Sunday, March 31, 2013

Practice resurrection


Despite being raised Catholic, a tradition my parents allowed my parental grandparents and my maternal grand-aunt to steep me in, I have never been a devoted churchgoer. There is too much of the iconoclast in me (something I'm very grateful for) but there have been moments in my life when being in the presence of God, as I understand it, has been and is a comfort and a joy.

Through the years in Puerto Rico when I struggled with Crohn's, and when weakness and humiliation and pain were my constant companions, going to the small and ancient San José Church in Old San Juan was a spiritual balm. Señor, no soy digna de que entres a mi, pero una palabra tuya bastará para sanarme.

Once I moved up to Ohio, I discovered the Episcopal Church and appreciate its "Catholic-Light" (as one Episcopalian described it to me) approach. I have major issues with the Catholic Church, including the fact that women and women issues are so relegated. The two churches I've attended while in Ohio have had wonderful women ministers, which is inspiring after having grown up with mostly dour priests.

Even if I don't make it to church consistently, I do believe in practicing resurrection on Easter Sunday and make a point of going to services then. It's a day to celebrate, as Amma Susan told her congregation today, "the triumph of life over death through resurrection." Aptly, Easter falls during spring, and while this spring has not really sprung yet, there are buds trying to sprout everywhere and even the bird songs sound more hopeful and future-focused. Spring, as my husband reminded me this morning, even as it's in the 40s, gray and rainy, is inevitable. I know this, but it's good to be reminded.

And I love that Easter Sunday recalls this simple truth to me. It reminds me that, as Amma Susan also said, life is stronger than death, and we can practice resurrection every single day we are given to live. There is something lovely in this day when we can believe in miracles, in the ultimate miracle, perhaps, that death, weakness, and decay can all be humbled by the strength of forgiveness and redemption.

I'm all for second chances and Easter always feels like it's a mystical threshold, inviting us (regardless of whether we are religious or not), to see life with different eyes, to focus on the good more than on the bad, and, most importantly, to not give up. Today, despair, sadness, fear, are all transformed, even if only for today, into hope. Which, after all, can only spring eternal.

Daffodils already smiling at the sun in my in-laws' West Virginia home, photo taken by my husband.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

On a warm day

Spring officially "arrived" this past Wednesday but Spring didn't get the memo in Ohio so it's been cold and tonight we're expecting a major snow storm. These photos, taken by my husband, are from Saturday, March 16 when unusually balmy (for this non-Spring) sunny weather (in the 50s) got us out of the house and onto one of our favorite Metro parks for a nice, long walk with Lizzy.

This park has a pond known as "Turtle Pond," which has a nice trail around it where you can see turtles and geese and ducks and even the marvelous kingfishers. It's one of our favorite nearby places to spend some quality time and make the most of where we live and of the rare good weather.

I managed to get both myself and Lizzy all muddied up by taking her to the edge of the pond for a quick drink but it didn't faze either one of us too much. These kinds of outings, although they have not been frequent this March, do make up a little for the fact that we didn't do our usual trip to warmer Puerto Rico over Spring Break, opting instead for a staycation. Well, we won't be making that mistake again, that's for sure!

They're promising more normal temperatures by next weekend for Easter so here's to hoping that Spring will finally spring in Ohio.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In like a lion!

March arrived, not with warmer temperatures or an early start to Spring, as the groundhog incorrectly forecast, but like a lion, with snow and icy sleet and below-normal temperatures. February is the cruelest month because by then we are both sick-and-tired of winter but March can be the most fickle and disappointing because it behaves like winter even though the crocuses, the snow drops, and even the tulips have started to burst from the soil.

At home, Hamlet spends a lot of time doing this (above) because he is now grounded for life after managing to get one of his ears sliced the last time my husband let him out (his tail is already funny-looking because of a previous fight injury). He's too much of a Tom cat and appears to go directly to his cat enemies to pick a fight. Thus, he is now, permanently, an indoor cat (which doesn't make him happy so he spends a lot of time yowling in despair).

I took time over the break, with the help of my handyman husband, to reorganize my basement office. My husband pulled up the dirty old cream-colored carpet to leave the concrete floor bare, which makes my office so much easier to clean and maintain clean! He helped me relocate the desk against the far wall and now everything is much more functional and comfortable. Once I can open my little window vent, as the temperatures warm, I'll be able to enjoy a little bit of the outside even in my "dungeon."

My break ends tomorrow and it has been wonderful. I am so privileged and grateful that my small college on the hill gives such a long Spring Break and these times reaffirm how right I was to pursue my Ph.D., not just because it allows me to teach and to do scholarship on what I love, but also because it allows me to have this kind of schedule.

I should be hearing next month about the results of my tenure process, which means it's time to start thinking about what goals I want to set for myself over the next five or six years. Obtaining tenure was the goal I set right after receiving my doctorate in 2008 and this year will, hopefully, etch another "start" line for whatever the future may have in store over the next several years. Here's to always having a goal and to making it ever more about how to make a real difference in this difficult world!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Good memories of Savannah

The Symposium on the Gothic in Savannah was a wonderful experience. As I've mentioned, I got to present some of my work on Delany, which is part of my book project, and it was well received (even though our panel was not well attended since none of us is a "name" in the field yet). But, most of all, Savannah stole my heart with its flowers in February and it's very Southern Gothic character.

Our last night there, we had a delicious dinner at the 17Hundred90, one of the most haunted inns in the city, and my husband took this picture of a "ghost" looking out of the second-floor window from which the actual ghost is purported to have either jumped or been pushed to her death while alive.

My husband took the picture below with his camera as we stood on River Street, on our last day, and watched one of those gigantic cargo ships glide by on its way (seemingly to hit) the beautiful new bridge over the Savannah River.

We did some walking around the city and enjoyed the flowering bushes in February and the beautiful architecture of the squares into which the city is divided.

The second and third days, when my husband was there, the weather was mostly rainy and gray, and that's when he got this great shot of a "ghostly" masted ship coming into port. The hotel where we stayed had large picture windows that overlooked the river so it was great to see all the ships come and go.

I was also thrilled to discover the Puerto Rican flag hanging from the ceiling of the Savannah airport   on the day of my return to Ohio. I took that as another "sign" of affinity with this unique city!

The city, the food (OMG, the food!), the people: everything in Savannah made the trip worthwhile and we'll definitely make sure to return in a not-too-distant-future.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A visit to Flannery O'Connor's House

Unlike most museums in Savannah, the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home, which a group of conference participants visited the first day I arrived in the city, allowed us to take pictures inside.

The stories about her life and her writing were fascinating and, though I don't recall having read much of her work before, she's now definitely on my list of future reading to do.