Archive for November, 2006

not on topic

November 18, 2006

Seriously. If E. M. Forester wrote today, it’d be a different sort of plea.

F*%#ing connect. And he’d most certainly be talking about some sort of technology.

But the message would be the same.

It doesn’t make anything better, it just makes us sit here in front of these boxes. I can’t even burn a disc without having to broker a deal with IPod or whoever. And which browser will work today? Ah, sweet anticipation……

Too much “ether” for me.

I miss tapes.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled program; my password just went through.

pin oaks and finals week: or, what’s left after this weekend

November 14, 2006

As an Ohioan, I find it difficult to keep the topic of weather out of my daily conversations. I once read a book on language and dialect that explained how to approach and converse with a mid-westerner-—first you discuss by what route you arrived at your destination, then you discuss the weather, then you talk about what route you’ll use to get home. The weather part of the conversation lasts the longest and covers every possible subject, including farming, flooding, records made and broken, its effect on sports, leaf color, next spring’s bulbs, holiday traveling plans, traveling plans in general…you get the point. It was only a matter of time before the weather crept into this blog…

The weather in Ohio is known for its rapid changes. Sunny summer skies can quickly give way to powerful thunderstorms as the purples, blues, and grays roll in; cool spring mornings often belie a scorching afternoon; a snowstorm can leave behind several inches that disappear by the day’s end. We layer here. We must.

This weekend began unseasonably warm. Thursday of last week brought us 70 degree temperatures which continued until Friday evening. As I drove home on Friday afternoon, I rolled my windows down and watched the autumn colors whiz by. Although some of the trees had lost their leaves (ginkos, ashes, birches fall early), the majority of the trees still had leaves. The sycamores, maples, and oaks made up so many bright splashes of color out my window.

But then the wind kicked up, the temperature fell about 25 degrees overnight, and Saturday looked and felt like November should. We woke to a rain that lingered all day. Now, on Monday, the trees are mostly empty and the air has that cold, damp feel that permeates clothing and chills all the way through. Looking out the window of the library today, I see brown branches and gray skies. An occasional evergreen or pin oak brings a little opacity, but for the most part the view is buildings through branches.

The mood on campus today seems gray as well. I did not hear much friendly chatter as I walked to the library this morning. Granted, it’s Monday, and the beginning of the week lacks the energy of the end, but I saw more bent heads that I did eyes, more hands cupping lattes than carrying pop. And I didn’t see a single student talking on a cell phone. (Sadly, the last observation is the most telling…)

As I neared the library, one of the bent heads looked up. The young man, probably a first-year student, looked both tired and shell-shocked. His mouth hung open a bit and his gaze looked through me, past me, to the library door. I looked down and saw his calculus book, stuffed fat with notebook paper, its binding straining from the added thickness. And then it dawned on me. UC is on quarters, so finals week is rapidly approaching.

It has been easy to coast through this semester without attending to the administrative and academic—midterms went by unnoticed, as did fall “break,” Parents’ weekend, Greek week, and all of the other markers of time on a college campus. This morning was a bit of a wake up call, I suppose. Soon the semester will end and I’ll have to head back to the classroom. I’m not dreading it (although I did have a teaching nightmare last night—forgot my syllabus on the first day, then couldn’t find my new office to retrieve it before class ended) but I wonder about my ability to keep writing with the hassle of lesson plans and assignments to read and grade.

Time to get serious. That calculus boy and I have a lot of ground to cover before this semester ends…

14,000 stitches of love and hope*

November 8, 2006

A certain amount of acceptance comes with knitting a gift for a baby or a child. After all, babies and children grow, often very quickly, and soon enough the gift doesn’t fit anymore. And for the knitter, that can make the whole enterprise feel a little futile…a little empty, I guess. Couple that with the nagging suspicion that the child’s parents (usually non-knitters) might not fully appreciate the cost, time, and effort that goes into the gift, or, worse, that the parents might not even dress the child in said gift at all, and it’s a wonder any knitter would set herself or himself up for such heartbreak.

But in my experience, another feeling supersedes these others and makes it not only possible but in fact downright pleasurable to knit for a child. As I sit here typing, I’m struggling to find the right sentiment to describe it—a mix of love and hope and possibility, I suppose.

Some of the women in my knitting group work on what they call “prayer shawls.” Apparently they work the shawl in a three-part knit stitch that somehow evokes the trinity. I’m not exactly sure how the stitch works, but I do know that as they knit, they pray for the recipients.

I’m not the most religious person on the planet, so when it comes to prayer, I often find myself sending good vibes or “wishing” a person well—hoping for peace and happiness rather than asking a God to bring it.

Last weekend, I attended my niece’s christening as her godmother. I wanted to do something special for her, so I decided to knit her a cute little sweater (the Child’s Placket Neck Pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts.) As I was knitting, I found myself thinking about my niece—envisioning her as a baby, a toddler, a child, and a young girl. I imagined her wearing the sweater while playing outside, running (in that funny way that toddlers do) after her dog, making messes for her parents to clean up, going to pre-school, etc., etc. I imagined her laughing and smiling, reading with her parents, learning about the world around her, growing up. And soon enough, the sweater was done.

Here are two pictures of the sweater. As you can see, it’s not quite finished. I have to stitch up the seams under the arms:

(almost) finished object

This close-up shows the placket. I still need to block the sweater and sew on the buttons:

close up of neck placket

As goofy as it sounds, I suppose what I was doing could be considered praying. As I was knitting I was meditating, hopefully, purposefully, on my niece and her childhood, creating positive experiences for her in my mind, wishing her happy and healthy. At one point, I realized that I didn’t care at all how long it took me to finish the sweater, or how I’d feel if her parents didn’t use it, I only wanted to express my love and hope for her.

I’m not sure this post accurately conveys the warm feeling that I felt, or how good it felt to feel it. I guess I’m not a person who feels at peace very often—I tend to be more cynical, more apt to focus on the worth of a particular task or outcome rather than the inherent pleasure of performing the task itself. This experience was different and I’m glad.

*The stitch tally is obviously an approximation, but I think it’s pretty close…