February 2004

Downtown mural, Keene, NH

You know, yesterday I realized that if the Keene Chamber of Commerce ever happened upon my blog, they’d have a coronary. Here I am giving the whole blogosphere the notion that Keene’s a crappy town filled with run-down, decrepit factories! So this photo provides a more Chamber-of-Commerce approved version of our happy little town. Come to happy, shiny Keene, where we have good fortune, vitality, and bagels a’plenty! In our rainbow-happy world, we walk hand-in-hand with persons of all races and sizes, communing joyously with one another and with nature…

Yeah, whatever. It’s a cool mural, and it gives me a way to show PEOPLE (albeit imaginary ones) without having to face my “issues” with photographing actual identifiable strangers…

In an unrelated story, I’m beginning to think that Kathleen from unsettled is stalking me. (Of course, she might think the same about me…) I don’t usually get paranoid about this sort of thing: delusions of grandeur, yes; paranoias, no. But if the big wide world of cyberspace continues to get any smaller, I’m going to be entirely creeped out…

See, although my blogroll is listed alphabetically, in my MIND its members are separated into several groups. There are, for example, the place-bloggers I know via Ecotone. I have Zen blogs and Christian blogs and New Hampshire blogs and photo blogs and how-the-heck-did-she-ever-find-this-one blogs. In my mind at least, these categories are pretty well-defined: although there is, of course, nothing stopping people from browsing anywhere, I just don’t expect to see Fred commenting on Dakini or Ivy brushing elbows with BigHominid. Nothing’s STOPPING these folks from meeting and mingling, of course, I just don’t EXPECT it. I mean, they all know me, but I don’t necessarily expect them to know one another: I mean, how would they…

It’s like when you’re showering at the gym: you’re not expecting to run into your boss or co-workers (unless, of course, you work out at work). And when you go to your kid’s play-group, you aren’t expecting to run into folks from the gym, and you don’t expect to see co-workers at your church, or the mall…

In the “real world,” we run in various circles, but these circles often don’t mix or mingle. And so we have a certain persona or image that we cultivate in one place that might not fit in another: the way we act at the gym or at play-group or at church might not match the way we act at work. Our best friend at work might have nothing in common with our favorite drinking buddy, and neither of them might have anything in common with our spouse…

So, imagine the weirdness that ensued when earlier today I clicked on over to this site only to find it linking back to, you guessed it, Kathleen. Now, I’ve met Kathleen, I adore Kathleen, and I’m loving the fact that she bought me margaritas to celebrate the completion of that last diss chapter draft. (Thank you, thank you, thank you: tequila make me happy!) But never in a thousand million years was I expecting to see a reference to Kathleen on moleskinerie. I mean, Kathleen might have some self-admitted obsessions, but a OCD-ish insistence on a certain kind of notebook just ain’t one of ’em!

Colony Mill Marketplace, Keene, NH

Okay, so a site I read links back to another site I read, whose meticulously anonymous author I’ve met in person: big bleepin’ deal. Well, the creepy coincidences don’t stop there. A couple days ago when I mentioned slipping on ice and landing in a mud puddle, that happened in the parking lot of this local marketplace, which I know Kathleen sometimes frequents. At the moment when I fell, I was actually thinking about Kathleen, as in “Wouldn’t it be funny to run into Kathleen…” So when I thought I heard someone calling my name (great, now I’m hearing voices), I turned to see if it was she when SPLAT into the puddle I fell.

Yeah, so? Well, come to find out that Kathleen WAS shopping at this very same marketplace that afternoon, and on her way home she saw what she thought was a random woman walking a fluffy red dog but who turned out to be yours truly, unrecognizable in my Russian-style fake fur hat…

So you see, I think she’s following me. Or I’m following her. Or maybe this town/blogosphere just ain’t big enough for the both of us.

92 Water Street

Thanks to Kathleen at unsettled for pointing me toward Photo Friday, a site which features links to various photosites with images on a particular theme. This week’s theme is industrial, which is a great excuse for me to post more pictures of the abandoned factory right down the street from our apartment here in Keene.


Chris says I’m obsessed with this factory, and he’s right. I’ve photographed it more than a dozen times from various angles, in various lights, and in various weathers. The sidebar portrait of me standing with arms crossed in front of a brick wall was taken right next door to this factory, and the photo on my writing page shows me sitting on its loading dock.

Someday when I have the time, I suppose I’ll do some research into the history of this factory. Who worked there, and what did they make? Whatever became of the factory’s owners when it closed: why has it been left to crumble into decrepit neglect? I’ve read occasional headlines about the city trying to sell the property to entrepeneurs who would demolish the building and clean up the site, but nothing ever seems to come of it: apparently the property is contaminated with whatever industrial detritus was leftover from its commercial heyday, so developers shy away from its brownfield status.


In the meantime, although I admit it is a civic and aesthetic eyesore, a haven for drug dealers and derelicts, there is something that attracts my eye whenever I walk past. Compared to the perfectly manicured facades of most of its neighbors, this building has character and a silent story to tell: here’s a veteran who’s been through the wars, an industrial casualty. And in a day and age where plastic surgery, botox, and miles of cosmetic shelves promise endless youth, it’s extraordinary to see the natural and inevitable process of decay, the beautiful way that the remembered goldenrods of summer work to reclaim even the most shattered facade.

Photographing photographers, Keene, NH

I usually don’t take photos of people because I’m ultra-sensitive about people’s privacy: the last thing someone needs is me sticking a camera in their face & then posting their image to the web. But yesterday I couldn’t resist taking this photo of a unidentified man taking a photo of Keene’s most photographed landmark, the Congregational Church at the head of Central Square. I’ve actually never photographed this famed church steeple, so it’s fitting that I’ve finally captured the bottom half of it as the backdrop of someone’s back.

After I returned home and uploaded this and the rest of yesterday’s photos (including a shot of the barbershop pole that was behind us as Anonymous Photographer went about his sight-seeing and the dog went about his site-peeing), I had a weird thought: wouldn’t it be creepy if this Anonymous Photographer turned out to be Ron from du jour? Ron’s from New Hampshire, of course, and even though he’s located in a different part of the state, he has in the past posted photos from Keene. So if this turns out to be Ron…well, friend, I’ve got your back. If it’s just some random shutterbug…well, same to you, bud.

Barbershop pole, Keene, NH

Today the dog and I took a longer-than-usual walk. It’s sunny and just under 40 degrees here in Keene: a New Hampshire heat wave. Everything is melting and the sidewalks are nearly clear of ice. (I say “nearly clear” because halfway along our walk, I slipped on a water-covered patch of ice and landed on my ass in an ice-cold mud puddle. Had this been a Zen story from long ago in China, I would have gotten enlightenment. Instead, I got a soggy bottom.)

Anyhow, today the dog and I took a longer-than-usual walk over to the K-Mart Plaza here in Keene to retrieve this CD. See, Chris had lent it to one of our Zen friends, and he had mailed it back to our Zen group address, and the Zen group’s post office box is located in, of all places, the K-Mart Plaza. Hence the dog and I took a longer-than-usual stroll retrieve the Zen group’s mail, including this cherished CD…

I’ve mentioned our friends Frank Wallace and Nancy Knowles before in this blog. A link to their beautiful website is on my sidebar under “Misc,” and earlier this week I made passing reference to their fabulous new CD, Woman of the Water. But let me take a chance to explain why you need to rush right over to their website and buy one, possible several, of their CDs…

Frank and Nancy are world-class musicians, and by fortuitous accident they live a couple towns over from us. Frank is a renowned classical guitarist, lutenist, vihuelist, and baritone, and Nancy is a spectacular soprano, poet, and photographer. Together they are Duo LiveOak, performers of a wide repertoire of songs including both early music and Frank’s original compositions. Frank and Nancy are marvelous in concert and just good solid people to have as friends. In an age where Britney and Justin and Janet get way more bandwidth than their slim talents deserve, Frank and Nancy have managed to put two sons through college on what they earn as full-time, independent musicians.

Yep, that’s right. Duo LiveOak is a 100% Ma & Pa enterprise. Frank and Nancy run their own record label, Nancy designs their record packaging, and Frank produces gorgeous editions of his own compositions. If you’ve ever wanted to quit your day job in order to pursue your Art full-time, Frank and Nancy can tell you what that’s like: they’ve been doing it for years.

Any one of Duo LiveOak’s CDs would be worth your time and money: it depends on your musical style. Their new CD, Woman of the Water, is fresh and modern, with complex, surprising melodies and lyrics by the likes of Theodore Roethke, Rumi, and Shem Tov Ben Palquera. If you’re more of a traditionalist, check out Piva, a lush collection of Spanish and Italian Renaissance songs. Nancy’s voice simply soars on this CD, wonderfully counterposed with Frank’s playing and singing. And if you want a rich rendition of classic German composers, check out Duo LiveOak’s version of Schubert and Mertz: Frank’s playing on this CD will put your jaw on the floor. (The man must have four hands…and a larynx of gold.)

And if you prefer instrumental music, check out Frank’s solo CDs. The eponymous Frank Wallace, his own new works features modern compositions for classical guitar: it’s classy and classical without a touch of stuffiness. (Imagine the fluid funkiness of Michael Hedges with more compositional complexity.) And if you prefer early music, Frank’s vihuela CDs are a must-have: his new CD Delphin is due out in March, so while you wait for that to arrive you can while away the hours with Ay de Mi!, Frank’s gorgeous CD of self-accompanied Spanish songs.

I don’t usually try to “sell” stuff on my site, and I swear that I’m not getting any sort of kick-back from “plugging” Duo LiveOak’s CDs (although if you see this, Frank or Nancy, dinner or free concert tix would be nice…) Seriously, though, I often hear people say that they want to support small “ma & pa” businesses in their battle against the corporate giants…but what about independent artists and musicians? Frank and Nancy’s talent is in no way small-time, but I bet you’ve never heard of them: they aren’t appearing in the Super Bowl half-time show or on the Grammy awards. Their CDs cost just the same as Britney’s or Justin’s or Janet’s…except that whereas Britney is airbrushed and Justin goes through a million re-dubs in the studio, Frank and Nancy’s CDs are recorded live in local churches: they’re that good. These are people who have committed their lives to music and the creation of beauty, and you just have to support that. So think about it: don’t you deserve to treat yourself, or a friend, or several friends, to real music made by real artists? We artists, you see, have to stick together: when it comes to cultivating creativity in a crazy world, we ALL have one another’s backs.

In case of fire

Yesterday and today have been bright and sunny here in Keene. Yesterday I taught all day; today I’m stuck at my computer commenting on online drafts. On days like today when I’d rather be outside walking, I grow oddly aware of my own mortality, the opening lines of Milton’s Sonnet XIX ringing in my head:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”

In Milton’s case, he laments the gradual onset of blindness: how can he effectively use his God-given gift of poetic vision while that same God deprives him of physical sight? Would God be so cruel, Milton wonders, as to judge the productivity of a “day-labourer” crippled by an affliction beyond his control?

Window sill

Although I’m not plagued with gradual blindness, I’ve always resonated with Milton’s Sonnet XIX. It seems to me to describe the human condition: blessed with so much promise, our time and light are nevertheless limited. We want to serve God, perhaps–we look for ways to express our humble talents–but we feel incapable or misguided, not knowing what to do or where to start. And in the meantime, time passes without ceasing, the seconds on our mortal shot-clock ticking down, down, down while we consider whether to shoot or to pass.

Yesterday afternoon while walking the dog, I took the usual assortment of random photos: a fire-alarm, a dusty windowsill framed with red brick, the angular lines of dingy and decrepit siding on an old factory. Why take photos of ordinary, unlovely things? Well, to me they are strangely lovely: there’s something about the shine of light on brick, wood, and even old alumnimun that is precious and even heart-stopping. Someday when I’m old with failing sight, will I remember these random sights and wish I could see them one last time? Do the makers of these aging, overlooked objects, themselves long dead, long for the days when they and their handiwork were young and new?

No smoking

My favorite scene in the film American Beauty shows a bit of footage shot by Ricky Fitts, the protagonist’s drug-dealing, video-obsessed teenage neighbor. The tape shows what Ricky describes as being the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen: a plastic grocery bag blowing in the wind. “Video’s a poor excuse,” Ricky explains, “But it helps me remember…Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in.” That sentiment is precisely why I take random photos of brick walls and windowsills: our mortal lives feel very much like random trash tossed by an unseen hand, but there’s a sense of beauty in the breeze if we surrender ourselves to it. “And that’s the day I knew there was this entire life behind things,” Ricky said of the day he watched that random bag dance, “this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever.”

Time is fleeting; our days are short and our light even shorter. Bandied about like a bag in the wind, it’s difficult to find our way, and easy to think that we should have one. But we aren’t the masters of our destiny: we install fire alarms and paint windowsills and put up sensible siding, but ultimately we don’t control our fates. An invisible wind, an unseen light, transmutes the fabric of our days, filling them to overflowing with beauty but not with time. Considering how my light is spent, I dare not waste it, for once it’s gone, our mortal dance will be relegated to the dustheap of Time.

Science & Nature section, Toadstool Bookstore, Keene, NH

Thanks to everyone who dropped by yesterday & gave their “warm fuzzies” on me finishing that “last shall be first” diss chapter. I’m still feeling burnt, fried, etc. from the push to get it done: I’m going to take another day’s break from the diss before diving into Ch. 2 revisions. And I still have a daunting pile of papers to read…(ugh)

But yesterday I thought I deserved a break, so I went shopping. For my birthday back in January, I’d received a generous Target gift card from Chris’s grandparents. So I’ve been anticipating the day when I had the chance to take a trip to Target (there’s not–yet–one right here in Keene) and spend some time shopping for ME (versus buying groceries, stuff for the house, gifts for other folks, etc).

Unfortunately, I forgot how frustrating clothes shopping can be. Now, I’m not a fashion-hound, so I’m not talking about searching for the perfectly glamorous dress with stunningly coordinated accessories, etc. My dress style is definitely on the “sensible” side with an occasional trend toward “schoolmarmish.” Chris says I dress like a nun, and he doesn’t mean hip & swinging nuns like this. He means a frumpy, dumpy nun like this.

Anyhow, I wouldn’t classify my dress style as “nunnish,” but I definitely like plain & simple stuff, sensible shoes, etc. I don’t have the money or time to buy a new wardrobe every year, so I like to buy stuff that is always in style (or never in style, depending on how you look at it). So I’m not going to buy the bell-bottom hip-huggers that are “all the rage” right now since I know they’re going to look absurd when they go out of style…tomorrow. And since my “everyday” clothes also pass for “teaching” clothes, I don’t want to buy stuff that’s too provocative, seductive, etc. (as if I had the body to pull off that).

In a word, I buy things like khakis and solid-colored polos, oxfords, and turtlenecks: Lands’-Endsy kind of stuff. Actually, I think that every dress I own is from Lands’ End, and all my turtlenecks, and many of my summer shirts…well, you’re getting the point. I might not be a nun, but there’s a definite “habit” going on when it comes to my clothes…

So yesterday I went to Target, gift card in hand, wanting to buy a pair of pants and maybe a shirt or two. And although nothing creepy happened to me while I was there, it was definitely an unsatisfactory experience. I couldn’t find ANYTHING that I liked. The stores are still filled with capris and hip-huggers, neither of which are flattering on me. (I have short stubby legs & big ankles–hey, I actually WALK with my legs, and I have the muscles to prove it. And there are only about 7 women in the world who look good in hip-huggers, and I ain’t one of ’em.) There were several styles of semi-conservative but still stylish pants that I tried on, but none of them fit right: if they fit in the thighs, they didn’t fit in the waist, etc. And even those pants that fit just weren’t flattering: I didn’t like the fabric, the color, the “cut,” etc.

Okay, so I’m picky. Not finding any pants I liked, I tried on some tops and found some possibly maybes. But I was only marginally excited about these: they didn’t have colors I liked, the tops I found were too low-cut, showing too much of my pale-skinned, bony chest, etc. I guess trying on clothes when you’re feeling tired & cranky is not the best way to cheer up, at least for me. Although I found some tops that were passable, they didn’t thrill me. And since the whole purpose of going shopping was to celebrate finishing that chapter, I wasn’t going to buy something that I didn’t feel EXCITED about. (You know that feeling when you can’t wait to WEAR that new outfit you bought…)

Anyhow, I ended up buying nothing. Nada. Zilch. I had a couple “maybes” in my cart but ended up leaving them, cart and all, in the store. I came home & decided to use my gift card online where I can buy books & CDs via Target’s association with Amazon.com. (Why didn’t I buy some books or CDs in person yesterday? Because Target’s in-store selection of books & CDs stinks. I’m looking to replace my favorite Van Morrison CD, for instance, but Target carries only his latest title. And I have no desire to hear NEW Van Morrison; I just want to replace an old familiar friend.)

Okay, so maybe I’m stuck in a rut. I’m frustrated because stores don’t sell the same old boring clothes I like, the same old boring CDs. And Target doesn’t seem to be courting the “same old boring” crowd. Oh well…

The photo at the top of this entry wasn’t taken at Target: the book selection is too extensive (ouch). Seriously, though, I took this photo a couple days ago at our local independent bookseller. I went there to browse since I technically don’t have the money to buy new books (unless, of course, I’m using a Target gift card, which this store unfortunately doesn’t take). I was browsing the “Science & Nature” section when I had a hopeful thought: “Someday, this is where MY books will be shelved!” And that thought tickled me so much, I took out my camera & snapped a photo. “Coming sooner or later: books by Lorianne Schaub!” So that photo is the hope that will get me out of this rut: I might look the same, dress the same, listen to the same old boring songs, etc, but I’m a new & emerging artist. You just might not find my books at Target…

Factory smokestack, Keene, NH -- Feb 23, 2004

It took me longer to finish than I’d reckoned, and it isn’t entirely ready for “prime time,” but it’s sent: not more than 20 minutes ago I emailed a draft of Chapter 1, the intro to my dissertation, to my committee. It’s the last chapter I’ve drafted (I always save my intros for last), so now I’ll spend the rest of this month and all of next revising: all those weak points, trouble spots, and logical inconsistencies I left to deal with later are what I’m now going to have to face (and fix).

Starting tomorrow. Today I’m not going to spend a single conscious moment thinking about the diss: once I clicked “send” on that email to my committee, I was officially done with diss-work for the day. I have loads of grading & course catch-up to do: somehow, insanely, this diss crunch is happening during a term when I’m teaching a full-time teaching load at KSC and a full (online) adjunct load at SNHU. So I have piles of papers to read, drafts to comment on, etc.

But right now, I’m going to take a shower. After that, I’m going to do something to celebrate sending this “last-to-be-drafted” chapter: a major milestone as the end grows nearer and nearer. I don’t know what that celebration’s going to consist of, but I know it’s going to have nothing to do with dissertations, research, etc.

The photo is a snapshot from yesterday’s walk on the usual bikepath. The snow was delightfully smushy, and both the dog and I came home thoroughly muddied. (That brown smudge on the path is the dog running joyously off leash…) Mud means spring ’round these parts, and that blue sky was a godsend as I spent yesterday writing in front of a half-opened window blind. Everything that melted yesterday re-froze overnight, of course, but at least we’re experiencing occasional spots of spring to bring hope to our winter-weary souls.

Airport Road in Keene, NH -- Feb 22, 2004

Yesterday morning I finally took that long, hot bath I’d been looking forward to. Chris went to the laundromat to take care of the weekly pile of dirty clothing (thank you, Chris!), which meant I had the house (and bathtub!) to myself.

I’m usually an on-the-go kind of gal, so sitting still in a tub of hot water is surprisingly difficult for me. (Actually, the fact that I can sit still during meditation is all but inconceivable: apparently, part of me considers meditation to be a sort of “activity,” so I can tolerate doing it.) Having looked forward to this bath for days, though, I was determined to make an honest go at it.

(And lest you think I haven’t bathed in days, let me assure you that I’m a fan of long, hot showers. Because showering involves standing, not lolling, I somehow justify that it is, again, a sort of activity: a half hour shower just seems to go faster than a half hour bath. It’s the sitting there that makes baths difficult for me: I no sooner get in the tub than I’m thinking of something else I should be doing…)

Anyhow, yesterday morning I decided that I was going to take a good long bath even if it killed me. So drew a steaming hot bath, grabbed Duo LiveOak’s fantastic new CD, Woman of the Water, and enjoyed a good, long, aurally delicious soak. Thank you, Mark, for the bath herbs; thank you, Duo LiveOak, for the music; and thank you, Chris, for doing all that laundry.

The mood this morning is slightly different from yesterday. I’m still working on this latest diss deadline: Chapter 1, the intro to my entire project, the chapter which I have, paradoxically, saved until last. I was supposed to email a draft of this chapter to my committee yesterday; instead, they’ll get it this afternoon. Chris is away all day at various music rehearsals, practice sessions, and lessons, and I took the bold move of cancelling today’s classes at the last minute: since this chapter is the LAST rough draft I’ll be sending to my committee–from here on out, I’ll be working on revisions, not fresh drafts–I figured this of all days was a worthy time to take a “mental health day.” This means I have the entire day to work simply and full-heartedly on the diss: sometime this afternoon when I click “send,” that will mark the moment when I’ve officially written an ENTIRE DRAFT OF THE WHOLE DAMN THING. I’ll still have plenty of revisions to do between now & April, of course, but today is definitely a momentous day…

So, after re-thinking last night’s plan to stay up all night finishing this chapter, instead I went to bed around 11 pm then got up around 4 am. I’ve been working on the diss ever since, apart from about an hour spent uploading this week’s assignments to my online classes, tomorrow being set aside for catching up THERE. But between now and tomorrow morning, today is devoted exclusively to my diss, this chapter, and my Muse.

My WHO??? Yes, my Muse. You have one too, don’t you? Everyone should have at least one Muse, and probably more like several…

When I was an undergraduate, you see, one of my roommates and I would typically stay up late on Thursday nights to cram for our Senior Honors Thesis seminar. Every Friday morning we met with other Honors English majors to discuss what progress we’d made on our Senior Theses. This meant, of course, that we waited until Thursday night to crack the books we were supposed to have spent the entire week poring over…

We coined a term for the burst of inspiration that came every Thursday night when, in a caffeine-induced fury, we tried to cram a week’s worth of research and writing into a single night. “The Midnight Muse” was what we called her, this mysterious but incredibly productive spirit who descended upon our apartment once a week while we slurped Coke, munched Doritos, and listened to raucus music. (“Study aids,” we called the snacks & tunes.) Every Friday, we had something to show our seminar; every Friday, what we brought to the table was newly born, brought into being the night before through the midwifery of caffeine and adrenaline.

This morning, then, I’m calling upon the Morning Muse (or the Monday Muse!) to get me past this deadline. There’s no soda in the house, nor are there any salty snacks: since hitting 30 and well beyond, I’ve tried to tone it down with the junk food. And these days, I work with earplugs, not a blasting stereo; as much as she loves lolling in a bath with “The Woman of the Water,” the Morning Muse prefers silence, the tap of computer keys being the sound of her beating heart.

Being sucked dry by leeches isn't so bad.
You will be sucked dry by a leech. I’d stay away from swimming holes, and stick to good old cement. Even if it does hurt like hell when your toe scrapes the bottom.

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla

Okay, I’m usually not big into these online quizzes, but I’m cranking on this damn diss chapter (“the chapter that refuses to die!”) and don’t have the time or energy for a “proper” entry. And my friend Kathleen at unsettled just posted HER results on this quiz along with her results on the book quiz. And my pride was so wounded by the fact that she got the book quiz from SOMEONE OTHER THAN ME that I had to find out what kind of gruesome death I’m destined for.

I used to go to a church camp with a severe leech problem: it’s actually the place where I taught myself how to meditate. I never got a leech, though, so maybe they’re all just waiting to attack at a more opportune moment. Guess I’ll have to look out (not that leeches are a huge problem in New Hampshire in February, of course).

You’re A Prayer for Owen Meany!
by John Irving
Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspire faith in almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifest this fact in mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every waking moment, and you prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS!

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Thanks to zenchick for the link to this quiz…

Today, unlike yesterday, is gray and drizzly here in New Hampshire. This morning there were snow flurries, and for hours now it’s been either rainy or drippy: I can’t quite tell if the dripping I hear is from rain or from snowmelt. Either way, I haven’t been outside much today; instead, I’ve been sitting here with my laptop playing the usual game of catch-up.

I should, of course, be working on this latest diss chapter–the project intro–a draft of which I’ve promised to send to my committee tomorrow. And I have been working on it, gradually, revising my proposal and reading PDF scans of inter-library loan articles (thank you, tech gods, for ILL PDFs!) But I still have more to write before I send it off (“miles to go before I sleep,” as Frost would say), and working on the diss-chapter is the next task on my ever-present to-do list. But before diving into the diss and before posting this blog-entry, another commitment called.

Having spent the morning, you see, playing catch-up with my online classes (which I’m never fully caught up with), I actually stopped. Yes, I stopped and (get this) turned off the computer. Yes, I turned it off, got up from this bed where I’ve been working all morning, and I walked right into our shared office, sat down at the desk, took out my beloved Moleskine notebook and insanely expensive Waterman pen, and wrote. Nope, I didn’t write anything to do with my diss, not a word related to my classes, and not a jot nor tittle to do with this blog. No, I wrote–handwrote–five full Moleskine pages that had nothing to do with anything other than what thoughts were going through my mind right then. What I wrote was utterly and entirely useless, of no interest or import to anyone other than me, myself, and I. And for this very reason, it felt great to do it.

I’ve been journaling on and off since I was in high school, and writing stories “just for me” long before that. Since I could read, I think, I liked to write, and I wrote largely for myself. And as much as I love writing here for an audience–an extrovert, I really, really, REALLY like writing for an audience–there’s also a more introverted part of me that likes writing just for me. And so when I started this blog back in December (less than two full months ago!), I made a mental promise not to abandon my handwritten journal, the pages I write just for me.

And so it felt great just now to unplug myself from this computer since these days it feels like I’m constantly working at it: I use the computer for my diss, for my blog, for my online classes, for fun. So the sensation of turning it OFF and then of picking up an actual, tangible pen and feeling the touch of paper under my fingers…well, it felt mighty good.

And best of all, today I got to finish off this latest notebook: the five pages I wrote filled up the last five pages of a notebook I started on December 31, less than two full months ago. I once read that Natalie Goldberg tries to fill a notebook a month, so at one point I tried to set for myself this ambitious goal. But these days with the diss looming overhead and with all the writing I do here in this blog, I’ve cut myself some slack. But I still try to write everyday in my notebook: although six pages a day is the goal, I let myself feel good if I write at least three. They don’t have to be three good pages, just three solid ones. If I write between three and six solid, unplugged pages, I can feel good about being caught up with at least one obligation: a promise I made with myself.

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