Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time for mist, not yet for snow?

It's been awhile...It was summer. It was hot. I was in Oklahoma all summer, and even the land of mist and snow had neither, and still doesn't...but I miss writing, not to mention my main audience, Daddy. And so, even though it's just autumn, I'll write.

It's been a very hectic and tiring semester so far, but I'm not ever here to talk about work. I am here to talk about the very bright red, yellow, orange and multi-colored trees that are everywhere...except I'm nearly missing them for spending all my time in the office or at the library table at home, grading papers. It was thus last fall as well.

It's strangely warm, and I hope that means we will have a big, giant, long winter. My New York students tell me their grandparents say so. That's what happens when it's weirdly warm in Oklahoma too, so I hope it's true. I want snow so high I can't open the door.

I wanted to write this, but now I can't seem to write. Alll the words I know seem like the wrong ones or the boring ones. This is not an auspicious return to my blog. But here I am. I will try to be more excited and exciting tomorrow.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Death Angel

On Thanksgiving of 1989, my cousin Eddie and I were hiding in a bedroom from our giant extended family's loving but overwhelming gathering. We were 14-year-old burgeoning metalheads with black clothes, long hair, and a bleak outlook on the world. We could only be pleasant in short bursts, and our bursts for the day were over.

"Listen to this," he said.

Things move slowly in Oklahoma, and we were too young to keep up even then, so Death Angel's album (which was on cassette tape for us) The Ultra-Violence had just now reached him. And that Thanksgiving, it reached me as well. We sat there on the bed, and I loved each song more than the one before it.

We were already Metallica and Slayer fans, so of course we liked the style of Death Angel, but there was something else. They were a little more melodic, perhaps. Mark Osegueda's voice was more beautiful. And there was something good-natured and positive about them, even when they were singing about violent or scary topics. Normally, we wouldn't like that, but Death Angel did it in a way that made us believe they could possibly be right.

And of course, like many bands at the time, they sang about the unity of the metal community. At that time, it did feel unified. Yes, we spoke with disdain of "false metal" and "poseurs" and all that, but ultimately, we took care of each other and believed we were part of something monstrous and mysterious that could pull us through anything. For many of us, it was in our nature to find life shallow and disappointing, but this music reminded us that there was more to it than we could touch or see. So when I was sitting in Pre-Algebra, and people were passing notes about whose boyfriend was seen with whose girlfriend, and the Oklahoma sky was coming in the windows annoyingly blue and cheerful, and the teacher was talking about something I didn't understand and didn't care about, I would write metal lyrics in the margins of my notebook and tell myself this would not always be my life.

Metallica, Slayer, Testament and Megadeth were big bands. They were all larger than life to me -- Big, strong men who made music that helped thousands of people survive. The music was big too, and commanding, and far away, like God. Death Angel's music was powerful, but it was also more personal somehow. When I needed to feel like I was enough to be part of the whole thing, it was Death Angel who reassured me.

I've been trying to write that last sentence for awhile now. It's still not quite what I mean. But I'm going to just skip ahead.

Fast forward (like I used to do to hurry up and get to "Voracious Souls") about 20 years. At the beginning of this summer, I had a conversation in which I lamented never having seen Slayer. So I went on the internet to see if they would be anywhere near me any time soon. (They would be but alas, I could not go.) Along the side of the website there was a list of other bands who were on tour. Death Angel was on that list. I thought, "Hmm...I love Death Angel. I'll have to see where they're playing."

An hour away. Later that night.

I have responsibilities. I’d stayed up late the night before with a friend kept awake by a broken heart. The next morning, I had to take my father to the doctor an hour away. And drive him home. But this is the age of Facebook. I posted a status update lamenting the fact that I shouldn’t go see Death Angel and questioning whether I should just go anyway. Lo and behold, seconds later came responses from metal friends new and old reminding me that this is what we DO.

So without thinking it over too much, I called my niece and nephew – young metalheads both – and told them to put on their black clothes because we were going to see Death Angel. They did not need to be asked twice.

The Marquee is a small, dark club – just right for metal, I think. We got there early enough to support most of the local bands who opened, and all of them were good. If this wasn’t so long already, I’d tell you about them, but surely you are getting impatient already.

So, as I said before, Death Angel was never that famous, and they are less famous now. But those of us who love them are diehards. We were there with our children – in my case, my sisters-in-law’s children – talking over what songs they might play, how long we’d been listening to them, what we were like when we’d first heard them, who we liked now (Acrassicauda seemed to be the consensus band in that crowd)…It was good to be with family.

And then Death Angel came out.

We were standing right at the edge of the low stage, in the middle. Mark Osegueda was right there, looking even more beautiful than he did when I was 15 and, yes, still wearing a very similar outfit to the one I had on, even though I hadn’t been keeping up all these years. They had a new bassist and a new drummer, both of them excellent. They played every song I love. They reached down and shook our hands in between songs. They ran here and there, and their long hair flew wildly, as did all of ours, in time to the music. I’d almost forgotten how disorienting headbanging is when you begin it, and the trance-like state it becomes after a few songs. But sometimes I had to stop, so I could look at Death Angel and realize we were in the same room at last.

It was my niece’s first metal concert ever. A few songs into the show, the new (young, gorgeous) bassist reached down and handed her his pick. She was the first person for whom this happened that night. She’s at an age when gorgeous guys doing anything is exciting, so it was a big deal made even bigger by the fact that the swirling people, the dark room, the loud music were new to her. I saw all this happen, and I will always remember her blue eyes widening, and the surprise of her smile, and her Gryffindor-colored hair standing out in the crowd. They were that to me: Metal, and guys, and something that relieved the pain of growing up, and it was incredible to see them be that for her too.

Every song was powerful and big and just right. Death Angel succumbed to the overproduction of their time, so some of their later albums were not rough enough for me. Live, the edges were broken off jagged, and all the songs were violently beautiful.

Toward the end of the night, they played a song I love, “Seemingly Endless Time,” and during the second chorus, Mark knelt down into the crowd, right by me, with the microphone the distance between us, so all our voices mixed together. We were so close I could feel the warmth of his skin. His dreadlocks brushed against my face. I closed my eyes. I turned away for a second, because this was too much…but metal is too much. That’s the point. So I opened my eyes again, and sang with him, and he smiled at me…or maybe I imagine he did. Maybe he was just smiling because he wrote that song, because he was making metal, because Death Angel was playing, and even when you’re in it yourself, that’s exciting.

Then when he stood up, he reached for my hand, and stepped back on a monitor, and didn’t let go as he leaned back off of it…didn’t let go until I did, at the last minute, when gravity forced me to.

It’s what they’ve done for me all these years: Not let go until I did. And when I did let go, they didn’t stop. They kept on, and just when I needed them again, they were there. That is Death Angel, in my life.

They are releasing a new album this fall. They played some songs from it. It’s going to be good. I’ll buy it, and when I haven’t gotten enough sleep, when I have too many things to do, when I am worried, I will listen to it and think of being 15, feeling like I couldn’t make it, then being 35 and realizing I did. This music never deserts us, even if we wander away from it. We come back, bedraggled, and it kills the fatted calf. We reach out for it, and it reaches back. It pulls us through.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Some Notes on Ronnie James Dio

I just found out that Ronnie James Dio died of stomach cancer early this morning. Some of you may not know who that is, so I will tell you: He was a pioneering heavy metal singer. A very small man with a very huge voice. He dressed unabashedly dramatic, in capes and armor. He carried a sword in most of his videos. There were often dragons and pyrotechnics at his shows. He was the age of my father, and his heyday was a bit before my time, but if you know metal, you know that we respect our forefathers.

In addition to singing for Rainbow and Black Sabbath, he did his own thing, which was just called Dio. Their logo was a lovely calligraphy that all the metalheads learned to draw -- except this one. But I had friends. So my notebook too had "DIO" emblazoned across it in that perfect calligraphy all through junior high and high school.

His wife's report to the media said he died peacefully, and I'm glad for that. He was young for a normal person, but old for a rock star. I'm glad we had him for as long as we did and that he died in a dignified way, with his family beside him.

I'm not a huge Dio fan. I tend to favor deep, growling, harsh voices. Ronnie James Dio was an operatic-style singer. But I always appreciated his focus on the battle between good and evil. One of the reasons I began to love metal when I was 14 was that it addressed spiritual matters in a serious way. Dio is part of the reason it does that, and so he is part of the reason this music has been such a comfort and inspiration to me for such a long time.

And so this is the little thing I've written in order for my voice to be added to the many who pause to mourn and celebrate him. As a performer, he was grandiose, and fun, and a legend who never disappointed us, even in death.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Been a long time since I rock 'n'rolled...

Sorry I've been absent! In the land of mist and snow, there is little mist, there is no more snow...Except I heard there WAS some snow while I was down south in Brooklyn last weekend!

Here's a quick update, and I'll get back to regular blogging eventually:

1. We are finished teaching for the summer! I'm still going into work to grade, have meetings, etc., but at least I don't have to enact lesson plans or deal with "I didn't do my homework, so what am I supposed to do?" scenarios. (Answer: You are supposed to quietly make the best of the situation. You are an adult. Figure it out.) (But 90% of my students are scholarly angels.)

2. There is green everywhere in the village. The restaurants are open, the boats are out. Lawn furniture is coming out in yards, and the summer people are airing out their cabins and lake houses.

3. The people who lived here before us planted red and purple and violet-and-white tulips, so we have flowers.

4. They are putting in a new sewer line in front of my house, so every day these men come with machines that look like giant chainsaws that you can drive. So far, they are digging huge holes. I don't know what they'll do next. It's neat to watch.

5. My house is a disaster area. That's because I wrote another novel. When I do that, everything disintegrates around me. And I have an idea for another one. I think. So before that one gets started, I'm going to try to get this place at least hygenic.

6. Because I'm going home to Oklahoma soon. Really soon. Dreadfully soon. Northern New York is so beautiful and fun in the summer! But I'll be glad to see my family, my tribe, my musician friends...and I'll be glad to be really, really hot. They don't get really, really hot up here. It only gets into the 80s.

7. Okay...I have to actually go to work now. But we're nearly finished!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Professional Blog, Mainly Directed At My Father

I talked to my father on the phone for two hours yesterday, yet we did not get around to the subject I am about to address here. So, to shave some time off the next call, I am going to put the foreward of what I want to talk about here. I'm putting it here instead of in an e-mail because someone else reading this may have an opinion also. But if not, that's okay. As is often the case, this blog is mainly for my father.

And here is the subject: Introduction to Non-Western Literature (the artist formerly known as "World Literature")

As I told you, I will be teaching this class in the fall. (For those of you reading this who don't know what I do for a living, I teach in the English department of a community college.) In the olden days, the course was World Literature, and it dealt with the old epics and things like that. Now, it is Non-Western Literature, and its purpose is to introduce students to the literature of non-western countries in order to give them insight into the relationships between people in our global community. A noble pursuit, and I will include it also. BUT one of the reasons I was so glad to get this class is that I've had a shocking amount of students, from the first day of class, ask if I would teach them Dante's Inferno. Only one of them wanted to read it because of the video game. The others had just heard about it, tried to read it, and found it too difficult without help. I tell you this to explain one of my reasons for designing the course to include some western literature and more of a focus on the old stuff than might be strictly appropriate.

Anyway, for all of you, here is the first part of my dilemma: I am choosing a textbook, and I very much want to teach out of the Norton Anthology of World Literature. I learned from the Norton anthologies, so their font and paper feels like "real" literature to me. They use good translators also. They are sometimes accused of being old-fashioned in their arrangements and choices, however. I can get around that, if I decide it's the case (but I won't decide it because I am so blinded by Norton love). What I can't get around is the fact that the Norton costs about $20 more than the other anthologies out there, and it's in two volumes.

I teach at a community college in a region that is suffering economically. Can I really ask my students to buy the more expensive textbook when the others have mostly the same works in them? The reason I want to have them buy the Norton is because those who are taking the class with me on purpose really want to know the epics. Some of them, in their individual Dante attempts, deliberately chose old translations to get a feeling of Literature with a capital "L," even thought that made it even harder for them to understand. I think they would love the Norton because it makes considered choices about balancing the beauty of language with accurate translation (I think)...but what of the people taking the class because they need another humanities credit and it's the only one that fits in their schedule? I'm not teaching English majors, for the most part, so they won't need to keep this book forever like we did. Still, I think it's worth it to have them read from the Norton. Do you? Or do you think I am letting my own nostalgia and bias interfere with this important decision?

And this question is REALLY for my father, but if you happen to have some insight, by all means, share it! So Daddy, you taught English at a high school with students the world expected little from, and often, they believed the world. The temptation would have been to bring in things "on their level," but instead you taught them Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare. And to this day, they come up to you at the grocery store and speak of these works as if they are the most common knowledge. How did you DO that?!

I partly know, as I was raised by you. I know that 98% of your secret is not to speak of literature as something we learn but something that is in our lives. To recite bits of it in the context of real life, whether seriously or humorously. To make it something we have together, do together, are together, not something we study. To always make time for it (or was it me you were making time for?). To make reaching for its meaning both a social occasion (I'm thinking of when you read me The Black Cat when I was about 10 years old) and an individual pursuit (like when you sent me off at 13 to read The Wanderer because it was good, and then I was proud to have something to say about it later when you asked me).

But how does that translate to a college classroom? How did it translate to a high school classroom? (Although, come to think of it, your high school students had you before I did.) How do you give them literature as a heritage, not a skill set? Because I think my students want that very much. Some of them are coming back to school after years of being away in jobs or the Army, and they want to feel Educated (capital E) besides just knowing things. Some of them are young, and came to our college because they cannot afford to leave home, or fear leaving home. But they want their minds to leave home, even if their bodies cannot. And some choose to be here with us, and I must not disappoint them in that choice. And so they deserve a big experience. I can't give them the relationship with literature that you gave me because I am not their parent, but perhaps I can give them a bit of the relationship you gave your students.

So, think how you did that, and that's what I want to talk about this week. I'll call you. My schedule is frantic, and you, as you remind me constantly are a retired gentleman farmer, a man of leisure, the lord of the manor.

The Cruelest Month

It turns out that I love the deep, blood-curdling, all-encompassing cold. I knew I would. We are only a few weeks into spring, and already I miss the vast white fields and frozen lake. I miss my snowboots, my snow overalls, and the long-handled broom I used to push snow off my windshield every morning.

It's the half-cold I can't stand. We've had sunny days and some gray rainy ones. The gray rainy ones aren't so bad, but the sunny cold ones make me crazy. They remind me of winter in Mississippi. There, the sky was always so extradordinarily blue and lovely -- but in the winter, a cold that felt like it came outward from my core appeared. But it wasn't even the cold itself; it was the fact that there was cold at all in this place that was usually so extremely hot. The cold didn't suit Mississippi. It never felt natural. It was like the weather was wearing someone else's ill-fitting clothes, and I was relieved when it threw them off and put on the heat again.

But at least it's not like Oklahoma spring. There, we have to worry about tornadoes. The snakes and ticks wake up. The wind blows. At least it gets beautiful, though. Out in the woods, you find bouquets of Easter lilies and wildflowers. The little trees have buds on their tips, then flowers, then bees and butterflies.

In Italy, spring seemed to come overnight. I went to sleep in winter and woke up to flowerboxes and fields of poppies and women in bright sundresses and silver sandals. The farms and the mountains were almost unbearably picturesque. We'd walk along the canal at Marola wearing sweaters and I wouldn't believe I was awake, living in Italy, in love in the spring. Because spring was when Joe would deploy then. So the in-between springs, when he didn't, were magical.

Anyway, spring here is muddy and cold. We've had a few actually warm days -- in the 70s and 80s -- and those gave me a terrible longing for summer, when, perhaps, it will really be warm. In the meantime, the breeze off the lake is cold, and the sun is a trick. I can't figure out the right configuration of layers to wear, and the dogs' paws are muddy all the time. And when it rains, there are worms all over the sidewalks. I just walk staring straight ahead to get from one place to the next. When the sun comes back out, they dry up in hieroglyphics. It seems unfair. And that is spring.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Back in November, when my husband was still home and we were on Thanksgiving break, all our neighbors made piles of leaves and sticks. They raked them to the curb and the village trucks came around and picked them up. We raked some of our leaves -- the ones in the front yard, mainly. But we were on break, so we left some of the leaves in the backyard. Okay, truthfully, most of the leaves in the backyard.

Then The Airborne (as my father calls him) went to Afghanistan. It snowed. The snow never melted. Until now.

Last week, the neighbors all raked up their remaining leaves, the new sticks, and whatever else was in their yards. They made piles of sticks. I was scrambling to keep up with my work and told myself I was too tired and it was too cold to do my own yard. I kept putting it off. But now I am on spring break. I fear I may have missed the village trucks, but I'm not sure. I saw a few people still raking when I walked the dogs this afternoon.

It's about 73 degrees. I forgot what it feels like to sweat in the sun. I forgot that piles of leaves are wet on their undersides and that when you rake them, the smell of cool, moist dirt wafts up at you. Under the leaves, little white-green shoots are coming up out of the soil, which is the color of wet coffeegrounds.

I can't believe we left so many leaves. I've been raking them and pulling up these dead stalks that The Airborne hates. For two hours I have been doing this, and my yard now has piles of things but doesn't look that much better. At least it smells of spring out there now. I have no idea what to do with the piles if the village doesn't come to get them. I don't live in the country, so I can't just burn them.

All I can think about is how I'm so glad I'm not in Oklahoma because a yard like mine would be crawling with copperheads.

I know I ought to go back out there and work some more, but I'm feeling a little defeated. I'm working on the terrible script and the metal novel that is the love of my life but not going so well. I want to write them. I miss living in the country, where Outside takes care of itself.

The dogs were tied to the deck. They rolled over and slept in the shade and are now covered with tiny pieces of leaves. My hands have the beginnings of blisters. My piece of New York is out from under winter and trying to breathe.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Some of you may remember that I participated in National Novel Writing Month last November. The resulting 50,546-word novel was a joy to create (except when it was agonizing). So I've decided (as of about 11:30 p.m. on March 31) to participate in Script Frenzy this year.

It's the same concept, but with a script: To "win," you have to write 100 pages of a script during the month of April. I came up with a bad, bad idea and began right at midnight. That's why I am up at 2 a.m. as I write this.

So...I thought you might like to know. Four pages down...96 to go!

Friday, March 26, 2010


I love New York. I always wanted to live here, and here I am. It is never disappointing. Every day, I remember that I am lucky. Every day, it is my job to check on Black River Bay, and this is a good job.

And so I do not say what I'm about to say in order to convey any kind of sadness, because I am not sad.

For the last three weeks, I have dreamed over and over about the coast of Mississippi. I used to live down there...not quite on the coast, but just up from it. We were stationed in Italy, and the Iraq part of the war had just started. When my husband went to the war, I went to south Mississippi. I was getting my doctorate down there and had to go to class. Then, after a year, he came home, and I went back to Italy to stay with him. But the next year, he went to Afghanistan, and I went back to Mississippi. And so on, until I finished my doctorate and we moved way up here, to New York.

The first part of the war was incredibly awful. Communication was difficult and slow, and people kept getting hurt and killed. And graduate school, for those of you who haven't been, has some difficult parts even though it's fun. So it was a hard time all around. But I lived in south Mississippi, and there were no sharp edges there for me.

My apartment was on the second floor of a two-story building. Long into the hot nights, me and my neighbors -- college students and National Guard people stationed at Camp Shelby -- would sit out on the balcony drinking tea, passing around the resident baby, petting the stray cats our landlady encouraged us to spoil. In the day time even, on the weekends, I'd sit out there boiling, reading inscrutable literary theory and making notes for my papers. And sometimes, when the war was too terrible or the sky was that deep blue it only gets in Mississippi, I'd leave everything I ought to be doing and drive 45 minutes to sit by the ocean.

Sometimes I'd drive straight from work. I'd be down there in the dirty sand wearing my dress shoes, sharing donut holes with the gulls. This was before Hurricane Katrina, so if I looked one direction, there were lovely huge houses and if I looked the other direction, there was the bay. To a girl from Oklahoma, smelling the ocean is miraculous. My Mississippi friends teased me for loving it. They didn't consider their beach a beach or the bay the ocean, but it was salt water, there were jellyfish, and I couldn't see its end, so to me, it was the ocean. It was everything I needed right then.

Every time I drove toward it, I'd feel like I was going to find out it wasn't really there. That's how much I loved it. And unfortunately, one day, much of it really wasn't there anymore, after the hurricane. It was a long time before we could drive down there, and even then, driving down there wasn't the right thing to do unless you came to help. So I came to help sometimes, but not enough. And I never helped the Mississippi coast as much as it helped me.

I hate that every time I talk about it now I have to talk about the hurricane.

I haven't been dreaming about the hurricane. When I dream of the coast right now, it's like it was before -- a little dirty, a little tacky in places, a quiet place where I could sit on the sand and watch banana boats. There used to be a restaurant with a lobster on its roof and a casino shaped like a pirate ship. The Mississippi coast wasn't an idyllic place, even before the hurricane, but there are a lot of beautiful things missing from it now.

Still, I love it, and I wish I could go there. I think I dream of it because it still sometimes seems weird that my husband is deployed and I'm not in Misssissippi. I never considered being anywhere else. I keep dreaming I park my car by the pier in Gulfport and start walking along the beach, then forget to stop and realize I've walked all the way to Alabama and it's getting dark. Last night in my dream, there was a party going on all along the water's edge, so it wasn't scary walking back. Everyone was making big vats of shrimp and dancing.

I'm so happy in New York, and this deployment is no worse than any other so far. Like I said, I'm not sad. But there is a longing that is not sadness, and that's what I have: Wishing so deeply that if I just blink my eyes real hard I'll find I dreamed myself in New York but I'm really lying across my bed in Mississippi with the window open and the humid heat all through me and my car full of gas so I can just get in and drive through the longleaf pines until I can't go any farther south.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Census

I LOVE filling out the census form. I like statistics, and I enjoy filling out surveys of all kinds. I don't know why, but I find it very relaxing. One time, when President Clinton was in office, I was called by the GALLUP POLL!! That was a very happy day for me, and the Gallup person was very surprised to have someone so excited to be polled.

So today, I finally had a moment to fill out my census form.

I'm not a particularly maudlin military wife. I panic when someone knocks on the door and have those days of driving around the block before getting to my house just in case there's a government car there. I left a Coke my husband had been drinking on the coffeetable for over a month out of sheer sentimentality. But those are all normal things, I think, and they don't take over. For the most part, I take deployment as a big adventure for both of us and the fulfillment of my husband's childhood dreams.

But today, I had A Moment over the Census form.

Because we just bought our first house right before he left, and I had to put on the Census form that I live here alone. He gets counted in an "overseas" count. They ask us not to put deployed people on our forms so they don't get counted twice. I understand that. I know filling out only "Person 1" doesn't mean he' s not my husband. But still...it would have been more fun to put us both on there, with the little checkmark by him as the homeowner.

Oh well...I'll probably feel better when I finally do our taxes and they are "joint." :)

Also, filling out the Census form as just myself will make a funny note in the statistics. I'm just imagining the people (or computer, I guess) thinking, "Hmm...how weird that a single Creek woman lives in Sackets Harbor." Because I PROMISE you I'm the only one!

And, despite the Census form, I am a good man's "Person 2"!

Now, back to eating nachos for dinner, taking up the whole entire bed, driving around with the heater on full-blast, watching marathons of "19 Kids and Counting" and all those other good things about war.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sleepy Weather

Today it is cold and drizzly and gray. My early students did an admirable job of trying to be enthusiastic, but my later students could barely keep their eyes open no matter what I did. I forgot my umbrella, and I didn't wear a thick enough coat.

I wish I could go to bed with the little dogs. I like how they smell when they are wet -- stink and ALIVE. I wish we could lie under heavy quilts and I could read and give them treats.

But I have papers to grade, as always. I'm going to make some hot tea for that endeavor. It is hard to set my mind to it, but it must be done.

How do people with children do this? How do my students, who have classes AND full-time jobs AND children do this? How are they not spread so thin they disappear? I'm a lucky person, with time to blog about how the rain makes me sleepy.

So I'm trying to act lucky.

(Oh how I wish I could get into bed!!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bah Humbug

We got about five minutes of snow followed by thirty minutes of sleet that melted when it hit the ground.

So it really must be spring.

As I said, bah humbug.

Oh well. Band practice was fun, and we did a fine job on "Immigrant Song" for a bunch of people who hadn't played it before. So at least we can SING about snow if we can't have any.

Guess what!

I'm about to be late for band practice, so this may be my shortest blog ever, but I have to tell you: It's snowing!


But still.

I've printed out the lyrics to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." One of our drummers likes to play it. I think it's an appropriate song for the day.

"Come from the land of the ice and snow..."


Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Very Exciting Quilt Show

People here are used to long hard winters. I believe that is why they are so very happy and festive in the summer and, apparently, the spring. I thought I'd have to wait for summer to see the celebrating, but it has come earlier than that.

Our first day of spring was gray and a little cold, but the people here determinedly celebrated it. People worked in their yards. At the Sackets Brewery, they had put up a game that involved what looked like a short volleyball net and a football. Young people (they looked like soldiers) were out there playing it, listening to music, and the dogs and I could smell hamburgers cooking behind them.

But the funniest thing is how excited everyone got over our village's quilt show.

Sackets Harbor is a nice village where people come to eat good food, shop for expensive little pretty things, go out on boats and eat ice cream in the park or under the gazebo by the lake. It closes for the winter, and people miss it.

Today, we had our first bigger public event of the season -- a quilt show at the Seaway Discovery Center. Quilt shows are nice, and people like them. But usually, they only draw a few enthusiasts. Not so our quilt show. There were almost no parking spaces left along Main Street. Smiling, jolly people walked around discussing the quilts, eating in the restaurants, and watching the newly-thawed lake. The clouds never really parted, but everyone seemed determined to live as if it was a sunny spring day.

I'm from a place with lots of sun. Most of our seasons are kind of harsh: Winter is cold and slippery. Spring is full of tornadoes. Summer is dangerously hot. Only autumn is really nice, and sometimes it's not. Here, they have the long, freezing winter, but when the sun comes and stays, they live in a flowery green paradise followed by famously beautiful autumn leaves. So after the hardship of snow, they leap up and celebrate. They can quit bending over snow shovels and layering clothes over their skin, and so they throw themselves into the good time of warm weather like people in Oklahoma don't have to, because we have plenty.

It's fun to be with them when they are like this, so hopeful and ready to have a good time. And it's especially fun to live in the lake village where they come to have it. I miss the snow, but I'm glad to see our village waking up and the visitors coming to see us.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The helmsman steered us through

The lake is breathing.

This morning, instead of a patch of moving water way out in the middle, there is a huge swath of moving water. I guess the ice melted some time yesterday while I was at work. I'm sorry if I missed the dramatic sound of breaking. But I think our ice has been thinned so much by the sun that it probably just eventually went out altogether like the flame of a candle after its blown out, as Alice had it.

Anyway, not all the lake is uncovered and moving. Lots of it still has ice, with small holes and thin places. It rises and falls like the chest of a sleeping person and the movement of the water makes a sound like breathing.

I've been slammed by teaching lately...just one thing after another. It gets like that sometimes, especially in the spring. So I feel for the lake, which isn't holding together as it was, which is changing form to meet the season, which is uncomfortably in the middle of things, with dead fish and lost tools and plastic bottles rising up to the top where everyone can see them. Nobody would call our lake beautiful right now, but nobody is here to call it anything.

The summer people will be here in a few months, and the lake will be bright shining. It will be glimmering and cheerful under the clean white boats. People will get married under the gazebo with the lake making its little wave sounds behind them.

But for now, it's dirty and full of holes, breaking itself up in the sun. It's fine to me. I like to know it so intimately. I like to be like it. I like to think of us both free in the summer and solid in the winter, surviving these middle parts in our privacy together.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fear not, fear not, thou wedding guest...

This body dropt not down.

But it would like to.

Teaching is an honor, touches lives, is a sacred duty...all that stuff that gets carved into plaques and printed on t-shirts with letters from the alphabet and pictures of apples. It is also a whole heap of intellectual and spirtual work. And, ironically, if you don't watch out, it can eat away at what you loved about your discipline in the first place. So I watch out. And repeat the Rime like a mantra.

Thank goodness for my colleagues, for my office teacup, for Rice Krispy Treat Day in the cafeteria (Wednesdays!), for review copies of Norton's anthologies coming to the department addressed to me (because that is EXCITING, dear reader!), for getting assigned to one of the last classrooms with a chalkboard, for a big ol' New York salary, for the deer that hang around on campus, for occasional excuses to go around in voluminous robes, for sharing a building with the library, for getting to write "professor" on surveys that ask for my employment, for spring break and summer break and Christmas break, for all kinds of good things about my college.

Because students wear me out when they are worn out, brilliant, struggling, triumphing, asking, answering, arguing, revolting, rebelling, discovering, talking, thinking, growing weary, growing wary, needing this and that...It's sometimes like being overrun by puppies. And my students are adults! How schoolteachers survive I can't imagine.

My students are karma. Everything I ever did to a professor is being done to me. I kind of wish I'd been the sort of student who sits quietly in the back and just hands in her work. But oh no...In English I spoke all the time and was always sure I was right. In math I refused to try. In science I baaaarely paid attention and didn't do the reading very often. In history I came to class every day with a defensive attitude. In geography I daydreamed. I didn't do much in political science...because I skipped it so often to play guitar out on the lawn with the other truants. Now, I'm paying.

But it's still the best job I can imagine. Except "housewife." And I'm terribly unqualified and unsuccessful at that one.

So I am not really complaining...I'm just saying I'm tired. I don't want to hear a voice. I don't want to see a word. I want to pile two little dogs on my feet and lie in the dark and think about when the lake might melt.

It is an Ancient Mariner, and he stoppest one of three...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Very Short, Probably Boring, But Must

Ladies, Gentlemen, Daddy: Tonight at gymnastics class I did a back hip circle on the bars all by myself. I mean ALL by myself, without a spotter anywhere near me. This is an amazing feat, and I just had to tell someone. I wish I'd filmed it. Maybe I will next week.

Those of you who know what a back hip circle is are probably not too impressed...but keep in mind that I'm 35 and haven't done one since I was 14.

Is this too close to bragging? Especially for Lent? I don't mean to brag. (And not just because that might jinx me.)

Think of it instead as good news. And when you talk about me, please say "My daughter/friend/cousin the gymnast..."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The year's at the spring

The lake is still frozen, but most of the grass is uncovered. The snow has melted, except where it was piled up by the plows. And so, except for the frozen lake, the world is starting to move around and look normal: The grass is green. The sky is blue. Birds are singing. The sun is shining.

I could be anywhere.

I loved living in the surreal world of long winter -- even though our winter wasn't particularly intense this year. The snow wasn't high, the blizzards were few, the wind couldn't even phase this Oklahoman. But it lasted longer than winter lasts at home, so it was unusual. And the lake froze, which was miraculous.

But now it's starting to be spring. It's still cold, and there is frost on the grass in the morning. Black mud is everywhere. My dogs track it in on their feet. I shampooed the carpet, but it's already muddy again. I give up.

Now, I guess what I have to look forward to is the ice breaking up on the lake. I am excited to hear what that sounds like, if I can hear it from four blocks away. I'm excited to see the big pieces stand up then roll over into the water. I'm excited to see the lake like a puzzle as the ice pieces thaw. I wish I could get on one and ride to an island like The Penguin Who Hated the Cold.

But everyone here is so happy for spring to come. They are even nice about the mud because it's a sign of spring. They tell me spring is hideous, muddy, cold, rainy, awful...but they love it because it leads to their idyllic summer, which I will miss because I'll be in Oklahoma.

So I'm griping today. But at least I'm not in Oklahoma yet, where they're already having tornadoes. And soon, in Oklahoma, the snakes and ticks and chiggers will start to awaken. So if I must have spring, at least it's only muddy and cold, not actually dangerous.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The sun came up upon the left...

We've had some sunny days this winter, but the difference in those days and this one is that those days were still cold. The sun might be brilliant, the sky pure blue, but it just lit up the snow and the white clear expanse of the frozen lake. But today I could feel the sun...and I'd forgotten what that is like. It's no snowstorm, but it's not so bad.

The front yard snow melted all the way off the walkway, and there is green grass under there. I found my wonderful red mitten with the knitted daisies on the wrist. It had been missing for a month, and I'm glad to find it again. Especially because now, perhaps, it will be too warm for the professional-looking ski gloves and mittens Joe bought me before he left. (He was right; in this weather, ridiculously expensive gloves are well worth their cost!)

Or maybe not. They keep telling me, with woe in their voices and weariness in their eyes, that a blizzard could still come, all the way up until Easter. At Easter, they say, with full-body sighs and a slump in their souls, we have The Mud.

I believe it about The Mud. I'm getting a horrible, black, mushy glimpse of it on this warm day. I've bathed Niki twice and Tula once. The white carpet is next. But the mud is fine, I suppose, because it comes with the sun, the ocean-colored sky, the birds I hear on our morning walk downtown.

Do I love these things of spring? Maybe not as much as I love ice and snow. But there is something to be said for them, especially when they start bursting into bloom. I can't imagine that right now, and I'm glad. That's one of the things I hoped to experience in a long North Country winter: The feeling that it would never be spring again, a longing for light and warmth. I don't long, but I think I will be pleasantly shocked to discover that flowers grow and leaves jingle and water moves.

What I do long for, on this weird warm day, is my husband. I miss him so much it takes my breath away. I feel lucky for it. And it makes me sympathize with my neighbors who wish for the sun like I wish for him.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Big, Fat Snow!

I can't write long because I must go outside! I am walking to the post office to mail a package to my husband, and I'm so excited! The snow is coming down fast, but the exciting part is that some of the snow is big CLUMPS of flakes...not even just big flakes. FINALLY something I've never seen before in snow!

I know the snow is dangerous for some people, and I'm sorry for them. Here, it's fun. The news is sorry for upstate New York, but I'm so grateful to be here where it's still full-force winter...or should I say full force winter at last? For this winter hasn't seemed particularly long, or cold, or dramatic to me yet...I hope it starts being all of those things today!

(But you know me...I have to complain about something: I wish it was doing this on a day when it would close school!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Through the drifts the snowy cliffs did send a dismal sheen

I LOVE a good dismal sheen on the cliffs of Black River Bay, and ladies and gentlemen...and Daddy...we are getting one! Because guess what: IT'S SNOWING!!!

Thick and fast it comes at last, and more and more and more!

They tell me it will continue through tomorrow. Let's pray it does. I love it so much I can't stand it! The dogs and I walked downtown, and the big brick Presbyterian Church and the little white library beside it were dramatic through the snow. The orange streetlights and the little white ones on the gazebo at the river and the lit-up windows of houses with lace curtains looked like illustrations from books my father read during the winters of my childhood. The big red house at the end of our block had its pellet stove going, and the whole street smells like Christmas.

I wish I had red bows for the dog's collars and one of my grandma's heavy quilts with the World War II wool blankets in the center. She was a crochet artist, not a quilter, so hers were just big squares of material from old dresses and work shirts, stitched together for warmth, not beauty. If I had one now, I'd wrap up in it on the couch and call the dogs over to sit on either side of me. I'd read Joseph Mitchell's New York essays and drink Earl Grey and look at the snow falling on the skylight.

I don't, though. But I have a big red and blue quilt made by my Army friend, Michelle, for another birthday. She is a quilt artist, so it's lovely. I'll wrap up in it, then, and hold the dogs and read about the city until I can't stand it anymore and have to put my gnome boots back on to go walking up and down our road with my crooked-toothed companions in the snow, the snow, the snow!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Grandma, and Snow, and Lent

I was born in a record snowfall for Oklahoma. My parents weren't sure they'd make it to the hospital, but the ambulance had four-wheel drive and the helmsman steered us through. Thus was I born officially an Okie from Muskogee. And then I was taken back through the snow to our little house on the hill in Adair County. Sometimes my father and I run into that ambulance driver, and he remembers that I was the little baby who was born in the blizzard.

My grandmother wanted to name me after the snow, but nobody would let her. Even when I couldn't speak, she knew my heart and what I would like best. She always did, all her life, sometimes I think, even before I was thought about. We were alike in many ways. I loved many things about her but also her snow-colored hair and her skin the color of cream. Everything she had was white: Her Bible, her galoshes, the hammer she used to crack open walnuts, her gloves, which had rabbit fur inside them. She often wore pearls. She had the most gracious smile, and when I think of her, I see that...how she would lean it in on the person with whom she was speaking, as if that person was always on the verge of delighting her. Yet these things aren't even the surface of how I loved her.

But for the moment, I think of her because she wanted to name me after snow, my favorite weather, so I only tell you that part, and that she was the color of snow in every way.

She knew that snow is not even a weather; it is a state of being, one that was rare for me until I came here, and now it comes every few days and never quite melts all the way. I was thinking this morning as I walked the dogs through the slush that I am ungrateful for how constant it is. In Oklahoma or Italy or especially Mississippi, I would dream of snow that lasted longer than a week. That's all I asked for. Now I have snow that lasts for months, but I complain that it's not deep enough, that it melts in between, that it's not constant enough. I ask for too much.

My grandmother once built a snow-woman. It was her same height and had her hourglass figure. She ignored dishes, housework, all kinds of things, in order to stand out there and build her. Then she cut a line up the side of an old dress so she could put it on her. There is a picture of the two of them in the yard that sunny, cold day. People stopped by the house to comment on the snow-woman. Grandma talked about her every time it snowed after that, but she never built another one. That one memory was plenty, I guess. I hope so.

I don't know why I keep thinking about her. This entry was supposed to be about the fact that we FINALLY may have snow again -- big snow, but not lake-effect snow. I wished for it so hard on my birthday, and we got some last night and today. I hope we have so much more tonight, so much we can't get out of our houses, so much I must build a fire, so much my small dogs disappear when they jump off the porch. And so it is about that, what I want more of, I guess -- snow, and my grandma, who was its same color and who I loved more than winter, and who has been in Heaven now for many years.

In my rambly way, I come to how this all relates to Lent, I guess: That Lent is wanting desperately what it seems like you can't have -- a miracle, or a person or time that is gone, or for things to change or stay the same when ultimately, nothing ever does either one. The desire is Lent, but Easter is the hope of Heaven, when all those people will come wading across the river carrying daffodils and calling your name and saying, "Come with us! It's snowing over here!" At least, that's what they'll say to me. Lent is remembering that Easter will come, and Life is remembering that Death will, and Winter is remembering that Spring will. The first Easter was better than anyone could have imagined, like spring always is, like I'm sure death will be (as Walt Whitman said, and he's generally right).

And so I shouldn't hurry Lent or try to hold onto winter or waste my precious life. Everything comes in its time, and I'll always have plenty.

Still, I'm no saint, and I hope it snows so much I can't see out the windows in the morning, and that my life is long, and that people have to hunt Easter eggs in the snow this year.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

I love having a birthday at the end of February! So often, it means I get snow! This year I'm in the North Country where the snow is supposed to fall until Easter...and it wasn't even that cold today! But you want to hear something weird?

When Joe deploys, I like to have one of those block calendars with days that you tear off. I would NEVER wish time to move faster than it does, even during a deployment, but I do like having something interesting to look at every morning and an indication that he's made it through whole months. This deployment, I have a Mary Engelbreit calendar. I know she's not COOL, but I like a lot of her illustrations. Today, mysteriously, the illustration says, "Happy Birthday To You!" and has a picture of a girl holding a cake! Isn't that neat? Are y'all SURE I'm not God's favorite?

I had to work like the dickens (me and my students are collecting phrases like that at the moment) today...and when I wasn't actually teaching, I had meetings! Joe tried to call from Afghanistan and I couldn't take the call! I can't STAND that!! I hope he gets to try again! It's not as bad as when he had to wait for phones on other deployments; this time he has his own. I did text with him a bit...which is weird. I'm used to deployments with five-minute calls and questionable e-mail service!

I didn't get to do much special today, but I had a nice time. My students tried valiantly to perform what I asked of them, even though it was difficult. My co-workers gave me funny cards and birthday wishes. For dinner I had good bread with brie and grape tomatoes followed by Hagen Daaz Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream (my favorite!). I had many packages and birthday cards saved up, and I opened those too. I'm no good at sending cards and presents, and these were all so thoughtful that I felt both happy and guilty!

I took the dogs walking downtown in the slush, and since then, we have been drying out on the couch wrapped in blankets, watching Canada beat Germany in Olympic hockey. Niki is such a quiet little dog that earlier I forgot we had him and he startled me coming around the side of the couch! He's warm and sweet, and Tula seems to be adjusting. Their dog walker (I know, I know) said she thinks he'll be good for her. I hope so.

So now I am 35. And I live in New York, have a brave and good husband, write some things that get published, have my first book to review, and will be teaching World Literature in the fall. I'm very lucky.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Dog Woes

The new dog, Nikolas Almanzo, Niki for short, is causing very few woes, actually. He is well-behaved, loves having his hair brushed (thank goodness...he is like a tiny little collie for hair!), hasn't tried to mark in the house since the first few hours he was here, submits to Tula being the No. 1 dog, and is generally a sweet little doll.

But I worry that I have made a mistake in bringing him. Is he making Tula sad? It's hard to tell with a cocker spaniel. They always look sad.

She's not enjoying him, which I didn't expect right away. She's only actively mean to him when there are toys involved (more on that in a minute), but I worry that she will never like him and will always feel sad in her own home from now on. We decided to get a second dog because she is alone for so many hours during the week, but maybe she preferred that. We also decided to get the second dog because she seems to enjoy playing with some other dogs (not all of them, though! That's why we had to choose carefully.). And we also decided to get the second dog in the hope that it would teach her how to have better dog manners in general.

So, as I said, she is mostly nicer than anticipated. She lets Niki lay by us on the couch and bed, walks nicer with him on the leash than she does alone, and, amazingly, lets him eat and drink out of her bowls (and she returns the favor with his food and water). Also amazingly, I can sit them down next to each other and give treats without her trying to take his. Anyone who knows Tula knows that this is not an area where we might expect her to behave because she LOVES treats.

But Niki tries to play, tail wagging, and she growls and gets aggressive. Niki doesn't really offer to touch her toys, but I bought them some matching ones -- crooked toothed stuffed squeaky aliens for my crooked-toothed special dogs -- and Tula is absolutely awful when I bring them out. I have figured out a method by which I time their journeys to get the toys so that they are both running in opposite directions and not getting back to me at the same time (Niki has comically short legs and does not run very fast while Tula is a gun dog), and that sort of works, but Tula still growls and acts mean. If Niki happens near her, she goes after him, growling and barking (but so far, not trying to bite, thank goodness).

I know part of it is normal dog behavior, teaching him boundaries, but I don't know enough to tell when to stop it. Niki, for his part, does not participate. When she gets like that, he drops his toy and lays down far from Tula, looking the opposite direction. I think that's a pretty good new dog. It might just take Tula time to figure out he's not trying to horn in. After an episode like that, she'll sit there and hide her toy under her feet and growl at him. Then I take both toys away, which she hates but doesn't fight, until she is calm again. And when she's nice to him again, bacon treats come out.

It's only the first day, though. I just hope I'm doing the right thing, not reinforcing the wrong thing. And I hope it's okay to keep letting them eat out of each other's dishes.

When I try to read about what to do, I keep coming up with articles that say, basically, "You selfish person! Some dogs just like to live alone, and you shouldn't force them to do otherwise!" I wish someone would say, "This is normal dog behavior, and they'll learn to like each other eventually."

I have dog friends to ask, but I can't ask them because I'm fasting from Facebook for Lent. And I can't gripe about that because if you gripe...or even mention it, as I just have...you negate the effects of your fasting. Sigh. Like poor Niki, I am just trying to do the right thing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Dog Days of Winter

I felt like sleeping in this morning, but instead I drove almost three hours to Malone to pick up Nicky. And now, I can't look at what I'm typing because I have to watch him every second to make sure he isn't marking his territory in Tula's house. He hasn't been too bad about that, actually.

Seriously, though, I have to write quickly so I can watch him. I just wanted everyone to know he's at our house now, after our agonizing decison-making about him.

He's very sweet and furry. Tula hasn't been as bad as I expected, but she's no fan of his yet. She is a fan of the fact that every time she's nice to him I give her (and him, after her) tiny bites of bacon treats. She hasn't had them before. I hope she thinks Nicky brought them.

I'm worried now that he's here, though, because I always wanted a dog that looks like a DOG, like Tula does. Nicky is like a toy. But his saving grace is his teeth, which are not beautiful at all. He's long and low, and I never wanted that either. I wanted an elderly nondescript dog...twice I wanted that. Instead, I have a cocker spaniel and a Tibetan spaniel -- two dogs who look more like they'd be found in Victorian paintings than underneath a porch.

Except Nicky wouldn't be, I guess. His breed was started to guard Tibetan monasteries. No...he'd be a jade carving or something.

Either way, I'm here with two fancy little dogs who require hair appointments. But they are very warm on my feet.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Cookie: A Story of Lent

Today was so hectic, and I felt one step behind on everything I did!

And then, after a textbook meeting, my boss brought me one of the leftover chocolate chip cookies from the lunch the textbook company had provided. She's Catholic too. I said, "You do know it's Lent, don't you?" She said, "Yes, but I'm not fasting from sugar. Are you?" I am not. So I took the cookie with great joy.

It was a massive cookie, the size of my face. The chocolate chips were numerous, small, and high-quality. I could just imagine eating it with dinner later in the evening. The thought sustained me through my last classes of the day and the onslaught of students who needed to talk to me afterward.

I got home, dropped my bag, and went in to change out of my professional outfit into dog-walking clothes. In that short amount of time, Tula dug the cookie out of my bag and ate THE WHOLE THING, napkin and all!

As you might know, chocolate is bad for dogs. I'm always reading about how it can kill them. This is not Tula's first time eating it, though. She's eaten all kinds of poison things: chocolate, grapes, onions, narcissus bulbs. Somehow, she has managed to stay alive. But, they gravely inform me, the poisons in the these foods are waiting in her little kidneys to kill her later, the moment she eats just a little too much of the Forbidden Foods.

When your dog eats something poison, one easy thing you can do is feed her burnt toast. So I burnt some toast to black, smoking up the house so much I had to open windows. Then Tula turned her nose up at it. (She usually thinks it's a treat, but this is Canadian oat bread, so maybe she's just being patriotic for the Olympics.) She's finally eaten a little, and she seems no worse for the wear.

I just wonder if God had her eat my cookie because even though I'm not fasting from sugar I shouldn't be having little celebrations in the middle of Lent. He does, after all, work in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Because I do not hope to turn again...

It is Ash Wednesday, and I am finally home. I would have been home later had I stayed after services for Stations of the Cross and broken my fast at the soup dinner. But I have a small dog who waits for me, so I came home and walked her toward the lights of town in a quiet, puffy snow.

I finished work too late to get back to my own parish of St. Andrew, and that's how I ended up at St. Patrick's in Watertown. It's the big church, the huge Irish church, with colorful windows and murals of the doctors of the church in the cupola above the altar. I am never disappointed there and always awed by the gilt and stained glass when I first step inside.

The homily was about how we are not to brag or point out our Lenten sacrifices, for it we do, we have gotten our only reward of them -- not the forgiveness, the penance, the salvation, God's approval, but only the momentary recognition that we are doing something unusual. It's a cruel homily, and I hear it every year. It is cruel for this penitent anyway, because I would love for someone to ask why I have ashes on my head, why I'm not eating, "why so pale and wan, fond lover, prithee, why so pale?" I am as silly as the addressed in that poem because I like only the praise of fasting, not the sacrifice.

And so I come to this dilemma: I set about to chronicle my Lenten progress here, yet I must do it in a way that doesn't brag, or whine, or imply that I am proud of how difficult it is. And it is difficult, friends (and by "friends," I mean "Daddy," for he is the principle reader). I have given up Facebook and committed to at least one extra Mass, Stations or Holy Hour a week. That just ensures that I will crave my far-flung friends more than usual and have meetings at every hour of church for the next forty days. For this is how Lent works: What I cannot have, I crave incessantly.

But here is also how Lent works: I plant seeds at Ash Wednesday and hope they grow. So far, they always grow until I transplant them outside. But this year I have my own yard. The little seedlings won't always have to live in pots that are inevitably too shallow for things that want to reach down into the earth as far as they reach into the sky.

For weeks, the seeds are in the dirt and I can't see them. Then they poke out green or white or translucent threads, and then a stem, and then a leaf. ("A speck! A mist! A shape I wist!") And by Easter, they look like plants. And at Easter, I look more like myself too, because I've been underground, resting and contemplating how best to unfold myself toward the light.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras

I've never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I've been to Carnivale in Venice. I went with my husband, dressed in homemade costumes representing (in my case) "Spring" and (in his case) "The Old Man of the Woods." His was made of a duvet cover with a giant tree applique made from an old Army blanket on the back. Mine was made of flannel sheets and an old, gauzy flowered curtain. I bought all the stuff for about $1.50 at the post thrift store in Vicenza. We had a great time wandering around among the dressed-up people, and everyone wanted to take a picture with Joe. I often think about all the people in other countries who have my husband in their photo albums.

He wore his backpack underneath his costume so he had a humpback. French people kept rubbing it, which nearly got the first few of them clobbered with the crooked stick he carried as part of his costume. But finally, one who spoke English explained to him that it was good luck to rub the hump of a humpback. Who knew?

I'm sad I never went to Mardi Gras. I lived in south Mississippi, barely an hour from New Orleans, but I could never convince anyone to go with me. The people there weren't big fans of New Orleans for the most part, considering it a wild, dirty, dangerous place, and even worse on Mardi Gras because of all the drunken visitors. I wasn't about to go to Mardi Gras alone because that's a good way to disappear off the face of the earth, which would be selfish.

I did go to some small coast parades, though, and I had such a good time. I was never in Mississippi for Mardi Gras before Hurricane Katrina, but the year after, I found myself there, finishing my doctoral coursework in the spring semester. Joe was on his way from Italy to Oklahoma, where we would be stationed next, so he stayed with me for that week. Unbelievably, I convinced him to come down to some of the Coast parades. I'd been going for weeks at that point and had loved dancing and singing and wearing sparkly beads among the rubble with everyone else.

I'd asked to go to New Orleans, but he'd recently returned from Afghanistan and had no desire to enter a city he considered even more dangerous than the one he'd just left. So I asked for Mobile, but he'd just gotten off a plane from Italy, and the drive was far with jet lag. So I asked for the Coast, and he said yes.

We had such a good time that I wrote a detailed essay about it for my creative dissertation, and I don't want to rehash it here. I just want to tell you about this part: That morning, in the costumes I'd once again made for us, we ate at Cracker Barrel to celebrate the "Fat" part of Fat Tuesday. Bacon, eggs, biscuits, gravy, sausage...the word was "abundance." It was the first good time we'd had in ages, after the hurricane, the hard deployment, and a year of losing people and places we loved. We ate like kings, we danced like lords, we pulled coins out of the air and came home laden with jewels.

I'm in the North Country this Mardi Gras, and nobody here seems to realize what day it is. They are all weary with dirty snow and in no mood for celebrating. I think they feel like Lent is upon them from the first blizzard until spring. Joe is in Afghanistan again, but the cook at his camp used to be a chef at Belagio. He said the food is so good he doesn't even need me to send canned ravioli to sustain him.

So there is no parade for me, nor dancing unless I parade dancing down the street myself...which I may yet do. There is Cracker Barrel, though, and I'm going. I know some will say this food would be better if I made it myself, but I want no consequences -- no dishes, no leftovers, nothing but a plate appearing like magic before laden with pork and butter and all other things that break your heart for goodness. Tomorrow I'll miss them until Easter, and by then, maybe the sun will start coming out more regularly and the people up here will dance with me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lazy List Post

If I were a real blogger, I would be writing a really entertaining piece about my trip to New York City, from which I got home yesterday. Instead, I am giving you a list to update you on my doings and thinkings...

1. I went to New York City. This was my second trip there, and I love it even more. I walked all over it with a friend from grad school and also covered a show at Fashion Week for a newspaper. The Fashion Week description really does deserve its own blog post. Maybe later. Anyway, it was a lot of work, mostly -- but good work. The most fun part of my trip was the walking around Greenwich Village and Chelsea and visiting with my friends at their beautiful apartment in Inwood.

2. New York City had lots of snow the day before I arrived, but it was mostly swept up by the time I got there. All the people were freezing, but I was not. I'm becoming acclimated to the North Country apparently. If it's above 10 degrees, I feel pretty good.

3. It snowed a little here today, but not much. It was light, fluffy, quiet snow. Sigh.

4. I may get Dog Two this coming weekend. We'll see. I'm awaiting news about his messed-up jaw from the vet. I don't want to take on a dog I know I can't afford at the outset. (I realize dogs can get expensive once you've gotten them, but that's different.) He's a sweet little dog. His name is Nicky, and he's a Tibetan Spaniel. He had a run-in with a pit bull awhile ago, so he has a little wired together jaw and teeth that all stick out. He's no show dog! But he has a dear little personality and let Tula boss him around when we visited him at his shelter.

5. I'm behind on housework and teaching work, but I can't seem to make myself do either one. I just keep sitting on the couch watching the Olympics. The only reason I'm writing this now is that I took Tula for a walk, breaking my Olympics haze. I should take advantage of that and not turn the television back on, but I fear I won't have the discipline. We'll see.

6. I wish I had some ice cream.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I haven't been writing much lately because the first two weeks of school have been incredibly hectic. I just got back from a poetry reading in Syracuse (Santee Frazier), and it is past my bedtime, so I'll make this short:

The Groundhog saw his shadow, but it doesn't feel like winter is going to keep on! My icicles are dripping! My snow is muddy and melted into a thin sheet of ice on top! But at least the lake is still frozen. This morning there were 24 ice fisherman holes out there.

I am traveling next week, so of course I don't want snow then. But after that, I pray for even just one more regular blizzard. It doesn't even have to be a bad one...I just want a little howling wind full of snow, and one more chance to not be able to see across the road, and one more set of days in which everything is the same color -- pavement, mud, grass -- a set of days with no edges.

And also I want to ice skate outside and cross country ski around campus (in the works!) and snowshoe (still can't find anyone willing) and go snowboarding for my birthday (I have two friends willing to join me so far!).

But mostly, I just want snow. I came here to the land of mist and snow, but it's the land of just a little snow, and just a little mist. I realize this is an unusual winter for them, but I don't have many available, so selfishly, I wish it was a normal winter with huge drifts and dangerously cold air. I don't mean to complain. At least we still have snow. My cousin was just in Texas and it was 60 degrees. And we had a few little flakes this morning. Maybe we'll have more after awhile.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snow Etiquette

This morning I had such a good time walking to Mass...and then the "Love is patient, Love is kind" verses were the second reading, and we sang "Here I Am, Lord," both things that remind me of my brave husband. And after Mass, we had chocolate cake, two kinds of brownies, cinnamon rolls and glazed blueberry muffins -- all homemade. The Lord is good.

But that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about snow etiquette.

I walked to Mass in some pretty good snow, and I walked home in a little snow also. But by the time I settled in with my lunch, we had such serious snow that I couldn't even see across the road to the house of the people from Bartlesville! (Yes, the people who just moved in across the street happen to be from Bartlesville. Small world, isn't it?)

I was transported.

And of course I wanted to go out in it. It seemed selfish to go out without Tula, so I put her little leopard-print fleece coat on her and out we went. But once I got out there, I began to worry, as I always do when there is new snow, that we were breaking some kind of rule. When we walk in the deep, fluffy snow, we make tracks. I know my neighbors gripe about the snow non-stop, but surely they find it beautiful. And surely our tracks mess it up for them. So I walked her around our own yard only and when her legs began to shiver, I brought her back in.

Then I went back outside, choose a good spot, fell down backwards and made a snow angel. It's been a long, long time since I did that. And I'm better at it now than I was the last time, maybe because this time I know there's enough snow to actually cushion the fall and not a hidden rock under there. I could have laid in the yard like that, watching the snow, for longer, but I didn't want my neighbors to think I'd had an event and feel that they should leave their fireplaces, bundle up, and come to save me.

Anyway...I'm leaving the topic: Snow etiquette. Is it neighborly to walk on the sidewalks when the snow is beautiful and new, or should you stay in until you actually have to go out to keep it in its pristine condition? Is it neighborly to shovel past your own house, or is it up to other people if they want the sidewalk in front of their house shoveled? The same goes for the snow-blower. I don't mean once this snow has stopped; then, I think everyone appreciates it. But is letting it be pretty until that moment comes the correct behavior?

It's not very cold now that we have snow again. My two-houses-down neighbor may come over to show me how to work the snow-blower. I have a secret: I kind of regret the snow-blower now, because I don't WANT my snow out of the yard! I like walking through the tall snow on the sidewalk and up the walkway. I like not knowing where the stairs end because the snow comes all the way up to the door.

On the other hand, I know not everyone likes it. And I'm not a good shoveler. So if he comes and I learn to snow-blow the sidewalk all the way to his house (because he likes to snow-blow from his house to the house of the next guy with a cool snow-blower), I will be glad. And all the Sackets Harbor dogs will have a path to walk, which means the little ones will be able to walk longer.

I'm rambling, but another thing: Is it good etiquette to rejoice in the snow when all around you your neighbors are hating it? I'm trying to hold back a little, but it's hard. I love this snow, and there is never enough, and it can't possibly outlast my enjoyment of it, no matter what they say!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Water, water everywhere...

If you don't know the poem that inspired the title of this blog and many of its posts, you might think the title of today's post means that something flooded at my house, or perhaps that the melting continues. But if you DO know the poem, you know differently. (And you are probably my father.)

"Water, water everywhere / and all the boards did shrink. / Water, water everywhere /nor any drop to drink."

And that was my experience this morning: Water in the form of snow all over the yard. Water in the form of icicles dripping from the eaves. I raise the lever to turn on the kitchen faucet at 7 a.m. -- a tiny trickle, and then no more water!

So the whole morning and afternoon were spent bewailing the situation, calling my father, and looking up stuff on the internet that told me I was done for and would soon be paying a plumber in gold and pints of my own blood.

I called the village water guy. He came out immediately.

We have a terrible crawlspace. At least you can get to it from inside the house, but once inside, you have to crouch down. There is no light down there. It's cold. It's dark. It's dirty. When we had the flooding, all the guys who came would make the same sad sound upon witnessing it, then they would go down there and start cursing under their breath, and then start whistling. Maybe whistling made them feel better.

Anyway, this man also whistled while he was down there. Then he came up and told me the pipes were frozen. He said I'd done the right thing in turning the heater up to 85 (thanks About.com), but if they didn't unfreeze after awhile, I should call a plumber. He didn't recommend going down there to thaw them myself, thank goodness.

I called the plumber and left a message. Ten minutes later, I tried the water, just in case, and it had come back. Now that's a good plumber: I just had to invoke his name and the problem was fixed!

I called him back and told him never mind, and I could almost hear the sigh of relief all the way in Sackets Harbor (he lives in Watertown). Nobody likes going down in that dungeon.

And so now, here I am. My faucets are dripping. I have bought candles, fire starter logs, a battery-powered lantern so I won't have to hold a flashlight up if the lights go out and I want to read (because yes, folks, I am that lazy). I am ready for a blizzard, and hopeful that one will come. We are supposed to have snow tomorrow night. I hope "the north wind doth blow and we shall have snow. And what shall poor robin do then, poor thing? She'll fly in the barn to keep herself warm and hide her head under her wing, poor thing." But not this bird. This albatross will bundle up and go out in it because she knows it won't last forever.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Five-Minute Blog List

1. There is something they call The January Thaw, and it happened. We could see the grass! It was awful!

2. And then, Joe left for Afghanistan. Fortunately, it started to snow right when I left him and snowed for a few days.

3. But today, it stopped snowing and the sun came out. It is still so cold the inside of your nose freezes, but the snow, somehow, seems to be melting.

4. We are supposed to have a hockey game on the lake this weekend, but I'm not sure the lake is frozen enough for that anymore. I was really looking forward to it.

5. Oh my gosh, I was going to go to Holy Hour, and it's in 30 minutes! I just realized what time it is! Do I still want to go? Not really, but I might anyway.

And that's the news...

Friday, January 22, 2010


It's cold, sort of, but the snow is melting! It's so sunny that my office at school, which has a south-facing window, is uncomfortably hot. The sun is pretty on what's left of the snow, but there's not much left. I don't like this!

But I do like how happy it makes my colleagues and neighbors.

Selfishly, I wish I'd wake up to a blizzard. I want too be snowed in, iced in, immobile.

But it feels like spring! I can see grass. And mud everywhere.

They tell me February usually has big snow. Even March, sometimes. I've heard of hunting for Easter eggs in snow here. I suppose I believe them. Even Oklahoma has big February snow. That's why I'm glad I was born in that month.

Today I was invited to visit the motherhouse of our school's chaplain, who is a nun and also teaches Early Childhood Education classes. I've always, always wanted to visit a convent. She invited me to eat dinner there, with the 30 nuns, and visit their chapel. So, snow or not, I do have something to look forward to.

(Don't you wish I'd get snowed in at the convent?)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Walking on Water

My husband had a long weekend this week (we're still on it, in fact), and I hoped, as always, for adventure. But if an adventure doesn't involve shooting guns, he's not too into it. So we've been home, and there has been much reading and sleeping and watching movies. I think that's good, though. He won't have much more of that soon, and it's what makes him feel best.

But last night, magically, he agreed to join me and Tula on our evening walk downtown. Sackets Harbor is very pretty at night in the snow. We have faux-historic streetlights designed to glow softly as if they have flames inside, and they still have white Christmas lights wrapped around them also, as does the gazebo at the lake. Even though the snow is (sadly) melting, in the dark it still looks nice.

When we got to the lake, there were twinkling lights all across it, the crunching sounds of sleds being dragged across the ice, the voices of fishermen. And so we decided to walk our dog on the lake.

We didn't walk out far, even though the fishermen were spread all the way to Pillar Point (the village on the other side). So had we fallen through, we would have only been up to our hips or lower. But there was no way we were falling through. The lake has to be frozen at least five feet, Joe said.

It's a very strange thing to walk on a lake you've watched boats on all summer, for the boats to still be standing there, in fact, moored and with their masts clanging in the breeze. We were quiet, walking, though. You don't want to disturb fishermen, and I assume that means ice fishermen also.

Tula didn't know the difference. She smelled around in the snow out there and kept her footing even though there were places that were a little slick. But it wasn't as slick as I expected. There is still a little snow on it, so that gives traction. Sometimes I worried that I could fall through, but then I'd look over and notice the tracks where someone had ridden a four-wheeler out to his ice hut.

It was every bit as exciting as I expected, but I don't have the right words for it this morning. Still, I wanted you to know.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The ice did split with a thunder fit, the helmsman steered us through

I knew this day would come, but I hoped it wouldn't be so soon. No, Joe has not deployed. Tula has not died of eating something poison.

The snow has begun to melt.

It is 38 degrees, and I am HOT. The walkway is concrete, water and mud. I can once again see the doormat. Ice fisherman count: zero. Because the middle of the lake is water. The sidewalks are slush. I found someone's keys that had been lost in the snow because the snow melted away from them. They were in front of the pizza place, which was closed. I took them to the post office, and the woman there is going to put them in the pizza place mailbox with a note because she said they look like the restaurant keys.

The icicles have fallen off the house, and I didn't even get to hear the crash. I must have been asleep.

It's supposed to be above freezing for the next two days, so I figure we'll be rowing ourselves back and forth to town. The next chance of snow we have is next weekend, and it's only a 30 % chance and only for a little snow.

This is terrible! I was told we'd freeze in until April! Is it my lack of faith that has caused this warming?

Another terrible thing about the thaw is that it uncovered Tula's favorite morning walk treat: Poison berries. So I had to stop and fish them out of her mouth every few blocks while wearing mittens -- pleasant for neither of us. She was just so glad to see them again.

But now she's racing around with wet legs, which caused her to have a dramatic, whirling wreck with the recyling bin in the kitchen. I'm sitting here trying to get up and go to work. My boots are soaking wet. My coats are too hot.

We need a blizzard!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice

Our snow is still here, but there is no new snow.

I went to work today, to be trained as an advisor and prepare for the semester's classes. When I was leaving, I said, "See you tomorrow!" to the department secretary, and she said, "Maybe...Check the weather!" I wish it was because a blizzard was coming, but no: Ice.

I love snow. I love to look at ice. I do not love ice. Ice is dangerous. It hides. It trips you. It spins you.

On the other hand, it is what we skate on. It is what the ice fishermen fish on. It's what makes us able to walk across the lake.

But I don't like when it falls out of the sky. Unlike snow, ice hurts.

So, I hope I get to go to school tomorrow, drink tea out of my office cup, make my syllabi and lesson plans, eat candy with the secretary, get things done. I don't get things done at home. I blog. :)

But the ice may thwart me. We'll see.

I hope they are wrong. I hope it snows instead. We are running low.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Do I Love Cocker Spaniels...

Let me count the ways...

1. They are beautiful to look at. I never thought I would care about that part of owning a dog, but it is gratifying to see a very elegant dog lying on the couch or running through the yard or trying to sneak onto the table to eat leftovers.

2. They are soft. That is actually the reason I wanted a dog in the first place. I was in the final throes of my dissertation when we got Tula. All my life seemed like hard angles and difficult things and guilt. Cocker spaniels are soft of fur and even of make; when you pick them up, they just fold up into a mass of curly fur like they don't have bones.

3. Their hair is fun to comb. I originally said "No dog who requires grooming!" But it turns out that, although I hated Barbies and other dolls whose hair needed combing, I love combing my dog's ears. It is satisfying to see her looking nice afterward, and it's even a fun challenge to convince her to let me keep doing it. I love how silky her ears get.

4. Every time you go to the groomer, you get a new dog. Seriously. We take her in a shaggy dog with whiskers, and she comes out a show dog. Or a skinny, spotted little shorn dog. Either way, it's like having a new dog every few months so we are never bored!

5. People stop me in the street to tell me my dog is beautiful. Again, this is something that shouldn't matter, and it doesn't -- but it is an extra perk. I'd planned on having a non-descript dog, but we got Tula. Now, I get to walk down the street saying, "Thank you! Yes, we love her." over and over.

6. Hers a sweet baby dogga! And that's an example of the new language we have developed. We only talk to cocker spaniels like that, so it must be the cocker spaniel language. The bad thing is that we sometimes talk in cocker spaniel for no reason, when there is no cocker spaniel with us. But it's funny.

7. They are fun, but hard, to take care of. I wanted a nondescript, healthy, boring dog who required little of me, but I got a cocker spaniel. They are not for everyone. They have to go to the vet for ear medicine quite often (about every 4-6 months in our case) and to the groomer about every other month. I thought I would HATE a dog like that, but it turns out that I like maintaining her many needs.

8. They aren't crazily hyperactive. At least ours is not. She sleeps about 16 hours a day. She'll play if we want to play. Sometimes she'll bring us toys because she wants to play. But for the most part, she just wants to lay around. Much like us.

9. They are smart. At least ours is. It was so easy to teach her to shake hands, sit, stay, roll over. I ought to teach her more things, but I don't know how. I'm not good with dog pedagogy.

10. They are just the right size. They aren't so small that they don't seem like real dogs, but they aren't so big that you have to have a huge house and yard for them. They are substantial, but not cumbersome.

11. They don't shed much. I thought for sure they would because they have so much hair, but ours doesn't. Of course, we keep her groomed pretty well. When she does shed, twice a year, she sheds in clumps instead of millions of hairs all over the place, and that's easy to clean up.

12. They are easy to please. At least Tula is, and I hear most are like this. Give her food, she's happy. Especially if it's your food.

13. They could be useful dogs. They were originally bred as bird dogs, and most can still do that work with the right training. I won't be hunting birds with mine, but it's nice to know I could have if I'd wanted to.

Five-Minute Blog: Dog Trails

One of the cutest things about living in this much snow is that everywhere I can see where dogs have been. Sometimes that is gross, but I don't mean the yellow snow. I mean their little footprints. There is an empty lot a few houses down from us, and it is criss-crossed with dog tracks. Some are so small the dogs must have been up to their bodies in snow (like our dog, Tula). Some are huge, and I think they come from the village's many big dogs.

Since this is a blog and I can ramble with impunity, let me get off on a side note: This village has really fancy dogs. I have never seen a dog here that I would call a "mutt." Some aren't purebred, but all are identifiable breeds. We even have some unusual ones: Near our old apartment was a house where three very cute French bulldogs lived. Someone around our neighborhood walks a Swiss Mountain Dog. There is a couple near the American Legion that has two Boxers. There's a house on the next block with two Westies. Our neighbor has a Pomeranian and a Labrador Retriever. Even we have a Cocker Spaniel. And the new people who just moved in at the end of the street and didn't even know about the Sackets Harbor Fancy Dog Rule just got a Springer Spaniel puppy.

But I guess you can expect this from a village that hosts a dog show.

We are thinking about getting a second dog. We've been thinking about it for a year. We do not make impulsive dog decisions. Our parents tell us we should not get a second dog, but we may ignore them. Joe's mother doesn't mind the idea of a second dog because she worries that Tula is lonely while we are at work. They have good, rational reasons for not wanting us to get a second dog: 1. It would be more expensive. 2. It would take up more room. 3. We'd have to board two dogs when we went anywhere. 4. Sometimes two dogs get into trouble. 5. The new dog may teach our good dog Tula bad habits.

Here are the reasons we may want the second dog, though:

1. It's kind of fun to spend money on a dog. I don't know why that is, but it's satisfying. We have good jobs, so we can afford it. Anyway, Tula doesn't cost that much, and she's a cocker spaniel, the most high maintenance dog there is. (In fact, I'm taking her to the vet today because I think she has an ear infection.)

2. It's fun to watch dogs interact. Unless we get our own dog, we will never see this because all my English-teaching friends have cats. (We'd have cats too if Joe wasn't allergic to them.) We barely like making friends as it is, much less making friends so our dogs could play.

3. A second dog might make Tula's weekdays more pleasant. She's alone for about eight hours while I'm at work. (Except for the middle of the day, when the dog walker -- yes, I said it -- dog walker comes to visit her.)

4. A second dog might make Tula's whole life more pleasant. Right now, she only has us, and we don't speak dog. We think about when we lived in Italy. I LOVED speaking Italian, but it was a struggle, even once I got relatively proficient. I couldn't ever say exactly what I meant, and I had to listen really hard to the other speaker. When Joe was gone and I spent a few days only speaking Italian, it was (I hate to admit) a relief to speak English on post or with the Nigerian peddlers who came around selling socks. Sometimes I think having a second dog would give Tula that feeling of speaking her own language, of being able to say entirely what she means.

5. Sleeping with Tula is my favorite part of having a dog. She is warm, and she is also very sweet to see first thing in the morning. It seems like two dogs to sleep with would be twice as warm and twice as sweet.

6. Tula may be a spoiled little pill. I'm not sure because we seldom have a dog with whom to compare her. It seems like a second dog would keep us from spoiling Dog 1 and making her bad. (For the record, we have different ways of spoiling Tula: Joe spoils her by giving her treats whenever she looks pitifully at him. I spoil her by carrying her to bed so she doesn't have to wake up.)

We are looking at a dog in Saratoga County. His name is Harris, and he is a pitiful black cocker spaniel. I'm going to e-mail his shelter today and ask more about him before we drive three hours to see a DOG. It's a scary thing to think about getting the second dog, though. What if we are wrong? What if the second dog makes us all miserable?

But what if he doesn't?

So, we may be making two sets of dog prints through the snow soon. We'll see.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ice Capades

All my life I have wanted to ice skate, but I am from rural Oklahoma. Not many people skate there. You'd think I would have tried it the minute I learned to drive, but I didn't. I don't know why. I love it -- watching it, reading about it, the very thought of what it might be like.

Mostly, I love women's figure skating, but I also like speed skating and ice dancing. I do not particularly like hockey, but I appreciate it (and I got to see Sweden vs. Latvia at the Olympics in Torino when I lived in Italy!). Anyway, I always imagined there would come a time when I would put on white leather ice skates with delicate silver blades and glide along like a ballerina in a fantasy sequence, my hair in a bun, my eyelashes long and glittery, my hands poised and beautiful and my whole self ethereal and perfect.

Finally, today, I got to try it! Of course I did not glide. I did not even wear white leather figure skates. The guy at the skate rental window suggested that we wear hockey skates for our first time out because they give you more ankle support, have wider blades, and don't have the tricky little grinding thing at the toe that causes inexperienced skaters to fall on their faces.

He was so smart. The hockey skates were not delicate and beautiful. In fact, they were black and clunky. But, amazingly, after a trip around the rink clinging to the rails, I started to figure out what to do. Mostly. All the things I'd read about figure skating as a 12-year-old and all the things I'd watched the other skaters on the rink do came together, and I was able to at least stay upright and moving, even around the corners.

I feared false confidence, and so I tried to focus on what I was doing at every moment. But sometimes I would forget, and for a minute I'd just be skating. Then I'd be amazed that I was ice skating! Then I would remember to pay attention. But I would forget again and skate. In my imagination, I was moving along smoothly, but when I dared to check my reflection in the plexiglass hockey walls, I looked stiff and uncertain. So I quit checking and imagined I looked at least like a person not worth watching, an okay skater, someone having a casual day on the ice.

Joe was a good skater, of course. He's good at everything, and he's also brave. He went out away from the rail after awhile, even out to the middle where there was nothing to grab if he started to fall. He didn't love ice skating as much as I did, but he didn't complain. He said he can see how it would be fun if you were able to go really fast. I'm sure he'd be able to go fast with just a little more practice. I don't know if I can convince him to skate again, though.

I am very sad to find out that the ice rink is only open until March. I don't see why it can't be open all year, but I figure it closes because people here get tired of ice really quickly. Once there is not ice outside, they probably don't want to see it inside either. Anyway, I'm going to try to take advantage of the rink while it is open. I'm thinking about hiring a teacher so I can learn the basics of figure skating. I don't have to do jumps. I'd be happy with the very least of the things the ice dancers do -- going around the rink on one leg with my arms open joyously to the world: That would be good.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow Anxiety

Some girls have really bad luck with guys. They fall in love, get their hearts broken, fall in love, get their hearts broken, fall in love, etc. Understandably, when they finally find the good, right person for them, they can't relax and enjoy the love because they keep thinking it will be yanked out from under them.

I have been luckier than those girls. With one glaring exception, I have only ever been loved by gentlemen, and I've been the heartbreaker more than the heartbreakee (which is no fun either, but that's for another, more serious blog that will never be written).

Anyway, what I mean to say is that I'm like those unlucky girls when it comes to this snow. I am from eastern Oklahoma. When we get snow, it's a big event. But two days later, it's gone -- turned to mud, and in the evening, dangerous black ice. In Oklahoma, you can't waste a moment of your precious snow because it'll be gone in a few days. Every year, this happens --the heartbreak of the snow melting before I've really gotten to enjoy it. And some terrible years, the snow never arrives.

So, like the girl who can't believe "I'll love you forever," I can't believe, "This snow is going to last until April." And, like those poor girls, I become clingy and neurotic with the snow.

Every morning I look out the blinds to see if it's still there. And when it is, I am happy and surprised. This morning, I am even happier and more surprised because not only is the snow still there, but more is coming down!

But here's where I turn into the heartbroken girls again: It's not enough. The snowflakes seem really small and sparse. I'm standing in almost knee-deep snow, in probably 19 degree weather, worrying that these little flakes won't be enough to sustain it. I went out to the lake and worried because I saw no ice fishermen. Was my first thought, "Oh, the ice fishermen aren't college professors, so they are probably at work here in the middle of the week"? No. My first, neurotic thought was, "The lake is melting! Nooooo!!!"

Every day that I don't go walking in the snowy woods, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or any of the other things you do in snow, I am certain I've lost my only chance for it. I look out the window all day and monitor the state of the icicles on my eaves. When they start dripping, my first instinct may be to write bad poetry in a journal with skulls on the cover, since I can't call the snow every ten minutes and ask if we're okay.

The people here don't understand this relationship, naturally. True love is always misunderstood. They take their snow for granted. They snowblow it. They curse it. They move away to Florida for the winter. But I know our relationship is fleeting. One day, I'll be back in the land of black ice and sleet, and this snow will keep on falling every winter like it never knew me. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wasting the Snow

For some reason, I have just wasted so much time ever since we got back to NY. I've spent two whole days just sitting around, going on Facebook, reading this and that...I'm running out of Christmas break, and I need to take advantage of what little time I have left before the onslaught of students.

Today, I was going to walk out to the lake, play some music, maybe go to town and take my library books back, find the new yoga studio, see what the snow in Watertown looks like...But all I've done today is take Tula walking out to the lake. And read, get on Facebook, put some laundry in, put some dishes in the dishwasher, a little housecleaning of various sorts...the house looks like I haven't touched it, but I have. Nothing I do seems to make a difference.

The lake was interesting, though. There were two ice fishing huts on it, and some of the guys had ridden out to theirs on a four-wheeler. There were several guys on the lake -- about six that I could see, but there may have been more in the huts. They were talking, walking here and there like they weren't on Lake Ontario. It's so neat to me that the lake freezes that hard. I will walk out on it myself one of these days, when I'm sure that's a good idea and I don't have Tula with me. I'm waiting until a local person tells me I should do it.

I'm told they haul houses over the ice of the St. Lawrence River. I want to go watch that very much. I'm not sure how you find out when it's happening, though. Nor am I sure where I go to learn how to cross-country ski. I want to do that too.

They tell me this snow will last until April, but every morning, I look out to see if it's melted. I guess I'm used to Oklahoma snow, which messes with your heart by disappearing overnight. Cold is bearable when there is snow. Muddy, icy cold is not fun.

The Army has been keeping Joe at work until 7 p.m. since we got here, so I have the whole day in which to do things, but I don't have him to play with in the evening. He gets home just in time to eat dinner and go to bed. So I need to use the days wisely, and I haven't been. To be fair, I am sick and don't feel like running around much. (It's not a real sickness; I've been to the doctor. I have medicine. I'll be well in a few days.) But I could use them to clean house, to play guitar, write songs, write books...instead I wander from thing to thing, and none of it is satisfying. I want to be out in the snow and not feel guilty about my lonely little dog.

But I can't do that tomorrow. Tomorrow, I have adviser training at school. It's good, though, that I have something that reminds me I ought to be making lesson plans instead of sitting around. And Friday, I have no work.

Today is the day La Befana comes with presents for the children of northern Italy. It is the day me and Joe usually celebrate instead of Christmas, because there is no sacred moment during the actual Christmas break. But he's at work late, and we knew he would be. So, no plans. I'll make some soup, and we'll celebrate this weekend if he feels like it.

I sound like I'm complaining, but I don't mean to. You should SEE our snow. It's amazing. I hope it stays until summer!