Tuesday, July 5, 2016

bad haiku for the first full week of july. (the return of greta...)

it's been one week since
the last term ended, and i
can do little more

than sit with little
ambition.  the coffee is
warm, the garden begs

for attention, the
birds chatter when the feeder
is empty. i bask

in the emptiness
of immediate purpose,

lacking intent. oh,
thirty years of tending an
academic plot,

plotting my escape,
and maybe i am starting
to resign myself

to the fact that i
am as rooted as landscape –
and as much noticed.

lately, the notes i
write on student essays are
clearly magic, inked

invisibly, clear
as air and just as grasped. oh,
man. the shapes a bright

container … mandates.
tee hee.  the rote with which my
students perform is

ghastly. who taught them
to ignore instruction while
asking, "is this what

you want?" what i want?
what i want is a thinking
student, a student

who reads, a student
who ignores the siren call
of the text, a class

with the texture of
unfinished tapestry, a
garden of words and

thoughts, and summers that
last longer than the novels
on my list, and an

empty inbox, and
the strutters ball daylily,
and a little rain,

and more coffee, and
one single night with viggo
mortensen – but i

digress … and i should,
as this is summer, and the
sunlight beckons, and

the moonlight brightens
the tiny, white alyssum
that borders the path

that leads to the chair
where i can contemplate the
landscape that recalls

a certain calling
more fruitful than writing with
invisible ink,

a small plot inked with
hydrangeas and monarda
and coreopsis

and sweat and wine and
thoughts of a greener fall than
all of those before.


  1. Joshua Wolf Shenk's article "What Makes Us Happy," in the June 2009 issue of The Atlantic (available online at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/06/what-makes-us-happy/307439/), about the longitudinal study by George Vaillant starting with Harvard sophomores and following them for the rest of their lives, quotes Case No. 47, the clown prince of the study, thusly:

    “If you had your life to live over again,” the study asked you in 1981, “what problem, if any, would you have sought help for and to whom would you have gone?” “I’ve come to believe that ‘help’ is for the most part useless and destructive,” you answered. “Can you imagine Arlie Bock—God bless his soul—trying to help me work out my problems? … Or Clark Heath? The poor old boys would have headed for the hills! The ‘helping professions’ are in general camp-followers of the dominant culture..."

    I am coming to think more like this all the time. I am still determined to be better than my old undergraduate advisor, since next year I will be the age he was when I first met him. I will still need to continue to write 80% of my M.S. students theses for them, mainly because they don't know doodley-squat about the subject matter (astrophysics), and whenever I give them books to read, they tell me they read them and yet still don't know doodly-squat about the subject matter (astrophysics). But this does help them get jobs as K-12 teachers, and the Fresno area sure needs them, so I will continue doing it with a clear conscience. What I am going to change is, from now on, not to take everything so personally!

  2. Welcome back, Greta!

  3. "i
    am as rooted as landscape –
    and as much noticed."

    That made my day. Thank you, Greta.

    1. That is, indeed, marvelous -- as well as all too sadly, maddeningly, frustratingly true. Neither students nor administrators seem to notice just how much wisdom is available for the asking (but all too infrequently asked for) in longterm faculty.

  4. Ah, Greta. It's lovely to be back in your garden (I do envy you your garden, and, thanks to you, I've just discovered the Strutter's Ball daylily), and back reading your prose, even though it evokes all too poignantly the misery of teaching students who, quite possibly through no fault of their own, have much more experience of performing than of thinking.

    Of course, I'm not entirely sure I'd survive the resulting chaos if all of mine actually started thinking at once (would the result be an unfinished tapestry or a gordian tangle of threads?). But I'd be willing to take the chance, especially if it cut down on the interminable "is this what you want?"s (which really only come from a small number of students, but somehow they, and the anxiety they carry, take up a lot of space).

  5. Hello everyone! I have missed you all very, very much.

    I surfed into the blog July 4, out of nostalgia and not at all realizing that we were live again. I hadn't checked the Greta email account since the last time we shut down; I had no idea that we'd been resurrected. When I saw that we were for reals once more, the above haiku -- such as it is -- came to me on the spot.

    I have missed this virtual water cooler more than I can say. I am acquaintances IRL with a contributor and it's been lovely to see her occasionally on Facebook, but every time I have seen her name in my feed, I've been reminded of how much this place has meant to me.

    You gorgeous creatures, all of you, hello! xxoo

  6. Welcome back! I love the poignant reflection on the satisfactions outside the classroom, and the idea that we have written in invisible ink: it seems strangely likely!

    I know the page is dying, or dead, but every time I visit, I smile. Welcome to the water cooler.

  7. I just came back after a long time away and found this. Thank you so much! It's good to see you again.