1/31: turn-around and all-time high

Low energy this morning, both physically and psychologically.  My guess is the psychological lowness was mostly due to physical fatigue, but the two are so intertwined these days (or so it seems) that it's hard to tell.  But then a mid-day rebound, facilitated partly by Coca Cola and partly by The Homeric Hymns we discussed in Myth class.  What a gem The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite is.

Chris and I made it back from campus just in time to catch some of the sunset.  One of our neighbors came down to the dock, too, to clear his mind after his work-day.  (Sunset as non-alcoholic happy hour?)  Of course I took pictures:

As I was transferring the photos from my camera to the computer, I realized that I took about 2,000 pictures in January--definitely the highest monthly total I've ever had.  Quantity does not equal quality, of course, but picture-taking as part of my day is a habit that's developed over years and has been a good thing in my life.

1/30: written & sent

Two emails which I had been avoiding writing.  I don't know why I had gotten so blocked about them, but I really was.  And yet when it came to doing it, I finally just did it with truly minimal trouble.  How had they become so difficult in my mind?

1/29: forebearing bird et al.

Not a lot of time for leisure today, but at least enough time to grab my camera and take this picture from a window in my office building. 

I always feel lucky when birds (or any winged beings) consent to have their picture taken.  I'm not sure this bird was thrilled with the scrutiny because it flew away soon after it realized I was looking at it, but it let me get a few snaps in before darting off.  

So today my good things are luck, a window, a bird, and a camera.

1/28: gentle light

I've written here about pink light before--both the lamp with the pink lightbulb that I sometimes treat myself to in my campus office and the benign pink light that settles on the lake during some sunsets.  Today I got to enjoy both.

1/27: practice run

I'm asking students to do a very pared-down kind of writing this semester in one of my classes.  The goal is for them to come up with an idea, think through it thoroughly, and keep revising their articulation of it until it can be expressed (crystallized?) in five sentences without becoming overly general or vague.  They did a trial assignment for Friday, and today I read them.  I think this is going to be a good ongoing format for the semester.

1/26: printed out

Tonight I finished my request for funding from my school for my sabbatical.  I printed, signed, and dated it so that I can truly consider it finished--no more tinkering or self-second-guessing.

1/25: unexpected outcomes

I woke up at 4 a.m.  I could not go back to sleep.  Usually that would be a sure way to start the day on a bad foot (or worse), but today it set me up well:  I got out of bed, did some extra things before heading to campus, got to my office earlier than usual, and made good use of the time there.

It somehow seemed like it was going to be a good sunset evening, so although I was hungry I delayed dinner to go down to the lake.  The sunset started out like this:

And then somehow in a matter of minutes it became this:

It felt like getting two days of sunsets back-to-back.  The "second" was one of the most amazing ones I've ever seen (and that's counting some truly great sunsets in Italy and Greece as well as on the lake here).  The picture does not do it justice.

1/24: reading at home

I usually spend the whole work-day at school because it keeps me focused, but this morning I had to read Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound and I decided to do that here at home before driving into campus.  I love that play, and today I got to read it in a new translation (and in my pajamas).

This evening I realized that I wouldn't be able to get all my work done if I stayed on campus to hear a lecture I was looking forward to.  I'm a bit bummed, but it did mean that I could finish my work the way I began it:  curled up in a comfortable chair reading.  This evening's reading was the second half of Marilyn Sachs' Fat Girl, a young-adult retelling of the Pygmalion story.  We'll be discussing it in one of my classes tomorrow.

1/23: progress

I spent a lot of the between-semester break doing work but not school-related work:  reading, continuing my Trollope research and writing, vetting poems, preparing an abstract.  I left the school-related work until school resumed, and it's meant a big pile-up of things to address right away. The pile abides (I don't think it will ever go away entirely), but I'm making headway with it.  Today I got a teensy bit more done on that front than expected, so I'm going to call it a modest victory and (try to) be content.

1/22: private and shared

I was driving to school a little later than usual--around 9 a.m. rather than 8--so the sun was a little higher in the sky.  A small flock of birds rose into flight by the side of the road; as they got higher in the air, the sun shining through their flapping wings made them seem like flashing bits of light.

At the end of the work-day one of my colleagues mentioned to me that she'd been reading and thinking about a particular article for over 15 years now; she was excited that she feels like she finally really understands it.  I think we (as a culture) don't talk enough about reading in this kind of way--how some texts are friends you live with and get to know better and better over the years.  I was happy that my colleague shared that moment of reflection and sheer, honest celebration with me.

1/21: almost complete

I spent part of today working out a full reading schedule for one of my courses.  I have it almost finished, but before giving it to the students I have to make one more decision.  Part of me wants to rush that decision for the sake of having the document done, but another part of me knows it's better to wait a few days and more carefully look over two books I'm deciding between.  I've been mulling over this course for more than a year now, weighing different options, so having narrowed down the uncertainty to one day's reading assignment feels very good.

1/20: sandwich strategy

I had some unpleasant work that I told myself I needed to do today, and I did it.  But beforehand I read a bit for pleasure (I finished Lady Audley's Secret) and took some pictures of the bees at work outside; then, when the work was finished, I had donuts for dinner and walked with Chris down to the lake to watch the sunset.  The unpleasant work was still unpleasant, but by sandwiching it between other things it didn't seep into the whole day.

This bee is working hard herself.  Early-blooming honeysuckle smells amazing, so I hope that digging into it was a happy thing for this forager.

The sunset was gentle, and felt like a cushion after a serious afternoon.

1/19: clearer desk

Over the past week my desk in my home office became unmanageable, really un-work-at-able.  Today I spent some time clearing it off.  I have some hopes for serious work tomorrow and Monday, and maybe having a space already made physically will help me to find a productive space mentally.

1/18: ending the week

This afternoon was scheduled fairly tightly with meetings, but they were all good meetings with both students and colleagues.  That's a nice way to draw the work week to a close.

1/17: adjustment underway

Emma the Cat and Tilde the Kitten are not growling at each other nor avoiding each other.  They are even playing together a little.  Emma had gotten a little withdrawn recently, so I'm glad that having another cat is making him more lively.

1/16: a mystery

It's been some time since I picked up a Victorian novel with a mystery plot, but I'm now reading Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and it definitely falls in that genre.  At times it reminds me of Wilkie Collins (one of my all-time favorite authors), though with fewer eccentric characters overall (or at least so far).  I'm enjoying the way in which Braddon pulls a reader in and along, and I really like the character who's doing the detective work.  I didn't think I'd warm to him (a young lawyer who's never actually practiced law), but Braddon gradually unfolds him to her audience, and now I'm won over.

1/15: king cake

A friend at work has family outside New Orleans, and she spent most of the holiday break with them.  She brought back a Louisiana king cake for Chris and me--hurray!

1/14: three for Monday

I stayed at home this morning to write a letter of recommendation; I figured I'd be able to write it more quickly (with less interruption) here.  I got it done in good time, and it was fun to remember the student and the good work she did in my courses.  This evening I submitted it.  As my parents say, "Done is beautiful."

This evening I also submitted an abstract for conference paper.  I did a lot of preparatory work for it over the summer, but haven't had much time to focus on it directly since then.  The advance work (plus having it "bake" at the back of my mind all this time) really paid off:  I was able to re-read my notes and flesh them into an argument fairly easily.

I didn't think I'd be able to linger with the sunset this evening, so I pulled off the road and took a quick photo on my drive home:

But as Chris and I were eating we saw bright colors in the sky, so I decided to scurry down the hill after all.  In less then an hour the scene pictured above had transformed itself into this:

And though Chris at first said he wasn't going to come to the dock with me, he did.  A partner who will chase sunsets with you?  Definitely a good thing.

1/13: looking back

The last day of the semester break gave us a gentle sunset.

The sliver moon (look closely, you'll see it) is waxing, which seems a sweet omen as I head back to school.

As I think back on it, we had a good break.  Lots of quiet time.  Lots of reading.  Lots of photographs.  Lots of poems.  Even some writing and a few great conversations with dear people.  All of these are good things.

1/12: a saturday trio

1.  My friend-in-the-blogosphere Barbara is recovering from an operation she had on Friday.  On her blog she says that the surgery report was "the best news possible."  This is a very (very) good thing indeed.

2.  During an earlier-than-usual walk down to the dock in the foggy, misty weather I photographed a little stream that had arisen to carry the day's rain to the lake:

I had intended to photograph the fog (which I did), but I like this picture of something I didn't expect to see better.

3.  Over the past few weeks we've been visiting cat shelters, dropping in on pet adoption days, and contacting people who are fostering rescue cats:  Emma the Cat is used to being around other cats, but since our dear companion Wilkie passed away in November Emma has been the house's sole feline.  We've been home a lot during the semester break, so Emma hasn't been alone much, but he may have missed the company of a fellow species-being.  Today at an adoption gathering hosted by an animal rescue group we found a kitty that might be a good fit for us and for Emma.  We brought her home, and as I type she's curled between my arms.  We're keeping our fingers crossed that she and Emma will make friends soon.  And when we go back to school next week, Emma won't be alone in the house during the days.

1/11: afternoon bees

The bees took advantage of today's mild weather to venture out of their hives.  It was heartening to see them, little bits of warmth and light who work, work, work among flowers.  Starting on Monday, I'm officially back to work myself; if the bees can do it, so can I.

We've been keeping bees since 2005, so I've had lots of opportunities to photograph them—but I couldn't resist taking some pictures as they were flying this afternoon.  And in all my years of photographing bees, I've never gotten pictures like this before.

I was at the right place at the right time, with the bees between me and the sun.

1/10: different times of day

We're not back to our teaching schedule, so we were driving around this afternoon at an unusual-for-us time.  I was grateful to catch the lake at an unaccustomed time of day, just after lunch.  I love the line of mist at the water's edge in the distance--it's what made us pull off the road.

By sunset-time grey and rain had taken over, but I decided to walk down to the dock just in case there was fog rising from the water.  There wasn't, and after a few pictures (studies in neutral tones) I headed up the hill, the neighborhood dogs behind me.  As we were crossing the road, some cars came by, and I turned to make sure the dogs were alright; they are not good at resisting the temptation to run after cars.  That's when I saw a flash of the sunlight in a sudden lifting of the clouds at the horizon.  I ran back to the dock, the dogs excited by my excitement.  I would have missed it if it hadn't been for the dogs.  (I thanked them.)

1/9: positives in negatives

It isn't cold enough for the rain that's been coming down almost all day to turn into ice.  I know that an ice storm is probably in the cards for sometime this winter, but I'm grateful it wasn't today.  So one of today's good things:  not ice.

I was feeling a bit out of sorts this evening and didn't want to turn in until I had turned my mood around.  So I took a big bag of domino-like blocks we had gotten recently and made a long domino run with them.  It cheered me, and Chris helped as I reset the blocks for a second run.  Emma the Cat was clearly interested, and I helped him start it off when we were ready for the blocks to fall.  He seemed delighted.  In a way, it's a reverse of yesterday, when he taught me the rules of his game.

As I was setting up the blocks, I wondered:  why does knocking something down cause such pleasure (positive through a negative)?  In "real life," I would be dismayed (or worse) to take pains at an arrangement and have it all undone in a matter of seconds.  Of course, that could be where the pleasure resides, in the fact that it's the reverse of real life.  Or maybe I shouldn't think of it as a negative (destructive) act; maybe orchestrating a fall is an act of positive construction?  I don't want to laden the activity with too much analysis; the smile it induced was enough.  I am glad that I can now head to bed with my spirits a little lifted.

1/8: another three

1.  I did my Trollope writing in the morning, while drinking my coffee.  (I did the same thing yesterday.)  It is great to be with Trollope's words and my own while I'm fresh.  It's not a strategy that will be able to continue once classes begin again next week, but I'm going to enjoy a few more days of morning writing.  Today I appreciated the special pleasure of looking at how Trollope's novels--paragraphs, sentences, phrases--tick in a fine-grained way.  Usually when I read novels I let myself get swept along (which is part of the fun), but I'm enjoying having to slow down and explain in concrete ways what I think Trollope is doing with his prose.  It's something I do all the time with Latin and Greek texts; it's a hoot to do it with something written in my native tongue.

2.  We hung our banner from BetterWall today.  It looks great, like it truly belongs.  It's six feet high and depicts a landscape, so it's almost as if we have a new window.  We've already enjoyed having it as part of our view indoors.

3.  Emma the Cat discovered the tape-measure as we were hanging the banner, and then he decided that he wanted to combine playing in a favorite box of his and playing with the tape-measure.  He led me over to the box and gave me clear signals about the game he wanted to construct for himself and what my role in it should be.

1/7: three for today

I'll use Meri's technique today and post three good things.

1.   Chris and I had a "book club" meeting over lunch.  We used to belong to a great book club years ago, but when two of its members moved away, the group fell apart.  Now Chris and I occasionally pick a book and have a book club-like discussion with just the two of us.  Today's book was the 1942 Newbery Award winner, The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds.  I really enjoyed our conversation about the book's representation of gender, ethnicity, and American identity.

2.  I was feeling well enough to go down to the lake and watch the sunset.

3.  My brother helped me with some website coding that was vexing me.  We talked on the phone while editing online.  Very nice of him to take some of his evening down-time to help me do work.

1/6: ups after downs

A cold today--I felt it coming on yesterday, and I wasn't able to shake it off with a night's sleep.  But that kept me in bed all morning, which gave me a welcome chance to read a novella by Margaret Oliphant, a 19th c. British author I hadn't known before.  I am delighted to make her acquaintance (so to speak), and I will look forward to reading more of her fiction in the future.

Some difficulties with formatting on the Heron Tree website--understandable, given my limited expertise, though rattling nonetheless (precisely because they remind me of my limited expertise).  But I fixed the most important issues and will work on the rest this week.  The end result:  our poetry serial has now fully launched with its first published poem!

1/5: both crow and crocus

This morning has been both winterly grey and springly sunny.  A few hours contained these two images....

A crow I watched as I drank my coffee and read the NYT Book Review:

And the first crocus of the year, with kudos (and thanks) to Chris for spotting it:

1/4: in the world

A day of mostly being out-and-about in town, running some errands.  Happily, the errands entailed some good things:

- We chose a new mattress.  This might seem like a silly thing to record here, but we have been delaying (and delaying and delaying) this task, and our sleep has felt the effects of our avoidance.  The salesperson at the store was very helpful and nice; he even helped me choose a new pillow which I am excited to try out this evening.  (We won't get to try out our new mattress for awhile, since it wasn't in stock at at the store.)

- We ate lunch out:  miso soup and vegetarian sushi, with green tea to drink.  I wish I could make this my lunch every day.

- We picked up packages at our mail-box in town.  Books to read, a present from my brother, and a banner from Betterwall.  Betterwall is an interesting business:  they sell street banners that had been used to advertise museum exhibits.  We'd been intrigued by the concept of hanging one in our home, but we hadn't found one that seemed right for our house until recently.  When we unrolled the banner back at home, it seemed like we made the right choice.

There were yet more errands and stops, and, at the end of day, I returned home just in time to watch sunset at the lake.  Today's writing on the water was different, ink swirled on a page:

I was glad for successful outings in the world; I was just as glad to return home.

1/3: preparations

I made arrangements to see a friend on Saturday afternoon, and Chris and I made plans to go to Little Rock and meet up with our friend and co-editor Sandy on Sunday (the day Heron Tree posts its first poem).  We've kept largely to ourselves this holiday, in touch with people mostly by phone or email, but I'm excited to have some in-person visits lined up before the semester break ends.

And before today's sunset visit to the lake I made sure that I would be prepared with my camera.  I ran out of battery power on 12/29, just as I was noticing a particular play of light on the water, and I only got a few photos of it.  Today the conditions of light and water produced a similar effect, and this time I got many (many!) pictures of it.  Today's pictures have more glints and glistens in them, made by the trail (tail?) of the reflected setting sun.

1/2: some of both

Reading:  I stayed up late again reading Summer and Bird, and I finished it after dinner this evening.  It sets a fairly high bar for my other 2013 reading choices!

Writing:  I wrote more Trollope commentary.

I hope I can manage to balance reading and writing more often this year; days are better which include both.

1/1: reading in the new year

Chris and I don't stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve anymore.  When he went to sleep last night, I decided to start a new book--Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull--before turning in.  I read and read and read--and I realized that I was going to be reading while the year turned.  That's a happy thing, perhaps the start of my own New Year's Eve tradition?  (And I am wide-eye-loving Summer and Bird!)

In an additional happiness, Chris woke up just 2 minutes before midnight so we were awake and together for the first moments of the new year after all.