Less than an hour before setting foot into Pray-Harrold 414, a section of WRTG120: Composition I (still with the Roman numerals? Really?) I’m teaching this fall, the first first-year students I’ll have had in class in five years, three years since I’ve taught undergraduates in class, walkcrawling the WPA walkcrawl by teaching the class I prepare others to teach, but more than teaching I’m thinking about Irma’s gnashing waterteeth windteeth at Dominican Republic rn, alternations of calm panic calm panic at knowing Ph.’s being set up in Santo Domingo, uncanny is Brandi Carlile’s The Eye shuffling to iPod airwaves as I showered earlier, though can you really dance in the eye of a hurricane?, no, Brandi Carlile, no, I don’t think so, I think that’s bullshit, but that line about sturdy souls is pretty spot-on anyway, and the skies are blue somewhere upsky, and maybe it’s because I went to college in the nineteen-hundreds, but there is lightness, even a little bit of distracted lightness in considering for a twisted minute the usefulness of this extended version of “Trouble” as a way to talk about on-time attendance expectations with these twenty-five eighteen-year-olds I’m soon to meet, who, if they’re late because they’re dancing in the eye of a hurricane, I hope step in with this much groove.
A couple of reading lists, nine titles ordered and delivered to Halle Library on behalf of the First-year Writing Program, and then another pile, an odd-stack, maybe I’ll get to these this summer and maybe I won’t, read bottom to top and top to bottom, shuffled and reshuffled depending on where I leave a copy, depending on what time I have, depending on mood and disposition and weather and gut bacteria, depending on nothing much at all sometimes.
I am reminded upon posting just the one photo (above) that reading habits run a fickle, snaking course–meandering and irregular, never especially disciplined-seeming except perhaps in their continuing, on-going. Anti-library, nomad-habit, ambivalence, juxtaposition, re-reading, crumb trails, low on fucks or high, intention and purpose or their lacunae, and then add to it finishing up with writing one’s own books, with others or solo, mid-careering, wondering only but so effortfully what’s next and why would this be next but not that. Not the most strenuous May-June ever, litotes.
Implicitly (until now) there is some kind of faint jostling between these stacks, different microlibraries, hints of interest and curiosity washed back by life and distraction, laziness and Netflix, accidental and well-intentioned anti-library, I meant to read you. I really did. I was going to. I was going to read everything.
There’s much missing here, too, another gift, Murakami’s The Strange Library, a couple of books from Ypsilanti Public Library due last night by 11:59 p.m. whose deadline I beat by an hour to renew–a miracle–even though they’re all read, finished, complete, ready for the return slot. Read with greater urgency the books that go back, temporary visitors, ones who would if they could but who cannot stay.
Especially the second paragraph:
Close to large tinajas [water pockets or pools] the trails converge like strands of a spiderweb coming to the center, and within a few miles of water, broken pieces of pottery tend to appear alongside. Mostly the pieces are plain: thick-rimmed, ochre ceramics called Colorado River buff ware. Clay vessels would have been hauled back and forth until finally a carrier stumbled. The stumbles added up in places so that over hundreds upon hundreds of years pottery became evenly scattered, in some places pieces on top of pieces. Along with the pottery a small number of shells might be found, brought from far oceans probably for adornment, wealth, or ceremony. Along one of these trails I picked up part of a shallow-water cockleshell, its delicate hinges still intact after being carried hundreds of miles from the Sea of Cortés.
I started calling these trails waterlines. Waterlines are the opposite of canals, moving people to water rather than water to people. This bestows a formidable significance on the origin itself, the tinaja, because that is where you must go. Must. It comes and goes over the year, or over the days, while the location always remains the same. You can put your finger down and say here. Of all this land, all this dryness, all of these mountains heaped upon mountains, here. (31)
Childs, Craig. The Secret Knowledge of Water. New York: Back Bay Books, 2000.
For the talk I’m giving next month at Macomb CC, “Writing Desert Survival Kit,” I’m leafing Childs’ Secret Knowledge, struck by the shard trails, anticipating the desert metaphor (much like food deserts) as accounting for what diminishes, dehydrates, and becomes perilous in crawls across the writing barren, writing spare curriculum. Waterlines, in this extended metaphor, however, introduce a centripetal and extracurricular counterpart, desert traversals, travels that surfaces and circulate writing (also supporting it). These tinajas are comparable to the writing center, which, if you decline to provide a formidable writing curriculum (e.g., explicitly guided and supported writing experiences in every year of university education), you’d damned well better fortify your tinajas.
There is no promise of love and light or visions of any kind–no angels, no devils. Nothing happens: it is absolutely boring. Sometimes you feel silly. One often asks the question: “Who is kidding whom? Am I on to something or not?” You are not on to something. Travelling the path means you get off everything, there is no place to perch. Sit and feel your breath, be with it. Then you begin to realize that actually the slitting of the artery did not take place when you were introduced to the practice. The actual slitting takes place when you begin to feel the boredom of the practice–real boredom. “I’m supposed to get something out of Buddhism and meditation. I’m supposed to attain different levels of realization. I haven’t. I’m bored stiff.” Even your watcher is unsympathetic to you, begins to mock you. Boredom is important because boredom is anti-credential. Credentials are entertaining, always bringing you something new, something lively, something fantastic, all kinds of solutions. When you take away the idea of credentials, then there is boredom. (53)
Trungpa, Chögyam. The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation. Boston: Shambhala, 1988.
From yesterday’s reading, a few lines on anti-credential and boredom, related are concerns for non-aggression, for what discourse brings or fails to bring to sadhana’s privacy, elsewhere Trungpa noting that practice needs only the earth as its witness. Boredom here instates non-magical thinking, reduces expectations, appeases the incommunicability of source work. Consider with this, the credential-pursuing verification expressions for writing in parallel, socializing about writing goals, about writing discipline and ritual, several days in a row, timed sessions, testimonials about doing the work, when really there is no promise of light and love or visions of any kind in writing, also.
Time again for the EWM Yahoo! NCAA men’s basketball tournament pick’em – 14th annual. Same as last year, we’re using Fibonacci scoring (2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21), though there are upset bonuses, +2 points for upsets in the first two rounds, +1 for upset picks after that. Everyone is welcome to join this pool, which will include some of the surest, most over-confident pickers of all time. Take a sip of whiskey to quell your anxiety. Then get on with it. There’s no time time for calling your bank teller, reading your heart of palms, gazing into your crystal ping pong ball for hints about what the future doesn’t hold.
Sign up! Free, free, FREE to you: join this year’s group on Yahoo!, Clankucopia (ID#59134). If you have questions, elbow me as hard as you can in the sternum with an email at dereknmueller at gmail.com. Invite your friends, frienemies, faux-frenemies, Canadian compadres, Facebook friends, advisees, mentors, interim interim provosts, sentiment engineers, nouveau artists of the contact zone, members of BoredAF Anonymous, grad school cohorts, children of long conners, bracketoricians, distractable sabbaticaleurs, phonies, discount tattoo artists, grandparents at the bus stop, snakes in a can on a plane, Portland edibles dealers, etc. The group has space for the next 49 who sign up. Giant stakes: reputations are made (and ground to what’s finer than such a fine-ground dust it’s invisible) right here.
Yahoo! Tournament Pick’em
Group: Clankucopia (ID# 59134)
Firm up your selections any time between the selection show on Sunday evening, March 12, and first tip of the round of 64, whatever time that is EDT on Thursday, March 16.
Upshot mid-February. Maybe Valentine’s Day or the day after, but before the 16th. Snowdrops or snowbells or crocus. Is the plural for crocus, crocuses? Doesn’t matter if they’re snowdrops. I’m sure they’re snowdrops. Well, almost sure. Surer is that Michigan’s regreening is mistimed this time. The snowdrops keep to themselves, don’t express a whole lot, or not anything I can hear where I stand when I pass by them front door in-going and out-going. But then this one photo jogs a memory about how last season’s tomatoes wilded into an unmanageable mess yielding more on vine rot than wedges of lightly salted gushes tomatoseed and sunshine. It’s something. Cannot say yet whether it’s the snowdrops or their photo or the tomatoes long since turned over in the side yard that share the quiet wisdrom, not quite lesson and not quite imperative, do better with gardening this year.
Immersed in prepping this talk for much of the morning, noticing as closing in the constraints of time and purpose and what I’d supposed possible before really squaring with the script. Deck is drafted, talk is drafted, and still there isn’t quite enough explicit about this business of standing on shoulders–so much more I’d like to do with footing for newcomers, hospitality for initiates.
So many to choose from, but this is the photo that best captures–hinge-relay–the juncture between the old year and the new, a recent selfie, maybe Christmas Day, back wall echoing in school portraiture their aging, foreground punctuated with their resilience and sturdiness and joy. I don’t know about every parent, but photos of your kids laughing together elicits, elicits, elicits a delightful and lasting effect.
Photo aside, I made a list yesterday, touched it up for five minutes this morning: I am resolving in 2017 more laughter, longer beardgrowth, occasional blog entries, regular running, new tattoo, Grand Canyon, more kimchi, early yoga and earlier meditation, watercolors, heartier alliances, coalition building, political resilience, generosity and kindness, when to habituate and when to digress and when to rest, longer olive branch, mightier dynamite, more olive branch dynamite, cayenne hot chocolate, eclectickler reading, more drawing, bigger optimism, more sunshine, and more laughter.
Decluttering email and here’s a missive I received as a reminder: purpose, audience, context, then analysis and practice, genres and texts, circulation. But the second paragraph (ensuring background) complicates the first, or at the very least positions the first set of fundamentals in relief–sharp contrast!–with professional development and meaningful experiences sustaining instructors of all rank. Even when the purpose (para. 1) is lucid and visible and constantly tended, the eidos in the second paragraph requires resources that too easily ebb and flow with the changing tide of administrator mindset and fiscal-budgetary conditions. Not at all meaning to be vague or inconclusive with this, nor suggestive hint-hint wink-wink with this, nor anything much other than reminded that re-reading principles’ statements is measures affirming and measures yes, difficulties and challenges remain.
10. Sound writing instruction extends from a knowledge of theories of writing (including, but not limited to, those theories developed in the field of composition and rhetoric).
The most fundamental purpose of classes devoted specifically to writing instruction (such as first-year or advanced composition courses) is to engage students in study of and practice with purposes, audiences, and contexts for writing. In practice, this means that writers engage in supported analysis of these purposes, audiences, and contexts and through supported practice with genres and texts that circulate within and among them.
Institutions and programs emphasize this purpose by ensuring that instructors have background in and experience with theories of writing. Ideally, instructors have ongoing access to and support for professional development, including (but not limited to) attendance at local, regional, or national Composition and Rhetoric conferences. Institutions employing graduate students from outside of the discipline of Composition and Rhetoric to teach writing courses support development of this background knowledge by ensuring students receive sufficient grounding in and practice/mentoring with regard to key concepts associated with theories of writing.