Four mugs for coffee, now three, where has the missing one gone? No big, no mood, we do not even need it today. Everyday mysterious disappearance, though this one feels temporary, more a misplacement than a vanishing. La, la, la, love. Trust. Senses knew it well enough to conjure its absence. Memorable qualities of the mug: same shape and size as the others, only brown-rimmed, not grue-bleen moss, orthodontial ivory, or #b84040 baked orangery-crimson. I only drink from the blue-green one; this morning I have what I need, hot temporary. [Goodman, 1979; Puddle of Mud, 2002; Julavits, 2015]
A year’s end knocks. Oh, you’re early! Nevermind. Lost track of time. January soon. Knocks again. Annual report is due. What happened. Why? Pause, take stock, reflect. Rewind the tape but play it back at 1.5x normal rate, skip ahead, skip to the end, yawn because hyper recall is fatiguing and sometimes also boring. River Lethe’s feeding forks are vacant oblivion, forgetting, usually with negative connotations. Remember though, forgetting, too, is a clearing, a gift, and an inevitability. Maybe there can be more lethegraphy, forget-writing, gone-noting, in the new year.
Go to Pickerel Lake when you can. Let it be summer, if you can. Preferably mid-morning or evening but not peak midday because the tiny eyelet cove will be crowded with like 10 Ann Arbourgeoisie and noisy with chatting and water play. Sounds carry across the lake. Only accessory you need is a New Wave swim buoy, just an innocuous $30 inflatable guardian against sinking, low drag, bright and sturdy on the water’s surface. Clip it around your waist. Wade in with the slow-steadiness of a Taurus plodding motion unbroken. And then make do with a modified freestyle path around the perimeter. You’re not much of a swimmer. Left first or right first makes no difference. The shoreline is all cattails and lily pads in alternating segments. A breathing flotilla meditation and reunion with tree friends at a distance, hi again. They’re not trees you’ve climbed or otherwise dwelt with, quiet there in the surrounds, except when the wind picks up, hi to you. Stick to the perimeter but not too close. Ten yards out. The northeast bend is where lily shoots reach from beneath at irregular spacing. Careful they will surprise you. Tentacled-seeming, those stems know how to tickle or wrap a limb. The swim basic sublime, danger! plant-matter touches land lightly ganglia shock like chimes faintly stunningly dinned and sound-waving from ancestors ninety or more generations ago so lovingly decomposing, dispersed, and rooting for you. After an hour, complete the loop, regain footfalls in sand, primate again lazy towel-off, swig of water, find car to unlock and drive on the dusty way.
In the past three years and eleven months, I’ve set an out of office message just once before today, last September when I was nursing a return to the living from a zap of unconfirmed covid. Posted a second out of office today–sort of like a plastic snow fence meant to change around the snarling gusts and to plant instead curlicue drifts, a ripple in the timescape and a change of pace. See, I guessed it would be an enormous lift, these six years of faraway parenting, travel to Michigan and back and then to Virginia and back. I’m at the end of year four of a promise to do this for six. Foresight being 20/60 (or worse), I did not foresee the pandemic or the toll of carrying out so much summertime hiring (love the colleagues; exhausted by the searches)–now up to 32 faculty since Summer 2019, eight months before the big pivot. Out of office. July 2022 will be time with Is., reading, +2 spreads on the next book project, swims at Claytor Lake, daily yoga, rest, sun. #ninety #twice
A little bit drawing games with artists, designers, and art historians. A little bit carnivorous flora Little Shop of Horrors. A little bit ocular ingestion theory of consumptive aesthetics. A little bit thorny. A little bit odd-petaled like we all are. A little bit number seven and a little bit three irises. A little bit vampiric methodologies. A little bit the paradox of seeing is whoa! entrapment vortex. A little bit revised Outkast lyrics eyeballs really taste like nom nom nom. A little bit deathiversary holiday wreath. Mostly sweet associations. #ninety
Filling Lowe’s buckets one at a time and then hefting them for dumping at the side shed floor, until back muscles tap shoulder yoohoo “aging one” and yet a heap of slate pieces 1-3/4″-2″ remains for moving, leveling, tamping around, as if any song is suited to the famously unpopular one-footed dance, rock smoosh. I rest, check email, forwards and replies, traipse back again for another five bucketfuls, which I’d psyched myself into because the uncovered portion is shrinking and soon will be rocked over somewhat decoratively.
Administrative work, in my experience, insinuates a contortional gravity into a career. This hypothesis from talking around, asking, noticing local noticings, observational. It’s not that admin wrecks you or explodes you to pieces, but its consequences can be harshly palpable. Sudden stress. Drone of email habits. Repeat questions. Repeat questions. The company you keep becomes less intellectually basket-o’-rangey-musical-instruments on ideas and possibilities; bureaucratic constraints, budgetary entrenchments, efficiencies talk–all of these shunt the counter-myth that administration can be intellectual work, guided by research and shaped by disciplinary experience (if not expertise). You check your pulse sometimes. Is this burnout I am feeling? Is this fatigue after ten consecutive years administering writing programs, first at EMU and then at VT, working under six department chairs, four deans, countless other interims and assistant-associate office holders, nearly all of them so new as to be striving on personal aspirations or so long in the rootrole as to be calcified and dreamless and forgetful. Graceless turnover; sandcastles not kicked but accidentally and clumsily stepped upon. Strikingest among the burnout symptoms in late May after year ten is the high saturation in what is motivating and what is not. Sharp contrasts, the outline of a work-life once forged around reading and writing, teaching and research. Sharp contrasts, yet another meeting with variations on title-holders late to a long-ago-begun conversation, intricate details about enrollment projections, about how labor advocacy is student advocacy, about a program’s becoming requiring (for it to go even middlingly well) horizons of development, mutualism, goodwill, and a reasonable forecast for resources. Reflection on a lull-ish early summer holiday weekend says look back and what have you become, what are you becoming–big you, polyvalent and yet-unfinished and imperfect–and then to ask is another year worth it. It had better be; it won’t be.
Not since 2013 have I cringed through the hard pinch of knee pain like I am feeling now, since yesterday. Sprain or strain, repping the 1974-born. I bet it’s from carrying those bucketfuls of 1-3/4-2″ slate rocks for side shed’s floor, top dressing the fill gravel, foot-tamping each dumpload to level it and spread it around as evenly as possible. No swelling. And no popping or grave joint instability or other evidence of slippy tendons for being torn or over-stretched or both. Bends, will heal. #ninety
Slow to catch on but oh howdyboy now I get it what with confetti popping re growth mindset not as wonder bouquet but as sardine-canning certain meatpacker programs so they are crowded spilling SCH profit-marginalia troughs oink!, irresistible course cap headfakes and Canvas viewport salvifics, the market has intuited what they wantneed, what was once only needs discourse now more suasively reframed as wantsneeds discourse, millready but who has the grain enough for bread alone teaching+learning when the engines theatrical and merciless have supply chains so stopped. #ninety [Carol Dweck, Sharon Crowley, David Noble, Geoff Sirc, “Supply Chain Pressure”]
Turned in grades for ENGL6364 a day early, freeing up Friday the 13th for gauging under drizzlesky what tempestuous awaits in the second half of May–some administrative suspense!–as if months had halves, as if the just-in-time hiring practices over at the VPI&SU could be anything other than serial end of year nail-biter. What becomes will be, harrowing precarious at that edge of hot damn does time appear to be running short. Problems are for carrying and caring about; yet, they’re not all yours-mine.