Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Poetry Tuesday: the Miracles of Multiplication

Yesterday was another tough day at work.  We knew that layoffs were coming, but I had hoped that somehow, we might be spared.

We were not.  We lost seven faculty members and two staff members.  Classes start next week, and now we administrators must scramble.

My department had a potluck lunch in the faculty/staff break room.  Once our department would have been too numerous to fit in the break room.  Yesterday we would have had room for an additional department or two to join us.

We would have had enough food too.  I love that aspect of potluck dinners.  There's always plenty, enough to feed anyone who showed up.

I think back to the Gospel stories of Jesus feeding a massive crowd.  One version of the story says that Jesus had 5 loaves and two fish that the disciples collected from the crowd.  The multiplication is a miracle--or is it?   Those of us who have been to potluck dinners might not be surprised that the food seems to have magically multiplied.

One version of the Gospel tells us that after the miracle of multiplying loaves and fishes, the leftovers filled 12 baskets.  It's always interesting to me what details leap out at me as we travel through the Lectionary.  One year, I couldn't stop thinking about those 12 baskets.

So, of course, I wrote a poem.  It appeared in qarrtsiluni.  You can read it here; hearing me read it is also an option.

Left Behind


We gathered twelve baskets of leftovers,
and then we confronted a new crisis:
what do with all the food left behind?

We slapped together fish sandwiches for all the weary
travelers. We made to-go bags
for everyone with hungry
families at home. We made sure the boy
got his investment back and then some.

We still had several baskets.
We made a picnic for ourselves.
And then Martha stepped forward.
With her old family recipe, she baked
pan after pan of bread pudding.

Some people gathered to talk mystical
theology. The rest of us helped
Martha clean up the kitchen. We wallowed
in dessert and fellowship. We celebrated
sweetness, the important life lesson.

I hope that as we move through the coming weeks, we see some unexpected sweetness.  I hope we experience the miracles of multiplication.  I am tired of the severe lessons of division.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When Storm Clouds Gather

I wrote the following photo essay at the end of August, as we kept an eye on tropical system Erika.  Then I thought about storm preparation and how it might be a metaphor for all sorts of activities.  Now, with the words of the Pope ringing in my ears, the photo essay seems different yet again.  And of course, there are darker meanings, as we watch various people talk about what should be done in Syria, in Iran, and here at home.

As storm clouds gather, we have an opportunity to meditate on power, how we preserve it, how we squander it, and how we give it away:

Let the batteries not die.  Let us remember the true source of our light:

As we fill up the water bottles, we can remember what refreshes us; we can resolve to partake in more life-restoring activities:

Let us take time to savor the sweetness, especially when storms approach:

As we shutter the windows, we can also protect the fragile and the breakable:

We must cling to the ultimate promise:  the sun will come out, and order will be restored:

(with the exception of the sunrise beach picture, the other pictures were taken in August of 2012, as we prepared for Hurricane Isaac, which stayed to our south)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Report on a Birthday Week-end

For weeks, people had been asking how we would celebrate my spouse's birthday.  I shrugged.  We're not a couple that makes big birthday plans.  But I didn't mean to forget it.

Somewhere along the way I had gotten it in my head that his birthday was on Sunday.  It wasn't until I was at the gym, in the middle of spin class, that I realized that Sept. 26 was actually on Saturday.

Happily there was still time.  I came back in the house singing the Happy Birthday song.

We had a low-key birthday:  homemade pizza while watching PBS cooking shows, a lovely nap, a swim in the pool, some paperwork tasks completed.  In a way, it's like many a Saturday in our house.  In some ways, with each year, we feel lucky to still be in relatively good health, since so many are not.

Yesterday, we had another celebration.  We went to a friend's house, where my quilting group would gather.  The men worked on installing a fence and a gate around the garden, and then they swam in the pool.  I got the Lutheran World Relief quilt finished.  It was good to reconnect with some of the South Florida friends I've had the longest.

Today it's back to work--I need to do some checking and doublechecking to see who needs which Math class.  I need to register students into those classes.  If there's time left, I need to work on a syllabus for my class that starts a week from Thursday.  And there are the annual reviews that need attention.

But before I plunge myself into those tasks, let me take a minute to bask in a week-end which combined rest, recharging, writing, grading--and reconnecting.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Poetry Sunday: Longing for a Keatsian Autumn

Many of my friends in the upper 48 are enjoying a taste of autumn, or at least chilly, windy, rainy weather.  We've had some rain, but our overall pattern is still hot, humid, breezeless--ugh.

This time of year, I always find myself longing for autumn:  the thrill of needing a sweater, the first leaves turning, the chance to make something with pumpkin (but not a beverage--I think pumpkin makes drinks taste metallic), a trip to an orchard, on and on I could go.

 This time of year, my thoughts turn to John Keats.  His poem, "To Autumn," is one of the most perfect autumn poems ever.  Go here to read it.

For those of you looking for a teaching/writing idea, here are some. You could have students write about the autumnal elements that Keats includes and the figurative language that he uses. You could have students write about the autumnal elements that Keats leaves out. You could have them research what Autumn would have been like as Keats experienced it. You could show the movie Bright Star and have them compare the experience of Autumn as a visual experience and the experience of Autumn as a reading experience. You could have students write their own poems and require that they avoid all overused autumnal elements: can they write an autumnal poem with no hay rides, no pumpkins, no colored leaves?

 Here's a poem that I wrote years ago, after teaching the Keats poem and yearning for a more autumnal October:

Longing for a Keatsian Autumn

What I wouldn’t give for a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
Instead we suffer fierce heat and a flowering
fecundity that threatens to pull our thatch-eves down.
West winds bring us nothing but a pall
of heavy humidity, a harvest of hurricanes.

I want to sing songs of other seasons
than this sweat soaked summer.
I want to be wooed by weather unSouthern.

I tire of this moist mouthed peninsula,
seasonless, cursed landscape of mangroves and swamp grass
that mocks our efforts to pretend that the Southernmost
tip of America has seasons other than warm and hot.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Alien Landscapes

Yesterday was one of those dizzying days at work.  In the past year, we've had lots of staff come and go--mostly go--and occasionally I crash into full knowledge of what those people did and what I still don't know how to do.

We run our math classes differently from any other class, with our students having an additional quarter to complete the competencies.  When they finish, we have to go back in the system to change a grade from a previous quarter.

Our math faculty used to turn in these grades to our registrar, who would sort it all out.  But our registrar is out on maternity leave.  So yesterday I found myself with a variety of grades and not much insight about what should be done next.

I pieced it all together, but it took the better part of my work day.  Several times I found myself saying, "I did not go to grad school for this!"

Earlier in the week, I did have one woman ask me why I wanted a Ph.D., and I talked about wanting to teach and needing a Ph.D. to get a full-time job.  And yesterday, in the midst of math headaches, someone asked me about my dissertation, and still, after all these years, I was able to talk coherently about what I wrote about, the presences of domestic violence in the Gothic vein, a tradition that's not considered realistic, but the depiction of domestic violence is very realistic:  abusers and victims act and think in ways that have been proven, long before the disciplines of Sociology and Psychology explored this social problem at all.

We had a brief chat about Wuthering Heights, a novel that figured prominently in my dissertation.  What a relief to find my brain is not permanently mush!

Last night, I returned to my short story about the gardener on Mars.  I've been having problems figuring out where to go and what the conflict is.  Last night I realized that I'm writing about people who can't go home again, to use the words of the Thomas Wolfe novel.  We are all of us stranded in alien landscapes, although we don't all realize it yet.

Sounds like a cheery short story, eh?  But it's not as bleak as I make it sound.  I'm still not exactly sure where it's going or how to get there.  It's turned into a very different piece of writing than the bit of a vignette that I planned to go with other vignettes that I planned to write and weave together.

Again, it's nice to be surprised by the fact that my brain can rise above the activities which seek to defeat it.  I may be stranded in an alien landscape, but I am not yet lost!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Vows of Stability in an Unstable Time

Last night, after a long day at work filling in for a colleague who had to miss classes because of jury duty, we met for a happy hour goodbye to a colleague who is moving across the sea.  It was wonderful to see so many people again.

It was also sobering to realize the reason why we don't see each other as much these days--most of us have been laid off from our full-time teaching/administration jobs at our school, and thus, it's harder to schedule an event like yesterday.  Many of us now zoom from part-time job to part-time job, with less lingering time in any one place.  Some of us have gone on to other full-time jobs, which makes it harder to see them.  Those of us left behind are having to do more, and we teach other places too, because we're worried about being laid off.

Yesterday, though, we carved some time out of our busy schedules and came together.  With only 8-15 people at any time during the drop in, it was a small enough group that we could actually talk to each other.  It was a significant enough group so that I hope my colleague felt how much we care about him and wish him well.

In my 20's and 30's, I was the one going away.  Even in my 40's, I was the new kid at my school, and the only reason people left was because they'd been there 30 years, and it was time to retire.  Now, every quarter seems to bring a fresh round of people leaving, and not because they want to. 

The other day I saw a colleague's jug of tea sitting on the window sill; she makes sun tea once a week.  I think of all the colleagues who are no longer with us, all of their coffee mugs, all of the lunches we've shared and happy hours and celebrations and sorrows.

Earlier workplaces didn't have to deal with the turnover question.  People got a job, and if it worked out, they were likely to stay for a long time.  No longer.

In some ways, the teaching life has always been this way:  students come, and students go.  But once, colleagues stayed longer.

I think of monastics who take a vow of stability--they vow to stay in their monastery for the rest of their lives.  But I also think of Mepkin Abbey.  I've been going there regularly for over 10 years, and even the vow of stability doesn't always keep people rooted.

I think of the Pope's reference to Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.  Dorothy Day founded intentional communities with her Catholic Worker houses, and Thomas Merton took part in a much older tradition.

What would an intentional community look like in these unstable times?

In the meantime, I try to stay grounded, even as my work community continues to shift.  Maybe intentional communities in the 21st century will be rooted in the human life, not the place.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Black Power, Poetry Power

Last night I graded my online students' discussion posts while I listened to this great interview between Terry Gross and Stanley Nelson, the director of a new documentary on the Black Panthers.  I thought about how quickly free breakfasts for children and free health clinics give way to FBI informants and bullets in the bedroom.

I thought about the possibilities of metaphor.  I thought about all the ways I am not making lasting social change.  I went back to grading.

This morning, I wrote a poem.  Once, I believed that poets could change the world with the right poem.  I am a Brit Lit person that way.

Yesterday, I covered a colleague's classes while she observed Yom Kippur.  Today I will cover a colleague's classes while she does jury duty service.  This afternoon, a group of us will gather for a happy hour au revoir party for a colleague who is moving to France.

Here, too, I wonder about poetic possibilities.

Yesterday I marked the arrival of Fall by sending a packet of poems to The Iowa Review.  I've been sending this journal my poems for much of my adult life with nary a word of encouragement back, much less an acceptance.  Non-writers might ask why I keep submitting--clearly, this journal is not interested in my work. 

But I know that the work I sent yesterday is significantly better than the work I sent as a young grad student.  Maybe at some point, they'll say yes.  And besides, I can afford the stamps that it costs me to keep hope alive.

What will today bring?  Time to venture out to see.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tuesday Treats: Student Poetry Readings Present and Future

Yesterday, in the midst of various types of job drudgery, I got a treat that reminds me of why the rest of it matters.  I got to go to a colleague's last day of a poetry creative writing class.  The students read their poems--what talent.

I was also impressed by the wide variety of inspiration.  My colleague has created the most interesting field trips.  The students have gone to a Riverfront park that's the site of the first settlement of Ft. Lauderdale, a graveyard, a trolley ride, a huge bridge over the Intracoastal, the Museum of Art-Ft. Lauderdale, and the beach.  Each field trip was linked with a kind of poem.  The students always had the option to write free verse.

We talked about career trajectories for poets, which included poetry readings.  I said that I had planned to start a sort of open mic poetry reading at school at some point.  We talked about how neat it would be to have a Halloween event.

After the class was over, I checked with the librarian, since our library is a great spot for a reading, and there aren't many spots on our small campus.  She was enthusiastic, and we scheduled the event for Wednesday, October 28, from 5-6, as the day darkens into night.  Students can read one spooky poem until everyone has had a turn.  There will be treats and maybe costumes.

My colleague was able to tell her poetry students that a reading had been scheduled.  We were able to get our event onto the October calendar. 

There are many challenges to being part of a small school--there's never enough money in the budget, for one thing.  But there are advantages:  when we have an idea, we can move quickly. 

It doesn't always work that way, but it's sweet when it does.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Topsy Turvy Morning

Usually I get up in the wee, small hours of the morning and get some writing or some grading done. 

This morning I wrote a small paragraph about my gardener character on Mars, and then my spouse woke up.  And so, my morning flipped.

My spouse's brother is coming up this morning so that they can go on a motorcycle ride.  I got some chores done--sheets washed and vacuuming done.  A quick clean of the bathroom.  I put together my contribution to tonight's potluck dinner before church council.  I paid some bills.

I didn't get as much writing done as I had hoped to do.  But it feels good to catch up on some of the daily tasks that so easily slip away.

There's still laundry to be put away, but at least I have clean clothes.  There are weeks when I comfort myself by saying, "I've paid the bills, I'm wearing clean clothes, my students are taken care of, and my faculty are O.K.--this is enough."

I wish I had time to do more straightening of the spiritual kind.  Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday that intrigues me.  In this post for the Living Lutheran site, I wrote:  "The idea of a period of intense introspection enchants me. I also like the idea that it ends. Immersing myself in a period of repenting and atoning, fasting and prayer – that idea has enormous appeal. The idea that God seals the book, absolves us, and we go back to regular life also appeals to me. Most humans can't live in that kind of intense self-awareness and repentance for too long."

Here's how I concluded that post:  "So, this today, as my Jewish friends immerse themselves in this holy time, and as I go about my regular life, I'll try to remember to think about God and that Book of Life. I'll think about my current life and where I need some change in its trajectory. I'll pray for all of us who are engaged in a similar time of introspection."

May it be so.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Sunday of Quilts

I spent much of yesterday working on quilting projects for Lutheran World Relief.  I was alternately content, frustrated, annoyed--well, every emotion really.

The quilts for LWR have to be close to the size that they request.  I measure and measure and cut carefully and still, somehow, the quilt tops and backs need to be adjusted.  So I got to church, thinking we were ready to go, and we had to add some cloth to the tops and backs.

We made several quilt tops back in June at Vacation Bible School.  The kids drew on them with fabric markers, and their work displays a lot of variety:

Now we need to attach quilt tops to batting and backs.  We do this by knotting.  Last year, we got a whole quilt knotted.  This year, only half.

As we knotted, I wondered about the recipients of the quilts.  Will they understand that children drew the pictures on the quilt tops?  I had a vision of someone saying, "I will never go to the U.S.  Those people are crazy--look what they drew."

The hands make sense, but then the kids drew other things:  mythical creatures, earth moving vehicles, swirls that don't seem to correspond to anything in real life--you know, the way kids draw.

Yesterday the kids didn't seem to recognize the quilt tops.  They weren't interested in knotting.  No, they took the straight pins out of the quilt-to-be and rearranged them.  They put them in the pincushion in interesting ways.  They asked why we couldn't have done this in VBS.

Amazingly, no one pricked themselves.

Finally, we came home. We had 2 quilt tops made of patches that were almost done.  We decided that while we had the sewing machine out, we should get those done.  And so, we did.

Now to get it all made into quilts--we have 4 tops, a quilt from last year that needs to have the borders finished, and the quilt that is half knotted.

Each February, LWR sends a truck to pick up quilts and mission kits (sewing, school, and health kits), as they are expensive to mail.  Perhaps we can get everything done by then.

I'm so glad to be part of a church that does these kinds of events (see yesterday's blog post for more details on the God's Work, Our Hands day at our church and at many Lutheran churches).  Part of me wants to do them more often, but part of me is exhausted when the day is done, so I'm glad that we don't do it every week.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Social Justice on a Sunday

Soon I will load up the car with sewing supplies and head to church.  I'm guessing that most readers would find the two sides of that sentence to not quite fit together.

We are having a social justice Sunday.  You could argue that every Sunday should be social justice Sunday, and I would not disagree.  But today, we are giving people the opportunity to be more engaged with more than just their minds.

The larger Lutheran church (ELCA) has been having God's Work, Our Hands Sundays for a few years now.  It's been thrilling to think that churches all over the land are either working for a more just society or working to alleviate the wounds of injustice.

Some churches have already done their God's Work, Our Hands Sunday.  We had to postpone ours.  Originally we had planned to do it last week-end, but that was the women's retreat, so a substantial number of hands would be away.

This Sunday will offer choices for people.  People can work on quilt tops:

 There will be quilts to knot together:

 We will have a sewing machine to speed the process:

People can simply bring donations for the food pantry:

We will have donations of cookies that need to be packaged up to send to college students.

 My fearless spouse will set up the sewing machine and let the pre-teen girls work the foot pedal!

God's work, our hands--the faith that moves our feet!

And yes, I realize that these activities are more charitable activities than justice activities.  We are alleviating the effects of injustice instead of working to restore justice.  My church does a fair amount of those activities too.

If you're saying, "Wow, I wish I could be part of this"--come on over to Trinity Lutheran Church at the corner of Pines Blvd and 72nd Ave, near the South Campus of Broward College in Pembroke Pines, FL.  We'll be working all morning and into the early afternoon.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

How Would Jesus Colonize Mars?

--I was up early this morning after collapsing into bed at 8:15 last night.  It's been an exhausting week at work, and the next few weeks will be exhausting too.  Yesterday was another afternoon of flooding rains, so it was good to stay inside, eat dinner, drink some wine, and not attend to household tasks, like grocery shopping.

--This morning, I decided to work on my short story about a colonist growing tomatoes on Mars before doing anything else.  Why don't I work in this order more often?  I wrote two pages.  I have no idea where this story is going.  My inner critic screams, "Where is the conflict in this story?"  But it intrigues me, and so, I will keep going.

--Perhaps I will write a poem about Jesus as a colonist on Mars.

--How would Jesus colonize Mars:  a variation on "What Would Jesus Do?"

--This week-end I need to make sure I've got a handle on my submission strategy for my book-length poetry manuscript.

--Soon the pace of my online classes will pick up, plus I'll be teaching my onground class in 2 and a half weeks.  I've got the first 3-4 weeks plotted out in my mind.  At some point, I need to plot it out on paper/pixels and upload materials.

--I've been enjoying a variety of NPR interviews as I've been attending to various tasks.  Two in particular spoke to my writer's heart:  this one with Mary Karr and this one with Thomas Mallon, who wrote a novel based on the Reagan regime.

--In these days and months when I don't have time to read longer books, it's wonderful to have these kinds of interviews so that I don't feel like my brain is turning to mush.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hildegard of Bingen: Cure for Wrong Side of the Bed Blues

I woke up feeling grumpy and fretful--a lovely combination.  It rained much of the night, so I didn't sleep as well as I sometimes do.  When rain batters the house at strange angles, like it did all night, I worry about the ways the water will find its way in.

Our window sills seem dry.  There has been water intrusion in the cottage in the back, but we've put down towels to catch the seeping.  The main street isn't flooded, but I suspect the back alley is.

I don't understand why some storms result in flooding/water intrusion and some have no impact.  Why last night's storms and not Sunday's?  Because we got more rain last night?

I was feeling grumpy because I have grading to do and then I'm off to the office, and I really want to stay home and write poetry.  I was feeling grumpy because I didn't have any ideas for blog posts.  And then I remembered that today is the feast day of Hildegard of Bingen.

I've written about her before, and so I did a quick search of my blogs and other files.  I noticed that just reading about her lifted my spirits.  Thank you, past Kristin, for leaving me these gifts of leavening.

I'm in that state where I'm feeling anxious about what I'm not writing, what's slipping away, what I'm not recording.  Here's a nugget of comfort from last year's blog post:

"My theory:  in the day to day, we feel we aren't doing much.  But when we take the full measure of a life, we see how much a life can encompass."

For more on Hildegard of Bingen, see this blog post.

I conclude the piece by saying:

"Maybe today is a good day to tune in that medieval music [on the Pandora channel that bears her name]. We could listen while writing letters to those in charge, letters which demand more work towards social justice. Or we could focus on other writing projects, as Hildegard of Bingen did. We could plant a healing herb garden.

Today, on her feast day, let us say a prayer of thanks for Hildegard of Bingen and other medieval matriarchs of Christianity."

If the rain lets up, maybe I'll walk into the back yard to visit my healing herb garden that we planted a few weeks ago--those plants always lift my spirits.  I've already said a prayer of thanks today for Hildegard of Bingen, and I'll continue to pray for social justice.  I'll hum Plainsong to calm any anxiety that comes to me as I move through the day.

Perhaps I can find some time to write a poem.  But if not, there will be time this week-end.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Poetry Wednesday: Visualizing the Muse

Through the summer, when so many literary journals shut down, I feel that September will never arrive.  And then it does, and I find myself where I am right now.  I want to send manuscripts to some of my favorite presses and the May Swenson award, which sends me a copy of the winning book. 

Today I will proof my manuscript one last time.  By the end of the week-end, I will send it out.

And I need to get into the habit of sending out some poetry packets to journals each week.  There are scraps of time that I could claim for this purpose.

What makes September tough?  Most of my department was hired first for the fall quarter--which means that September is the month of preparing annual reviews that are due October 1.  It's a lot of paperwork.

I am always in awe of what others do in terms of their writing life.  I am tough on myself.  I always, always feel that I should be doing more.

It's the voice of my inner guidance counselor telling me that I'm not doing enough.  It's the voice of the critic, the historian, the ones who will write the literary histories, who will wonder why I didn't do more to follow the ambitions I had as an undergraduate.

These thoughts remind me of a poem that I wrote, in part to remind myself that I've set processes in motion, even when I don't feel/see them on a daily basis.

 The Call of the Crows

My muse leaves me a trail
of breadcrumbs. Just to be safe,
she mixes in all my favorite
kinds: the sourdough of experience, the sweet
cinnamon bread of memory, the rye
of humor, the hearty grained passions.

Alas, poor muse! She doesn’t know
of these crows that guard
me always, the caws of callous
criticism always in my ear.
They see what my muse plots
and they pluck away the crumbs
as quickly as she can scatter them.

But my muse is a crafty girl, well-schooled
in mazes and cunning escapes. She selects
cords in many colors, velvet ribbons
and festive silks to help me find my way.
The crows use these to line their nests.

Luckily, my muse is not so easily deterred.
She forgoes the subtle approach, the seductive
ways of getting my attention. She plants
landmines in my gardens of guilt,
mails bombs cleverly disguised
as friendly letters, which scatter infectious
agents of creativity throughout my day.
She infuses me with bacteria that will infect
each cell, viruses that will root in my very soul,
recombining my DNA, transforming me in fevered
fires into a woman who no longer comprehends
the call of the crows.

And here's a poem I've posted before, a poem that imagines the Muse as Penelope.  It was first published in Emrys.

The Muse to Her Poet

You worry that I am some Ulysses,
headed off to distant lands the moment you turn
your back, easily seduced by goddesses,
and ever needful of new adventures.

You are the one who sets sail
for the distant island of your novel, sidetracked
from your true vocation by thoughts of the fruits
of fame, the warmth of characters
to put through their paces.
You are the one who often strands
herself on the dry, dusty shores
of academic writing, pursuing the metaphors
and symbols of other poets
while neglecting your own.

I am your muse, your Penelope, waiting
ever, always patient. I weave
even when you’re unaware, distracted
by those undeterred suitors of easier pleasures than mine.
I pluck out the threads that don’t match,
keep the tapestries safe,
keep my faith in your return.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kristin and the Blustery Day

The weather has turned from hot and humid to humid and blustery.  Unlike my friends who live further to the north, I am not under any delusion that autumn is underway.  But I'm happy for a breeze.

Yesterday afternoon I helped my spouse install an outside light to replace the one that had finally died.  We knew it was living on borrowed time after being hit by a coconut 15 months ago.

Yes, it's difficult, this life in the tropics, where palm fronds and coconuts can do real damage.

We could have used this wind yesterday.  It was the worst kind of weather to work on electric installations.  Happily, there were no accidents because of sweat dripping into the wrong places.

I have had a good morning, as I sent off some writing and checked in with my online classes and wrote a poem for the first time in two weeks.  I would love to do some autumnal baking, but I should be realistic.  There's really no time for that.

There are signs that the season is shifting.  My friend's daughter showed me her Hermione costume--it's not for Halloween, though, but for a week at her school where the children dress up as their favorite literary character.

I'm seeing Halloween displays.  Any home improvement/repair project involves at least one trip to Home Depot.  Yesterday, on our way to the electrical area, I noticed pallets of pumpkins and some yard decorations which were piled almost to the ceiling.  I thought of a poem where Frankenstein looks at all our home repair projects--does he lift his arm in blessing or warning?

I won't be decorating until our church sells pumpkins or until I see the first pot of mums that I can't resist.

It's time for me to get ready for the day--back to work after my long week-end.  But I'd rather be baking.

In case you have time to bake, I'll post my recipe for an apple crisp.  It's easy, healthy, fairly cheap, and quick--and it perfumes the house with smells of autumn!

Apple Crisp (based on a recipe from Jane Brody's Good Food Book Cookbook)

2 or more apples* cut in bite size chunks
carrot shreds to taste or not at all
cranberries, fresh or dried, chopped or not--or not at all:  1/2 C. to 1 C.
blueberries, fresh or frozen, would probably work nicely too

At this point, you can toss the fruit with a few T. of white or brown sugar, but it works well without it.

Put the fruit in your pan:  a greased pie plate or a square dish or a casserole pan or a 9 x 13 pan.  In the same bowl mix the following:

Topping (can be varied, depending on whether you like a lot of crispy topping or little)
1-2 C. whole oats (quick cooking works too)
a few T. brown sugar - 1/2 Cup --1 C. if you're making a big pan or want a very sweet crisp
1-2 T. cinnamon
nuts:  anything from a handful of chopped nuts to 1 C. or more.  I prefer pecans, but walnuts work too.  I imagine that hazlenuts or almonds would be nice.
a few T. of flour--or not

Spread the fruit on the bottom of the pan and the topping on top.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until nicely brownish on top or less brown, if you prefer.  Enjoy for dessert (goes great with vanilla ice cream!), breakfast, or a healthy snack.

*If you're filling a pie pan, 2 will probably do.  If you like more topping and less fruit, 2 will do.  If you're filling a 9 x 13 pan, you'll probably need 4-6, again, depending on your preference of fruit to topping.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Inspirations from a Women's Retreat

I am back from the God's Spa women's retreat at Luther Springs, but still not back to "regular life."  I gave myself the gift of a day off.  I knew that I'd need time to decompress, plus I have grades due today for some of my online classes.

I've done laundry and made a casserole for a week's worth of lunches.  I baked sweet potatoes too.  I'm in need of some vegetarian food, after the riotous living of the week-end.

You may think of camp or retreat and assume the food would be sparse.  No, it's not that kind of retreat center.

It was a rainy, rainy week-end, which was cozy in a way.  It also led me to feel a bit fretful about leaving, since we had miles and miles of dirt road before getting to paved road.  Happily, it was O.K.

For more about the particulars of the retreat, see this post on my theology blog.  For this post here, let me record some inspirations that came to me during this retreat.

 I did a group guided meditation.  I hadn't really thought about going, but we were practicing a song on the back porch, and the rest of the group was going, so I went too.  I was able to do the meditation without falling asleep, unlike the last time that I tried meditation, back in February.

We were taken through the meditation where we imagined floating in a Mediterranean sea.  We saw a figure on the beach--since it was a Christian retreat, that figure turned out to be Jesus.  We had a conversation.

In my meditation, Jesus and I talked about writing and focused on poetry.  We talked about Luisa Igloria's Buddha poems and what an inspiration they had been.  Jesus asked why I hadn't compiled all my poems about him into one volume.  Today I would have my answer.  I don't have enough.

And thus, I have a fun project.  I'm going to write one of my Jesus in the world poems at the rate of one per week (for an example of this kind of poem of mine, see this blog post).  I also hope to write another poem each week too.

What other insights came to me?

I'm going to start carrying a journal with me.  I want to track my eating.  I want to make a sketch each day.  I want to keep daily gratitude lists.  I want to capture my various inspirations.

I also overheard a snippet, which I will record here.  An older woman eating a banana said, "I haven't eaten a banana since Ralph died."  It's one of those sentences that says so much, even as it seems banal.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Poetry Sunday: For Those in Peril on the Sea

On July 24, two South Florida boys headed out to fish, and they have yet to return. Throughout the first week of their disappearance, I found my thoughts returning to them, as the last line from the first verse of "The Navy Hymn" kept surfacing in my brain. My online students, in an act of random synchronicity, spent last week discussing Stephen Crane’s "The Open Boat," which would not give me much hope for surviving the power of the sea. By the end of the week, I was weaving these strands together to form the poem (the words in italics are the first verse of "The Navy Hymn").  I'm still not sure I'm happy with the title, but here's the poem.

I'm thinking of revisiting it, in light of the refugee crisis in Europe and bodies washing to the shore.  If I do, I'll repost.


Eternal Father, strong to save,

The children fear the murky depths,
but teenagers assume invincibility.
The old ones can read the wind
to understand the weather that will come.
The teenagers know that they can outrun
any storm.

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,

The boys go fishing and vanish.
The days drift by; the search widens.
Did they have water? Were they wearing
life jackets? Which way
would the current pull them?
We search for specks on the surface
of a bright sea.

Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep

We comfort ourselves with older news
of survivors once presumed lost, prodigal sailors
returning. Conrad, Crane and Coleridge told
us, but we would not heed
their ancient mariners with warnings of woe.
We watch the shoreline, but the sea
knows how to keep
a secret.

Its own appointed limits keep;

The sea will suck away all you love:
your best sunglasses, favorite rings slipped
right off your fingers, loved ones, sandals,
swimsuits, all gone along with your sense
of safety.

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

At a Women's Retreat

This week-end, I am at a women's retreat at Luther Springs.

I plan to think about the ways I might spend the rest of 2015 journaling.

I will appreciate the art and the nature at the camp.

Maybe I'll learn new skills.

I want to recalibrate my life towards more joy.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Comfort of Capturing Contentment

Yesterday, a friend asked why someone would post a picture of their dinner on Facebook.  We had a great discussion.

I think we post our pictures in part because our cell phones and tablets with camera power make it so easy.  Our devices can connect almost instantly with Facebook--push a button, and it's on the FB page.

I think it's also because Facebook has become a journal, a logbook, a diary/scrapbook for so many of us.  I do wonder if we'll be able to access that material in 10-30 years.  Of course, I have a box of paper journals in my closet--they're not real accessible right now:  I have to dig them out of the box and flip through them with no good search tools beyond my reading skills.  But I expect to still have them in 10-30 years, barring catastrophe like fire. 

I think people post pictures because they're having a moment of happiness that they want to capture.  I rarely see angry pictures.  That's in direct contrast to the online articles that people link to--so much anger.  I rarely click through.  But I do linger on pictures.

I thought about my own morning yesterday.  I decided to make a quiche for breakfast because I had some Swiss cheese that needed to be used.  I went out to our little garden and selected herbs--the herbs that we planted a few weeks ago are flourishing.  As I snipped the bright green herbs which fell on the grated cheese and sautéed mushrooms, I felt such a swelling of contentment.

In some ways, not much has changed since my vegetarian days--I still get lots of joy from my tiny garden and from cooking good food.  I still look forward to the arrival of friends.

Last night, I dreamed about my high school friend who died in February.  We were filling up sodas at a soda station before we went into a movie.  It was so ordinary, and I woke up wishing we had had a profound conversation in my dream.  But I was also comforted by seeing her again, even though I know it was a figment of my subconscious brain.

On this September 11, I have the fragility of life on the brain.  I take comfort from knowing that I will be remembered, at whatever time I am snatched away from this life.  I am content with the efforts that I have made to live a life that's in alignment with my values.

And yet, I know that the alignment will slip if I'm not paying attention.  I think that reason, too, is why so many of us post our pictures on Facebook--it keeps us in sync with ourselves and with the ones we love so deeply.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Evolution of the Art Forms

Yesterday, I went to observe a Video Production class.  You may ask why I did that.  After all, my specialty is English.  The Video Production faculty do not report to me.

Each quarter, we get a list of classes that need to be observed, and it's good to have observations from people outside of the area.  So, off I went to a Video Production class.

I had first gone to observe 6 weeks ago, when students were learning about the equipment.  Last night, I watched them using all that equipment in the studio.

The one thing I noticed immediately was that the students were riveted.  Even if they weren't needed at the moment, they watched the activity, not their cell phones.

There's likely a lesson there.  Can we make our lecture classes more active?

I, too, was riveted.  I wanted to go back to school so that I could have fun arranging lights and checking camera angles and running the light board.

I'm a drama geek from way back, with many happy memories of set building and running light and sound boards and acting a bit.  So admittedly, I'm biased.

I thought about my drama club days and how some of the equipment hasn't changed since the 1980's:  the lights, the gels, the light board.  I wonder if high school drama clubs have morphed into video production clubs.

The new resembles the old, and it's hard to tell just yet if we're working in a completely new art form or an evolution of the old.

I had similar thoughts as I was reading Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See.  Parts of the book revolve around the newly emerging technology of radio.  One character reads from the work of another and broadcasts the readings without knowing who will listen:  could be nobody, or a few people or the world.  And we know in a few decades radio technology will change the world.

We live in a similar time in the world of the arts.  We've got lots of ways to get our work out into the world, but it's hard to always know who is paying attention.

The book emphasizes the how seemingly random connections can change the course of human lives and perhaps history--and we have no idea which broadcasts will be the ones that do that.

I feel similarly about blogging and other forms of writing.  Occasionally I write about a subject that gets picked up and rebroadcast over various platforms.  I often don't anticipate what will hit a nerve.

For example, I wrote this post on raising cheerful givers.  I wrote it for my church, and I also posted it on my theology blog.  It was featured on the blog page of The Christian Century and the Florida-Bahamas Synod wrote to ask if they could republish it.  I said sure.

I write a lot, and I'm always humbled and happy when my words connect with people.  Some days, I wish I had a more laser-like focus.  But other days, I think my scattershot approach may serve me well.

In the end, I like the daily discipline of writing, and I'm less concerned with whether or not I'm writing a poem or working on a novel or blogging.  And yet . . . a shelf of books with spines that bear my name would sure be nice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Writerly Identities

Yesterday, I went to this blog post, thinking I'd simply be reading an editor's insight into how poems get chosen for the Best American Poetry anthology.  Little did I know that I'd be reading about a "scandal" that would get more poetry attention in one day than just about anything that I remember, short of deaths of famous poets.

The whole essay is fascinating, for the reasons I thought it would be.  How does one person take all those poems and choose the best 75 of them?

Yes, as we all suspected, it's a highly personal and sometimes political process.  For the poets, it's a matter of luck.  If I had published more last year, perhaps Alexie would have chosen my poem.  But that might only work if I had happened to write and publish something that appeals to his aesthetic.

Would it have helped if I had created an alternate identity, say one that made me seem an ethnic minority?  Would it have helped if I had chosen a name that made me sound male?  Christopher Berkey, my male counterpart!

I did not succumb to the outrage that many might feel.  My brain did not immediately go to issues of colonialization and appropriation.  No, I thought of an article I read a few weeks ago, where a female author submitted under a clearly male name (George) and got many more positive responses than she did when she submitted the exact same pages under her own name--the exact same pages.


For those of us who want to throw up our hands and walk away from our writing, I'd offer this wonderful post by Jeannine Hall Gailey.  Let's not forget what makes us happy about writing.

The publication rewards for poets are so small that I'm surprised that anyone pays any attention to that side of the poetry business at all.  I can say this, of course, because my job does not rely on a tenure track that means I have to publish books.  I'd argue that few of us have those jobs.

In fact, going back to the blog post by Alexie, I was fascinated by this finding:  "Approximately 99% of the poets are professors."

I wonder how he defines "professor."  He may not mean the term the way that I do; he's likely using it as a loose term for college teacher.

I think further back, to my earliest days of full-time teaching at a community college, when it was first becoming clear to me that literary success--by which I meant I could quit my teaching job--might be a longer time coming than I originally thought.  I looked at my writing projects, and I said, "So, Kristin, would you still be doing this writing if you knew it would never be published?"

The answer then was yes.  The answer today is still yes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sailing Off into the Sunset--and Back

We are back from our annual sailing trip--it's annual, in that we meet up on my sister/brother-in-law's sailboat once a year than annual in that we go at the same time every year.

I think that it's telling that once we could all get away for a week.  This year we chose Labor Day week-end because it was the only time we could be sure that we'd all have a day off.

Here are some highlights from the trip, but first, a low point:

--Airline travel.  We checked the website, which said our plane would depart on time, before going to the airport.  Our outbound flight left 2 and a half hours late.  There are worse places to be stuck than the airport--I had the refugees stuck in European train stations very much on my mind.  Still, it was aggravating.  But I did make notes for a poem.

More aggravating was the return trip where at least 5 people around us listened to electronics without headphones.  Really?  When did this behavior become OK?  I asked the pair behind me to turn down their movie, and I asked the flight attendant to find the source of the explosion noise that had been going on for an hour--she did, and the rest of the noise played softly on.

There's a reason I take the car more often, when driving is one of the options.  But when we're headed off for a long week-end in Maryland, it was good to have air travel, even late and noisy air travel, as an option.

Now, on to the highlights of the week-end:

--We had a great time reconnecting with family.  I completely disconnected from my electronics.  It was lovely.

--It was great to get to a different landscape:  more trees, a different aquatic ecosystem.  I saw some leaves already changing.

But some things don't change.  We had numerous jellyfish stings--yes, in the Chesapeake Bay.

--I read All the Light We Cannot See.  What a great book.  I'll probably say more on this book by Anthony Doerr later.

I read part of The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.  I will likely finish it, but I'm not enjoying it as much.  Both books have sinister overtones and undertones, but the characters in the Waters book are less compelling, less likable.

--I continue to find the design of a sailboat to be breathtakingly elegant, both in how it creates and uses power (wind, solar, and petroleum) and how the living space is designed.

--I love the early parts of the trip best:  the arrival at the marina which feels like a home of sorts, since we've been going there so many years, the getting the supplies on board, and the sail out to the anchorage.  I love the first sunsets over the water--oh, I love every sunset and sunrise over the water!

--We had better weather than expected--no storms on Friday night and more wind on Monday.  The cool front came through, which meant cooler temps at night.

--I managed to sleep through the nights and into the morning.  Alas, this morning, it was back to early wakefulness.

--We had great food, which we always do.  And I found my current favorite wine, 19 Crimes, at the local beer and wine store, and for a better price than at Total Wine.

--When we first started our boat trips, I had trouble getting around on the boat.  For the past several trips, I've felt stronger and more agile.  Alas, on this trip, I had more aches (hips, feet, back), which made me feel less strong and agile.  I'm hoping that this, too, shall pass, that it's not just the other side of midlife starting to sink its painful claws into me.

--One of the benefits of these trips:  we meet so many people who are making a wide variety of lifestyle choices, which is liberating after being in the bubble of my academic setting for awhile.  It's also good to know how little I require for contentment:  a good book, good conversation, passable wine, tasty (but not expensive) food, fresh air--and I don't require every element to be present at the same time.

Now I shall return to work.  Like Congress, which also returns from summer recess (theirs is much longer than mine), there is much to be done in a very short period of time.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Thinking about Labor on Labor Day

On this Labor Day, my thoughts turn to my labor. I've been a teacher and now I'm an administrator at the college level. When I first started in my field, I assumed that I had chosen a field that was similar to gerontology. I thought that people would always need to go to school. I gleefully said, "The world will always need English teachers!"

I didn't foresee all the technology that might make the delivery of that education make me, the human in front of the classroom, obsolete.

I'm roughly halfway through my career life, so maybe I can hold on and keep reinventing myself. That was my thought before the economic meltdown of the Fall of 2008. Now, I wonder how many people will continue to pay astronomical amounts for an education. I predict that people will continue to pay for community colleges and state universities, which are more affordable than private schools. Right now, I'm at a private school, so that's only some amount of comfort. 
My spouse and I are shifting our thoughts to the idea of income streams rather than careers.  We like the idea of income streams that aren't dependent on us reporting in person to a physical place every day.

Of course, it's easier to think this way when one of us has such a job which provides nice benefits, like a steady paycheck that's an amount I can count on, health insurance, and a retirement plan.  I no longer have a company that contributes to my 401K, but at least I can still contribute.

I'll keep this job as long as I can.  I suspect it may be the last time I'll have this kind of job.  They're vanishing faster than glaciers.

So, on this Labor Day, which celebrates the American Labor Movement and all the gains made for a more humane workplace, it's worth thinking about how much we may be backsliding. It's also worth thinking about what a jobless recovery means for the future. Will the day come when we'd be grateful for bosses who abuse us because at least we're getting paid?

Ah, Karl Marx, where are you when we need you?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Zen and the Art of Communal Living

Today is the birthday of Robert Pirsig, most famous for writing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book which I've already written about at some length here. The story of this book's path to publication has given comfort to many a writer; it was rejected 121 times, and has gone on to sell over 5 million copies. May all our worthy yet rejected manuscripts fare as well--or even half as well!

In this season of motorcycle acquisition and learning to ride--and learning how much I need to know, I've thought of returning to this book.  Perhaps I will before much longer.

Today is also the birthday of Jane Addams, creator of communal living environments extraordinaire. She created a communal house in England, before returning to the states to transform Chicago. Well, perhaps that's a stretch. But maybe not. Two thousand people each week used the social services and spaces (day care, library, meeting spaces) provided by Hull House. She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

I've always been fascinated by communal living experiments, and have done some dabbling of my own; in the 90's, my spouse and I had 2 housemates, both good friends, and their pets. I continue to think about that experiment and ways it could be improved upon. At the same time, I've gone to monasteries, which have been doing communal living in successful ways for thousands of years.

I wonder if having a spiritual focus helps communal projects have longevity. If a community gathers together to pray regularly, perhaps it's harder to fight or carry a grudge.

I wonder if having an artistic focus helps communal projects have longevity. If a community supports artistic visions and enables people to live out those visions, will people be more committed?

I continue to have this dream of a huge piece of land where every resident would have his or her own cottage. There would be communal spaces, like a kitchen, a media center, a chapel, a library, a studio with art supplies of every kind. There would be hiking trails, a huge garden, and perhaps some small animals, like chickens and goats.

Could such a place be self-supporting? Perhaps by selling eggs, produce, goat cheese? Or by having visitors come for retreats? Is this just a crazy utopian dream?

My grandmother, who grew up on a farm that supported several generations, used to scoff at my ideas of returning to the land. She told me that I had no idea how hard it was. But I've always been attracted to the idea of being self-sufficient. My great-uncle (my grandmother's brother) always pointed out that the family had been well fed during the Great Depression, and able to feed others. They may have had to wear their shoes with the holes in the soles patched up, but they never went hungry.

Communal living continues to appeal to me, as does the idea of self-sufficiency. The idea of such a place also supporting people's spiritual and creative aspirations makes it an even sweeter dream.

Or perhaps I'd rather just have a sailboat.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Launch into Labor Day

How shall we celebrate the end of summer?  A cook-out is always good:

Perhaps we should enjoy the fruits of summer before the gourds overtake the produce stands:

We have time to enjoy the hydrangeas and other summer flowers:

We could plan our autumn trips:

We could think longer term:  what shall we do in five years or ten?

We could think about a pilgrimage:

Or maybe just settle in with a shelf of books:

May our Labor Day week-ends be filled with only the labor that brings us joy.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Laboring Towards Labor Day

Yesterday was the best kind of accreditor visit day:  I sat in my office, ready to be needed, and for the most part, I wasn't.  At one point, my dean asked me to find the names of the 4 new programs our school will launch soon.  Happily, I knew exactly where to find the information, and that was that.

So, now it is time to turn our attention to Labor Day week-end, the traditional end of the summer.  In terms of weather, much of the country still has plenty of heat to endure.  I will not be putting away my white skirt or my sandals any time soon.

I'd like to use the next two weeks to think about what I'd like to achieve by the end of the year.  I have lost some momentum on my writing, although I did get 4 poetry packets in the mail yesterday.  I need to get more submissions out there, now that September is here.  I want to write more poems.  I want to actually finish a short story or two.

I need to get my eating back to a healthier state.  Perhaps I'll focus on keeping my calorie count down to 1500.  I've got a few pounds I'd like to lose.  I'd like to diversify my exercise--more walks to the beach as it gets cooler in the later months of this year.

In the coming months, I'd like to start thinking of what I'd like to do while I'm still healthy to do it.  A spin class buddy was talking about the Camino de Santiago in Spain--I'd like to do a pilgrimage or two.  I'd like to go to Scotland to visit the Iona community.

But first, let me think about reweaving my frazzled threads of my life.  I feel like the last several weeks of August have been particularly fraying.  Let me regroup.

It's not a traditional Labor Day week-end activity, but Labor Day seems a good time to do it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hegelian Dialectics and the Modern Workplace

I began yesterday by hearing about Sept. 2 in history:  Japan surrendered, thus ending World War II, and Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam's independence from France.

I thought about what I had learned about Hegel and social movements and reflected how very long ago it was that I learned those concepts.  I thought about the old axioms that warn us that the seeds of the next conflict often emerge in the closing days of the present conflicts.

I wondered what might be in the process of being birthed right now that will haunt us for decades to come.

I thought about trying to make a poem of it all.  I wondered if it could be a metaphor for my current work life, but then I decided I was being a bit of a drama queen.  But my poet brain returned to it periodically.

It's been a rollercoaster kind of week at work:  meetings where people's behavior may have been a mystical text to interpret or perhaps just the result of end-of-quarter tiredness, celebrations of birthdays (donuts!) and babies (cupcakes!), reports due, accreditors coming, the always endless stream of paperwork . . . and on and on. 

Yesterday, in my ongoing attempt to drink more water, I had a full glass of water sitting on my desk.  How did I knock it over?  But still, there it was, running towards the computer.  Happily I had brought a roll of paper towels to the office, so I leapt into action and saved the electronics.  That surface needed a cleaning anyway.

I'm still trying to think of a way to a poem that combines spilled glasses of water, the modern workplace and declarations of surrender and independence.

This morning, as I'm writing this blog post, I'm hearing news stories about teachers in a Pennsylvania school district who teach even though they don't have a contract or paychecks yet and about college students learning Arabic.

I think of my dad who always said that if he had learned Arabic in college, many doors would have opened to him.  Instead, he learned French, as I did too.  Like my dad, many doors might have opened up for me had I known Arabic and retained it better than my French. 

But would I have wanted to walk through those doors?

Still it interests me that for several generations, the ones who know Arabic have been in a minority in the U.S., and how much the nations which speak Arabic have been influencing the country.  Should be a poem there too.

Perhaps I will write a poem today, as I sit in my office, waiting to see if the visiting accreditor has questions for me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Helping Students Understand the Idea of Building Canons

I've spent decades thinking about how we make a canon--which texts get in and which are kept out?

I was intrigued to see this post about the same topic although in a theological context, not the literary contexts where I've usually considered the question.  The question arose in a Bible study group as to which letters were saved and which were not:

"When my class eventually turned its attention to this topic, I gave them a discussion topic I typically use in my classes at Butler University. I asked them to imagine that a new letter of Paul’s had been discovered, and to discuss whether it ought to be added to the New Testament.

Inevitably such discussions cover the same ground that the ancient church did, such as matters of authenticity, apostolicity, catholicity, and orthodoxy. But this time, there were some additional interesting twists – such as the question of how the canon – and the church – might have been different if more women authors had been included, and more women’s voices had been considered in the assembly of the canon."

I loved the game that is designed to help people think about how canonical texts like the Bible are formed:

"I also mentioned an idea I had for a canon-making card-game (yes, inspired by Gen Con). It could have cards representing books which you and your community use. You need to make the case for their inclusion. Other players have different cards. You need to try to get as many of the texts represented by the cards in your own hand into the canon. Some cards will be very common, some will be rare. You can simply discard a card and draw another two – whether because you have a duplicate and that will cost you points at the end, or because you have one that you cannot persuade others to embrace. But there is no guarantee that the new cards you draw will be better.

You then use information on the cards – and online research as well, perhaps? – to try to argue for your canon, forging allegiances with others, but also hoping that in the end your hand of cards will be match the final canon list more closely than anyone else’s.

I could see a game like this helping to convey the extent to which politics, compromise, and consensus-building were major factors in the development of the canon."

I could so see this being adapted for a literature class, especially a survey class.  What texts should we study?  If we include something new, do we need to leave something out?  I think it would be especially wonderful to play this game with the writers of the British Romantic age, but that's my time period, so of course I would think that.

I bet that this idea could be adapted in other ways too--which is why I wanted to save it here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sewing Sturdy Seams of Community

--Yesterday afternoon, I watched my spouse bewitch the new sewing machine of a friend who lives nearby.

--O.K., I admit it--he didn't really bewitch it.  He just figured out the way to loop the thread through all the hooks and tunnels of the machine so that the tension would be correct.

--Yes, my spouse, the possessor of a wide variety of power tools, showed our friend how to operate the machine so that she could hem her daughter's school uniforms.

--We took a moment to contemplate the humble sewing machine and all the clothes that the average machine owned by our average grandmothers had sewn.  We marveled over the way that the machine weaves two strands of thread together into a sturdy seam.

--I thought of how I thought we might be spending our time, back last week, when I thought there might be a storm.  I thought we might be sharing our chainsaw, not hemming school uniforms.

--We talked, as we often do, about alternative income streams.  Could one make serious amounts of money by doing minor seamstress tasks like hemming?  Or if not a serious amount, would it be worth the effort?

--I'm thinking about the sewing machine and the seam as a kind of metaphor.  I've been playing with a poem too.

--An earlier poem about community has just been published in this post over at Dave Bonta's wonderful blog, Via Negativa.  He's got a wonderful series, Poets in the Kitchen.  I couldn't resist.  I submitted a piece which includes a poem ("Eucharist"), an essay of sorts that explains how I wrote the poem, and a recipe for lentil soup--plus a picture of a pot of lentil soup made by Dave's mom.

--The photo was serendipity--Dave's mom just happened to be making lentil soup, so he grabbed the opportunity.

--I love that my poem about community and creativity has found a home in a different community.

--Creativity and Community Building--now there's the title for a book!