May 2009

Beyond outfield, looking toward home

I woke up at an unthinkable early hour this morning, without an alarm, the sheer power of adrenaline enough to rouse me. This morning I’m on the road to Ohio to visit my family, attend my niece’s graduation party, and otherwise reconnect with my Inner Midwesterner. Although I’m taking my laptop and a bagful of books so I can keep in touch with my online classes, and although I hope public library wifi will save me the agony of glacially slow dial-up Internet access, I don’t know how much–if at all–I’ll be blogging while I’m gone. In the meantime, keep swinging for the fences!

Table & chair

Not long after I’d questioned the merit of short picture-posts, real life pulled me away from my laptop, precluding even those. But this week’s Photo Friday theme, Shiny, is an excellent excuse to share this image of the shiny metallic tables and neon-bright chairs at the new neighborhood ice cream parlor, a place which provides tasty treats for the eyes as well as the tongue.

The Potluck

David Fichter’s murals look better on a sunny day…but it was raining when I arrived at the Cambridge Zen Center on Sunday morning, and I’m in the habit of taking a walk before sitting down to meditate. So despite the drizzle, I left my purse in the car and walked with just my camera and a raincoat: just me, the rain, and a neighborhood full of images.

The Potluck

In response to Rurality’s comment on yesterday’s post, today I’ve been sitting with a question: what is wrong with quick picture-posts? As a writer, I feel guilty when I post “just” a picture, yet I continue to stockpile more photos than I could ever blog, even if I posted “just” a picture a day. So what am I waiting for? Why am I saving images for a proverbial rainy day when I know the secret to successful blogging is simply showing up?

So here I sit on the evening of a sunny day sharing pictures from a rainy day. This is how Central Square, Cambridge looked on a wet Sunday morning, before I arrived at the Zen Center to meditate to the sound of raindrops. What better way to spend the morning of a rainy day?

If these rainy-day images of David Fichter’s “The Potluck” have left you hungry for more, you can revisit my sunny-day photos of “Sunday Afternoon on the Charles River,” another Fichter mural in Cambridge, MA. And if you still haven’t gotten your fill of photos, I’ve finally uploaded a photo-set from the May 3rd soccer match between the New England Revolution and the Houston Dynamo. Enjoy!

Lily of the valley

This past week I haven’t felt like taking the time to blog; instead, I’ve been doing other things. But I’ve still carried my camera with me everywhere I’ve gone, snapping photos here and there as I feel like it. These aren’t photos I took with some specific bloggable purpose in mind; they are simply photos I snapped because at the time, I saw something that struck my fancy.

Lily of the valley

Many of the photos I’ve snapped over the past week have been images of flowers: shooting pretty pictures of flowers in May is like shooting fish in a barrel. It occurs to me that snapping pictures of flowers for no good reason is a bit like gathering spring bouquets: you don’t do it because handfuls of flowers are “useful,” but because handfuls of flowers are lovely. The purpose of your gathering, in other words, is purely aesthetic: you see something, you admire it, and you want to keep the memory of that lovely, admired thing.

I’ve been itching, as I always do at the end an academic year, to get back to blogging “for real”: part of why I’ve stayed away this week is my desire to start writing longer, more meaningful entries again rather than simply slapping up quick picture-posts as I do at the end of a long semester. And yet, I haven’t found (or, more accurately, made) the time for such posting. So in the meantime, while I settle into whatever kind of bloggish stride makes sense for the summer, here is a bouquet of lovelies to admire. Sometimes you don’t have a real reason for gathering flowers; you simply do it “just because.”


At the end of any semester, I always experience a dazed few days when I do my own version of cerebral detox. I submitted Keene State grades on Monday night, well before their Tuesday-at-noon deadline, and I spent Tuesday and Wednesday catching up with online teaching tasks and other random chores. Today, I’m literally unplugging, stepping away from my computer to head to the Museum of Fine Arts in the afternoon and the Cambridge Zen Center in the evening: a little art and a little meditation to ease me into my part-time summer teaching schedule. See you on the other side.

Why can't we go walking, too?

Although I think Louie the cat is perfectly content to sit in a sunny window while Reggie and I take our morning walk, J’s yellow Lab definitely seems to be saying “Why can’t I come, too?”

Still life with dog and Subaru

One of the benefits of having a laptop and wifi is being able to work outside. This past weekend while I caught up with online grading, Reggie and I took advantage of the nice weather by working (and, in Reggie’s case, resting) outside, both on the sunny patio and shady porch. Just because you have your nose to the grindstone doesn’t mean your entire life has to be a grind.

Relaxing on the porch

One of the results of teaching as an adjunct instructor at schools with overlapping schedules is the simple fact that the usual “hell week” of end-term grading actually lasts about a month or so. First, there’s the ramp up to the end of one online term; then, there’s the train-wreck of deadlines as you simultaneously submit end-term grades and get your new online courses rolling. While all this is happening, of course, your face-to-face classes still demand your full attention, and sleepless nights are the only way to tackle the torrent of almost-end-term drafts you have to read, comment upon, and return before your face-to-face students can assemble their final portfolios.

This week is Finals Week at Keene State, so I’ve been collecting final papers and portfolios from my face-to-face students while scrambling to keep up with my new batch of online classes. While many of my Keene State colleagues are rounding the home stretch, getting ready to submit grades after having collected final projects last week, I haven’t even started my end-term grading. When I first started managing the juggling act that is adjunct teaching, it was discouraging to watch my tenure-track colleagues finish their grades before I’d even started. Now, though, I realize that pacing yourself is key when you’re in the midst of a hellish month of grading. As this weekend’s Kentucky Derby illustrated, it’s perfectly possible to come from behind to win if you save your strength and hug the inside rail. Teaching, it turns out, is more like a marathon than it is a sprint, so you have to pace yourself accordingly.

Reggie relaxing on the porch

One way of pacing yourself is to emulate your lazy dog by taking advantage of every available bit of down-time to stretch out and even nap. This weekend I made a conscious effort to catch up with both work and sleep, knowing this week will be long. The lesson of lazy dogs everywhere is that you can rest in installments, snatching a little sleep here and a little sleep there if life doesn’t throw you an extended stint of downtime. What I envy most in my tenure-track colleagues these days isn’t the fact that they inevitably finish their grading ahead of me; it’s the fact that they enjoy actual summer breaks and even sabbaticals while my staggered semesters keep rolling on. Just as city dwellers cultivate small, hidden gardens as a refuge from crowds and squalor, I’m perfecting the art of the mini-break: a brief chance to step away from the paper-pile, stretch, walk the dog, or even do the dishes as a way of clearing my head. It isn’t as good as an actual break or sabbatical, but it’s welcome all the same.

Now open!

If you don’t have the luxury of an extended stint of downtime, you learn to take mini-breaks where you can find them. On Saturday afternoon, after making good progress with work, I treated myself to a short afternoon walk with J to try out the new neighborhood ice cream parlor. When you’re almost finished with a busy semester, a small cup of root-beer-float-flavored Italian ice serves as its own kind of root beer reward.

This is my belated contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Casual. Keene State grades are due next Tuesday, after which point I’ll be teaching at “only” one school for a while.