Thursday, August 28, 2008


Awake at five am, which is entirely strange for me, especially given I was going to bed later than that just a week or so prior. Again, the strange form of ping-pong for my thoughts:

- The sun is not up at five thirty am, no matter if it is winter or late summer.

- My husband can lie about his intentions of getting up early when he doesn't have to just as well as I can. This morning, he wanted to walk the dogs early so he could beat rush hour on the way home. I could have jumped up and down on the bed: he was not getting up.

- I learned from the general TA orientation this morning that it is not a good idea to date your students or get involved in other TAs having a crush on students in your section. It is not, however, illegal. Food for thought.

- You can get a seriously badass parking spot in Dinkytown when you have an eight o'clock orientation on the other side of campus the week before school starts. Fifteenth and seventh, and I tell you, I'll never see the likes of it again.

- I still walked enough to stink at the end of the day.

- I wrote a poem during the general TA orientation. Apparently the Mayo Auditorium is very inspiring. Or maybe it was the slide show hosted by Goldy the Gopher (which was just a little icon--not the mascot in person, which was a huge disappointment given the promise on our schedule sheet--they need to learn to model clarity on their agendas).

- The poem began and ended with the word "mornings." I think I was a little obsessed with the rising sun.

- I also viewed the brilliance of the setting sun on the way home today. After orientation, there was a "best practices" session with the Ph.Ds, MAs, and MFAs. We learned how to plunk our keys down with authority and to show up just as class is starting, unless we are suave with small talk (a talent I am sorely lacking). After best practices, we broke into groups according to what we will teach and we peer edited our syllabi. I think I was a wee bit tired when I wrote mine, as I told my students to contact their email address (as if they were from outer space?). Keep in mind, my friends, each of these sessions claimed many hours, and there was a lot of thinking, mostly sprinkled with a deep set sense of panic and nerves. And after, there was a relaxing dinner with girl friends at Emily's place: homemade guacamole, fajitas, and farmer's market flowers to adorn the table. And I was even greeted by two rambunctious dogs, and even though I think I have a Jersey-face print on my face still, it was exactly what I needed. I was sadly missing my own pups and their forceful love. Oh, so the point is this: it was a long day, and I drove to the tune of the sun rising and setting.

- I also drove to the tune of the Democratic Convention being covered on MPR. And how cool is it that Barack Obama is giving his nomination acceptance speech on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech? (I taught that to my freshmen each year, and I really loved doing it.)

- I can sleep in just a wee bit tonight, so I am going to curl up on the sofa with a pint and a book, and I don't care if I could fall asleep standing up (which isn't entirely true as I have this blister since Saturday that now covers an alarming amount of topography on my right foot and is causing a fairly goofy hobble) because I am going to read--not edit a syllabus or grade fake student papers or come up with a good and clever response to the question, "What is poetry?" No, no, friends, I am going to read, and it isn't going to be something I'm assigned (or I assign, although I won't be assigning much as the course I am teaching has a pre-established course reader) (and I am going to love 98% of that which I am assigned / assigning anyway, so I'm not sure what the point is here, except there is a bit of a fizz when you are forced to read something, though seriously, who is forcing me to be in school?).

Oh my with the rambling. I better hop on that couch before I pass out just here.

Happy Thursday, all. Next week this time, I will be recovering from the first class I'll have ever taught at the college level. Just fifteen or twenty minutes recovering, in fact. Eep!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Today's of note:

- I am too tired and too busy now to write anything that resembles a normal post. Right now, I am actually procrastinating putting the final touches on my four-page first-draft syllabus. I'm debating the fine print, glad I can actually abide by a strict attendance and late policy. Take that, Mr. Tardy!

- There is a farmer's market every Wednesday (until October) in the courtyard just outside of Lind Hall. I peer out the window at the little buckets of fresh vegetables, all the green and red and orange that should be in my garden, were it not for those voracious sunflowers.

- My desk has moved from the third floor to the basement that smells like a barn.

- Last night, I fell asleep, utterly exhausted, at 8:30. Ryan came to bed at one, and since he hadn't been home yet when I went to bed, we talked about the clients from out of town and my first day, briefly, mumblishly. And then I could not fall back asleep for an hour or so, such was the whir in my brain. It felt like playing cards in the spokes of a bicycle: tick, tick, tickticktick. I thought of what I had to do, who I had just met, how dramatically my life had changed. I knew my mind was more like a pinball game, with the lights and ting-ting-crescendos!, but I couldn't help but imagine it more like a rhythmic hand clapping a la Feist. If I could just get a hold on the rhythm, maybe I could fall back to sleep...

- Tomorrow's activities start at eight in the morning, with an all-campus TA orientation last four and a half hours. I'm not sure I can take much more of this packed schedule. We have activities until ... when? I don't think there is a cut off time, but I know we have two more major chunks of time dedicated to more teacher training. It's good, but I feel the momentum is lifting me off the ground, and I was joking at lunch today about how it'd be nice to have a poetry workshop thrown in somewhere to remind us of why we're actually there: to write full time, and to teach part time. It is beginning to resemble a high school teacher's back to school, full throttle orientation (only imagine if the high school teachers had no prior training).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Of note:

- I am so tired now that I am home... My brain feels like cow dung--all flattened and smelly. I would say useless too, but cow dung makes good fertilizer, yes?

- I will have office hours. Granted, my "office" is a cubicle to be shared with two other poets tucked in the corner of the third floor of Lind Hall, but office hours nonetheless. I'll also have a syllabus that deserves to be called a syllabus (in high school, they're just a list of expectations, you see--and yes, Emily, I know that's not entirely true) and a little slot that is my mailbox on campus. As in, I belong. As in, I've got the secret handshake down.

- There is a married couple entering the MFA program: the husband is in fiction, the wife in non-fiction. A truth telling contest for them tomorrow!

- There are only four poets. There are only thirteen students total. There were hundreds that applied. Something must have gotten fumbled in the paperwork. How did I get here? They keep telling us how competitive the program is, and I remember how tough it was before, and I remember that stomach liquifying spring, but what I don't understand is how I got to be where I am.

- I need to write that review of Nin Andrews' Sleeping With Houdini before she becomes a visiting poet; if I wait, I think it would be a conflict of interest, and I've already written my notes. (And as you all know, writing notes is half the battle. OK, the only battle, really, is getting past that first paragraph.)

- My homework tonight is to comment on and grade three student essays. I must admit, I have to remind myself: office hours, office hours, office hours, in order to not forget that I am indeed an MFA student and not a high school teacher again.

- In three years, I'll be able to put in my bio: "MSK received her MFA from the University of Minnesota." (In a few weeks, when the paperwork has gone through, I'll also be able to say I got my M.Ed from there too.)


This is what it is: up until now, it was all before. Up until now, it was all a turning point, a very slow, slow turn. Up until now, I could have turned back, could have called up the offices of Florida State or Emerson or Bennington and said, No, wait, I was wrong! Or called my principal of last year and begged her to consider my return, to find a wiggle in the budget for me. As of today, the decision will be final. Never mind I signed two contracts--one accepting the offer of admission and the other as a graduate instructor. Never mind people have filled in those empty places I left behind when I declined. In my fantasy world, I could have chosen the other doors, kept my safety net instead of casting it away. Up until today.

I leave you, this ninety ninth post before I am out the door for orienting, this post-on-the-cusp with a poem that has recently drawn my eye. It seems only fitting:

The Shoulders of Women
from Cornucopia
by Molly Peacock

The shoulders of women are shallow, narrow,
and thin compared to the shoulders of men,
surprisingly thin, like the young pharaohs
whose shoulders in stick figures are written
on stones, or bony as the short gold wings
of cranes on oriental screens. Lord, how
surprising to embrace the shortened stirrings
of many bones in their sockets above breasts! Now
what I expect, since I've long embraced men,
is the flesh of the shoulder and the cave
of the chest and I get neither--we're so small.
Unwittingly frail and unknowing and brave
like cranes and young kings, the shoulders of women
turn to surprise and surprise me again with all
their gestures of renewal and recall.

Monday, August 25, 2008

98: The Lonely Panic Attack

It's all about the movement of the chest: the tightening, the wonky breathing. It's about waking up in an empty bed, the sheets tangled around your legs, the hands desperately searching for some comfort. It's about the terrible dreams that trail after you in the morning (Kelly sat across from me in a restaurant, told me about how she thought Ryan wasn't good for me, that we weren't good for each other, and I searched for this quote about language and walking barefoot in the grass, and I woke Ryan, who was being driven to the airport by my mother at four in the morning, though I don't know where he was going, and I needed to ask him how he thought we were doing and if "good" were a content relationship and "bad" were a relationship that should divorce, where were we? and I woke just as he was about to answer).

It's not just bad dreams that have made me a bit distracted, a bit trembly this morning. It's the realization that summer is now over. Today is my official last day of "vacation," which, of course, my husband chided me about as it's been several months now. I am a creature of habit, and it has been ingrained in me to dread autumn a bit, to brace myself for the sheer work of lesson planning and grading. Please don't get me wrong, though I do grump about teaching high school a great deal, part of it is some nasty experiences I had that are very specific, and this kind of sour experience has bled into other, very good experiences.

And tomorrow begins this new journey. Orientation and graduate instructor training. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

97: Minnesota State Fair, 2008

This year's fair highlights: the stiff feel of wool beneath my fingers, the 800-some pound pumpkin and its accompanying obese vegetables, the taste of honey-walnut frozen yogurt, the brazen feats of lumberjack olympics, realizing only Minnesota would have wild rice mixed in with hot dogs and hamburgers, watching Richard's excitement mount at the fried food on a stick fetish our State Fair seems to have, seeing Kelly (can I mention that one about eighteen times?), holding hands with Ryan in the glare of the sun. See more photographs of the day here.

Next week: Orientation with the MFA program. If I were still a teacher, or rather, a teacher of high school (as most of my orientation next week focuses on teacher training for the college level), I would be returning next week as well. This year, there isn't that room arranging anxiety or the class lists that spill out over reams of paper, the plotting of first day activities or planning a book list, rehearsing safety drills, discovering the best practices for gradebook entry. I'm not sure what to expect of next week. I did copy my schedule for the semester onto an index card for Ryan to keep with him (and one for me as well) and the hours seem dramatically briefer. It appears we may only have one feasible carpool day of four, which is disappointing, given the price of gas and given the cost of my salary, unless I want to figure out how to entertain myself for seven hours on campus. We shall see how things fall into place.

I apologize for how quiet it's been here lately, by the way. I have been feeling quiet myself. I think much of it is this facing the end of summer slash preparing for such a dramatic shift in my life. Seeking internal solace in order to externally brace myself, perhaps. Autumn is coming, and for once, for the first time in a couple years, I don't dread it. It's a feeling one needs to get used to.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

96: Leaf Collection

Little hints of autumn on our afternoon walk.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Two of my favorite musicians, collaborating. Love.

Monday, August 18, 2008


We've begun to put up our new window treatments in the house: bamboo for the porch (to replace that lace, the lace that always gave me the shivers every time we turned the corner, and now I can no longer say, "We're the blue house on the corner with the ugly lace porch curtains"), linen and cotton inside. We seem to be doing one room a day, so only the front porch, with its boxes of paper cranes and the holiday rope lighting, is complete, and tonight, we did the kitchen. I wanted to dance a little jig as the Zephyr-destroyed venetian blinds came down (that dog will shove his snout just about anywhere if he thinks there's something interesting on the other side of it). With these new textures, we're making this house our own, we're considering what is important in our own aesthetic: heavy woods, natural fibers, wool, water. I'll show more as they go up.

93: Vote

Minnesota's primary is on September 9th. I have a sign in my yard to remind me, and it's our first yard sign, which makes me feel a little giddy: I belong; I'm involved. Not only will it be a pleasurable and amusing primary because of Al Franken, but I'll also be voting for my first school levy, in a district where I live, in a district where I worked. As many of you know, school budgets are a sensitive issue for me, as it determined a sharp twist in fate, and while I'm grateful for the results, I will always bemoan the no that shifted my landscape. So much depends on yes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


A good evening: chicken chau-chau and mango lassi, later, Schell's anniversary beer (Bavarian Forest Dampfbier; only eighty barrels made), warmed ourselves at The Happy Gnome, met someone new, but best of all, spent time with good friends, dear to my heart.


Thinking of: the sun rising, the way streetlights can shine on rainfall. Thinking of: learning to create lace with yarn, how to pull tomatoes from the garden, how to sleep through the night.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I have fallen in love with the work of a Portland, Oregon artist named Evan B. Harris.

You can purchase prints of his work here; originals at this gallery and this gallery.

I am thinking about the blank spot the bookcase will leave behind in the dining room. I am thinking about bringing the ocean into my house.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


(Photos not my own. Here are the originals:)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Links to the original pictures (not my own, alas):
1. linen skirt: detail, 2. A Quick Dip, 3. the sea, 4. blueberry peach,
5. Natura Morta, 6. ., 7. Untitled, 8. morning,
9. my mother's ..., 10. i dream..., 11. Untitled, 12. yellow dingy

Lately I have been thinking about:

- Maine. I have never been there, but I am in love with it through image. Ryan bought me a leather bound copy of Thoreau's The Maine Woods for our anniversary yesterday. I think I will read it outdoors.

- The colors of the ocean. I have been enamored since last summer, though the colors are not a part of my landscape. That gray-blue follows me around in my heart. Sometimes we have it here, in the middle of the country--you can see it just after the sun sets, minutes after, when one side of the sky looks like a Maxfield Parish painting, but the other is that slate-ish blue with gray puff clouds near the moon.

- Windows. And light pouring through them. I am jealous of beds and writer's desks that are pushed up against those old, multiple squared windows, the world flush with green outside. Our own are strange, especially upstairs, hanging low to the ground, sashes hanging above them by enough to mask the fact that they are abnormally placed.

- Mostly, writer's retreats. I have never been on one, though I've been fascinated, especially after I went to the Palm Beach Poetry Festival this past winter. And sitting on my grandmother's screened in porch, the lake a roll in the yard away, the canoe spanning the distance, nearly, my laptop clam-shelled open, writing poems about swimming in loose sand and mussel detritus, thinking about holding my grandfather's ashes in my lap that last morning. I'm also thinking about Shari's photograph of the cottage where her mother stayed, and about this Minnesota graduate's retreat as well.

So, you see, I am full of this strange longing, this desire to snap the clam shut, to get myself out to the coast, to palming a mug of chai, to thick blankets slung over my lap and porches and worn gray wood and the waves, those quite crashes and crashes, bringing little bits from the ocean, things I can put into my pockets and line up on the writing desk overlooking the fog.

Monday, August 11, 2008

87: One Year Ago Today

Reader, I married him.

One year ago today, Ryan and I made this whole thing official, and though convention isn't always appealing, I'm glad we did.

I've put together a new photo set over on flickr; this one includes the above images and more, all from the professional photographer. Don't worry--we have the rights to the photographs, so I am not being naughty. And I held on to them for a year, thinking the anniversary would be a good time to wander down this foggy memoried day, to recall the hail and the heat and the sweet flowers and all the surprises and kindnesses from so many people we love.

I was just writing to my best friend when I realized: days before the wedding, Mandy, who would have been a bridesmaid, had her daughter, and since the wedding, both my friends Kelly and Jen have had sons and both Ryan's sister Megan and my friend Kim are pregnant. It's amazing the whirlwind of changes our lives have become.

And I have to say, I'm glad I'm spending the whirlwind with him.