Tomorrow is the first day of the first week of no teaching and no prep since September. So tomorrow I will bake a pair of cakes. And I will pack up books for our authors and write our cards for them, and I will pack orders (the MIEL shop closes on Wednesday morning our time/Tuesday night US time) and bike to the post office. And when I get home I will take a long, hot shower without rushing to get ready to go out to teach or work. Tomorrow I will back up my computer for the first time since August (please, computer, don’t fail before tomorrow now). I will write out guidelines for the Dickinson House fellowship jury (applications are open for residencies!). I will read the last of my students’ in-class writing and make notes for each of them. I will let the cats in and out and in and out of the house, and play with the guinea pigs. Tomorrow I will do some accounting and check my bank accounts. I will pay a few bills. I will organize my desk, which now looks out the window where I can see the peach tree’s red branches. Tomorrow I will send some work out, and I will open the brown folder with 1873 in it and lay the pages out and find myself in the novel again. I will make a fire. And later, when J comes home with some very old kitchen cabinets, I will help him put them in the outbuilding and we will plan what a functional printmaking studio might look like, there in the future which is long beyond tomorrow but which tomorrow is still a single step towards.
Already “long ago” according to the labels my brain applies. Early September looks like summer although it wasn’t always warm. Without the time I would like to take to write about memorials, this city, an Italianate building in an imperial park, I will just notice how my eye tended toward red against green (a color combination I love, learned in part from Amélie and in part from Japanese textiles that range a rusty orange/red against a bright spring green: festival!). These photos are all from Sanssouci. Brief impression, like the colors seen when you close your eyes after looking at a light: stillness and movement, but the movement an illusion of the colors together. In the gardens, although people were walking around, I remember it being very very quiet.
In between teaching and planning to teach, the other work comes. With cat on lap and guinea pigs chomping hay, recently with a fire in the fireplace. With rain on the windows sometimes, although not as much as I expected. With banana bread almost every week. With the big lights of barges going down the river outside. It’s not like at some point I’ve learned (for once and for all) that writing is a process/making is a process. Over and over I get frustrated: nothing’s happening. I’m not writing. But in the interstices I am writing. And eventually it adds up to something (a long poem, a manuscript, the novel, an essay).
Same with the drawings. I thought I wouldn’t get a calendar done this year. I had almost given up. But then I set aside time for it and, with J’s help, went through lots of older drawings to get an idea of what interested me, what I wanted to draw (instead of what I thought other people might like to buy). I wanted to draw weird beings, strange animals, the birdwoman, nice clothes, and Japanese superheroes. So I did. The results are birds & women, a calendar for 2015. You can get a copy in the MIEL shop if you would like (or at our Christmas pop-up shop, which will be open on December 13—email me for information). There are also cards in the shop, and a subscription to MIEL’s 2015 output which is an incredible deal (normally shipping alone would be about the same price as this—which includes shipping).
Flowers on my birthday with Neele and Jonathan (a day where I really did just whatever I wanted and in very good company). The gardens are no longer in as full a state, many more flowers are bent low or simply dying back. Zinnias, marigolds, chrysanthemums, some cosmos, borage, yarrow persist. Lots of heavy fog in the mornings this week, which I like although it makes riding my bike to the bus stop quite chilly. Chai lattes sometimes from powder and sometimes I just steep some cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and peppercorns with a teabag, then add frothed (i.e. shaken in the jar) milk. Would like to be going slower and writing more, but teaching means the pace is pretty relentless and there is little time to write. Still, slowly working on long poems about the US, train travel, coming of age. Thinking about some essays about music, which I have some beginnings for—but strangely somewhere in my brain I’ve always reserved writing about music and films for men, or just not for me. And of course thinking about 1873, but resigned to the fact that I won’t get back to that until summer: having future-nostalgia for the summer I project, which is (a) warm, (b) full of visiting writers, and (c) an expanse of time in which I can write the rest of this novel. The smaller forms fill in the gaps; most of all, they remind me of what my work is (writing) and what I most value (writing, helping others write, making space for other writers to make their work, making books), even as teaching swells and swells, taking over any available space. Having too little work has never been a problem in my life. This fall certainly continues the pattern.