Saturday, May 30, 2009

Beaming with pride!

Today was one of those days that surprises you not only because of how unexpectedly well things go but also because of the many good things that happen and the possibilities that open up.

Very early this morning, my parents and I readied ourselves to be picked up and driven 40 minutes or so to the University of Turabo, where the panel inaugurating the first degree program in cultural and postcolonial studies in Puerto Rico was held. A young professor friend of my parents picked us up and drove us to the town of Turabo, where the university is located, and lead us to the library, where the event was held.

Once there, we received the wonderful surprise of a tour of the newly created reading room, which includes many of the books that my parents have accumulated through a lifetime of being devoted to study and writing. The reading room also features a TV with a running presentation about my parents and their publications, and it was just too much to assimilate for the three of us.

I couldn't be more proud and more thankful to the university for doing what usually only very rich Anglos who give a lot of money to universities and colleges get in the States. In this case, my parents simply gave their books and decades of their intellectual and teaching labor to that institution. That's what it took, reminding me once more of how we do things so differently here.

After we had toured the reading room and it's adjacent seminar/conference room, whose state-of-the-art design and comfort made me want to teach there some day, we went into the José Luis González Hall where the panel was held. González, the first Puerto Rican cultural theorist, was the one man my father always called: "Maestro."

The panel was fantastic. Definitely one of the very best I've ever had the pleasure (and the honor, in this case) to participate in. I was not just proud of my dad and his presentation (especially considering that less than 2 weeks ago we thought it would be impossible to hold this event with him present) but I also was beaming with pride because I was in the company of so many fellow Puerto Rican academics doing important and interesting work about Puerto Rico. Where I come from, that's a treat I rarely get, if at all.

Thankfully, my presentation about the teaching of postcolonial studies was well received (I must confess to having been quite nervous because one thing is to make a fool of yourself in front of strangers, and quite another to make a fool of yourself in front of your parents and everyone else who knows them and you!). Plus, there is now the possibility that I will be invited to teach a faculty seminar or two in postcolonial studies at the university sometime next summer, and I also found an affiliation home for my junior leave, especially with that fantastic new reading room full of books and documents I know I won't find anywhere else!

All in all, it's been a wonderful day. One of those that don't come too often precisely because that's how we know to appreciate them more. As for me, I'm humbly thankful for the family I was born into, and for the legacy of commitment and strength and challenge that I both inherited and embody. Come what may, nothing will ever change that and that's the truest gift of all.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dateline: Puerto Rico, Part 1

I arrived in Puerto Rico yesterday afternoon, to 91 degrees and cloudy skies, after mostly (and thankfully) uneventful travels (except a flight from Atlanta that shook more than a martini mixer!).

In all the years I've been coming in and out of this island, I've never had a taxi driver who used the meter (they just charged me a flat fee), but yesterday a young, hip-hop clothed taxi driver not only set the meter but actually charged me what it read ($14). I gave him $20 and told him to keep the change just because he'd been so honest. I figured this is the new generation of taxi drivers.

Once home with my parents, I had the pleasant surprise of seeing both of them in pretty good shape, and my mom had even bought these beautiful yellow roses as a welcoming present for me.

Today, my mom and I both went to get our hair done because tomorrow my father and I participate together in a panel on postcolonial studies at the university where all three of us have taught. I actually taught my first class there, an Introduction to Journalism, in 1995 or 1996 while my mom taught there for 20 years and my dad taught a seminar on cultural studies a few years ago.

The university is on a beautiful campus of what used to be a sugar central, and some of the old, wood, plantation-style homes are still standing and now house administration offices. It struck me yesterday that this might just be the right place to spend my junior leave in 2011, especially since this panel tomorrow is in anticipation of their inaugurating the first cultural studies program on the island.

In less academic pursuits, today I also went to my favorite rotisserie chicken place, the famous Fuentes, and picked up half a chicken, batata and amarillo dulce and my mom and I had a very nice dinner. For my dad, I picked up his favorite at the panadería, the powdered sugar-coated mallorcas, and our favored pan de agua.

While having dinner in the kitchen with my mom (while my dad watched his news shows de rigor), I noticed the centerpiece with Puerto Rican guineos and mangós and decided to take a picture, since they represent so well the contrasts and flavors and textures and beauty of my island.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Off again, soon

I've been home for a few days now, after a wonderful, if very short, trip to Boston, and I've been busy packing in earnest again to spend a large part of the summer in Puerto Rico with my parents.

I've already mailed one box with books and another one with clothes (mostly T-shirts, etc.) and have a full bag to be checked tomorrow when my husband takes me to the airport. In my sturdy backpack, I'm also taking more books, my laptop and anything else I can think of (including a favorite mug and drinking glass!) since I'm going to be away for a while.

I'll get there tomorrow afternoon, Gw, and on Saturday my dad and I are participating in a panel on cultural and postcolonial studies at the university where all three of us (my father, mother and myself) have taught. I'm very excited to share a panel with my dad (I'm talking about teaching postcolonial studies). I hope to have pictures and a post to show you this weekend.

Meanwhile, at our small apartment by the woods we've had wonderfully warm (finally!) days and some rain, and a parade of creatures that have decided our recycling bin is their salad bar. The night before last, my husband saw a huge opposum going through the empty cans of cat and dog food, and last night we both heard the familiar clanking that notifies us of the rumaging and turned on the outside light to see a pretty good-size raccoon scurry away. My husband also had to evict three wasps from our bedroom, one each on three separate days, although they now seem to have desisted of coming in there.

After the conference, I've been enjoying the feel of truly free time (the time that you can actually decide what to do with), which has allowed me to watch TV and movies (saw "Frost/Nixon" finally) without guilt. I've also been taking naps, not because I needed them so I could get a second wind to finish my daily work (as happened almost every day during the school year), but just because I wanted to. Those 100 days of summer already seem so short.

The school year is, thankfully, well behind me and now it's time to look forward to spending time with my parents, to enjoying the perpetual warmth and colors of my tierra borincana, and to make the most of this precious time with no deadlines and nothing that absolutely needs to get accomplished right this very minute. I'm breathing a long sigh of relief.

While I look forward to being at home with my parents so I can be of help there, I will miss my husband, Magellan (playing her favorite game of The Devil's Cat in a Box), Darwin, and Geni. Other than my husband and Darwin, who I know will miss me back, I don't think Magellan and Geni will realize (or maybe even care too much) that I'm gone. Magellan's a Daddy's Girl and Geni is a blissful spirit, who's not aware of much anyway. But my husband usually gives me near-daily updates on his and their antics so at least I'll be able to keep up with all their lives from afar.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dateline: Boston, Part 2

One of the reasons I love Boston so much is its sky-scape. When I'm there, I find myself looking up, toward that glorious Atlantic blue sky, and seeing the most captivating vistas.

Here's a pictorial record of my short sky-scape tour of Newberry and Boylston streets in Boston:

I left Boston Friday evening and am already plotting my return next year. Until then I'll say: hasta pronto, Boston!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dateline: Boston, Part 1

This afternoon, after an obligatory stop at my stylist's so he could do his magic and ready me for my conference presentation tomorrow afternoon, my husband dropped me off at the airport and, shortly thereafter, I took off for Boston, the city of my birth.

I almost forgot to take a picture of Columbus as we flew over it, and although I didn't get a picture of Boston as we flew in, this is the view from my hotel room, way up on the 25th floor and right in front of the John Hancock Building.

The view is absolutely breathtaking, and it was 91 degrees and sunny outside , just like I remember all those summers here. There's something about Boston that simply speaks to my soul in ways that nowhere in Ohio, or, actually, anywhere else but Puerto Rico, does.

While I rather famously get lost in Ohio all the time, I'm in my element in Boston and navigate the city and the "T" (not the subway, not the Metro), like I was born here. Oh, wait. I was born here! And while cows are responsible for the meandering nature of its streets, moles must be responsible for the snaking implausibility of its underground system. But I love taking the "T" when I'm here. I don't even remember why I felt I had to have a car (probably because I was young and wanted, more than needed, one)!

I smile a lot while I'm in Boston, for no good reason. Perhaps it is the dizzying (and unimaginable in my small college on the hill) diversity of the city. Six Chinese college students sitting at a table in a Chinese restaurant, laughing and enjoying their tea and their dinner. Eight Indian students walking across the platform of the subway, speaking English, laughing and joking with each other. Several Latinos, speaking Spanish, trying to figure out where they were going next.

Or perhaps it's that magically blue Atlantic that frames the outskirts of the city, or the glorious Charles River with its white-sail sailboats gleefully skimming the water almost until the darkness envelops the city. Or perhaps it's the impossible variety of possibilities of what to do, to see, to hear, to eat, to experience.

My husband and I had thought this trip would be our chance to have a break after a too-busy semester and a not very happy year, but it didn't work out and I'm here by myself and go home again tomorrow, right after my paper is done.

But although there's no way I can enjoy myself as much under these circumstances as it would've been if he had been able to accompany me, I lived here without him, in my pre-Ohio times, and I know how to be by myself in this city. And I like it.

Today, after attending a very interesting panel on Native American Transnationality, I took the "T" into Harvard Square in search of matching Red Sox T-shirts for my lovely friend KG's husband and baby. And, of course, an infant Red Sox baseball cap for TMG!

After my loot was secured, I stopped at the Chinese restaurant where I often ate more than 20 years ago when I first walked through the hallowed gates of Harvard as a first-year student. The restaurant is still here, and while the man at the front desk doesn't recognize me now at age 47, I still recognize him and many of the waiters and waitresses.

Once the sun started to drop, I decided it was time to take the "T" back to the hotel and call it day. Tomorrow there's more panels to attend and questions to ask and my own presentation to get through. And then this trip to Boston, perhaps the shortest I've made, will be over. I will be sad, but glad I'm going back home to my husband.

That's also when I'll start trying to find the very next chance I can get to return to Boston.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Little thank you notes

This year I don't get to enjoy the rows of peonies I planted in our erstwhile home in the little city we used to live in, but this one peony plant that I bought a few weeks back is doing its very best to make up for it.

It started opening slowly, carefully, almost shyly, yesterday, and today it's almost in full bloom and glorious in its possibilities and in its coy perfume. I thank the peony for its gift and know that, while momentary in life, it becomes nearly immortal in my memory.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Boston to present a paper on Hawthorne before almost every known expert on him that there is in these parts. We'll see how that goes. I'm apprehensive, but excited. And I actually really enjoyed writing the paper after being so long removed from writing short essays (I found myself talking to myself in the same way I talk to my students about their writing: "Why is this significant? What is your thesis trail?"). I'll be thankful when the trip is over (I'm only going overnight) but I'm sure I will learn a lot just from two days among fellow scholars.

Today I picked up my student evaluations, and considering how hard this semester was for me and how challenging it was to juggle three classes with two brand-new preparations, on top of everything else that has happened, I can't complain. It's such a relief to see that most of the students appreciate the hard work that one exerts on their behalf. And I always learn from my students' evaluations and these are no different. Many students made excellent suggestions on how to improve the classes next time, and I mean to think on those over the summer so that I start implementing some changes right away. I'm really thankful for my students. They are a true blessing in my life because they teach me that teaching is mostly about learning, too.

On the Puerto Rico home front, the news are better. My father is finally out of the hospital and at home and all was tranquilo there today. I'm immensely thankful for that, and hope things continue to be calm for a while, especially since I will finally get there next week to help.

At the here-home front, things were not so good for Magellan, who had to be taken to the vet today after refusing food and water and being unable to poop for 24 hours. She had to stay at the vet's overnight so I won't see her tomorrow before I'm off to my beloved ciudad natal. But I'll be back Friday and hope she'll be all well and back home by then. Our little family isn't the same without her so I'll be very thankful once she's alright and back with us.

Tonight it's the first night in a long, long, long time that I don't have anything pending to accomplish. I think summer is flirting with me and will begin in earnest on Friday night when I get back home. And I'll truly, truly be thankful for that.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Of runaway cats

Magellan now has a new sport: standing as close as possible to the one door we happen to be coming in or out of most often so she can get by us in one inadvertent second and run for dear life.

Often she stops at the outdoor seating set that we have in the courtyard in front of our small apartment near the woods, but sometimes she sees squirrels and takes off after then, ending up clear halfway up the walkway toward the other side of the apartment complex.

This is not good news for potential cat sitters, since Magellan often knows who's not paying enough attention and that's how she gets out so quickly and so repeatedly.

For the past few weeks or so there have been days when I've also felt like running away. Unlike Magellan, who does it for her fun and annoyance of us, I wanted to run away screaming, until I could run and scream no more. That's especially after my father went back into the hospital and the semester concluded with so much left to be done and dealt with. At least now my brother is in Puerto Rico (he's my hero!) so that makes it a little easier to be far away. He's such a great help to both my parents, especially my mom who's bearing the brunt of it all.

Yesterday I finished all the grading (finally!) so I did something I haven't done since college: I went with some friends to the 9:45 p.m. showing of "Angels and Demons," which turned out to be a really entertaining, if rather ridiculous and implausible, movie. But it was the perfect antidote to mental and emotional exhaustion, exactly what I craved.

Still, I couldn't help but be saddened by the thought that my father, in better times, would have loved to hear what I had to say about the movie and would've been excited about the prospect of seeing it. This is the man who, in my childhood, took us once to New York City to watch the premiere of a film he really wanted to see, back when movies took a year or longer to get to Puerto Rico. From him I inherited my taste for thrillers (if not for traveling), and I know he would really enjoy this one.

In better news, today I posted my final grades for the last class I had pending so I'm officially truly really absolutely done (well, I hope!) with this past semester and academic year. Now I have a paper to finish for a conference this coming week and then I pack myself up and fly to Puerto Rico for part of the summer. Still, all of these plans depend on how my father continues to fare in the hospital.

While it's really annoying to have to chase Magellan halfway down the walkways of this apartment complex, there's something in her glee at escaping that I can relate to. Sometimes, although not in Magellan's spoiled pampered world, reality isn't what we'd prefer to wake up to.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The rose gardens of the mind

This year, because we're living in our small apartment near the woods, I don't get to tend a real garden. But that doesn't mean that I can't have the enjoyment of a potted one.

Recently, after I participated in an admissions event for prospective students, the organizer gave me this mini-red rose as a thank-you present. Little did she know the pleasure that she was giving me, not only because it was a thoughtful and unexpected gift, but also because roses have much significance in my life.

After my operation 7 years ago, when my husband and I finally moved to our first home in the suburbs of Ohio, the first thing I decided I wanted was a rose garden. I wasn't sure why having a rose garden was so important to me, but my husband humored me and we planted several new roses around the house, where the previous owners had planted some that were not only rather homely but very difficult to care for. But a rose is a rose is a rose, I said, and I tried not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The thing with roses is that, depending on their nature (if they're tea roses, for instance), they can be extremely difficult to care for and very temperamental. In my rookie ignorance I planted the most tantrum-prone and the most uncooperative, which were also invariably attacked by hungry Japanese beetles. One sweltering August day, I actually found myself outside, among my roses, trying to drown the hideous beetles, one by one, in soapy water. For a beginner gardener, and one who is as pathologically afraid of bugs as I am, this was a life-changing experience.

From there I moved away not just from the suburbs but from difficult-to-care-for roses and gravitated instead to the miniature and heirloom kinds, including a beautiful and sweetly perfumed cabbage rose my mother-in-law gave me, which we planted in our second home in Ohio. Every summer, that cabbage rose would bloom gloriously and infuse the garden with its lovely aroma.

This year, all the roses of my past are gone, and I only have this tiny red rose until we have a home again and I get to garden for real once more. But, somehow, the little rose is enough because its charm and beauty is all that is needed to bring a smile to my face when I step outside my door into my make-shift potted garden.

Years ago, I did figure out why roses, and colorful flowers, have such an important meaning for me. When Crohn's Disease had taken over my life, I remember feeling like my soul had become a wasteland, a barren soil, cracked by humiliation, and pain, and overwhelming despair.

The heroic therapist who helped me believe that I would be whole again and thereby helped me regain my desire to live (herself a cancer survivor who, many years later, eventually succumbed to the disease), taught me to do visualization exercises based on imagining beautiful gardens, which I had to fill with every kind of flower. I filled my imaginary gardens with roses of every color: purple, blue, red, orange, yellow, pink, and even black.

Visualizing my inner garden as brimming with life and overflowing with flowers helped me regain the joy of living I had lost after my first bout with Crohn's, which would not be my last, or the hardest. That inner garden is now part of the vision of my life, and that's why, I finally came to understand, I try to replicate it everywhere I live.

In our small apartment near the woods I may not have a real garden, but the potted one I've started to build is enough in its simplicity and, ultimately, in its hidden message. Because, despite the hardships that life sends our way, as long as, in our minds, we are grateful for the kindness of blossoming, and we can celebrate simple beauty, we might just be alright.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

¡Feliz Día de las Madres!

Today I salute my mother and mother-in-law, my sister and sisters-in-law, and all my friends who are mamis, all of whom manage to mother (or to have mothered) full-time on top of working for a living.

I've lately realized (and been not a little ashamed of) how it's been rather easy for me to be a back-seat driver, or to evaluate how someone else was doing the hard work of mothering from the comfort of my Monday-morning quarterback position, from the privileged vantage point of someone who didn't actually have to get on the field and play the game to have a quick and ready opinion.

As my younger "twin" Boricua friend (we're so often confused with each other here that it's almost as if we were identical!) says: "Until you've had cracked nipples, and woken up at 3 a.m. with a child burning with fever, or had to rush a child to the hospital on top of everything else you had to do, you shouldn't judge mothers."

I didn't even know you could get cracked nipples! How awful!

And while I don't envy that, I know that they are part of relationships in their life of a kind that I will never have (well, except as a daughter), and that they're defined by a role that I will never know, even if I am a kind of "college mom" to a few of my students, and even if I've "raised" several furry children. It is, of course, just not the same thing at all.

Now that I find myself in the interesting position of having most of my working women friends be mothers, I'm more aware that there is a huge element of ever-present guilt, and that while those of us who are childless might be helpful in terms of giving a mom a different way of appraising a situation, what we are needed most for is support, affection, and understanding.

I hear my friends who are mothers tell their stories and I have come to be more sympathetic to the challenges they face and overcome on a daily basis, and to realize that most mothers do the best they can. My mother did it before them and so did my mother-in-law and my sister and sisters-in-law are, likewise, mothering with all they've got to give, as we speak.

In my own experience, I've had a lioness of a mother who (along with my father) raised me to be a woman warrior. My mother is a woman whose strength and bravery and cheerfulness have often been at odds with the difficulties she has faced in life, ever since she was a child. As I've noted before in these pages, my mother is a force of nature, whose love and loyalty and commitment to her children is unparalleled but who also is not one to mince words, when words need to be said whole. And my mother has been and is a mother every day of her life, something I know is often exhausting (even if also rewarding). My mother is an inspiration to me each and every day of my life, as I know my friends who are mothers are to their sons and daughters.

To all those brave, loving, tired, awed, overwhelmed mothers I know, ¡Feliz Día de las Madres!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Living near the woods means...

This afternoon, my husband and I were home doing our usual things, he, sitting on his favorite big chair in the living room, working away on a translation, and I, sitting in front of this computer, like I do for most of the day most of my days, when we heard a strange knocking coming from the kitchen.

It agitated Geni, who thought it was someone knocking at the door, a sure sign for her that a stranger is about to enter the house, and something that invariably sets her to barking. My husband got up to investigate and urgently asked that I come to the kitchen to see what it was. Neither one of us could believe our eyes.

There, on the aluminum window frame, was the famously shy and reclusive Pileated Woodpecker, pecking away at the sill, hungrily ogling the suet that hangs in front of that window. Eventually, he found his way to his target and ate avidly for a while, long enough for my husband to get his camera and take some pictures, but not even the flash scared him away.

I was glad to see him eating from the suet cage because I had been afraid that the squirrel proof dome would make it hard to reach for him, but he didn't seem to have any trouble. Eventually, when another bird came to claim the suet, he flew away, protesting in the deep monkey-like bark that characterizes the Pileated's call.

Once again we were treated to one of the rare sights that living in this small apartment near the woods offers, and to one of the reasons I like of being so very near the woods.

Para Mario

The Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti, who has been one of my very favorites since I was a young girl, is ill, the blog Sin mordazas reports today.

The Saramago Foundation (named after the Nobel Prize winning Portuguese writer) has suggested that if we publish or read out loud one of his poems, we'll send him energy to get better.

This is for you, Mario, because while lesser poets come and go, you are and have always been the real thing.

Te quiero

Tus manos son mi caricia,
mis acordes cotidianos;
te quiero porque tus manos
trabajan por la justicia.

Si te quiero es porque sos
mi amor, mi cómplice, y todo.
Y en la calle codo a codo
somos mucho más que dos.

Tus ojos son mi conjuro
contra la mala jornada;
te quiero por tu mirada
que mira y siembra futuro.

Tu boca que es tuya y mía,
Tu boca no se equivoca;
te quiero por que tu boca
sabe gritar rebeldía.

Si te quiero es porque sos
mi amor mi cómplice y todo.
Y en la calle codo a codo
somos mucho más que dos.

Y por tu rostro sincero.
Y tu paso vagabundo.
Y tu llanto por el mundo.
Porque sos pueblo te quiero.

Y porque amor no es aurora,
ni cándida moraleja,
y porque somos pareja
que sabe que no está sola.

Te quiero en mi paraíso;
es decir, que en mi país
la gente vive feliz
aunque no tenga permiso.

Si te quiero es por que sos
mi amor, mi cómplice y todo.
Y en la calle codo a codo
somos mucho más que dos.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Deer, oh, deer!

Today, I left my small college on the hill for a day of shopping and an early dinner at a nearby mall in a car full of my minority junior faculty friends, two African Americans and a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, who sometimes seems like my double (we're constantly being confused for one another).

I haven't had this much fun for a while, and the outing was the perfect antidote for the pervasive exhaustion that has settled over me for much of this semester. While I went off to do girly things, my husband stayed home and was able to take these pictures when a number of uninvited guests showed up in our apartment complex for lunch.

The first one, above, is of a deer tip-toeing in from the woods into our courtyard.

The second is of another deer sampling some fresh shoots from a tree that has only recently flowered, and the third captures yet another deer grazing on the parking lot shrubbery.

Thankfully, we city girls had no encounters with wildlife on our way back. Spending hours inside a huge mall going from store to store to store while we helped each other choose the right shirts and pants and colors was the perfect way to forget all the hard work we've done this semester and the lots of work that still remains pending before we can put this academic year truly behind us.

When all was said and done, we had stocked up on new summer clothes, eaten until we could eat no more (just like the deer in these pictures!), gotten to know each other a little better, and laughed a lot more than we've been able to do recently. Not bad for a day's non-work!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bleeding hearts in the late spring garden

Everything around us is finally greening, and the almost mind-numbing dullness of browns that is Ohio in late winter and early spring recedes as the green advances, giving us a most yearned for sight. The temperatures are still not very warm (we started in the upper 40s this morning) but, alas, it is Ohio and we can't have it all.

At last, classes ended yesterday and while now there are piles and piles and piles of grading that must get done, at least that beloved but exhausting takes-it-all-out-of-me part of my job is over, and I get a rest from it for a few months. That comes as a most welcome respite after what was one grueling year.

Still, there is a bitter sweetness to the end of a school year, and it's so rewarding to have the students in all three classes say they didn't want their class to end, that they enjoyed it and felt they got something out of it, and that they would miss being in class (although not for long, I'm sure, since they, like me, will hopefully move seamlessly into their non-college lives and will enjoy the summer break, too). Most moving was to hear some say that the class has helped them not only learn about literature but also about themselves, and about worlds they didn't know existed.

Ultimately, it's a great relief to know that the students not only noticed but appreciated the not-little effort that it cost me to keep three classes going this semester, and that it paid off because everyone, the students and myself, ended up with a good feeling about it all.

Given that yesterday marked the end of teaching for now, today was a break day that started early when I went to the farmer's market with a friend and came back with a bounty of freshly cut asparagus, which we ate this evening for dinner with my husband's world-famous hash brown potatoes.

After the farmer's market, I left my small college on the hill bound for the capital city for my weekly hair appointment and a few errands. I really like the days when I get a few hours to myself to do things I enjoy, like driving while listening to my audiobooks (I just finished Barbara Walters' Audition and have now moved on to Toni Morrison's A Mercy), and stopping at Starbucks for my obligatory grande, decaf 3-Splenda, latte.

I also made a planned stop at my favorite nursery, to which I was introduced many years ago by my green-thumbed mother-in-law, and where I bought my first spring pansies a few weeks ago. There I bought a fragrant pink peony that is still in the bud, a bleeding heart in dire need of replanting, and my favorite herbs: rosemary, Italian parsley and basil. When I got back home, I planted them in pots and placed them all in a sunny spot, which gives me at least the illusion of having a garden. This will be the first time in years that I don't have one because there is no garden in our little apartment near the woods.

But this will certainly do. As will that sweet, sweet promise of leisure that keeps flirting with me as we move closer and closer to the actual end, once all is said and done, of yet another, but in many ways a very first of firsts, academic year.