Thursday, December 24, 2009

Shifting into Christmas

I've had an unusual Christmas season in many ways, but one of the main strangenesses was that I decided not to take the usual faculty holidays off. Like most Americans, I've been working right up until today, our first admin/staff holiday.

I sort of like being at school when fewer people are there: I've got SACS reports to write, faculty annual reviews to complete or get a head start on, meetings to plan, scheduling to consider (both for the term that starts in January and those throughout the year), so I welcome a time with fewer interruptions. This year, I also needed to change offices. My former office, which I occupied as Assistant Chair, was tiny, with barely room for one extra seat for visitors. So, I moved two doors down to the Chair's office, which was vacated when my former boss was promoted to Dean and moved across the street to the Main building.

Sure, I could have waited for big, burly men to move my office furniture, to rearrange the left-behind office furniture, to move my other possessions. But who knows how long I'd need to wait? So, I decided to do it myself. I've spent the last few days moving furniture, rearranging books, sorting through all sorts of stuff to distinguish between the trash and the treasure.

This morning I got to the grocery store early, but now I feel a bit at loose ends. Maybe I'll prepare some poetry packets to send out into the world. I'm still in that exhaustion that comes with the end of the term and that comes with moving one's possessions and that comes with the holiday season. Preparing poetry packets doesn't take the same kind of creative spark that other writing projects can. I just feel a bit sparkless this morning.

If you're like me, you like to be listening to interesting NPR stories as you work on your submissions. I heard two wonderful pieces on Morning Edition. Yesterday, Larry McMurtry talked about his career as a writer, and about seeing his work turned into film. I see him as one of the great writers of our generation, but he doesn't see himself that way. Go here to read or hear the piece.

On Tuesday, P. D. James talked about her own novels and the detective novel in general; go here to read or hear the piece. I remember reading her in graduate school and seeing a link between her work and the work of other great twentieth century British female writers. I listened to her and thought about how I planned to write on of the Comprehensive Exam questions, had I been called upon to do so. But as I listened, I couldn't remember what I had planned to write, only that it revolved around female detective novelists of the early twentieth century opening the door for later writers.

I've forgotten so much, and of course, I'll forget more before it's all over. The flip side, happily, is that I continue to learn.

If you're still casting about for the perfect Christmas present, go here to read Nicholas Kristof's piece about charities that do amazing things in the third world using very small amounts of money. Most of us already have far too much stuff and far too much debt. Why not help build schools for girls in Afghanistan or composting toilets in Haiti or pay for deworming pills? His piece has links to all these worthy organizations.

I wish for us all a beautiful Christmas time, a time for contemplation and candles, light shining in the darkness, peace descending upon the planet.

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