Monday, May 28, 2012

The glorious peonies are gone and even the roses, which were stunning this year, have started to wilt in the heat of summer, which started unofficially today.

Like the flowers, May has gone by in a blur. In mid-May I went for a week-long research trip to Massachusetts to see a Louisa May Alcott exhibit at the Houghton Library and visit the Emily Dickinson Museum at Amherst (more on this later once I download pictures).  The day after we got back I attended Commencement at my small college on the hill, which I went to for the first time not as a faculty member in regalia but as a College Mother of my last College Daughter to graduate.  The day after my mom came to visit for a short but fun stopover to celebrate her birthday, and then I've had to go up to my small college on the hill a few times for several meetings to plan the summer program that I have been teaching in since 2006, and a new Summer Teaching Institute that I proposed and am helping get off the ground. Phew!

But May has not been all about work (I finished the pesky chapter I was struggling with and have been making slow but steady progress on the last chapter of the book, which is on Alcott) since I've also gotten to bake (this was the first rhubarb pie made with delicious fresh fruit donated by a friend at my small college on the hill), and I rode my bike (refurbished by my husband) to the farmer's market at my small city near the capital, which was great, and which I plan to make a routine stop from now until October.

Yesterday, I also got to visit my in-laws in West Virginia, something that had become a rarity after we moved near my small college on the hill, since the trip was almost three hours long each way. Now that we're back here and the trip is a comfortable two hours, I am able to go in the morning and come back in the afternoon and I get to spend quality time with them at their lovely "compound" on a hill. That's one more perk of having moved back to our old house since I can look forward to seeing them more often.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Today, I had plans to drive up to my small college on the hill to go to the wonderful farmer's market in the adjoining town, which boasts Amish farmers with wonderful produce.

That was going to be my reward for finishing (last night) this book chapter that I've been struggling with. I didn't finish (but I got to 41 pages, of the 50 I would like to produce) so I decided that instead of investing more than three hours in that plan, including traveling time, I would listen to my husband's advice and try to find another farmer's market nearby.

I recently got an e-mail from the North Market, announcing that their farmer's market would begin today, so I decided to call and see if they had Ohio-grown rhubarb. They confirmed that they did, so off I went in pursuit of locally grown produce.

Being in the North Market always brings me good memories because it was one of the first places that my mother in law introduced me to here in Columbus, back when we couldn't even imagine that we would end up here. Through her inspiration, I learned to love this wonderful place and used to go there often when we lived here before. But once we moved up near my small college on the hill, the North Market became a nice memory.

I am so glad that I'm so near it again (it's less than 15 minutes away) and today, while there, I was reminded of all I love about that place. Not only did I get locally grown chicken, strawberries, and rhubarb (I see a strawberry-rhubarb pie in our future), but I also got Indian food from my favorite Indian place in Columbus (Flavors of India) to eat this evening for dinner.

Now that I am so well abastecida, it's time to sit my butt on this chair and churn away so I can finish this pesky chapter. The goal is to have a final draft TODAY, absolutely no excuses. I am applying to myself what I don't tire of telling my students: Just. Do. It.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A perfect Sunday

After devoting most of the morning today to working on the second chapter of my book, which I had hoped to finish in April but April had other plans for me, we hopped on the motorcycle and rode to Pickerington Ponds, a Columbus Metro Park that we used to visit a lot when we lived in Pickerington and when we lived here before.

It's a wonderful place, where the quietude is broken only by the trilling of the birds, the sounds of the fish jumping in the water, or the strange noise of the frogs that sound like someone is pulling on an electric guitar string (similar to "twang").

My husband took these awesome pictures and he counted more than a dozen birds, including the heron, the red-winged blackbird, and the ubiquitous robin.

Earlier this afternoon, I took a break and went to a nearby farmer's market my husband found and bought the first herbs and vegetables to plant on the vegetable plot that my husband and our neighbor worked hard to restore after it had been abandoned for several years. 

The plot on the back of the two houses, abutting the garages, which when we lived here a few years back, our neighbor planted every May with a dozen different kinds of tomatoes, had become a sorry sight. It was all overgrown with weeds and had become trashed with discarded wood planks. 

My husband and the neighbor agreed to share the expense of a rototiller and on Friday they did the back-breaking work of bringing the area back to life. Today, the neighbor worked on it some more and then my husband smoothed over the tilled soil and it's now ready to become our vegetable garden again, and the neighbor is once more talking about planting his tomato extravaganza of yore.

For our side of the plot, I got two kinds of tomatoes, Cubanelle peppers, rosemary and cilantro, and hope to plant these tomorrow as we inaugurate our redone huerto. I will make sure to take a picture so you can see what the plot looks like. Unfortunately, we forgot to take a before picture of the disaster it used to be so you'll have to use your imagination.

This was a day when work mixed with gardening and with a motorcycle trip to a breathtakingly peaceful place. I couldn't have asked for a better Sunday.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The cruelest month

I read somewhere that T.S. Eliot said April was the cruelest month and while "cruel" might be taking it too far, April is decidedly a challenging month for anyone in academia, even somebody on leave, like me.

April is crazy busy at my small college on the hill, what with the end of the semester, honors, and all the spring events for seniors, and while I am not involved in most of those events, last month I participated in a search committee, a student asked us to be her college parents on honors day when she received an important award, the handful of advisees I have were registering for fall classes so I had to meet with them several times, I observed two classes of a colleague for whom I'm writing a promotion letter, I accompanied a good friend to medical appointments, I prepared for and attended a meeting on diversity with some of the college's board members, I twice met with the potential honors students for next year, I attended meetings about the summer bridge program I help teach, and also had meetings for a new summer program that I helped design.

On top of this, we finally sold the house near the small college on the hill, moved everything back to our new old house in the tiny city, closed on the sale, and, perhaps not surprisingly, I came down with shingles (after having, in March, visited another friend at the hospital, who had shingles).

I realize now that this is why there's been such a long gap here in this space since my last post on April 8.

Oh, and let me not forget that on April 28 and 29 I was in Annapolis, Maryland, visiting with my sister, her three children, my mother, and my brother's oldest son, to see my oldest niece perform as Paulette in her school's rendition of "Legally Blonde." 

In addition to my niece's outstanding performance (she really did steal the show), another wonderful highlight of the trip was attending this performance of "The Belle of Amherst" at a tiny theater near the hotel where my mom was staying.  My oldest nephew, who is a journalism major at his university and who also is a consummate actor and theater lover, my mom, and I went to see the play and it was sublime.

I was ecstatic because I had read about the play after reading the fabulous recent biography of Dickinson, Lives Like Loaded Guns, which provocatively proposes that the reclusive poet was an epileptic.  Although this play was written before the biography came out, it is a tour de force in which the lone actress brings Emily Dickinson to life in exciting and moving ways.  I loved that I was able to share this with my mom and my nephew, especially since, after the play, we went to a nice coffeehouse and had an early dinner and great conversation.  As my mom pointed out, the memory this day created was priceless.

Dickinson's poetry is very special to me, too, because during my father's last hours, I read him several of her poems, especially those that had to do with death.  I could say that her poetry was my farewell card for my dad.

May has now arrived, warm and beautiful, as May tends to be, and the semester ended Friday, and all students, except seniors, will be gone by next Friday, so that the crazy busy pace of April will be but a blur.

While it has been difficult to work on my second book chapter, especially because of not feeling well (the post-rash pain of shingles is quite biblical in intensity and the nerve-pain medication is a little brain muddling), I did manage to push through and get 24 pages (of my 50-page goal) during April.  Now I have to do the rest and finish the third chapter, hopefully by this month's end.

No, I won't miss this April, though I am very grateful for the nice memories it provided during my visit to Annapolis.  You are very welcome, dear May! I look forward to your stay!