Friday, December 17, 2010

the light of the wood stove

One week and so many new words: mediastinoscopy, adjuvant chemotherapy, hilum, labulated, adenocarcinoma. The language of disease feels foreign in my mouth, the metaphors strange, the translations insufficient. I wonder if a new voice will begin to emerge.

One week and new places: the University of Chicago, the back room of a radiation lab, a pulmonary procedures waiting room.

One week and 1200 miles of driving and more to come. The days are blending together underneath the low and gray midwestern skies. I feel without revelation, without air, without lightness. But a lingering bit of hopefulness remains on the edges of my mind, on the edges of the horizon.

{This Moment}

The chest. The lungs. At the University of Chicago this morning.

Monday, December 13, 2010

gardens in the sky

One night last month I was tossing and turning, trying to coax my anxiety into sleep. Like sleepless people everywhere, I tried to conjure some tranquil surrounds, some balmy beachside or some wooded glen. I often, though, trade these prosaic locales for my own imagined spaces. I like to picture fertile backyard gardens, the kind in which all of the tomatoes are staked and the carrot tops line up just so. In my mind’s eye, I see raspberries growing with the stubborn persistence that they’ve shown during my whole life in Michigan. The berries I’ve always imagined planting would be transplants from my Dad’s patch, ones that he’s raised up for four decades and before that, grew up in his parents’ garden. They’re berries with a past and I’ve always imagined that I’d have them as well.

Whenever I think about this garden, I think of my Dad coming to Kentucky–or wherever it is that J and I settle–and helping me till the soil and plant the rows. My Dad is good at things like planting vegetables and training vines up an arbor. He’s good at other things too, things that call for coordination between hand and eye, between muscle and memory, between space and certainty. Lately, I’d been thinking that he’d be good at making dollhouses and wooden toys for his grandchild and the grandchildren who will arrive sooner or later. I’d had planned to offer up this idea over Christmas, to suggest that we start building them together. After all, he’s spent his whole life rebuilding people’s bones, their internal architecture, all with hand and eye and muscle and memory.

But now it seems that it’s time for him to care for himself with that same tenacity. On Friday we learned that he is very, very sick, and so I’m not sure what this space will become over the next several months. I don’t know how much I’ll feel like making and doing. How much I’ll feel like writing and thinking here. Or how much my own life will change as I watch and wait, nurse and fret. I’m headed home soon and I suspect we’ll just take it moment by moment.

I suspect that the sunsets will begin to feel more vivid and taste of meals together more rich.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Keeping on

There’s been too little handwork around these parts. It’s been days since I picked up the needles for more than ten minutes on the train. This Shalom has been waiting for its buttons all week, perfect buttons that I bought and then promptly lost. It’s not good to be slowing down before the holidays, but a weekend wedding in Cincinnati (that featured an amazingly spirited 45-minute hora, the likes of which have never been seen before) turned quickly into a week of book talks for my Bryn Mawr history. Today is the last one–thank god–and then I’m hoping to get my life back on track. Have I mentioned how much I loathe giving talks? Fortunately, this one was almost fun to write. Instead giving over to my clunky, tangled, tortured academic voice, I wrote it in what I think of as my nature writing voice, something closer to what I use in this space. The difference is astounding.

But who am I kidding? Life never really slows down. I need to write a paper for MLA, prepare for interviews, and figure out the coming semester (I've been starting to do just that here). And on top of all of it there’s Christmas and the 35 or so family activities we have planned.

Each night before I go to bed, though, I think about all the writing that I want to do in the coming months:

1. Write a panic narrative for a side project a friend and I are working on.

2. Write a book proposal for a biography of Elizabeth Zimmerman (I think this could be really cool). It would be sort of popular, but sort of scholarly and would tie into my desire to write about new domesticity. I’d also like it to have a web component.

3. Work on my essay “Prude: On Being a Prude” (you think that’s a joke, but it’s not)

4. Revise that god-forsaken essay on Alcott

5. Maybe, just maybe, look at my dissertation. But maybe not.

Friday, December 3, 2010

{This moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

small miracles

Here’s a secret for you: I almost never meet deadlines. At least that’s the way it feels.

I’m quite sure that I shouldn’t be admitting that. I mean I used to meet every single deadline. In high school and college and even early in graduate school, I practically turned in my papers early. Okay, so maybe I did actually turn in a few early. I was that girl. I never—well, maybe once—had to pull an all-nighter.

My dissertation changed all of this. Behind schedule, late with drafts, evasive about my progress. It’s a miracle that I finished as “quickly” as I did. Seven years, of course, isn’t quick to anyone but a graduate student in the humanities. It’s not even that quick to them.

But this is all beside the point. I mention it only because when I accepted my current job, I was asked again and again if I meet my deadlines. I lied. My advisor lied for me. I said, sure, of course, everything is always on time with me! They needed to know this because they had this outlandish idea to publish an institutional history in twelve months. Yup, I said, I’ll certainly have it done on time. I had my fingers crossed behind my back.

A week into my job I realized that that was the stupidest thing I’d ever promised. There was no way. It wouldn’t even be close. I’d be lucky to finish at the end of my two-year fellowship. Surely I'd get fired long before that.

So you can imagine my surprise when the first seventeen crates of this arrived just moments ago.

On time. It's actually two days early, but who could be counting? It could have used that extra year--really, it needed that extra year--but I'm trying not to think about it.

Now I'm just bracing myself for alumnae critique, outrage, vitriol, mudslinging. Bring it on.