Thursday, August 31, 2017

She is who she is...

31 August 2017: "That's probably just the way she is." --the veterinarian today, in response to me asking her if I should work to make Veronica more amenable to being petted or held.

It took me 20 minutes today to catch her and get her in the carrier. To be clear, I caught her at least five times; it was shoving her in the carrier that was the real problem. Tears and blood were shed (both mine). Once she was in the exam room, she tried to climb the wall twice, Spiderman-style, and got half-way up. It was a lot. But she calmed down enough eventually. She actually behaved better for her exam than Bing or Wes.

Long story short: I should just accept her as she is, which is fine with me. It was nice to hear it from an expert.

Here she is, post-visit, once again insisting on being seen.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

They make me laugh...a lot...

30 August 2017: "Blah, blah, blah...the earth is a turtle." --an excerpt from one of English 204 student's effort to paraphrase the Iroquois creation story for her classmates. Her entire summary was actually pretty darn impressive given how...strange this text is (particularly the version we use).

Today was a long day--I left my house before 8:00 a.m. and it was nearly 9:00 p.m. when I got home--but it was a pretty good day. Part of the reason I can say that is because my students were--across the board--delightful today. They did their work, had smart things to say, and made me laugh. What more can I ask for?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


29 August 2017:
"We tell the story every year—
how we peered from the windows, shades drawn—
though nothing really happened,
the charred grass now green again." --Natasha Trethewey, "Incident"

Audio here, including Trethewey introducing her poem, sadly timely once again.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Day one...

28 August 2017: "Ha. It's so good to be back!" --a student in my ENGL 312 class.

You see, we were discussing Wheatley's "On Being Brought from Africa to America" and she realized how clever the poet is in her use of "Cain," evoking its homophone ("cane") and thereby subtly calling to mind the slave economy. Like so many readers (myself included, way back when), she missed it on the first read-through and delighted in realizing it.

That laugh and that comment: pure English major. She missed this stuff and is thrilled to be back at it.

Me, too.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"The Glowing Orbs"

27 August 2017: “But he was a man comfortable with mysteries. He was a believer deep down. And he’d write that his experience in space and the glowing fireflies affirmed that faith. No one could see what he saw, he was sure, and not believe in God, not believe in miracles.” –Nate DiMeo, in "The Glowing Orbs" episode of The Memory Palace. 

This one is a rerun, but I loved hearing it again, kind of perfect in the aftermath of the eclipse, which made me feel a kind of similar sentiment to what DiMeo describes above. I felt a similar kind of quiet wonder today, watching my little niece walk (a trick she's picked up since I last saw her a couple of weeks ago) and become less of a baby and more of a little person. The wonder she finds in in the world is mirrored by my own wonder in watching her do so. And all of it makes me profoundly grateful and moved by the amazing ways the divine appears all around us.

Now there is a great joke of sorts in this story (the explanation of the glowing orbs), but it doesn't lessen the power of the piece. If anything, it makes it more poignant.

Here's a longer version, introducing the episode and providing a Portuguese reading that is pretty awesome even if you don't speak Portuguese. (I sure don't!) Previous posts on The Memory Palace here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Grace and Frankie

26 August 2017: "You are going to make new memories. Better memories. And you can re-use the frames!" --Grace, to Frankie, in episode 2 of Grace and Frankie

I started watching this show after hearing my friend Hannah praise it again and again. So far, I like it and I am encouraged by the reviews that say it gets better and better. And, given its focus on female friendship, it's a cool "listening" post for the day of Jane's 40th birthday party. Speaking of...I better get going!

Friday, August 25, 2017


25 August 2017: "There are 7.2 million people on the earth. Seven percent will go to college...Spend your time here like you won the lottery." --Sonya Evanisko, from Shepherd's Department of Art and Contemporary Theater, giving the keynote to our new students at today's opening convocation. (I might have gotten her exact wording wrong--didn't have a pen on me to write it down.)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Feeling Good"

24 August 2017:

"It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good" --a Shepherd student/Ram Band member, singing at this evening's preview performance of the band's halftime show.

As I sat here tonight trying to think of what to post for today's "listening" entry, I realized that the song that has been running through my head for the past few hours was the best choice. In fact, today was a pretty darn decent day and I am feeling pretty good. And yeah, it's a new day, too, with the first big group meetings to kick off the new semester.

Convocation, a department meeting, and a new student meet-and-greet tomorrow. Here we go!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jean and Jane

23 August 2017: "In 1982, a forty-something sex kitten was still pretty radical. Ultimately, Jane's reinvention as a fitness guru was absolutely a victory of commerce, but there was an art to it and it was nothing if not political. She was sending women the message that by taking control of their bodies, by becoming physically strong, by taking thirty minutes a day for themselves, they could take control of their lives. This is a kind of feminism. It might not have looked the same as Jane's 1970's feminism, but because it wasn't on its surface offensive to men, it afforded her more power." --Karina Longworth, discussing Jane Fonda's career in the 1980s, in the last episode of this season of You Must Remember This

The You Must Remember This podcast is one of my favorites, teaching me so much about Hollywood's history. I knew nothing about Jean Seberg, half of the focus of this season. I thought I knew something about Jane Fonda, the other half of the season's focus, but boy, was there a lot I didn't know (or understand). The insight Longworth shares above, a minor point in a compelling and tragic season, really made me think--just one example of how great her show is. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MLB Player Nicknames

22 August 2017: "This is a great thing for baseball because baseball is whimsical." --Mike Pesca, on Hang Up and Listen. 

Unfortunately, this discussion of the best nicknames that will appear on player's jerseys this weekend was part of the Slate Plus segment, which means you can't listen if you aren't a Slate Plus member. But this silly little segment made me smile and laugh and remember how much I love about baseball. You can read the list that inspired the segment here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

"I'll Take My Chances"

21 August 2017:

“Now some people say that you shouldn't tempt fate
And for them I cannot disagree.
But I never learned nothing from playing it safe.
I say fate should not tempt me.” –Mary Chapin Carpenter, “I’ll Take My Chances”

This, the day of the eclipse, has been a hard one for me. I can’t really say why, partly because I don’t want to be specific, but also because I don’t think that specificity would really explain anything. Now there were lovely touches of light and goodness—watching the eclipse with a couple dear friends, a message from another friend just when I needed it—but man, I spent most of the day just feeling…not great.

By 7:30 or so, I needed to do something. So, as I have done so many times before, I hopped in the car. I took a drive to Martinsburg to run an errand that could have waited. But driving makes me feel better. So that helped a bit.

And on the drive back, I found myself following a solitary big cloud, much taller than it was wide, giving off an amazing light show. It was in front of me, just off to the left, the entire twenty minute drive. That helped a bit, too.

As I drove home, I switched off the podcast I was listening to, hoping to hear *that* song (whatever it was)—the one that would make me feel even better or give me some insight. I keep changing the station, but it never came on. I mean, “Highway to the Danger Zone” was about as close as we got to topic-appropriate, but that isn’t the exact tone I was going for. Ha. When I got home, I sat out back, watching that cloud move further away, and hit shuffle on the iPod. It took a lot of clicking, but then we got there.

I’ve always liked “I’ll Take My Chances,” especially those amazing lines that I quoted above, full of sass and boldness, but for me, they are more aspirational than the motto by which I live my life. I am not a big risk taker. Not a bold one. Not a feather-ruffler. Old Prufrock and I have always had that in common, opting not to disturb the universe. And I don’t think that’s going to change in any substantial way any time soon.

But maybe, every once in a while, I will try. I have a time or two, after all, and it’s been okay. So maybe I will try that a bit more. And it will be okay.

So yeah…”I’ll Take My Chances.” That helped.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

WISH Reception

20 August 2017: "One woman, one gift, can change so much." --a speaker today at the WISH reception where this year's grant winners received their awards. A completely inspiring event!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Graduation Day

19 August 2017: "This is the fastest I've walked in four years...I walk like I used to walk." --Robert, who along with his dog Kansas, is part of the Guiding Eyes graduating class of August 2017. Luther is in that class and Amy is up there watching him graduate. I couldn't go, but I am watching the live-stream. It's amazing.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"I cannot live with you"

18 August 2017:

"So We must meet apart –
You there – I – here –
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer –
And that White Sustenance –
Despair – " --Emily Dickinson, "I cannot live with you"

I saw a image just now that reminded me of the last lines of this Dickinson poem. And then I felt like listening to a reading of it and found the one linked below. Sometimes just hearing someone else read a poem can open up new appreciation (for me).

I teach this one in my ENGL 312 class and point out how it's longer than a typical Dickinson poem. But beyond that surface observation, it always captivates me. The lines "And life is over there -- / Behind the shelf" come to mind frequently, too. And the juxtapositions! They culminate in that devastating rhyming pairing: the sustenance that come from "prayer" and "despair," the latter imagined as white, calling to mind manna from heaven. Despair sustains, prayer sustains, but here, at least, that's all they do. Such a complex examination of a love that can't be and can't not be at the same time.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Autism Screening Questionnaire — Speech and Language Delay"

17 August 2017: "Against the backdrop of the tree he looks so small." --Oliver De La Paz, "Autism Screening Questionnaire — Speech and Language Delay" (Audio here, too.)

Stumbled across this poem today--from a tweet of this other amazing line: "An insistence muscled and muscled again." It's beautiful and tender and heartbreaking. And it's a master class in what poetry can do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Listen to him...

16 August 2017: “Last night I couldn’t sleep at all because president Trump, our president, has literally betrayed the conscience of our country.” --Gianno Caldwell, a Republican policy analyst.

Watch this clip. He is openly weeping by the end. Tell me he's fake news or a snowflake or whatever. He's a black Republican and he's weeping over what the president has said. I find myself joining him every time I think about it. Again, that's all I can say.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

American Icons: Moby-Dick

15 August 2017: "Now that I've read a lot of Melville, I know that it's something he repeats over and over again: that it's better to make a terrible mistake, it's better to make an utter fool of yourself and to risk catastrophe than to be safe as an artist." --Tony Kushner, talking about Herman Melville and Moby-Dick in this episode of Studio 360: American Icons.

I listened to this while mowing the lawn today and a terrific discussion of the book and its power.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A fallen hero...

14 August 2017: "It was important to her to speak up for people that she felt were not being heard, to speak up when injustices were happening." --Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, who died in the home-grown terrorist attack in Charlottesville on Saturday.

It's impossible to stop thinking about what happened in Charlottesville. That's really all I can say about it tonight without going on a sad rant.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Orphan Black finale

13 August 2017: “I survived you. We survived you. Me and my sisters, together. This is evolution." --Sarah to Westmorland, in the Orphan Black finale, a moment that made me cheer. Farewell to a great show. Can't wait to see what Tatiana Maslany does next...

Birthday baseball!

12 August 2017: "Play ball!" --A little-leaguer who got to say the iconic words at about 10:10 or so, after a long rain delay at last night's Nationals game. Eric arranged for Erin and I to go, getting these super-sweet Diamond Club tickets.

The game, even with the delay, capped off a great day and a wonderful couple of days of birthday celebrating.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pre-birthday celebration...

11 August 2017: "It is gah-luh or gay-luh?" --lots of us, gathered at my house last night, trying to decide on a correct pronunciation. We never arrived at a consensus.

I don't like making a big deal out of myself for my birthday, but as #40 approached, I thought it would be fun to have some of my favorite people over to eat pizza and just hang out a bit. And it was amazing. I said this to Jane after everyone else left last night: one of the great and almost miraculous facts of my life is that at every stage of it, I have met wonderful people who I have been fortunate enough to call my friends. Having a bunch of them in the same room--sitting there and listening to them talk and laugh--just made me so very grateful.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

An early hero of the resistance...

10 August 2017: "I don't feel like I would have been doing my job to have done anything other than that." --Sally Yates, explaining why she ordered the Justice Department not to defend the travel ban.

In the craziness of the months since Sally Yates emerged as a hero, so much has happened that might forget her actions. It seems like years ago, not months ago. But this little video was a nice reminder of who she is, what she did, and why it matters.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Between the Lines"

9 August 2017: “So I've learned to listen through silence.” –Sara Bareilles, “Between the Lines”

A quiet day here, one split between two very different sets of activities. The morning was more physical: a long walk and then yard work galore. The afternoon/evening: preparing PowerPoint presentations for my Bible as Literature class. Regardless, I have spent a lot of time in my own head space.

The line above, from yet another Sara Bareilles song (is she secretly one of my favorites of all time now, without me even realizing it?), stood out to me today because A) it fits my blog theme for the year and B) it is a kind of (not necessarily easy) answer to some big questions I have been wondering about. It’s almost a cliché, I know, but what you don’t hear speaks volumes. That’s good and probably quite healthy to remember, realize, and admit.

Now back to those thrilling PowerPoints I go…

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Answering Machine"

8 August 2017:
"Try and breathe some life into a letter.
Losing hope, we'll never be together.
My courage is at its peak.
You know what I mean.
How do you say you're okay
To an answering machine?
How do you say goodnight
To an answering machine?" --The Replacements, "Answering Machine"

I am studying for a very strange theme round for this week's trivia game and this song factors in. I kind of dig it: working your way up to saying something big (even writing it down first--that's a classic move I would make)...and then getting the machine? Awful.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Apples and a science lesson...

7 August 2017: "We're collecting hemolymph..." --Sneha, my friend Carol's research assistant, explaining what they were up to when I stopped by her lab today.

I was at the lab to pick up some home-grown apples that Carol brought in for me, but I stuck around a bit longer than I might have because I really wanted to get a sense of what they were up to. It is kind of amazing how segregated faculty can get into their own disciplines, not really knowing what our peers are up to. By the end of my brief visit, I had a layman's understanding of what they were doing: These little snails are all being raised with differing levels of exposure to a pesticide. Carol and her assistant periodically startle the snails into secreting the hemolymph and then analyze the secretions for hormone levels. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

"Rain on Tin"

6 August 2017:
"As I dream of the rain’s long body,
I will eliminate from mind all the qualities that rain deletes
and then I will be primed to study rain’s power,
the first drops lightly hallowing,
but now and again a great gallop of the horse of rain
or an explosion of orange-green light.
A simple radiance, it requires no discipline.
Before I knew women, I knew the lonely pleasures of rain.
The mist and then the clearing.
I will listen where the lightning thrills the rooster up a willow,
and my whole life flowing
until I have no choice, only the rain,
and I step into it." --from "Rain on Tin," by Rodney Jones (audio version here)

Just listened to this poem tonight, as a light rain falls, and as more rain is forecast for tomorrow. I love the descriptions here. Twice in the poem Jones compares his feelings for the rain for his feelings for women, which is interesting and a bit ridiculous--and I mean this in a good way. In fact, if you listen to the audio version where he reads it, he even calls the poem "idiotic," which made me laugh.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Big Time"

5 August 2017:
"I play guitar and I sing my songs in the sunshine.
Captain and Cokes and barroom jokes keep me feeling fine.
And there's always a stage and a beautiful babe to squeeze my lime.
In my simple way, guess you can say I'm living in the big time." --Big & Rich, "Big Time"

I loved this song when it came out back in 2005. Especially that summer after I finished my dissertation, I spent a lot of time driving around listening to it. That was a strange time for me--finishing up graduate school, being on the job market, and realizing that my life was about to change. And I didn't have all that much control over what (or, more accurately where) would come next.

I remember finding a kind of fun comfort in "Big Time," especially its chorus, which just happily asserts that things will be okay and that living in the "big time" is relative. They are singing about their music careers, of course, but the parallel seemed clear to me. I Because even then--when I was dreading being on my own again in new place and having to start all over again, when so many of my friends and peers had different kinds of lives at that point--I kind of always knew that I was okay not having lots of money or having a life that looked more traditional. If I could get a job--a big if, because the job market was and is terrible---I would always be okay because I would be doing what I loved.

Anyway, I don't think I had listened to this song in years before tonight, as I played it while driving home from a fundraiser for a local theater. I had just spent a few hours hanging out with friends and meeting some great new people. It was a lovely and cool summer night, not quite dark yet. The car windows were open and I sang along, just like I had done so many times twelve years ago. I don't "play guitar" or "sing my songs in the sunshine," and no one is squeezing my limes (ha!), but basically, it's pretty close. Living in the big time time, indeed.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Everything is Copy

4 August 2017: "I now believe that what my mother meant was this: When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's you're a laugh, so you become a hero rather than the victim of the joke. I think that's what she meant. On the other hand, she may merely have meant everything is copy." --Nora Ephron in Everything is Copy

Today has been kind of fantastic. My friend Hannah met me in the morning to accompany me to the eye doctor so that she could help me pick out new frames. (Her fashion sense is spot-on, while mine Then we had lunch and came back here to watch movies and just chill. Fabulous. In addition to Everything is Copy, a favorite of hers, we watched The Incredible Jessica James (such fun) and even some Parks and Rec. Lots of fabulous women being awesome. A nice way to spend the day during this week when I am trying to pull off the whole stay-cation vibe (though I am not a fan of that word).

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Overheard in the cat cafe...

3 August 2017: "We really need to work on those 'k' sounds." --exasperated mom at the cat cafe we visited today, embarrassed over her little boy's pronunciation.

There are lots of great things about the “Give Purrs a Chance” cat café in Berkeley Springs, chiefly a couple dozen super-friendly cats to pet and play with. But alas, unless you were there today when we were, you will not have the pleasure of hearing a small boy who pronounces his “k” sounds as “t” sounds. He was very enthusiastic about his love for “cats” and “kitties.” [Not what he actually said.] He proclaimed, “I live for kitties!” [Also not what he actually said.]

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Ho Hey"

2 August 2017:
"I belong with you, you belong with me
You're my sweetheart" --The Lumineers, "Ho Hey"

Heard this today and it just worked. Sometimes simple words say it best, after all.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


1 August 2017: “I don’t know how I’d do it without my faith.” –someone I was in a meeting with today, explaining how she was dealing with her daughter’s recent cancer diagnosis. This is someone who, in the past few years, has already lost her husband and her other daughter to cancer.

When you hear this kind of news—news that someone whose life has already been broken more than once by tragedy is facing even more heartache—all you can do is step back and wonder how they persist. And her statement—that her faith got her through—wasn’t delivered with a simple smile or as some sort of pat cliché. She said it with a kind of grim and resigned half-smile, the sign (to me) of faith at work in this often very nasty and cruel world. Faith doesn’t get you through a crisis (or a series of crises) unscathed or drama-free. It’s what you cling to…sometimes desperately, sometimes with exhaustion or even anger. What a model this woman is for us all.