Showing posts from January, 2010

Wordless What Is

I was afraid this would happen. What if, I sometimes wondered, I finally found peace, grace, the experience of the presence of God, what have you, that ineffable joy I have been longing for all of my life, that sense of being loved and cherished for myself in a world made new by.... Well, I was in full flood there for the moment, but my son came to give me a hug, by the by planting himself on the chaise longue next to me and leaning over my shoulder as if he were trying to read while I typed. And then I freaked out (he wasn't doing anything other than leaning on me) and then I lost the peace I was trying to write about because I started wanting something other than what was. And now I am in anguish again because I could not fulfill my plan, which was to write, and instead accept the gift that my son was giving me of his attention. Which should mean, given the original premise with which I sat down to write, that now this is going to be a really long post. Sigh. And now , of c


My puppy has discovered her bark. I beat my friend Neal at practice last night three bouts in a row, 10-9, 10-7, 10-5 (I think; happily, I wasn't really keeping count, but he said I won). I have never beaten him more than once in a practice, and for the better part of five years, I couldn't beat him at all. He gave me a hug in lieu of a medal. It's so cold outside at the moment that the snow on the ground is subliming. My sister-in-law had surgery today. Please pray for her that her biopsy comes out clear. Reality is so very, very kind, I am having trouble thinking of anything to write. Everything sublimes into the beauty of the moment: my puppy's little bunny butt bounding across the back yard in the twilight, the smell of her feet and her fur, all of the students on campus who are so happy to get to pet her because they are missing their own dogs, the sunlight in my office this morning blinding me as I was listening to my students speak, the stack of books that I



Loving What Is: Exercises for the Day

1. Hearing my bike wheel making a terrible noise on my way to campus mid-morning, only to find a screw stuck, point down, firmly in the back tire . Wondering how I was going to make it to campus and back home in time to let my puppy out of her crate and deciding to take the bike to the usually grumpy old man at the bike shop next door to the pet store, thinking at least I could go ahead and get the puppy food and treats that I needed, only to find that the pet store was not open yet. Finding that, without the story that the grumpy old man was necessarily going to be grumpy, he in fact wasn't. And indeed, that he offered to fix my tire while I waited, promising that I would get to campus much more quickly that way. Spending the time while he was fixing my tire petting his 7-month-old spotted Great Dane. 2. Having been reassured at the puppy class last night that it was okay to let my puppy chew most of the things that she found on the street (sticks, plastic cups, leaves and t

Dragon Baby

With fur With wings* 1) Every one knows dragons come from Wales . 2) And so do cardis . QED. We have a baby dragon! *University of Chicago, Special Collections Research Center, MS 343.

Being Here Now

It was there. I could see it, just for a moment this afternoon. I was standing under a tree in the park with my puppy Joy sniffing around happily at my feet, and gently, ever so gently, I caught a glimpse of reality as Katie describes it: simply, truthfully what is . All of the pressures that I've been putting on myself to publish, to be Someone, to have a house /more children/more money , to get a promotion, suddenly, if only for a moment, fell away, and I could sense how happy I would be without all the thoughts that I have about who I "should" be as opposed to who I am. Alas, alas, why is it so hard to hold onto this thought? Or not-thought? It was so clear! The shoulds, the shoulds, the deadly shoulds ! "I should publish more." Is this true? Yes, if I want to get a promotion. But is it really true? Who needs all of our academic publications? Is it not, in a very real sense, simply feeding the machine to produce simply in order to, yes, produce?

“Just the Facts, Ma'am"

I bristled when my brother said it. "You, as an historian, care mostly about facts [or words to that effect], while I, as a literary critic [or philosopher or humanist seeker, I'm not quite sure how he put it] care about..." Actually, I don't remember what he wrote (and for some odd reason can't find the original email in my files, although I did track down part of a response); I was too busy fuming over that thing about "facts". Me, like facts? No way! I'm as hip and theory-oriented as the next edgy academic. Just watch me wield my knowledge of Gadamer and Ricouer and Bourdieu and Foucault . I can talk about hermeneutics and narrativity and social capital and power with the best of them. I know my way around the lit crit schools; I even know a little Freud. Certainly, I've taught a little Freud, so I must know something. Okay, so I'm a little shaky on Heidegger and Hegel , but I've read William James on the principles of ps

Reasons to Study the Middle Ages

I've been mulling over this list for some time, but spending four days this past week reading applications to our graduate program in history has catalyzed it somewhat. I think it's complete. At least, I can't think of any other reasons now. 1. Affinity . Seeing something in the Middle Ages that one wants in one's own life. For Catholics and other Christians, this might be an image of faith or practice that seems to have been lost or compromised in the present. For members of the SCA, this might be a way of life centered on craftsmanship and chivalry, alternate clothing styles and being outdoors (e.g. at tournaments). Almost all of the work done on the history of Christianity in the Middle Ages prior to about 1960 that wasn't explicitly Protestant tended to be done in this mode. Think Jacques Paul Migne and his steam presses reprinting the works of the medieval Catholic past or Kenelm Henry Digby and his multi-volume Broadstone of Honour, or Rules for the



Puppy Love

Things I love about dogs: 1. The little snort-sigh they make as they lie down. 2. The licking-splashing sound they make lapping water from their bowl. 3. The crunchy sound they make eating their kibble. 4. The smell of puppy feet. 5. The solid feel of their bodies as you are petting them. 6. The way their eyebrows move. 7. The way their tails wag for pure joy. 8. Their toothy, dragon-like grins. 9. The floppy sound their ears make as they shake their heads. 10. The way their feet move as they are trotting. 11. Especially for corgis, the way their butts move as they leap through the snow.

Stressful Thoughts, Layer Four (and Counting)

They're like the layers of floor in our kitchen that the workmen have been taking up. First you peel off the ugly brown linoleum that was your initial impetus for wanting to replace the floor, and then there's a layer of puke green. You tear up the puke green and there is yet another layer, this time of streaky green-and-yellow squares. Under the squares are the planks for the original finished floor, but even those planks have to come up. Under the planks is a layer of black tar paper (or, at least, something black) and under the tar paper is yet another layer of planks, the subfloor, through which the electrical conduits for our downstairs neighbors' kitchen run. One would think this was enough, that now we had reached the bottom of the floor, but, no! The foreman just told me that even this subfloor is going to have to come up, taking everything down to the beams. Only when this subfloor is gone will they be able to lay the new, properly leveled base for the floor

Inquiry, Part Two: What to Write

I had yet another rather sleepless night last night (not the puppy's fault), so I'm not sure that this is the best time to be doing this exercise, but the puppy is so cosily asleep on my feet that I don't want to wake her even though it is her breakfast time. Should I wake her or should I let her sleep? Should I try to write now or should I try to go back to sleep for just a little while? So many decisions to make every day, so hard to know which is the right one. Katie would say, "The right one is the one that you are acting upon now." Perhaps. But does this always apply? She would say, "Yes, because that is reality. You can only be doing what you are doing. You can only think what you are thinking." And yet, how much of my life do I spend thinking I should be doing something else? As, for example, in my academic work. What if, I asked myself a few days ago , I just did what I do, followed my interest in a given moment? Would I actually pr

Remodeling, Part Two

There has got to be a metaphor here. It's been weeks since I did anything remotely resembling academic work, which is not to say that things haven't been busy. First there was getting ready for Christmas, decorating the tree , shopping for presents, wrapping the presents, writing prayers for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, baking altar bread for communion on Christmas Eve. Then there was Christmas itself, with stockings and the Queen's Speech and presents, a big feast and then games to play and videos to watch ("The Sweeney," just to keep the English theme going). Boxing Day my family and I did our first ever jigsaw puzzle together--appropriately enough, given what was to come, on a dog theme. And then the packing and cleaning and tidying and rearranging started. It took all week last week to clear out the back bedroom and bathroom and kitchen and butler's pantry and utility pantry, day after day after day of sorting what we wanted to keep from what we could

The Deadly “Shoulds"

Just in case you're wondering, I am not going to make any resolutions for this New Year. Mind you, it's not so much that I didn't manage to fulfill last year's resolutions ; in actual fact, I didn't do so badly with them, at least in their revised form. But that isn't the point. The point is, thanks to Byron Katie's insights into the way in which we cause ourselves pain by telling ourselves stories that are at odds with reality, I don't see any point any more. And this is a good thing. A very good thing. For example, I have now spent the better part of six months agonizing over the fact that I have not yet managed to write a best-seller . I could easily keep telling myself that story for another six months (or, indeed, the rest of my life): "I should write a best-seller." After all, that's what my father always used to tell me, along with my siblings: "You kids are so smart, if you just put your heads together, you could make

Quote for the Day

"To be frivolous is to be human," said August. "To be pointlessly skilful is to be human, as far as I can see. I hope you would not consider legislating to prevent me from having a Sèvres vessel." Humphrey frowned. "We must hope to make a society where nobody wants anything so absurd." --A.S. Byatt, The Children's Book (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), p. 77.

Puppy Time

Oh, my God, what have I gotten myself into? She's sleeping now, but I'm a wreck. Okay, not a wreck, but nervous. Look at her, so sweet and innocent, a whole life that I (and my family) am now responsible for. I haven't been this nervous since we brought our son home from the hospital. But she's just a dog, right? Not a person. Not, that is, a human being, who will grow up, as my son is so rapidly doing, into an adult who can take care of himself. She, on the other hand, will always need me. Of course, being a dog, she is not going to live as long as most human beings, so in actual fact I will most likely only be taking care of her for about the same amount of time as I have already been taking care of my son. But even in that time, he has learned certain things--e.g. how to talk--that she will never learn. I can even leave him alone for whole evenings at a time, during which he can make himself dinner and entertain himself without tearing apart the apartment.*

This Is Now


That Was Then...

(click to enlarge) Found while clearing cabinets for the big remodeling. Check the specs--classic 70s! Actually, with what I now know about dog expressions, most of these photos make me fairly nervous. Certainly, Puppy is showing her nervousness in the bottom picture by licking her lips. And in the right hand top picture, she is clearly not happy about being held. But, in the left hand top picture, she squints into the sun like a pro!