It’s the end of the semester. A friend reminded me of the fact that this term was actually shorter than others we’ve had, and he wondered why he felt so worn out. I figured it had something to to with the density, rather than the volume, of the academic period. Because of the time of year and the density of the past 15 weeks, I’ve been writing nothing. I’ve written memos to the Provost and emails to students, deliberations to faculty and explanations to advisees. It’s all the kind of writing that requires a lot of effort but doesn’t amount to much in the long run. So, I’ve written a lot. I’ve written nothing.
The semester has also finished with controversy and strife. Oh, the students are fine, mostly. (There is that one.) It’s the faculty that have the fits. It’s all been hard to see and work through, and the efforts, like the writing, amount to a lot of nothing. Just to add perspective, though, one colleague had a brain aneurism a couple of weeks ago. (Amazingly, the prognosis is very good, a full recovery expected.) I substituted for the last week of class, gladly. “Better than a brain aneurism” is my new motto.
All of this fragmentation and the end of the semester makes me claw for the edge of the academic year, like grasping for the edge of the pool after a long swim. Just a few more strokes. Just get to the edge, pull yourself up, and take a breath. Two weeks from right now I should be finished with a train ride through the Rockies, the initiation of a writing retreat. The image of the track, the retreat, the sole purpose — these all sound so appealing in the wake of the term. It sounds like work, work that I can dig into and make progress on.
This weekend, in the midst of working on the memos and the reports and other pieces, we went outside to work. Karyn had assembled 60 square feet of new perennials for the front yard to take the place of the xeric grasses that had done so well for the past two years. It meant that I had to pull out my favorite yard tool, the pick mattock, raise it over my head, let it swing down and cut into the sod. And again. And again. And again. And dig, dig, dig. And pull out the sod, and turn over the dirt in the hole. And repeat, moving over to the other plot. It was a therapeutic afternoon, digging in the dirt. Sure, the holes weren’t as elegant as my memos of the previous week, but they got bigger with each thrust of the shovel. Karyn eased the new plants into the ground, and there they take root. It’s nice to see something that moves forward, that makes progress, even if it’s as basic as a hole in the ground.