Saturday, February 23, 2013

Falling in love with Savannah!

Yes, even though the weather has been a bit moody in Savannah, GA, since I arrived on Thursday afternoon for a conference on the Gothic (indeed, the foggy, gray, drizzly weather has been particularly apropos to our topics of inquiry), Savannah has stolen my heart.

Not only has the two-day conference been immensely productive (thanks to the two full days of panels I've now designed a new course to be titled "Haunted America: Slavery and Gender in the Gothic"), but being here has been immensely fun. I can't remember a time before when I didn't want to rush back home and return to my routine and be reunited with my little family. This time, however, I am truly sad that I must leave Savannah.

Unfortunately, my new fancy camera, which my husband gave me as a present for my birthday, needs a charger that I left back home, thinking regular batteries would do. Thus, the few photos I've been able to take are all from my cellphone, which doesn't even begin to do justice to this small awesome city.

The visit started with a tour to the Flannery O'Connor house, and then a walking ghost tour of Savannah, including "Laura's Cottage," the house of a former free black woman "root doctor," who appears to haunt her erstwhile home, which is now available for rent at $180 a night, with a three-night minimum. According to our ghost tour guide, most people don't make it past the first night.

The conference itself began in earnest on Friday with all-day panels and, for the first time, I chaired a panel on Society and Self in the Gothic. I made new professional friends and learned a lot from all the panels, but especially from the keynote speech by Teresa A. Goddu about slave narratives and the Gothic. Today, I gave my paper on Martin R. Delany's novel in the morning, and received a lot of positive feedback, and then took a break in the afternoon to walk down the famous River Street in search of some memorabilia.

Tonight, on the last night in Savannah, we went to dinner at the 17Hundred90, a pub and restaurant that is also famously haunted. We didn't see any ghosts but the food was sublimely good, including a Jambalaya that was all I imagined and more.

Tomorrow I return home and it's a bittersweet feeling because I will not only miss this lovely city but also the weather down South, even if it's been rainy and foggy and gray. It still beats, by far, the chilly Ohio weather. I thought I was done with falling in love with places. But Savannah has proved me wrong.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

On a snowy day

Wanting to make the most of a sunny morning, right before the snow was scheduled to begin, my husband and I drove to the nearby Scioto Audubon Metro Park to take Lizzy for a walk next to the river. But the snow beat us to it and, as we arrived, it started flurrying with some insistence. Although Lizzy is not an enthusiastic car rider, like Rusty used to be, and tends to get car sick (which ain't pretty, let me tell you), she was very excited to get to the park and walk about a mile on the well-paved trail.

The sights along the path were lovely and my husband was able to take some good pictures of a lonely duck and of one of the many herons (standing, grave and silent, like a monk) on the icy river. There were many seagulls, which I love since they remind me of Boston, and it was all very tranquil and nice. A good way to spend part of a Saturday before returning to my "dungeon" in the basement to grade and prep classes for this coming week.

The accessibility of all these near and beautiful places is another reason why I love that we're back near the capital city. There's always somewhere new and not far to try out.

In that vein of new experiences, for the first time since college I requested a book of poetry from the local library (Mary Oliver's A Thousand Mornings). I saw it reviewed on NPR and decided to give it a try. I have no patience for poetry that is so obscure as to be unintelligible (at least to me) so I'm enjoying the short, observant poems that she crafts. Here's one of my favorites:

The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers

 Who can guess the luna's sadness who lives so
briefly? Who can guess the impatience of stone
longing to be ground down, to be part again of
something livelier? Who can imagine in what 
heaviness the rivers remember their original

Strange questions, yet I have spent worthwhile
time with them. And I suggest them to you also,
that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life
be richer than it is, that you bow to the earth as
you feel how it actually is, that we--so clever, and
ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained--are only
one design of the moving, the vivacious many.

To make time for poetry, and time to see and feel the poetry of nature itself, is precious. Even on a  gray, snowy day, the soul can but rejoice.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February chill


February arrived, in the wake of January, chilly and snowy, leading the dogs to regularly "enfort" themselves among the sofa's cushions in search of more warmth. So far, in Ohio, we've had more snow than all of last year's winter put together. Recently, we had several straight days of snow or rain so that a sunny day today is a real treat.

Also recently, a neighbor walked her dog Mikey over here and Lizzy and he had a great time chasing each other around the yard until he tried to sniff her butt and Lizzy objected, the snarly dog way, and then they went their separate ways in the yard. The neighbor said she'd bring Mikey back and since he's so good natured maybe she'll get a playmate (but no one will ever replace her best friend, the black lab Pepper, who's still back in the town near my small college on the hill).

Some nights the temperatures have dipped into the teens so we've been trying to help the wildbirds and other wildlife out there by placing half-oranges on our main backyard tree and it seems to be a hit. We didn't know that squirrels will actually eat the whole orange, peel and all!

My husband and I are both very glad that winter is winding down, though it's not letting up, and that February is only 28 days this year. After considering a trip to Puerto Rico in March, as usual, we've decided that we'll probably stay here for Spring Break to enjoy a staycation during better weather now that there's so much more we can do from our new old home.

At school, everything is marching well, thankfully. I have two good groups and the work is decidedly manageable as opposed to the feeling of being overwhelmed, which was the norm last semester. Really, whoever says that college professors don't work enough is an ignorant fool. There well may be universities and colleges that are paying professors to do little or no work but that's not the case at my small college on the hill.

For the junior faculty and even for those who are tenured sometimes it can feel like it's a 24/7 job with a break here and there, if you're lucky (and very disciplined). Because it's not just the time in class or in office hours, there's also all the grading (the students must produce work that can be assessed and returned to them so they do learn), the preparation time and the research/scholarship time, the department/college meetings and the preparing for meetings, the department/college events and activities, and all the additional meetings and communications with students. I heard that at my small college on the hill the tour guides will boast that professors offer 20 hours a week of office hours. I thought that was preposterous until I started thinking about my own contact time with students, including emails and Skyping when I'm not on campus, and it didn't seem too off mark, especially in the semester when I have nearly 50 students and 20 advisees. I cannot and don't complain, because I have the privilege to love what I do and do what I love, but anyone who says teachers are "spoiled" or "lazy" doesn't know what they're talking about.

This semester, thankfully, as I've already mentioned, I've rediscovered the pleasure of having (like when I used to have a 9-5 job) unscripted time and it's a great feeling. I'm making progress through Cloud Atlas as my bedtime reading and have even started, again, on War and Peace. My husband calculated that if I can read about one or two pages a night of the almost 1,000 pages of that novel, I may finish it in a year and a half. Here's to having 18 months of good reading. In any case, I definitely plan to enjoy the ability to read something other than class-related books while  it lasts.

(I have to say, however, that I'm loving the ability to re-read Hawthorne since I'm teaching my senior single-author seminar on his work this semester. Next week we start The Scarlet Letter and I can't wait! I know, I know. I'm a nerd.)