Monday, August 31, 2015
A turn in the weather.
Last night, when we stepped out of my daughter's house in the evening, the sun hurtling toward the horizon as it does at the very most fiery end of the day, we all paused to notice the drama happening over there in the west. I thought about--and said--how beautiful the skies seem to get this time of year. The big billowy clouds. The sun rising and setting when we're getting up and getting home. Splashy, living for the moment. That's the light I'm talking about. The light is seizing the day.
Today, when I was driving from here to there, I noticed some new trees that had been recently planted on some high berm, marking the up-there freeway from its down-there offramp. They were perfectly oval, and cast lengthening oval shadows in a row. There wasn't time to look--I was getting off a freeway--but I felt some twinge that I couldn't see it properly. I wanted to fix it in my sight, in my memory. My imagined world.
I'm feeling the crush of not enough time. It's both a practical and an existential state. But I am loving what there's time to see, to do, to feel, right now while there's still lots of light and the really interesting shadows are getting ready to do their beginning and end of the day stretches. I hope to keep my eyes open.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Oh, hey, it's my birthday,
Am I older? I guess I am. Doesn't much feel like it matters, though. I feel good. I feel lucky for that, and grateful besides.
|thanks for the picture, Sophia!|
Saturday, August 29, 2015
At the farmer's market we discuss tattoos.
(Passing the henna stall:)
Me: If we wanted, we could get henna.
The historian: How long does it last, do you know?
Me: I don't, really.
The historian: Maybe two weeks? I thought the henna April did for Supriya was...
Me: ...so beautiful!
The historian: --yes. Amazing.
We walk on.
The historian: I've been thinking I could get a tattoo.
Me: (What!? Mind entirely blown.) ...I saw a post somewhere of super tiny tattoos that I thought were kind of cool. Like a little crescent moon right here (pointing behind my ear). Or, like, five tiny stars scattered across (sweeping gesture across clavicle).
Historian: (flexes bicep)(for real) I was thinking right here.
Historian: --like, maybe, a hammer and sickle. (considers:) Or Karl Marx!
Me: (whoa.) (pause:) Well, solidarity.
--and off we went, to buy peaches, peppers, and corn.
Friday, August 28, 2015
Today in ten good things.
2. Thinking, when I woke up, maybe I'll take a rest day, because I felt sore, but as the day wore on, thinking, nope, I'm gonna do another two-a-day. And doing it.
3. Knowing from the moment I sat down to eat my Frosted Mini-Wheats that we were going to see a movie later in the evening.
4. Getting to talk to my smart colleagues about exciting things.
5. Thinking with Charlotte about making the Publication Center* a micro-press. (OH YES it is happeninnnnnngggg)
< I will pause, so that you may reflect**. >
6. Eating a surprisingly delicious lunch in the Student Center.
7. Visiting with friends before whisking off to the movie.
8. A very good movie, a comedy, that had the grand advantage of being a perfect length.
9. A big big moon.
10. Thinking about going to the farmer's market tomorrow!
BONUS ten things: Ten Things I Hope to See, Eat, and Buy at the Farmer's Market Tomorrow:
1. a huge croissant
2. peaches galore
3. tomatoes galore
4. basil galore
5. maybe some berries?
7. it's too soon for Asian pears, but maybe some asian pears.
8. ALLLLllll the garlic
9. all the things to make fattoush
*don't judge this website...it is about to get freaking amazing.
** I hope LK knows that every time I use the expression 'I will pause, so that you may reflect,' it is in homage to her.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Reading list (and a few comments on the beginning of the semester).
Next year in Scotland... (thanks to my daughter for this one!)
Not that I am the sort to think real hard about the stock market, but 'The stock market is not the economy' seems like a good mantra.
Recommended by Nikwalk: this and this.
Written by Nicole Walker: this.
I could never.
The people, my moods, they have been up and down and up and down and up again. Perhaps the splendor of our Scotland trip has ruined me for my regular life. At least for now. Or maybe I'm almost over it. I worked out twice today, as if I were a high school football boy and as if I were doing two-a-days. That's what I told myself: I'm doing two-a-days. I am surprised, and why should I be, by the fact that the mornings are a little darker and the evenings fall a little quicker. Yesterday when I was doing pull downs, I heard Pat Benatar singing 'We Belong,' and I felt really, really good. If I were a karaoke person, this might be my karaoke song. I can sing all the parts. I won't deny that I sang it a little bit while I was doing the weights. I am not sick of Beck, 'Wide Open,' not one little bit. Tonight I had dinner with two colleagues, and we ate all manner of good things and sat on the patio and laughed while we ate. I came home and did one last orientation with online students who may or may not themselves be feeling dubious about the beginning of the new semester.
Fact: starting the new semester is an up and down and up and down and up again proposition.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
And a chaser of Apple Jacks.
But let me start at the beginning.
Tonight, I had my first two online orientation sessions of the semester. I logged in, clicked Share My Screen and let Adobe Connect do its fiddly little thing, uploaded my pdfs, and waited. I waited, and went to the inbox and refreshed it to see if there were messages--none--and went back to the chatroom. No one. So I checked this and that, read a great article about Serena Williams by Claudia Rankine, and another great article from The Guardian about the North Coast 500, a road along the northerly coast of Scotland, which sounds like I better do it. And another article about how if you eat late at night--which they defined, variously, as after 3 p.m. (! what?) and 4:30 p.m. (come on!)--you are basically doomed. Well, anyway, that's what I got out of it.
I refreshed. Nothing. Chatroom? No one.
Until about halfway through the putative session at which no one was in attendance, or so I thought. Then, I got two messages from different students that were all, Hey, we're in the chatroom--where are you?
Adobe Connect! Your fiddly business!
I should have closed and reloaded. Live and learn. Anyway, I hustled over to the chatroom where the students were, and we had a highly efficient orientation. I scrolled back through the chat--they had been talking about the favorite authors! What good students!
While I was refreshing and checking on the no one that was in my chatroom, whilst the everyone was elsewhere, that was when I got up and got that bowl of Apple Jacks. I finished it before I realized what was what with my chatroom fail, which, good thing, because once I had to hustle to the real chatroom and start orienting, I needed both of my hands and also my mouth. I had no time for Apple Jacks!
Why do I have Apple Jacks at my house? Because when my son and his family were here this summer, we had some Apple Jacks. I bought a box because it would remind me of summer and childhood and the mornings when children at breakfast at my table, when sweet cereal tasted like freedom.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Open letter to my Canvas course.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Not yet at 100%.
I did, however:
- roll content into its Canvas shell (sounds like delicious M&Ms, but it's not, not at all.)
- go to an exploratory meeting all the way across town at the university about strengthening the book culture of Salt Lake City.
- work out for the first time since coming back to America.
- upon leaving the gym, feel the sun beat down on my head like a hardcore curse word.
- make a truly exemplary salad.*
- exchange about a hundred emails in which we took the temperature of our instructional team** at regular intervals and also nagged our poor Canvas administrator nigh unto death.***
- re-narrate a screencast, and curse the name of YouTube when it turned up its nose at the upload.
- flounce in to the bedroom to finish my trashy novel and
- read a trashy magazine.
- consider my outfit for tomorrow.
- entertain low-level mental chatter about how impossible it's going to be to do what I need to do this semester.
- think about getting up at ridiculous o'clock to be there on time for my first meeting. WOE.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
The difference ten hours of sleep makes.
I also had this giant crushing papier-mache boulder hanging over my head by a very thin thread: the poem I promised to write for convocation, which is this coming Tuesday.
Have I known I need to write the poem all summer. Well, yes. Most of the summer, anyway. And did I start writing the poem back when I first heard about it? Kind of. Did I work on the poem on the flight back from Scotland? Sure I did.
And nonetheless, was I attempting the come-to-Jesus writing of the poem during the epicenter of the jet lag?
YES, okay? YES.
Anyway, I told my Scotland daughter about the crushing papier mache burden of poem I was fending off. From crushing me. This was after the davening and the head holding had already happened, but before the insult of the spicy curry and the head full of bees feeling. Here was our conversation:
What a sensible daughter! First of all, the suggestion to write a haiku, which: why didn't I *think* about/do that? And then the suggestion to find a poem I already had written! Why didn't I think about/do THAT?
Well, in fact, I did neither of these things. What I did was eat and whine about the curry, then come home and work on the poem.
At precisely nine o'clock, I took stock of the poem. It had two quatrains and many many many many single lines, aka 'notes.' I said (not aloud) SCREW THIS, walked into the bedroom and got under my faux fur blanket. And fell asleep until 10:45 p.m.
The historian took one look at me and said, 'Maybe I'll just take Bruiser for his walk and you can stay here.' I'm pretty sure I thanked him before I fell asleep again until seven a.m.
I woke up, looked at the clock, gave it a kiss (in my mind), and was practically whistling when I walked back to my laptop and wrote that poem like a boss. The End. Sleep is the answer to everything.
Friday, August 21, 2015
rather obsessively. It seems to me to be one of the most beautiful songs ever written.
When I've been to Scotland, it always seems that there are more civilized ways of doing things. Such as having smaller teaspoons for tea, and also for the other things that require spoons. I must have some, as it turns out.
I'm still reading those Louisiana crime novels. But soon, I will start reading a French detective novel, and after that, who knows? maybe this. Definitely this. And also this.
Available for pre-order.
Laughed really hard at this, which my son sent me to welcome me back to America.
My daughter predicted that this would be right up my alley, and she was so right. Also: I hadn't quite realized that it was directed by Jonathan Demme, director of some of my favorite movies!
My son finally sat me down and watched one of his favorite movies, which--no surprise--I also really enjoyed.
After reading this--along with the rest of America--I'm in a quandary about where to buy, well, everything.
School starts next week! I will be writing syllabi and getting my course ready and writing a poem for convocation. And putting together my outfits, of course. I hope your Saturday is more snack- and nap-filled than mine promises to be.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Things we did in SEA-TAC Airport whilst our flight was delayed and delayed and delayed again.
2. Talked about our favorite parts of our visit in Scotland. Thought with longing about what we would have been doing if we were still in Scotland.
4. Remarked upon the fairly filthy state of airports at the end of the day at the end of the summer high travelling season.
5. Slept in an extremely awkward posture upon the benches, using our overstuffed backpacks and a balled up sweater to make the armrests work in my favor, a nap that nonetheless ranks among the all-time great awkward public sleeps of limited duration.
6. Briefly considered eating the compensatory pizza the airline offered re the multiple delays. Pass.
7. Had the following text exchange with my son:
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
A last garden.
Last Friday, everyone else went to Fyvie Castle while Amelia and I went into Aberdeen. The walled garden there was so lovely that the historian wanted me to see it. So today, when the beautiful sunny weather of yesterday had turned again to rain, we went to see it.
|still green raspberries|
'I have to say, I think this is a truly Scottish thing, to be visiting a garden in the rain,' said my daughter. It is a beautiful garden, entirely worth several visits. We opened the umbrellas and took it in.
|inside the walled garden|
|still red blackberries|
|Scottish apples (James Grieve)|
|a lettuce so perfect it is a flower.|
It was the children's first day back at school. We walked with them in the morning and met them in the afternoon.
|chatting after school.|
|pretty excited to get there.|
Monday, August 17, 2015
At the top of a mountain.
I can't--after all the times we've been here--get over the beauty of it. All of Scotland, really, or almost. You're in the most dire industrial park or retail assortment of big box stores, and within fifteen minutes you're away into someplace wild, or into the beautiful patchwork of farmland, there with a visible stone circle up a hill in the middle of the golden field, the Maiden Stone by the side of the road. You just have to open your eyes and there it is: dazzling, all of it rolling past in a tapestry that only ends at the hem of the sea.
Around these parts, Bennachie is the hill to climb, and it's always been on the list of things we wanted to do, but we'd never done it. This was the day to do it: the sun shone in over the trees this morning, and it stayed sunny and fair nearly all the day long, as we had read it would. It took a bit of prying to get everyone with shoes and socks on, snacks packed, a hoodie, water bottles--but we got out, drove to the trailhead, and began.
It's not a hard hike, first of all, but it's not nothing, either, especially with kids, two of whom had not hiked it before. My daughter often hikes it with friends, timing their departure so that they arrive at the top in time to watch the sun rise. We weren't up that early today, of course. But the air was cool as we went, starting where the trees and shade were thick, then ascending above the tree line. The last part is a little bit of a scramble up some stone, through the remains of a Pictish hill fort.
From the top, you can see the farms and the hills around for miles. In the distance, you can see the village and other small towns. We stayed up at the top, though it was windy and cool, because it was also brilliant and spectacular in the etymological sense of the word.
Tomorrow the kids go back to school. Then, the day after, we get on a series of planes to return to our lives and home, and the work awaiting us there. And Bruiser, and the ones we love who live there. As always, it's time to leave, or nearly, and it will be good to be home. But it's the nature of these things: I don't want to leave even so.
|the beginning of the hike|
|up a stone section of the trail.|
|we're alive, dammit! (at the summit)|
|down a dry stone wall.|
|fireweed still a-blooming.|
|later in the day, we went to Findhorn, and the nature reserve there.|
|the tide was out.|
|it was Findhorn Bay, but you could see the way out to sea.|
|at the end of the day.|
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Yesterday, my daughter and I spent most of the day in Aberdeen having lunch and shopping. Today, we made waffles and little books, then went out, all of us. Both days, it was rainy, the kind of rain that comes down steadily, without a lot of fanfare but with not much relief in sight, and today it was even more like that than yesterday. If you look on the iPhone weather app for this town, you can see the animation for rain, drops coming down in perpendicular lines. It looked like that when you looked out the window, too.
It took us a little while to get out of the house, and by the time we arrived at the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park, it was fairly dismal. We were all just a little out of sorts. 'They've put in a lot of new, nice play equipment. But it's not much of a day for that, I'm afraid,' my daughter said. We walked at a good clip from the car park to the gardens. It was wet and we were a little quarrelsome.
|rain on the glass|
But once we were inside, the rain didn't much matter. We could see it--hear it, faintly--sheeting on the conservatory walls and roof, but the green world inside did its conjuring.
|venus flytraps (don't touch!)|
|fuschia, in the Victorian Corridor|
|brilliant I'm not sure what.|
|the desert. In Scotland.|
|in the tropics.|
|residents of the Winter Gardens.|
|My particular favorite beauties of the day.|
By the end of the day, it seemed like the gardens, plus a game of bowling, some fish and chips for the kids and some Thai food for the adults, restored us. And the rain stopped.
Friday, August 14, 2015
Other things I could do with my life, #537.
Seen in the Summer/Autumn issue of Scottish Gardner:
The owners of a restored walled garden on the island of Mull are looking for a keen gardener who would be willing to take over the plot on a long lease.
The garden, which dates from 1780, was until recently operated as a nursery for rare plants but has now become vacant.
Owner Jonathan Quinn says: 'We hope that whoever takes it on will also be willing to design and create a new garden around the main house. The site covers four acres and we are quite open-minded as to the style of the garden.'
It was in this house that writer Elizabeth Luard penned some of her books and it is believed that Beatrix Potter was a visitor there as there are illustrations of views in Peter Rabbit that are identical to those in the garden.
Anyone interested in taking over the walled garden should contact xxx.
He said, I was going to say.
As I've written these posts about our current visit to Scotland, I'm aware, sometimes acutely, of the imperatives of writing--to record; to make something with form out of the material of the day. To be true to the experience. To capture what is fleeting. Because these are daily posts, I almost always have a note or two, kept only for myself, about what I would add or do differently if I were to revise, or if I were writing the piece for a literary magazine. If it were to be in a book. If I were writing it solely for myself. There are things I leave out. Things I would give a different emphasis to, proportion differently. Sometimes I throw in details, attaching them in ways that I know I haven't yet full worked out, or haven't earned. When--if--I revise the piece I read last night to the historian, I know there are things I will add, feelings and small elements of the day, that will make it truer, in my estimation, that will make the form I give the experience feel, to me, more just.
I'm thinking about this because yesterday, we spent the afternoon at a beach in a small fishing village, Sandend, on the North Sea, and swam there in that cold northern water. And last night, as I considered opening my mobile blogging app, I thought, no. Not yet.
I just now wrote a sentence with loads of adjectives, trying to explain the not yet. Even that sentence: no.
As I woke up this morning, gray light in the window, I thought, I can write about why I don't want to write about it, not yet, and call it Rough drafts. I brought my tablet down to the kitchen. There are little brown birds in the grass, eating the seed Miriam scattered in the grass a day or two ago. It's raining. Yesterday, we had the beauty of a fine Scottish day, which is to say: sun, all afternoon long.
So what I'm doing is this: for all the reasons I can't yet put into words, I'm making a note of the day, and of this moment, the morning after, and saying, sometime, and probably soon, this experience will find its way into words, and I will be glad I waited. But for now, I'm just going to say I was happy, ecstatic, even. Doing this, all of us together--it was beyond.
Pictures, which I know I have posted elsewhere, but here they are again (right now, they are my memory-tokens):