Friday, March 22, 2019

Notes on Another Week of Exhaustion

It has been another exhausting week.  I begin to worry that exhausting is becoming the new norm for me.  Let me capture a few thoughts before they slide away.

--Let me remember that I'm exhausted in part because I'm trying to get the work of next week done this week because next week I will be away at the AWP convention. I want to be able to be there without worrying too much about the work waiting to be done when I get home and because I need to meet a March 31 accreditation documents deadline before I leave.

--I dreamed last night that I was revising accreditation documents.  It wasn't an anxiety dream.  It was just a continuation of what I spent most of my hours at work doing yesterday.  I wish my brain was a bit more inspired.  Can't we go to Paris and drink champagne or hike a mountain trail or do something different during my dream time?

--I got a fortune cookie from our Speech teacher who has crafted a speaking opportunity around them.  I made this Facebook post:  Good news: my fortune cookie says, "The best times of your life have not yet been lived." I am oddly relieved.

--I then decided I needed a photo to go along with it.  I keep most of my teapots on the large window sill in my office, and I liked the Chinese teapot as a backdrop:

--I thought about how long I've had this teapot.  I bought it at Epcot back in 1984.  It has an inner diffuser cup for brewing a pot from loose tea leaves.

--Yesterday during my walk in the early morning dark, I saw a fox.  At first I thought it was a coyote, but when I got back and looked at pictures, I think it was a fox.  It had a very different tail than a cat.  That tail and the facial markings made me decide it was a fox not a coyote.  It was fearless, like a coyote.  We stared at each other for a bit, and as I walked away, it followed me from a distance.  Finally, it lost interest.

--We are having one last cool front--we usually don't have chillier weather this late in March.

--My once in a blue moon book club meets tomorrow to discuss Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings.  I had read the book once long ago when it first came out, and I remember being impressed.  I had forgotten almost all of it, and I enjoyed reading it again.

--I had forgotten about the sewing/fabric/quilting aspect of that book.  It made me long for my fiber arts.  I did spend some time finishing garlands that will be strung on indoor trees at the Create in Me retreat.

This project wasn't quite as satisfying as a patchwork project would be:

 Time to finish up this work week! 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Lenten Journaling Workshop with Shells and Spools and Fibers

Last night at my church, I led our journaling group through several exercises.

When I first got to the fellowship hall, I took a jar of shells collected through the years and laid them on a table:

As people arrived, I invited them to choose a shell that spoke to them.  We sat for a few minutes while others gathered, and then we began.

We started with prayer, and then I read the first chapter of Genesis (I skipped some of the middle days of creation).  We ended with God declaring everything good--very good--and then taking a day of rest.

We journaled for 10 minutes.

I then invited the group to the second table where they would choose from the tin of buttons,

some rectangles of cloth,

pieces of yarn, 

and spools of thread:

I gave some writing prompts:  what do we learn about God from considering these items? 

If you had to explain God to someone who hadn't ever heard of God, how would you use these elements?  

I reminded people that they could do whatever appealed to them:  create a story about the button that wanders away or make something out of the elements:

We journaled for 10 minutes, and towards the end, I reminded people of the Genesis story of creation and asked if we learned anything about creation from our own creating.

We had a few minutes for sharing.  We prayed, and then we ended our second full night of journaling together.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Drizzlies

Today is the vernal equinox, when the northern hemisphere shifts from winter to spring.  Our weather has been dreary, with a steady rain/drizzle all day yesterday.  For me, it was a nice change.  I drank several cups of tea as I worked steadily in my office.  

Usually when we have a rainy day I have a bit of yearning to be home baking.  But my kitchen isn't set up for baking yet, so yesterday I was content to sit in my office with its big windows and watch the gloominess.

I got home with all sorts of plans, but I spent much of the evening on the phone moving funds from my 401K that I had when I was at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale into a plan that I can control.  Until recently, I only felt a bit of urgency, but with the news of the downward spiral of the company that bought the EDMC schools, I decided it was time to take action.

After I did it, I felt the glow of getting a chore done, but I also felt a bit of sadness.  That 401K has done well by me.  I will likely never work for a company with a similar generosity of retirement plan.  Before Goldman-Sachs bought EDMC, I got a 6% match, dollar for dollar--amazing.

I felt sadness too, because it was a good school, back when it was a good school.  Even after the Goldman-Sachs takeover, we continued to do good work.  Students may have been fed inflated dreams about what they could accomplish once they graduated--but they earned a solid education that could propel them to a better future if they took advantage of it.

I had a somewhat drizzly mood, so I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday; that cheered me.  When my spouse got home from chorale practice, we sat on the front porch and watched the rain.  That, too, gave me some joy.

The chilly drizzle reminded me of my February time in Savannah, another time when I felt a bit of wistfulness.  There were signs to show us how to get to Charleston, a location of a different school where once I taught.  I've been in a frame of mind as I'm getting older:  thinking of roads taken and not taken.

A week from today I'll be headed to a different kind of drizzliness as I go to Portland, Oregon for the AWP conference.  I am tempted not to take my coat that takes up so much room but to dress in layers.  The 14 day outlook doesn't call for as much rain as I would expect, with highs in the high 50's and lows in the 40's.  I'm staying half a mile from the convention center, so I'll be walking a lot, and I often don't want a heavier outer layer when I'm walking.

The chance of rain each day is less than 50%.  Would I do better to bring 2 pairs of sneakers instead of a pair of sneakers and a pair of boots?  Hmm.  That way, I could switch them out and they could dry.  My boots would make me feel trendy and cool, but sneakers would probably keep me pain-free.  I'll check the weather again as we get closer.

I have much to do before I leave--lots of accreditation documents to finish/revise/proofread.  Let me begin this day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Purple Legal Pads of Poetry Past

In the midst of a flurry of accreditation documents, yesterday my Outlook calendar reminded me that I want to submit to the Concrete Wolf contest for poets over 50.  It's a press that I like, and I can pay a bit more and get a copy of the winning book.

I will need to trim my current manuscript which is 72 pages.  The upper limit for this contest is 60 pages.  It will be a good exercise.

This morning I found myself thinking about putting together a new manuscript, one with a more clear religious theme.  I had an idea about mixing my Jesus in the world poems with some of my monastic themed poems and liturgical year poems to make a larger book.   I've been putting the poems that would work together in a file.

Now may be the time to actually create the manuscript.  By now I mean at some point between now and July.

I do not mean now, as in the month of March, which is over half gone.  I do not mean now, as in the last 6 weeks of this semester of my online classes, which will end in early May.

I am always grabbing time for my creative work in the margins of my other work.  I cannot imagine having vast swaths of uninterrupted time.  I can only barely imagine what it would be like to work for an institution which valued that work above the other types of work I could be hired to do.

In the past, I've written poems on my purple legal pads and left them to sit for awhile so that I could get perspective.  I thought it was important to have space between the original writing and the revision and typing into the computer.  I still think it's important.  But now I let too much time go by.  I should start making more of an effort to make sure the poems with publishing potential aren't lost to my drawer of purple legal pads of poetry past.

Could I look at one legal pad per week to make sure I haven't overlooked/forgotten poems that should be part of the new collection?  Yes, that will be my new writing resolution.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Travel's Lessons

Four weeks ago, I'd have been getting in the car for my drive to Savannah for the accreditation conference.  I had spent the weeks leading up to the trip feeling a bit of anxiety and not being sure exactly why--or knowing why and not having much control over these feelings.

I am always happy to have made the trip once I'm back--well, almost always.  I'm surprised that the thought of traveling makes me so anxious.  What happened to that young woman who used to declare that she'd be just fine as long as she could throw her pillow, her running shoes, and a good book in the car?

That woman is decades older now and understands all that can go wrong.  That woman now worries about the humans and the work left behind.  That woman now longs to be several places at once.

I have these ideas of traveling on the mind in part because I will be traveling next week:  it's AWP time, and I decided that I needed to force myself to go.  I'm moving out of my comfort zone with this trip across the country to Portland, Oregon.  I will be meeting a grad school friend there, so I won't be completely alone.  And I have resources.  But it's not like last year, when the conference was in Tampa.  If something went wrong, I wasn't that far from home.

But things likely won't go wrong.  And if they do, I'll figure out what to do.  These lessons are some of the more important ones that traveling teaches us.

Now for the tasks of this week:  it's the last week of Winter quarter.  I have accreditation documents to finish.  Let me begin all of this with my bread run to Publix.  Students still need bread and treats, no matter where we are in the quarter.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Quiet Saint Patrick's Day

I have never done much celebrating of St. Patrick's Day.  I don't drink green beer, and if someone else served me corned beef, I'd eat it, but I don't love it enough to make it for my own homestead.  Occasionally I make Irish soda bread, and I wonder why it isn't tastier.  I've made a cake with Guinness beer occasionally, and here, too, I wonder why it isn't more delicious.  I'm not braving the crowds to go to an Irish pub--I like my pubs deserted.

I may spend some time contemplating Celtic aspects of Christianity, but I might do that any day, whether it's a day that celebrates the life of a famous Irish saint or not.

I am intrigued by the crowds of people who have no connection to Ireland or Christianity or any of the reasons we celebrate today.  But I'm not critical.  I believe in injecting festivity into daily life in whatever way we can.

Today I will go to church, where we will probably not contemplate Saint Patrick or Ireland or Celtic Christianity.  That's fine.  People may wear green.  That's fine too.

Today has already been a good day for me.  I got up feeling a bit depleted, as I've felt most days this week (and for several weeks).  I had completed most of my tasks on my weekly creative task list, but I still needed to write a poem.  I had absolutely no ideas.

I looked back through my blog where I occasionally write down inspirations for later.  I came across this suggestion in a blog post from August 1, 2010:

"--Are you feeling stymied because the thought of coming up with characters/plot/theme are just too overwhelming? Go to the work of others, work where a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done. Write a sequel or a prequel. Choose one of the characters and make that character the focus of a new story. Write about the landscape in the story, landscape inhabited by a new set of characters.

So, here’s an example. Let’s take Cinderella’s house. Tell the story of the previous owners—how did Cinderella’s dad come to have it. Or tell the story of the people who inherit the house several generations later. Is it a training house for women who want to leave their careers as housecleaners? An orphanage? Or tell the story of Cinderella’s wedding gown in later years. Does her daughter wear it and dream of a prince to call her own? Did Cinderella turn it into a quilt?"
I had a flash of insight:  Cinderella has to settle the family home.  And I was off.  I had a great time imagining what happened to Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters and what has happened to the neighborhood.

To be honest, I wrote before I realized it was Saint Patrick's Day.  There might be lots of poetry inspiration in the life of Saint Patrick too.  For more on this saint's day, see this post on my theology blog.

However you celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, I hope it's wonderful for us all.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Farewell, Merwin, Farewell Long Work Week

I woke up this morning to the news that W. S. Merwin had died.  Of course he lived a long life producing lots of great poems, so in some ways, it's expected news.  And his death was a good one:  "Merwin died today in his sleep at his home in Hawaii" (from the NPR story).  He was 91.

Merwin seems like one of those poets who has always been there, and when I've come across a Merwin poem, I've liked it and wondered why I didn't read more.  But he's not been one of my touchstone poets.  Those poets, too, are aging into a time where their death won't be unexpected.  I think of them as poets in their 40's, when I first discovered them.  We are all older now.

In reading the NPR piece on Merwin, I learned about his later years:  "In the 1980s, Merwin found a worn-out pineapple plantation there and with his wife, Paula, worked to restore the rainforest. His day would begin early with tea, the birds, the wind and maybe some poetry scrawled on the back of an envelope. The afternoon was given to bringing back the palm trees."

Those palm trees, many of them planted in the 1980's, are still going strong.

It sounds like the perfect day:  poetry, tea, and birds in the morning, caring for palm trees in the afternoon.

My days this week have been quite different:  lots of accreditation writing, lots of solving of problems that didn't need to have become problems if people had followed policy, an evening meeting Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  I am still a bit exhausted today.

But let me also remember the good parts of the week:

--doing the accreditation writing that required me to stretch and finding that I was able to stretch.

--writing a poem that surprised me.

--being with church friends several times.

--a good quilt group last Saturday.

--talking to a student about successful test taking strategies (quit changing the answers when you know that you usually choose the correct answer before changing it!) and changing the self talk.

--creating a National Pi Day event that made me happy.

--getting praise for the library displays I've been creating.

--being able to send out some poetry submissions.

--finding a retreat at Mepkin Abbey that calls to my soul.  Best of all, my Mepkin friends are free too--and there were 10 spaces left, so we could all get in.  With the new reservation system, Mepkin spots fill up quickly.

--getting a hotel reservation for Synod Assembly.

--creating some sketches that pleased me.  Having time to sketch, which always pleases me.