Last night, I had a Facebook chat with a friend in Columbia, South Carolina who was waiting to see if she would be evacuated should a dam break. She lives on a bit of a hill that overlooks the main road, with no lake or river nearby--and she might be evacuated.
In the end, she wasn't. But how surreal to be exchanging information about the weather, thoughts about how to secure what might be left behind, ideas about how the scenario would end if we transformed it into a movie, chat about how we both couldn't sleep when a storm is in the area--all the while knowing that a knock on the door could come at any moment.
Yesterday was surrealistic in so many ways. I came to campus prepared to begin getting ready to teach Physics. But then I heard from the Physics Ph.D. who told me on Friday that he couldn't teach the class. He said that if we could move it to Wednesday, he could teach it. I pulled a class list and checked to see how many students already had a class on Wednesday--only 4. And so, by afternoon, I was making plans to move the class, not to teach it myself.
I felt a bit of sorrow for the stillborn class that I imagined teaching. Still, it will be better, I hope, for the students to have a class taught by someone with expertise.
Yesterday I also talked to a student who wondered why she failed a class. She swore she had turned everything in, but her teacher said she hadn't received it. The student called me an hour later. Somehow, she had been enrolled in two sections at once, in terms of the student portal and having access to the Learning Management System, and she had uploaded her work to the dropbox of the section in which she wasn't officially enrolled. Since I'm an administrator, I could access that other section. Sure enough there was her work--and it had been graded. That fix was an easy one.
Later in the morning, student walked in to figure out why he had been enrolled in a class that he had already taken. I couldn't answer that question, as I hadn't done the registering. But I pulled a degree audit, and sure enough, there he was enrolled in a class that he had already taken. Again, an easy fix--but thank goodness he realized it on the first day of the quarter, not in week 8.
As he watched me look up information, he looked at the canvases on my wall. He asked, "Your paintings or your students'?" When I told him they were mine, he said, "Why don't you sell them? You could make a lot of money."
That's not a usual reaction to my visual art.
He told me about his neighbor who paints, and it looks like garbage, but he makes 20 grand a painting. He told me my paintings were better.
He had that manic, barely contained energy that I don't always know how to interpret. Highly focused student? Someone who needs to go out and burn off excess energy by running a marathon? Dangerous?
The day was full of those kinds of encounters. I went home exhausted. I had planned to do some work on writing--either writing something or sending out some short stories. But in the end, I heated up the veggie risotto that I made on Sunday (recipe here) and watched a rerun of Modern Family. I spent an hour keeping my friend company through her time of waiting to see if she would be evacuated.
When I knew that she was likely to stay in place, I turned off all the electronics and read for a bit in bed. Months ago, I ordered Lauren Winner's Clothed by God, but I haven't found time to read it. Last night I read the first chapter, which includes her interesting discussion of whether or not God stitches clothes of animal skins for Adam and Eve, or whether or not God is actually creating the human skin that they didn't need before they had to leave the Garden of Eden.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it. And I'm hopeful that today will be less surreal.
And even if it's not, the situation in South Carolina reminds me that nothing that I'm facing amounts to anything compared to what flood victims must deal with--today and for weeks to come.
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