Showing posts with label Commute. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Commute. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Sun: a poem and a pic

Mary Oliver: The Sun
Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful
than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower...

Full poem here: 
Pic: Sunset on my way home. Despite everything, the beauty of our world is just so breathtaking...

Monday, February 19, 2024


Good:  Big A's test results came back--nothing terrifying to report.
But:     The original symptoms persist. 
Good:  My stretch of overwork and late work evenings is mostly over.
But:     This week I scheduled two more late work evenings for March.
Good:   Participating in a teach-in panel on Gaza with the college YDSA in mid-March.
But:      Worrying about bothsideism from fellow-panelists.
Good:    Big A, Huck, Max, and me on a post-dinner walk with a fabulous sunset ahead of us.
 But:     Don't look too closely at Big A's left hand. Ha.

Monday, February 12, 2024

But after this week things'll slow down...

I saw this meme that's sometimes about academia and sometimes about adulthood recently. It goes: Being an adult/academic is saying "But after this week things will slow down a bit" over and over to yourself until you die.

Oh, I feel this so much. But also, things really are going to slow down after this week. I listed a long list of 'have to-be-dones' for myself last month and the deadlines on most of them have come and gone and I've done my best on each of them. The last of the colleague letters and student award letters went out today, our last campus visit was today, and one of our two speakers is presenting this week--which means my list has been significantly whittled down and the future looks so much more manageable.

Technically, that means I should be able to work on my projects for a bit. No more excuses.

Pic: From yesterday. Max and Big A in my tea garden where I'd gone to escape everyone. (Not successfully, evidently.)

Friday, February 09, 2024

check 1, 2,

Every day on my way to work, I cross four rivers: Red Cedar, Looking Glass, Maple, and Pine. 

I've been meaning to take a photograph of the expanse of the Maple for years now. But the access road off the highway is on my way to work. And I usually feel like I'm in a hurry, so I wasn't able to. 

Until today--I had an hour before my first meeting, so I took the detour. The Maple is the biggest of my four rivers (I think)--at least at the point where I cross it. The kids and I used to call it taking a deep breath of beauty because of all the sunrises on the way to school.

When I got to the lookout point this morning, it was a bit disappointing because the reeds were taller than me, and I couldn't really see the river. But it was very quiet and calm and smelled briny and rustic and there was a bright blue sky and sunshine... so I spent some time soaking it all in. 

And now I know. It's checked off my mental list. I don't have to wonder about the view from the outlook or feel regret about not making the time to take a detour.

Also: I'm SO relieved to be finished with Hello, Beautiful. Everyone seems to have loved it, but about halfway through I disagreed fiercely with a primary character's decision. Then I began to realize the writing couldn't really keep up and resorted to a lot of telling (v. showing) etc. 

Pic: Finally, I get to take a picture from the bank of the Maple River.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

headed out

Big A's big medical appointment is next week, and we hope to find out what's going on/why he's losing weight/what to expect in the future/what we can do/etc. We have more questions than the minutes the expert will spend with us, probably.

But in the meantime, we're going to take off for sunny climes for a few days to just... I don't exactly know what... Was it Seneca who said we can change the sky above us but not ourselves? So I guess our worries will come with us, but we'll be worrying under warmer skies? 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next few days of our tiny break and will catch up with some picture posts when we're back.

Pic: It snowed in the night, and was a picture-perfect winter wonderland as I headed to work this morning. 

Friday, January 26, 2024

let me remember this moment

I kept fiddling with my materials all morning because this was for colleagues and I didn't want to look foolish in front of them... I was in meetings all day, so I didn't get to do a practice run... but...  I think the talk went well!

At the pre-event schmooze, drinks in hand, someone sardonically murmured "no pressure" when Pres. A walked into the room. But based on previous experiences, I'd half expected him to be there because he's interested in outreach and rhetoric, so I wasn't fazed.

It was a full house, a very engaged and supportive audience, and afterward, so many (I'm choking up a bit here) came up to give me hugs. I want to remember that I got a lot of hugs and kind compliments. I want to remember that LV said, "What an amazing piece of scholarship. What an amazing human you are." I'm glad I got to share my work, and I'm so grateful to be among good people in this world.

Pic: CP's picture of me mid-talk today. I chuckle every time I look at myself and my mystifying expression. In a way, I'd been preparing for this hour's work for over a year. The only time my voice quavered was when I was talking about Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr and her supporters chanting "Let Her Speak" as she lifted her microphone toward the gallery

Thursday, January 25, 2024

from a place of absence

Scout's  harness in a Ziploc
stays a  door always ajar
becomes a souvenir in
a sweet completeness 
of loss... nostalgia

Scout's photo on the altar 
has guarded so fiercely 
hellish trails of regret 
just my two eyes...
all these tears


Pic: Snow and sky in the backyard this weekend. The last couple of days have been so foggy... I've been white-knuckling it to and from work as visibility is very low, especially in low-lying pockets, and it's easy to imagine shapes where there aren't any and miss objects that only loom up at the last minute.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024


I like the way the kids are using "mid" to describe things that are stuck in the middle to mediocre range. Here's my mid list for today.

*    Another day of freezing rain and grey skies... but not quite as cold and there was a fair bit of a thaw too.

*    I won't have my car back for five weeks (they have to order a part from Germany)... but they gave me a newer model as a loaner.

*    I headed to the gas station for the first time in years (Bluey is all electric). It felt spend-y to fork over 50$ for gas... but I found a lucky penny.

*    Last semester, I grandly agreed to give a talk in January 2024... and now it IS January 2024 and my talk is on Friday.  Thankfully, I was able to use my writing group time to get some slides done... but it did mean that I didn't get any new writing done.

*    I love, love, love teaching... but I'm on two search committees (SIX campus interviews--four more to go), three committees that meet every week for a total of four hours, on deadline for two career reviews, on deadline for recommendation letters for people's grad school applications, on deadline for rewriting our land acknowledgment, making final arrangements for two different guest speakers to visit campus (PBK and Women's History Month), arranging travel for the student honorary convention, vetting papers and programming the WGS portion of the MASAL conference, CASA report due next week... And the list for the next month goes on and on. Each of these things is important and has its own bulleted to-dos, and by itself, each would be something I enjoy doing. But cumulatively, having them all clustered together like this, feels overwhelming. One day at a time, I guess.

Pic: I cropped out guests' faces since I didn't ask people if I could post. But now the focus is on the happy plates (everyone is in the clean-plate club!) from our dinner party on Monday. There were two writers with new books out at the table (Sophfronia Scott and Jan Shoemaker) and I enjoyed introducing them to each other and felt a little bit like I was hosting a salon. Bonus peek of Nu at extreme right. I'm the black blob next to the blue-purple sweater (Big A) at the head of the table. Huck and Max are underfoot. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

all the things

Wow. What a day. 

Freezing rain all day, so I moved my classes online and then was committed to sitting with my laptop all day.

I also got into it with the very pro-Hindu nationalist people on my WhatsApp. Hope springs eternal in a teacher's breast I guess. If even one of them stops to reconsider their exclusionary stance, that would be helpful. But I can't do this every day--it's exhausting and draining and makes me question what kind of world I'm living in.

Then Big A woke up grumpy and I pushed back (I mean, he's not a toddler!) and then we fought on text for a bit. Then he "hearted" something I had said in snark and then I felt bad and then the fight was over. Just like that.

My car has been in the repair shop since Monday and they don't know how to fix it--they're waiting on input from the tech team. I was so alarmed by this, that I texted "Is my Bluey [what I call my car] OK?!? 😭" to the family chat... except I sent it to the repair shop by accident... and they texted back "We should be hearing something today. Bluey has a bit of a boo-boo." And I laugh-cried in embarrassment. 

Motaz Azaiza the passionate Gazan journalist has evacuated Gaza. He did such great work, and I'm glad he's safe, and so humbled that he's only 24!

So many of my U.S. friends texted me in a panic about Trump winning the NH primary... but I don't know what to tell them. Is the option really "Genocide Joe?" The lesser of two evils just seems more like the other evil day by day. 

And finally: another day of back pain. Whomp-whomp.

Pic: An icy Red Cedar through the railing on the Sparty (not official name, I think) bridge. From my Monday walk. 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Three on Thursday: What I Wore

Me: Walking down the hall...


Me: (grinning) Calm down, E, this isn't a belt--it's because I hurt my back.

What I wore: Ugly back brace.


Me: Looking all around my office, and then in a stroke of sheer genius patting the top of head... (nope), and then defeatedly asking student--"L, can you see my glasses anywhere?"

Student: (calmly) They're ON your face.

What I wore: Reading glasses.


Me: Chuckling to myself because there's a sign in the faculty break room that says, "Your mom doesn't work here! Do your own dishes." And At had rightly remarked that their mom DID work there and righteously asked why "mom" and not "parent?" And then I realized that despite all that, At had left some unwashed silverware by the side of the sink.

What I wore: A smirk. You know what they say about socialists and sinks.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

chapter by chapter

At came in to work with me today because they needed to see their old pediatrician, had the lunch I'd packed for them, and then took a nap in my office while I went to class and committee meetings. 

It felt like all the times when I'd bring the kids to work when their school was called off or when they were sick. My office is still filled with so many of the cards and posters they made back then. Their childhood--and my youth--went by so quickly... I miss the little At, the Baby Nu, the young me.

I am sad and worried about these chapter endings and the ones to come. I take faith in that Catherine Newman article I've read a zillion times and know things will be even better. But would I magic myself back to the old days? A hundred times yes. 

But also, is it okay to admit that there's a part of me that is excited for the next chapter? The simple pleasures of writing/walking/seeing friends whenever I want?

Pic: At curled up and fast asleep on my tiny office sofa. 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

still standing/standing still

I usually sing the praises of the Irish  around St. Patrick's Day, but let me start early this year. South Africa is standing tall with their case against the genocide in Gaza at the International Court of Justice in the Hague and Ireland appears to be the only Western nation supporting them. It is not a coincidence that a nation with a memory of apartheid regimes and another with a history of brutal colonization should team up to speak up for a people suffering both. 

I took little, life-affirming sips of the video clips of the trial online between classes and reveled in the moments of human solidarity. It is shameful that none of the major news channels here are airing this trial although we make a lot of noise about free speech. There's a YouTube channel for the proceedings

In the meantime, we've started bombing Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Pic: A very tall snow person appeared on campus; they're wearing a wreath garland on their head.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

meandering into meaning

Just finished up a reread of E.M. Forster's A Room with a View--what a lovely novel! I loved it just as hard as I did decades ago. A Room with a View is particularly lovely in the way it describes the Honeychurch family--loving, rambunctious, quirky--it reminded me of the reason I loved Tom Lake recently.

It also brought up a lot of memories about how "a room with a view" was my personal shorthand for an office of my own with a window--because as a graduate student and then as an adjunct I always shared an office with colleagues. And my first solo office was a windowless cell. So when I got to my current office, its sliver of a window was a realization of a long-time dream/hope/yearning; the kind comments on yesterday's post reminded me how much I prize it. (Although the view is mostly of a parking lot, the window is street-facing on one of our main academic buildings, and I leverage it to put up signs about issues that matter to me.)

It also felt particularly cute that yesterday I met a student named Lucy--like the protagonist of A Room with a View--in one of my classes. And then yesterday, out of the blue, the only other student I've ever had named Lucy, wrote to say they now live in Lansing and would like to get together for coffee. I also met someone recently whose name is Adela (a very unusual name and a primary character in another Forster novel)... I'm beginning to feel a bit like I'm being given clues and signs I haven't figured out yet.

Pic: Saving this very British picture for when I need a snortle. It's a mock cover of a children's series I devoured when I was a kid. Here are some of the original covers showing the various adventurous things the "Five" would usually be up to (scroll down).

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

bright spots

First day of classes. I love the energy. Every term I decide I'm going to be cool about it, but like clockwork I end up loving these people (so much). 
I spent 12 hours on campus today, so it's a good thing I was able to decompress in my office (even if only for a handful of minutes at a time taking care of my now very twinge-y back and legs). 
Our search committee met a wonderful slate of candidates all of whom could be excellent directors of our writing center (choosing between them is going to be so tough though). 
We finally got enough snow for it to stick around and look wintry (I almost wiped out at the exit to work which hadn't been plowed; thank heavens for 4WD). 
Pic: I'm so thrilled by the resilience of my office plants who were ignored all winter break but appear to have thrived (one geranium even decided to bloom)!

Monday, January 08, 2024

of "off-bouts" and going off 'bout sleep

Off-bouts: One of the nicest things about talking to colleagues from other disciplines is learning something new. Today, I hung out with the biologists and learned the word "off-bout"--as in the time a mother bird spends away from her nest and eggs. I feel like I'm on a bit of an off-bout myself this week as I will not be home for dinner with the fam until (at least) Friday. 

Going Off 'Bout Sleep: Gillian, Nicole, Engie, Nance--how lucky I am to have your kindness and caring in this world! I'm sorry I seem to have distressed you a bit with my offhand remarks about sleep. I'm fine. I certainly look less haggard when I get more sleep, but I genuinely don't feel any other negative effects at the moment. I usually wake up before my alarm goes off on weekdays and wake up at dawn even on the weekend. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but... I count these as signs my body is getting the sleep it needs? I love my fam dearly, but I also absolutely cherish the late nights and early mornings when no one else is up. And I feel too set in my ways to change now! 

Pic: I didn't take any today. It was a doozy of a day--I did a new exercise and my back is all tender and twinge-y, and everything is a struggle--I thought I was going to pass out when I tried to get my socks on this morning.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Slow Learner launch

Today was a long day at work, made a bit longer by checking in with people who are attending the MLA. But I got home at a reasonable hour, and after feeding my pack their dinner, I was so happy and honored to attend the book launch for Jan Shoemaker's new book of essays, Slow Learner. 

First, I picked up L--who had introduced me to Jan--and then we picked up the copies I'd preordered, and found a place to sit. The space was jam-packed and they ended up having to add more seating. Jan, who used to teach English at a local high school, read a pandemic piece titled "Caper." It was characteristically hilarious and suspenseful and I can't wait to read the rest.

The following is from an old essay I found on the internet called "Where the Water Is". It gives some idea of how Jan uses wit in ways that are sharp and searching.

"One of the uncomfortable things about living with a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s is that it makes you confront your own character flaws. Just when you thought it more or less clear from all the times you’ve sent money to public radio and boycotted Wal-Mart that you were the incarnation of Albert Schweitzer, or Gandhi, or both, you find out you’re really just a slightly bitchier version of Martha Stewart. Your well of compassion and patience, which was never very deep to begin with, is now just an empty cistern."

Pic: Jan at the lectern at the Slow Learner launch today.  

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

"enjoy what you have"

The exhortation to use, enjoy... use up stuff came from a friend when we were in grad school. It was prompted by her having to settle her dead aunt's effects and being saddened by the unused perfume, candles, clothes, etc. she kept finding. It's advice I've taken seriously. I mean we use "fancy" dishes all the time. It does mean that they get chipped (and that we try to make sure that one of us and not a guest gets the chipped plate), but it's still worth it.

If we can't or don't use something, I'd rather it goes to someone who might. But this part is more of an ongoing process. I find huge purges overwhelming, but this past year, I collected 5-10 items to give away (usually kitchen stuff, clothes, books, appliances) almost every day. I think we're almost at an optimal level of stuff now.  

And I guess "enjoy what you have" works for time and relationships too. Winter break has been lovely, but we're back to classes next week, and this week has been a lot of prep. (I'm actually on campus tomorrow for a four-hour workshop!) So in the spirit of enjoying what I have, I seized today, and made plans with LD for lunch and JL for tea.

Pic: Yesterday, I stopped to take this picture of a black squirrel in profile on the banks of the Red Cedar because of the almost archetypal "enjoy what you have" pose (inspiration for today's musings). Big A wasn't a fan of me breaking our sub-14 min/mile pace.

Thursday, December 14, 2023


I know I can retell the stories 
until I get them right... 
            I may never get them right
            don't be afraid, maya
it's just... the sky is falling
my body is failing 
            there's room right about here 
            for a quiet chorus 
but I hear only stalled words
vowels leave, aiyo aiyo 
            like an ocean finding freedom
            deep inside me
and though disaster is far away
I'm right here, waiting 

Pic: I got some mall-style Winter Wonderland when I dropped off some stuff at the Fretail Store. (I'm so happy this store, which gives people the experience of shopping while giving away things for free, exists in Lansing.) Today was also a day I had to pick up Huck and Max from the groomers and then turn around to take Nu and myself to the dentist. This is what happens when I press pause on all non essential appointments in the final weeks of class. I guess I was tired; I fell asleep while the dentist and hygienist were still peering into my mouth.

Friday, December 08, 2023

"praying for peace/living with love"

The world is so beautiful and the world is so terrifying. Over 17,000 people have been killed by bombs and gunfire in the past eight weeks... It's so strange how I still go about as if everything is ok... Although my country vetoed a humanitarian ceasefire yet again. 

I think of the children holding a press conference in English--a language foreign to them--to beg the world not to bomb them. And yet, over 7000 Gazan children have been killed in just these two months; many thousands more are maimed and injured for life. I think in particular about the mother holding her lifeless baby saying she took 580 IVF injections to have him; the tender searchers in the rubble after every airstrike. I think of how many hospitals, schools, and homes have been bombed, the patients, medical staff, students, teachers, and families in them evanesced. No poem can contain my grief. Nothing can calm my disbelief that this is happening so publicly... so blatantly.

Sunny Singh, who has always been so kind to me and my students lost a friend today--he was a fellow teacher of English and a poet. His name was Refaat al-Aareer. In a better world I might have met him some day at a reading or a conference or in someone's home. And he is just one of thousands who is gone suddenly and too soon with their hopes and dreams still pending. This is a poem he wrote last week:

If I must die

you must live to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child,
somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven
in the eye awaiting his
dad who left in a blaze-
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh not even to himself-
sees the kite,
my kite you made,
flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale

Pic: Baker Woods with RS yesterday. She asked me if it would look bad if she celebrated Hanukkah with all that is going on. I told her we'd be lighting lamps with Nu (Big A's great grandparents were Jewish and there is a family menorah/hanukkiah). I'm glad we have celebrations. I want us to put away our bombs and celebrate life. (I saw the words I used for the title of this post on a church's marquee this morning on my way to work.)

Friday, December 01, 2023

Last day of classes, first holiday party

Last day of classes, first holiday party. 

It's that time of the year when faculty colleagues, admin, staff, community members are celebrating in the same room. I wore my Christmas tree earrings.

Pic: "The Scots on the Rocks" are singing "We Three Kings" here. They prefaced the carol with the James Bond theme--cute. 

Later, they sang "Last Christmas" and a non rape-y version of "Baby it's Cold Outside" both of which Nicole had recently mentioned as being favorites!

bleak week

I'm having a tough time this week. It's not that I can't go on... I am. But I keep feeling like I can't... On the surface, t...