Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wind, rain, sun, dusk.

At 5:15 p.m., the western sky was still light, and the tree showed magnificently.

We saw the girl with hummingbird wings for fingers, her music incomparable; we walked home in the dark wind, so cold I took my earrings off because they told us, long ago, that earrings could conduct cold right into our earlobes.

"You have fabulous flow," the technician at the blood drive told me. I filled my pint in 4 minutes and 40 seconds. After it was out of me, I looked at it, there in its bag, ready to be filtered into platelets, plasma, white cells, red cells. It was gorgeous and dark, and it looked like an enormous amount.

Now the wind gusts just as hard as it did when we got up, and now it is time to sleep again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another sundown.

Now a dear and beautiful friend--who is herself and not-herself, being that she is now two--is visiting, and now we will have our hot milk and read and sleep. And tomorrow I will try not to be afraid of either writing or donating blood.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Every little thing.

This one goes out to everyone I know for whom the first appearance of flowers each spring is supremely important, presaging wonder and rebirth.

Which means, this one is for all of you. I know it's still winter. But we're almost midway back to spring. Hell, the sky was still a little light after 5 p.m. today, even though it had been cloudy since mid-afternoon. We're all going to get there.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Impending outage.

Yow--le bloggeur is about to shut down for a little while, and a day of looking only at my textuality books has left me with little to offer anyhow besides a picture from yesterday's sunset. So I suppose that I'm off to embrace my bedtime.

[five minutes pass]

Perhaps it's not shutting down?

[pause again]

That still doesn't change the fact that I have little of note to share, other than a little bit of joy at how good it can feel just to sit still and work--even when said work is still just in the realm of intake, not yet at output. But, as I say: impending outage. The outwork is coming, the growth, the extension. The reaching. The foliage and festoons.

I think I'll soak and moisturize my feet before bed, in celebration of what's on its way.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A setting of a different sort.

We had yet another glorious day here, the kind of day when a four-mile round-trip walk to lunch is as welcome as the good food you're being fed once you're at your destination. I built blanket-and-umbrella houses for a host's five-year-old child; I improvised conservatories and cupboards and ballrooms ("Every house should have at least two ballrooms," I told her, so that later when we asked her where in her house she was, she replied, "In the ballroom!"); I created annexes and nooks and various modes of ingress and egress; I taught the word "disaster" when, before the introduction of clothespins from the garden, cloth walls fell from umbrella ribs and rent roofs.

When I rejoined my host and my friend at the lunch table, my friend said to me, "Let me say, though I've never met him, that you are your father's daughter."

It's true, of course; the structure and design principles come from him, as does much of the commitment to modeling open, freewheeling creativity for children whenever possible. The cloth-working, though, and the creation of safe and lovely domestic spaces, and the ability to apportion time for a small child while not losing contact with the adults in the room--that's my mother working through me. "I want to build a different house," the child said to me while I was writing out my gluten- and dairy-free pie crust recipe for her mother and having some tea. "I will," I said, "but first I need to finish this for your mother." She started to pout just a little. "So now," I continued, "I need you to go mastermind the new house. Decide what kinds of rooms you want, and take the old house apart, and then I'll be ready to help you." She grinned and scampered off. A few minutes later, we heard her giggling and talking to herself in one of the back rooms, under the big golf umbrella. Her mother had told her that we adults were being lazy at the tea table. "I'm being lazy in my house," came the little voice from under the fabric. Something fell, somewhere, and she rippled out, "Oh, no, another disaster!"

And then she disassembled the house, and then we rebuilt it in yet another compact yet capacious way.

So, it was a gorgeous and lightsome afternoon, though under it were running some familiar refrains and questions, none of which is particularly joyous. Weeks and months keep going by, and I realize that next month will mark the half-decade anniversary of the beginning of my last relationship, and I feel as though I have no remedy for this thing about my life that I would have be different. All I can do is keep feeling as hopeful and acting as non-reclusive as possible.

When I returned from my lunch outing this afternoon and checked my e-mail, I found a comment waiting to be approved. It was on a post nearly two years old, one I'd written just as I was realizing that I wouldn't be going out anymore with a person I'd only seen a few times. It's one that I think of as vintage Cabinetry, now, from the days when I was more wide-eyed and eager and able to spin you long narratives and meditations.

At the end of this particular day, having re-read that old post, I realize that that comment has kicked me into some potentially healing kind of recursivity: I wrote it to bolster myself two years ago by reminding myself (and telling you) about some of the most self-bolstering prose I know, from Rilke's
Letters to a Young Poet. (Hilariously, someone tried to convince me just the other day that I should re-watch Igby Goes Down. I voted no, strenuously.) I wrote that post to remind myself (and to tell you) about the premium I put on a certain kind of patient, faithful, hopeful self-care. I wrote it as catharsis, largely: I remember exactly where I was as the hours passed and I continued weaving those words together; I remember realizing that I wouldn't get my grading done that night after all, or even start it; I remember stopping every once in awhile to sob and ball my fists, and then returning tear-streaked to my typing.

I remember writing my way toward a final line (echoing Rilke) that's still true, though I feel steelier about it now than I did two years ago, in part because I still don't understand why the things that have happened since then happened: "I'm too much an idealist not to believe that somewhere, some other solitude is growing and waiting to be greeted. I hope it's only as painful as he can sing out lovingly."

That comment came in today at exactly the right moment, pointing me back in the direction of writing that was, after all, about being reluctant to take directions, even obvious ones--and that was about worrying that my directions and instincts would always point me toward solitude. It pointed me back to a declaration that "I refuse to mess around, to suffer fools lightly, to play any more games with my heart than I can help."

Some days, nowadays, I'm more afraid than hopeful, more pessimistic than otherwise about whether, say, I'll ever again get to be the kind of girl designed to be kissed upon the eyes. I'd like to dance till two o'clock, or sometimes dance till dawn. Or, if the band could stand it, just go on and on and on. I worry that the chance is gone. I worry that I made it go away, simply by refusing to mess around. Even when I know damned well, in a rational way, that that's not the case, the worry, which is not rational, pays a visit sometimes.

When the sun went down this evening, its palette was an altogether different thing than we had yesterday--and a better one for my feelings at 5 p.m. We are on our way back out of the darkness, in leaps and bounds; next Sunday is Candlemas, the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox; so much of my life remains illuminated, and so many more things light up every day, though those lights are sometimes muted yellows rather than stunning, joyous orange-reds. I don't know that there are reasons for the ways life works. I don't know that I'll ever reach a point where I'll say, "Ah, that's why that happened."

I suspect there's just one thing to be done, and that's to look this feeling squarely in the face and keep singing Luisa's words at it: "Perhaps I'm bad, or wild, or mad, with lots of grief in store. But I want much more..." I've always wanted much more. Someday, I still hope, I'll have it. Until then, I'll hug myself until my arms turn blue, and I'll love to taste my tears.

Also, I think I'll put on some a-ha and rock out a little.

(Thanks for the timely intervention, long-time reader.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Stopping, tracking.

It took a beautifully long time to get home from the grocery store today.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Self-care: the footsoak edition.

Over the past month or so, my feet have been wearing out. They're tired and sore deep down, like in the bones deep down. And I think that this development is not a good one; I've watched friends go through foot problems, and it's just no good. I realize that striding all over town in one's high-heeled boots is silly, and so I stopped doing that in December (though I've done it once in 2008). Wednesday night's post-feast dancing (in my fairly low-heeled dress shoes) helped matters not at all. Last night, my friend said to me, "Were your legs sore today?" "No, but I had to bandage both my big toes," I replied. Turns out that our waltzing (and various other displays of light-on-feet-ness) did a number on his calves while it was doing a number on my feet--though my feet seem to have suffered more in the galumphing portion of the evening.

Tonight, when I go to dine at high table at Trinity (!) (and have my second haggis of the year, I hope--we're angling for another Burns Night feast, see, though one with Trinity's famed port, rather than a ceilidh, afterwards), I will wear flat shoes and then put on my fancy heels once we're there. To make matters as good as possible, I've spent a good chunk of this afternoon soaking my feet in my friend's washing-up basin, which turns out to be larger than mine and thus better suited for resting one's sore feet comfortably in borderline-scalding water. (Immobilizing oneself with one's feet in water is also a good way to get reading done, particularly if one is having difficulties with distractability lately.) And I have applied mass quantities of my fine new Neutrogena Refreshing Foot Balm. And now I'm just hoping that I'm not broken.

Now, I've already gone outside to take pictures of the sunset for you, but unfortunately (cf. the previous two paragraphs) I'm not really up for chasing it out onto the strange footpath that runs past the college (which I've now discovered is called Rifle Range Road). And so I keep taking shots from my balcony, and then while I'm uploading them, the colors get better. I suspect I'll just keep doing this for awhile. You know that the reason it's so exciting is that it's nearly 5 p.m. and the sky is not only still lit up; it's even still lit up by the sun, albeit an already sunken one.

Sailors' delight indeed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


When I stepped off the train onto Cambridge's platform 2, coming back from Kings Cross, I saw the moon coming up in the east, its top shaved off by the month's turning and turning. It was indeed a marvelous night for it, and it was just the thing to start capping off an excellent long day of work in the city.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My secret weapons.

In twenty minutes, I will leave for my college's first feast of 2008, a Burns Night (Burns Eve One Night Early?) event to celebrate the birth of Scottish wunderpoet Robbie Burns. As I told you last night, this means that I am bringing the cost of my black evening gown down to £21/wear tonight. I tried to be cool and wait until 6:30 to start getting ready, but lo and behold, 6 p.m. found me in full preparation mode because this dress is simply. too. much. fun.

Especially now that I have a stick-on bra.

The only hang-up I had about the dress when I wore it a month ago (how is that possible?) was that I had utterly failed to find an appropriate foundation garment, even at that English headquarters of foundation garments, Marks and Spencer. But some canny web-surfing last weekend turned up (at M&S, of course) a curious contraption: a bra that tapes on with double-sided medical-grade tape, leaving it 1000% more comfortable than a regular strapless and with no back strap to show above the crazy-low back of this dress. What the hell, I thought. It's probably not going to work the way they claim, but it will be better than the crazy bra converter with which I made do last time around.

Now, it's still possible that (particularly during the raucous post-feast dancing part of the evening) I could lose this thing altogether, and if I do, I'm not quite sure where it will go. (You know that if it happens, you'll get that story tomorrow, because it's likely to involve some kind of acrobatic self-control.)

Which brings me to my other secret weapon: my Polish great-grandmother.

I give shout-outs to my great-grandmother on a semi-regular basis; lots of people know stories about her, particularly the one about how she told my mother that in her mind she was always 23, which made for a shock when she looked in the mirror at 90. "Martha," she'd say to herself, "what the hell happened to you?"

Not long after she'd moved to the big city, Detroit, from her family's farm in northern Michigan, she was walking down the street with her sister. Suddenly, she felt her petticoat give way. "My petticoat is falling off," she hissed to her sister. "What should I do?" "Step out of it and keep walking," her sister said. And so she did, leaving her petticoat behind her on some Detroit sidewalk.

My great-grandmother was that awesome.

She was also awesome enough that her favorite piece of love advice to my mother (besides "Don't have a June wedding; it's too hot to make love to a man in June") was "Stand still and let him chase you till you catch him."

This afternoon, I went out into town in search of a necklace to wear with this dress, since the one I bought last month managed to fall apart during the feast--and thus promptly went back to the store. I came up empty-handed, but on my way home, I realized that this was for the best: I'm wearing the one piece of jewelry I own that belonged to Bushia, a gold pendant with a flower and a tiny diamond in its center, on an extra-fine gold chain my mother picked out for it when she gave it to me years ago. It is, in many ways, the most beautiful piece of jewelry I own, and I don't wear it often because I usually wear silver. But tonight, I'm rocking gold and the only diamonds I own, and that means Bushia is my co-pilot. And that's a good thing for me, all around. Unless it means that someone's going to find a black stick-on bra abandoned on the dance floor later on.

You don't get any pictures of any of these stories tonight, for reasons that I believe are obvious.

* * *

I have one post-feast word: hott. Even after a good two hours of dancing reels and strip-the-willows and waltzes (yup, we danced a waltz, and it was splendid indeed), this thing is still stuck like...well, like a bra.

And haggis? Yum.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The deal.

Here's my problem--and it's the kind of problem I'm happy to have, honestly. I have become distracted from my own distractions: this week, I am absorbed enough in my work again that I don't have the cognitive space to practice my piano as thoroughly and consistently as I need to, or to take the big camera out for a spin on a daily basis, or to wander around semi-aimlessly, looking at what there is to be seen. Or to write anything of much substance here, despite my having sworn, two years ago, that I would post daily but would avoid "here's what I did today" recaps of my life. This week, my nose is in my textual theory when I get up, my fingers are at my keyboard after my coffee kicks in, and my bedtime reading stays confined to my bedtime, instead of claiming my morning as well. The proof that I'm working is in my sore and twingeing left elbow, which hates it when I type. The other proof is in the fact that I don't hate the project right now.

I suppose that this is what one calls "feeling better."

Earlier, I did a British Library manuscripts collection search for "hair," just out of curiosity. I could, if I so chose, increase my personal experience with dead creators' hair by no small figure this year. Keats, Shelley, even Beethoven. It is truly incredible.

Tomorrow, fueled by all this intellectual fizz, I will don my black satin evening dress and attend the first of my week's two Burns Night suppers. Last time I wore the dress, my Canadian friend said to me, "That would look great with diamonds." "Yeah," I said, "it would." (I should note, though, that if I ever have $23K to kick around, I hope I'll kick it somewhere more useful than Tiffany's.)

Monday, January 21, 2008


And then there are the days when you plan to do one thing but your work tells you that you need to attend to something else, a series of questions you've been asking for nearly a decade but that suddenly seem a bit different, and the next thing you know, you're almost buying books by Michel Foucault but are intensely grateful to have been sidetracked by the new edition of Janet Frame's autobiography that you found before you went down the stairs to the philosophy section because you'd rather read her than Foucault any day, and you know this without even having read her yet.

And you stop in to the store that sold the purple silk dresses at the holidays and you try on the new spotted silk dress they're selling for summer, and when the salesgirl asks you if you're shopping for an event, you tell her no, you're just wishing it were spring, only you're just making that up because even the high hard wind today was warm enough to let you love how brisk it was without making you wish you could get home more quickly.

And so at the end of the day, you think, yes, tomorrow will be one day when I'll get some ideas about materiality worked out in some way, and that step will get me closer to the next step that will go on to the next step that will eventually lead to more steps that will eventually lead on and on.

And so you will read just a little bit more about textuality, and then you will sleep.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Simple repetitions.

I know I've gotten mighty epigrammatic over here. I'm hoping to change that soon. For now, who doesn't want to see yet another picture of the sunlight coming through the chapel windows at King's, even if the picture is a week old? I mean, honestly: if you were here, I'd take you to the Free Press for lunch (now that I know about it), and we'd go to King's for evensong. And if we were lucky, it would be sunny outside and you'd get the chapel at full power, simple and ornate and humbling and ennobling all at the same time. It's not sunny so often these days, even if it's warm enough that we have daffodils coming up everywhere and lawns carpeted in eranthis and snowdrops. Next time the sun is out, I'm going to be standing with my face upturned.

And who can resist something this sweet? If I had someone making "blong" sounds at me, I would probably be laughing this way, too.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


There are some fine places to eat in London. You probably suspected this, but I'm here to tell you that it's true.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Tonight, walking with my visitors through streets I have come to know well, after perching behind the organ screen for the first half of the first Friday evensong of the Lent Term, I realized that it was warm outside. Warm and windy, warm enough that my scarf was superfluous, windy enough that I was glad to have it anyway. Dark at 6 p.m., sure, but now it's not fully dark at 4:30 p.m., and so darkness by 6 feels less onerous. Now it gusts and gusts outside, and my visitors are off resting up, sweet ones, getting ready for a jaunt down to the big city tomorrow. And the warm wind gusts and gusts, and we are all tucked in safely, and somehow this makes me remember that I forgot to show you Wednesday's dusk, with its swift sweeps of cloud. And so here it is.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Walking home by myself after an extraordinary movie this evening, I realized once again that some days sink me so deeply into the sentences and images and sense of others that they leave me quiet and a little worn out. If I'm already tired because, say, I was up repeatedly in the night coughing, then I'm even less likely to want to reach out to put even more words together.

Which doesn't mean I don't have them. It just means that they want to be quiet for a little while.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bits, pieces.

In the middle of every night, lately, a bird starts singing in the trees outside my flat. Singing, singing, singing, there alone in the middle of the night. Someone else finally remarked upon it to me today, and I said, I've heard it too! Call me next time it happens, my friend said. Do you really want a call in the middle of the night? I asked. Yes, he said. But what is it? we all wonder. Is it a robin? Is it a blackbird? Is it a nightingale?

In my solipsism I hear it as another late-nighter, trilling away to herself in the dark.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Yet more deferral.

It's arguably what I do best, especially when I've spent my second day in a row mostly in bed. I seem mostly to be back up and running, however, even to the point of having gotten some honest to goodness writing done this evening. And so I have hopes of telling you stories tomorrow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pause, traveller.

Though I have things to relate, particularly in regards to our pilgrimage to Ely Cathedral yesterday, I have found myself cut down by Sickness today and have thus spent much of the day prone (happily enough, I might add). But here's a wee tidbit from the trek to the eely place--one that is marginally less funny to me now (since I've finally figured out what it's saying) than it was last night, when, in disbelief that a 24-hour grocery store exists anywhere in England but enticed by its carpark's "open 24 hours" banners, made our hopeful way toward this sign:

That's "open 24 hours most days" to you, Americans. That's what the sign was telling us. We laughed and laughed and laughed--and laughed all the way over to the train station, where we discovered that our having fallen for such an improbable concept as a store open beyond 5 on Sunday had left us a 45 minute wait for the next train to Cambridge.

Strangely, no one on said train laughed when, moments before we arrived at Cambridge, the train manager came on the public address system to announce that the train would no longer proceed to London but would instead terminate right there at Cambridge. Where everyone could cross the platform to take a different train to London. As someone who would love to have even a wildly dysfunctional train service at home--one that, say, could take her somewhere she needed to be, without occasioning bizarre middle-of-night car trips into rough or semi-deserted areas in faraway cities--I felt flickers of sympathy but not a lot more as the entire train grumbled to its feet and began hauling luggage down from the racks.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to tell you what I learned yesterday about a more profound kind of brokenness.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Keep looking closely.

There's always more to see.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The dragon goes to King's.

It was such a beautiful sunny day today that the dragon decided on an outing to King's College.

He paused for a photo along Clare Bridge.

He looked for his relatives everywhere in the chapel, but with so much stained glass around, it wasn't an easy task.

Once he'd gone back outside, though, opportunities for meet-ups and mischief abounded.

Somewhat strangely, though given the chance, he didn't seem as interested in posing and adventuring in the other colleges he visited today. Not even at the one with the giant oriental plane tree. Perhaps he was put off by the marauding bands of moorhens near the garden containing said tree. Perhaps he was put off by the fact that he couldn't actually enter the plane tree's garden. In those and other courts, he opted for snug carriage over sightseeing.

He certainly didn't risk declaring himself a second guest on the one university ID card that could have been brandished for entry throughout the day--should it even have been requested. Which it was not, suggesting once again what can be accomplished with a big, winsome smile and a proudly worn scarf from one's own college.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Down to town.

I've been told that in Cambridge, people refer to going to London as "going down to London," rather than as "going up to town," as they might in many other parts of the country--as in, everywhere is down from Cambridge. In any case: at an absurdly early hour this morning, my student and I trekked across Cambridge to the strange parkside bus stop and waited for our (late) bus down to London.

At first, the day didn't look so promising, though the holiday crowds were mercifully gone.

But as we ate lunch, looking out of a sixth-story window at a panoramic view of Westminster, we could see the sky clearing. And by the time we arrived at our ultimate destination, we had not a thing to lament.

Westminster Abbey wants to blow your mind. It succeeds. I defy anyone to see the tombs of Elizabeth I and Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens--not to mention Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin--and come out unimpressed. Alas that one can only take pictures outside: there are so many more things I wanted to show you.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We've got to watch out...

...or else they're going to want to keep him as the mascot here.

Many of my usual routines are in happy disruption right now, but the following are not:
1) Writing in the morning
2) Drinking coffee in the morning
3) Reading a book in the bath in the morning
4) Thinking that it's still morning when I climb out of the bath at 1 p.m.
5) Wandering blithely through colleges and shops (and dodging rain) in the afternoon
6) Having dinner at 7 p.m., finally aware that it's really no longer morning
Tomorrow: more of London, for one who has not yet spent very much time there. It is one of my favorite cities. It is a city where I have a collection of Places I Love. Tomorrow I hope to add a couple of Places to my list.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I have a visitor from home, and she has brought me another visitor from home. I realized tonight that I've never touched him before.

Expect further exploits.

They are only two reasons that today was immeasurably better than yesterday. Those new words I added to my writing didn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Varieties of self.

In this dream, I am in yet another library, one with its very own cataloguing system. Somehow I discover one of my old family photo albums in the stacks, shelved according to its call number. It's not the album I'm looking for, though: I don't want the one where I'm still a child. I want the one with photographs of me as an adult.

The bathrooms in this library are inexplicable: some stalls are like office cubicles, so that one can see right over the tops of their walls. Others are like little closets into which no person could fit. Men and women mill around. The whole place is reminiscent of an airport; people mill about, come and go, seem to know exactly what they're doing. I spend no small amount of time circling the bathroom, trying to figure it out.

After this dream, which in itself wasn't really unpleasant, I awoke into what was largely a stupid day--then redeemed it, in the evening, by finally seeing that whizbang of a riddle of a biopic of a fiction of a legend I'm Not There. From the opening point of view shot to the closing footage of harmonica-playing, I was sold, even when I didn't have the faintest idea what was going on. I walked home with my friends all afizz. "Are you always in character?" my Canadian friend said to me as I launched into an explanation of how the movie's final shot had made me think of Spiegelman's Maus. My first answer: yes. My later answer: no: this is just the way I am, the way I have always been. I go to eleven, that's all.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Also, the year of family.

One afternoon, a few weeks after I moved into my office in Gambier in 2004, I heard my department's wonderful administrative assistant bringing another new person up the stairs to her office. After she'd left the other new person and gone back downstairs, I went around the corner to introduce myself and to welcome this other person to Gambier. I was doing it out of politeness, and curiosity, and a little bit of hope that maybe she'd be someone at least kind of cool with whom I could hang around.

We had an instant rapport, but I had no idea how swiftly she would become one of the truly crucial people in my life. When she left for the plum job she won in that year's job market, I barely let myself think about how much I missed her; when, as I always do, I started flaking out about being in touch, she helped me not to drop the ball. She's one of the people in my life who helps me be unflinchingly honest with myself and thus helps me try to become my best self.

You know her as my beloved Lexingtonian, mother to the littlest Lexingtonian and wife to another excellent Lexingtonian.

As of today, they're all officially soon-to-be-mid-Ohioans-once-more, a development for which I've been too hopeful even to hope, and I have had extra helpings of joy with every meal I've eaten and every task I've undertaken since mid-afternoon.

The last Christmas I lived in Ithaca, I saw the holiday in by having middle-of-the-night subs from the Shortstop Deli in my living room with two of my friends, one of whom shared with us his conception of the queer family: that which is related neither by blood nor (because of our inequitable legal codes) by marriage but only by choice, by force of desire and will and often defiance. At that point in my life, I think I was still a lot more confident that I would end up partnered at some reasonably near time, though I was already feeling fairly sure that I wouldn't be bearing children. But I loved this idea of the queer family anyhow. As the years have swooped past since then, I've realized its value more and more. I am the auntie or simply the Dr. S of several beautiful and talented small people, one of whom is currently only inches long; I have two women in my life from whom I feel sure that I was separated at birth, even though one of them is three weeks younger than I and the other is a few years older; I have couples in my life who have been the best academic parents (and now most excellent friends) anyone could ever want (especially since I was blessed with such excellent biological parents anyway); I have networks of friends to whom I am certainly tied far more tightly than to most of my blood relations.

Indeed, for a woman who considers her traditionally defined family to consist of only her beloved brother and parents, none of whom lives in the same state as she, this growing alternate family is a prize beyond all treasure. Its members are playing an enormous role in my process of returning my self to myself this year, even while I'm thousands of miles away from all of them. They help me to know that even if no one ever falls in love with me again, and even if I never have a child of my own, I will not be alone, and I will not be without siblings (both biological and chosen) or children.

And to know that by the time I return to my mid-Ohio home, even more members of this alternate family I've been constructing over the years will be a part of my daily life, rather than a day's drive away? It's almost enough to make me start looking forward to my repatriation. It's certainly going to soften the blow of leaving this place, come summer.

Congratulations, you badass colleague, and welcome back. Don't forget your whiteboard.

Oh, and this one's for you.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Andrea "Superhero" Scher (whom I've never met, but whose jewelry I wear on a semi-regular basis--particularly when I have to participate in academic processions) is encouraging her readers to participate in a Mondo Beyondo exercise, and I am more than happy to do so, not least because the turn of my year was so hectic and love-filled (and so empty of Academic Mayhem! did you notice?) that I didn't have my usual end-of-year collapse-and-reconsolidate experience.

Herewith, the end of 2007: the first step is to say goodbye to the old year, and she's offered a set of suggestions for doing so ritually. I'm just going to take her questions one by one.

1. What do you want to acknowledge yourself for in regard to 2007?
Moving. For me, 2007 was the year of moves, both within my U.S. home and to my (temporary) England home. Packing up and coming over here was, as you may recall if you've been reading since last January, nearly impossible for me even to consider a year ago: it took me about a month to let the idea sink in far enough to concoct applications, and another few weeks beyond that actually to finish the applications and send them off. Packing up my house and moving out was another enormous step. In both cases, facing down a fear of change (and of not being able to master the complexities and logistics of major physical shifts) has paid off immensely. For one thing, I've learned once again (and this time for good, I hope) that I can transplant and still be liked--still be something of a social center, even--in fairly short order. For another, I got to introduce my parents to England, which was a bigger thrill than I've been able to acknowledge even to myself, much less to them, in the aftermath of their whirlwind trip.

I also moved into greater artistic exploration, first with the photography class and now with the piano. I've kept writing here, even if it's only a few words some days. I even faced down some of my fears and reluctances about my critical writing, in part because of my community here. I tell you, they don't take "I'm not sure" for an answer.

I did my very best, always, to be the best teacher, daughter, sister, friend, writer, and artist I could be. I didn't always succeed, but I also want to acknowledge that I learned how better to sidestep feeling guilty so that I could try to fix my mistakes and stop making the same ones over and over. 2007 taught me, once again, how much I love my friends' children--how delighted I am when my friends get pregnant (ahem), how delighted I am when their children are born and start growing up (ahem), how happy it makes me when I can support and entertain either those children or their parents (or both) in person or via Skype.

I learned a lot this year about how not to want to be perfect. I learned a lot, thanks especially to my flaming-sworded friend, about how to be angry in the right directions, how to strike back at the real monsters instead of at myself. A few years ago, I told one of my Chicagoan friends that I wanted to be more serene than I felt myself to be. This year helped me find my center, which has made a lot of things clearer than they were before--and which has indeed grounded me more strongly and serenely.

Speaking of grounding, I want to acknowledge, though it's not necessarily in celebration, that 2007 saw me get lots more white hairs, a small collection of new wrinkles, and a changing body composition. I'm proud to say that most of the time, I don't fret about these things: 2007 also saw me appreciating a wider array of beauty (human and otherwise) than ever.

2. What is there to grieve about 2007?
It was a painful year for my ardent heart. I try to keep things half-veiled around here, but you can find traces of my romantic intrigues (or lack thereof) without a lot of effort, and some of you have heard my various tales of woe ad nauseum. I want to believe that there's a reason for my being single, and that the reason is that I'm somehow not ready for whoever this person who's "out there" is going to turn out to be. But sometimes it feels like getting kicked, and then kicked again, and then kicked once more for good measure. (That's one kick for each hope up in 2007, for those of you keeping score at home.) Fortunately (and this should go in the answer to #1 as well), I bounce back from each kick a little faster, largely because I'm realizing more and more that they're not actually kicks, not in any intended way. They're just bad timings, or mismatches, or unwarranted projections of some longing on my part. But that doesn't mean that I feel any less lonely when I feel lonely, or that I don't wonder where my partner in crime is. If he's as lonely as I am, we're wasting good years.

I didn't get as far on my book as I'd hoped, which is especially frustrating given that I had all but three weeks of 2007 off from teaching (shocking, when I write it that way). After a lifetime of swift progressions and earned praises, this year felt like a relatively unproductive one. What I have to show for it is the perch where I'm sitting right now--no small thing, to be sure, but I actually earned the time in 2004-06. This place was just the icing. It feels as though I went into slow motion the second I started my research leave last January.

I have such a hard time being patient while everything realigns.

I regret the plenitude of ways in which I wasn't a good friend.

3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete?
Regardless of the things that felt awry at particular points during the year, 2007 was remarkably good to me: it was possibly the first year of my life wherein I took the chance to enjoy my powers and accomplishments and to explore new options for myself. It really felt like a year of realignment, of slow and steady shifts toward some big change that's still on the way. And in the meantime, it also felt like a year of being loved and valued by all the people in my world whom I love and value most. I don't think I've ever been able to perceive, much less appreciate, how much love is in my life--and I wonder whether that's the very reason that my covivant hasn't shown up yet. But now I get it, and I am full to bursting, and so it is difficult to continue being patient.

Now I get to say it aloud:

I declare 2007 complete!

And I get to make a new declaration, naming my primary intention or theme for 2008. I've been sitting with this question for several days now, trying to decide whether or not I actually want to say what I'm about to say, or whether I just want to say it because I think I'm supposed to. I've decided that I actually do want to say it--and having said it, I hope I'll be able to identify the currents in my life that drag me away from this intention.

2008 is my year of writing. Not of wanting to write, or of thinking about why I don't want to write, or of wondering what I will write. But of writing.

Hell, let's make that two things: 2008 is my year of writing and of love.

Can I refine that one more time? See what's happening here? Andrea is one smart woman, which is why I like wearing her jewelry. She knows that writing this stuff out makes you clarify what you actually want. I do want love in my life, but (as I've already told you) I have love in my life. What I want is romance. Can I actually declare 2008 a year of romance? It seems so unlucky, somehow, to make that wish out loud. Again. As I have many times, in this space and elsewhere. But I'll do it again, as another act of hope.

I want 2008 to be my year of writing, of love, and of romance.

When Andrea posts the next set of instructions, you'll get another post like this one, only the next one will be forward-focused.

Oh, and that title? Tomorrow, I crack back into writing this project, no matter how much effort of will it takes me. I need to get this thing off my shoulders yesterday.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Tickets for love.

I saw lots of signage in Paris that was love-worthy, but this reworking (shall we say) of a Eurostar sign was my favorite. When did tickets for eros get handed out? Was that the day I was home sick from high school or something? Because I tell you--I seem to be short an "admit one" or two.

But: just in case I seem to be grousing: it would seem that I am not going to come down with the norovirus right now, for which I am so much more than immensely grateful--not least because it means that I can walk to a neighboring village for a lunch of mussels tomorrow.

Friday, January 04, 2008


When my family and I left for our London-Paris-London jaunt, we blew out of here early and swiftly. Today, I've straightened up what we didn't get a chance to do before we left: washed the sheets and towels they used, ran the vacuum in the room where they stayed.

But more of the day has gone over to doing my best to steel myself against illness, given that one of the friends with whom I was staying in Scotland became violently (though, mercifully, only temporarily) ill while I was there. And when A) you're staying with an ill friend and B) the worst norovirus outbreak in five years is screaming through the country where you're living, well, let me tell you: you get ginger ale and soup and crackers ready in advance, just in case you start projectile vomiting.

Since I didn't see much of the outside world today, you get to look at Edinburgh and its lovely snow some more.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

This train is for Cambridge.

It's funny: looking at today's pictures, I see that there was a considerable amount of blue sky in Edinburgh this morning and afternoon.

But it was such a changeable day, weather-wise, that what I remember is having ducked out into the falling snow, just to document that it was really there. And what I remember is having had to relearn very quickly what my feet and legs do differently when faced with slush-slippened hills. The flakes on my friends' neighbours' roofs this morning were the first I've seen in person since last winter.

And the snow? Not even the most excellent thing I saw today. Not by a long shot.

Tonight I lay my head down on my own pillow.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Irresistible Flavorous.

At the end of a long day of reading, and watching television, and reading, and watching television, and reading some more, all on the couch with my lovely friends, we ventured out to a restaurant whose business card advertised it with the tagline "The Irresistible Flavorous of Thailand." It was indeed irresistible, their flavorous.

Soon: many pictures, many words. I'm home (d.v.) tomorrow night.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Long live the year!