Friday, October 31, 2008


And a happy, non-threatened Halloween to you, too.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I was shooting, and then a bird was there, quiet and stilled. And was I ever glad I'd paused.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tree on fire.

As in, I saw a.

By the way: -43 words today. It's not astounding, but it's momentum, and momentum matters.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Today: one of those days when my main job was to talk, and to talk and to talk and to talk. By the time I reached Bach at 7, my own silence was a loud relief.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hazards and safeties.

I have such a love affair with early cinema that it is nearly dangerous for me to teach: it's too hard to stop, too hard to come down once I get started on what I know, what I wish I knew, what I know some of but want to know more about.

I'm proud to report a word count of -267. That's nearly a page. I'm perhaps equally proud to say that as of this week, I am formally someone's piano pupil again. Thursday is my first lesson, and tonight I did my first practice session since June, remembering with each key I hit why it is that playing is good for me: it's one more labor that can't be done all at once, one more field where the body needs time to learn its way and to keep to it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Down with blocks.

This week, I feel as though I've barely had words to spare, even for myself. Tonight, I relocated my copy of Professors as Writers, one of the writing guidebooks that didn't make the trip to England with me last year, and read a couple of its chapters. Maybe it has to do with the fact that one of my classes launches into Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland this week, and that I'm reading Through the Looking-Glass (possibly for the first time) in order to supplement our discussions, but somehow I've convinced myself that I can turn my world upside-down again, just by force of decision and will. Of course, I have a long, long history of making ambitious schedules, failing to carry them out (because they're well-nigh inhuman), and then, in my grand frustration, calling myself self-denigrating names. But at the very least, I'm hoping that my attempt to re-set my priorities will result in a daily practice more in line with what I want to do with this life.

Who knows--I may even restart my word count, though perversely, my first writing task is a reduction, since the journal to which I submitted the essay on which I have been working intermittently since February has requested that I trim eight to ten pages (out of about thirty-six--not such an unreasonable request, simply a suggestion that I sacrifice some darlings if I'm going to see this one in print). Perhaps I'll restart the word count as a negative page count.

Whatever happens tomorrow, though, I'm now constantly calling to mind the fact that everything, from here on out, comes into being through the smallest of increments: one little thing at a time. Bird by bird.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sights to behold.

I watched this squirrel whip his tail in a circle.

The full scene from my window:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Down, out.

Tonight: big festivities, big. Eating, dancing, schmoozing. Pool-playing. Too much to be so epigrammatic about, but epigrammatic seems to be the way of things, these days.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Again, I say: escape to dinner.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Entanglements and puzzlements.

Sometimes the only thing for a busy week is to take oneself out to dinner.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bright, bright.

So many stars tonight on my way home that I almost forgot that I've almost forgotten what it was like to cross the Cam in the dark.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Small sorrow.

First I left my camera away from home last night, and now I don't seem to be able to make it talk to the computer. This state of affairs is no good. And I had a picture I really wanted to give you this evening. I am starting to do the things my father taught me: if there's a cable involved, try a different cable. Try a reboot. Try different permutations of plugging the camera in, plugging the cord in. And nothing. So, here's a birdhouse instead.

Perhaps the machines will be happier in the morning.

Gah! [A postscript, moments later.] And now I've dropped the cap for my hot water bottle right down the drain of my bathtub. Clearly, something has gone wrong with my overall vibe.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


For awhile, I felt bad that I couldn't quite master getting the VOTE poster in my sidebar to be smaller, more in proportion with the rest of what's over there. And then I decided that I didn't feel bad about it at all, actually, because it's possible that there's nothing more important to do, for the fate of the whole planet, than to remember to go pull a lever, or touch a screen, or make an X on a paper, or do whatever is that your state and county have you do, either before or on November 4. So, my dear readers, from now until November 5, when you turn up here, you'll get the reminder. Don't forget. Don't let others forget. If you can do it early, go do it. Don't disenfranchise yourself.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Huzzah, huzzah.

As if a week's ending in teaching happiness weren't enough, today I learned that I placed in the local environmental center's annual photography competition. It's nothing like the prizes my brother has won for his work, but it's welcome and gratifying validation nonetheless.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I do not back down, and I do not give up hope. Period.

Also, you all (or at least you all who are my long-time readers) know me well enough to know that I'm not bragging when I tell you that I've had a student from each of my classes actually thank me for a class session in the past two weeks. I'm telling you because it's been the great dawning realization of my week, figuring out how much less anxiety and how much more joy I feel in my classrooms this semester, which is in no way to suggest that it's easy. Teaching takes all of me--intellect, emotion, humor, compassion, physical stamina, patience, humility, focus, concentration--and it takes it for 80 minute stretches. This year, more than ever before, I feel as though more of the individual class sessions I conduct actually have shapes and purposes of their own. We move faster now than before I went away, and we push harder on almost every single thing that comes up. And I know, every day, that I'm supposed to be doing this work.

By the end of this afternoon's faculty reception for our ongoing family weekend, a pair of grandparents had told me that they were ready to sign up for one of my classes, and the mother of one of my students had pulled me aside to tell me what my class started saying about me as they left the lecture hall this afternoon. Which means, I think, that they must be able to see how what I'm doing lights me up inside--even when what I'm doing is delivering a 40-minute presentation about the MLA International Bibliography--and that, in turn, must be lighting them up at least a little, too. There's a lot of intellectual love flying around over here, these days.

I have tried not to talk about my job here very often, but today it's just not tenable to leave it out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Before the rain and the cold.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why I love my workplace.

After preparing for class all morning, reading and commenting on essay topic proposals all early afternoon, teaching for 80 minutes, and then attending an hour-long committee meeting, I walked back toward the officehouse and encountered a herd of cattle in front of the college library.

Here's what education looks like where I live: a sculpture class built these beasts and grouped them on the lawn this week.

No place is a paradise all the time; there's a reason the word "utopia" comes from the Greek for "no place." But this place comes pretty close, a lot of the time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bit by bit by bit.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Tonight the moon was high and bright enough to throw my world blue and cast my shadow before me on the walk.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More signage, and a departure.

Easily the best sign I saw today was in the women's restroom at the Nashville International Airport:


Whoa! I thought. I didn't know they could do that! And I didn't have the guts (or the patience) to drag my camera out of my camera-and-computer backpack to get the picture.

Before I left the restroom, there was yet another great one:


Since I'd already complied, I'm hopeful.

It's always hard to leave my family behind.

Tennessee signage.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How to (try to) pull a fake out.

Learn it from your parents: sometimes the best way to show your love involves a lot of scheming and a small collection of falsehoods.

Start planning in advance: with a 60th birthday and a 38th anniversary coming up, you might want to do something special. Check flights to be sure you can afford to get to where your brother lives. Check with your brother to make sure you'll be welcome. Once he's on board, let him take care of getting your parents to where he lives. Stop talking to them about what you'll do during your own vacation: float the story, by way of your brother, that your work has started pressing upon you so hard that you can't even think about leaving town. (Feel a little extra stressed at the possibility that you might not be lying about that part.) Use your blog to reinforce this idea. Tell your parents that you, too, were invited to come down to your brother's place for the weekend but just can't manage it.

The day of your flight, call your father to wish him a happy birthday. Confess that you're going to Columbus, but only mention that you're going for a haircut (and only mention it because he, too, is getting one, as part of a birthday day off). Do not mention that when you leave your salon, you will keep heading south, park the car in the remote lot, catch the shuttle bus to the terminal, and check in for a 4 p.m. flight to Nashville. Call your brother to let him know you're on the plane.

Interrupt your end-of-flight conversation with your seatmate, a mortician, to call your brother and let him know you're on the ground. Retrieve your bag. Walk out the door to find your brother waiting for you. Zip off into the rush hour traffic and finally get to see the home to which your brother relocated even before you left for England.

Eat large portions of barbecued pig for dinner. Shop for food and drink. Place second call of day to parents. When asked what you will do with your break, say, "Grade papers," which is no lie--simply a statement that leaves out all the other things you're doing. Like learning to play Pain and Velocity Bowling and Guitar Hero. Not to mention where you're doing them.

Sleep on the couch. Get up early to grade some papers. Watch a bit of Barack Obama continuing to be the most presidential man in the country. Resist the impulse (yet again) to make a pact with your brother that if one of you collapses financially, s/he can move in with the other.

Pick up your horoscope (which is also your brother's) for the day:
You like to make big decisions and fly by the seat of your pants, but today is a good time for planning things out to the last detail. You should be able to come up with something approaching genius!
And go off into the morning to launch sibling adventures...

At the end of a day packed with comings and goings, walking and eating and shoe-shopping and vegetable-chopping, see your parents. Have said to your brother ahead of time that this time, you will know whether they knew your secret all along: your father has been wanting to give you a couple of presents lately, and if he's brought them down here, it means that he probably knew.

By bedtime, stomach full of pasta and salad and bread and wine, go to sleep near your new-old copy of a guide to architectural standards and a Keuffel and Esser Map Measure, while your parents sleep in a king-sized bed at a hotel across town. Figure that maybe next time, you'll really really take them by surprise.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Where I come from.

Today was my wonderful father's birthday, and I'm glad that he and my mother had the smarts to marry the day after his birthday, back when they decided to marry. Now, every year, he leaves his birthday (on which, this year, my mother bought him a cake-for-two and let him eat the flower) and goes directly into getting to celebrate having ended up for life with his favorite person in the world. "Papa got sixty kisses today," my mother said when I called home to continue the birthday conversation I'd begun with my father before he and I both had to run off for haircuts. "And I'll get lots more," he added.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


We all held out, and now we can rest a little.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Not even slightly representative.

If I were to give you a picture of what my day actually looked like today, it would have to be a messy, confused, overcrowded and underdone thing. So here's another shot of our gorgeous fall, more golden than ruddy this year.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Going on with my bad self.

The more crazed things get in the world at large, the more surreal it begins to feel, all this marking of papers and discussing of novels. But then, wouldn't you know it, our readings for this week turn out--bless those Victorians--to be all about economic collapse, economic justice, community and currency. Currency indeed.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Watch the birdie.

On my way across campus this evening, I saw a crow with something in his mouth. At first, I thought it was his comfort object: he just kept it in his mouth as he sat there. And now that I look at the picture I took, I can see that it was a French fry. Some things are simply inexplicable.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Evening falls again.

I worked variations in my head the whole way home:

Against the cold dusk, a gold light was burning.
Against the light cold, a gold dusk was burning.
Against the cold burn, a dusk gold was lighting.
Light the cold dusk against the burned gold.
Gold against light, the cold dusk was burning.

Cold-burning light against what has dusked gold.

Friday, October 03, 2008

No slowing down.

At 1:45 p.m., I left the house with my hours of class preparation on my shoulder. At 11:45 p.m., I walked back in with my hours of class, committee interviews, film viewing and discussion, and brief end-of-day socializing on my head. It is now the somewhat busy time.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Representing my day.

It wasn't even slightly like this today, on the outside, and yet the accumulation of things just kept happening, and by the time I climbed into this bed, there were whole bunches of them--whole hanging clusters of little fruits grown from what has been my busy day.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Breathing space.

Because it felt just as hectic today, despite my having been able to spend the morning at home getting ready for my afternoon class, I made myself slow down and take the long way to the library before heading home. And wouldn't you know it: halfway there, I ran into these little monsters, all over one of my favorite trees.