An aspirational shoe post

Two months ago (time flies), Elizabeth Anne Mitchell got me to look at Crockett and Jones shoes, which are beautiful and expensive. Now I’ve found the site of Daphne Board, a US shoe artist and pedorthist. Also, it appears from her Instagram feed, a cat servant. Anyway, if C&J aren’t beautiful and expensive enough for you, check out Daphne. Or maybe, if you need to justify a pair of C&J shoes, look at how much more you could spend. Wouldn’t it be better to save the extra $400 you might lay out for Daphne’s welted Oxfords? And back on the first hand, consider what you spend on not-quite-right shoes. Could you clear out the ones you’re not wearing in favor of shoes you’ll wear all the time . . . for twenty years?

I’m thinking. The Chacos are good for now. I got a pair of their sandals, as well. If those will keep me out of shoe stores for three years or so, then maybe I’ll splurge on the Oxfords of my dreams.

After the Zoo

The Kalamazoo* experience varies, from year to year. Sometimes I have to take piles of grading along and retreat to my hotel room to grade. Other years I’m all done. Once (I think only once) I took piles of books and completed my paper just before I had to give it. Sometimes I get all energized to do research but come home to piles of grading before I can get back to writing, and sometimes I ought to be energized but am so worn out from the conference that it takes a week to recover.

I never manage to write about the conference during it. Afterwards, it seems like the proper/expected version goes “I heard inspiring papers, made new connections for an innovative collaboration, and now I’m going to do fantastic things with my summer.” Or maybe, “I heard fantastic papers, made inspiring connections, and now I’m going to do innovative things with my summer.” Pick your adjectives.

This year my adjective was “tired.” I didn’t sleep well, I spent lots of time rushing around, I pretended to have a better time than I was having (because I didn’t want to be a downer, and really I have nothing to complain about, except being tired and having too many things going on). Bardiac introduced herself and we had a nice chat. I did hear good papers, though I wish I’d been in a better headspace to concentrate on them and think about their significance. I had dinner with what are now the usual suspects on Saturday, and that was delightful. Rather than meeting new people, I mostly re-connected with old friends. I do not need any new projects, innovative or not; I need to finish some of my old ones. I bought 11 books, a fairly modest number, and left the conference cross because a paper I thought ought to have cited my work, didn’t. (It’s a conference paper; one doesn’t include all the footnotes in oral presentations.)

Once I got home, I slept straight through the night (which for me is a minor miracle) and got up at dawn to file grades. Then I started taking notes on something I have to read for the book project that I have been neglecting, and produced 800 words. Being cross may be a better spur to work than more exalted forms of inspiration.

My plan for the next few weeks is to put in one hour of research time per day, and after that hour, focus on Life Stuff, most especially packing, repairing, and doing whatever we need to do to sell this house. So it is not a good sign that I am still at my desk at this late-morning hour. I’d rather be here, I’d rather focus on the work, but in the long run, the work will be better served by a living situation that doesn’t need so much attention. I suppose that’s innovative, in its way.

 

*International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University.

Favorites do wear out

I have long recognized that when shopping, I really only notice what I already have at least one of. I have several copies of the same dress in multiple colors. I have half a dozen different grey sweaters (pullover, round neck; pullover, v-neck; dark merino cardigan; pale grey cashmere cardigan; asymmetrical zip merino cardigan; long open cardigan, Oxford grey). I likewise have cashmere cardigans in several colors; jeans in multiple colors (more likely to have decent pockets than “dress” trousers); and, of course, at least half a dozen black skirts in different fabrics, lengths, and degrees of formality.

Possibly my favorite and most-worn skirt ever is among those: washable black silk crepe, mid-calf length, flowing, pocketed. I bought it when I was in graduate school, from a small shop in Hill Town, on sale at a price that was still high for me, then, but price per wear must have amortized to something outrageously low over the years. If it has faded to charcoal, it’s no less a workhorse for being somewhat paler than it once was: see above for my love of grey sweaters. It dresses up, it dresses down, it has accompanied me on multiple trips to London town (and other cities). And after the last trip, it had somehow acquired stains that I have not succeeded in removing. I’m going to let a dry cleaner have at it, but I am not optimistic. I do not know where I will ever find a replacement for this one. Despite my tendency to buy multiples or different versions of the same garment, I’ve never found another skirt as versatile and wearable as this one.

I had hoped to wear it to a formal-ish occasion coming up, but I’m going to have to find something else, possibly out of a box that’s already packed.

I’d welcome recommendations for a replacement. Also stories of your favorite clothing pieces or types.

Feminist husband

We went to sign our tax return. The papers came out of the envelope, and I started to look at the numbers. Sir John began to read at the top of the page, and said, “That’s not this woman’s name.”

Despite my nom de blogue, IRL I use the name I was born with, legally, personally, professionally. Sure enough, though that name was all over all the paperwork we left with the accountant (a firm we have used before), I was identified by my husband’s name on every form filled in for 2016. So we didn’t sign. They’ll have to re-do the forms and we’ll go back again.

I am amused that Sir John noticed before I did.

The Battle of the Bellflower continues

(I swear I’ve wandered into Emma Newman’s Split Worlds, and am caught up in a nasty feud with the Campanulas.)

I finally got around to tackling the lawn. Well, I mowed it, anyway, and did some digging in the bare bits preparatory to re-seeding, and then I had a go at the unfamiliar broad-leafed weeds that had cropped up, which I thought might be courtesy of the birds scattering seed.

But no. The unfamiliar broad leaves seem to be what happens when very old, rather dried-out bellflower roots decide that they’re not dead yet and start putting out new roots and leaves. So now there are much larger divots in the lawn than there were before, and I regret mowing before digging because the damned stuff regenerates from fragments and it’s probably like morcellating tumors and there will be new little plants all over in short order.

There are moments when I can recognize how irrational I’ve become on the topic of creeping bellflower. After a digging session, I dream about its roots. They branch and grow before my dreaming eyes. I am awed by its ability to transmogrify; it manages to look like other plants it grows near, at least for a time when it’s young: clematis, violets, coneflower. Eventually it gives itself away, but it can rouse doubt for long enough to put down good roots. If this goes on long enough, I will suspect roses, peonies and zinnias of being bellflower in disguise. It even sprouted under a thick layer of pine needles under a pine tree, which I expected would provide a strong disincentive for any plant to grow.

Grrr, there go, my heart’s abhorrence.

Keep it for yourself

“I very much dislike prepared or repeated speech . . . . [When] prompted, ‘Do tell him about . . .’ I find an incident that was once true has become with telling both dead and abhorrent, and as if false. I lose much for myself by telling other people. . . . A factor moving in one’s thoughts is more vital, more powerful, than when it is exteriorised. This of course applies also to my writing. I can never again see hoar frost with surprised rapture since I put it into words in Yew Hall.”

L. M. Boston, Memory in a House ((New York: Macmillan, 1973), 122-3.

Another dispatch

I will modify my complaints about the (lack of) effect of RoundUp on creeping bellflower. It depends on how well established the plant is. One thoroughly drenched plant in a crack in the sidewalk is now looking dead as a doornail, and a good thing, too, since I am not going to take a sledgehammer to the path to the garage in order to dig out that plant. I expect it was a relatively recent sprout from seed. Various other patches are still flourishing like the deadly sins, looking green, bushy, and smug. Those, I bet, have huge deep roots that are going to be a bugger to dig up.

I have now dug out the patch of bellflower by the clematis. I delayed tackling that because I was reluctant to risk killing the clematis (one purple, one red-violet, both glorious). That was where I started carefully painting the poison onto the leaves of the demon plants. I think I spritzed them twice after that, and they still looked . . . not healthy, but certainly not dead. When I dug, I found that while there were some new, plump, happy roots that had clearly sprouted recently, I was also able to dig out a great quantity of large old roots, many of which seemed rather sickly compared to the roots I dug out of a different bed last year. So the herbicide has some effect, and maybe if I just kept spraying it would eventually do the job. But I don’t trust bellflower not to come back, or develop a resistance, or something. So the digging continues. However, I feel somewhat more optimistic about the possibility that I really will be able to get rid of Campanula rapunculoides. Eventually.

I do hope I haven’t killed the clematis. I tried not to hurt it, but a lot of its roots were exposed for awhile, and I broke some. When I finished, I reburied its roots and gave it a drink. If it survives my excavations, I’m sure it will be happier not to be competing for resources with the invading Siberian.

No news is good news?

I feel like I should update the blog, but nothing much is going on. Still grading, still digging up bellflower, still neglecting research to make time to de-clutter/pack up the house, which is still going very slowly (because grading, commuting, exercising, and gardening all take time), still working on getting Reina and Basement Cat to get along again (okay, sort of, in the living room, not okay in “home territory” like the rooms where each sleeps). Nor do I have any interesting thoughts about topics of the day. I am boring.

But at least I can report that everyone in my household is healthy and we have no bad news to deal with. I’ll just be keeping on till the end of the semester comes. Maybe I can find some writing quotes to post for your inspiration, if not for mine.

Happy things

I feel well, the sun is shining, flowers are flowering, birds are twittering, I’ve done a whole lot of stuff today including some things I really didn’t want to and also some things I enjoyed, I found that I forgot to record a substantial deposit some time ago and that’s why the bank thinks we have more money than I thought we should (so no more waiting for something to clear or worrying about mistakes), and there’s still time in the day to get some more useful and enjoyable things done. I’m reading a delightful book, a memoir by L. M. Boston called Perverse and Foolish, which is broken into little chunks that can be enjoyed either in a few minutes between other things or at longer stretches.

It looks as if the summer teaching abroad program has enough students to run, and though I have batches of grading to get through they are smaller batches than at the beginning of the term because I “forgot” to point out to students until after spring break that whereas there are five (say) assignments of Type X on the syllabus they only have to do four of them, so now lots of them are breathing sighs of relief and ceasing to turn in work, except for those who want extra credit, and those are usually the better students anyway.

We finally got around to watching the Paris-Roubaix bike race and I think it was the most boring Paris-Roubaix I have ever watched but at least it wasn’t heart-breaking; no one was seriously injured. Paris-Roubaix is called “the Hell of the North” and runs over 25-29 cobblestoned sectors that are brutal; when it’s raining or has rained recently it’s incredibly muddy, slippery, and awful, and when it’s dry it’s incredibly dusty, slippery, and awful. When it’s windy the winds can blow the race apart even without the cobblestones. I still remember vividly watching Frank Schleck crash and break his collarbone in three places. Anyway, this year it wasn’t muddy or windy and was only a little dusty and it seemed like everything went very well, and I’m glad no one got badly hurt.

Reina is snoozing on a chair and Glendower is dozing in a cat carrier with his head poking out just a little so I can see his tufty ears. It’s nice to have their company. Research . . . well, I should do some. I gave a talk this week that went well but it has just dawned on me that I’m supposed to contribute to my writing group this week so I can’t rest on my laurels. It’s a good thing there’s still some time today!

Update from the front lines

The war on the creeping bellflower continues.

Early on, before I identified the stuff, I hired a gardener to help me figure out how to manage the plants that were taking over. Although bishop’s weed is common in gardens around here, and bellflower is, sadly, more common than it ought to be, she didn’t recognize either one. I wish I had recognized this as a bad sign. However, she did have a good eye for design, and a good team for digging, so she was some help. Nonetheless, she had a naive and touching faith in the power of grass and mulch to choke out weeds, and in short order I was digging bishop’s weed and bellflower out of the newly installed sod.

Later I joined a local gardening group, hoping that there might be some member with good advice. Hah. “Why are you digging?” they said. “Just use RoundUp,” they said. “It’s resistant to herbicides,” I said, and they scoffed.

Well, I am here to tell you that their faith in RoundUp is similarly naive and touching. Last week, I carefully painted it onto the leaves of the bellflower; days later, the weed continued to flourish madly. I said, “OK, no more Ms Nice Gardener,” and spritzed with abandon. The bellflower remains green, healthy, and undaunted, though the herbicide did take care of a few dandelions and similar ordinary weeds in the vicinity. I am really not bothered by dandelions and other such innocent flora. At this point, I am thrilled to see Creeping Charlie spreading in the one bed where I am pretty sure I have eradicated both bellflower and bishop’s weed, because that means that all more serious threats are gone. In all my digging, I killed the iris, but I seem to have succeeded in dissecting the bellflower roots away from the roots of roses and hostas, and I think I salvaged most of the bulbs.

But really, if you have bellflower, you would be better off hiring earth-moving equipment to remove all the topsoil, and then start over. I do not know what I am going to do where it has grown around the roots of the oak tree.