morning!  I grew up not seeing tarantulas in their natural habitat, so every time I see one here in Arkansas it seems magical.

A former student of mine who sent me an email this morning to let me know that she has moved to Baltimore and enrolled in a PhD program at Johns Hopkins.  I knew she had gone on for her MA and other graduate certifications in California, but I didn't know a PhD was in the works.  Her new advisor is someone I know, and I look forward to seeing her in the profession in years to come.

10/2: a second during sunrise

10/1: blinking light

Truth be told, I don't like seeing the "message waiting" light blinking on my campus phone first thing in the morning.  Maybe it's because it's red, but it makes me worried as soon as I walk into my office.  Today, though, the message waiting was an utterly sweet one from a former student.  That kind of message deserves to be announced with a blinking green light instead!

9/30: out loud

Reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out loud with Chris; we take turns by chapter.

And laughing out loud together because Dahl's prose and imagination are just wild, almost unbelievable.

9/29: country roads

I was at odds and ends this afternoon--largely through exhaustion + allergies, I think, though I didn't recognize it at the time.  Chris suggested that we get an ice cream, and then we drove east and north into the countryside.  Mostly I watched dozily, but we doubled back so I could photograph the Pegasus.

We also doubled back to look at someone's side-yard filled with carved wooden bears standing upright.  There were maybe two dozen of them--ranging from 4 to 6 feet--scattered along a hillside.  I didn't take a picture because it didn't seem right to photograph someone's yard, but it was a striking sight.

9/28: just in time

I finished a book last night and wasn't sure what to start next.  And then I checked my mail, and I book I had ordered had arrived.  It's more Noel Streatfeild, and just reading the first few pages makes me feel like I'm relaxing with a friend.

9/27: unexpected ease

Getting a new driver's license ended up being a much quicker, smoother process than I had anticipated.

The photo on my last license wasn't great, and it didn't make me want to sing when I'd see it every time I opened my wallet.  Maybe in 10 years I'll feel the same way about the new photo, but for now it seems like a much better picture of me.

A fine photo on top of a no-wait visit to the DMV--those were two good things to start my day.

9/26: a like-minded crowd

It was high time for me to go grocering.  Wanting to avoid the shopping-on-the-way-home-from-work rush, I waited until 7 p.m. to leave the house for the store.  It was a good strategy.  The store was sparsely populated, and the other people shopping were probably like me:  they spent a day at work dealing with people and were just wanting to get their grocering done without incident.  People were quiet; people gave one another space cushions; people steered their carts with care.  I felt grateful to them all for their calm consideration.

9/25: a meeting of minds, & okay for tomorrow

I got to talk with two Trollope fans this afternoon, one of whom is the only person I know who has read more Trollope than I have.  I don't mean that in a competitive/measuring way--I mean that it's wonderful to meet up with someone who is so much a lover of Trollope that they've read all his novels.  (I'm on my way, but I think I have 6 or 7 left.)

I have a pile-up of work because some unexpected things got rotated onto my plate at the last minute.  I decided to stay at the office late tonight to get things done.  It's not always a good plan (in general I think it's not good to be at work for more than 12 hours at a time), but sometimes the benefit of getting things done outweighs the costs.  Today I'm glad I stayed:  I now feel like I'll be ready to face tomorrow.

9/24: upnotes at the end of the day

Today has been good throughout, but has had some especially nice moments toward the end:

Meeting a new colleague for coffee.

Walking on the ridge with Chris in the cool air.

Reading some well done writing assignments by my students.

Clinking and drinking little glasses of ginja (Portuguese liquor made from Morello cherries) with Chris.

9/23: fewer hours than anticipated

I have a tight deadline for writing a tenure evaluation for a colleague at another school, and I set aside today as the day to get it done.  I thought it would take most of the day, but I had read all the materials over the past week and had been thinking about them enough so that once I sat down at the computer, my words and thoughts came out more smoothly than I had anticipated.  I was done with a full draft by 3 p.m.!

With some of the new-found time today I did my Sunday sweeping, but I also let myself relax a little on the porch with Chris and the cats.  We were all enjoying the autumn air.

9/22: equinox walk

An afternoon-onset migraine kept me from kayaking this evening (alas).  But Chris and I went for a sunset walk along the ridge, which ended up having some happy surprises:  lots of moths and butterflies, and a neighbor's garden so abloom that its fragrance stopped us in our tracks.  As we finished our stroll, a half-and-half moon took its place in the sky:

9/21: four for four

Four good things for the fourth anniversary of the start of this blog.

One of the first emails I read this morning was an invitation to lead a session on Trollope at a Humanities retreat for doctors this spring.  I've presented at the retreat before, and I'm excited at the prospect of going back and getting to talk about Trollope with a room of people (something that doesn't happen very often).

Lunch with a colleague.  I usually eat in my office while multi-tasking, so (honestly) it felt a little odd to be doing something different.  But it was good to get to know this colleague a little better.

Two flat tires in one week; the second one this evening.  Not great, but it was nice to have the drill down pat this second time around.

As we ate dinner out this evening, I got brave enough to tell Chris my germinating idea for a libretto.  When we got home after dinner, I checked my email to find a note from the composer who asked me about a potential collaboration earlier this week.  We're going to meet up soon so I can pitch her my concept and see what she thinks.

9/20: proud of my preparation

I had a late afternoon committee meeting, and the subject was important.  I was proud of myself in that I had prepared well by reading the materials carefully and had a list of sound points to bring up.

9/19: an inquiry

...about my interest in writing a libretto for an opera or operetta.  Turns out, I might be interested!  And even if the opportunity doesn't really come about, thinking about the possibilities of what I could do is fun.  I haven't gotten those particular parts of my mind working in a while, so it was fun to feel them kick into gear and start moving.

9/18: waking up to well wishes

I emailed my students last night to let them know that I wouldn't be holding my classes today.  This morning I found a number of "get well soon" messages from them, waiting for me in my email inbox.

9/17: claiming tomorrow for recovery

Swollen glands.  A sore ear.  Difficulty swallowing.  Hot/cold flashes.  I'm ill!  I'm going to bed early!  I already cancelled classes for tomorrow!  Taking steps to get better sooner is the good thing.  The rest of the week is packed, so I'm hoping that a day of self-directed TLC will get me back to functional.

9/16: walking in someone else's shoes (literally)

Chris has been away at a conference this weekend.  This evening as I was tidying up, his shoes were the handiest when I needed to run some stuff to the garbage cans outside, so I slipped them on.  It was a fun way to think of him while he wasn't here.

9/15: almost 12 hours

...of sleep.  The week took a toll on me, but my body claimed some time for its own.  And the cats must have known I needed it:  they didn't try to wake me up.

9/14: recovering lost time

Late Friday afternoon-time is what I call "lost" time--that is, it's hard for me to make use of it and so it seems to slip through my fingers.  Although there are things to do, I'm tired at the end of the week and Monday's classes feel comfortably far off.  But today I did make use of it and got two classes prepared for Monday, adding just a little more breathing room to my weekend.

9/13: plans, ideas, excitement

This afternoon I met with some students in our Grimms' Tales working group; we needed to discuss their various plans for projects and presentations for the rest of the semester.  They had great ideas and seemed to enjoy talking about them with me and one another.  I'm excited to watch their work take shape in the upcoming weeks!  They're thinking about wolves, witches, sisters, swans..wild stuff.

9/12: could it be?

Yes, it was:  a bald eagle flying back and forth over the lake while I kayaked this evening.  A little reward for making the effort to take my boat out tonight.  (Not that I needed a reward--just gliding on the autumn water was more than enough on its own.)

9/11: echoes of a past life

I think it's pretty clear from the way I write about the ridge and the lake that I love where I live in Arkansas.  That said, I do sometimes miss my Los Angeles existence.  Today I got some happy reminders of that prior way of life:  I read a short story by Francesca Lia Block which was set in L.A. and mentioned some familiar sights/sites, and we had La Brea Bakery bread for dinner.

9/10: students & subjunctives

The intermediate Latin class did a good job with their homework sentences using the subjunctive.  Since most English speakers are hazy on the subjunctive at best, the students' clarity when translating the Latin subjunctive was a very nice thing.

9/8-9/9: off-line

Our home internet connection has gone wonky, and so I'll be spending the weekend off the web.  Though I am so grateful for the internet, I'm looking forward to a weekend of not checking my work email.

9/7: spotted dick

An unlikely name for a warm & comforting dessert, but there it is.  Chris bought a tin of Spotted Dick in the "international aisle" of the grocery a few weeks ago, and we finally gave it a try this evening, after a 10+ hour day at school.  It tasted like "welcome home" and "sleep well."

9/6: they liked it

The students seemed to very much enjoy the materials for "The Seven Ravens" which I put together.  They had great ideas about the story itself and talked enthusiastically about the images.  After thinking about this story for years it was great to be in a conversation about it.

9/5: words & pictures

My evening at-home work has been preparing for a session I'm running tomorrow on "The Seven Ravens," one of my favorite Grimms' Tales.  Half of the session will be a discussion about certain aspects of the story (a girl on a quest!  the chair she takes with her!  the key she fashions from her finger!), and the other half will focus on illustrations taken from picture-books of the tale.  An evening thinking about ideas and images--that's a good thing.

On the radio on the way home I heard some stark stories about unemployment in the US, reminding me that I'm fortunate to be employed.  I'm also fortunate that my employment can include thinking about things like "The Seven Ravens."

9/4: more visitors

The alium generated a fragrant cloud in the humid air.  I stood watching and smelling and taking a few more photographs...

...of a teeny moth,

a butterfly,

and a bee.

I couldn't get as close to any of these as I got to the moth on Sunday, but I'll still count myself lucky that they didn't get too annoyed with my presence/interference while they gathered nectar.

9/3: consolation prizes

I was really hoping to go kayaking this evening, but there was a heat advisory--so I decided to err on the side of caution and not head out when the weather service was suggesting not to.  Staying in gave me the chance to finish commenting on a draft of a student's research project (something I really needed to do soon anyway), and it gave me time to figure out how to make a change on a webpage I'm editing (something I really wanted to figure out but had gotten too frustrated with to make headway).  I'm going to count these things respectable victories for Labor Day.

9/2: alium & its visitors

The alium is blooming, and the bees are checking it out--which is a good thing, given how few blooms of anything we've had this summer.

Every year (including this one) I try to photograph the bees on the alium, without success.  Today though, as the bees were flying around, a moth was patient with me and my camera, for which I am grateful.

9/1: rebounding

...is a more technical term for "jumping on a trampoline," some of which I did today.  Who knew that something could be both hilarity-producing and health-promoting?

8/31: results

My decision last night to go to bed early and postpone school-work until the morning paid off.  I woke up feeling better (if not 100% of normal, at least 85% or so) and got to school early so I could do all my class preparation without rushing.

8/30: recognizing a cold

...and taking to my bed.  It might not seem like a good thing, but it's far better than pulling myself through an evening's work, hoping that mind can overcome matter, and feeling physically worse and emotionally demoralized at the end of the night.

So is the good thing (essentially) that I acknowledged reality?  I guess it is.

8/29: postal surprise

When I got home this afternoon I found in my mailbox a package from Sam, a friend in Australia--hurray!  She sent a letter, photos, a fabric swatch, and a zippered pouch she made out of interesting fabric selvages.  The pouch is super and lovely--and it was super and lovely to hear from her.

8/28: adventure paddling

I'm a flat-water kayaker--for me, being out on the lake is more like stretch-and-tone than cardio.  But every now and then I find myself amid a stiff wind, and that's a different story.

Tonight I felt like I had to go kayaking.  How many more week-nights will there be this year that are clear-skyed and warm with no absolutely pressing homework for me to do?  One of my neighbors and his friend good-naturedly laughed at me as I wheeled my boat down to the dock; they knew there were little white-caps on the water.  Heading out was fun, a bit like riding a merry-go-round horse that rises and falls very smoothly.  I paddled, but I wouldn't have needed to.  Heading back was a challenge.  I'll admit that for about a minute I wondered if I could make headway against the wind and waves.  "Oh no!  Am I going to have to pull off the water and call someone to come get me?"  But I kept at it and made it, smiling as the air blew in my face and the water crashed into my boat.

8/27: the frogs return

Lots of little tree frogs (and I mean lots, and I mean little) live around our house.  I didn't see many of them this summer (too hot and dry?) but now they're all over.  We watched one in particular move its way across one of our big windows as we were eating breakfast this morning, the heat of its body leaving a small frog-shaped print every few centimeters--quite a lovely set of tracks.  And the frogs themselves are sweet to look at:  bright green with gold lines.

8/26: a benefit to patterns

The common-ness of the common ingredients of my weekends makes doing them feel a little like an extended meditation, a kind of practical yoga.

8/25: private track

The public track felt private this evening:  for most of my time there I was the only person walking on it.  I usually like it when other people are there, but today--after a week of getting used to being among people again at work--it felt special to be alone and not have to be aware of who's in what lane and whether I need to hurry up, slow down, or move aside to let someone pass.

8/24: applause

My beginning Latin class clapped for me because I could go around the room and name everyone.

8/23: out during the week

Now that school has started, it's difficult to get out on the lake on week-nights.  There are almost always a few more hours of work to do at home each night, but today that wasn't the case, so I took advantage of the time to get some paddling done.

8/22: magic

After the summer, my body isn't used to teaching, and I've come home sore yesterday and today.  (I was a little comforted to hear that a much younger colleague experienced the same thing!)  This evening I did a quick stretch routine, and it did wonders.  Both my body and mind felt magically refreshed.

Magic of a different sort was the topic of tonight's reading.  My upper-level Latin class is translating portions of Apuleius' Golden Ass this semester, and before we get started with the Latin we're reading the whole novel in English.  Magic features heavily.  I haven't taught The Golden Ass since 2006--I had forgotten how fantastic it is.  Or rather, I remembered how fantastic it is but I had forgotten how fantastic it is to read it and think about it.  And we're using Robert Graves' translation, which seems to convey in a pitch-perfect way Apuleius' style and spirit.

8/21: morning clouds

The clouds gave me a gentle greeting this morning as I stepped out of the house on my way to work.  I was grateful for their grace.