Saturday, January 30, 2010

An anniversary

A year ago today, I arrived on the rez for my month of study at Sinte Gleska University.

I miss being there. I miss being a student. I miss hearing people speak Lakota every day. I miss my friends and teachers. I miss the bluffs and buttes. I miss the horizon.

I miss hearing the Lakota birthday song on the radio every morning. I miss the way people joke and laugh with each other there.

Tunkasila, hoyewaye! Unsimalaye!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two encounters with The Man...

So for various reasons (one of which is the fact that I teach early American literature, which includes the Puritans), I usually have my radar all set to receive Signs and Wonders--things that, if they happened in a novel or a movie or a dream, the audience would go "woah, that's gotta mean something." Recently I had two encounters with figures of Authority--with a capital A--that made me think Someone is trying to tell me Something.

The first involves me at a party. Now, I'm not one to go partying all that much these days, especially when it requires driving down to Columbus, not to mention wearing something other than jeans. But this was a DJ Hero party, with a karaoke machine added in, and all manner of 80s songs were likely to be played. I just happened to be on a New Order jag--playing their songs on YouTube and finally downloading some onto Patrick's ipod--so the chance to dance around a friend's living room to some awesome music was too tempting to pass up. I put on my 80s duds--orange crushed-velvet leggings, a big t-shirt (like the Frankie ones, but this one was about Ed Meese), my purple Doc Martin boots, and my biker jacket--and put my hair up and I was out the door. It was a risk, dressing like that in front of colleagues, but they appreciated my getting into the spirit of the party.

(Here's a link to a YouTube video of my current obsession...)

Sadly, no New Order tunes were available at the party. I was pretty bummed. So to make up for it, I joined in on the karaoke fun with a couple other people. That's when it happened...

Just as I launched into a song (I can't even remember which one it was), red and blue lights started flashing outside the window I was facing. The cops! Holy crap, I'm going to get arrested for being too loud! At my age!!!

Luckily, it wasn't a noise complaint; there was a car (mine, as it happened) parked in front of the house, which was the WRONG side of the street to be parked on. So I grabbed my jacket & keys and moved it. I wondered if the cop was a bit taken aback by my outfit, but he was perfectly kind and didn't give me a hassle. Or a ticket.

The next incident happened last week. A government agent came to my office to interview me about a former student who was seeking security clearance. He showed me his badge and then began to ask lots and lots of questions, some of which I could only vaguely answer (the student graduated about 4 years ago and we haven't been in touch since then). I was happy to tell him lots of positive things about this person--one of the first students I got to know and admire on a personal level in my first year in my job. Then he got to an interesting line of inquiry: he wanted to know if the student had voiced any subversive or anti-government thoughts.

I felt kind of like Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes), when he's flown off his swing and is flying through the air upside down, with a totally blank look on his face, and says "Houston, we have a negative on that orbit trajectory..." In my head, I was saying, "well, hell yeah, buddy, of course that student had subversive thoughts! She was a double major in English and Women & Gender Studies! She took two courses with me! If I did my job, she would HAVE to have subversive thoughts! and maybe even be critical of the government! and other institutions of power! It's called critical thinking!!!"

Luckily, what was in my head stayed there. What he meant was: is this person likely to become a terrorist? And the correct answer to that, in my opinion, was NO. But first I engaged him in a discussion of what we meant by "subversive." "Did you see the poster on my door?" I asked.

So we had a little chuckle at the different ways in which we were using this word, and the interview continued.

Those were my two Signs and Wonders moments, each one inspiring me to think about my relationship to Authority. It's interesting to me that, although both of them involved encounters with people in power (and a LOT of power, at that), neither one was particularly confrontational... hm... I think I'll be working out those details for a while.

I hope you see some Signs and Wonders in your own life!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The calm before and after the storm

Well, week two of classes is about to start, and already things are hopping. Last week, I had three meetings, and I already have a bunch of "extra" stuff to do (writing recommendations for a couple students, writing an evaluation of a colleague, organizing some meetings I will be running this week, etc.). This semester has sure ramped up fast!

So I'm particularly glad that, last weekend, I took a little time out to enjoy the quiet, the calm before this particular storm. And in a way, coming after some weather we had, it was also the calm after the storm. We kept having snow every single day for at least a week. It was never enough to cancel school, much to Dexter's consternation, but it was really pretty. And seriously cold. There wasn't a single day where the high got above about 23 degrees for more than a week!

(This was the view from my desk...)

I went to a friend's house to talk fiber, and we bartered some things that I wanted & she wasn't using anymore for some things that she wanted & I wasn't going to use. I got a bread machine out of the deal and made a loaf of whole wheat beer bread--woohoo! It was a little heavy, but tasted good, and it made the house smell good. Every once in a while it would make a noise or two, and we'd wonder what was going on in there. I kept checking it by shining a flashlight in its little window; you know, making sure it was making bread in there just in case it decided to do something else.

I got to work on a knitting project with a deadline. (Today I barely finished that project in time for the baby shower it was intended for. Yikes!) Here's a photo of what my desk looked like a week ago--you'd think it was a fiber workstation, not a desk:

One of my favorite things about the day was the color of the air and snow and trees and dried plants in the fields as I drove to & from my friend's house. We have such gray, dreary skies most of the time in Ohio in winter, and on that day the sun came out. All of a sudden, there were colors visible that hadn't been there on the gray days. It was kind of like being in an Andrew Wyeth painting. My mood lifted despite knowing I was about to walk into the chaos & challenge of the spring semester. No matter: I was surrounded by beauty.

(Here's the sun just going down.)

We were back to gray gray gray today, and that was hard. But it's nice to remember that, when the sun comes out, I'll have all these colors to look forward to.

Hope you see some good colors today!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Good for what ails me

During the last couple weeks of the semester, things tend to get rough. That happened for me this year; and, possibly because I hadn't been through that particular ringer for a while (what with being on sabbatical in the spring and all!), it was particularly rough this past December.

So on the weekends I took some time to take care of myself, putting work aside for a day or half a day and indulging in the things that make my inner self sigh with relief, and even sing.

I played with yarn...

(This is the heel of a sock I knitted for my Secret Santa recipient.)

(I made a pair of wrist warmers for a friend who has helped our family this past year.)

(These are gift card holders--cute! even if I do say so myself.)

... and, thanks to a friend who let me come visit them, I played with these guys:

My friend warned me, "They'll be in your face. You might decide you like them better from the other side of the fence." She was right about one thing: they were certainly in my face. But I LOVED it! They nipped my scarf and my hood and my hair, sniffed my face repeatedly, bumped into me with their noses, and one (the younger one, on the left) even tried to steal my mitten right out of my pocket! It was great.

It was hard for me to get good photos because they wouldn't pose--they were too busy checking me out, and way too close for me to get them in the frame properly...

(Notice the coon hound getting into the act too, as she dashes by in the background!)

But, in the end, maybe these photos do a better job of reminding me what it was like to be with them... There were a few quieter moments--moments when they were a little more serious (or maybe just less goofy) and I stood next to them and listened what they had to tell me. I didn't understand a lot, but I got one message from them pretty clearly: the earth is strong and solid and will hold you up just fine.

Whew! It was nice to be reminded of that.

And then, after a moment of being profound, they'd go back to nipping my scarf.

Here's my favorite photo because it's the view I got the most often:

Sniff sniff, everyone!

A Merry Christmas indeed!

We had a nice holiday break here--a little bit of resting, a little bit of straightening up the house and doing chores, a little bit of visiting with friends, a little bit of visiting with family. It's been a nice mix of doing some of the things we don't normally get to do when we're busy-busy with work.

(Here's Dexter playing at a holiday concert--one of three he played this year!)

We instituted a new practice at mealtimes in 2009: we hold hands, and each of us says what we're thankful for in our day. We used to do this only on special occasions--Thanksgiving and Christmas, mostly--but I realized that if I want us to be aware of what we have and what we should notice and be grateful for, perhaps we needed to articulate that more than twice a year.

The side effect that I like the most is that, on a bad day, when we're cranky or frustrated or sad about something, this activity makes us find something to feel good about. It's not that the bad stuff goes away or problems are solved, but we realize that they're not the only thing that's visited us that day; we've got something to be thankful for every day, something that stands on the other side of the balance, and we have to at least notice it and acknowledge it. That's a really great thing, some days...

Anyhow, with gratitude being a more visible presence in our life, it was easy to see this year that Christmas presents were the icing on the cake--something we definitely didn't need, but something we were happy to enjoy. And I have to say, it was especially magical this year that each of us got something we really, really wanted (the thing at the top of the "dear Santa" list) and something we really were happy to get even though we didn't expect it (something not on the list but definitely right for us).

I didn't get photos of everything, but here are some highlights...

Patrick has some helper-friends who are very cute--one new, one an antique.

This is one of my favorite gifts--a mini Turkish spindle, hand made my Ed Jenkins. It's a thing of beauty all by itself, and then it makes beautiful yarn as well!

Here's another of my faves:
Bobbins for my spinning wheel! Yay! My gifts seemed to have mostly followed the fiber-and-chocolate theme this year. Awesome!

Speaking of fiber, we didn't have any hay for the baby Jesus's crib this year, so we gave him some wool roving:

(Every once in a while, we come down in the morning to discover that someone has "rearranged" it...)

Even the cats loved their presents!

(Apparently, the kitchen table is a popular place for toys to try to elude their feline predators... but it never works.)

Poor Dexter--he was the one person whose knitting gift I did not finish in time. Here's how far I got by Christmas morning on the socks he specially requested & picked out the yarn for:
He's being patient, thank goodness. I've started the 2nd sock by now, but even if I went by the "Christmas has 12 days" rule, I don't think I'll be finished in time. Oh well. He seems to be sufficiently distracted from this shortcoming by playing "Spore," a computer game in which you evolve from a single-celled being to a space-exploring civilization (I use the term loosely).

All in all, it was a fabu Christmas.

I hope you enjoyed some unexpected gifts,