I started this semester in my American Fear class with Poe's magnificent "The Raven," and that line has stayed with me because January has turned into the bleakest of its kind since we've been in Ohio, setting records for the worst arctic blasts in recent memory. A sci-fi-sounding "Polar Vortex" hit us in mid-January, bringing -40 windchill to our area, and now another Arctic Blast is scheduled for next week when temperatures will plummet to -11 and that's not counting the windchill.
I cannot wait for this month to be gone because, as my husband likes to note, this is simply not weather humans (or most anything in this weather zone) were meant to live in. Like Poe's raven, this January constantly reminds me of what I don't want to think about: how this might be the new normal around these parts. We are, of course, deeply grateful that we have a warm and cozy home but it constantly pains me to think of all the homeless people (and animals) who are forced to brave weather that is, in a word, brutal. If climate change means that Ohio is going to be colder than Alaska and Iceland (which is what has happened this week), that would be simply unbearable.
To keep warm, I've been gravitating toward vegetable soups (I have a PBS feed on my FB page that has started posting really interesting recipes) so I recently made this Carrot Ginger Soup. I added some curry and some milk and it was delicious. My mom likes my butternut squash soup, to which I add a little locally made peach salsa, and I'm thinking that's what I'll be making later today for dinner.
The cold outside has been hard to keep at bay inside in our old house with its original 1930s leaden-glass windows, and the dogs are constantly looking for ways to warm themselves up. My husband caught Chiquita trying to snuggle in Lizzy's bed with Lizzy's pink flatsheet and not being very successful in the process... He had to rescue her from her unplanned entanglement.
At work, this past week I chaired (for what I hope is the last time after six years of doing so) the committee that planned and implemented my small college on the hill's Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr.'s Day of Dialogue. A group of junior faculty started this in 2009 with the collaboration of staff and students, and that effort has continued and grown to the point that last year the faculty voted the event into the class calendar. Although we didn't get as many people this time as last year (our first in the huge music theater at the college), the programming was the best yet, I think.
Today, after another 2 to 4 inches of snow in what has not only been a mercilessly cold January but an inordinately snowy one, too, the conference of birds that we feed at our birdfeeders was large, and they were accompanied by the four or five squirrels that remain with the wherewithal to survive in our yard (those are the smart one that now know Lizzy is after them and can "follow fast and follow faster.")
I keep reminding myself that "this, too, shall pass" (not hearing any "nevermores," so far) and am focusing on each day rather than on thinking how the weather is going to get even worse next week. Hope may never disappoint but although I had high hopes that the heart ablation would take care of my heart issues, not a week after the procedure I was back in Emergency and not a week after that I had to take my new emergency medication when it happened again (at least I didn't have to go back to the ER, which is really getting old!). If this weekend is uneventful, it'll be the first since the procedure. We'll have to see. Fingers crossed.
Instead of focusing on what I cannot control, I'm focused most determinedly on what I'm enjoying. I am, most definitely, really loving teaching my two classes: my new Intro to Latin@ Literature & Film. I have 20 students in that class and they're engaged and interested and I've added texts that I've never taught before so I'm learning a lot myself in the process of teaching. I'm also teaching my American Fear class to 23 students and I'm not sure how I managed to overenroll myself. The first two iterations of that class in past years were challenging for me, especially the first one in which I had that one student who wrote in her end-of-term evaluation that she'd "stopped learning after the first week" and then went on to Rate My Professor and said I didn't belong teaching college (no, in case you're wondering, I will never forget that).
But this time around I feel like I finally got a "good scald" on that class (as my husband says when his buttermilk biscuits come out particularly delicious). I'm so much more confident in what I'm doing and how I do it and so much more in command of the Gothic and horror materials I teach (given that most of my scholarship intersects with that genre), that I can feel it and am, truly, having lots of fun. How could I not when I get to teach Poe and I get to ask students to think about what being a demon means (the power of knowledge) and why witches are sources of horror (because they represent a woman with power)? I totally love that part of my job.