Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Full circle, with improvements

In 2007, I started this blog to find a community.  I was at the time a middle-Assistant Professor working on a critical book project and feeling keenly the absence of the kind of camaraderie and sympathy that many of us experience in graduate school--you know, that sense that we're all in this together, that we share many of the same challenges, benchmarks, and concerns.  I hadn't yet found that kind of community at my institution, and the isolation was amplified by my general sense of my professional disconnectedness.  I mean, when we leave grad school for the profession, we know a few people that we see at conferences from time to time, and we usually have a sense of who our critical peeps are, though we may know them primarily through their writings rather than personally, but there's certainly not a sense of real integration into the field's conversation yet, or at least I didn't have that sense.  Moreover, in 2007 I was recently separated from my kids' dad, living in my parents' basement, and maintaining a very limited social circulation as I contemplated the wreckage that had been my family.

It was not my best time.  I spent a lot of hours in my head, which reinforced my sense of separation from all the, well, human pleasures that attracted me to the humanities in the first place.

This blog was a crucial mooring line for me for those years.  Through this blog, I connected not only with folks who were facing some of the same challenges and changes that I was, but also with scholars who would become my friends, scholars whose work would influence me, scholars who would give me direction as I made my way into the profession.  We ain't in in alone, and perhaps counterintuitively, I have found a lovely and inspiring community in this semi-anonymous context, for which I'm deeply grateful.

My life now looks different:  I'm an Associate Prof who has been "honored" as of this year with a significant administrative appointment.  I have colleagues in my department and in the profession at large who have grown into a community much like that nostalgic one from grad school--trusted readers, sympathetic cheerleaders, sharp interlocutors.  I've remarried, a lovely partner whom I can trust with all my insecurities, and my kids are happy and well-adjusted.

And as of this morning, it appears that the book that served both as center of gravity and as emblem for all my anxieties and self-doubts, the very project that launched this blog into existence, will be published.

I've found of late that I don't have much to say on this blog.  This is in part because, you know, I'm doing pretty well after all.  And there's no narrative drama in that position.  Besides, the few things that continue to exercise me are largely unbloggable.  I considered for a while uncloaking, and making this blog into a kind of professional instrument.  But that's sounding unappealing in its sheer self-promotion.

A couple of years back, I posted this about how we plan out our time and energy.  In a New Yorker essay David Sedaris suggested that our lives are like stoves with four burners, representing family, friends, health, and work.  And you have to choose which burners to turn off for the other burners to function at full capacity.  For a long time the energy I put into this blog was an essential expenditure, because it was sustaining the general well-being of the stove.  But now that my stove has found a controlled balance, I'm less inclined to devote some of my time and energy to writing something here than stoking the other gratifying fires.

This is all to say what is already obvious:  Green Thoughts is probably fading into obsolescence.  Becoming autumnal.  And if I don't post another word here, I do want to take a moment to thank all the folks who visited and commented, who offered support and virtual hugs, who shared the wisdom of particular experience.  I'll keep reading y'all, and continue to bask in your adroit and useful words.

Circling back to silence, then, and ending where I begunne:  calls for a dance, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The intro is dead. Long live the intro.

Revision:  done, yo.  Definitely better, more persuasive, 25% longer, more articulate, and clearer framing of my book's argument than the earlier draft.  Thanks, dismissive reviewer!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cool things.

1)  Out for a run tonight, getting overtaken by a massive hailstorm, with thunder and all. 

2)  Yo-Yo Ma's recent project with Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile, and Edgar Meyer (Goat Rodeo Sessions).  So good it makes me want to, I dunno, throw over this literature horseshit and make some music.

3)  Eating meals with smart, interesting, former-students-now-friends.

4)  _Luther_ on Netflix.  (Thanks, Blue Cheese.)

5)  The library!  My institution has faculty delivery, so I don't spend a lot of time in the stacks, I confess.  I usually just request a call number and the book shows up magically in my office.  But today I went over to get a couple of books and remembered how, when you head to the actual place where books are kept, you make sweet discoveries.  The shelves next to the book you want....those shelves usually have relevant stuff that you may not have found otherwise, armed merely with your disembodied LOC number.  It's like using the actual OED or 1934 Websters rather than settling for some website.  Serendipity! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Big plans

So I'm taking the Things on a major road trip/camping adventure for a couple of weeks this summer.   We're going a long way, through very cool territory, a few states and a couple of countries.  I've been planning it all out this evening, figuring out reasonable driving portions, maximizing cool adventuring in the places we set up camp.  I'm so, so excited.  But also a little anxious.  One of the things about being a single parent is that on a trip like this all the planning falls to oneself.  If something falls through, one must recalibrate on one's own.  If catastrophe strikes (and I'm talking here about, say, car catastrophes), then one must deal with both catastrophe and kids capably.  There's no off position on the parenting switch, no opportunity to let the other guy take over for a while. 

Before we depart, I must finish my work on the big anthology thing, as it's due to the publisher July 1.  I really have only a 12-page intro to write, but seem not to be able to, you know, write it.  Why?  Because my mind is wholly occupied with re-conceiving my scholarly book's intro chapter.  I'm reminded, as I re-engage with that chapter, what a lousy reviser I am.  Lousy.  It takes me so freaking long to write it the first time.  And when I write it the first time, I've really stretched to my capacity trying to get the argument down.  I'm almost incapable of returning to the scene of the crime, as it were, to shift things around.  Indeed, after two days of trying to do just that, I've resigned myself this evening to the probability that I just have to rewrite the intro chapter from scratch.  I'll actually have an easier time incorporating my big plans for this chapter if I start over than I will if I try to shoehorn them in.  That's dispiriting.  Especially since the big trip is looming right around the corner, and will virtually shut down my sustained thinking about any project for a couple of weeks.  July is looking grim indeed. 

At least I'll go into it fueled by s'mores.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Memorial Day

Behind the banyan trees, the mansions. Behind the mansions, the
In the lagoon, a mooring of sailboats.
Wind in the rigging.
Hull-slap and groan.
                                                                Where is everybody?
The sound of people playing in their pools—well ..., there
Isn’t any; the streets
Are empty—, the moon, like a moon
Jelly, beating its slow float in the not-
Quite-dark. In the gardens of the Moorings Country Club,
The lights have come on, rice paper lanterns on which are
Printed cherry blossoms. O—this un-
Starred sky. And the smell of the star
Jasmine, the fleshy, resplendent scent
Of the gardenia. Is this where I say, I
Miss you? Where I say, Father, isn’t there anything
In this evening’s long cortege of bloom, as beautiful
                                                                      As it used to be?
Like the sound of a ghost ship drifting
Through fog—like a sweet-despicable
Imitation of mourning—a piteousness of doves is cooing in the
             banyan trees.

--Jay Hopler

Saturday, April 28, 2012

    And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
    Myself I stood in the storm of the bird-cherry tree.
    It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self-shattering power,
    And it was all aimed at me.

    What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?
    What is being? What is truth?

    Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,
    All hover and hammer,
    Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.
    It is now. It is not.                                               
    (4 May 1937)

 --Osip Mandelstam, trans. Christian Wiman

Friday, April 27, 2012

From Paradise Lost Book 3

Hail, holy Light, offspring of Heaven firstborn,
Or of the Eternal coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam'd? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear"st thou rather pure ethereal stream,
Whose fountain who shall tell? before the sun,
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I re-visit now with bolder wing,
Escap'd the Stygian pool, though long detain'd
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
With other notes than to the Orphean lyre
I sung of Chaos and eternal Night;
Taught by the heavenly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to re-ascend,
Though hard and rare: Thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital lamp; but thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil'd. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander, where the Muses haunt,
Clear spring, or shady grove, or sunny hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallow'd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor sometimes forget
So were I equall'd with them in renown,
Thy sovran command, that Man should find grace;
Blind Thamyris, and blind Maeonides,
And Tiresias, and Phineus, prophets old:
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of nature's works to me expung'd and ras'd,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou, celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate; there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

--John Milton 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quæ sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans totum deficit.
Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius;
Nil hoc verbo veritátis verius.
In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et Humanitas,
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro pœnitens.
Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor:
Deum tamen meum te confiteor.
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.
O memoriale mortis Domini!
Panis vivus, vitam præstans homini!
Præsta meæ menti de te vívere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.
Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine:
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.
Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ gloriæ. Amen
--Thomas Aquinas