Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Poetry Tuesday: "Lessons from the Cathedral"

My writing time is short today, even though I've been up for awhile.  I needed to get some grading done, and I'll be leaving earlier today than usual to see if Publix has some bread and baked goods (because of Easter and the store being closed, the Monday bread run didn't work).

I wrote this poem last week after Notre Dame burned.  I don't know if it will work once that event fades from our memory, so I decided to post it here.



Lessons from the Cathedral 



The cathedral teaches
us that wood burns faster
than metal or stone, and ancient
wood has waited centuries
to show how brightly
it can blaze.

The falling spire pierces
not only the nave, but also our hardened
hearts. How will we now navigate?

The gargoyles keep their own counsel,
as they always have.
The rest of us watch the stained
glass illuminated by the flames
that frame the arches
and the cage of reconstruction.

Napoleon’s site of self-coronation
burns, but the work of daily life must
continue. I revise the accreditation
documents again. Others complete
their taxes, clean, make sure to feed
the children, the pets, all the helpless
creatures. Parisians gather to sing
the hymns we had forgotten
that we needed.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Easter Sunday: A Last Look Back

For all my talk about not making an Easter casserole, we did end up having one yesterday.  My spouse went early to church for choir rehearsal, and my sister and I decided to see what we could put together.  Our mom usually made an egg bake casserole overnight, but we thought it might work even without a soaking time.  I tore up slices of bread in a layer, layered it with shredded cheddar, put another layer of torn up bread slices, and poured whisked eggs and milk over the whole thing.  We baked it for about 25 minutes and dug in.

It was delicious!  I'm having some more this morning before I go to work.

I took my sister and nephew to the airport and then went to the Publix by my school for the bread and baked goods pick up.  But because the store was closed yesterday, they had thrown out the buggies of food on Saturday night.  Oh well.  I did get two cakes in the shape of Easter eggs.

We had a great visit with my sister and nephew.  It was much more relaxed than some years.  Some years we've spent a lot of time shopping.  Some years we've gone to attractions like water parks or the beach.  This year we spent most of our time by the pool or in the pool.  It was perfect weather with perfect pool and air temperatures, and we had a great time.

We did go to church for Easter service, which at one point I thought we wouldn't do.  But I'm glad we went.  It was good to see all of my regular church friends and to see such a packed church.  I do always wonder why people want to come to church for Easter Sunday, and not again.  Some pews were filled by people I've never seen before, and they didn't seem to be the family members of those who were there.  What tie do they have?  Were we on the way to somewhere else?

Here's my favorite memory of the day, aside from our impromptu brunch before church:  at church, we finished the first Easter hymn and from somewhere near the back, a little voice proclaimed, "Yay!" Our pastor smiled and said, "Ah, the Easter yay." The little voice said it several more times. I was so glad that we didn't hear any shushing.

This week will be a short work week for me.  I leave for the Create in Me retreat on Thursday.  My spouse will stay behind to teach and to perform in the Broward Chorale concert on Saturday.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday, 2019

Here we are at Easter Sunday, a surprisingly chilly morning in South Florida, although it does remind me of the Easter Sundays of my youth, in Montgomery or Charlottesville or Knoxville.  Most years the winter hadn't been particularly harsh, but I was always ready for warmer weather.  Easter morning always had that chilly promise of an intense summer that was just around the corner.

We haven't done much in the way of tradition, although my sister and nephew have been here.  I'd have made a bunny cake.  But I know I'd have been the only one to eat it, so I decided not to do it.  We've been eating enough high calorie treats, without adding cake into the mix.

We haven't decorated eggs.  I don't usually do that, so that's not strange.

Some years I might have baked some sort of festive bread over the week-end, particularly hot cross buns.  I did heat up some cinnamon babka that I got from a grocery store, but it's not the same.

I am feeling like I should have thought ahead to have some sort of egg casserole ready to bake this morning, but again, I likely would have been the only one to eat it.  I will likely cook some sort of eggs to go with the bacon that my spouse is about to cook before he goes to church early for choir rehearsal.

We have not totally flunked Easter.  When I look back on this week-end, I want to remember the times of all of us gathered around a table, my Philosopher spouse, theologian me, sister who is the mother to my nephew.  I want to remember that we had conversations about the roots of the holidays of Easter which led to conversations about Passover, which led to conversations about the best ways of dealing with oppressive governments.

At first, I felt tense.  Do we really need to have these conversations (about oppressive governments, not about history) now?  But I saw that my nephew listened intently and intensely.  And I thought, if not now, when?

Unlike a lot of the world's twelve year olds, my nephew can linger in a safe space a bit longer.  He doesn't have government agents coming after him.  He may never need the lessons that we are teaching to save his own skin.

But the oppressed of the world rely on those of us who are safe to leave our safety to make the world better.  Good Friday tells us what might happen if we do.  Easter Sunday gives us the promise that our work will not be in vain.

Death does not have the final word.  Not during the times of the Roman empire, not during our own time of turbulence.  Alleluia!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Indoor Shooting Range in the Hurricane Damaged Cottage and Other Adventures

Our Good Friday was not the way we usually observe.  Our Good Friday was full of more joy and less church service (both in the serving and the liturgy sense of that word) than usual.

We awoke to a gloomy morning, with reports of rain and even more severe storms to come.  My 12 year old nephew had wanted to do some shooting of the airsoft pellet gun, and we thought about going to a range.  But the range we had our eye on was closed for maintenance.

We had saved the huge cardboard boxes that the outdoor lounge chair cushions came in because my spouse had thought that we might do some shooting in the backyard.  But it was raining.

We do have a hurricane damaged cottage, and my spouse and nephew went to work transforming it into an indoor shooting range.  It worked well.  My nephew has remarkable skill/talent at hitting the target.  I do not.  I hit one bulls-eye, but it wasn't the one I was aiming toward.  I'm trying not to see it as a metaphor for my larger life.

We did go to the archery range, but we didn't know we had to bring our own equipment.  We don't have our own equipment.  I'm willing to rent, but I'm not willing to buy.

The rain had cleared, and the sky looked relatively clear.  We looked at the radar and decided we had time to eat at my nephew's favorite place at the beach.  They said, "It's so windy we can't put up the umbrellas, so you'll have to sit in the sun.  Is that O.K.?"

O.K.?  Of course!  I was happy for the breeze and the occasional clouds that scuttled across the sky, as the sun is a bit intense, even for April.

We returned home and decided to enjoy the sun while we had it by lounging by/playing in the pool.  I made better pina coladas at home than we had at lunch--ah, the joys of a fridge with a connected water line that will crush ice for me!  We played a game new to us, Rollers, a kind of dice game, less complicated than Yahtzee but still fun.

Because we had such a big, late lunch, we had snacks and appetizers for dinner:  Chex Mix and cheese and crackers.  We closed the day by watching Trevor Noah stand up comedy on Netflix. 

And those storms that we stayed on the watch for all day?  They rolled through as we went to bed about 9:30.  They weren't as severe as predicted, but I know the rest of the nation has not been so lucky.

We've awakened to a cloudy morning, which the weather folks tell us will clear out soon.  It's much chillier than usual for this time of year--the storms came by way of a cold front.  But I predict we will still enjoy tropical drinks by the pool while my spouse grills.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Last Part of Hurricane Recovery and Good Friday

My house is cleaner than it has been since August.  In August, we started the Great Flooring Project, which would lead to the kitchen remodel, which I thought would last until Halloween.  Why clean between phases when we'd just be generating huge amounts of dust and debris again?

I would not have predicted that this project would end just before Easter.  I might have done more interim cleaning.

Let me hurry to stress that it's not like I haven't cleaned at all.  I've paid the most attention to the bathroom and keeping the floors swept.  But I haven't gotten on my hands and knees to get to the hard-to-reach places or windowsills or parts of the furniture that are close to the floor.  I haven't moved furniture.  And now, I have.

My spouse went to work, and I went to work.  It's not my favorite way of spending a morning off, but there is something satisfying in restoring order to the house.  It makes me wonder if I should do this periodically, take the day off, spend the morning scrubbing, and do something fun in the afternoon.

My fun afternoon event yesterday was getting my sister and nephew from the airport and then returning home at the exact same time as my spouse.  My sister and nephew are the first to see the restored house.  We gave them the tour, and then we spent time outside relaxing by the pool.  It was a fairly perfect afternoon and evening.

I also submitted a poem to Rattle's Poets Respond series, which has poets responding to events in the news.  It will be interesting to see which poem is chosen this week.  My poem responded to the Notre Dame fire.

Today, much of Christendom will celebrate Good Friday, the day that remembers the Crucifixion of Christ. This is the day that no bread can be consecrated. Many Christians will fast today. Some will fast until Easter morning.

We will not be going to church, and in some years, I might have felt sad about that.  This year, I'm happy to miss this service, for reasons I explore in this blog post.  The approach of most Christian churches to the crucifixion is deeply problematic.

I do love this artist's approach to the crucifixion with her Stations of the Cross series.  The artist has used this stations of the cross approach to several social justice issues, like climate change, the southern border immigration crisis, and mass incarceration. It's an interesting way to move away from the traditional ways that Good Friday is so problematic and to think about the ways that systems of domination and empire oppress those with less power.
 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday Momentum

----I begin the day as I usually do, thinking about the calendar day, thinking about the liturgical calendar, thinking about the day in past years and deeper history.  Of course, during Holy Week these thoughts take on a particular color.  If you're hoping for a more theological meditation, see this post on my theology blog.

--I am taking today and tomorrow off.  My sister and my nephew arrive this afternoon.  When people ask what we have planned, I say, "Mostly sitting by the pool."  Some people look at me with a yearning for a vacation of sitting by the pool.  Some look at me as if I am a bad hostess for not planning more activities.

--I will not be reading the redacted version of the Mueller report--or any version.  It's like the State of the Union address; I feel that as a good citizen, I should be interested.  But I also feel that time is short.  I already spend lots of time with documents that while they may inform, they do not uplift.  I want to spend time with something that will make me a better human, or make me see some creative connections, or give me the solace of being away from ugliness for awhile.  I don't expect that the Mueller report will do that.

--I have now made it sound like I will spend the morning with the complete work of T.S. Eliot or reading Virginia Woolf or gazing upon the paintings of Georgia O'Keefe.  But I will be cleaning the house when the Mueller report is released, and that, too, seems like an activity that will make me be a better human and then when it's done, give me the solace of being away from ugliness.  It's been too long since I did much cleaning, since there was always repair work right around the corner.  I've been keeping the toilet clean, but the bathroom sink, bathtub, and floors need some attention.  I also hope to clean the hardwood floors throughout the house.  The other types of restoration that I had hoped to do (sorting through some piles of paperwork, unpacking some dishes, on and on I could go) will wait for a day/week-end/retirement when I have more time.

--My spouse will be at work, so I can do this work the way that I prefer:  a bit of cleaning, a bit of writing, a bit more cleaning, perhaps some cooking, and then more cleaning.  My spouse goes at a much more frantic and noisy pace.

--I will also keep track of people by way of Facebook.  I wish that Facebook had an easier way of getting back to comments, a more searchable interface.  I want to preserve this comment that I made to a former colleague friend who asked how I'm doing:  "We are finally almost done with hurricane Irma repairs to our main house, but our cottage still needs lots of work. Unlike the main house, we can postpone that work indefinitely. I am both thrilled and exhausted at the idea that the repair work is done. Work for pay (at City College) proceeds as it always does--I'm happiest in my job when I'm helping students solve problems, and my position as Director of Education gives me lots of opportunities to do that. My creative work always brings me joy, along with sorrow that there's never enough time. I just attended some interesting conference panels on the intersections of poetry and visual arts, and these are the times I really miss having art school colleagues to discuss these ideas with. I'm doing a lot of sketching and poem writing and thinking about how these might connect. I'm wishing I had spent more time on my drawing skills and less time doubting that I had drawing skills that could be improved. I hope all is well with you and yours!"

--I also wrote this post this morning:  "My spouse has been practicing Spanish by asking me questions in Spanish. I am often answering the wrong questions--or a different question--because I am not listening to teach yourself Spanish CDs, the way that he is. Is it better to answer the wrong questions because they are asked in a language you don't understand or because your declining hearing impairs the hearing of the question? Are these questions of mid-life or a poem struggling to be born?"

--This morning I saw the moon setting as I looked out my kitchen window.  I can see out of my kitchen window now because I took down the wretched scrap of cloth that we used as a curtain for many years.

--I was also struck by my tulips which were mostly hidden by leaves when I bought them 2 days ago; I couldn't even tell what color they might be.  This morning, I'm feeling lucky that I found this beautiful pot of tulips for just $3.99 at Trader Joes:




I thought they might be a uniform yellow when I bought them because there was just the tiniest hint of yellow in the green--but I'm much happier to have this less traditional coral-yellow set of blooms.  Here, too, I see an abundance of symbol and metaphor.

--I guess this house won't clean itself.  I keep hoping.  Let me shift gears now.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The End of a Project: Kitchen Remodels and Accreditation Documents

I drove home last night feeling a bit queasy.  Our contractor had planned to spend the day installing the backsplash--but it was a type of material he hadn't used before.

My spouse has a particular vision for the house, how the inside will match the outside.  Happily he isn't insisting that we'll remodel and decorate in the style of 1929-1935, when the house was built.  He has a vision of a Spanish Mission inside, so instead of the glass tile or iridescent backsplash I'd have chosen if left to my own devices, my spouse found a company that makes tin for backsplashes or ceilings.  The tin comes in a multitude of colors and patterns, and we spent a lovely Friday evening a few months ago thinking about the best choice.

I felt a bit anxious about our contractor and the expensive material, but when I opened the door, all was well.  My spouse was at chorale practice, so I spent the evening watching how the light changed on the backsplash.  At first, I thought it was breathtaking, and about an hour later, I was wishing we had chosen something jazzier in a non-Spanish Mission style, and by the end of the evening, I was loving it.

I tried to take pictures to show the effect of the backsplash.  It's a bit dark, as photos go, but here's a picture from the first night of the finished kitchen remodel:


And with a different kind of glowing, with more of the undercabinet lighting turned on (and the other side of the kitchen):




It's a strange feeling, having this big project come to a close.  It's kind of like finishing my dissertation, where I was expecting to feel ecstatic, but instead, I'm just kind of exhausted.

Of course, it's been an exhausting time at work, with the due date for accreditation documents upon us--there's still time for inquiries and revisions, but not much time, so the tone of the e-mails is different. 

It's interesting to reflect on this as a writing project.  Each campus has various pieces to write, which we then forward on to Corporate folks who do the final editing and submission.  In some ways, I serve as the campus editor and Corporate the overall editor.  We're lucky, in that we have the previous self-study to use as a model and as a start for our writing.

Yesterday, I realized that I'm comfortable with including a variety of writing styles:  some people use more charts and graphs, some are more concise, some have lots of examples and explanations.  I think the Corporate editor would prefer that they all have the same style.   Part of me understands--there's less risk that way, as long as your readers like the style chosen.  Part of me approaches this project as a writer myself, so I'm less likely to edit for conformity.

I've seen the same dynamic as a teacher and administrator.  Most of the administrators who have been above me would prefer all teachers use the same approach, and most of them prefer a conservative approach.  I'm happy to let teachers create the curriculum that works best for the subject matter, so if one teacher requires more writing/journaling/photos/speeches/lecture/teamwork than another, that's fine with me.

I'm always surprised by how many people are not fine with diversity.

This post has gotten a bit long, so let me just record one more thing that's making me happy this week:  I wrote a poem yesterday in the voice of the person who cleans up after the Last Supper.  It's a quiet sort of poem, but it brought me joy. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Ooziness of God

On Sunday, we went to see the Judy Chicago exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.  I was excited to see the work from The Birth Project again.

When I was home from undergraduate school for summer, some of those works came to the D.C. area.  My folks lived in suburban Virginia, and one Saturday in 1985, my mom and I went into the city to the various galleries to see the work.  I was in awe, inspired, and transformed.

I grew up in conservative Lutheran churches in the conservative part of the U.S. south.  We prayed to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  In my brain, God looked like President Lincoln, if Lincoln had a flowing beard, sitting on a throne, a white marble deity.

The Birth Project changed the way I viewed God forever.  Here were images of a clearly female deity giving birth to the world.  I started researching the history of Divine imagery, and I was amazed by what I hadn't been taught.  I started to think about how history might have been different if we had been worshiping a female god.

Eventually I decided that either side of the gender binary was too limiting a way to see God--and to see humans.  So I was interested to see these works of Judy Chicago again, the works that propelled me down this path.

I rounded a corner and saw one of my favorite tapestries, which you can see here, if you scroll down to the second image, The Creation.  I love its colors and the evolutionary feature of the content.  In most images, you can't tell that it's needlepoint/tapestry.  But Sunday, I saw the varied nature of the threads.  And on the screen/page, you can't really tell how huge it is.

The exhibit had ten of the works, and while I was happy to see them again, I wasn't moved by them the way I was in the past.  In fact, I was deeply unhappy with the ooziness of it all.  Every breast is leaking, every vagina is being ripped apart by what's being born.  Did I not see that as a younger woman?  Or was I so thrilled at the idea of a female God that I didn't think through the implications of the ooziness?

I want an image of a God weaving a world out of disparate threads or fusing metals together with a welding torch.  I think it's dangerous to focus on the womb as our primal image of creation or the penis for that matter.  We have centuries of seeing what that means for women--women are confined to their childbearing duties/responsibilities/privileges, and that's used to constrain their horizons.  I didn't think about that aspect as a younger woman.

I am grateful for those images that stirred my thoughts so long ago.  I'm also grateful that my thoughts didn't stop there.  The works seem a bit dated, and I kept reminding myself that in fact, they are dated.  That doesn't have to be a bad thing.  It can be a window to the past, even if it's no longer a door to the future. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Wrting Prompts for Holy Week

I sent this prompt to my Lenten Journaling Group, and I thought it was worth sharing more widely.

As I think of the week past and the week to come, two prompts come to mind. Feel free to use them as you like and/or as the Spirit moves you:

Writing Prompt 1:

We've had a great week of justice action in our church and larger community in South Florida. Last week I scribbled on a bulletin, and yesterday morning, I started to think about a poem. These ideas spurred my creativity:

We have built our house of justice in hurricane country.

We have made a home in the swamp of despair

In this abandoned waste dump, we have claimed a homestead.

If we then create some fill in the blanks, maybe we get some different options:

We have built ________ in hurricane country.

We have built our house of justice in ________.

We have made ______ in the swamp of despair.

In this _______, we have claimed a homestead.

In this abandoned waste dump, we have claimed __________.

If you want to tie your journaling back to Bible reading, return to the Psalms and notice how the Psalmist often uses similar language for striking effect--different metaphors, to be sure, but similar effect. Think of Psalm 137, with it's image of weeping by the rivers of Babylon and hanging harps in the poplars. I am guessing that the writer of that Psalm didn't really go to the river to weep and hang a harp in the tree--it's an image of deep sadness and abandonment, and it works beautifully.

The not-often-read book of Lamentations too. And many of the prophets. And Jesus himself was known for speaking/teaching in odd parables. It's a way to jolt our brains out of complacency.


Writing Option #2

Sunday was Palm Sunday and/or Passion Sunday--the beginning of Holy Week. We will be hearing stories that many of us have heard many times before. How can we hear them with fresh ears?

One year I was startled to realize how much I identified with Pontius Pilate as an administrator. That year, I saw the Good Friday story in a different light. One year I read Mary Oliver's "The Poet Thinks about the Donkey" (you can read it here: https://predmore.blogspot.com/2016/03/poem-poet-thinks-about-donkey-by-mary.html). I hadn't thought much about the donkey that carries Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and my perspective shifted.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking. Tell the story from the perspective of:

--the person who cleans up after the last supper

--the towels used by Jesus to wash the feet of the disciples

--the cross itself

--an indifferent observer on Palm Sunday

--the sibling of Jesus who had always seen this day (Good Friday? Palm Sunday?) coming

--the disciple we don't usually hear about

--the rooster that crows three times

Here's hoping for a creative week-end, in all the ways our creativity can manifest itself!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Working Week-end

So far, this has been the kind of week-end that we need to have every so often, the kind of week-end where we just power through some tasks:

--I took the car in for a long overdue oil change.  I also paid $10 for an inspection that looked at hoses and brakes and filters and all the sorts of things that could be wrong.  Hopefully my car is now roadworthy for the Create in Me retreat that comes the week after Easter.

--I took boxes of books to be donated to the library.  They weren't even my books!  When I was in Portland, one of our church friends brought 3 boxes of books to church saying that he thought I might like them.  My spouse brought them home.  If I had world enough and time, I might love them, but I don't.  So, off they went.

--I went to Total Wine to get some provisions for my sister's visit this week.

--I made a Home Depot run while my spouse kept working on shelving.  While there, I got supplies for the Earth Day/National Poetry Month celebration for my school that I'm planning.

--We got some painting done.  The laundry room is close to done now.  My spouse made cool shelves to utilize some space there that's not very useful for much.  Now we have a pantry!

--My spouse did amazing work staining everything that needed staining:  those shelves and the barn doors primarily.

--I cleaned the windowsills and other surfaces that haven't been cleaned in ages.  I didn't want to do too much cleaning while remodeling was still ongoing.  I didn't realize how many months that would be.

--I did the grading for my online classes that is never finished until the day the grades are turned in.  We aren't there yet.

--I made a pizza, a delicious way to "break in" the new kitchen.  I'm looking forward to being fully unpacked and back in the kitchen, but we're not there yet.

--Along the way, I did a bit of poetry writing and short story submitting.  Hurrah!

Last night, I went to bed at 8:15 because I was so exhausted.  There's still work to do, but that, too, will always be the case--it's good to make some progress.

For those of you who were hoping for a Palm Sunday meditation, I wrote one for my theology blog with photos from last year's Palm Sunday.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Why Do Hurricane Repairs Take So Long?

When people realize that our hurricane repairs are still ongoing, I imagine a sense of judgment:  "That hurricane was in September of 2017; what's wrong with you that you still don't have this project done?"

Some days I confess that I feel this way too.  Let me take a moment and recount why the process is long, while I still remember:

--The hurricane came through South Florida the week-end after Labor Day 2017.  We returned to the house and knew we had damage.  I immediately called our insurance companies and got put on the list for a visit from the insurance adjuster.  We had several visits from different adjusters.  This part of the process was relatively quick.

--We got a check from the flood insurance.  But because the amount was large, our mortgage company was also on the check.  We got the check around November 12.  I called the mortgage company and heard about the process that we would have to follow to get the money.  We would need to find a licensed contractor, who would need to provide us several documents to give to the insurance company.  The mortgage company would send the contractor part of the money to begin, and then payments as the work progressed and the mortgage company made inspections.  I was so paralyzed that I put the check in the fireproof box.

--We traveled for Thanksgiving 2017 and made a strategy.  We would find a contractor and then send the check to the mortgage company.  Or maybe we'd send it in with the paperwork on our part that the mortgage company would require.  The check would be good for 180 days, so we would leave it in the fireproof box.

--I was still overwhelmed by the thought of all that paperwork and the damage and the garbage that still wasn't being collected.  Much of South Florida hadn't suffered damage, and that felt strange too.  I had work duties, and I trudged through.

--We had a big Christmas trip, so I decided that all of it could wait until we returned.

--In January, my spouse was impatient to begin the work.  But that meant finding a licensed contractor.  You might think it's not hard to find a licensed contractor who is eager to start on a project.  You do not live here.  You do not live here in the months after a big storm.  You do not live in a place where contractors can make significantly more money by working for real estate developers than by doing home repairs for home owners.

--The first three months of 2018 were a sometimes amusing, sometimes maddening, sometimes depressing mix of contractors meeting appointments, missing appointments, promising to send needed documents, not sending documents.

--We also discovered that there are home repair places that won't work with homeowners that already have money from the insurance company.  There are many home repair folks who want to deal with the insurance company, and get the money and submit claims for more money.  I suspect that there may be a bit of fraud in all of this, but I can't prove anything. 

--I finally found a contractor who seemed to be the one we wanted.  I was fretful about the 180 days running out and the check expiring.  I sent it to the mortgage company in March.

--Imagine my surprise when the mortgage company endorsed the check and sent it back to us so that we could deposit it into our account.  It wasn't free and clear.  We were told we were on a fast track to repair, so when it was all done, we should call a number and have an inspection. 

--Along the way, I got a threatening letter/phone call that told me we'd never be fast-tracked again if I didn't call and let them know about our progress.  When I would call, I got very understanding people on the phone.  Eventually, I got an e-mail that seemed to say an inspection had been done, and our case had been closed.  The threatening letters and phone calls have ceased.  I have decided to go with the e-mail that says the case is closed, and trust that if I need to do anything further, the mortgage company will tell me.

--We had a mold company come to determine how much mold mitigation needed to be done.  We found out that the laundry room was the only spot that had mold levels that meant we needed to do something (and we have--we ripped out walls that had gotten soaked with the gutters clogged and rain ran down the walls).

--In light of the mold report, we decided that we didn't need to rip out the floors and the joists.  In June, we started the process of the floors.

--We wanted wood flooring to match throughout, so we had the flooring contractor order larger plank flooring than is usually in stock.  This was the first delay.

--We had the flooring done in one half of the house, while we lived in the other half.  This part went fairly smoothly, although we did have to wait for more wood planks.

--We had a vision for less fussy cabinets, which were surprisingly hard to find.  More than once we fell in love with cabinets on a web site that were discontinued, but it took several queries over the course of several weeks to get that new.

--Despite my spouse's resistance to big box stores, we found some cabinets at Home Depot that we loved.  It is not as easy as one thinks to order cabinets at Home Depot.  You have to have the measurer come, and then you meet with the kitchen designer to design the kitchen and make a list of the cabinets that will be ordered.  Then the measurer comes one last time to be sure.

--All was going well until Thanksgiving 2018 got in the way.  We put off the meeting with the kitchen designer until after Thanksgiving and had to cancel one after Thanksgiving-meeting.  We finally found a window of time to do the meeting, and it went well.  But then we waited and waited for the measurer to return.  I tried to contact the measurer as did Home Depot, and again we waited.  It was only when I wrote to the Home Depot kitchen designer saying that we'd be ordering cabinets elsewhere if I didn't hear from the measurer in a week.

--Finally we ordered the cabinets and then had to wait for them to be made.  We had to put off the delivery for a week so that someone would be home.  The cabinets were delivered the last week of February.

--We had to wait for the contractor to find time to install them, and then we had to have the countertop measuring to happen.  Finding someone who still worked in Corian wasn't as hard as I feared once I discovered that Lowe's and Home Depot no longer carry Corian.

--The Corian guy told me that most homeowners go with quartz, granite or marble these days.  But we'd fallen in love with a Corian color, so we went ahead.  But the color we love has been discontinued.  Luckily, our Corian guy could find enough for our job, if we were willing to wait an extra week or 2.  We did.

--And finally, this week, we have counters, a sink with running water, and electric that works for the most part.  No dishwasher yet, but the electrician comes back Monday.  Our contractor is figuring out the best way to install the big panels of tin that we're using for the backsplash.

Are we done?  No, there's still a cottage to restore.  But at least we won't be trying to live in the cottage while the repairs are happening.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Inspirations: Social Justice Work, Hurricane Country, Home Repair

Last night I got home to find my spouse on the front porch, reading Philosophy.  He said that some of our neighbors had walked by and asked where I was.  One of them told my spouse that they loved how much we love our porch, that we seem to always be on the porch looking so happy.

It makes me so happy to know that our neighbors see us that way.  In all but the hottest of the summer months, I do love sitting on the porch.  I love its arches.  I love the seasonal displays that I try to have on the sills of the arches.  I finally found some petunias, my spring display of choice:

Last year's petunias, with leftover elements from other seasons


But I am also looking forward to this week-end, where I hope to continue with the project of restoring order to the inside of the house.  The electrician is supposed to come today; perhaps by day's end, the dishwasher will work and the microwave over the stove will have power.

I have spent parts of this week feeling frustrated with my inability to write.  But I am going to trust that at some point, the poems will come.

After all, it's not like I haven't been creative at all.  I wrote not one, but two sermons for my Sunday preaching opportunity.  I changed direction at the last minute, writing a sermon in the hour before church started, and it went well; this blog post will tell you more if you're interested.

My favorite part of that sermon:  The crucifixion shows us a community in ruins: people run away, people kill themselves because they can't believe that they can be forgiven, people have to witness the horror that happens at a state execution. If you cannot preach like Peter, remember that Peter did not always preach like Peter.

Let me also write down this inspiration that I scribbled on a church bulletin and then couldn't find yesterday when I was trying to remember what had inspired me earlier:  social justice work is like living in hurricane country.  We rebuild and hope for the best, all the while knowing that at some point, forces beyond our control may wreck everything we've done.

Today will be a day of accreditation documents--the not fun part, the reading one last time, when I am so tired of these documents, so ready to be done with this.  But by the end of the day, this too shall pass.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Artistic Play in the Creative Writing Classroom and Beyond

This morning, I want to record some interesting teaching ideas that I got from the last AWP session attended, "Glitter! Legos! Origami--Oh My Artistic Play in the Creative Writing Classroom."  I got to the session to find out that the organizers of the panel weren't given the AV equipment that they had requested.  One of them created a QR code so that we could access the slide show on our smart phones, and they offered to send us a link to the slides.  I wonder if we will always be able to access the slides:  https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ftJkkw-q0nRbk1XR9dQrt03CZ7H14i3iRofxKvbIp-c/edit?ts=5c9ffd65#slide=id.g543f50acb6_0_76

In case we can't, let me capture some of the great ideas, both from my slides and from my notes.  A lot of the ideas seem like exercises that could be adapted to all sorts of classrooms and retreat settings.

Here was the premise of the session:

"How can teachers integrate artistic play to foster a sense of experimentation? How can experiments that seem like crafts and games short-circuit the fear of risk, encourage play instead, and push student writers to reach beyond the walls of the classroom into a larger community of writers? How can teachers inspire students to take ownership of their learning experiences through hands-on work that feels like play? Do scented markers and glitter really help to get ideas to the page?"

Or, as Traci Brimhall put it, students remember an experience, not your lecture.

To that end, she's created all sorts of experiences for students:

--She's had students explore different settings.  They went to an architecture library and then created structures with Legos.  Students went to the science building and wrote poems about the poet as Goliath butterfly.  

--She has each student learn a craft, like knitting or gardening.  Two thirds of the way through the class, they try to teach the class to do it.  Usually they're failures at the craft, which teaches them something about creating.  And they can be failures together--which means they learn to move away from their fear of failure. They're each doing a different craft, so they're not competing with each other, so they also learn to support each other.

--We also did some poem creating.  We got a handout.  At the top was a long rectangle, with the instruction to write a tercet about love.  In the middle was a long rectangle divided into three squares with the instruction to draw those lines with no words.  The first person wrote the tercet, and then the next person drew in the 3 squares.  We then folded the paper so that the third person could only see the drawings.  The third person wrote a tercet about love.  Brimhall uses this exercise to talk about abstract feelings and concrete objects.

Other presenters offered a variety of techniques.  Alison Peligran does a lot with origami:

--Students write poems on origami paper, fold their poems into shapes, and then leave them across campus, a harmless "vandalism."  She offers this site for learning how to make these shapes, and she recommends the videos.

--Students could make poems into origami boats that they set sail in the water.

--Her students left strips of poems in a huge oak tree on campus.

--She also created a poetry scavenger hunt, where students looked for lines that she had hidden on campus and assembled them into a poem.

She says that transforming the poem into an object is transformative.  Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil agrees.  She said that creating a 3 dimensional object leads us to new places , letting our guard down when creating together.  She talked about creating poems pasted to bowling balls, murals, matchbooks, and of course, the chapbook--there's a slide that shows how to make a staple-less chapbook, but it looks quite complicated, although she claimed it's simple.

I was most intrigued by Nezhukumatathil's snow globe erasure poem idea.  She creates snow globes out of jars, glue, glitter, and a poem inside.  As the clumps of glitter fall on the poem, voila!  an erasure poem.  She gives them to students during week 1, and each week, they shake the globe and get a new poem idea from the erasure.

Brynn Saito also had interesting collaborative ideas, like having students explore stories of Japanese-American immigrants, particularly those who were interred in camps during World War II (read more about the project here).

She has students ask, "What imagined superhero does your community need right now?"  And they write folk tales of the future.

Oliver Baez Bendorf was the presenter who inspired me to buy all of the Lynda Barry books at the bookstore.  She inspired many of his teaching ideas that combine art/doodling/comic making and poetry writing.  He has his students make detailed notes on a specific sidewalk square.  He also has them do walking while working on line breaks in a poem.  They read the line, turn at the line break, read the next line, turn at the line break.  It's a much more visceral way of understanding the way a line break can work.

This session made me yearn to be teaching creative writing again--so many great ideas.  But of course, they can be used in other settings too--or even just on my own.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The First Night in the New Kitchen

We have made the first dinner in our new kitchen--or perhaps I should say, we have made our first dinner in the kitchen with countertops and a working sink since September of 2018.

We have had our first argument in the new kitchen with countertops and a working sink.  We want to preserve the sheen of the Corian, but we also want to be able to function in it.  I don't quite trust my spouse to be careful.

In my defense, in our last kitchen remodel, one of my main memories is of my spouse picking me up at the airport and saying, "I scratched all the countertops today when I put the boxes on top of them to unpack them.  I thought these counters were supposed to be tougher than that."

We have gotten conflicting messages about what the Corian can stand.  It seems like a metaphor for much of life.

We have washed the dishes in the new kitchen with countertops and a working sink.  We will have a working dishwasher at some point (she says with hope in her voice), but right now, the electrician needs to figure out a way to get electric to it.

I realized that during the reconstruction process, the plastic drying rack got a split in it.  When we were leaving the dishes to drain in the bathtub, it didn't matter that the drying rack had a split.  Now, water goes over the new counters.

We still have a ways to go before the kitchen is finished:  electrical finish work, undercounter lights installed, a backsplash, and lots of dishes to unpack.  But we now have a functioning kitchen again, which is wonderful.  It is good to wash dishes in a deep sink while standing upright.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

We Have Kitchen Counters!

At one point, our kitchen looked like this (September 2018):




And then there were cabinets (installed in late Feb., 2019):







And now, we have counters! (installed yesterday)




 Here's a close up of the counters, which look blacker in some lights, bluer in others:



I love how reflective the finish is--much shinier than the sample:





If we're lucky, by the end of the day, we'll actually have plumbing connected that sink!  No more washing dishes in the bathroom sink or tub!



It's been a very long process, and we still have some parts to go, like the lighting being finished, and the backsplash.  But we're much closer than we've been.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Stony the Road

Thursday I listened to this wonderful conversation with Henry Louis Gates on NPR's Fresh Air. He's just published a book, Stony the Road, which explores the time after Reconstruction and how the newly acquired rights of freed slaves were taken away again--in short, it's about the birth of the white supremacist movement that's with us today.

While the whole interview is wonderful, I bring our collective attention to it because at minute 17:06, Gates sings the 4th verse of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." It's the verse that gives the title for the book, and Terry Gross asks Gates if he can quote it. He says, "You want me to sing it?" It was an unexpected blessing.

I was so moved that I hollered for my spouse so that he could listen too. I am tempted to listen to it every morning.

It's a moving song, just on its face. Gates reminded us of how we came to have this song:

"Well, this song was written to inspire young black children at a time when there was nothing on the horizon that was inspirational, nothing that would make black people think that the rights our people had been given by the amended Constitution in the 13th, the 14th, and 15th Amendments would ever come back because starting in 1890, those rights had been chipped away by the Redemption governments in the former Confederacy.

So that - the fact that our people never gave up hope, that we never stopped believing that a better day was coming and that if we worked hard enough and prayed hard enough and believed deeply enough, that one day the glories that we saw in Reconstruction would return. And hope against hope, that's what happened."

What a treasure--both the song itself and the willingness of Gates to sing it for us.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Passiontide and the Violence of April

In a long ago season, this Sunday, the last Sunday in Lent, two weeks before Easter, we'd have begun a time called Passiontide.  I first learned about this concept in Gail Godwin's wonderful book Father Melancholy's Daughter.  I'd quote from it, but that book is in a box in the cottage.  Some days I despair of ever seeing it again.

We live in a time of compression, not stretching out.  This morning, I'm back to my thinkings about silence and about how we try to cram too many things into a Sunday. Today, the cramming will be partly my fault.  After church, we go to Lowe's to get more supplies for house restoration, and then my brother-in-law will come to help us move some heavier furniture.

This morning, I'm wondering if how our experience of Holy Week might change if we stretched it out, rather than trying to contain it all into one Sunday morning. Two weeks to spend with one of the central events of our faith: how might we change?

I'm also thinking of all the ways that April can be a violent month.  This year, two of the world's major religions, Christianity and Judaism, celebrate events central to their faith, Easter and Passover, events rooted in violence.

April is a month of all sorts of grim anniversaries: the Oklahoma City bombing, numerous school shootings (most notably Columbine and Virginia Tech), the anniversary of King's assassination.  Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.

The weather in April can be violent too, as seasons compete for dominance.  April is a time of tornadoes.  I had all these images swirling in my brain when I wrote the following poem:


The Ides of April


Mid April, when bills come due and debts
must be paid. Both winter and summer battle
for dominance and rip the landscape
with tornadoes and late spring snows.

Good battles evil, captives set free
by way of forced and bloody frenzies. Refugees
driven from their homes trudge down dusty
roads towards a desert destiny of freedom.

A gospel of radical love battles entrenched
orthodoxy. We must sacrifice our lust
for structure and rules, our yearning
for punishment. We must arc our minds
towards grace and unconquered redemption.

We must be as flowers who battle
against the frozen ground, who thrust
themselves towards a distant sun
in the hope of a future warmth,
a profuse explosion of fiery blooms.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Hurricane Recovery and the Trip to the Lan Su Chinese Garden

Yesterday we got the good news:  our countertops will be installed on Monday.  Hoorah!

That meant we needed to jump into action.  Because our countertop is Corian with a seamless Corian sink, we need a faucet.  So off we went to Home Depot yesterday.

The good news:  we did find a faucet.  The bad news:  Home Depot is more difficult to navigate than ever.  And they only had one ugly chaise lounge cushion.

So we came home and made an online order.  We are also continuing our quest for curtains.  Once I enjoyed all of this choosing of new stuff more than I am enjoying it these days.  I am just ready to be done with this remodel.

Today I will spend time getting the front room ready for my sister's arrival the Thursday before Easter.  Tomorrow, my brother-in-law will come to help us move some heavier furniture, including the guest room bed.

I am also thinking back to last week-end, to our trip to Lan Su Chinese Garden.  Let me post some of the photos that I didn't have a chance to post last week:



I loved the beauty of the garden.




But I really loved the tea room.




We had interesting treats, like a tea steeped egg



that came in this eggshell:



I loved all the tea pots. 



And the tea was both soothing and robust:



And now I am fortified to face the work of today!



Friday, April 5, 2019

Of Smart Phones and Cameras

If ever I get a smart phone, it will not be because I need to be able to make a phone call at any time or any place.  It will not be so that I can watch streaming material on a tiny screen.  I won't want to text or read my e-mails.

No, if I get a smart phone, it will be for the camera. In fact, I wonder if there's a way to get that camera without all the other technology attached.  I've done a bit of research, but if it's out there, I haven't been able to find it.

I have what once would have been a fairly expensive camera, at least for my budget.  But I can't figure out how to make it take the same quality of picture.  And it's big and heavy.  I envy the folks who have a camera that fits in a pocket.  It needs to be a large pocket, but I'll never have a pocket big enough for my fancy camera.

Last week I made my way to the AWP bookfair to meet the writer Jeannine Hall Gailey in real life.  We've been communicating online for years--we think it's at least 10 years.  We're Facebook friends and blogging friends and we've even sent each other long e-mail exchanges.  In short, there's a depth to our friendship that I don't have with all of the poet/writer friends I've met online.

Her spouse took pictures, both with the smart phone and with my camera.  My picture prompted a response that I usually have:  despair and the thought of teeth whitening, hair lightening, more sleep.  Here's the picture with my camera:



Later, Jeannine posted the picture from the phone.  It's taken a minute before the one above.  Same lighting, same people, same time, same location, but what a difference:



I know that people who post on Instagram have a variety of filters to make their pictures look beautiful.  But having a better quality picture to work with must help too.  I must remember this as I'm looking at the pictures of others.

Later, on Saturday, my grad school friend and I went to the Chinese gardens--it's a beautiful oasis in the middle of Portland.  Sure enough, we just happened to see Jeannine there.  Again, her spouse took a picture, which she posted later:



We chatted for a few seconds and then went our separate ways.

I've had a lot of serendipitous running into people at AWP, but this one may be the all-time winner, just happening to see each other at an off-site attraction, one as beautiful as the garden.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Intersections of Poetry and Visual Art

A week ago, I'd be waking up in Portland, eating a hearty breakfast, getting ready to figure out the mass transit system to make my way to the Convention Center.  As I think back over all the AWP sessions I attended, the one that made me want to ditch the rest of the conference to approach my writing in a new way was the one on Intersections of Poetry and Visual Art at 10:30 on Thursday.

My brain had already been thinking about this possibility (see this blog post from December, for example).   I had even been wondering if this character, which seemed to be emerging over multiple sketches, might be a book-length exploration of something:


The above is from December, and the below is from January:




I hadn't returned to these ideas, in the terms of this female figure and ideas about her.  But the AWP session made me think that it might be interesting to see these sketches with words as individual poems that could make an interesting collection.

It made me want to return to some poems and see if parts of them might make good sketching prompts.  I was interested in the process of the poets at the AWP session.  As you might expect, they approached the intersection of visual art and poetry from a variety of angles:  some of the poets and artists worked in true collaboration, in some the words came first and then images, and then one woman worked more as a collage artist. 

Naoko Fujimoto read a poem while showing a visual work that incorporated the poem, and it was clear that she didn't use the whole poem:




That, too, made me think about possible approaches with poems I'd already written.


I was interested in this artist's collaging approach:  she uses words, papers, images, cut out shapes, and perhaps some graphic approaches like stamping (hard to tell from the slide):



My grad school friend went to this session too, and we both agreed that we wanted to go back to our hotel and play with our limited art supplies that we'd brought with us.  Instead, we went to a coffee shop to digest (I didn't even mean to make that pun).




I yearn for time to return to my sketchbooks and to create more materials.  I also want to record another thought I've had.  I've been doing some photo essay/poem kinds of things--this blog post, for example, seems like a poem in a different form.  I had been thinking of making a book of those, but now I'm wondering about a combination.

I also worry about following this road--are these books so expensive to create that there won't be much market?  Do I even care about markets anymore?

And then around my edges this morning, the despair at having these inspirations and not feeling like I have time and space to explore.  Perhaps at the Create in Me conference that starts in 3 weeks, perhaps then I can have some time and supplies and table space to have this kind of joy!


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Obligatory AWP Book Post

Here's my obligatory photo, albeit a bit dark, of the books I got at the AWP, all of them from the bookfair:





I brought a backpack full of library books to AWP, and I thought of not buying any.  The first wandering through the bookfair is so overwhelming that I often flee.  Here's a sketch I made of my first impression of the bookfair:




But the lure of a good deal on the last day of the book fair gets me to return.  I stopped at the Norton table and found great deals in the $5 box:  Molly Peacock and Sandra M. Gilbert.  The Hoagland book was on sale for $10, and I got the collection on women and ambition for $10 too.  I confess it was an impulse buy, triggered in part by my various insecurities that this conference produces.

The 3 books by Lynda Barry were a different kind of impulse buy.  I went to the last panel I would attend, one on using glitter, legos, and other kinds of arts and crafts supplies/approaches to inspire writing.  One of the panelists had studied with Barry, and I was remembering how much I loved her book Syllabus when I checked it out of the library.  The panelist mentioned it was on sale at the bookfair, and one of the audience members mentioned another book that was good.

After the session, in the last hour of the bookfair, I raced back to the publisher's table, and it was still there, along with the other 2.  I said, "Could you make me a deal for all 3?"  I just went to Amazon, and it wasn't such a wonderful deal that I got, but I want to believe that the publisher got more of my money than if I bought through Amazon.

Now I need to actually read them.  I am now surrounded by stacks of books, with boxes of them out in the cottage waiting for some decisions.

But of all the books I read during my journey, the one that stays with me is Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers.  What a wonder of a book!  The subject matter sounds heavy, and it is, but I loved it.

It was interesting to read that book, see her speak on Thursday, and the next morning going to a panel on Angels in America--interesting to think how the subject of AIDS wove its way through the conference.  And as I think about what most fed my intellect during the week, those 3 events (reading the book, hearing Makkai and Tayari Jones on a panel, and the session on Angels in America) are the ones that did the most.

It was cool to be at a conference that did so much for both my intellect and my creative soul.  More on the creative inspirations tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Downside of AWP

I've been writing about the AWP conference in breathless, glowing terms.  Let me write today about some of the downsides of the conference.

When I arrived in Portland, Oregon, I thought about how different this convention center seemed from those in other towns, and as the conference progressed, my opinion just solidified.  The conference center is in a tangle of Interstate highways, and if there were hotels within an easy walking distance, I didn't see them.  We found one place that served food within an easy walk, but it didn't have many places for people to sit, and of course, every seat was taken.

Happily, there was a light rail system, so we were able to get around.  I took it after the Colson Whitehead keynote speech, which meant I took it after 10 p.m., and it was reliable and seemed safe.  I didn't try to master it enough to get to offsite events, but that was more about my energy levels than the system.

I know that the conference needs a huge convention center to be able to offer all the panels that it does.  Some part of me wonders if we might do better with fewer panels.  At the very least, the organizers should make sure that each time chunk has completely different panels, and for the most part, that happens.  There was one time period that contained two panels about a very esoteric topic that sounded similar.  I don't envy conference organizers.

I also didn't envy anyone who had any sort of mobility issue.  The conference center was vast and sprawling and under construction.  Some of the passage ways were very narrow.  I averaged 15,000 steps a day, and I wasn't doing any exercising to boost that amount.

I would also change the way that name badges are distributed.  The lines on the first morning were very long.  Yes, it would be great if we could all arrive the day before to get our materials, but we can't.  Why not send me a one-use code so that I can print my badge at home and bring it with me?  Is the AWP really concerned that I'll print a badge for all my friends?

I have larger concerns.  I think about the cost of the conference--the literal costs and the larger costs.  I think about the travel that most of us did, and the burden the planet bears when we all take planes and cars.  I think about how much the conference costs each attendee.  The cost of the conference itself is very reasonable, but factoring in the hotel, the plane, and the food I needed to buy, my friend and I guessed that the conference cost us each over $1000.  Is that the best use of money?

Some years I say yes, and some years I say no.  I do find it inspiring.  I did return home brimming with ideas.  I do realize that I'm lucky that I have resources.  I don't know how all these students afford this conference--student loans?  Is the conference worth debt?

I also know that I don't make as much use of the conference as I could.  I could go to every table in the bookfair to make connections or at the very least, to see how books look in real life--are they worth the price of submission?  But I don't.

I'm not even very good at making advance plans to meet people I'd like to meet, old friends and blogging friends and Facebook friends.  It's not like a smaller retreat where there's a real chance for connection.  I can't figure out very far in advance where I'll be, in terms of sessions offered.

All of this being said, I'm planning to go to next year's AWP in San Antonio.  I've always wanted to go to San Antonio, and a conference gives me a good reason.  Perhaps I'll go a day early to see more of the town.  Perhaps I'll take a day off on the other end to recover.  It will be held in early March, which is better for me than late March.  I couldn't take yesterday off because it was the beginning of the term.

I'm looking forward to having some time tonight to continue to process all of this--or to unpack.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Be Your Best Teacher, Not Your Ideal Teacher

At some point, I may go through my AWP notes in hopes of capturing those things which seem worth remembering.  I go back through my blog more often than I go through my travel notebooks, because it's more searchable.  I suppose I could have lugged my laptop everywhere, but it's much easier for me to take notes by hand.

Part of me wonders why I'm taking these notes.  In part, it's a way of paying attention.  In part, because those things I note seem worth it at the time.  I looked through the notes I took at last year's AWP, and I enjoyed the memories as I read through them, but didn't find much of the material speaking to me a year later.  Hmm.

I talked about blogging with a fellow conference attendee on the plane ride back.  She gave me several quizzical looks as we chatted while the plane was descending to the Dallas airport.  I said that I didn't realize Portland was such a big city--that quirked eyebrow was deserved.  But when I said I blogged, she said she had kept a blog once, but didn't write anymore.  She said it seemed like such a chore, that daily writing.

I realized as we chatted that I keep this blog for all sorts of reasons.  It's become a repository of all sorts of things, and it's more searchable than my written notebooks.

Today instead of looking back over my notes, let me capture here the one tidbit that was so memorable that I don't need my notebook to remember.  As I've moved through the conference, one person's advice stuck with me.  At a panel about achieving balance between doing one's own writing and helping student writers, one woman said, "Don't be the teacher you always wished you had.  That's a way to insanity.  Instead, think of a good teacher that you had in real life and try to be that person."

It seemed like a great way of capturing the way that many of us set impossible standards for ourselves, and then beat ourselves up for not ever living up to them.  It seems applicable across many of life's situations:  the way we think we should be more spiritually evolved, our relationships with each other, on and on I could go.

Another note about that panel--they were refreshingly honest about how much of the drudgery work they have outsourced, like the cleaning of the house and the lawn work.

Now it's back to that regular life--so much work I haven't yet outsourced and so much of it that can't be outsourced.  I need to go to spin class and then work.

But before that, let me also capture the wonder of the geography of this country as seen from the air.  Yesterday I saw both Mt. Hood and Mt. Saint Helen's.  I gasped when I saw Mt. St. Helen's, that snowy peak stuck on a green landscape, and then later Mt. Hood.

And then we were over the mountains, seeing that vast dry landscape, and then more mountains, which I assume must have been New Mexico.  I thought about how amazing it was that people made their way across that landscape, on horses or in covered wagons.  There's so little water visible from the air.  And the land looks treacherous, even from above--or do I think that, just because I know the history of those settlers?

Interesting to see the mountains and rivers from the air, those places I've read so much about, those places that have shaped my imagination--and the larger country too.

And now, back to more mundane things:  spin class and then work, where a new term awaits.  Welcome Spring quarter!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

AWP: Report on Day 3

Yesterday was another great day in Portland.  It was less about the AWP conference than about realizing that I had only one day left, and I wanted to actually do some of the things I'd heard about. 

I'm staying at the Embassy Suites which is just a block away from the famous Voodoo Doughnuts.  On Friday night, the line stretched back around the block.  I assumed that early on a Saturday morning, the line might be shorter, so I headed over.  And yes indeed, the line was shorter.

In fact, there was no line. I took some pictures of the outside from across the street.



As I crossed the street, one of the many homeless guys said, "Hey, did you take my picture?" I shook my head. He said, "Let me see the camera."

I didn't want to tell him that I can never remember how to review the pictures, so I said, "I took a picture of the sign" and slipped inside.

I chose 5 donuts.  I tried to choose some that were unusual: maple bacon and a Mexican Cinnamon, that has cayenne with the cinnamon sugar, in honor of Carl and Meg. I got two that have been my favorites:  sprinkles and a chocolate peanut.  Those were cake doughnuts, which I prefer.  I asked the counter guy to put in his favorite, and he chose a maple blazer blunt (it's real name).



Cannabis is legal here; I see lots of pot shops as I walk across town. But sugar will always be my drug of choice.

Early yesterday morning, I read this blog post that Kelli Russell Agodon wrote, and her description of the Lan Su Chinese Garden sounded lovely.  We had also read about the Saturday Market, so we decided to try to get to both yesterday morning.

I wasn't as impressed with the Saturday Market as I wanted to be.  Some of the art for sale was truly lovely, but of course, I was most attracted to stuff that's not easy to carry on a plane.  A lot of what was offered was junk.  I took no pictures.

We walked through the cherry trees to the Lan Su Chinese Garden, where I took a lot of pictures.  What a lovely space!  



We ate at the tea room, which was a wonderful experience.  I was glad that we lingered:




Then we hiked up to Powell's Books, which was big and overwhelming, and while I was impressed, I would have been more thrilled in the time before the Internet can deliver most any book I want.  We didn't stay long--it was packed, and I was glad to see a bustling bookstore.

We walked back to our hotel, and then I decided to go back to the conference.  I'm glad I did, because I got to attend a wonderful session on using artsy-craftsy techniques to get students immersed in writing.  It gave me lots of ideas not just for my writing classes, but for other areas too.  

I also got some great books in the waning hours of the bookfair.  That, too, made me happy.

We ended our day at Portland Burger, which was a great burger--even the small version was huge.  The website doesn't give the full menu--there are also shakes and a full bar and a variety of burgers special to the day.  I was happy that we ate there--happy and stuffed.

It's been a great trip, and I'm glad I made the effort to get here.  The conference has fed both my brain and my creative soul.  It's been great travelling with my grad school friend and having a chance for deep conversation.  I've enjoyed seeing another part of the country.  It's good to be reminded that travel is worth the effort.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

AWP: Report on Day 2

Yesterday morning, I thought about skipping the AWP panels that were offered at 9 a.m.  I was mildly interested in a session on Angels in America, but I had heard a lot of commentary on it last year and thought I might not learn much that was new.

In the end, I went to that session, and I am so glad that I did.  What an amazing session.  Unlike with some sessions, the presenters did not read to us from papers.  They did not read from their published works.  It was a conversation between 4 experts who are also writers for popular publications and teachers, so they have both the intellectual chops and the expert way of making it all interesting.

It was a great conversation about the play, about the 80's when the play is set, about the 90's when the play was first performed, and about the time we're in now.  Suddenly the play's politics all seem eerily relevant again.  And, as the presenters reminded us, the disease of AIDS is far from vanquished.

I went to a second session which I thought would be about book tours and taxes, but it was soon apparent that it was about the benefit of signing on with a speaker's bureau to arrange your speaking engagements for you--if you're getting about $1000 per engagement already, although people getting $2500-$5000 is more their target market.

At this point, that's not me, so I left and went back to the room to get the Bookfair map.  On the way back, I stopped to see the cherry blossoms up close--I'd been seeing them from the light rail train that's been taking us back and forth to the Convention Center. 

The cherry trees lined the Willamette River. 



Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was also a memorial to the Japanese citizens sent off to U.S. camps during World War II.





Beautiful stones with haunting words lined the path beneath a blizzard of blossoms.




I walked across the bridge instead of hiking back to a rail station.  It was kind of cool and kind of disconcerting.  I didn't get the great pictures I thought I would get.  And the bridge was a bit bouncy when the big trucks rattled across.  But there were other pedestrians and cyclists, so I didn't feel like I was where I didn't belong.



I went to the bookfair and made my way to the Two Sylvias table where I finally met the poet Jeannine Hall Gailey in person.  Jeannine was sparkly both in clothing and in personality.  I feel I look a bit bedraggled, but I had hiked over much of the convention center and the bridge and the park, so maybe I should give myself a break.



The bookfair is a bit overwhelming, and I didn't want to get in the way of book sales, so I didn't stay long.  I thanked Kelli Russell Agodon for her work and was on my way.  I need to force myself to go back to the bookfair today.

As with much of the AWP, I'm aware of so many opportunities that I'm not pursuing.  I'm not going to each table at the bookfair to make editors aware of me.  I'm not looking at publications to see if they're a good fit for my work.  I'm not networking, so I won't be meeting people who might get my work to publication.  Part of me thinks, I'm 53 years old--what's the point of all this?

I went to an afternoon session that I thought might address these issues, a session about writers over 60, but the panel organizer had something else in mind.  I try not to be annoyed about sessions that aren't what I want them to be, but I had really wanted something else.  Most of the presenters presented their psychic landscape in the face of death that's coming sooner rather than later, and one woman read some of her poems about L.A. police and contamination from industry, and I'm not sure what any of that had to do with aging.  I came away understanding their states of mind, but without any information about how they carry on in the face of it all.

We finished the day by going to a session about balancing one's own need to write with one's need to help students with their writing.  It was a good session.  I'm here to tell you that no one has the answer to work-life-creativity balance issues.  But it's good to meet others who confirm that the struggle isn't imaginary.

We made our way back to the hotel.  We thought about getting a doughnut from the iconic Voodoo Donuts, but the line stretched far down the street.  Can any doughnut be worth that wait?

I hope to be able to answer that question later today.