Saturday, June 29, 2013

Busy June

June has been busy around here! It started with a glorious Supermoon that shone against the dark fabric of night like a sparkling brooch, and it continued with the visit by my sister and niece, coming from Maryland, so we could all go see Wicked. It was a great visit, and I did not cease to be impressed with what an articulate, smart, and strong young woman my niece has become.

The last part of June was devoted (it just ended yesterday) to that week-long Summer Teaching Institute that I proposed and taught with a friend and colleague. For the week, we went back to dorm living, thought at a scale never experienced before, having been assigned one of the new housing apartments at my small college on the hill.

My good friend and I were struck with the fact that these are beautiful and comfortable and rather ritzy for college students, at least compared to what our own dorm rooms were.

The experience of teaching teachers was exciting (if exhausting because we ended up providing about 28 contact hours over five days), but the evaluations were extremely positive and my friend and I hope that we can repeat it again next year. Here's to hoping!

After a marathon of packing and leaving the dorm room in good shape after moving everything out, I made it back home and Darwin was so pleased to have me back, right here, where he likes to make it hard for me to look at this monitor. The best thing of being away from home is coming back!

Next week, I return to my small college on the hill to teach the three-week bridge program and I'll be staying in different digs (not as ritzy, for sure) but there will be other amenities (like a TV!), which I missed while I was up there this week. Though, when I think about it, I know I wouldn't have had any time to turn a TV on!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Flaming June

That is the title of a beautiful 1895 painting by Fredrick Lord Leighton, which hung in the Ponce Museum of Art, which I visited several times as a child. June in Ohio reminds me of that painting because this month is, without a doubt, the most beautiful of the year, second only (in my biased heart) to October.

June is the month of peonies (above are the last ones I picked from our garden as the month began), and it is the month of strawberries and rhubarb. Below are the strawberries we purchased in Pennsylvania, when we were returning from Gettysburg, and the rhubarb provided by a friend at work, who grows it in her garden. They both made for an outstanding strawberry rhubarb pie. It's hard to find something not to like about June, I gotta say (except having to work during these glorious days, of course).

Though I haven't been teaching (my first summer work session is still about a week away), I've kept busy rescuing cats and working on the class plan for that program, which is the first of its kind at my small college on the hill. Last year, I proposed to college officials that we create a Teaching Institute for high school teachers to capitalize on my college's reputation for excellence in teaching. This institute would be funded by a sort of "alumni college" in which graduated students would be able to return to take classes with their favorite professors. The proposal was accepted and this summer the college is offering five classes for alumni, which should be interesting. A dear friend, who now lives in Virginia, and I will be teaching the first session for high school teachers later this month, focusing on college-level writing.

I am very excited to co-teach with her because she and I are very similar so it's been a pleasure planning the classes (we have the same "cover all bases" approach), and I'm really looking forward to sharing the classroom with her. I'm also excited to teach other teachers, albeit in a different context. I loved the experience to teach fellow university professors in Puerto Rico when I went to the University of Turabo last summer, so this will be an experience along similar lines.

I've also been directing the Writing session for my college's bridge program, which begins tomorrow, and it's been fun redesigning the syllabus, as we do each summer, to take into account the feedback we receive from students and our own assessment of what does well and what needs to be tweaked. I'll be teaching the second session of this program in July.

In the next few weeks, I also have to produce a 14-page essay on my Hawthorne class for a collection on "teaching Hawthorne" that will be published next year, and a revision of my Sophia Hawthorne chapter in a book on women Transcendentalists. I'm looking forward to being done with class planning so I can devote some time to these two scholarly projects.

Yes, it's true that I now have tenure and I don't "have" to do any of this. And that's the point. I want to do what I do. My scholarship is important to me and while the tenure letter suggested that I didn't have to be in such a rush to produce scholarly work, which means I can let myself be pickier about what and when I choose to do scholarship, I still want to be recognized as a scholar. After I'm done with these two projects, I plan to revise an essay I have about Ramón Emeterio Betances and submit it to a journal on Puerto Rican studies, and I'm also mulling over a possible future book project on Hawthorne. I still haven't heard back about the book manuscript I submitted to the press at the end of 2012, but I'm in no hurry to get that back.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my husband and I have been busy rescuing a feral cat and her four kittens. After weeks of careful planning (and lots of apparently really good canned food!), we got the very skittish cat and her kittens to eat inside a cage provided by our tiny city's animal control officer. I was able to make arrangements with a cat rescue group, and last Tuesday, we trapped the female and two of her kitties (who turned out to be male and are now called Calvin and Hobbes by the rescue people), and took them 10 miles to the rescue place.

Left behind were these two adorable kittens, which are now used to coming to our porch at feeding times.These two we plan to cage next week and I'll take them to our former vet in the town next to my small college on the hill, where they will be neutered or spayed (I think the white and yellow is female), and, hopefully, someone will want to adopt them.

"Eramos muchos y parió la abuela," is how my father described what his father used to say when unexpected complications arise in life. And that's how I've been feeling about this family of strays. There are, without a doubt, too many abandoned cats, and I feel it's our responsibility, as much as we can, to help with that situation when we can. Duty calls, they say, and it sure calls my name, loud and clear.

Yesterday, as we walked the dogs after I returned from a two-day meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I'd never been before, we saw this imprint of some leaves on the sidewalk. This reminds of the same imprints that you see in fall, once the leaves have fallen. It's a lovely metaphor for a memory, seemingly indelible yet fragile, etched carefully but also blurry.

I hope this summer doesn't go too quickly. As I've said before, my intention is to make the most of whatever unscripted time I have during this break. I want to live summer in a purposeful way, with the same "discipline" I have when working. I don't want my days to go by in a blur. Soon enough, too soon, indeed, the summer will be all just but a memory.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gettysburg, PA

On our way home on Sunday, we had decided to stop at Gettysburg, which I had never seen before. This is a place you can never forget. The museum is first rate, especially the historical videos they have that explain the battle, and its historical context within the U.S. Civil War.

But the eeriest and most impressive part was driving around the acres and acres that became one of the bloodiest battlefields. We started on the Southern side, which simply "felt wrong" to me, and I kept insisting that we had to drive around to find the Northern side.

Once there, I was surprised to find monuments to Maine and New York regiments, who fought in that battle, but we couldn't locate a Massachusetts one. I was sure there had to be a battalion from Massachusetts there, and there is, but we didn't get a chance to find it.

The preservation work that they've done at Gettysburg is simply amazing, and it's very moving and awe-inspiring to know that you are stepping on a place where history was made, quite literally. It was the battle that turned the U.S. Civil War and stopped the seemingly invincible Robert E. Lee. Quite a history.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


On Friday, we drove to Annapolis, MD, to attend the high school graduation of my luminous older niece. The day was glorious as we strolled near the docks, and took in the character of a small city we have all come to love.

The next day, before it was time to get ready for the graduation, we took a tour of the State House, where George Washington resigned his commission back when the U.S. Capitol was in Annapolis.

This time, my husband and I stayed in the Robert Johnson House, right in the old city, part of the Historic Inns of Annapolis. We had a lovely stay in a comfy and quiet room so this will likely be where we'll return to when we go back to Annapolis, most likely for yet another graduation.