Thursday, November 18

late autumn in the desert

I am in between roadtrips at the moment. tomorrow we set off east, north, to the cold windy scapes of Chicagoland. I hope the trip is smooth and not too exhausting. the holiday time with in-laws will, I'm sure, be festive and cheery and very much worth the two-day drive.

last weekend, taking advantage of our Veteran's Day day off, I took a short, sweet roadtrip up to St. George. I stayed with friend Chalice for a few nights, ate some great food (including cheesecake crepes and almost-too-spicy basil chicken ramen), and joined my sister to hike or rock climb or something. I wouldn't find out exactly which until I got up there.

first, we spent the morning leisurely hiking around Confluence Park, enjoying the morning sunshine glinting all over the the bright blue Virgin River. it was such a gloriously nice day.

next was the more rigorous bit. we set out with ropes and harnesses to rappel down into a slot canyon and canyoneer around boulders and through puddles. it was a beautiful spot-- Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. I had never been there, never done anything like rappelling, but so it goes when one signs up to tag along for unspecified outdoorsing. 

as it turns out, it was awesome.

{ photo taken and shared by one of our canyoneering companions who brought their phones along }
 
hopefully I get to do some more of it again someday. beautiful rocks and autumn foliage. strenuous exercise. gravity. adrenaline. scraped and muddy shins.
 
much of this adventure reminded me of my final spring break as an undergraduate, years and years ago. the Red Cliffs isn't far at all from Zion National Park. the steep climb out of Yankee Doodle Canyon reminded me just a little bit of the last few yards up to the top of Angels Landing, sans the helpful chains.

the whole canyon loop we followed is less than a mile long, but keeping our socks dry from puddles and taking time for so many photographs slowed us down considerably. the sky was darkening by the time we even found the way up and back to the road. the moon, a nearly perfect half-moon, peeked down at us and pulled thicker and thicker layers of darkness out over the whole sky. it got cold in a heartbeat. 
 
the next morning, I drove home again, on mostly empty highways, first under star-strewn pre-dawn black and then alongside a peachy pale sunrise that just so softly outlined the shine of Lake Mead as I raced across Nevada. Arizona welcomed me back again with more traffic and more sunshine, more desert, more cactuses. 
 
tonight, the moon is a soft fuzzy circle of shine, like a gauzy flower all aglow. tomorrow, perhaps she will see us off at our early departure toward the north-east.

Friday, October 22

smoke and sunbeams

last week the first cold snap of this autumn season came to town, frosting across everything and showering the night with hailstones.

the chill in the air has since then become less snappish. we're used to it now. the mornings demand scarves and layers and a brisker pace when we walk the little pugs.

last weekend there was a camping trip. it was glorious-- we had such a lovely time. I was so refreshed and grateful for all that time in the woods. we didn't go far, just a 40-minute drive up into the mountains. for both nights the moon was so bright, so round and brilliant behind the tallest pine trees, that it felt like someone was shining a floodlight through the southeast wall of our tent.

during our explorations Friday night, Hamilton and I met the most gloriously gnarled, fat, wise and beautiful juniper tree. my googling has led me to believe it's probably an alligator juniper, aka a checkerbark juniper or Juniperus deppeana. someday I will learn more about dendrology and have more to go on than too-cropped google images or what Wikipedia says.

anyway, she was most gorgeous: grey smooth trunks wrapped in thick scabby layers of bark, reaching out with such balance and grace, her whole being angled just so against the rocky ridge, all shrouded in green sprigs of pokey starlike juniper leaves.

{ that's her, my new favourite tree, on the right. }

that evening as the light faded, we ate the most traditional of camping fare, tin-foil dinners. mine was salmon on top of potatoes, carrots, onion, and red pepper. Jeremiah's was fake-chicken with all the same veggies plus plenty of cheese. tin-foil dinners are my family's tradition. it was great fun to introduce them to my husband after all this time.

once we'd set up camp there was nothing to do but sit and enjoy it all. I found myself quite enchanted by a small stone just across from the campfire-- red lavarock pocked with bubbles. where it sank into the pine-needles and dirt, there was a wisp of greenery twining up, little round frilly leaves bobbing lightly against the dark red. those colors and textures-- lava and leaves-- kept drawing my eye. but I didn't take a photograph.

early Saturday, we watched the sun climb and climb over the mountainside and up through the tall pines. its bright beams streamed visibly through all the boughs and needles, glinting around spider webs and clouds like sunbeams do. the angular softness of them mixed in with the swirling campfire smoke. that image enchanted me too. and the phrase for it-- smoke and sunbeams. 

perhaps I'm pretty easily enchanted. 

Sunday, October 3

waning crescent

this morning we woke up at first light, well enough rested, and after wrapping myself up in a fuzzy robe, I sat outside while the dogs sniffed around, watching the eastern edges of the sky turn colors.

I love seeing this happen. dawn. morning. sunrises. 

this time of year is especially great for it. the sun takes its time, the horizon for me today was obscured by the wall around our property, the tree on the left, more trees beyond that one.

but the sky is all still there, spread out behind everything, changing from dark to light under a mottled scrape of east-to-west cloud.

the cloud turned colors too-- from a grey smudge to grey-blue, then purple, before pink and flaming. I couldn't see the sun itself but I saw all the colors it was throwing around. 

my bare feet got cold. little Hamilton pawed at me to let him up on my lap. early hikers passed by on the trail behind our house. I noticed a mourning dove huddled on the edge of the back wall. a trio of crows swooped overhead. 

after a while, I stood up and walked a ways out from under our back-porch awning. up, up above the treeline and the blazing pink-gold clouds, the brilliant, bright white moon smiled down at us. it hung there tipped over on its side, a slim crescent against the blue morning. it surprised me, how solid and silvery and high it still was, with the sun right there on its tail.

I had to look this up to remind myself properly of the order of all the lunar phases, but as it happens, we're under a waning crescent moon today. at this point in her rhythm, she's pulling all her shine into her other half, turning and shrinking away, saving it for whoever is out on the other side. maybe it's just her, there with all the sunbeams-made-moonbeams. with no obligations to reflect it for anyone else at all. 

I've been thinking about that aspect of the moon for a while now. about how much value there is in that new moon phase-- how through all the never-ending cycles of waxing and waning and shining and spinning, there's plenty of time when the moon seems to keep her light to herself.

maybe that's a lesson I'm learning this year. this season. 

shining full-blast for everyone else all the time is a recipe for burnout and depression and resentment. and it's gotta be okay-- more than okay-- to use your talents just because you feel like it, even if nobody else will see or care or show up for it. my own reasons can be enough.

nature is pretty awesome, even if some portion of what we see as awesome in it is projected personifications and metaphors. so what? we are nature too. all of us and our stories have a place in the wild and shifting colors of the sky, clouds and moonlight and all.

I'm so grateful for cool, crisp morning sunrises and a tidy backyard to enjoy them in. so grateful for this space and time and everything I can learn from it.

not today's sunrise. just one sunrise of many


Thursday, September 2

what happens next

to find out what happens next is a pretty unmissable goal to have in life. it doesn't require much beyond paying a little bit of attention. being observant. how much action does that even really entail?

I'm also struck that this phrase "find out what happens next" invokes a very strong, narrative linearity and seems to impose that on the whole world. as if we are all living in a storybook in which all the things that happen next will come in a meaningful order, page by page. time may be linear, piling next after next after next into now, but narrative? that is not how things are by themselves. we get to add the meaning later. how things are underneath the metaphors we give them is much more difficult to figure out, it seems. 

semi-relevant sidenote: listening to this 99% Invisible episode and then happening to read this Frank Chimero blogpost made for a cool harmony of ideas. color. language. light. abstraction. the subjectivity of perception. 

my "about page" here on this blog currently says "my main goals in life involve asking more than enough questions and being open to as many possibilities as possible. I want to always keep learning things. seeing new perspectives. doing what I can to be good and positive in a messy, difficult world."

but it used to say "my main goal in life is to find out what happens next."

waiting to find out what happens next in one's life, or wherever, does involve some agency... the persistence of staying alive and the patient, passive agency of any curious being. the restraint of an impartial and aloof observer. 

to wait and merely observe implies no vested interest in the outcome. minimal expectations. no biased wanting this or that to happen instead of x or y. in fact, wanting any particular outcome more than another is unscientific. not allowed. 

I remember my gradschool mentors telling me me that my eager, wide-open sense of wonder is part of what makes me a good researcher. my brain will feel rewarded and incentivized by any results, whatever they might be, because I'm convinced that anything can become interesting if you look closely enough.

thankfully not everything has to be a rigorous, tenaciously justified research project. not all of life is science, and even if it were, not all science truly can be so detached from the what that happens, even if it tries to be. 

I'm pondering the opposites here. the opposite of waiting to find out seems like it should be running around making things happen.

I like making things. to spend life making beautiful or useful things is a goal of mine, too. when I say I like making, it's usually in reference to pretty sentences, arts and crafts, or deliciousness in a pastry crust. sometimes websites. sometimes furniture.

now I'm thinking about making what happens next.

why just wait and see, when instead we could make the things happen that we want to see happen? be the change, right?

we're already doing it, in any case. no matter what, everything we do is part of making the world. somehow. maybe we're changing it, maybe we are keeping it the same, or maybe some of each depending on the day. even if we aren't epic heroes out to save the world, we can save little pieces of it at a time. we can (sometimes profoundly, even) influence little segments of our chosen spheres, as friend Melanie puts it in the comments here.

it isn't hugely comforting to recognize that consciously or unconsciously, whether I'm waiting or acting or somewhere in between, I'm affecting the world no matter what. maybe it doesn't have to be comforting. life is not a storybook, after all. there's too much.

all this pondering lately is making me a tiny bit worried that for this amelia person, as addicted to curiosity as she is, the details of the future matter less, somehow, than the finding out about them does. the revelation itself is the cool part. whatever happens, whatever disaster or miracle, it'll be an interesting result to observe. passively. and safely, most of me presumes. 

but I know that's not really true. I know how ridiculous that must sound. and I know I can't necessarily trust the future that much. along with waiting and seeing and being, there must be some making: purposeful, beautiful making.

Monday, July 26

places and possibilities

Pitkerro roundabout, Dundee, Scotland

thinking about going places. far away places.

nearby places have their charm... but running errands is mostly tiring; walking the dog is lovely but routine.

summer and travel go together most years. or they have in the past, anyway. lately it seems like so long since I've gone anywhere new just to see what's there and what it looks like.

as i reread some of my old journals, it seems astonishing how much I traveled even just five or six years ago. so much back and forth home for holidays, random cities for conferences or helping friends move, and a few weeks-long adventures for studying abroad. it seems like half my journal entries back then were prefaced with "notes from [insert name of airport here]." 

ink doodle of abstract swirls, a woman's head and shoulders, and the word 'risk' 

there are many reasons for the relative lack of travel these days, of course. there's a pandemic still wandering around mutating and spreading. small, short, careful trips seem best. we also just bought a house, so it's everyone's turn to come visit us now, to see what's here.

here is pretty beautiful, I must say. we have an ancient volcano overlooking some very fine walking and biking trails. we have (unlike last year, during which this rainstorm was practically the only one) an almost-nightly pattern of refreshing monsoons feeding into a bunch of glorious greenery. we have cool mornings and a very serviceable set of patio furniture. and a fire pit too, for roasting things and for cozy evening ambiance.

dutch angle landscape, blue sky and clouds

last week Jeremiah's aunt and uncle stopped by for a night on their way from west to east. they brought a handsome dog named Herschel with them and we had a grand time showing them around, catching up on each others' lives, and playing a bit of mahjong.

who else wants to come visit? we can teach you mahjong if you like. or we can hike up to the top of Glassford Hill and have a picnic.

purple/green pastel oil crayons + black ballpoint on cereal cardboard

what else? 

I've been teaching this summer. small sections of Technical Report Writing over two six-week terms. it's been mostly fun. but I'll be glad for a few weeks' break between summer and fall classes starting up. maybe we'll go camping. maybe we'll squeeze in one more tiny, careful roadtrip. or throw one or two more dinner parties. or just sleep in more and read all the books. 

my other activities for summer have included daily morning walks with our restless little Hamilton pug, pulling weeds out of our rock-covered yard, potting and re-potting succulents (new and old), tending to a dying basil plant and a thriving tomato plant (many thanks to my dad), taking a few bike rides, committing to bits of yoga, baking too much for two people, and reading outside as often as I can get away with.

oh, and I'm running a little game of Dungeons and Dragons-- a pre-written adventure entitled Curse of Strahd. there haven't been any dragons in it yet, but there might be. it's proving quite interesting and entertaining. ostensibly, I am using this set of published ideas to create a backdrop of tension and danger mixed in with meaningful story and fun rewards for the players who roleplay in the foreground of it all. from the first few sessions though, I've felt like my role is equal parts creator and observer. the player characters are out there on a stage that I threw together, putting on fascinating and rich performances for us all. I hope I get better at it so I can keep doing it and find out what happens next.

in other news, I want to soon blog properly about Braiding Sweetgrass and all its lovely messages about paying attention to nature. I should also finish reading and taking some more organized notes on a few books about collaborative writing pedagogy. there is a conference talk to prepare in the next two months, and always more scholarly books to read. one on my mind this afternoon is Against the Romance of Community, the pdf of which is sitting around in at least three digital folders somewhere, waiting with its few scattered annotations for me to get back into it. 

I know it's kind of cheesy to use books as a stand-in for travel, but ah well. if Scotland and Paris and Germany and London and Beijing are out of reach for the next long while, at least I can read and re-read about everywhere else. everyone else. all their connections and intricate influences on one another.

101 Victoria Road and neighboring brick row houses 

and because I needed an excuse to type it all out for myself here, I'm going to include these paragraphs from near the end of Kimmerer's book about indigenous wisdom. this chapter is called "People of Corn, People of Light," all about the marks we are leaving on the earth through our ways of being, our ways of knowing, and our stories.

"Many Indigenous peoples share the understanding that we are each endowed with a particular gift, a unique ability. Birds to sing and stars to glitter, for instance. It is understood that these gifts have a dual nature, though: a gift is also a responsibility. If the bird's gift is song, then it has a responsibility to greet the day with music. It is the duty of birds to sing and the rest of us receive the song as a gift. ....
"Other beings are known to be especially gifted, with attributes that humans lack. Other beings can fly, see at night, rip open trees with their claws, make maple syrup. What can humans do?
"We may not have wings or leaves, but we humans do have words. Language is our gift and our responsibility. I've come to think of writing as an act of reciprocity with the living land. Words to remember old stories, words to tell new ones, stories that bring science and spirit back together to nurture our becoming people made of corn." (p. 347) 

I promise I'll blog more about this lovely book one day soon, blog-all-dogeared-pages style. and if you've read it too, let's have an impromptu book club about it so I can hear all your thoughts. wouldn't that be fun?

Tuesday, June 1

air, fire, summer


{ photo borrowed from who knows where. thankfully this image is in the public domain! }

there was a copy of this painting in a tall hardcover art book we had around when I was small (very probably an older version of this one?)

among all the art in that book, Flaming June and The Blue Boy were my favorites. the wrinkly silky textures of that bright orange, the closely nestled limbs visually marrying pure calm with the utmost vibrancy-- I think I wanted to be this woman, to feel all the warmth and smoothness of that summer nap all around me. 

I also wanted to write a hundred stories about that boy and his stare. what was he up to in that seventeenth-century outfit?

now that I look at both these paintings again I note the points of contrast and similarity. very different styles of art, different color tones and utterly opposite poses-- but similar attention to the loveliness of how fabric wrinkles and falls around a human body. 

I woke up surprised that it was June. June first, a Tuesday.

I thought of this painting, and I wanted to look at it again, and it seemed a decent excuse to blog. (will I make a habit of this blogging on the first of each month now? we shall see.)

I should find myself a nice art print of Sir Frederic Leighton's cozy, sensuous portrait of Flaming June, someday. I will always find it so beautiful.

-

another beautiful thing? the sound of the slightest breeze through the leaves of a quaking aspen tree.

some weeks ago I noticed that a few of our neighbors have aspen trees planted. small trios of them, brilliant green in the Arizona sun. while I walked the dogs around the crescent of our cul-de-sac street, the sound of those delicate coin-shaped leaves charmed me out of that particular breezy late spring day into a thousand memories. mountains, camping, school trips, girl scouts, hikes up from Tony Grove Lake.

such a distinctive sound, aspen leaves in the wind. rattly. subtle. crisp but also everywhere. maybe we should plant some aspen trees for ourselves someday.

or perhaps we could settle for the more visual beauty of some June lilies.

Saturday, May 1

seasons, dark and light

sleeplessly wrapped myself in a fleece blanket and sat outside under the sunrise early today. I greeted this May Saturday in pajamas, without my glasses, before it was even fully day. 

the nights now are not quite cold. it is time for leaving the windows open while we sleep.

if we sleep. 

I might still need a few weeks more of semi-hibernation. early bedtimes to counterbalance the way the waking glow of dawn pulls on me at 5.45am. 

it feels like I'm getting old. 

summer means long days. sometimes that is glorious and sometimes it's exhausting. last night I opened my paper journal (this year's is pastel green, with a scripture about gratitude embossed in cheap, flaking faux-leather) and wrote the date, April 30, only to realize I had written the same date that morning, above a few lines scribbled about our indulgent and lovely anniversary datenight up in the mountains last Wednesday.  

and it's only barely mid-spring. the solstice is months away. 

longer days are coming. 

sleepless or not, I'm grateful for open windows and sunshine and time. may I use plenty of these days for rest and just enough of them for making things happen. 

Tuesday, March 30

springtime words

not very long ago at all I actually stopped and read this poem, "Optimism" by Jane Hirschfield, posted ephemerally somewhere somehow by the instagram account Poetry is Not a Luxury

it is a poem from a collection published in 2005. not very long ago at all. so it isn't in the public domain, or anywhere close, and so I haven't copied it in full for this post.

but I will write out a meandering ode to what I thought about when I read it + what I am still thinking about.

and what I want to remember about it.

it is difficult to explain what's lovely about a poem. is there a truly effective way to make you see or feel the same satisfying resonance or resonant satisfaction that I felt when I read it, or reread it? doubtful, given that even just recalling what it was like to catch myself reading this poem for the first time seems pretty impossible.

part of it is in the journey-- simple, with a first-person subject and her point of view in flux. her admiration evolving. and we get a collection of sturdy nouns as an anchor along the way: resilience, resistance, tenacity, intelligence, persistence.

I'm reminded of friend Trinity once talking with me about the merits of resilient as an alternative to the buzzier buzz-word sustainable. what's the point of something sustainable if it won't resist or withstand a few worst case scenarios? sustaining a system in good times isn't the same at all of sustaining it through a disaster. so we need some more words to talk about more possibilities.

speaking of contrasts, this poem gives us pillows vs. trees. 

the stubbornness of a same shape over and over vs. the sinuous tenacity of remolding yourself to follow the brightest light, wherever you find it

these words. the journey of them.

you can see the pillow, its impermanent dents. perhaps that resistance is worth admiring sometimes too.

and you can see the tree, green and pliant, with branches reaching, shadows falling in its way. 

some part of me, finding herself somehow pausing long enough, focused enough, to let these words in properly-- she relates to the tree, to the feeling of being forced to cast around for different light.

and then the beautiful ending. the contrasting conjunction that breaks down any fear we might have about our blindness preventing any growth.

"But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, / mitochondria, figs – all this resinous, unretractable earth."

these words. the tip tapping -ence, -ance, -acity of those nouns, and the -ome, -oam, -uous, -ose, -ous, and -able. the sounds of them and the feel of them.

the words in this order like this evoke so much hope even without the title tying a neat bow around that authorial intent. the hope of small turns, motivated by whatever subtle senses we may or may not understand, leading steadily to so much wild and undeniable beauty.

it feels almost like I've just written some kind of literary analysis of this poem. maybe a third of one, or something. I did not grow up to be a literary scholar, so a third of an analysis is probably just fine.

spring tree branches against blue sky

in other news:

we painted some of the walls of our new house a few weeks ago.

oh yeah-- we bought a house. it feels so very grown-up of us to have done such a thing.

next exciting house project: patio furniture.

I am excited for the end of spring semester. for consistently warmer weather and more time to be outside, to sleep, and to read whatever I want. our new nearest public library looks awesome (though its fairly basic clunky website does not quite match, I must say). it has a little cafe, open 7am - 3pm, and I really hope I can arrange my life in a way that allows a few future mornings here and there sitting with books and notebooks and tea in a library cafe. what could be better than that?

Monday, February 8

early February, now and then

maple leaf, portraits, scribbles

yesterday, on a lark I looked at the date and trawled through my blogpost archive to find all the posts that just happened to be posted on February 7.

there are three:

an untitled Sunday scribbling from 2010.

reflections on who a person is or isn't after they run 5 whole kilometers for the first time (2012).

and these twice(now thrice?)-framed and re-framed ramblings about who a person is or isn't after dying their hair for the first time (2013/2004).

are there coincidences here? a theme of identity and the capacity for novel experience to encroach interestingly upon it. 

while I meandered through this blog archive timewarp (knowing I wouldn't write the rest of this until Monday) I also checked for old posts from today's date, February 8:

a meditation on parts of ourselves that are unknown, occasioned by a book and one verse of a hymn (2011).

and this "nostalgic little rant" about how we store old media and what to do with old dreams (2007). 

so?

present and past and future selves. all of them fluid, none of them ever fully left behind. 

and who am I this week? the sixth full week of this sixteenth year of blogging here? 

I am doing a little bit of yoga every day, pondering what it really means to have a good relationship with my own breath. the snow of late January is mostly melted. teaching and teaching prep are taking up the bulk of my days. our pugs still want to hibernate some mornings. we are soon to be buying a house, and the land under it, which seems both like a very weird, half-unthinkable but simultaneously perfectly logical, sensible life decision. 

what will owning this sliver of earth with a house on it mean for the selves we become over the rest of the year? 

I hope it means more time reading and writing outside on the back patio. I hope it means lovely neighbors and a quiet cul-de-sac. it will mean more responsibility and more space. more food storage, more crafts, more plants! more making. more stargazing. more driving for me but somewhat less for Jeremiah. 

and a lovely ancient volcanic hill down the road for both long and short hikes.

Friday, January 29

I, pedagogue (spring semester, 2021)

back in the day, I thought I'd never want to teach. and then I realized that in some ways, everything everyone does can involve a layer of teaching somehow. even if it's a very subtle one.

even still, for these past seven years of wading deeper and deeper into teaching college writing classes of various kinds, the real practice of teaching (with all the planning and record-keeping and decision-making and performing and grading and authority-wielding it typically requires) has not often been my favorite part of academia. it's fine. but it's hard. and I never feel very good at it, so it simply can't be as naturally rewarding as all the other corners of academia where I feel far more skilled.

for better or for worse, my two full-time assistant professor jobs so far have been quite teachingcentric. twelve credit hours of teaching every semester, plus a few during summer semesters, until this year. dozens and dozens of students show up in August or January or June for whichever iteration of professional writing I'm teaching this time, working and sharing and hopefully learning, and then they disappear again.

this year, I have one course release for being brand new in town. it gives me a chance to get used to things a bit.

they also gave all the new faculty a copy of the book What the Best College Teachers Do, by Ken Bain. a few colleagues and I read through it together last fall semester and talked about ways to apply the findings in our own classrooms.

the book and our little faculty discussion group made me think much more intensely about my teaching than I've cared to thus far. it also gave me some concrete hope that maybe I can become better at this thing I don't feel very expert in at all. 

so. what am I trying to do a little better this spring? what have I begun to internalize from Bain's research?

possibly more things than I can articulate very well in a little blogpost. but here are a few:

> talk about your own learning journey with students. model or reenact the kinds of transformation you hope that they will undergo as a result of your class.

> trust students and treat them like whole humans with a million shifting priorities, just like you. this is something I already knew and practice decently, I think. but I took particular comfort in it this past year. my course is a small droplet in the ocean of everything these students are trying to learn and become. if my teaching isn't perfect, they probably won't notice or remember for too long.

> ask students big, meaningful, authentic questions--the kinds of questions that professionals in your field will ask and try to answer. (this is particularly tricky in writing because writing, for most people, in most important contexts, isn't very often about itself. its actual subject is the everything else that we write and communicate about.)

I think I do pretty well being authentic and open and compassionate as a teacher. but I have been guilty in the past of assuming students could never be all that interested in the big questions that I study. we don't have time for that, do we? especially at a fancy aeronautical university where nobody is an English major and everyone mainly wants to design or build or test or fly airplanes and other such contraptions-- how could any of those students care about a communications course?

but if Bain is to be believed, the enthusiasm of a teacher combined with the sparks of a big, meaningful question can draw students in, motivate them a little, even if they didn't think they'd care very much about a communications course. 

and I can be good at questions, surely. 

especially big ones! like: how do you know what anyone means? how do you know what anyone else thinks you mean? how people really ever understand each other enough to make good things happen in the world? and what does it mean to read? to write? or to do those things effectively?

the trick now becomes figuring out how much time to spend getting philosophical about definitions inbetween all the more "practical" work of practicing reading and writing and revising and all that. I still think students learn most from doing things, more than they can from reading about things or discussing them or whatnot.

but anyway, I added this little linguistics video to my list of assigned readings. I opened the first day of class reading from Celeste Headlee's book We Need to Talk, which recounts the tragedy of an ineffective conversation in an airplane cockpit. in technical writing we spent the first day exploring informal crowdsourced technical descriptions on Reddit.

and when I listened to this recent episode of So Many Damn Books with George Saunders I felt more affinity for Saunders's love of teaching writing than perhaps I might once have felt. his advice is to remember that you're never just teaching 20-somethings who barely know what to do with their adulthood when you meet them-- you're also teaching the 40-something-year-olds that they'll become. I like that. (not all college students are 20-somethings, but the concept holds. we are all humans-in-progress.)

maybe I'll go back and give the Pedagogue podcast another chance, too, now that I feel more hopeful and less grumbly about this whole teaching business.