Friday, November 16, 2012

TGIF indeed!

I've been participating in the "30 Days of Gratitude" practice on FB this month. We started a gratitude practice at home a few years ago--mostly because I loved "saying our thankfuls" at Thanksgiving and wanted to extend that to the whole year--and it's been really great. It has taught me that, even on those hard days when I feel cranky or upset about something, I've got plenty to be thankful for and all it takes is a moment to see it, acknowledge it, and all of a sudden the bad doesn't seem so powerful or scary or permanent.

And, just as at the dinner table, some days on FB it has been challenging to arrive at something to be thankful for--within the parameters I have imposed on myself: it has to be sincere, and it can't always be about material objects. (Though I am thankful for what we have, I don't think that's what makes our lives rich and meaningful...) I've been tired, feeling like I'm coming down with something, and work has been relentless and sometimes frustrating, so I have definitely been... well, not altogether joyful.

But, just as at the dinner table, some days it's really easy and I have a list as long as my arm of things I'm thankful for. This week, Louise Erdrich, one of my favorite authors of all time, won the 2012 National Book Award for fiction for her new novel The Round House. I'm thankful her work will get more recognition from the general book-reading public (not just critics, who already love her work). And I'm thankful that I get to read it, starting this weekend with the start of our Thanksgiving break!

(Ingredients of an excellent Friday morning...)

Today I am thankful for Friday morning: my favorite tea in my favorite mug, music playing on the radio in the next room, and several hours to work on writing projects (while wearing pjs and my favorite shawl). I have a couple projects I need to finish for school this afternoon--an overdue report, a recommendation letter--but this morning I get to work on a scholarly project: examining representations of the Sun Dancer. I have been reading some theory that's new to me (about material rhetoric), and I feel like I'm on the edge of understanding how it can help me communicate what's so important about depictions of the Sun Dancer in recent works by native people. Today I will send a paper proposal to NALS 2013 to see if they're interested in having me present it at the conference next spring. But even if they're not, I'm excited about this project and the next steps forward in articulating my ideas.

Tea, music, writing, and the comfort of pjs and a hand-knitted shawl; what could be better on a Friday morning?

I hope you find something to feel grateful for today!


Monday, November 5, 2012

An emergence of sorts

My oh my, so many weeks (months!) have gone by and I have not shared any stories here.

At first I was kind of hiding. It was not an awful summer, but not an easy one, either, and I tend to retreat to quietness when I'm feeling vulnerable or sad. My grandfather died in July, and I experienced all the mixed-up emotions of grieving the passing of a loved elder with being excited about seeing my extended family and with negotiating family tensions. It was all totally normal, and at the same time totally overwhelming. (How does time pass so quickly? How can we bear losing people who helped make us who we are? After just a few days of being with people I love, how can I say goodbye and put hundreds of miles between us?)

 (This is Granddad and me, circa 1980. 
Look at the snap in his eyes! That's how he was, all the time.)

And then, just a few weeks ago, we said goodbye to our little tabby sweetheart, Peaches. She was a part of our daily lives for more than 17 years. Losing her was one of the hardest things I've ever been through. Every time I think I'm fine now, I'll think of something and cry all over again. I guess that's why they say grief is a process...

 (Here's our little sweetie on one of her last days. 
She got so skinny; she looks to me, here, 
like she's saying she's done.)

So I've been sort of hiding, maybe. But it's time to emerge.

Today, and for the past couple of weeks, I've been struck at odd moments by how dang lucky I am. I am as busy as ever--to the point where it's probably not healthy because I'm not getting enough sleep or exercise, and I'm afraid of forgetting something or making a really dumb mistake that will inconvenience my colleagues or students. But the busy-busy doesn't seem to be leaning on me as hard as it used to. I'm actually catching myself feeling joyful...

While the busy-busy is not fun, it's all because I'm working on projects that I love and that enrich my work and my students' lives. There's the visit we just had from Heid Erdrich, a poet whose work I love and respect. (The link there goes to the Poetry Foundation entry on her, as her web site seems to be down at the moment.)

As I was rereading her work to prepare to teach it, I had to be careful about reading it in public places because it made me cry, or suck in my breath, or laugh out loud. It's powerful stuff, Erdrich's work. In addition to having her give a reading on campus, enjoy meals with faculty and students, and visit my classroom, we were able to take her to see the Earthworks over in Newark. That was pretty awe-some, in the old sense of the word.

(That's Heid, on the left, with some of the students 
who were able to have lunch with her. It was a great visit!)

And there's my Travel-Learning course, for which we'll read Native American literature for a semester, focusing on the topic of life on the reservation and in the city, and then travel to the Rosebud Reservation and Minneapolis and Chicago (major "urban Indian" centers). I think it's going to be a great experience, and I'm so happy the university has given me a chance to offer such a thing to students.

These are things that feed my heart. And so I don't seem to mind much that it's a bit of a struggle to get enough sleep or make a home-cooked meal more than a couple nights a week.

Here's what I'm hoping / praying for: that the feeling of joy sticks with me awhile; that if I make a mistake I'll be able to fix it and deal with it gracefully; and that I can find ways of keeping up with all of this while also getting a little more sleep, a little more exercise, a little more healthy food into my weekly routine. (After all, I do need to take care of the body that makes all this movement and work possible!)

I'm hoping also to post more often to the blog. I feel the need to tap into the river of words in this way... May there be time to do all of these things.

I hope you feel moments of joy today!

(ETA: okay, even though I wrote this more than two weeks ago, I'm just now adding in the photos & link and posting it. Sheesh! Maybe I'm not quite ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille... My very productive trip to Chicago was followed by a really bad migraine, which was then followed by a week of providing comments on student drafts and meeting with them in conference, which meant little sleep. Perhaps I will recapture the joy I expressed here in the coming days or weeks...)