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.