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I think of daily writing as a discipline--"discipline" from Latin discere ("to learn") and discipulus ("student"). What is interesting to me about the discipline of daily writing is that there is no separate teacher. The writer is both teacher and student. Students in my classes often seem grateful to have specific directions about what they should do, how they should go about learning the subject matter. I understand that desire--it's part of the hope and relief that one is only the student, that there is a separate teacher who knows more, who knows the way, and can help.
The second day already seems harder than the first! I've been beekeeping almost everyday for a month now; once school let out my spouse and I have had a lot to do at our various beeyards. Today was not a good "commune with nature" day. When I got out of the car to unlock the gate to the farmer's field where we keep some bees, I was stung by a wasp who had started to live in the hollow piping out of which the gate is made. And then the bees in their hives were a bit angry today, too!
I feel like I am trying to make a radical break with the abiding outlook of my past life; I am trying to clarify what I think is valuable and to live with more careful attention to those things. It seems to me that when people make such a large shift in lifeview and practice they often make other large changes: changes in career, location, marital status. I am not changing any of those other things, and it feels like it will be challenging to keep so many other things "constant," and yet nevertheless change my perspective and corresponding practices.
I got word today that I passed my beekeeping course! The course had been stressful. I haven't been a test-taking student for a long time now, and the teacher, I felt, was not good at teaching even though he knew a lot about beekeeping. I ended up "cramming" at the end, but even that was difficult because I had no sense of how to weigh the information and how he was thinking of testing us. It was a useful experience for me: I am reminded of the truth behind things that my students say of their own experiences in classes.
I'm weary of looking at houses. We are under no pressure to buy quickly, and that almost makes it worse--we can extend our decision-making indefinitely. In the past week I have seen one house whose inside would work wonderfully and another house whose outside feels fine; I wish I could combine the two houses. Our realtor is probably more than ready for us to buy something by now: we've been looking for nine months. Desiderata: land for beehives, minimal lawn fussiness in the neighborhood, two offices, one guest room, good closet space, proximity to town. Too much to ask?
Chris left today for a twelve-day trip. By the time I had finished the drive home from the airport this morning I was almost shaking with panic, who knows why. Upon reading some work-related email, panic soon mingled with feelings not quite but akin to despair, frustration, and jealousy--what an unpleasant combination! Reading a copy of the NYTBR at lunch (which is usually a pleasure) didn't help: it only made me feel like all the professions dealing with teaching and writing are narcissistic and corrupt. But then I began working on the Apollonius commentary, and I feel better. Yay!
I joined a swap in which I will send three art journal entries to three people. A few times in my life I have used arts and crafts to express "raw" emotion, but for the most part I've approached crafts in a more controlled way. Yet this swap sounded intriguing, hit a chord, gave off the promising ring of opening doors, so I joined and today gave it a try. The emotion: jealousy (see above!). The results: maybe not pretty, but definitely immediate. It felt good, interesting, something I want to keep doing (art journalling that is, not feeling jealousy!).
For over twenty-four hours it's been threatening rain. The sky darkens and clears, then darkens again. Yesterday the moisture got thicker in the air as the day went on and even as it seemed less likely that it would actually rain. I went for a walk around ten, and I could feel the closeness of the air pressing on me. Only an hour later, as I was taking the last turn of my walk, could I feel a breeze of the littlest but most welcome kind. This morning it's back to the same: the hint, threat, flirt of rain, relief.
The birds that come to our feeder know Chris. As for me? They fly away if they even see me through the window. They can tell that I am looking at them; how do they know that a sentient pair of eyes are trained on them? I have been trying to take pictures of our backyard birds, but mostly without success--not only do they fly away even if I sit quietly in the same chair that Chris usually occupies, but they also seem to consider the camera as a big version of an eye and they thwart its gaze.
The public indoor track is suspended above a series of basketball courts. As I walk I can look at the people playing below, mostly children, and hear their shouts echo in the big, hollow space. Although I don't say more than passing words to anyone while I'm there, it feels like I'm participating in something social, communal. It's so different from the health club atmosphere. It never fails to make me happy. I had stopped going because running on the curved track hurt my ankle and hip, but now I go to walk, and I wish I had never left.
Oh no! Today I'm not sure what to write, so here is a quick list of possible topics. All of them seem possible, but none of them is calling out to me right now. The Tony Awards last night and my relationship with theatre (and theatre people). Envy of other people's perpetually blooming rose bushes, and why, I've decided, I am more like a wild rose shrub than a cultivated rose. Difficulty finishing an essay for work. A morning adventure with the cats and a mysterious worm. Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte. An update on our house-hunting progress (or non-progress).
A moment of jubilation! I wrote the final sentence of my Myrrha essay. Oh my goodness, thank goodness! What was supposed to take a month has taken two and a half. I may have been overly optimistic with that starting estimate, but misestimating has meant that every day over a month has felt like a defeat. And that feeling has opened ample space for other feelings to enter in: insecurity, anxiety, panic, fear. All related, but each with its own coloration. There's still revising to do and footnotes to write, but a draft is DONE, and that feels like victory!
I was possessed today by a crafting spirit: I couldn't sit still unless working out a new project. The problem was: at first I didn't have a new project to work out. So part of the day included my poking around, experimenting until I found something that I wanted to refine as an idea and spend more time on. I tried collaging from periodicals dada style--something I had always wanted to try. I came up with something not quite bad, but (alas) it didn't feel like my genre. Then I constructed a sweet little hanging bird painted with watercolor.
Sometimes one of my postcrossing partners writes to me in German. It makes me realize how fun German can be and how much I should rededicate myself to learning it. I learned German for scholarly reasons, and so German has taken on the tinge of "work," but when I encounter German outside of that context it is really a delight. I would like to be able to do more than read German--writing and speaking it would be amazing, a real break-through for my non-spoken-language self. I should get a friendly reader with nice print, pictures, and aids to practice.
My essay still needs to be revised, but for now I'm working on my summer project of writing a commentary for use in one of my classes next semester. Unlike the essay, it is rather mechanical work for the most part. But still--of course--there is ample room for me to worry myself sick about it! I am writing it with somewhat of a view toward possible publication, and I find myself second- and third-guessing my glosses. "Would a reviewer find this suggestion absurd? Would a critic interpret this as a perfect subjunctive instead of a future perfect indicative?"
I planned to meet a friend today, but this morning I almost cancelled. I got into a bad mood last night that lingered into this morning, but I'm glad that I got on the road and at least temporarily out of my mood. It's funny to drive a hundred miles, hang out for four hours, and then drive back. It was a welcome break from my internal dialogue, and it's so good to talk with an interesting, kind, funny person. The fact that we met halfway between our two homes made it like stolen time, in the middle of nowhere.
I had insomnia last night. I was so tired that my eyelids were falling down but even so I couldn't let myself sleep. Tonight, I hope, will be otherwise! I have cycles of insomnia: some years are good sleep years, others are not. I think I may be in a "not" year, alas, though it's not yet as bad as some years have been. I hate the aimlessness of insomnia. I never do anything substantial when wakeful because I'm always hoping to sleep, but then hours go by that are entirely empty, adding up to days, weeks, of a life.
Sleep update: I was able to sleep last night! In fact, I slept until eleven this morning! But lots of sleep has its own consequences: an off-kilter day that basically starts at lunchtime. Plus readjusting to not being on my own. On weekdays during the summer I try to make sure that I do something in each of the following four categories: professional, home- or self-improvement, contact with the outside world, and exercise. Today I did not hit all of the bases, but I'm cutting myself some slack, calling it a transitional day. Tomorrow, it will be back to schedule!
I enjoy taking photographs, but I am almost always disappointed in myself when I look at other people's photographs. Theirs seem better in almost all ways: sharper, funnier, wittier, more insightful, more artful. I think I don't have as much practice as other people, but I also suspect that I may not have as good an eye as other people either. Or is it the case that other people's photographs leave a greater impression because they are someone else's? That there's something about seeing the way someone else saw that's inevitably more arresting than seeing the way you yourself saw?
"Migraine" comes from "hemicranium," or "half-brain"--the feeling that half of your head is blindingly aching. I could feel a migraine coming on this afternoon, so I took some imitrex. I had used imitrex before, but I couldn't remember the dosage, so my doctor wrote me a prescription for a common strength. I think it's too strong! I'm beginning to feel wobbly and a bit out of synch with and out of reach of the external world. Chris calls this feeling "being at the small end of the telescope," and there is something about that expression that seems perfect apt.
I am not enjoying looking for a new house. And it's not simply that it's a hassle to look at a bunch of different house. It's that I don't like not knowing where I'm going to be in six months. I might be here, in this very room. I might be across town, in a different town, in the woods, or in the country. For me to be settled inside I need to be settled outside. Whenever I think about the fact that we haven't found a house yet I get nervous--not just about house-hunting, but about almost everything.
Mixed emotions, mixed metaphors, mixed genres. Emotions, demotions, in motion. Metaphor, simile, image. Genre, generic, gender. Demote, derogatory, demented. Metaphor, metamorphosis, metathesis. Mixed, fixed, nixed. Emotion, evocative, evolution. Vocative, nominative, accusative. Accuse, accept, accolade. Kool aid. Aide de camp. Campfire, campstove, campy. Scampi, scrimpy, scream. Cream, cram, cruel. Gruel, grotto, grotesque. Grotto, motto, blotto. Blotter, blower, blossom. Blower, lower, glower. Blow fish, blue fish, glow worm. Fish, fifth, fourth. Forth, from, fro. Lo, below, bestow. Stow, store, stove. Stove, stub, stuck. Stuck, muck, luck. Luck, loose, goose. Goose, moose, muse. Musing, amusing, illusion. Illude, elude, allude. Lewd, crude, rude, feud.
Cemeteries I have visited: burial ground for St. Michael's parish in Loretto, Pennsylvania; small graveyard for Franciscans on the campus of St. Francis University (also in Loretto); cemetery where my grandparents are buried near Philadelphia; cemetery bordering Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; the Protestant cemetery in Rome; Cayuga Heights cemetery in Ithaca, New York; Mount Hope in Rochester, New York; Highgate Cemetery in London; Mount Holly in Little Rock, Arkansas; cemetery neighboring the Sewanee campus; cemetery for many of Chris' relatives in New Jersey; burial ground for St. Joseph's parish in Conway, Arkansas; cemetery on Macedonia Lane (also in Conway).
My art journal entries are ready to mail out to my fellow swappers. It's odd to share something private and raw with strangers, yet perhaps easier than sharing with friends. I wrote a note explaining that the emotions stemmed from anxieties about my finishing my essay--I'm worried that the emotions will seem outrageously large compared to what prompted them. That's the way emotions are? I don't think I would have tried expressive therapy outside the context of a swap: knowing that I would have to do it because I would have to send something made me take it seriously.
A month of writing here has shown how little I have to say for myself. The month isn't even over, and I'm increasingly unsure of what I could possibly write. I think this sort of thing has happened every time I've tried to keep a diary of sorts. I run through so many words in my mind in a day, mentally writing out my thoughts--but once they've been mentally written out it seems pointless to record them. And yet I kind of wish I were the sort of person who actually (and not just mentally) wrote out their thoughts....
I read Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Brontė and Miller's Brontė Myth back to back, the latter as a supplement (or antidote?) to the former. There were times, as I was reading Gaskell, that I couldn't keep from crying. Miller's sane response doesn't mitigate the sadness or wonder of the Brontės' story, but it does try to make sense of their subsequent mythification. Along the way Miller seems to suggest that an intelligent, gifted woman can't be highly conflicted, that an independent woman can't also crave social acceptance, that these two facets can't coexist without one of them being a facade.
When school is in session I basically think school 24/7, but at other times it is easy to lose momentum through lack of structure or to sacrifice long-term stamina to quick bursts of intense work. So I try to make sure I do at least one thing from each of the following categories per weekday: something professional, something related to home or self improvement, some sort of exercise, and some sort of contact with the outside world. I used to keep a tally to make sure that I didn't fall below a 3.7 daily average, but now it's mostly internalized.
We think of lists as a string of parallel items. But what if everything in words is a kind of list, and it's simply a matter of selecting and arranging the possible items so that they coordinate in different ways? All poetry is a list. Utterance is an articulated string of verbal pieces. This seems both liberating and depressing. Liberating because all the pieces are given, because it puts a grocery or to-do list on the same spectrum with an essay or a book. Depressing because it means that our verbal existence is a kind of infinite yet finite cataloguing.
I stopped writing poems, stories, and little plays--in part--because I felt like that kind of writing was making a sort of moral claim. I was not pushing an explicitly moral "message" in anything, but something about the stance one takes to write such things implies a kind of moral vision and that colored my tone--which made me uncomfortable, made me dislike my own voice. Sometimes I feel a similar thing when I write scholarly essays. Maybe this is one reason why I like the idea of language as a list? It's hard to moralize in a list.
I also stopped writing creatively for other reasons. I would look at everything as containing something possibly interesting to write about, and instead of experiencing things I would process them almost immediately in a second-order way, thinking how I could write about them. I would get frustrated with myself (and the world) if I couldn't find an interesting angle to take. I get a bit that way when I'm carrying my camera around even now, but somehow it's easier to restore equilibrium when I'm taking pictures. I don't feel like everything's at stake the way I did when I wrote.
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