8/31: another month met

As I did last month, I set myself the goal of writing to 31 different people ("different" meaning if I wrote to the same person twice or more, it only counted once toward the goal).  I just finished writing my last two notes (with four hours to spare).

8/30: wildflower friend

Lots of Pennsylvania smartweed along the farm roads today:

8/29: putting it in perspective

I forgot about my upset stomach when I was out on the water.

And Chris is now playing the ukulele, which is always a happy sound.

8/28: bases

Chris is back at school, but my classes don't begin until a week from today, so the temptation is to have amorphous days--which sounds like it would be relaxing, but I end up getting stressed out by the aimlessness.  So I've been resorting to my old "bases" approach this week, making sure that every day I do at least one thing for the house or myself, one thing that counts as exercise, one thing for work, and one thing that constitutes contact with the outside world for something other than work.  I am grateful for this strategy (even if--years ago--it did arise out of something like desperation), and one of my friends recently told me that she adapted it for herself and used it this summer with happy results.

8/27: so i am glad

...that I read So I Am Glad by A. L. Kennedy. I finished it this morning.  And oh my goodness, it is so smart and beautiful. Even its hard-to-get-into-it-at-first-ness is part of its smart and beautiful plan.

8/26: upturn

An awkward day in many ways, but in the latter half I tried to turn it (and myself) around with grocery shopping, a mojito to celebrate the fact that I don't go back to work tomorrow, a batch of blueberry cornbread, and evening kayaking.  On my way down the hill to the lake I saw the moths on the alium.  That on its own is a very good thing.

8/25: taking in the view

This afternoon I did another round of proofing on the Heron Tree volume. By this point I've read all of the poems multiple times, but I had never read all of them in one sitting like I did today. I enjoyed working through them that way.

This evening we drove to Petit Jean Mountain for sunset, as has become traditional for us as a way to mark the end of summer and start of the school year.

8/24: unpacking complete

My school office is finally all unpacked.  It's cleaner and more organized than it's ever been--which is a bit ironic, given that I'm not teaching this year and so won't be using my office much, but it will be good to have it feeling fresh whenever I do come in and when I return to full-time teaching next year.

8/23: finally

A quick, quick trip with Chris to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in northwest Arkansas.  Here's the oculus in the Skyspace designed by James Turrell, located on one of the museum's trails:

8/22: color order restored

Ever since high school I've shelved my books in color order.  Recently I had to pack up all my books in my school office so that the furniture could be moved out and new carpet could be put in.  Earlier this week I unpacked the boxes but didn't have time to re-sort the books by color.  Today I got them back in their proper order, and the shelves look right again.

8/21: morning, afternoon, evening

Morning:  My only necessary "official" and "public" appearance at school this year for the Latin placement test for incoming students.  I got to wear my summer suit.

Afternoon:  The proof copies of Heron Tree arrived, and though there's a little tinkering to do, it's not much.

Evening:  Kayaking on my own and then returning to the dock to find Chris and our neighbors chatting and drinking beer as the moon rose, so I joined them.

8/20: helpful help and a long-working machine

I got a sewing machine as a gift from my parents when I graduated from high school many years ago. It wasn't an expensive machine, but my mother knew what to look for and chose a great one from Sears. It has never had trouble over the past 2+ decades, and it's never needed servicing, even though I don't necessarily treat it well (for instance, I sometimes sew on paper with it). Tonight its light bulb broke in such a way that I can't get it out on my own (I cut myself trying). I thought: this is really an amazing machine, taking decades of (ab)use, and its first problem isn't even related to its sewing mechanism. And then I thought: this is from Sears; maybe they can help. I went to Sears online and had a live chat with someone named Bruce. He didn't seem to miss a beat when I said I was needing help with such an old machine, and he told me where I can take it for repairs. After an overwhelming day of bureaucracy at school, I so appreciated Sears' (and Bruce's) straightforward approach.

And now an update: When Chris came home from a late meeting this evening, I told him what had transpired. He said he thought he could get the bulb out, and he did! And then I had a glimmering that my mother--way back when--had given me an extra bulb in the sewing tool-kit she had put together for me. I found the bulb, which has travelled with me from Pennsylvania to New York to Kansas to California to New York to Arkansas over the years. We put it in, and all is good. So now Chris and my mother are added to my gratitude list for the day.

8/19: handel and haydn

....what I listened to as I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned my school office.

8/18: company

A woodpecker flew into one of our windows in the afternoon and got dazed.  Chris went out to make sure it was okay (and to keep it safe from neighborhood cats).  He held it as it gathered its wits, and I sat with them.  When it was ready, it flew off, up, away.

Chris came kayaking with me for the first time since the start of the summer.  The heron was in the tree as we set out and when we came in.

8/17: ordered

Getting the print version of Heron Tree ready has taken a lot of formatting, reformatting, checking, and rechecking over the past few days, but before I went out for some time on the lake this evening we got to the point of uploading and ordering a physical copy for a look-over.  Though no doubt once we see it in our hands we'll find things that we need or want to change, I'm relieved we reached this milestone today.

8/16: an unseasonable walk

Usually ridge-walking is suspended during the summer because it's too hot to be pleasant, but this evening after dinner it was a cool 74 degrees so we went for a stroll.

The clouds as we finished:

8/15: at the bottom of the hill

I took a mid-day break from computer work to amble down the driveway and get the mail.  As I was turning the corner to the mail-box I saw something bright flash by and settle in a nearby bush.  I thought it was one of the little warblers that have the same green and yellow coloring as sun-dappled leaves.  But it wasn't:  it was a luna moth, one of my very favorite flying things.  I was lucky she stayed still as I moved closer to get a view.  And then in the mail-box there were notes from two wonderful mail friends.

8/14: change in the air

Some friends who live in Pennsylvania commented on Facebook this morning that the air had a hint of autumn coolness in it.  I was surprised (and happy) when I went out on the porch with my morning coffee and notebook and felt the same thing here.  This evening's kayaking also felt more like an early autumn outing than a late summer one.

8/13: john and james

This evening we watched The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, starring John Wayne and James Stewart.  We chose it almost at random, and I'm very glad randomness led us in that direction.

8/12: more dahl

Since I enjoyed Matilda so very much, I decided to follow it up by listening to another novel by Roald Dahl, The BFG ("big friendly giant").  It is a lot of fun, sharply smart (or smartly sharp?) and quite lyrical in places.  The reader, David Walliams, does a great job, too.

8/11: an outing

It's been awhile since Chris and I went somewhere together on purpose just to take pictures, so today we went to the Rock Island Bridge across the Arkansas River. I enjoyed the geometry.

8/10: thanks to chris

We get some fresh figs each summer because Chris has planted and tended several fig trees.  I ate two ripe figs today--amazing.

I needed to pack up my office at work so new carpet can be put in.  It's hard to complain ("my" office really belongs to the school not to me, and I will be getting new carpet out of the deal), but it still felt a little unfortunate to have to go into work when work hasn't officially started yet for the year.  Chris came and helped me today, and it took less than half the time it would have taken me if I had done it alone.

8/9: scones

Yesterday morning I got up early and made a batch of strawberry basil scones.  I had never used the recipe before, and it took quite a bit more prep time than suggested, so I wasn't in the happiest mood when they came out of the oven.  I was more like, "Breakfast, finally!"  Today, however, the remaining scones were there when I woke up.  So I could be like, "Breakfast, hurray!"

8/8: twist

I love classic ice cream twists, half vanilla, half chocolate.  I have good memories of my mother taking us to get twist cones when we were little, and I considered it a major treat.  This afternoon I had my first (and maybe only) twist of the season, and it tasted like summer.

8/7: cameraversary (almost)

As I was kayaking this evening I realized that it's been about a year since I got my waterproof camera (which I wrote about here), and I'm still so happy I bought it.  A photo from tonight's time on the lake:

8/6: impulse buy

Sparkling lemonade/limeade on a hot, hot day.  It was the perfect thing to be drinking in the high heat.  I am grateful for the inner voice that told me to put it in my cart as I was grocering this afternoon.

8/5: growing on me

A couple of days ago I made muffins from a recipe entitled something like "Muffins That Taste Like Donuts."  I love donuts, and I've seen this kind of recipe over the years, so I decided to give it a try at last.  I was initially disappointed because the resulting muffins did not taste like donuts, but now that I'm over the disappointment I'm enjoying the muffins for what they are.  And that's a good thing, because when you're a small household, a batch of muffins lasts for quite awhile.

8/4: adaptations

Reception studies was today's theme for both work and play.  I looked at modern renditions of stories about Helen of Troy, Midas, and Bluebeard, and I wrote to a colleague in response to his questions about a New York Times article on adaptations of films into Broadway musicals.  It's nice when what I'm working on and what I'm doing for fun blend into one another.

8/3: full house

Two cats, two humans.

8/2: while on the road

Chris has been in Portugal for 5 weeks, and this evening I drove to Little Rock to pick him up at the airport.  On the way down I listened to this week's episode of This American Life on the radio:  a humane story of a teenager who showed up on the doorstep of fantasy author Piers Anthony, and the unlikely fictional correspondence between Kafka's Gregor Samsa and Dr. Seuss.  I was so glad that I caught both segments.  (More information available here.)

8/1: arrears addressed

Yes, there's a correspondence theme in my recent posts, but that's because it's been my main focus over the past few days.  Today I finished replying to snail-mail that has piled up over the months (yes, alas, months).  It is humbling to pick up balls I've dropped, but I am so grateful for the wonderful friends who have sent me letters, notes, and postcards, and I'm glad I've finally let them know that.