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?