Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rainy Day Tuesday

Woke up early this morning, before dawn. Did some work, listening to the rain against the windows.

Reminds me of Lowell George singing "Can't Stop The Rain." Once I had a bunch of emails done, I proceeded to make another batch of fresh tomato sauce to put by. Nothing better than the taste of summer when it's snowing. The whole house smells yum. Made coffee. Ate a toasted slice of sourdough bread with a dose of peanut butter and strawberry jam. I'm set. Head is buzzing.

Outside my window, our small orchard and the farmer's large orchard alongside of it, all the trees heavy with fruit. The varying shades of reds and yellows and greens. This year, the apples and pears in abundance and so crunchy, so juicy, so sweet, you'd wonder why you ever wanted a pinch of sugar. Soon it will be time to pick those apples, very soon.

To Kill A Mockingbird is just a gorgeous book. I'm teaching it this semester and I just am in love with Lee's lyrical storytelling. It's just packed with metaphor. Most of my class had read it in high school, but I can see by their response and discussion that the book is opening up to them.
New ways of seeing and thinking.

Did you hear the news, Lucy, who inspired Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds passed away last week. How sad is that. She was 46 years old. She was suffering from Lupus, and Jullian Lennon,who, at age 4, did the drawing of her that inspired his dad to write the song, was in contact with her during her illness. The story was quite remarkable.

I've always loved that song and liked to sing it to our Lucy when she was a baby. I use to lift my niece up and fly her around the room to the song at the lake house. It was Wheeeeee! Ah so many years ago.

I did make a bunch of lists on Sunday and it set me on a decent path. The check marks done are quite satisfying. More to do today.

Good words to you all.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Autumn Days and Nights

Since the first week of August, we've had little rain. Maybe a brief shower about a week ago, which our remaining and surviving root plants welcomed. Last night rain and this morning a bit more. The cooler weather is making me want to hunker down. Time to set the hours for my own work. Just settling in to the rhythm of teaching: grading and returning papers in a timely fashion; being prepared for class, both lecture and interactive classwork. It's always a rocky ride in the first weeks of class. now those days are slowly pulling away and we're off ~

I would like to buy some more yarns because knitting helps me think and plan. Actually any repetitive work allows me to meditate. I think about writing for hours before I put actual lines down. Consequently, when I do write, the first "editing" has been done in my head. I think I started to do this twenty-one years ago, when we first moved to the farm. I'm 45 minutes from everywhere, and the drive time to and from destinations gives me blocks of time. Gardening is another block of time and doing the dishes. You see the repetitive gestures in each type of work/activity. There is a certain "rest" in all of these activities that allows me to be creative. I think it turns off the censor voice, the nagging voice that puts the busyness of life first.
Life seems to divide us and package us according to its clock. Although I do pay attention to the clock, there are certain hours that are mine. I learned early on to take time and make it work for me.

But here I am this morning feeling a bit antsy. I have a lot of work to do. Time to make a list.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Today, feels like Fall

Went to the Public Market today. It wasn't as crowded as it usually is, which was surprising. Most often we move along in the bump and jostle of people; stopping to purchase something is tricky because people follow that close-- so many near collisions.

Bought a bushel of Roma tomatoes. Our tomato plants didn't do well and the ones that did, the chickens feasted upon to their hearts' content. Presently I'm making a batch of fresh sauce and roasting red peppers.

The Market's offering was so colorful. All those fragrant baskets of peaches and plums, and tomatoes and peppers-- all kinds. We bought some more raw honey and onions and fresh mozzarella and slicing tomatoes too.

In the bustle, I watched two strollers pass each other and the babies inside, maybe 18 mos, waved hello to each other. It was so darling-- these fat little hands reaching out and the squeal of their voices.

Hoping to go for a walk in a bit. It's such a glorious day.

Friday, September 25, 2009

At Last, Friday

Thoroughly enjoyed meeting Mark Yakich last evening. He read from all three of his collections and a bit from his creative nonfiction essays, which is a current writing project. He was charming, witty, devilish, tender--a completely enjoyable evening. We had an audience of over 55 (students, faculty and community).


Next week, Robert Bernard Hass will be reading at Fisher. We're having back to back poetry readings.

St. John Fisher College
English Department

Fr. John Cavanaugh Reading Series
presents Robert Bernard Hass
Reading from his recent poetry collection



David Robert Books * August 2008

Thursday, October 1st, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.
Wilson Formal Lounge
Free and Open to the Public.

Robert Bernard Hass is the author of Going by Contraries: Robert Frost's Conflict with Science (University of Virginia Press, 2002), which was selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title in 2004. He has won an Academy of American Poets Prize, an Associated Writing Programs Intro Journals Award, and a fellowship to Bread Loaf. He is currently Associate Professor of English at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches courses in American literature, classical literature, and Shakespeare.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Orleans Poet Mark Yakich

Photo from Mark Yakich's web site.

Mark Yakich
,author of Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross (National Poetry Series, Penguin 2004), The Making of Collateral Beauty (Snowbound Chapbook Award, Tupelo 2006), and The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine (Penguin 2008)., will be reading at St. John Fisher College on Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. in the Golisano Gateway Middle Level Room. He is an associate professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans.

This reading is a collaboration with R.I.T. Mark will be reading there at 4:00 p.m. in the Liberal Arts Faculty Common Bldg 6-1251. This reading sponsored by R.I.T., St. John Fisher College Arts Minor Program, Poets & Writers and NYSCA.

Readings are free and open to the public. Mark's books will be available for purchase at the
St. John Fisher reading.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday, Sunday

Cool morning, actually quite brisk. Fall in the the air. Sun is shining and clear blue skies.
Spent the day in the Bristol Hills yesterday. We had the Just Poets Retreat at Writers & Books
Gell Center. 30 poets attended the retreat. Our day began with a lecture on Black Mountain Poets presented by John Roche. Then we two workshop sessions, morning and afternoon, with two workshops offered in each session. In each session we offered a "critique" workshop and a creative also known as " writing aerobics" workshop. Our workshop leaders: Claudia Stanek, Ron Bailey, Karla Linn Merrifield and Dwain Wilder were fantastic and I could hear a lot of laughter and quiet moments thoroughout the day. Donna Marbach, Dwain Wilder and I organized the day.Everyone helped, from car pooling to clean up. The closing reading was magical. The lodge room was filled with afternoon light and everyone read something created during the day or something brought along. Everyone's face bathed in that mountain light looked so peaceful. We had a day of sanctuary. A true opportunity to have conversations that touched upon our everyday lives and our creative lives. It was a very special day.

Leading up to this day was a week of frustrations, which began with my office computer acting wonkie for a whole week, which OIT didn't ticket my work order as a priority(I guess being faculty and unable to do any work isn't desperate enough), which was fixed a week later in under 8 minutes. OIT had upgraded a program and in the transfer some of the program language loaded improperly on some computers on campus. (I wasn't the only one). Things that should take a minute, either didn't work, or would work by hitting my desk's top. I know it's like kicking the car tire. I couldn't send emails, or reply, but I could read. It goes on and on. Needless to say, it was challenging, but I muddled my way through it. My home computer wasn't shut out of the system. So I did make some forward motion, but it felt like I was dragging a block of cement with me.

Then, my birthday. Thank you everyone who sent me notes. I've had a hard time with this turn of year. I know in my heart that I'm not of an age where I should waste any time, and should only do things that I want to do. This is the reason why I didn't get my blood in a bubble over the computer disaster. It was so interesting to realize that my note to OIT was processed as non-urgent. I wonder what language I need to use to convey professional desperation? If any of you have key words that would trigger priority without sounding like a raving lunatic, please advise.

On my birthday, I found out, quite by accident, that one of the clubs I advise, their budget was MIA and the SGA was going to freeze our operations. (YIKES!) I know the budget was completed, but the editor who did it has graduated and is on her way to France to teach for a year. (I know, why am I not going with her? It sounds wonderful, doesn't it ?) So, on Friday, the current editor and I rewrote the budget from scratch and filled out necessary paperwork. We were successful! Handed in the packet. I'm hoping we'll be back on track by this upcoming Thursday when we have to present our budget to a special case committee. Say a prayer for us.

In the past two weeks everything seems to be a lesson.

I was very thoughtful on Thursday. It was the anniversary of my Mom's death. It's been 12 years. I found coins all week, on the ground where I walked, in my shoes, on window sills. A few days before she passed, she promised me she would leave me coins to let me know she was around. From the day she passed, she has left me coins nearly every day. I save them in a jar, and then twice a year I roll the coins. It's enough to take my family out to a fancy dinner, or to the movies and a not so fancy dinner. Nickel, Penny,Dime, Quarter. That's the chant.

I know my Mom was with me all week.

Now to make plans for the upcoming week. I hope to do a bit of writing today and take a walk.

Oh yes, last note, please look at the most recent issue of The Hobble Creek Review. It went live on my birthday. Thank you, Justin for this gift.

Justin announced HCR's annual Pushcart nominees and I think he made wonderful choices.
Congrats to all, and especially Mary Biddinger (because I've actually met her and read her blog) and to Collin Kelley who I only know through blogville, but maybe someday I'll meet.

Good words to all!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Birthday, today

Today is my birthday and I'm working/teaching until 9:30 p.m. Had pancakes with my family this morning. I'm not happy about getting older, not this year. It's a pretty day outside, but I have been up to my eyeballs figuring out the Spring schedule. Can you believe it? I can't . I wish we had Zen schedules, for in the moment teaching. I might enjoy that!

I'm not sure what I will wish for this year. I will post a list of good intentions.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday roundup

The semester is off to a good start. General well being in all classes, which is a blessing. I can see on the course rosters that more students have added, so I will have to catch them up this week. The first two weeks of school are so rocky until the class rhythm settles in. From the first classes, I think it's going to be a rewarding semester.


Went canoeing in the pond today with Peter. A wind ruffled the water and felt cool against our faces. We could hear kingfishers, but didn't see any in flight. The hydrilla is decaying
and there's an emerald green scum that looks like pointillism. Saw a couple of grass carp, but they weren't lolling in the hydrilla as they were several weeks ago. The sun came out. It was quiet. So very quiet.


Taking my Encounters class to the Dryden Theatre on Thursday. We're going to see Love with a Proper Stranger (Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood). My class is very bright, so I know they will have an interesting reaction to the film. They've also been assigned to create a collage. Looking forward to seeing their creations.

Hope to be back sooner than later.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Call for Submission

Poetry Contest: Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred

Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred

What is poetry of the sacred?

Poetry that expresses, directly or indirectly, a sense of the holy or that, by its mode of expression, evokes the sacred. The tone may be religious, prophetic, or contemplative.

Contest Guidelines

Deadline for submissions: Received by December 31, 2009.

First Prize, $500; Three Honorable Mention Prizes, $100 each.

Winning Poems will be published in The Merton Seasonal, a publication of scholarly articles about noted spiritual leader Thomas Merton and will be posted on the Merton Institute web site

Only ONE unpublished poem type written in English may be submitted.

Please limit the poem to no more than 100 lines.

Type your name, address, phone number, FAX number, email address, and the title of your poem on a cover page. Attach (1) one copy of your titled poem to the cover page.

Submit your poem on a page with no identifying information. All identifying information should be on your cover page.

If you are submitting your poem via email, the poem must be sent as an attachment saved in Word 2003. Any other format will not be accepted.

Submit poem to:

Merton Institute

2117 Payne Street

Louisville, KY 40206

Or email to:
vhurst(at)mertoninstitute.org (replace (at) with @) as a Word 2003 document attachment.

No Faxed entries will be accepted.

No poems will be returned.

Poems will be judged on literary excellence, spirit
ual tenor, and human authenticity.

Winners will be announced by April 1, 2010. Please visit the Institute website for contest results.

Post Labor Day

We went canoeing in Yanty Marsh yesterday, which is a protected environment and part of Hamlin State Park. It was so peaceful, so green. We slow paddled, trying not to make a lot of noise. In some areas the hydrilla was so thick it was like sliding over a waterbed-- a thousand tiny fingers holding us up. We saw three Double-Crested Comorants, a Great Blue Heron, Kingfishers, Sand pipers, Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans; Small fry swimming in the water; bladderwort, hydrilla, water hyacinths, cattails, water irises, without blooms, very small lilypads, which I need to look up. We were gone for over 2 hours.
I'm so glad we went.

Then spent the rest of the day procrastinating.

Now I'm day confused because of the holiday. I keep looking at the calendar. Tuesday, really.

It's official September now. The semester begins this week. I think I'm still dragging my big toe in summer.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

This weekend has been a mix of work and play. A thoughtful weekend. A weekend of company
and conversations.

Last night we sat around a yard fire, out under the stars and wispy clouds and moon rising, and talked abut practically everything. The people around the fire were my oldest friends (literally grade school) and newer friends who have become a part of this group-- all of whom have an enormous capacity for life. They all love to laugh, and when things have been tough really punch in the stomach tough, we have hung together, trying to sort it out or not sort it out because there were no reasonable words. Sometimes our just sitting next to each other is enough. We're nearing the dates of some sad anniversaries. And fortunately, we can talk about things that happened so quickly; things that left us numb and our carrying on was a brave front when all we really wanted to do was fold up. We've lost parents and siblings and friends and children and grandchildren. Some to illness, some to accident, some to the unexplained. I'm so lucky to have these people in my life. The fire burned a long time last night. We arrived home after midnight, but somehow it didn't seem late at all.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Off the hook

Okay, I'm on my own in the pursuit of residencies. And on my own in telling people graciously that I have to get back to work. Maybe just being direct works best.

In any event I started looking up some residencies. I'm going to see what happens. There some some bloggers who go to 2-3 a year! ( that's "knowing" the application ropes), and they have a variety of experiences, from conference to retreat. . . . We have a monastery near us. I wonder if they would allow a writer to retreat there? Maybe worth asking.

It may be fun to find a place to retreat to with several other writers, so we could work alone, then have dinner and sharing in the evening. That sounds appealing too. We'll see.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Questions about Residencies

I have never had the opportunity to apply for a writing residency. I complicated my life early on. I married at 19, then had my first child at 20. That marriage lasted about 5 years. My current marriage has lasted 33 years, which includes more children and is still going on. So my living has been steady in the domestic scene, and I have been working all those years too. I live in a pastoral landscape. Much of my writing has this place as its setting, and I hope as I grow older that my children will be able to keep this little farm in the family. My grandchildren want it, or so they tell me. But I'm getting away from my questions. I would love the chance to go to a residency now. Not a conference or weekend workshop, but a place of solitude. I don't think anyone here would mind my taking off for a bit. I'm wondering what the success is. Is it bliss or agony? Does it take a bit to settle into the new space? How does one feel post residency? Do other writers and artists respect the solitude, or is there invasion? What do you do when there is invasion and you need to get back to work, but don't want to be rude?

Here's an example:

Because my work takes me everywhere, I literally drive 35,000 miles per year. I suffer tension in my neck and back. I used to go to massage therapists (actually have been to several) and the same damn thing happens. They talk to me-- literally my earlobes are dragging on the ground when I leave their workspace. So I never really feel loosened up, because I've had to be a good listener to them-- hear their stuff and respond to them. Consequently, I stopped going because the tension cure was minimal and the cost steep. Massage therapy ain't cheap. So, this is what I want to know. How many of you had superior experiences and where, and how did you manage your time, and how did you maintain boundaries, without looking like a jerk?

Trick questions

Last night's trick question at dinner:

What would you rather be a werewolf or vampire?

I said vampire.


Better costume choices.

But, you'd have to drink human blood. Yes, bad humans' blood. And what happens when all the bad humans are gone?

Well, truth be told, we'll never run out of bad humans. What do werewolves eat?

Rodents, mostly. We'll never run out of rodents either.

But werewolves have lousy( in the true sense of the word) costumes, right?


Please pass the tomato salad.


I love Karen Weynant's poem "Canning Season." For me, the poem's success hinges on the speaker's suspicion that her parents are royalty. I love the speaker's practice with the communion veil and its imaginative leap to Princess Diana's wedding( or this is what I immediately thought). The ending too, startling in black and blue. I really like Ron Mohring's
working class poem web site.


We have been eating braised cucumbers. Julia's recipe and our own versions (instead of mint, we've used basil, and on another try dill) and it is a "revelation."

Thank you, R, for the latest recipe. Yes, the dollop cottage cheese . . . another revelation.


I'm trying to juggle prep for classes with my own writing. The late nights are starting up again.
I need a compass. Which direction?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Looking Back Over My Shoulder

September has arrived with its appointed tasks. That's where I've been. Working. Finishing syllabi and planning events. Going to many meetings. Clippity-clop. Here's to a new year.

Now I'm caught between three worlds. The domestic. So much work to be done here. The harvest, which has been quite humbling this year. So much lost because of the weather. But some unexpected bounties too. The creative. New work brewing, even in some of those meetings that required all of my attention, I stole a second to scribble lines. The academic.
Miles to go before I sleep. The return of the intense living schedule. So much going on inside of my head's daily planner. Time for post-it notes. Off to a flying start.