In a humdrum


Hemlock cone

Today is a gray day. There was rain earlier–the sidewalks were damp when I took in this week’s grocery delivery–but it did not rain while I walked Roxy, except for a sprinkle or two right as we arrived back home.

While we were walking, I heard a flock of Canada geese honking overhead, far above the reach of anyone’s holiday dinner table.

Today J and I will take our usual afternoon walk around the neighborhood, followed perhaps by a short drive. Yesterday the streets and sidewalks were mostly empty, more of our neighbors choosing to travel for the holiday than in the past two pandemic years.

Still, we saw and noted groups of pedestrians who were obviously visiting for Thanksgiving: large multi-generational groups including multiple dogs and bored teenagers who looked like spending time with extended family would kill them.


Halloween pumpkins

Thanksgiving happens at the almost-end of the semester, so for me it is a working holiday. Instead of joining the throngs of people traveling by plane, train, or automobile to visit family, I typically spend the long holiday weekend catching up with grading.

But on Thanksgiving itself, I try to stay offline, grading as many papers as possible the day before, then doing everything in my power to keep my laptop off until Black Friday, when I return to my paper piles.

During the height of the pandemic, we learned that many of us can be as productive at home as in the office…but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Work from home readily morphs into work anytime, anywhere, without the boundaries that are necessary for a healthy work/life balance.

So while I will write by hand in my journal today, this is a post I prepared yesterday, on Thanksgiving eve, so I can quickly press “publish” today before curling up with a dog, book, and blanket: an abundance of things to be thankful for.


Tulip tree leaves

In my Comp I class on Tuesday, I shared a random snippet of conversation I heard decades ago while walking from the Green to Orange Lines at Haymarket Station.

Two men in business suits walked by, and one said to the other, “She does this amazing thing with her elbows.”

And I was so mystified by that out-of-context statement, I still remember it all this time–more than 20 years?–later.

It’s alarming to think I have memories that are older than my students. Last night I heard Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and I realized my students probably have no memory or understanding of most of the allusions in the song. It literally describes a different world.

I am, in other words, a dinosaur.

***

In my first-year classes at both Framingham State and Babson, we start with five minutes of freewriting. Students are free to write about whatever they’d like, but I post three random words to give students a nudge if they have nothing else to write about.

Today’s entry comes from my five-minute entry from Wednesday, September 21, 2022 in response to the word “Elbow.”


Clinging

Over the years, I’ve decided I’m a solar-powered creature. As the days shorten and darkness descends by 5 pm, a familiar pattern returns: I am ambitious in the morning, when the sun shines bright, but my productivity declines in late afternoon, as daylight wanes.

As a young and foolish grad student, I regularly burnt the candle at both ends, relying on caffeine and sugar to fuel late-night into early-morning grading sessions. But as I’ve slouched into middle age, my body no longer tolerates late-nighters. For good or ill, my lamp doesn’t burn midnight oil.

After-dark hours are best spent on monotonous pursuits like folding laundry or cleaning litter boxes: tasks that rely more on muscle-memory and repetition than intellectual rigor. Rather than working late into the night like a Hop-To-It Hare, I’ve learned to leave for tomorrow the daylight tasks my Inner Tortoise couldn’t finish today.


Apparently Acme delivers

Attention local coyotes: apparently Acme delivers.

Corners

The other night I had a disjointed dream that seemed to take place in my 20s or 30s, when my life was filled with uncertainty and drama.

I was apparently still married to (and trying to separate from) my ex-husband, although he himself never appeared in the dream. I was both living in and trying to move into the Zen Center, and I both had and was looking for a job, recognizing I’d need a source of summer income if I was leaving my marriage and moving, too.

In the midst of so much uncertainty, I was also afraid I might be pregnant, so I went to the doctor for an ultrasound, only to discover I was carrying…a stick of butter.


Norway maple leaves

Today was another tropical day, with the remnants of hurricane Nicole bringing rain in the morning and high temperatures and humidity all day. In the afternoon, J and I walked to an annual craft fair we hadn’t been to since November, 2019: a chance to do some early Christmas shopping on a 70-degree day.

Pokeweed

Yesterday local COVID wastewater levels dipped below the threshold J and I have set for indoor dining, so today we had lunch inside the Thai restaurant where we regularly order takeout, this afternoon I got a haircut, and tomorrow we’re planning to go out to lunch again before going to an indoor craft fair.

For the first year or so of the pandemic, J and I faithfully watched COVID case-counts and hospitalization data to determine how much infection was circulating in the community so we could adjust our behavior accordingly. Now that so few people are taking COVID tests, however, case-counts are no longer an accurate gauge of community spread. Wastewater levels are more reliable, as infected people excrete viral particles whether or not take a COVID test: in other words, poop doesn’t lie.

Although every activity involves some level of COVID risk, J and I have learned that we have to take advantage of moments when viral levels are low, as they always rise again. You have to make hay when the sun shines.


Parking structure

As the foliage falls and gathers on the ground, the trees are gradually becoming bare and drab, as if their color has drained from the tips of their twigs to their deep-down roots. As the days shorten and the landscape fades to gray, we humans also dig deep, seeking sustenance in the mundane routines that keep us grounded: walking and writing and steeling ourselves for another monochromatic winter.

Tomasso Hall

Today has been a busy grading and teaching day. After posting three batches of draft feedback and teaching three back-to-back classes, publishing this blog entry is the next-to-last item on today’s to-do list: almost done.

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