Archive for the ‘observing’ Category

sunny side up?

August 30, 2009

Walking through a spider web on an early morning walk is roughly akin to being the first person on the sidewalk after a snow.


creature(s) of habit

November 12, 2008

I walk/run three days during the week—Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—plus Saturdays and Sundays. I’m somewhat very regimented about it, which translates to a fairly consistent departure time.  Couple the CDT with my fairly consistent pace, my consistent choice of music, and my consistent route (which only changes on the weekends when I add 1.5 miles) and you get a workout that enables me to reduce the variables and focus on the particulars.  This system is good for my science-y brain—I like to create a “control” against which to evaluate new data (the chronos against which kairos can emerge? the background against which the pattern emerges?—whatever, choose your metaphor.)

One of the patterns I’ve been noticing recently is less a variable per se and more part of the control, but I wouldn’t have noticed had I not seen it day after day after day.

The white-haired, stoutish man with glasses, walking his two small terriers, who smiles and waves at me without fail; the youngish man waiting at the bus stop; the admins in the optician’s office, pulling files for the day; the men at the old-school auto-body, enjoying a morning smoke; the school busses waiting, the woman who walks faster than me yet has shorter legs,  the man at the bagel shop sitting in the same seat near the window every day, the young woman eating her McDonald’s before work at the fabric store.

I’m not exactly sure what I want to say about this phenomenon, other than to wonder if others experience the same patterns.  Also, I wonder:  who are these people?  What are their lives like?  Do they notice me, too?  Do they realize we share these repeated moments on the space/time grid???

On most days, I spend my walk/run/observation sessions making mental notes about the flora and foliage.  If anyone asked me why I get up to walk/run, I would explain my need to “check in” on everyone’s garden.  Seriously.  If too many days go by I worry that I’ll miss someone’s lilies blooming, or, now, that the beautiful locust leaves will drop before I get my fill of their perfectly uniform golden ovals.  Until yesterday, I was obsessed with a series of small trees that line a street.  The leaves have gone from green to gold to gone, leaving huge crimson berries against brown branches.

Lately, I’ve been running in anticipation of seeing these people, these markers.  Will they be there?  Will they be doing their things?

And that’s all I’ve got.  I’m not writing, knitting, or reading.  I’m teaching, administrating, and searching.  And running.

(I always wave and smile back at the man.  Seeing him brightens my day, no matter what.)


November 2, 2008

I know I’m in a very, very small minority here, but I LOVE the fall daylight saving change.  I love the thin, pale blue light of early winter mornings and the fact that sunset occurs before 6:00.  There’s something so archaic about these darkened evenings, so pioneer, as if all the technology in the world can’t stop the cycles of the earth and sun.  On a personal level,  I feel that the new schedule gives me permission to rise super-early (which I love) and to hunker down around 7:00 pm (which is when we all should stop working anyway, goddammit!!!!!)  I also find the early dark more convivial and cozy—somehow the fact that we all have to be inside together leaves me longing for cocktail parties and scrabble and small intimate gatherings.

This year, daylight saving time came a week later, which disappointed me.  However, the reason for the change cracks me up!  Of course, the politicians will tell you that this format saves energy, but I’ve heard several reports about the candy industry and Halloween which indicate that candy lobbyists (seriously, what a job THAT would be!) have been pushing hard for the change as it ensures “more” Halloween and therefore huge profits.

But if you google “daylight saving candy” you can find others.

So, if you’re depressed, blame M&M/Mars, I guess… or eat some: there’s serotonin in chocolate, right?

a word about march…before april is over

April 15, 2008

While I’m disappointed with myself for not writing during March, I’m letting myself off the hook because March was decidedly less than inspiring.  I overheard a young woman bemoaning the month as a whole, stating that “March tried to be too much like February, so I ignored it.”

(Meanwhile, it’s supposed to freeze here in Cincinnati tonight, so April’s not blazing any paths to originality, either.)

However, several events are bringing much joy in April.  A short list below, complete with photos:

This jade plant dropped the leaf to the left a year or so ago.  I noticed after a few days that the leaf had sprouted the tiniest root from its base so I shoved it in the soil and ignored it.  Now there’s a little plant growing from the leaf.  Yea!!

smallest jade

In other plant related news, my christmas cactus bloomed a second time in March.  The plant thought it was still winter, too.  It was gorgeous!

I’m working on a new shawl:

another shawl

I finished my hourglass sweater:

better color

However, I HATE the neck.  It’s way, way too big.  Rip it, rip it out.

(The Swingin’ Neckbreakers‘ cover of “Rip it Rip it Up” always runs through my head when I have to rip.)

The spate of news stories on the push-up as a benchmark of overall health freaked me out.  I’ve been doing push-ups almost daily in an effort to repress my first attempt, which put me at “poor.”  Not even “fair,” mind you.  “Poor.”  Ouch.

Since then, I’ve been a push-up machine.  I wish I could say I was above jokes about going to the “gun show”…

And finally, because it’s been such a long time between drafting and posting, here’s another photo of my jade. Another little shoot!

bonus bud

And that’s all I got.


what is wrong with me?

February 21, 2008

This morning I grabbed a coffee before driving to work.  Instead of my usual—small soy latte with two shots of espresso—I ordered a medium.  I was “hungry” and I knew I would probably have a late lunch.  When I received my drink, it was a large instead of a medium, and I was disappointed.  What is my problem??

Remember when we were young and getting an “extra” was awesome?  When an incorrect drive-thru order that netted some bonus fries was a monumentally happy event?  As I was driving away with my vat of soy and espresso I wondered if the near-constant offers to upgrade, supersize, “add value” have spoiled me for the occasional happy accident.  (With apologies to Bob Ross.)

I couldn’t drink the whole thing, even though I really wanted to so that I could have the foam.  I was overwhelmed at the half-way point…

analog weekend

February 19, 2008

I didn’t set out to avoid everything digital this past weekend, but avoid it I did. No phone calls, no email, barely any web surfing—I checked the weather a few times, and clicked through the Times, but otherwise not much in the way of computer interaction.  And though we did watch a couple episodes of The Wire (Season Four), those hours were the only two we spent watching the tube between Friday night and Monday night. Instead, we spent our weekend unpacking (we’re finally out of boxes!!), walking (we walked to Oakley Square one day, up to Hyde Park Square the next), visiting the museum (exhibition of quilts at the Cincinnati Art Museum), reading (I began and finished a novel on Sunday in two two-hour sittings) and eating.

Also, I did a good bit of knitting, and my sweater is almost finished:

hourglass v.2

The best part, honestly, was the reading, even though I did not enjoy the book (Atonement).  I had not immersed myself in a book for a long, long time—I almost forgot how it felt to churn through a novel.  Anyway, I know it’s probably next to impossible, but I’d like to try to have at least two “analog” weekends per month going forward.  My soul felt rested, if that makes any sense.  Truth be told, it was exactly what I needed, even though I’m not sure I would have been able to identify those needs on Friday before I tuned out.

Today, I’ve been thinking not so much about how great my weekend was (though it truly was a spectacular weekend for me) but rather how I managed to get to a point in my life where not working, not checking emails, not dealing with the phone, not reading online became the exception not the rule…

muscle memory: or, we’re here, but i’m still there

February 12, 2008

Yesterday, Monday, marked two weeks in our new apartment, though in truth the total number of hours we’ve spent here (awake) is relatively low. A combination of weekend trips home and late hours at work for both of us means that we’re still unpacking.

The funny thing about this move that sets it apart from other moves I’ve endured is that I have not adjusted to my space. I can’t seem to acknowledge? accept? the fact that I don’t live in my old apartment. On a conscious level, I know where I live, but somewhere in my subconscious, the connection fails.

For example, I cannot seem to grasp the location of light switches in this apartment. I’ll enter our bathroom and try to turn on an invisible switch above the sink. I’ve dropped the soap on the floor after washing my hands (old school soap receptacle was lower and to the side of the sink in old place). I continually try to step on the pedal to open the trash lid only to discover that the can is no longer to the left of the sink.  I’ve tried on several occasions to pull silverware from a place where it does not reside, and I’ve twice found myself in the wrong room, searching for an item that would have been oriented in that space in the old place. 

Last night, Russell picked me up from the airport late. Granted, I was tired and a bit out of it (frayed nerves from landing in snow), but when he turned away from 75 and headed up toward 71, I snapped “Where are you going?”

He looked at me and said, “Home?” with a bit of a question.

Yep. I forgot where we live.

Anyway, this whole transition has been strange.

also, to the powers that be…

February 9, 2008

Would you please make finding radiatore less difficult?  Even the super-stocked Kroger in these parts (has no fewer than 11 brands of pasta) doesn’t carry it.

Thank you.


A girl who enjoys a high sauce to pasta ratio.

browsing the stacks

January 11, 2008

In a recent job interview, one of the committee members asked me: “What have you read lately—that doesn’t have to do with rhetoric or composition?”  I answered honestly, even though I recognized the dilemma inherent in the question.  If I admit to reading books for pleasure, that might leave the impression that I’m not dedicated to finishing my dissertation.  If I don’t, I might appear to be somewhat narrow and, dare I say it, dull.  Everyone knows that person who’s singularly focused on her or his own work and is therefore prone to stultify otherwise interesting conversations.

So, I went for broke and talked briefly about two books I’ve read recently:  Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Megan Marshall’s AMAZING biography The Peabody Sisters.  I highly recommend both, for what it’s worth.

What I didn’t tell the committee is exactly how much outside reading I do.  I’m in a book club—a dirty little secret for someone who’s ABD–and I’m forever hearing about (and sometimes succumbing to) tempting new publications.

(Follow me a minute more as I make this turn…)

I was in the library on Wednesday, on the third floor where the British and American literature is held, and I remembered that I wanted to borrow my next book club book (Atonement, Ian McEwan) rather than buy it.  I’ve been lately trying to stop buying fiction that is easily available at the library.  Anyway, I started browsing the PRs and PSs (yes, I know the call numbers, and yes, I know this fact cements my status as a total nerd.) and on the way my eye caught the title Arrowsmith, a novel by Sinclair Lewis that won the 1926 Pulitzer.  I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long, long time.  I loved Main Street, and I loved Babbitt even more.  Needless to say, I haven’t been disappointed by Arrowsmith—I can’t put it down.

This morning in the shower I was reflecting on the series of events that brought me to the book.  While I did not set out to find the book, I was delighted to be reminded of it while browsing the stacks.  I only hesitated a second before grabbing it and continuing my search for Atonement, rationalizing that I could burn through two books just as easily as one.  Several questions emerged in the middle of these thoughts, none of which have answers. 

Has the new electronic catalog system (as opposed to card catalogs) impeded our ability to browse?  In some card catalogs, the books were arranged in the order in which they appeared in groups on the shelf, so as you were looking for one book, you might stumble upon others of interest.

Has our “drive-thru” lifestyle (or what Russell and I call “in out nobody hurt”) obliterated our willingness to spend more than 1o minutes searching for a book?  (Full disclosure: ordinarily, I would have used the library catalog to find the exact call number to retrieve Atonement but I was too lazy to go down and up three flights of stairs to the computers so I browsed.)

Do people even check books out from the library anymore?  Does anyone read anything besides Oprah’s book club choice, conveniently available at Barnes and Noble?

Okay, back to the ten thousand letters of recommendation I agreed to write.  Oy.


January 3, 2008

You know in paper towel commercials when they drop a square over a puddle of blue water and the towel wicks up the entire cup or quart or whatever and, when lifted, reveals a completely dry surface?

That’s how my skin has been absorbing lotion in the past three days.  This morning when I performed my daily regimen on my face, I thought I heard a sound akin to watering the soil around a really dry plant, or sucking the last sip of a pop through a straw. 

The weather has been very cold and dry in Cincinnati.  Our radiator heat ain’t helping, either.  I should buy stock in Nivea.