New Year’s Eve

I’m enjoying a few days in the tropics with Queen Joan. We’re in the sort of place where most visitors suck up alcoholic drinks adorned with umbrellas, flowers, or fruit; get sunburned; and acquire a bunch of tourist tat to take home.

We’re doing things a bit differently. Neither of us can drink anymore, thanks to assorted health issues. Joan doesn’t do well in the sun, though she enjoys the warmth here. I’m a bit sturdier, but as the whitest of the white girls, I coat myself in #70 sunscreen before approaching a window, let alone going out. Also due to health issues, rather than eating out, we’re doing a lot of cooking.

We we both think back to our youth, and how different things were then. We met a little over 30 years ago. We could drink, and dance, and stay up all night. She went to India. I went to France. She visited me there on her way to Burkina Faso. In Paris, we cooked on a two-burner propane stove in my chambre de bonne, and she had a mattress on the floor, and that didn’t kill her back. We wouldn’t meet either of our husbands for some years yet, and while we had career ambitions, we didn’t know if they would be achievable. I’ve come much closer to achieving mine, though I said last night that I expected I’d do either much more or much less: I might not have got into grad school, or not finished, or not got a job, or not got tenure. Neither of us is quite sure how we wound up with the lives we have. Things happened, choices were made, and even when we got what we wanted, it turned out to be not quite what we had in mind.

But we are still here! We are alive, we are friends, we still travel together. We’re a long way from the mattress on the floor in Paris, and yet the spirit of that trip is with us. She drags me out of my stick-in-the-mud tendencies; I’ve had a lot of experiences, thanks to Joan, that I would not have had on my own (good ones).

So here’s to friendship, and survival, and continuing to have adventures even if they’re more low-key than they once were. We know what we were, and what we are, and there’s still some time for what we may yet be. I feel some trepidation about the year ahead, but in the meantime, there is this gentle tropical morning with the rustle of palm fronds sounding like rain. I wish you some of its peace and energy in the year to come.

Day 2

A thoroughly idle day.  The usual Sunday activities, including cooking and eating meals.  With Sir John, a walk and some outdoor tidying.  Another fun book down (didn’t enjoy this one so much; the hero was obnoxious), and a third started (much better).  More red wine, another bath, this time without bubbles because I’m out of bath foam.  And the Prologue of Paris-Nice.

Another royal progress

My good and gracious lady Queen Joan did once again request that Lady Maud and I accompany her on a royal progress.  So summoned, I departed the Land of Winter for the Land of Bougainvillea, that region also known as the Dukedom of Surf and the Principate of Venice, where we three did disport ourselves most excellently well.  We donned our summer robes, we promenaded upon the sand, we rode in the Wheel of Ferris and played at the SkeeBall.  Our repasts began with exotic frozen delicacies, because the motto of Queen Joan, which doth appear upon her personal seal, is “Vita brevis, imprimis edite bellarium.”

But I am now returned unto the Land of Winter, and lo, there are lamentations and dismay.  Wherefore must I wear boots and promenade through snow rather than taking my barefoot ease upon the strand?  Truly, this life is but a vale of (frozen) tears, to be endured with fortitude and patience.

And now I must attend upon my feline overlords, before hunger driveth them to war upon one another.

Not Hill Town

Now that the visit to grad school town is over, I’m on the opposite coast.  It’s beautiful here.  As I said to Sir John when we were talking about the last trip, people are always going to irritate me, so the physical environment really matters to me.  Here we have bougainvillea, oleander, eucalyptus, and jacaranda, so I am very happy.  We also have foofy drinks and good food.

You know how some people wake up at cock-crow, and some at sparrow-fart?  I’m conditioned to get up at Glendower-chirp.  (Yes, he’s a cat, but he chirps.  Maybe it’s a prrrp, but I call it chirping.)  So even without Glendower, I was awake at dawn this morning, and since Queen Joan and Lady Maud are not so extreme in their habits, I applied myself to writing and staring at photographs of a manuscript for three hours.  This is supposed to be my vacation, but what I really want is just not to work on service or teaching.  Writing is grand.

I’m still processing the visit to Hill Town, though.  It was good to see people, but I was very glad to leave, and that surprised me, because I loved being there for graduate school.  But graduate school has a time limit built in; you know you won’t be there forever, and you can feel nostalgic for the place before you even leave, just knowing that it is temporary.

I like hills, but I like being able to see long distances, too.  California hills tend to provide a big view: a bay, the ocean, the Central Valley.  Climbing the hills of Hill Town just reveals . . . more ranges of hills.  Better the flat midwest, where I can feel the space opening around me.

Also, I love cities.  There are lots of people living there who seem to feel that when you are tired of Hill Town, you are tired of life.  Those people are hard for me to take.  When I say “city,” I mean a minimum of 750,000.  I am so glad I got a job that lets me live on the fringes of a really big city, even at the price of my commute.

And these are just the fairly superficial things that trip pointed out to me.  I’ll do another post soon about job-related thoughts.

Writing retreat

My good friend and most gracious lady, Queen Joan, whom I have oft attended when she did make a royal progress, recently requested the presence of myself and my old friend Lady Maud at the Biona Camp for Wilde Wommene and Colony of Enditers, where we did disport us most marvellously well.

And where I wrote about 5000 words, in less than a week, plus did some work on the translation project, and all quite painlessly.

My friends did not mind if I went to bed early. I got up around 6:30, when it got light, made a cup of tea, and went to a desk that had been cleared for me. I worked till around 9:00, when Joan and Maud were up, and then we’d have breakfast and do yoga together. Afternoons were spent at the beach or a park, before dinner out. In the evenings, we worked on a jigsaw puzzle. Hanging out and catching up was blissful.

There were no cats. The social life was built in, and took place in the afternoons and early evenings, instead of keeping me out late. Moreover, it did not involve discussion of movies and TV shows that I haven’t seen and am not interested in. There were no household distractions (call here, arrange that, get the other fixed) because it wasn’t my house. I went to my desk with a sense of pleasurable anticipation, eager to discover what that day’s work would bring.

Now, I love my cats, but they are a total pain in the ass in the morning, wanting to be fed as soon as I wake up, and if I don’t do it, Basement Cat will start banging cupboard doors, which wakes Sir John, and picking fights with the Grammarian, and so on and so forth. So when I work early in the mornings at home, it’s with one ear straining first for the pathetic cries of a black cat who can’t bear to be locked up any longer, and then for the hissing and grumbling from downstairs, and then I have to go close the bathroom door to stop the cupboard-banging. All four get different things for breakfast, because the Grammarian has kidney problems and the Tiny Cat has vitamins mixed in with her food and the Shakespearean Heroine gets other stuff mixed in for her joint problems. Basement Cat gets Prozac on his. So it’s not a matter of just putting out more kibble and getting on with things. Breakfast is a production, and flings me into housekeeping-caretaking mode.

I’m still working, now that I’m back, but a little more slowly and with rather more grim determination than pleasurable anticipation. Intense nostalgia for the break and deep gratitude to Queen Joan set in about ten minutes after I woke up yesterday.

Not an interesting post

I got un-grumpified by taking a few days off and doing some very fun things with Sir John and old friends; I even got an idea about how to strengthen the argument in the essay that is taking too long to finish (oh, wait, that’s all my essays, ever). But now I’m feeling very anxious about all the things I have to do now, today, this week, this month, this summer. I planned to get right to work yesterday: one two-hour chunk on the essay, one two-hour chunk later in the day on the Next Thing. And then more and more things kept occurring to me that I Urgently! Had! To Get Done! and so instead of doing them, I spent the day reading a new-old sci fi book that I had picked up in the days off (new to me, in a series I enjoy, but out for at least a decade) and humming “la la la can’t hear you” every time anything reminded me of the To Do list.

So today I am going to try to Suck Less, because it isn’t going to get any earlier and I can at least keep from making it worse.

Spring Break Scorecard

The not-so-good:
Severe insomnia.
I didn’t go anywhere, not even to one of the day-excursions Sir John and I have discussed.
Unusually painful root canal (I’ve had several; they aren’t usually this bad).
Newspapers full of distressing but compelling news (no doubt contributing to insomnia).

The better:
Not having to teach while insomniac.
Having time to watch the DVR’d Paris-Nice race.
I went to the gym every day, and got my swimming up to 5/6 of a mile in one session; I only skipped doing yoga twice.
I also got a massage.
There were four sunny days.
I had lunch with a friend.
I read three pieces of brain candy (Freda Warrington is doing good Faerie stuff).

And that list of things to do during spring break? I have just barely scraped a C (70.2% of the items are crossed off).

Funny how I managed to put off the thing that looks like grading. I guess I know what I’m doing tomorrow morning.

Vacation photoblogging


I don’t go to the beach to lie in the sun. I go to walk in the fog.
I could probably get a similar effect at home by putting on a white noise CD and sticking my feet in a bucket of ice water, then using exfoliating scrub. But the visuals are better at the beach.
I was much closer to this deer than it appears. She woke me up munching brush outside my window.
But I got some sun and some city, too:
Everything is better when there’s a feline involved.
This is what geraniums are supposed to look like. Midwestern gardeners, please take note.
It’s been great.