Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Report from academia

I'm sitting in our airy room, trying not to collapse. All I want to do is lay me down on my fluffy green bed and drift into unconsciousness. 

But I shouldn't. I should memorize 10 lines of a poem for tomorrow. Only problem is that it has to come out of the Vintage Anth. of Contemporary American Poets, and thank you very much but I'm in a British mood right now. Like "Ideal Home" by C. Day Lewis (yes, father of Daniel).

If only there could lives enough, you're wishing? . . .
For one or two
Of all the possible loves a dozen lifetimes 
Would hardly do:
Oak learns to be oak through a rooted discipline. 

(I love this poem which is not on the internet. Especially the oak line.)

Or one of Heaney's Glanmore Sonnets.

I dreamt we slept in a moss in Donegal
On turf banks under blankets, with our faces 
Exposed all night in a wetting drizzle,
Pallid as the dripping sapling birches. 

But I'm resigning myself to New World writings. 

So the above is what I wrote last Wednesday. As in, a week ago when it was still August. Now it's the second of September, and I just got back from a nearby elementary school. On Wednesdays (soon to be Mondays), I get to spend 45 minutes with Leonardo, who is ten and from Mexico. Now, a fifth grade boy would usually not be my first tutoring pick, but last semester I experienced how sweet and hilarious they are and I pretty much want five sons now (with token daughter. Of course, after a night of babysitting the Sterling girls I think that all daughters would be pretty fun too . . . and all of this is so far in the future I don't even know why I'm thinking about it. Scusi.) Anyway, Leonardo is so funny, and I totally have a ball with him. He loves to tell stories and he gets so animated and excited that he has to stop on a word sometimes ("You mean we - we - we - we don't have school on Monday?!") which I do too so I love him. 
In fact, I love the whole ESL (English as  Second Language) deal at this school. Because when the kids walk into the ESL classroom, they can talk in outside voices and be animated and, well - themselves. They smile and laugh and (at least in Leonardo and Aymin's case) insult each other with fifth grade wit ("Well, you are just Mr. - Mr. Moustache!"). I just wish I had more time to go, because the kids need so much more help. So if you're in the area and would like to spend time with some awesome kids, let me know. 

I think you'll love it too. 

Life is crazy again, but good and full and rich. There are so many things to look forward to that I feel like shining sometimes. Folklore reunions, fall break in Tennessee, co-hostessing a Depression-era party in October (y'all come). Weekend dinners and weekly rounds of the RUF Ladies Who Lunch club. 

In other news, I have the most wonderful roommate and suitemates. Anna and I have trouble shutting off our chatterboxes before midnight, and Lauren and Shannon together have made me laugh more in the past week than this whole summer. Our room is pink-and-green pretty and homey and lamplight cosy. I'm not burning the coffee anymore. 

To stop and rest would be nice, though. Let's try that this evening. No homework or mindless internet after 9 pm. Ok? Ok. 

Friday, August 14, 2009

[EDITED VERSION] I have been temperate always, but

EDIT: You may have wondered why my writing suddenly turned willowy and gentle and beautiful in this post. Well -ahem- my dear friend Deborah and I pulled a switcheroo and wrote a guest post on each other's blogs! Only we didn't tell anyone. So that's her wonderful writing below. Method: Find Fleet Foxes song, pick a stanza, and write on it! My mini-essay can be found at Deborah's lovely site - make sure to keep reading and check out her thoughtful, beautifully crafted posts while you're there (of course, if you're a Samford folk, you know what I'm talking about). We had lotsa fun on Friday writing our mystery appearances, sipping tea and laughing when we found out we'd ended exactly the same way.

Today is one of these rare, refreshingly alive-feeling days (at least, rare in the summer; the heat alone is almost enough to wilt me and when the humidity is up it well nigh saps the lifeblood out of me!). Those are more common in the spring, when all about me appears new after the bland sameness of the frosty months.

Really, though. Even now in mid-August, I find myself wanting to go skip through the ankle-deep manicured meadow (that is, the campus Quadrangle), proclaiming to anybody and nobody who'll listen that life is beautiful and wondrous and, well, alive. Problem is, it's another week before most of campus returns and, in all likelihood, there will be nobody there to listen. I feel as though I've prematurely arrived to a play, presented my ticket, and found only the empty, incomplete set on the stage (but I have been so anxious to see this performance that I don't mind it--I've gotten an early glimpse, that's all). However, now it's whet my appetite for more.

And there I go, about to wear out that old line from Shakespeare in which "all the world's a stage." Can't I just say, "I'm ready for school to begin again," and be done with it? But it's more than that now. It reminds me of quiet weekends on campus when everyone's off home or on some adventure and I go outside to enjoy the surrounding view--then realize no one's here to share the moment with me. Not to mention that in order to get into this little haven from any direction requires quite the climb up and over and down these leafy green hills. One lyric keeps weaseling its way into my thoughts: "Come down from the mountain, you have been gone too long... Darling, I can barely remember you beside me--you should come back home, back on your own now." (and isn't it interesting how a song seems to find me in the precise moment I need it?) Other times I might find the situation lonely and somewhat depressing, but I guess the anticipation is what's so invigorating today. Looking forward to returning here as a resident and not just a guest in a dear friend's dormitory. To welcoming back everybody I've missed in the past two months. To do all the catching up I can stand and sail into the year with fresh energy.

I'm just ready to see the life return down from the mountain.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Walls Fall Down

Finis! Almost. With the research project, that is. I took the 50 pages to the good Doctor today and she approved, and I was grateful. Now all that remains is some final tweaking.

The meeting also changed my fall schedule. Dr. S. offered me a TA position in one of her classes. I did some quick mental calculation, realized that the only two classes that mattered (Poetry and Tap) didn't conflict, and gave my enthusiastic "yes."

You see, something strange has been happening. All my life - and I do mean all my life - I have shunned the profession of teaching with all my being. Not because I dislike teachers or disvalue teaching. After my parents, I count my teachers and professors among the most important influences in my life. In fact, that was one of the reasons I avoided it - my favorite ones are so good (like Mr. and Mrs. C.) that I took it as one of my reasons for not teaching. You must love teaching to be a good teacher, I'm convinced, and I didn't want to sell any future students less than the genuine goods. The only folks I looked forward to teaching were my own little childer in that far-off day after husband and lots of maturing time (and that I really do look forward to. I'm obsessed with putting together curriculums. It's a sickness. I can't wait).

Lately, though, lately - okay, farther back than lately - my objections to teaching have started to crumble. Like when I was thinking about my desires for future career - point 1: A combination of solitary work and involvement with people. Teaching: check. Also, I love to find out new things and tell people what I've found. And when I realize teaching can combine drama and counseling and writing and idea-talk, all things I love.

So, ok, I'm trying not to get all gung-ho, I'm just saying I'm open where there were once defenses. And I'm actually really excited. I get to teach for a week! That's very frightening and I need to start preparing now. Can I wear my plaid skirt?

So I'm dropping the 6 credit JMC course and becoming a teaching assistant (maybe I can actually have time for a job and earn some money).

I just hope the other kids don't think I'm a freshman.

(This calls for a wardrobe revamp. I'm guessing Nickel Creek shirts and denim don't say "professional." Which reminds me that Chris Thile is coming to B'ham in October and I bought my tickets last night. Lemme know if you're interested, we'll have a bluegrass party before. Anyway, now I am seriously going to accomplish productive things that do not involve eating Yoplait and reading Harry Potter).

Strange, isn't it, how when I try and make things work out they get so tangled. And opportunities like this - the research job, the teaching position - just fall into my lap.
And even my inner skeptic can't ignore the hand of God.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


A week ago, I went to Santa Fe. It was pretty. There was purple sage everywhere.

On the way to Taos, we stopped at a chapel. There was dirt inside that people say is holy. But my favorite part was the horses and creek and mountain.

There was so much to drink in on the High Road to Taos - every new bend of the road revealed a view so beautiful we'd all gasp and try to say something that would express our wonder.

We never could. And I wished the camera could take perfectly clear pictures out of the car. But the wildflowers are still lovely.

First stop in Taos? Kit Carson's home, of course. Did you know he was my height and weighed 130? That's only ten pounds more than me. Scrawny little mountain man. But tough. Yes, very tough. One day, though, he took off his hat and coat and never put them back on.

Our first night in Taos, we drove out to the gorge at sunset. I didn't want to walk across the bridge, but by the time the others had walked it and come back, I had decided I need to increase my risk-taking skills. So I dragged them back across with me. And I must say it was beautiful. A bit difficult to appreciate when a 2 ton vehicle hurtles past you at 55 mph, but beautiful nonetheless.

And that just helped develop my brave side. Which is the size of a pea.

So when the others were living dangerously on the bridge the first time, I was wandering along a well-fenced path beside the gorge. I saw a rainbow. I shouted to my family: "Look at the rainbow!" Then they came back and we noticed that the rainbow stretched from the foot of the mountain where I noticed it to the other side. All across the valley. And as if that wasn't amazing enough, then we noticed something else.

It was a double rainbow. Yes, by some weird and beautiful physics of light, the rainbow was reflecting a mirror image of itself, creating two rainbows.

You should know I took a lot more photos of the rainbow than I'm putting on here.

I liked Santa Fe, but I loved Taos. As in, think I could live there. For a while at least. Longer if I got double rainbows at least once a week. There is no humidity, it's 55 degrees at night, and the moon is almost frighteningly enormous and gorgeous. There are also apple trees and skiing. And something about being among the mountains makes me feel secure and free at the same time.

Or maybe that's just altitude sickness.

Best of all, though, about the Santa Fe trip - our amazing family. Jim and I were not looking forward so much to the big family gathering our first night there. Mom might be close to them, but we didn't know them and couldn't we just make a quick escape to the hotel? 3 1/2 hours later, we emerged from sweet Roberta's little adobe home raving about how much we loved our new-found relatives. All of them were so nice. Above are Aunt Roberta (87, who still gardens and cooks and runs around and has way more energy than I ever will. Did I mention she baked an exquisite cherry pie the night this was taken?) and her daughter Pat (or Mama Pat, as she instructed us to call her). Not 24 hours after we'd been holding our breaths about the family party, we were eagerly scrawling down Pat's number so we could visit her and Bob on Saturday night. And now Mama Pat and her hilarious husband Bob want us to come visit them and ski this winter. They are kind and sweet and generous and laugh a lot.

Yes. Jim and I sort of adore them now.

Besos, Nueva Mexico. Hasta luego.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Method, Please

I've discovered my perfect work method. Wake up, coffee, read. Between 8 and 9, position self on too-high crisp, fluffy white bed with matching white Notebook. Write steadily all morning (for me, about one page, unspaced 12 font Times). Oh, and this helps:

A window-perfect, gauzy fog, rain.

If you follow this method faithfully, you will end up with a ten page paper (and growing), and all without delving into the cigarettes or eating all the cashews in the house (note: I do not smoke, and never will because of this winter. But sometimes the wrist-slitting intensity of writing makes me want to really bad. As for the cashews? They're why I've taken up Pilates. Now back to our regularly scheduled program).

Results not guaranteed for anyone without an Anna brain. You blessed, blessed people, of whom I am very envious because surely you do not like climb the stairs a dozen times acting like different characters (I was running stairs. I needed something to make it interesting. So far I have climbed as Scarlett O'Hara, Miss Minchin, the ubiquitous gullible person that climbs into the attic and gets eaten by the monster in countless horror films, and Anne getting married in Anne's House of Dreams. I think I'm ten years old . . . don't tell college).

Anyway. Write all morning. Editing and physical tasks in the afternoon. It's a needed balance. You've no idea how much I enjoy mopping the floor and cooking supper after I've forced myself to sit and work. And you've no idea how empty the mopping and cooking can seem without the blood-sweat-tears thinking work.

In other news, I just picked the first tomato from our tomato plants and I am going to New Mexico tomorrow.

(Left the Sweet Dog at a bona fide boarding place. Broke my heart to leave the stinky lug of shedding hair. If it's this bad with an outdoor pet, how much harder to leave a kid in day care . . .)

I'm excited because from what I've read, Santa Fe is all about art, history, outdoor-sy stuff, and good food. Wonderful! I'll be sure to post photos on return.

Also of interest: I read an article in yesterday's paper about how you can travel around Europe living at people's farms and working for room and board and this is what I want to do. I want to go to Switzerland and live like Heidi.

But first, one more year of school. And my but I'll be surrounded by such good people. For this, I'm thankful.