Monday, June 30, 2008

One more gone.

Things today went off largely without hitches, until something burst into flame (or smoke, anyway) at King's Cross rail station just as I emerged from the Underground. This bit of drama didn't set my day back--I still got on a good train home--but did make it interesting.

I should have "There's so much more to tell" tattooed onto my body somewhere. It is so true a thing. What a day--just for instance--today was.

Photographs don't seem to be agreeing with Le Bloggeur tonight, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow for even a glimpse of what I saw today: my eyes are so heavy that I can't hold them open much longer. [Tuesday morning: there it is!]

Sunday, June 29, 2008


By about this time tomorrow, d.v., I will be on my way back from London. I will be coming back without the friend with whom I will have gone there, the one who has, in some manners of speaking though very much not in others, been here all along. I will find myself all but alone where my little community so recently was.

Today, nearly seven miles of walking: to Grantchester, to Trumpington, to Byron's Pool, through field and fen. He spouted poetry; I took pictures. It was as it has been, since the very beginning.

The more I try not to think about it, the worse it feels. In yoga, the more you try, the more difficult it is. I am in the process of trying to incorporate this wisdom into my daily practice. Let it happen. Let it happen; work through with it. Let it happen, and let it go.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


In this dream, I have suddenly and finally decided--without any deciding when it comes right down to it--just to embrace him and be done with it, and to my great surprise, he is thrilled and everything is as lovely as lovely can be. Until someone turns up to give me the paperwork that I will need to figure out a way to complete in order to prove that I am Jewish. She is confident that I will be able to initiate and successfully complete this very necessary process. She is friendly about it, and yet I know that there will be no messing about with this woman, or this process, or this culture. And then I turn out to have a cancer in my left breast, not so far from my heart.

All day I find myself wondering whether I should tell anyone in particular about this dream. It would seem to be an unwise course of action. To my mind, so many things seem to be going unsaid, in these last days, and yet to try to start saying them would be to risk finding that it's only in my own mind that all these shadow conversations and unplayed scenarios happen.

It turns out that the internet will, in fact, be out all weekend, leaving us to lament both our disconnection from the web and the very fact that that disconnect feels so utterly lamentable. Disconnects are lamentable, to be sure. But this one, just as surely, is not.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Return from Bury.

By the time I arrived home from my day-long excursion to Bury St. Edmunds yesterday, our internet was gone, vanished in the night just as the one-car train that had swifted us home. I went to bed hoping that things would be different by morning, but they weren't.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Travel plans.

In this dream, I am flying to Australia--by way of Alaska--and many of my friends are involved. Cambridge friends are there, and non-Cambridge friends. The airports are also train stations, and we have to negotiate strange turnstiles and barriers. Layovers are peculiar. At one point, the plane itself seems to be driving us some distance down a road. When I wake, I remember joking with my seatmate during my first flight home from England, back in 1995, as our plane taxied for an unimaginably long time: "Perhaps we're driving to Newark?" All along in this strange train-plane flight-drive, I am trying to make my way back to the part of the plane reserved for people who want to sleep, rather than to rave all night. Eventually I make it--right about the time my alarm starts going off. In real life, that is.

When I am finally awake, I realize that today I should book a plane ticket home. And so, after lunch, I do it.

Fifteen minutes into the call, as I hold the line and try not to let myself be mesmerized by the strange computerized music loop to which I am repeatedly being subjected--because I feel certain that it's giving me some kind of message I should resist--I wonder just what kinds of calculations the head office is having to do. "Hello?" shouts the British phone agent after my second spell of holding. "Yes, I'm here," I say. "I'm just waiting for the office," he explains. Then he explains some more, or thinks he does: "So I'm waiting for them. And you're waiting for me." "Yes. That's fine," I reply. The computerized music loop begins again: dramatic tones build and build, a bassline kicks in, it suddenly goes quiet, it starts over. Drama: quiet: drama. I imagine their numbers going up and up: let's charge her £500! No, let's charge her £800! No, she'll owe us ONE THOUSAND POUNDS.

"Hello!" Paul the phone agent finally shouts. "All right! It's going to be £306.20." He pauses, as though I'm going to protest. I am relieved enough that I hand over my credit card number, which he has to ring through twice--once for the ticket, once for the ticket change penalty.

And then I am booked to return home, to my places and my people, in just over six weeks. And just as this place started to become real when I started to find out who would be here with me, it starts to become unreal as those people leave, one by one. I will be one of the last hold-outs.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


When I read and took notes on an article that I thought was new to me, only to find that I'd actually read it a month ago (though, to be somewhat fair to myself, in a different anthology), I decided that it was an especially good idea to spend the rest of the afternoon in one of my favorite places in Cambridge, taking pictures of its angles and rounds and objects. Unfortunately, the house is only open during the afternoon, making it impossible to spend an entire day just watching the light move through the place. "Is this your last visit?" the woman minding the house's door asked me today. "I hope not," I replied. Kettle's Yard is the kind of place some people fall deeply in love with; I am one of those people; people who love Kettle's Yard find ways to get back there, one way or another.

I have over-compressed my day: in between the discovery of my forgetfulness and my photographing odyssey through Kettle's Yard, there was a lovely interlude of hanging about with my favorite Lexingtonians, the smaller of whom held out her Frog Book so that I could read it to her transatlantically several times.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Songs for summer: the video edition.

Tonight, while I'm going through yet another bout of being sick--and can I just say that it would be both a lot more titillating and not a little more terrifying if I were in a position to be thinking, "Two spells of sickness in three days... um... am I...?"; but it would take a true miracle for a Small S to be involved in my having lost my dinner--I'm going to take advantage of someone else's having posted a blog meme. And am I a sell-out of my own blog's attempt at aesthetic principles if I embed some YouTube clips for you? Probably. But remember what Whitman says: I am large. I contain multitudes. (Just not that kind of multitude. I swear that's not why I'm throwing up.)


By the Rules of the Meme, I'm now supposed to tell you the Rules of the Meme, which are that after I've told you the rules, I tell you the seven songs that are shaping my summer.

If I could just follow the rules, things would be easier. But grad school helped me cultivate the part of me that used to provoke the following conversation with my father:
Papa of Someday-Dr. S: Why are you so contradictory?
Someday-Dr. S: I'm not!
Which is to say that I apparently need to do this My Own Way. Here, then, are seven songs that have shaped some summer of my life, and that have awesome, awesome videos. Which you can watch right here, thanks to the magic of YouTube. And I do mean magic. This afternoon, I found a video someone has posted that sets scenes from Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice (2005) to the B-52's "Dance This Mess Around." We may watch that on the first day of one of my fall courses, if it's still up.

Without further ado: songs that kick ass, or have kicked ass, in the summer. Tomorrow, if I've stopped being sick for no apparent reason, I'll actually write something for you. (Ironically, tonight's post was going to be about how yoga leaves me feeling as though my body is all working properly and proudly, something I especially felt when I was able to do a half-lotus and grab my left toe by reaching my left arm around my back.)

(These are in no particular order.)

1) Talking Heads, "Burning Down the House." (Summer shaped: Um, all of them since it came out.)

2) The New Pornographers, "Challengers." (Summer shaped: 2008.)

3) R.E.M., "Driver 8." (Summer shaped: 1989.)

4) Junior Senior, "Can I Get Get Get." (Summer shaped: 2007.)

5) Bananarama, "Cruel Summer." (Summer shaped: well, this one is a cheat, because it never really shaped one of my summers, though it seems to me that it was always in the background--probably because Bananarama kind of always was in the background, and I did love them a lot in 1987. They make it in! Also, hello, New York City!)

6) Sufjan Stevens, "To Be Alone with You." (Summer shaped: 2006.)

7) Kate Bush, "Wuthering Heights." (Summer shaped: 2004. Now, you have to know that I didn't really know Kate Bush's music before that summer, and that I listened to her a lot while I was moving into my house in mid-Ohio. You also have to know that this video might be one of the classics of all times--a video in which so many things are going so wrong that it's wonderful--and that that has even more to do with my putting it in here than anything else.)

8) (Bonus!) Luscious Jackson, "Ladyfingers." (Summer shaped: 1999. "It didn't come easy to me either / from the freezer / to believer / in love / in love." Yeah. There's maybe no song that says it so well for me, now that I listen to it again.)

Oh, there are so many more. How, for instance, you might ask yourself, can there possibly be no Beastie Boys tracks on here? But these should get you started for now. Bless your big technological heart, YouTube.

(A postscript on Wednesday morning: I can't leave the Beastie Boys out. Here's your second bonus, "So What'cha Want," summers 93-94. In 1993, Beavis and Butthead said "GarDEEnya," and my brother and I died laughing. In 1994, I put this track on a mixtape, and my brother and I drove around our Indiana town feeling way cool--probably way cooler than we were. "I got news for your crews: / You'll be suckin' like a leech.")

And if that leaves you wanting more, go visit summer 2004. Good times.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Field of flung lines.

After dinner--but before one of my newer neighbors started cooking something that smells so delicious that I have had to close my window, lest I should start desiring a second meal--I took the camera and strode out to the fields beyond the college, making up for not having had a ramble since Saturday. The temperature continues hovering in the high 50s and low 60s here, and things are fairly quiet out in this little corner of ours. Rabbits heard me crunching along the path and fled as though they were certain I was coming for them. Giant birds waited until the last possible second to take off. The sun was still high, even though it was after 8 when I headed out.

I walked as far as I believe I'm legally allowed to walk (though the farmer whose field is usually gated off would seem to have left his gate open so long that grass has grown up all around it--suggesting that I could probably have claimed ignorance had I wandered down his deep-rutted road and been found out), and then I started back, the lowering sun over my left shoulder. By the time I made it into the field closest to the college--the field from which my friends and I waited for the moon last week--I was walking back into the sunlight itself, and even in the late evening I could feel my shoulders warming. I turned to take yet another picture of the slowly setting sun, and that's when I realized that the whole field of low grass behind me was woven with spider webs, filament after filament laced over the land. And they were all glowing, all a-spark, golden-green and backlit by the sun.

In a sign of something, today I tried packing one box of clothes, just to see how much I could fit in that box that brought my quilts and sweaters to me last fall. As my friends leave, I start thinking about how I'm going to leave--the mechanics, that is, of getting these things out of here and back home. Soon I will be at the post office, packing ridiculously light boxes of books so that they qualify for the printed matter sent-by-sea rates. The only time I really think that something like the Kindle is a good idea is when I need to ship or carry books long distances. (Then again, if they made something like a Kindle that looked even slightly cool, I know myself well enough to know that I'd probably want one.)

Then, looking at someone's Flickr stream of pictures taken from a car on a highway, my brain went haywire, trying to make sense of what I was seeing. White lines, car on right side of line: car passing? Which is the slow lane? If I work hard, I can figure it out: if people pass ("overtake") on the right here, then the slow lane must be the right back at home, and we must pass on the left. But it's been ten months since I've driven a car, and my body has taken over the reverse directions necessary to do things like cross the street or look out the window during cab rides here. It was no problem to drive when I returned home in 1996, but that year I'd been home at Christmas and had driven then. I'm anticipating a set of startles when I return this time: both that my body will immediately know what to do, behind the wheel of the car I've been driving since that last return, and also that I won't be able to believe that it still remembers, when my intellect seems not to--for now anyway.

So go my days: from the sublime to the banal, in barely an hour.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bustin' makes me feel good.

Then there was that one day when, having been guts-being-forcibly-turned-inside-out-and-wrenched-from-my-mouth ill all morning, I spent the whole day dozing in bed, drinking a lot of ginger ale and (once the ginger ale started staying down, because my stomach was finally convinced that whatever toxin was in there had finally been purged) eating a few crackers, and watching Singin' in the Rain and then, for the first time in more than twenty years, Ghostbusters. And that day, partly because the very thought of coffee was utterly nauseating, by the time the sun went down, though still before the sky was even nearly dark, I was tired enough to clock out for the night. And no one minded that I didn't write very much that day--didn't even tell (for instance) the story about the father of one of my best elementary school friends, a man who used some technology or another on his brand new VHS VCR in, oh, 1985 to silence every instance of the word "shit," so that his young son (my little brother's age), could tell you proudly how many times they said the "s-word" in Ghostbusters. In my mother's retelling, it's always the "f-word"; I suspect that she remembers it that way because the very idea that it was better to emphasize a four-letter word than to have your child saying it seems so ridiculous that it would have had to have been a very, very bad four-letter word to prompt such action. But this man's wife once threatened to eject me, then only a nine-year-old Miss S, from a birthday party after I proclaimed that a dumb pop-the-balloon game we were playing sucked. Which, by the way, it did. So, the fact that the gleeful utterances her husband suppressed were only of "shit" isn't that surprising, after all.

Oh, childhood. So many memories come back when I watch the movies with which we were collectively obsessed in the early 1980s. Watch Ghostbusters now and you'll be amazed by three things: how gorgeous Sigourney Weaver was; how every male character lit up a cigarette (and often cracked open a beer) every time there was any pause in his labor; and how they busted all those ghosts without any access to mobile phones.

I'm hoping to manage coffee and toast first thing tomorrow morning.

* * *

A Ghostbusters postscript: Not until this post's comments started coming in did I realize that the title I chose wasn't an obvious allusion to anyone except someone who'd just rewatched Ghostbusters and thus reexperienced its theme song. If you care to follow up, it's at about 2:56 in this video. The video itself--with its celebrity cameos and Times Square dancing at the end--makes me wonder whether Ghostbusters, out in 1984, was the first movie to exploit the music video as marketing strategy. I'm guessing that it's not: it seems as though three and a half years (January 1981 to June 1984) would have been a long time to wait for this particular cross-media phenom to take off. But you can definitely see it happening there in the video.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Longest day.

Tonight is the shortest night of the year; tomorrow, we start that slow slide back to December. Fortunately the change won't be perceptible very soon. This morning, I found my college directory for the Long Vacation (July-September), and most of my friends were no longer in it, and there were the names of the people who will occupy our rooms when we are gone. Times are strange around here right now--too fast, too crowded, too close to the ending.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The way to Grantchester.

Because my Canadian friend is leaving, we decided to take the afternoon off and take our favorite walk, to Grantchester--a walk we'd somehow never done together. On the way there, she led the way but I found the moorchicks. On the way home, I led the way and we saw cows eating the leaves from low-hanging tree branches.

"So you're not a bait and switch kind of person?" she said, with regards to my love life. "Absolutely not," I replied. This seemed to help explain some things. Other things remain inexplicable.

I confessed my perverse desire to touch a stinging nettle, just to see what it feels like. All she had to say was that the sting comes from an oil in the leaves, and I suddenly no longer had that desire. Anything that even vaguely resembles poison ivy, or works by its mechanisms, is a thing I avoid.

"I remember when I didn't think that you and I would be friends," she said to me as we left our afternoon tea at the Orchard. I remember that, too. I'm glad we were both wrong, though I barely remember what made the difference. I think it was the night in November when she asked me to have a drink with her, after I gave her the copy of Middlemarch I'd gotten for her in the market. She's asked nearly everyone I know some blunt or awkward question or another; I've seen people have to tell her to step off on a number of occasions. But she's also on my list of people I can most easily imagine getting on a plane and coming to help me if I ever need her.

When the big cow broke into a run, we both laughed out loud.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The night we waited for the moon.

Last night the moon was full, and apparently it was one of those nights when an optical illusion made the rising moon look vast, vast enough to be hovering over the earth. But I didn't get to see it. Tonight, I rounded up a little crew, and we rambled into a nearby field, hoping to see something of a reprise. We arrived and waited, bundled up in our jackets and scarves (have I mentioned how cold it is here?), and we waited, until someone spotted a lightening in the southeast. And then we waited for a few more minutes, and then there it was--large (though not optical-illusion-huge) and gold and swathed in thin clouds. I had taken my monopod, but I needed a tripod for this one. Everything I got is just plain impressionistic. Just before we left the field, something small began chirping along the ground not far from us.

In a night field all one's companions grow smaller. You don't even have to walk very far away to experience this.

Today in the market: stall after stall of fruits and more fruits. I came home with enough to make four bowls full of redness on my kitchen counter: tomatoes, cherries, raspberries, strawberries. I will feast for breakfast.

I continue to feel that King's might be the most photogenic of the colleges, especially when they remember to order up the perfect blue skies and high summer sun.

And now their cows are back. These cows must be the happiest cows in the universe. Just look at this one's hairdo--and his "I can't believe I found grass this good" blissed out face. That field is the cows' version of my college.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Miscellaneous yet again.

I've pretty much decided that all bets are off between now and Sunday morning, when my Canadian friend, probably my dearest friend here, leaves. We keep telling each other that we'll see each other again--when I'm on sabbatical, or when we meet up in her home city, or when she comes to my little village. But I won't be able to see her across the terrace as she's coming back from doing her laundry. And I won't be able to break any more of her grocery store wineglasses with my thumb while just trying to clean my lipstick off their rims. And I won't have her around to have my back when particular people say, "Is that a new dress? I haven't seen it before." Because she's the person here who can retort instantly to something like that: "There's a lot about her you haven't seen."

She's the person for whom I'm happy to leave the dinner table in order to get trivial information (like what "Eton Mess" is, when that's the scheduled the dessert). And in three days, she won't be here anymore. And it's sadder than I'd have thought it could be, back when I first met her and she asked me embarrassing questions, just like she does to everyone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Home again, home again.

That trip? It was tiring. But today's conference? It involved nearly zero percent ridiculousness. And that, my friends, is what we might call an Excellence, and pretty rare for academic conferences, in my experience.

This image from my journey home pretty much catches how I'm feeling--which means that you'll get more interesting images and thoughts from me tomorrow, when I also hope to have food in the house.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I figure that if I'm very lucky, the conference for which I'm about to depart will turn out to involve something approximating whatever fun craziness was happening at King's yesterday evening.

One can hope.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Walking home from my piano recital this evening, I heard a ruckus arising out on the fen. These people were watching these geese, and the geese were making a racket not unlike that of our May Ball, only with greater hostility.

Of course I got out my camera and went over to see what was happening.

I kept a respectful distance and made no moves toward the geese, but some of them made moves toward me, ducking their heads and even occasionally hissing. I missed the focus on this one, but I want you to see this menacing bird:

Now, there wasn't a doubt in my mind about the fact that these birds could have messed me up, if they'd so chosen, and I was fairly sure that babies were involved in this scene somehow. It took me a little bit to find them, but then there they were:

When a duck family showed up and steamed right toward the geese, I expected to see a showdown.

But since no showdown seemed imminent, I headed on down the river. Hearing the telltale peeps of tiny moorchicks, I stopped and looked until I found the peeps' source:

Just in case you haven't gotten a sense yet of how cute these things are, and of how much I love them, know that they're probably about half the size of my fist, and look at this close-up.

I do not maintain my cool even a tiny bit when it comes to moorhens and their babies.

So, now: May Ball, check; piano recital, check; conference paper writing, almost whole check. Things are moving pretty fast these days. I want to go to sleep but need to have a finished speaking script before I do.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Having a ball, taking a break.

Suddenly, I hit the wall and couldn't be there anymore, and so now I am taking a break from the May Ball and resting in my room, still in my evening gown and my turquoise wrap and my evening shoes and my green Superhero necklace and my fake orchid hair clip. And my silver eye crayon. Though I've faked a timestamp for this post--because I really did mean to write before I went off to the event--I only have an hour to go before the "survivors' photo" is taken. And then I'm out of there: tomorrow there's that piano recital to give, and the rest of that conference paper to write.

Even though I'm not there right now, I can still hear "I Love Rock 'N Roll" (fortunately not the Britney-in-Crossroads cover) loud and clear. It's almost like I'm there. Because I almost am.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The sky is on fire!

At about 10:30 p.m., while I was talking on the phone to my Chicagoan friend, sorting through some of the nuances about which I'm writing for next week's conference, I was startled by an explosion and a flash outside. And then another. And then I realized!

The kids at the college across the street were having fireworks as part of their May Ball!

And these were not rinky-dink fireworks. This was a full-on Fourth of July pyrotechnic extravaganza.

Happening across the street from my flat.

These fireworks were being shot off from the enclosed garden at the college across the road. Surely that's not safe?

Whatever! After a minute or so, I realized that I was just going to start saying "Ooo! Aah!" over the phone, which seemed rude, so I excused myself, hung up the receiver, and went outside to watch with the other residents of my building. Two floors up, someone shrieked with what seemed to be genuine distress every time something exploded.

There were hisses and whizzes and whees. There were fireworks I'd never seen before. It was, in some ways, a more fulfilling display than the one in Edinburgh at new year's--if only because the smoke from previous fireworks didn't loom and obscure subsequent ones.

When the exquisitely loud finale had finished, we stood for a short time and listened to pieces of (still glowing) debris tapping to the ground all around the building.

Given that I'd already gotten to go, with a friend from my college, to see the assorted finery in which that May Ball's attendees were decked (while they waited in their block-long queue to get in to their party), I'd say this party weekend is off to a good start.

Would you like to see the dress that I won't be wearing tomorrow evening? (Alas.) The picture doesn't begin to do it justice (or, in other words, to explain to you why it even crossed my mind that a $300 dress could be a good idea): fortunately, I have a lot more flair than a headless plastic mannequin. In addition to its (stifled giggle) boned bodice, the dress features removable straps, so I wouldn't even have had to have worn it strapless. Instead, I will be wearing my trusty £40 evening gown for the fourth time. Now that's good value for money. I figure that tomorrow I'll take a break from writing this conference paper and rustle up a shawl somewhere in town--a doubly smart move, since it's only supposed to be 60º during the day tomorrow.

See what's happening to my mind? That's why I'm going to bed now. Tomorrow will be interesting: heavy brain work interspersed with a search for sparkly eyeliner and and a gauzy shawl and a way to pin flowers into my hair. Welcome to midsummer!

Today: 700 words (of my 3100 word conference paper). Gosh, I'm always startled by how well it turns out I know this genre, once I start writing within it. I'm just about at that moment where, having given your audience some facts they need, you tell them the argument you're going to make and then really launch into things. In other words, I'm right around the fifth minute. Before I perform this thing, I'll probably have compressed what I've written so far and made this argument moment occur closer to minute four, if not three.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yeah, screw that crap.

Last night, as I was suffering through the last throes of wakeful fretting over the lost necklace, I heard a ruckus starting up outside my flat. Now, I overlook a road, and across the road is another college. Said college is having its May Ball tomorrow night (and check out what these kids are going to be getting up to...). The ruckus taking place in the middle of the night had the distinct sound (i.e., loud bleeping accompanied by shouted directions) of large machinery being backed into place. And sure enough, when I looked out the window this morning, I saw the back end of the closer of these two trucks:

All I can read from my kitchen is FAIR. Which seems, if I may, fair enough, especially since I'll keep this part forever:

I may actually put an enlargement of this picture on my office door, just as soon as I have an office for the fall.
I may even do a diptych, using this one and another I took the other day:

Which is the noun and which is the modifier--well, that's something that I'll have to decide later. Or maybe I'll decide each day whether we'll be having OFFICE FUN or a FUN OFFICE.

Right now, I haven't been having much of either: I have a conference paper to give on Tuesday afternoon, and as always, I've been fretting. (Did I mention that I have a piano recital on Sunday afternoon, too? And that there's an all-night ball at my college Saturday night--though, sadly, with no Fun Fair? Is this a sensible line-up of events? Um, why not? I mean, it's not as though it gets dark before 10:50 p.m. Might as well use all these hours.) But tonight, after a very settling evening at Pilates for People Who Thought They Might Not *Get* Pilates But Wanted to Give It a Try, I reminded myself as kindly as possible that I have never given a crap conference paper and am not about to start now--certainly not when I'm scheduled to be talking about a text I've been studying for a decade. (And for those of you who knew about the Union Action that was potentially standing between me and this conference: the action was called off, as I thought it might be, and I had decided to be loyal to the conference instead of the union anyhow. So many other stories involved there.) My process has always gotten me through, and as the years have gone on, I've gradually become less of a brinkswoman. This paper, too, will be done and fine in plenty of time. Certainly well before the time I head off to a northbound train.

As your reward for listening to me think aloud all this time, I brought you a souvenir of my walk to Pilates:

These two were eating on the continuation of the footpath I take through the fen; you can actually see the pedestrian information map behind them. I was only a few feet from them and would have gotten many more shots even more fun than these had I not been hurrying to work out my core. Probably best for them, anyway: I was impeding their ability to eat that hedge (to the left in this picture) as vigorously as possible.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This despised thing.

I hate this--about myself, and about the situation I end up in over and over. But here it is again: at dinner, she sits between us, praises (and rightly so) the open fullness of my relationship with my parents, the ways we tell each other so many things, the way they let me curl up between them in bed the night I split with my then-somebody, even though I was 25, because I was still and am still their baby. She turns to him and says, "Do you tell your parents about your girlfriends?" "Well," he says, "there haven't really been girlfriends, until the current one." And I feel some little thing in my gut turn its face to the wall and breathe a sad, heavy sigh. Why should this be? How is it possible that I still haven't resolved this?

At some other moment--because people are starting to peel away and head for home, and because we're academics, and so we are analyzing and assessing everything most of the time but especially at threshold moments that lend themselves to retrospection--someone asks her what she was looking for when she came here. She turns to me and says, "Why did you come here?" I realize that there's one thing for which I'd hoped but that hasn't happened, and so I give the general answer, the one that encompasses: I came to recharge. I came to reassess some important things.

And I did. And I have.

* * *

As if dinner hadn't done enough to unsettle me, I had it dawn on me over the course of the evening that I haven't seen my Naxos eye necklace since April--since, specifically, the day my newest Superhero necklace arrived. Because I received it just before lunch, I took off the necklace I was wearing and put on the new one. I put the old necklace into the little pouch in which the new one had arrived. I now believe that, while cleaning my flat for the first of my visitors in May, I may have thrown out the envelope containing the little pouch. It seems so improbable, and yet my efforts to locate the envelope and/or the pouch have been utterly futile this evening. This loss makes me feel ill; a dear friend helped me pick out that necklace during our stay on Naxos in 1995, almost exactly thirteen years ago, and it has seen me through quite a lot in the meantime. Perhaps the worst detail of this frustratingly inane story is that I am still in possession of all manner of crap that I don't need, crap that I didn't throw out while I was cleaning the flat. And yet I suspect that the envelope and the pouch and my beloved necklace didn't survive the cleaning, simply because they didn't scream "you shouldn't throw me out unless you shred me first" the way my idiotic piles of junk mail did. Damnit!

There's nothing for this but to go to sleep, having said my prayer to Saint Anthony. But a tiny part of me can't help but wonder whether the loss of my Naxos eye--which is meant to be a good luck charm, and (even more than that) a protection from the evil eye--has somehow contributed to my loss of equilibrium in the past month. That part of me is already trying to figure out how to find a flight to Naxos and get a new pendant before heading back to the U.S.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Evening beauty.

As I write, it is 10:45 p.m. and the sky is not yet fully dark. In fact, tonight I've realized that it stays light even later than I'd thought; the sun now sets so far
north that the part of the sky that darkens last is no longer visible from my flat. The sun had barely set when I left my yoga class at 9:15.

Yesterday I began making a mental list of foodstuffs I'd buy when my replacement debit card arrived and I could access my money once more. I got as far as "cherries" and then got lost in a dream of eating cherries.

Today I bought cherries.

Yesterday I also figured out how to change my camera's settings so that its usual picture-taking mode involves more color saturation and contrast, two things for which I'm always correcting in Aperture. Now I'm watching to see how having changed the settings actually affects my pictures.

Here's the kind of shot where the difference is more likely to show up, but since I'm not being scientific about this, I don't have a comparison shot for you.

I will say, though, that that purple beech on the left is the most magical tree; once you're inside it, it doesn't look purple anymore. And it sings like the ocean, now that it has all its leaves.

Rumor--or weather report, depending on what you want to call it--has it that today was the last of our unbelievably beautiful days. We slide back to the mercurial 60s tomorrow; I'm hoping that this slide will bode well for my work.

Monday, June 09, 2008


People here are starting to complain about how hot it's getting--how it's too hot to work, too hot to think. Today we made it to the high 70s; a friend came back from London bearing reports of people behaving limply on the train, wilting away in the heat.

At dinner, it felt like old times, like the early days, when we wore summer clothes and lingered long past the ends of our meals. "You
do own short-sleeved shirts," I said to my neighbor when he knocked on my door before dinner. The table: academic men in short sleeves, academic women wearing t-shirts, peppered mackerel fillets, glasses of sickly sweet plum wine, a plum and apricot cobbler with surprise layers of fresh mint leaves cooked in and a tiny stream of fresh cream on top. After dinner, I lifted a wooden picnic bench all by myself, carried it across a patio. Having upper body strength--or any musculature at all--if you're an academic woman is a good party trick.

I'm going to stop kidding myself: I usually want to take pictures of the following things: flowers, grasses, leaves, fences, outbuildings, horizons, strange architectural features, stained glass fragments. For the next small while, flowers and grasses might completely occupy me. Having learned many British birds this year (and having very recently learned to find baby moorhens by sight or sound), I now find myself not knowing what I'm looking at, in terms of flowers. And I don't imagine I'll be getting a book about flowers. What I'm after is the color anyway. These, in Clare's Fellows' Garden, are a blueviolet that is beyond me.

Look at this picture, and you can see that the sun is bright here these days. At 10:45 tonight, one of the two friends with whom I'd gone to a pub said, "I should get back." The light had thrown us. It wasn't yet dark. I photographed these flowers at about 3:30 p.m. In December, the sun would have been nearly gone.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Day of sun, day of song.

Because exams are coming to an end, the students are starting to warm up for May Week, the series of boat races and all-night parties and general merriment and festivity that make up, well, the middle of June here in Cambridge. Today, Trinity College did its part to send us into the week with a song.

First, at noon, the choir sang from two of the towers in Great Court, and a brass orchestra played from the third tower. The day had dawned cloudily, but by noon everything looked and was perfect--perfect enough for a sleeveless dress and sandals, and perfect enough to leave me actually wanting to do not only the laundry but the dishes as well when I got home.

And so what was meant to be an afternoon of reading became an afternoon of reading and cleaning: washing some dresses in the bathtub (why did I use my sink for handwashing clothes all those years? how did I never think of the bathtub?), eating some French toast, making the bed up again, reading chapters of Hester while waiting for the dryer to finish. When the cleaning was over, I pulled a chair onto the porch and read in the sun until I fell asleep. When my hand fell asleep too, I got up and came back inside.

By this time, though I'd already had a full day, the sun was still high and bright, so I shouldered the camera and went out to explore the field at the end of Rifle Range Road, out beyond the college. For kicks, I went out with my portrait lens on the camera. Soon, I was fretting to myself about how nothing was focused the way I wanted it, how the lens is bad, &c., none of which turned out to be true.

As if that hadn't been enough for the day, Trinity College's choir sang us into the night, as well--this time, perched in a set of punts moored on one side of the river. My Japanese neighbor caught some snapshots of this scene's crazy festivity.

Why on punts? If for no other reason, then certainly to create the right conditions for an excellent departure: singing their way down the river, in the last light of the peak of the year.

And as if
that weren't enough for one day, not long after I returned to the flat, my Lexingtonian friends called up, and within half an hour, the littlest one, while snacking on some bread, held a piece out for me--a food offering for the computerized auntie, a fine way to send me off to Monday. I cut myself a slice of bread from my own loaf, and we had our snack together, over our thousands of miles of apartness.