The positive aspect of snow is that it can force you into slowing down. I must admit it's hard to find the good in the freezing rain that's supposed to come this afternoon, but an excuse to be stationary is probably enough. Friday I had my last two finals back to back, ending with the presentations from the Creative writing class. It was a pleasure to see how far the students had come (for the most part) and I told them to be very pleased with themselves and appreciate just how much they had accomplished. It came in the tangible form of their very large portfolios, which were a bit of a struggle to get back to my office through the snowy paths.
The freshman-level medieval class (non-majors) seemed to appreciate the opportunity for extra credit points, including "what kind of tea does your instructor drink?" because I always have my thermos of Twinings English Breakfast and usually burn my mouth on the first cup, making them chuckle. I also gave them up to three points for listing medieval films -- considering how much we talked about it and how much advertising there was for it, I was surprised that they didn't all name Beowulf.
Saturday started early with a trip to campus to be on time for the bus to graduation at the Empire Center. I make sure to be at mid-year graduation because Kalamazoo always conflicts with spring graduation. Unlike last year, I knew at least a dozen students who were graduating, which was nice. I got a little distracted by the president's speech, because he began by quoting Nicolas de Chamfort's advice, "Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day," but ended with a reference to one of the founding sisters of the college, who advised starting each day with an expression of joy. Would that be before or after the toad?
I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get through as much grading as possible (I had no intention of taking all those portfolios home) before running to the post office (oh my, what a line) then rushing home to bake cookies, cut Gene's hair and get ready for the first of two parties. The hair came out okay, but the cookies less so. Fortunately Gene had made his special aromatic rice dish, so we were a hit anyway. Such good food! I'm grateful we have so many friends in the area already, but I'm even more grateful that they all cook so well.
This dark time of the year seems to exacerbate doubts and despair. I feel like a root of the poison tree of late. Two publications I have written for ceased publication this year, and a third seems to be tottering on the brink. I got a paid commission just last month, only to receive an email from the editor saying that the owners were halting publication. Unfortunate news for me, but I felt worse for the editor who was now out of job -- happy holidays. It feels like I cannot open an email without finding a rejection inside it. How did Blake maintain his confidence in the face of relentless adversity? Surely he doubted at times -- did it make him more certain the next moment?
If the Sun & Moon should doubt,
They'd immediately Go out.
My mind springs randomly to the Victorian protagonists of Dracula, like Mina Murray and Jack Seward. Stoker has the latter record in his diary, "I have a sort of empty feeling; nothing in the world seems of sufficient importance to be worth the doing... I knew that the only cure for this sort of thing was work..." So, to work; I have grading to do.
Happy Birthday Jane Austen -- and Philip K. Dick, two writers whose legacies live on. Sometimes you have to trust that your vision is right; just try not to think about the all too common fate of such writers to end up impoverished and unknown.