Monday, April 26, 2010

Goals 2010 (cont.)

Stepping onto the campus of Warren Wilson College last Thursday reminded me a lot of my first time visiting Denison in Granville, Ohio. Not only was it strikingly beautiful, with brick buildings and a mountainous landscape, it also seemed like a vibrant student body.

My goal in visiting Warren Wilson was to get a nudge in one direction or the other: either I'd be steered toward a closer, more practical program (read: "cheaper"), or I'd be pushed toward this program that I first stumbled upon through a google search. The MFA program office assistant said students who complete it describe the program as "life changing." She also said only 10% of applicants are admitted. I want to be a part of that select group!

The next few days will be spent scrambling around, getting ready for next quarter. I'm mostly excited, though there are some unresolved issues from last quarter that trouble me. I bought one of those crates on wheels, since I'll be teaching three separate classes. What I couldn't give for my own cubicle. (Ha - that's a sentence I never thought I'd utter!)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On the Road Again... da da da da da On the Road Again...

Asheville is fiercely local: if a restaurant can get its supplies from a local farmer or grocer, it will; if a bar can provide beer brewed just down the street, it will. Apparently, fifty or so years ago, its downtown dried up. Businesses left. The city was in debt. As it paid down the debt, big chains like J. C. Penny's and Sears wanted to set up shop. But Asheville decided, no, it would develop with its own artisans and shops. Because of its location (in the middle of some gorgeous country), the city had no trouble attracting people to move and live there. And over the decades, it has built a sustainable and vibrant community that supports locally-owned businesses.

(At least, this is what was explained to me midway through a brewery tour, complete with samples.)

I'm back in Cincinnati. It's hard not to feel some melancholy over what our city could be were its citizens as adamant about having locally-owned businesses over chain stores and chain restaurants. We spend millions of dollars trying to attract Nordstrom's downtown, as if that's the key to revitalizing the area. The suburbs have their chains. They have their boutique shops and malls with everything. Department stores aren't going to cause them to drive downtown.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Think I'll Wear a Dress Today

It is absolutely beautiful outside. Sunny and warm (but not too warm), it's the kind of day that makes you want to get out of the house.

Yesterday was the last day of the quarter; grades are due Friday. During my brief break before the next quarter begins, I'm finally heading down to Asheville, NC. Not only does the city boast gorgeous mountains and a thriving arts scene, but it also is home to Warren Wilson College. I'm moving forward and taking baby steps. From Warren Wilson's Low Res Program overview (emphasis mine):
The Program's commitment to active teaching and active learning is unshakeable. While the balanced study of literature and the craft of writing does make its graduates attractive candidates for teaching positions, no one should apply to the program if he/she seeks the degree mainly for employment purposes. Likewise, while our graduates publish their work widely, no one should apply seeking only an editor for projects progress. Our goal is not to supply credentials or technical support, but to assist students with their education and their development of writers.
This is part of what attracts me to a program like this. While I am seeking a terminal degree in my area of interest, something that would give me the option to teach at a variety of schools, I am more interested in growing and developing as a writer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quick note

I can understand the pessimism of others. I see cruelty and injustice abound. I watch the news and feel stupider for doing so. Just thinking about our media, our celebrity-obsessed culture, and our rampant anti-intellectualism is enough to drive me batty.

Because there are so many media outlets and because we are absolutely bombarded with new (an often conflicting) information, we have to be savvy consumers of that information. We have to know how to sort it - how to reject some and accept others. But who has time to do that when Junior has a soccer game, Sally has a study date, and Mom is working another twelve-hour shift?

If only there was a cable network dedicated to sorting that information for us and making it fit into a neat and tidy world-view!

It is hard not to be cynical. It's hard for me not to think of the tea partiers as a group of (mostly) white guys, angry that their world is changing, nostalgic for a time that never really existed.

Otherwise, I'm good :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sorting Through the Clutter

My room is clean today. Not my bedroom, with pants thrown over my ironing board and the items I'd washed yesterday still residing in a suitcase (much more convenient than a basket for transportation), but my middle room - the place with my desk, laptop, printer, table, trolls, bookshelf, pens, coats, loose change, and other miscellaneous items.

I spent yesterday evening sorting papers, piling and un-piling some while disposing of others. And around 9:00pm, I vacuumed. We'll see how long it stays this way, but I think I'll be more inclined to hang up my jacket when I come home or put my shoes somewhere other than the middle of the floor.

Off to a coffee shop to grade (and to consume caffeine and bagel) and then the library to work - we get self-checkout later this week, which I had at my old branch.

I'm doing better. I've plowed through. My brothers and I spent Easter at my grandmother's, and she's moving around with more ease. She still gets tired very quickly, and slept a lot of the time we were there, but every day she feels stronger.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"It is never too late to give up your prejudices."

Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" came through the library today. It was a version that has Thoreau's original text along with annotations in the margins. I opened it up to find my favorite passage (everyone's favorite passage) -- you know, the one about going to the woods to live deliberately, sucking marrow, yada yada yada. It's a great passage, each word resonating with meaning. In the margin, though, is a quote from a letter Thoreau had written to H. G. O. Blake in 1848 (emphasis mine):
I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest man thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simply the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.
Years later, in a journal entry, he wrote, "There are two kinds of simplicity,--one that is akin to foolishness, the other to wisdom. The philosopher's style of living is only outwardly simple, but inwardly complex."

Ah, simplicity: I'm rethinking my plans.

It's funny - sometimes you read things that speak straight to you. There's nothing to consider, analyze, and interpret: it's directly there. Thoreau speaks plainly but deeply.

Friday, April 2, 2010

(Not a Non-Sequitur)

Because I bought creamer for my coffee, I could finally do my dishes.

For the past two weeks, I've been alternating between Panera and Starbucks for my caffeine fixes. I had run out of creamer and instant hot chocolate, and while in a pinch I can drink black coffee, I'd rather not. Dishes had been piling up in my sink (though not quickly because, really, I don't cook). Call it neurotic, call it lazy, but the only time I wash my dishes is when I'm waiting for coffee to percolate.

This morning, creamer in hand, I brewed my own coffee and washed my dishes. Victory.