Still summer

At least, by the calendar.

August has always been the month that feels most transitional to me, the month in which I am aware of the planet turning, the stars shifting toward the winter layout of constellations, the trees displaying the deeper green that presages autumnal colors. Even when the weather is still hot and humid, I can feel the year sliding toward the equinox and shorter days. The light shifts; though the days are still long, dawn comes later, sunset earlier. I have one more quick trip to make before classes start. Then, in some sense, summer really will be over, although often weather in the first few weeks of school is so hot that it feels like summer is in extra innings.

I have not been so present on the blog, this summer, as I intended to be. I thought I’d do a lot more Six on Saturday posts, to mark the time I’ve spent on the garden, and more writing inspiration posts, to cheer myself on with various projects. The list of other things I’d hoped to do this summer likewise still has various items unchecked. The house has not sold; we will not be moving yet. A new course I will teach next spring remains only very sketchily planned, whereas I had hoped to get it more fully developed. A revise-and-resubmit continues to hang on my computer like an albatross.

On the other hand, I have finished final edits on the Huge Honking Translation, written a conference paper, planned fall classes fairly thoroughly, done a lot of gardening, watched the all of the Tour de France as well as the Tour of California, read all of a scholarly book I’ve wanted to read for a couple of years, read quite a lot of light fiction, and drunk a respectable amount of wine. I’ve visited family, traveled to a place new to me, and am about to spend a few nights in my native soil (like one of nicoleandmaggie’s partners, I need that every so often to keep from withering away). By objective standards, it’s been a good summer. I may manage to hack off that albatross soon, and I can keep chipping away at the new-course planning. The house, well, maybe it’s time to bury St Joseph in the front yard.

As for the year’s turning and growing darker, this is probably the moment to plan a trip next December or January, while I’m aware that I will need it, but before I start feeling that I just want to hibernate and it’s too much like work to organize travel.

That were a no

I think I may have assimilated to the Midwest.

As in, learned how to do Midwestern Nice.

I’m stunned, because I still think of myself as a blunt westerner, with an overlay of New England taciturnity, for whom “No” is a complete sentence.

However, I just got an e-mail from an e-bay seller offering me a similar item to one I had purchased earlier, and my quickly-typed response went something like “Thanks for thinking of me but I avoid white because I am such a stain magnet. It’s so nice of you to offer, though!”

I’d sent it before I realized that nothing in my reply said, clearly, “No, I don’t want it,” or “No, thank you,” or “Thanks but no, thanks!”

And now the end of Cold Comfort Farm is playing in my head, where Flora gently turns down Reuben’s offer of marriage and he says, “That were a no, were it?”

Spam au chocolat

Ganching: I commented on Saturday the 13th, and it showed up right away, then disappeared.

However, all seems to be well (w/r/t commenting) chez Carolbaby—hope you’re feeling better by now!

Everybody else: sorry I haven’t been around these parts. I traveled to see family, came back shortly before the Tour de France started, and have been trying to do all the work I didn’t do in June while keeping up with cycling events. I keep missing Six on Saturday because I get confused about what day it is. I took pictures in my sister-in-law’s garden; now I’m back, I ought to take some of my own. The day lilies are doing well, and sweet peas are out. Two shrubs are dying off branch by branch, and I’m not sure what their problem is, but it worries me when I’m not totally preoccupied with the Huge Honking Translation or a conference paper possibly related to The Book.

That’s the summary version!

Pseudo-science and Rational Woo

First the disclaimer: I don’t believe in astrology.

However, I recently took a trip down memory lane that has to do with astrology. It started when I was reading an old thread at the Chron fora on which an astrologer was posting in ways that people on the thread seemed to find useful—more about working with symbols and archetypes than with predictions, sort of like reading Tarot cards in terms of what the symbols mean for the person getting the reading rather than as they’re generally interpreted. On a whim, I plugged my birth date and place into one of the sites that will give you a full horoscope, what house all your planets are in, the whole nine yards.

The results surprised me, because they were not what I have believed for the past more than forty years.

See, back when I was in junior high, I was quite “into” astrology. I don’t remember if I believed it, or what sparked my interest. Possibly there was a fad for it among my friends; perhaps one friend was annoying about interpreting everything in terms of sun sign, and I decided to find out more as a defense. I mean, obviously not everyone born under Virgo is going to get run over by an egg truck today. What I do remember is that I got books from the library, and read up on both the principles and the techniques, and then, to the best of my ability, calculated my horoscope with all the planets and houses. This was long before the internet, significantly before the computing power now available meant that inputting date, time, and place could instantly spew out all the details. It was also before my math skills were as developed as they later became.

So there I was, at the age of twelve, struggling with the tables and conversion factors in one of the books I’d checked out, and determining that my rising sign was Leo. I liked this result very well, not least because of my fondness for felines. I’m sure that doing all the work was useful in various ways. That is, on the social front, it no doubt allowed me to participate with authority in junior-high conversations (though I don’t remember this part—I try to forget as much as possible about junior high school). Certainly this was child-led education, in that I found something that interested me, went to the library, did the reading, did the math (to the best of my ability), and wrote up my results in a way that pleased me. If I neglected my school homework to do it, well, tant pis; I always have been one to do more of what interests me than what I have been assigned.

The results of my recent whim show that my rising sign is not Leo, nor is my moon where I believed it to be. So much for my long-ago efforts. Looking at what I’m “supposed” to be like according to my new horoscope, I scoff. Definitely a pseudo-science. But! What are the effects of believing, even for a short time, even only half-consciously, that you have certain characteristics? What effect on my adolescent psychology did it have, to believe (or at least, put about to my credulous friends) that I was self-aware, ambitious, faithful, authoritative, energetic, creative? Those are good things to believe about yourself, wherever you get the ideas. It’s hard, at twelve, to have established much of a personality or track record (or so it seemed to me, at the time: friends who knew me at 8 think I’m pretty much the same person now as then!). I spent a lot of time feeling like I was just not-quite at a lot of things I wanted to be better at, so it was helpful to have a horoscope assuring me that I was going to make it, eventually.

So now I wish I had disregarded all the tables and details of my actual birth and just cast for myself the best possible horoscope, the perfect forecast of the person I most hoped to become, and believed in that until I had a track record to believe in. This is what I call Rational Woo: “Sometimes in order to get where your rational self wants to be, you need a little woo-woo. Of course you know the odds against you: will your novel even find a publisher, let alone become a best-seller that will let you move to New Mexico and write full-time? Ha ha. Will your academic book really change the face of the discipline? Uh-huh. Will your dissertation even get you a job? Um . . . .

But an unwritten novel is guaranteed not to be published; the unwritten academic tome doesn’t stand a chance of changing anything; the unfinished dissertation will most certainly not get you the job that requires dissertation in hand. You can’t ensure your own success, that is true. But you can most certainly ensure failure. So you have to at least meet the bar of finishing whatever it is.

And so it’s time for the woo-woo that will let you shut off the voices and the doubts and get on with it. . . . It’s your fantasy life: let it be rich, productive, and comforting. Whatever keeps you doing the work, moving the project forward every day, taking baby steps if that’s what you’re able to do.” So I said seven years ago.

Right now, I want a horoscope that tells me I am a hard worker who sometimes needs significant down-time to let thinking happen in the background; that I can come roaring back from this slow period to knock out a lot of good work quickly; that my trip to visit family is going to go smoothly and be a refreshing change; that the next two months of this summer are going to be excellent for me in many ways, so long as I just keep truckin’.

What a fool believes? Whatever. If I say I have Leo rising, then I have a nice protective lion leaning over my shoulder to help me out, okay? Cat is my co-pilot! I can wake up from a nap and instantly nab a mouse! Cats never doubt themselves. They are perfect just the way they are. So I’m sticking with Leo as my horoscope-totem-whatever.

Another one finds a home!

In May, I trapped/neutered/released two cats, both the Glendower look-alike and another, when I set the trap again just to see what happened. The second was a tabby with white feet.

Yesterday I got a call from the local shelter about cat #2. Some people have been feeding him for about a week, and were hoping to adopt him. Their kids love him and he gets on with the cat they already had. First thing this morning I went down and signed paperwork relinquishing my claim on him so he can go home with his new people.

This makes my day. In fact, it makes my week. Maybe the month! I love it when cats decide they want to come in from the cold.

I’ve seen not-Glendower once in the last few days. Since he likes to hang out with a neighbor’s indoor-outdoor cat, I hope that eventually he’ll find himself a home, either with that neighbor or with someone else. He’s very pretty, and once the testosterone is out of his system, he might calm down enough to let himself become someone’s cat.

Mustn’t grumble. Mustn’t . . . oh, hell, why not?

Definitely in the category of First-World problems, I do realize.

All my e-mail programs are now doing two-factor authentication, which I hate. I don’t even have a smartphone, but I still get annoyed when the dumb phone buzzes. I do not want to be messing with the frigging phone when I’m trying to work on my desktop computer.

I shut down my computer over the weekend, including shutting 18 tabs in Firefox (I don’t know, it just happens) and when I hit “restore previous session” I got six back. One-third is not very good restoration, Firefox! I remembered a few that I wanted to have back, such as the drill for principle parts of ancient Greek verbs, and located a few more through my browsing history, which I am very lazy about clearing out. But I’d had some of them hanging around for long enough that I’m not really sure what was there, just that I wanted to be able to click over to look at them for inspiration sometimes.

Inspiration. I not haz. Motivation neither. I slept badly because I woke up both hot and with my wonky hip hurting (and though I know it’s muscular, in the middle of the night I always start wondering if I need a hip replacement already and how that might have happened), and I have a headache because of allergies and not sleeping well, so I’m late to start on anything this morning. And that just strengthens the “why haven’t I done this already it must be because I suck” buzzy-bugge voices.

I will just sit with the grumpiness for awhile. I have jasmine tea, two snoozing cats in my study, and a leafy green view. Eventually those may take effect! I’m not sure I even have the attention span to keep up a good head of Grumble all day long.

Six on Saturday

This is a meme some of the garden-bloggers do weekly. I’ve never got round to it before, but yesterday I took some pictures so that I could participate. I hope they’re not too blurry. “Six on Saturday” is hosted here: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/01/six-on-saturday-01-06-2019/

First, the honeysuckle arch, as you come from the garage toward the house. Here we have a patch of iris, starting to fade a little, and three hostas (I don’t know the cultivars of anything; I inherited this garden from the former owners). I like the barberry next to the variegated green and white shrub, which was recommended by the garden designer I consulted at the beginning of the Battle of the Bellflower. She had no idea what we were up against. The clematis at the side of the house. A classic.  I was very pleased to discover this purple columbine under the pine tree out front. There are several pale pink columbines that have self-seeded, but I prefer darker colors, and these go very well with the other purples of this garden. Lamb’s ears and chives; there are also some pinks in the background. There’s a Sterling Silver rose in the middle of the lamb’s ears, but it’s still coming back from the winter and it will be awhile until it blooms. 

Well, it IS the best medicine

I feel so much more relaxed since I listened to a few seconds of several different “guided meditations” that I found on you-tube when I searched for “meditation for sleep.”

Not because they put me into a peaceful, trance-like state, but because they made me laugh. Probably you had to be there (and maybe there is something deeply wrong with me, or at least deeply unfit for the world of guided meditation). So much is about the effect of voices, and I’m sure each individual will respond very differently. IME Brits are tart, not syrupy, so when I hear a syrupy voice with a British accent, I’m already primed to find this very strange, and when he says “Tonight we’ll do a guided meditation to help you sleep,” my response is “No, we won’t.” (Speaking of oppositional, N&M!) The sl-o-o-ow speech on the ones I started trying to listen to makes me think “Duuuuuude, are you on ‘luuuuuuudes? And wouldn’t it be more effective to take something than to fall about laughing while listening to guided meditations?”

I think I’ll stick to rain noise to help me sleep. But hey! Like I said, I’m a lot more relaxed for the laugh, so I can’t say I got nothing out of it! Maybe I should spend some time before bed on the Comedy Channel. Only my sense of humor is so skewed that might not help.

Happiness vs. familiarity

Familiarity breeds, as they say.

But seriously, that feeling of recognition and comfort is not necessarily a good thing. I had to head to the Internet Archive to get this post (via a link from someone’s half-decade-old blog post):

https://web.archive.org/web/20160712082102/http://thephilosophersmail.com/relationships/how-we-end-up-marrying-the-wrong-people/

but I’m glad I read it, not because I married the wrong person but because of all the things we worked through on the way to being the right people for each other, and another reason that will appear below. I’m going to quote the third reason why “we end up marrying the wrong people”:

“Three: We aren’t used to being happy

“We believe we seek happiness in love, but it’s not quite as simple. What at times it seems we actually seek is familiarity – which may well complicate any plans we might have for happiness.

“We recreate in adult relationships some of the feelings we knew in childhood. It was as children that we first came to know and understand what love meant. But unfortunately, the lessons we picked up may not have been straightforward. The love we knew as children may have come entwined with other, less pleasant dynamics: being controlled, feeling humiliated, being abandoned, never communicating, in short: suffering.

“As adults, we may then reject certain healthy candidates whom we encounter, not because they are wrong, but precisely because they are too well-balanced (too mature, too understanding, too reliable), and this rightness feels unfamiliar and alien, almost oppressive. We head instead to candidates whom our unconscious is drawn to, not because they will please us, but because they will frustrate us in familiar ways.

“We marry the wrong people because the right ones feel wrong – undeserved; because we have no experience of health, because we don’t ultimately associate being loved with feeling satisfied.”

This familiarity is also a significant reason why we live in a house we want to sell. When I walked into it, it felt like home. Not too much so; if it had been more recognizably just like the house I grew up in, I would have run right back out. But enough like that original house to feel familiar and sort of right. I conveniently forgot what very conflicted feelings I have around the whole concept of home in general and about houses of that vintage and style in particular. It took time living here to realize how very heimlich, in a bad way (that is, frustrating in familiar ways), this house actually is. For me. It would be a wonderful house for someone else, with different baggage (or no baggage!). It’s true that I have found it rather therapeutic to correct this house’s problems and to re-make it in the image of a functional relationship rather than the heavily dysfunctional one my parents had. But it would have been a lot cheaper to resume talk therapy!

Next time, I’m going to look for what my adult self actually wants, and not listen to feelings about familiar.

The Very Local News; or, How I Spent a Summery Saturday Morning

  • I woke up at 7:00, Glendower at my feet, thinking that I needed to go outside as soon as possible. A few minutes’ thought allowed me to recall that I needed to release the feral cat who was recovering in the garage (TN done yesterday, R today).
  • After feeding the indoor cats, I woke Sir John for the ceremonial Release of Cat, since it was his concern for this cat that led to the TNR operation. Feral cat, a ringer for Glendower, has been hanging out for a month or two. I thought he might be a neighbor’s pet, but inquiries led nowhere, and his behavior at the vet certainly indicated feral status. We put some food in his usual hang-out corner of the garden, and hoped he’d have a bite before dashing off, but as soon as I got the trap open he leapt the fence and was gone.
  • Sir John went back to bed, where he remains (he seems to be on Hawaii time lately).
  • I read three essays in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe.
  • The urge to go out kept nagging me until I remembered that I had planned to go to the Farmers’ Market. I walked, taking the long way so as to go by the ATM, admiring other people’s gardens (and noting a few that have that vile beast, creeping bellflower, invading their lawns), and greeting dog-walkers, joggers, and religious proselytizers.
  • I bought two pounds of rhubarb, two potted herbs, and two heirloom tomatoes (I think a Cherokee Purple and a Lucky Cross).
  • At home, the first course of lunch was two half-tomatoes sliced with salt and pepper.
  • I drank mint-ginger iced tea with a splash of lime seltzer. A couple of weeks ago, I found ginger-lemon seltzer at TJ’s, but I like this homemade blend better.
  • Dessert was a brownie from this recipe. These are lethal! Their impact is probably more intense because, my 8×13″ pan being packed away, I baked them in an 8×8″ pan for 50 minutes. They separated: the bottom layer is lighter, gooey, rather caramel-like, then comes a thick fudgy layer, and on top there’s a thin crunchy crust. I think I might capitalize on this tendency by baking them over a pie crust next time.
  • After lunch I made rhubarb compote. Two pounds rhubarb chopped into roughly 3/4 inch pieces, one cup sugar, half-teaspoon salt, hefty dash cinnamon, and a knob of ginger peeled and cut into three thick slices. Put it all into a pot on very low heat until eventually it boils and the rhubarb gets as soft as you like it. Fish out the ginger slices. Put them in a glass and pour more seltzer over them.