7/31: tonight is still summer

Although classes don't begin until August 21st, starting tomorrow I have to go to school in a regular way.  To keep tonight part of vacation we drove to get some frozen custard.

7/30: good emails

The school-related emails are starting to increase in frequency, and they're now time-sensitive so can't be put off.  But I received a number of good work-related emails today, which is encouraging as I make the transition from summer to semester.

7/29: family connections

Chris talking with his cousin on his phone in one room, while I talk with my sister on my phone in another.

7/28: sources of cool

A hot, hot day.  I am grateful for the relief of fresh fruit, sparkling apple juice, and cold water--plus air conditioning at home and at the city-run indoor walking track.

7/27: abuelita

By this evening I was feeling under the weather; Chris still has a sinus infection, and so we decided to take it easy and watch a video.  As we were watching, I thought to myself, "Some Mexican hot chocolate would be really good."  I didn't act on the thought or mention it, but about half an hour later Chris said, "I think we should make some Abuelita" (the brand of Mexican hot chocolate we have).  So we did, and it perfectly hit the spot.

7/26: stretching

I've had a pinched nerve for almost a year now, and in the spring it got especially bad.  This summer I've been trying to focus some energy on rehabilitating it.  I thought progress was being made, but recently it flared up; still, it's not as bad as it was at the end of the school year, when it was hard to walk.  The doctor said that it's time to start doing stretches, something unthinkable in February, March, or April.   Today I popped in an old stretch-and-tone DVD which I really like, and it felt like an old friend.  There's a point in the video where the trainer says "It's so important to be flexible in everyday life."  I always thought that was a funny thing for her to assert, but now I feel its truth in a new way!  Though I'm not yet as flexible as I'd like to be, it felt good to be able to stretch again.

7/25: fresh fruit

Cantaloupe and cherries from the store, figs from our yard.

7/24: one benefit

...of the extreme and prolonged heat this summer:  people are too hot even to try to cool off in or on the lake.  More space for me and the herons.

7/23: fr. jack

I found out today that Father Jack, a family friend and colleague of my father's, passed away yesterday--certainly not a good thing.  But all my memories of Fr. Jack are good.  He would be kind when my siblings and I dropped in at my father's campus office, which Fr. Jack shared.  He was witty, as I learned when I got older.  He acted on the stage with convincing and compelling abandon.  He owned his actions in a way that has stuck with me as a model.  I am grateful that I knew him and that I got to be touched by his goodness.

7/22: addressing arrears

In the chaos of the spring semester, a bunch of personal correspondence piled up.  I have been slowly working on it this summer, but today I made a big step forward:  I finished sending out snail-mail replies to any lingering notes, letters, or postcards.  It feels good to have cleared away the pile and especially good to have responded to people who had been kind enough to send something to me.

There is still plenty of email in my "electronic arrears" category, but I'm going to enjoy this current accomplishment, even if it is only part of the picture.

7/21: morning message

Earlier this summer a physicist from Switzerland wrote to me with some questions about Hesiod.  I sent him my thoughts, and this morning when I checked my email, a short message from him was waiting for me.   It included these words:  "what you write seems precious to me."  What a wonderful thing to read as a way to start the day.

7/20: new inks

For pulling prints.  I tried to make do with what I had, but there was too big of a gap between what I had on hand and what I saw in my mind's eye.  A trip to the art store, and now the gap is smaller.

7/19: morning swim

I know that all is not right in the world.  But when I'm floating in the lake, feeling the sun and looking up at the sky, it sure seems like all could be right in the world.

7/18: back in action

I did two things today that I haven't done for awhile, and both of them were very good.

1.  I wrote in my journal this morning.  I had fallen out of the habit, but this morning I knew that I had to write.

2.  I kayaked this evening.  The first time this month!  At the beginning of July I was kept from the water by a cold, and then we had a string of days with a 30% chance of rain or thunderstorm.  (30% is my benchmark for deciding whether I should or shouldn't go out on the lake.  We need any precipitation we can get, but it was frustrating when the forecast kept me from kayaking but no rain actually materialized.)  As a happy surprise this evening, one of the great blue herons was sitting along the shoreline when I paddled out and was still there an hour later when I paddled back.

7/17: laundry room lily

The orchid in our laundry room now has company!  I helped a colleague with some Greek this summer, and he sent me a pink peace lily plant as a thank-you.  Our cat Emma was immediately interested in it (read "immediately wanted to chew it"), so we quickly moved it into a safe and secure position next to the orchid (which, as another good thing, has produced a second bloom).

7/16: elderberry jelly

Elderberry bushes grew on the hill leading from our house to the lake where we used to go swimming as children, and my mother would sometimes make elderberry jelly in the summers.  Chris and I tried growing an elderberry bush here on the ridge, but it didn't take.  Recently I saw some elderberry jelly at a road-side stand and bought it eagerly.  It was just right as part of today's lunch.

7/15: the sunday sweep accompanied

We have lots of wooden floorspace, and during most of the week sweeping is on an as-needed, piece-meal basis, but on Sundays I try to do a full sweep.  This summer I realized that it's a perfect time to listen to whatever audiobook I happen to have going--why did it take me so long to think of that?  In any case, it's made sweeping much more pleasant, and today I finished listening to Ender's Game while I tidied the floors.  The book comes up in children's literature conversations, so I wanted to listen to it, and now I notice that a movie of it is coming out next year, so I'm glad I have my own mental picture of the novel's world and characters before Hollywood chooses images for me.

7/14: a real weekend day

Doing only things we wanted to do, including making an impromptu cake.

7/13: laundry room loveliness

Our cats eat flowers.  The only place in the house where we can keep flowers or flowering plants is the laundry room, since it's easy to keep that door closed without inconvenience.  Chris relocated an orchid from his school-office to the laundry room for the summer, and it's beautifully blooming amid all too mundane surroundings.  I'll post the beauty and leave out the mundane:

7/12: the bases strategy

Years ago I needed to find a way to balance my time during the summers, and I developed the idea of bases:  every day I tried to do at least one thing in four different categories (professional, house/self, exercise, contact with the outside world).  For a few summers I held myself to this plan pretty strictly.  Recently I've been more flexible, though I've found that on most week-days I tend to touch all the bases without having to think about it.  On days when I'm feeling a little low in spirit or otherwise aimless, returning to the bases really helps.  Today was one such day, and I was grateful for the minimal structure which the bases provided.  It really kept me from spinning out and down.

7/11: first try

At school, a lot of emphasis is being placed on helping students to think about their lives after college, especially since a liberal arts education doesn't necessarily point to a particular career path.  I worry about my ability to help students in this regard, since absolutely none of my academic training relates to career counseling.  But I love my advisees and really do want to help them think in concrete, productive, and unscary ways about themselves and what lies ahead.  So this summer I put together a packet of journal prompts and other activities that could be useful toward that end.  Although it's very much a work-in-progress which I hope to refine over the years, at least it's a start.  Today I sent it out to my advisees, and we'll see what they have to say about it.  Of course, I hope they find it useful, but for now I'm just glad that I did it.  I had been mulling it over for quite some time, but only now do I feel like I have enough experience with advising different kinds of students to pull together my suggestions and commit them to paper.

7/10: a good start

I stayed awake reading for sheer pleasure late last night, so my first minutes of today--as the clock moved past midnight--were spent with a book.

7/9: three indicators

...that I'm getting over my cold:

1.  Did some Trollope editorial work today.  It takes a kind of focus that was difficult to muster amid the medication cloud.

2.  Went to the walking track and felt good to be moving.

3.  Shopped for groceries.

7/8: enjoying the rain

Chris and I sat on the deck as the rain approached.  When it started coming down hard, we retreated indoors.  A scissortail flycatcher, however, did not want to escape the wet; it just kept sitting on a sapling of a winged elm.  The water on the window distorted the light and colors of my photo in a magical way, though scissortail flycatchers are fairly magical creatures all on their own:

7/7: matinee at home

We're still not back to 100% functionality chez nous, so this afternoon we watched a documentary, Louise Bourgeois:  The Spider, the Mistress, and the Tangerine.  Since the intensity of Bourgeois' emotions can be heart-breaking, it feels odd to call the experience of watching the film a "good" thing--but I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with the artist, her works, and her thoughts.  It's an hour and a half I won't regret.

7/6: trio

Some rain.  Still not enough, but some is better than none.

Bluebirds at the bird-bath.

And maybe I'm turning the corner on my sinus infection.

7/5: an unexpected gift

My parents sent me a chair!  Not any old chair, but a chair whose upholstery is emblazoned (with Latin sayings.  (How often do I get to use the word emblazoned?)  Emma the Pleasure Cat is enjoying the chair right now, but I think I'll move it to my school office so that my students have a special place to sit when they come to chat with me.

Here's a partial view in black and white (it's all really shades of beige and brown):

7/4: well received

I got some very nice feedback on some recent mail-art I sent out.

7/3: reading retreat?

A friend of mine went on a reading retreat in January, which sounded like such a wonderful thing to do for oneself.  It turns out that my summer sinus infection is providing me with my own reading retreat of sorts.  Today's thoroughly engaging book was Picture This:  How Pictures Work by Molly Bang.  I'm not sure I buy all of her underlying reasons for why certain colors/shapes/arrangements have the effects they do, but she certainly is good at demonstrating the effects--and she does it all with elegantly simple paper cut-outs.  I might actually spend some time tonight playing with cut paper myself....

7/2: satellite good things

I'm still under the weather today, but orbiting that not-entirely-happy situation have been a number of good things:

- I didn't take any medicine first thing this morning because we didn't have any more of the right kind.  This medicine-less state gave me a clear-headed hour in which I read a very interesting chapter of Jacqueline Rose's Case of Peter Pan:  The Impossibility of Children's Fiction.  In general her theoretical slant is not my own, but that difference didn't come to the fore much in today's chapter, on the legacy of Rousseau in children's literature.

- When we did head out to get more of the right kind of medicine, we ran into a colleague from work whom we hadn't seen in some time and whom we both really like.

- Although it's not a great thing that Chris is ill, too, it has been nice to have him as company throughout the day.

- I realized that I was lucky not to get this cold (or any bad cold) during the past semester.

- I am telling myself that San Pellegrino's sparkling grapefruit drink and sparkling blood orange drink are fine ways to keep myself hydrated.

- Though my head was only clear enough for one hour of theoretical reading in the morning, I've been keeping myself entertained with lighter book fare.  There are some things that I'm realizing I might not get done this summer, but I'm certainly getting a lot of reading in.

7/1: kept in the wings

I (somehow!) have come down with a cold.  Luckily, I had told myself to keep a spare guilty-pleasure book on my shelf for a just such circumstances.  So once I admitted to myself that I was truly not going to be able to be up and about today, I took the book off my shelf and tucked myself in bed (which seems an odd thing to do when it's 100 degrees outside).  Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day kept me great company.