Sunday, September 23, 2012

In the Narrows

Back in June, at the start of my summer break, I decided to take a break from social media.  It didn't last long.  My grandmother's death had me clicking back over to Facebook to post about her and connect with family, and I never looked back.

The impulse or insight behind that decision, though, has continued to haunt me.  Although I spend more and more of my time on line, less and less of that time is spent reading blogs and newspapers and other food for thought.  Instead, I obsessively check Facebook (and, to a lesser extent, Twitter) to see what other people have posted links to or comments about--but I don't, then, follow the links.  I just note and move on.

Even more troubling, I've noticed that my attention span for reading off-line, whether it's a newspaper or a work of non-fiction, has shrunk considerably.  I'm now in the mental habit of clicking, darting from site to site, headline to headline, bit to bit, and even this among a shrinking number of sites.

As of this morning, then, I'm starting an experiment.  I've deactivated my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and am going to see if I can keep them inactive for a few weeks, at least, and just see what happens, how it feels, what I do instead.

In order to stay in touch with people, I've reactivated the comments at my other blogs, and of course there's always email.

It's just...I feel like there's something wrong with my time allocation these days.  Hours slip away, days slip away, and much of my professional mojo is gone.  I don't know that social media are to blame, but think at some point they started to be problematic, and the methods I've been using to try and rein in my use seem not to be working on that deeper, neurological-habit level.

To be honest, part of me feels really bereft without those accounts:  cut off, isolated, like I'm talking here into the void (as opposed to posting on a common wall where my friends and "Facebook friends" will see and might respond).  But as I say, let me give this a few weeks, and we'll see what happens & how I feel.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

And away we go!

First day--not of school, exactly, but of the school year, work-wise.  Which means I'm here at the office, polishing up the syllabi and making sure that things are copied and scanned and ready for action tomorrow.

It took me just under an hour to get here, and I suspect that this will be the norm throughout the quarter.  Minimum of four hours on the road a week for the next ten weeks, and probably a good deal more.  Need to plan for that, in terms of things to listen to in the car.  Suggestions are welcome; for now, I'm working on a bunch of Blur, per my son's recommendation.  (He's trying, bless his heart, to improve my musical taste.)


I've spent the last two hours getting my Love Poetry syllabus ready.  It's maddening--I have an eight-inch stack of files that I've used for the class over the years, none of them properly organized or actually useful.  Oh, well!  No time like the present to get them straightened out, or at least to start.  I've been shuttling back and forth to the department secretary all morning, asking her to make pdf files of things so that I can store them electronically and recycle the actual paper.

Oy, so green I'm getting!  "Annihilating all that's made / To a green thought in a green shade."


Forced myself to take a walk this afternoon, before lunch and student meeting.  I start the school year feeling harried, perhaps inevitably so, but I want to push back against that, and walking every day with R has been one of the joys of the summer.  Alone it's not so pleasant, but it's better than standing around my office fighting off the Big Chill.

(They have the air conditioning cranked down to about...I don't know.  68 degrees?  Sweater weather.  Crazy, when it's muggy and summer outside.)


Woke up from a nightmare--my mother in law coming for a two week visit!--and as I hit the shower, a fragment of a poem floated into my mind.  A rhythm, a phrase, an off-rhyme...that's all it comprised, and it wasn't even both halves of the rhyme, just the fact that "was" was rhymed with some word a longer "a" and proper "s" sound to it, like "pass" or "grass."

Haunted me all day, that.  Which I've enjoyed.  It's been a long time since a poem had that effect on me, and I've missed it.  Anyway, by the time I got to work, I'd remembered that there was a "she" in the poem, and with a little help from Google, I found the passage.  It was the final couplet of the final stanza of Donne's "The Relic," a poem I mostly know from teaching A. S. Byatt's novel Possession: a Romance, ages ago.  Here's the stanza--you can find the rest of the poem here, if you want to read it.

First we loved well and faithfully,
            Yet knew not what we loved, nor why;
            Difference of sex we never knew,
            No more than guardian angels do;
                Coming and going we
Perchance might kiss, but not between those meals;
                Our hands ne'er touch'd the seals,
Which nature, injured by late law, sets free.
These miracles we did; but now alas!
All measure, and all language, I should pass,
Should I tell what a miracle she was. 

I don't know what I'd say about that in a class this afternoon, but I take its sudden surfacing as a good omen for my poetry teaching this fall.