Three colleagues

Three modes of retirement. I’ll give them names, a la Ms Mentor, to help keep them straight. Commentary will come later.

Merry specialized in modern British drama. She put in 30 years, the point at which full benefits kicked in, and retired at sixty. She sold her house, sold or gave away her furniture, books, and most other belongings, and moved to London, where she lived in a bed-sit and went to the theater five times a week. When I last checked, over a decade ago, this was still her life.

Jerry, more or less a contemporary (he and Merry both were full professors when I was hired), delayed retiring. He loved teaching, and kept at it for forty years. Then he moved sideways into directing a student-focused organization on campus, until eventually it became clear that they really needed a professional director, and he was eased out of that position. Even now, he hangs around the office as a volunteer, muttering about how the mighty have fallen.

Terry, younger than either, spent their career building up an interdisciplinary program dear to their heart, then bowed out of working with that program due to conflicts with colleagues in other disciplines, and retired a couple of years later. Terry always wanted to change the world, and started feeling that they weren’t making much progress at that while teaching for LRU. Terry now volunteers for a couple of good causes, with considerable responsibility for organizing and fund-raising for one of them; this is stressful, but also shows direct world-changing effects, so it’s rewarding enough to keep Terry happy, at least for now. It’s also mainly remote work, so could continue after Terry’s partner retires, at which point they might move.

For the moment, I’m leaving aside examples of people who have retired due to health problems (their own or a spouse’s), and those who immediately moved to be near their children and grandchildren. I could wind up in the former group, but the latter is not applicable.

Six on Saturday in the new garden

A couple of these might look familiar, but that’s because we’re in the same climate zone, just twenty miles or so away from where we were, so the things people plant don’t vary that much.

First, hydrangeas, with day lilies behind them.

Second, some pink groundcover; I don’t know what it is, but it’s pretty.

Three, coreopsis and lantana, with some sedum:

I never plant lantana here, because where I come from, it turns into a tree, a hedge, or a ginormous bush, rather than being an annual, and I hate to see it succumb to frost in the fall. So this will be a one-summer-only plant, unless by some miracle it makes it through the winter.

Four, the new clematis (only one: I may have to do something about this):

Five, the hosta path:

Six, hostas with a grapevine behind them; the vine covers a pergola over the deck:

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator!

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 1

The Gambling Den

From outside, house is well-cared-for split-level, vintage 70s. Flagpole and bird feeder in front yard. Attached garage. We enter straight into living room; behind it, kitchen and dining room; to our left, stairs down to lower-level room apparently used as bedroom. Bath and laundry off this room; also exit to garage. Ideal for health-care worker, we say: come in, strip, shower, wash clothes, before rejoining family. Above this area, 3 small bedrooms and another bath. Behind kitchen, enormous room, nearly doubling the square footage of main floor of original house. Additions are a deal-breaker. Explore anyway: was this a garage converted to living space? No: garage in front, not enough space between houses for there to have been a driveway to the back.

We find back door and another stairway leading down to equally large basement room, lower than garage-joined bedroom, not communicating with that level. On wall, rack for pool cues, also what at first I take to be dart board, then discover is sort of mini roulette wheel. A house for gambler and health-care worker: nearly the same thing, these days.

When everything’s fine, but nothing’s right

It’s everything but party night!

I was thinking about summer work. One thing I need to do is evaluate a promotion application, and I thought “I’ll tackle that in July, and intersperse it with watching the Tour de France.”

Well, no. The Tour is on a two-month delay (if we’re lucky; the UCI still says it’s on, but the French sports minister has expressed doubts).

Sir John and I are fine. Much of my life is going on as it usually would: grading, paying bills, doing yoga at home (I gave up on classes well before the Pandemic), cooking, whatever. And then I have these moments when I’m discombobulated because I’m not rushing to finish off a conference paper, file grades, pack, and leave for Kalamazoo, or when I realize I will not be watching the Tour de France this summer. It’s fine, but it’s just . . . not right.

If you now need to listen to the Go-gos “Everything but party time,” here’s the link:


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.

Thanks, Clarissa

I started reading Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl yesterday, and it took me awhile to realize that it’s a retelling of Taming of the Shrew (although I did notice the coincidence of names). The love interest, Pyotr, doesn’t seem to want to tame Kate. He likes her fine the way she is. In chapter one, he beams approvingly as he says of Kate, “Just like the girls in my country. So rude-spoken.” When Kate suggests the term “women,” he says, “Yes, they also. The grandmothers and the aunties.” Later he says, “It is evident you could choose any husband you want. You are very independent girl. Woman. You are very independent woman and you have the hair that avoids beauty parlors and you resemble dancer.”

From Clarissa’s descriptions of Ukrainians, I recognize that Pyotr is probably absolutely accurate and truly attracted to Kate. Although I’m exceedingly happy in my marriage, he sounds pretty good to me, far more interesting and worthwhile than most of the Romantic Heroes of Romance. Romance writers please take note! We need more Ukrainian heroes. Kthxbai.


A couple of people have called me “calm” in the last few months. This is not a word I would ever have applied to myself, so it surprises me to have it come up in both a familial and a professional setting.

My more reasonable brother said I was a calm person, based on (I suppose) his observations of my interactions with our father and other brother. The chair of my department said I seemed very calm about the process of applying for Full.

Well. Have I, perhaps, learned what is and is not important? Is it that I have dealt with far more stressful situations in the past, and so the current ones don’t seem particularly challenging? Or do I take my cues from people around me and I am currently fortunate in that they are fairly calm, so I can be, too? Maybe some of all of these.

Family is easier than it used to be. My mother’s final years were very stressful, because she constantly solicited help and then pushed it away, always with hysterical lamentations of How Awful Everything Is and how None Of Her Children Understood (she showed many signs of Borderline Personality Disorder, though she was never formally diagnosed with it). My brothers couldn’t really cope with her at all, so a lot fell to me. In comparison, my dad is a piece of cake. At his angriest and most demented, he is more straightforward and easier to deal with than my mother was. I have developed a number of mantras to help me deal with my less reasonable brother, including “Geoffrey’s gonna Geoffrey*” and “With those armpits.”

Anything work-related pretty much falls into the category of “not that important.” I do my job to the best of my ability, of course, but it’s not a life-and-death job like medicine. I’ve seen a lot of promotion applications because of sitting on a significant personnel committee, so I have a good idea of what they should look like and what the acceptable range of variation is. My colleagues support me, or they wouldn’t have invited me to apply. I have a good reputation in the college my department belongs to. It’ll all be fine.

Really, the most stressful thing in my life last week was having a journal tell me that the images I had provided were not suitable. This meant I had to scramble to learn a few things about GIMP so I could manipulate what I had (since going to England to take new photographs is not going to happen this week!). It all worked out. I’m a little behind on grading, but I’m sure that will work out too.

Lots of people have real problems, but I’m not one of them, not now anyway. So I guess I am calm.

*Not his real name, but his modus operandi is so predictable that it should certainly be a verb.

When Reading Is Doing

It’s Saturday morning, sunny though cold, and I have loads of things I could pick out to do: stretch, go to the gym, pack/de-clutter, grade (the current batch of papers look quite good; this will not be a purgatorial task), work on my application for Full, work on The Last Overdue Revisions, color while the light is good, play with my kitties, futz about on the Internet (oh wait . . .), and what do I do? Put together a bibliography for an article I want to write, on a text I’m teaching, a text that hasn’t received enough attention IMHO. I’ve ILL’d one essay, and I can get several others in hard copy at my library, and there’s one book I’m dying to get my hands on that may require a field trip because there are about 7 copies in the world and they don’t circulate.

(Another obsessive un-answerable question: why are there not copies in UK depository libraries, when it was published in the 20th century in London and copies are supposed to go the BL, the Bod, and CUL? Did someone not send them? Did someone not catalog them? Are they somehow catalogued by something other than author and title? I have poked around in the online catalogues, and I do know how to use them, and this book does not turn up. My lawful-good-J side is deeply disturbed: something went wrong in the book world. I tell you, were I not an English professor I would need to be a Literature Detective.)

Someday when I’m futzing about online I really should create a blogroll. I spend quite a bit of time reading blogs by delightful-sounding women who enjoy food, crafts, gardening, restoring old houses, and similar pursuits that I prefer reading about to doing. Despite all the well-meant advice on the Chron fora and similar places about Getting A Life and Pursuing Hobbies Outside of Work, what I really want to do, what I get excited about and spend sunny Saturday mornings on, is reading, researching, and writing. I’ve tried the gardening, restoring, crafts, and so on. They sound like fun. The results look good. But I just don’t get fired up about things I can do with my hands. Except write, which is manual labor, as Colette said.

I have other projects I need to finish right now, so this putative article will go on The List (I have learned the hard way not to get distracted by the New Shiny). Someday I will get to it, and my future self will be happy to have the core bibliography assembled and some basic thoughts outlined. Maybe next spring, when I hope to teach this text again.