November 2005

First, the good news. I’ve finished my So-Called Novel and thus “won” this year’s round of NaNoWriMo insanity. Whereas last year I felt giddy upon finishing, this year’s mood is more one of “good riddance.” As it turns out, I had written more than 6,000 words while stranded in Cleveland…which means I’ve spent a good portion of today typing a lot of wretchedly bad prose. The stuff I wrote in Cleveland qualifies as wordcount…but having read it as I typed it, I’m not sure I ever want to read it again, nor do I think I’ll ever want to inflict it upon a reader. But, once again this year I proved (to myself as much as anyone) that I can crank out fiction if I put my mind to it (and if I have an insane deadline to light a fire under my butt). So once I recover from the experience of writing (and then typing) 50,000 words of wretchedness, I’ll be grappling with the writerly question, “What’s next?”

And as for the bad news…this morning as I was unpacking, I saw that my checked luggage had been searched: several zippered pockets inside my suitcase had been unzipped, and some of my belongings had been moved around. Although I can understand the need for random luggage searches–and I understand that since I switched flights, I might have been flagged as “suspicious”–it turns out that a necklace I had packed in my suitcase is now missing.

I’ve contacted the airport to inquire about my “missing” necklace: it was in a tin that would have triggered metal detectors, and since two other necklaces in the same tin were untouched, it’s possible that one got dropped by accident when screeners searched my luggage and opened that suspicious tin. But since that tin couldn’t have removed itself from the zipped pocket where I’d packed it, something happened while my bag was checked, and I have one less necklace as a result. It wasn’t an expensive necklace–I don’t own any expensive jewelry, and if I did, I wouldn’t pack it in a checked bag. But the necklace was one I’d bought back when I’d vacationed on Mount Desert Island last fall, so it had sentimental value: a funky handmade necklace I’d bought to commemorate my newly single status.

So maybe in celebration of my NaNo completion, I’ll have to go out and buy myself another funky handmade necklace…and next time I fly, I’ll pack all my necklaces (even the inexpensive ones) in my carry-on bag.

This is what life looks like if you’re stranded without your laptop in Cleveland, OH on a Monday night after your morning flight back home got cancelled, the only available seat to Anywhere Like Home being on a Tuesday night plane. If ya gotta Nano, ya gotta Nano…so both last night in my last-minute hotel room and this morning in the Cleveland airport terminal, I scribbled approximately 6,000 words on my So-Called Novel. This means, of course, I’ll be spending tomorrow typing those scribbled words–and trying valiently to reach The End–by midnight’s NaNoWriMo deadline. Right now, I’m simply glad to be back in New Hampshire, back in my cozy apartment, and back to the blog.

So, how was your holiday?

I wish I knew the story behind this photocopied flyer, which I saw posted on a recycling bin outside the gym at Keene State College last week. I’m sure it refers to something, and it certainly caught my eye as I was walking past. Really, how can you not look at something that prominently proclaims, “Don’t look at me!”

I’m planning to take this next week off from blogging here at Hoarded Ordinaries, so don’t look at me in the interim! Thanksgiving week always falls right at the busiest time of the semester, right when almost-final papers are piling up and students start panicking about grades. This semester I’m extra busy with a double dose of classes (three at Keene State, three online), so things are particularly busy. As much as I enjoy blogging, I’m looking forward to spending a week (almost) offline, with one less bloggy mouth to feed. Although I’ll still be posting almost-daily to my writing blog, for the next week I’m giving my watching eyes if not my typing fingers a break from my usual photo-blogging madness.

If you can’t resist the urge to Look At Me while I’m gone, you can dip into my Archives to see what I was up to this time last year. Or you can surf my blogroll to find new blogreads (tell ’em Lorianne said “Don’t look at me!”) I’ll be back after Thanksgiving feeling (I hope) well rested and well fed. I hope you have a restful and happy Thanksgiving as well!

Nothing to wear

After walking the dog first thing this morning, I’ve spent nearly the entire day on the couch in yoga pants and a long sleeved t-shirt while working on my laptop. I’m currently juggling three online classes in addition to my full-time teaching load at Keene State, so it feels like I’m spending an inordinant amount of time on my couch and online as I download, grade, and upload batch after batch of papers: a veritable grading machine. When I literally unplugged myself to go to Wednesday night’s yoga class, I was surprised to find it downright balmy outside. After listening to wind and rain all day, I’d expected it to be cold, but instead it felt steamy and tropical: a micro-climate I’d missed by staying inside.

One benefit of teaching online is you don’t have to leave your couch much less your house; the drawback, though, is you can get sucked into a narrow world that doesn’t extend beyond the reach of your wifi signal. This semester I feel a bit schizophrenic, alternating face-to-face teaching days with days I face no one other than the dog. Teaching online is a definite lure for those who value solitude, and face-to-face teaching is a thrill for those who enjoy the input of a live audience. Somehow, it works for me to alternate the two, satisfying both my Inner Introvert and my Outer Extrovert. As long as I can remember which days to dress and walk to campus and which days to stay in lougewear and walk to the couch, the mix seems to suit me fine.

You know it’s been a slow news day when you resort to blogging your upstairs neighbor’s cats.

Today has been a rainy, busy Tuesday…and after spending nearly all of the weekend indoors recovering from last week’s bout of Non-Bird Flu, I’m once again scraping the bottom of the photographic barrel. Although I’m allergic to cats, the ones that live with my upstairs neighbor love to soak in the sun on the back porch that we share…at least when Reggie’s not there. So on most sunny mornings when I open my kitchen blinds, I’m greeted by cats’ eyes–four of them–as my feline neighbors look up to see what’s happening on the other side of the glass.

If I can’t live with cats of my own, I guess enjoying them through a pane of glass is a suitable compromise: surrogate fur-children, or pussies by proxy.

Although it’s been over a month since floods washed through southwestern New Hampshire, I’m only gradually realizing the extent of the natural damage. At the end of October, during our first post-diluvial walk down the dirt rail-trail off Krif Road here in Keene, Reggie and I encountered a sign that said the trail had been closed. But since either walkers or runners had removed the caution tape that presumably blocked entrance to the path, Reg and I continued cautiously, knowing this area frequently floods and hoping it hadn’t sustained major damage.

During that October walk, Reggie and I hadn’t ventured far enough to encounter this segment of washed-out trail, which now is marked with several warning signs to alert both walkers and runners that an evil ankle-twist awaits them if they don’t watch their step. Obviously I’d under-estimated the extent of the damage, not fully realizing the power rainwater can have when it falls in a sickening abundance, quickly.

There are several of our usual haunts that Reggie and I haven’t visited since the flood, so I don’t know what will face us when we return. After finally visiting Pisgah State Park only once, now I’m saddened to know that severe road and trail damage has forced the park to close, postponing for an indefinite period future explorations. Chesterfield Gorge is likewise closed, a place where Reggie and I have walked (and I have taken photos) many times. It’s been over a month since Reggie and I have been to Goose Pond, and even longer since we’ve visited Eliza Adams Gorge. Who knows what delights, surprises, or disappointments will await us when we will return, but this much I know for sure: impermanence surrounds us, so it’s always a good idea to watch your step.

This morning’s vintage Peanuts comic strip is wonderfully apt. Snoopy in his guise as the Great American Novelist sits with his typewriter atop his doghouse. That infamously wretched first line–“It was a dark and stormy night”–appears, followed by the individual ingredients of a potboiling page-turner: a shot, a slam, a scream; a pirate ship; millions of starving poor in a country led by a sumptuous monarch; a boy growing up in rural Kansas. After pausing to admire his narrative artistry, Snoopy then types the heading “Part II.” And in the final panel, the beloved beagle smiles slyly at his readers and explains, “In Part Two, I tie all of this together…”

Appearing as it does smack dab in the middle of November’s National Novel Writing Month, this cartoon is particularly apt. If all things go according to plan, today I will arrive at the 25,000-word halfway point with my So-Called Novel, which means the Second Half will be where I try gamely and quite absurdly, I’m sure, to tie everything together. If last year is any indication, Part Two is when things get outrageously silly. After having killed their Internal Editors with 25,000 words of wretched slop, NaNo novelists typically find that words 25,001 through 50,000 are a slapdash race toward “Outta Here.” Once you realize that you probably can’t tie everything together in any semblance of a serious, literary fashion, you let yourself loose to write blood-soaked shoot-outs, steamy orgies, and eerie seances as you alternate between killing off, erotically sating, and inexplicably resurrecting characters both major and minor. (“Anything for word-count,” you’ll mutter.)

But today’s Peanuts cartoon rings true for other, more philosophical reasons. After having taken these photos of a now-repainted doorway several weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “primed and ready.” Any painter will tell you that the secret to a lasting paint job lies in the preparation. Before you apply even the first coat, you need to scrape and ready your surface, making sure it’s clean, smooth, and primed for the paint to follow.

Now that I’m 36 and turning the corner toward 37, I feel like I’m about to type “Part II” on this present narrative. Now that I’ve spend the first half of my professional life prepping the surface and laying out my materials, what sort of coats should I be applying, and toward what end?

When I was in college and then graduate school, I told myself I’d face the thorny question of what I wanted to be when I grew up when I grew up, after I’d finished whatever degree I was working on. And in the immediate aftermath of finishing my PhD over two years ago, I told myself I’d face the question of what I wanted to do professionally after I’d settled what I wanted to do personally. Back then, I gave myself a year to settle myself into post-divorce life before I started facing the serious question of “what’s next”…and here I am, a year post-divorce, feeling more uncertain than ever about what I want to do long-term.

One positive outcome of writing a novel (or painting a door) is that it raises the question of what you’d rather be doing. If I weren’t writing a So-Called Novel that I’m not taking too seriously, what would I seriously write? If I weren’t teaching college classrooms of students who “hafta” be there, who would I be teaching? Now that I’ve sketched out the various plot twists that make me who I am–writer, teacher, Zen head, nature nut, blog mistress–I feel like I’m sitting here, typing fingers ready, for whenever the Muse of Part II decides to appear.

    I first raised these questions back in May, and I’m still sitting with them: still waiting. The six-month Life Coach training program I began back then is set to conclude in December, so it makes sense, I suppose, that I’m primed and ready to ask “what’s next after graduation.” In the meantime, I have several coaching clients, a double-dose of online and face-to-face classes, several blogs to feed, a novel to finish, and a So-Called Life I try to squeeze in whenever time permits. I guess for now, that’s enough…but if you see the Muse of Part II wandering around looking lost, please point her my way, okay?

Although I’ve found a link to the now-defunct webcam that monitored construction of newly completed Zorn Dining Commons at Keene State College, I can’t find a link to the webcam monitoring the progress of the still-in-progress Butler Court Residence Hall. If you want a glimpse of what’s happening behind the blue tarp, click here.

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Worn, which sent me searching through my photo archives to find these pictures of a weathered old carriage house in downtown Keene, which I photographed in March, 2004.

Back then, over a year ago, I used several of these pictures to illustrate several unrelated blogposts. Perhaps as a result, I now cannot look at these sun-lit, weathered surfaces without feeling a bittersweet twinge of recognition: these aging boards weren’t the only thing back then that was feeling worn.

Back in March, 2004, I of course had no idea what the future would hold. All I knew then was I was cranking gamely toward the end of a 10-year slog toward “Doctor”…and feeling infinitely ambivalent about my next-steps. In retrospect, I knew in my heart-of-hearts that I no longer wanted to teach college full-time on tenure-track for the rest of my life: in my heart-of-hearts, I sensed that, like Thoreau leaving Walden, I had other lives to lead. And deeper in my subconscious, bubbling slowly to the surface of awareness, I knew in my gut that getting my PhD would probably mean saying goodbye to a nearly 13-year marriage, one transition leading slippingly to another.

When I took these photos, I was enchanted by the subtle kiss of light on wear; now, I see nothing but subtext, the soul who snapped these photos being, at the time, so much more worn than anything she saw. In March, 2004, I was working full-out on dissertation revisions and teaching; in April, 2004, I successfully defended that dissertation; in May, 2004, I graduated and became, at last, “Doctor.” And in August, 2004, the separation…and in October, the divorce.

Is it any wonder I feel a bittersweet mix of sadness, exhaustion, and hope looking at these images, knowing they were taken right before a year-long ride that would turn my life upside down, taking my well-worn soul ’round the corner to a cleaner, lighter place?

In retrospect, I think the only thing more resilient than worn and weathered wood is the human soul, springing as it does from heartache to hope in the blink of an eye.

With apologies to Joyce Kilmer, I think that I shall never see a sight so odd as a bundled tree.

I took this photo on Tuesday, when grounds crews were transplanting trees along one of several construction sites on the campus of Keene State College. Today, though, I’m lying as low as a toppled tree, having awoken early this morning with quintessentially flu-like symptoms.

So while I wile my hours with naps, hot tea, and cans of chicken soup, click over to say goodbye to Amy, who has announced she’s closing up blog-shop. Her site will remain up until Sunday, when it will be whisked away into the netherworld of the blogosphere. As a fellow Granite Stater, I’ll miss Amy’s missives from the Seacoast, but I trust a blog-free existence will allow her to branch unfettered into endeavors she’s held bundled, like a cramped rootball, for far too long. Goodbye, Amy, and good luck!

Next Page »