Friday, November 23, 2007

the scorecard

It’s nine-thirty in the morning before I realize my watch is fastened upside-down. I started to read a fascinating article on Puritans and the practice of the Thanksgiving “public day” (which involved fasting as the centerpiece, and feasting as more of an afterthought). Want to read? Here. Then I needed to send it to half a dozen friends. Then I needed to serve orange juice and find a handkerchief…

The sound of a penny dinging around a wooden case is not exactly musical—Brendan is home with a cold, and he’s playing his favorite “penny hockey” on the couch, practicing the little finger flicks to hit the goals just right, between sniffles and nose-blowings. He hopes to be well enough to go to school tomorrow for the long and delicious Thanksgiving assembly, with its music and class presentations. So today we will finish crafting chicken stock into hearty soup to heal the weary boy, and we’ll finish off the roasted pumpkin into puree or pumpkin butter.

I turn on the folk radio station to cover the sound of penny on wood clickity-clicking. I prefer quiet, but this boy needs a constant something. Thank goodness for wood and pennies. I settle in for a moment with the laptop here, another there. I can’t seem to keep that small cup of coffee warm.

Grad student deadline-terror update:

In ten days, I need a five-page critical paper, four annotations of books from my suggested reading list, and twenty pages of creative writing, preferably polished writing.

Yesterday I crafted a DREADFUL first draft of my critical essay assignment, just to get that first draft out of the way and to dig into the material. At some point, I’m just happy to have my subject matter set, to type in the quotes from the text I’m studying. (I’m looking at two or three essays by David James Duncan, a contemporary writer with fresh and unorthodox views on religion and the environment. His writing carries the unmistakable scent of the Pacific Northwest, edgy and compassionate and furious. I set out to do a close read of the first two essays in My Story as Told by Water—sitting at the tea shop with a small pot of vanilla rooibos on Sunday, I ended up re-devouring the entire book.)

I finished Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer and quickly zipped off an annotation. Annotations are “like a writer’s journal, but thoughtful.” I’m not sure I approach “thoughtful,” but I tend to revise after a few days.

Four texts to go for this quarter! Ten more days, and most of my time needs to be for writing that paper and editing my essays from earlier this quarter. I hate “speeding” so, but it must be done and at this point I need to simply go for the numbers and get the list done. (That’ll be TWELVE books this semester, most of them enormous and packed with the work of thirty or more writers.) My suggested reading list includes many old favorites right here on my bookshelves—I step into Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water like a warm bath. (I have a poor memory for content of books. I forget everything but the flavor within a few years of reading, and it’s been more than ten years since I read this volume. The sticker inside assures me I bought it from Byron, and it’s inscribed with my maiden name. I can’t wait to see my notes in the margins—Hey! I read this twenty years ago!) I’m hoping to quickly read (alas, but it must be done QUICKLY) and update my thoughts on Buechner’s memoir or possibly my dear Capon, to finish the total number of texts required.

But first, today. Pumpkin and chicken soup and a boy who is now listening to audio books of Winnie the Pooh, holding the tiny texts in his hand. He tells me that some of the stories are dumb (um, okay) and he doesn’t work too hard at following the sentences with his finger. He smells of Vick’s VapoRub and tea with honey. I’ll make a new cup of tea for us both, then pack my L’Engle and my boy to go to the dentist. We’ll be back for soup soon enough, and another go at the paper or editing, if the boy is quiet enough.

Note: I wrote this “diary” on Tuesday, finished L’Engle on Wednesday. On Thursday, I produced large quantities of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas in cream sauce and homemade cranberry sauce (from LOCAL cranberries, picked by my children), and potlucked for Thanksgiving at the tiny farm, with some of my favorite families.

I also read four essays from Gregory Wolfe’s The New Religious Humanists, while cooking. Challenging and interesting reading. I’m working my way through more of that book’s essays, today. THAT LEAVES ONE MORE title. Then one week to dig, dig, dig into the next edit of the critical essay and the next edits of my creative writing.

IT’S DO-ABLE. I think. If I keep up this pace for one more week.

I also started to knit a pair of gloves, if for no other reason than “because I needed to.” I only knit when I am waiting or listening, and never when I could be reading. Halfway through the first glove, I stop and ask myself if I wouldn’t prefer fingerless “mitts” to allow me to type and read with warm hands… regardless, it’s beautiful yarn. All goes well.


PB said...

I am an old guy of sixty, married and pastor of a church in NH who thought your writing posted today was terrific. Keep up the good work.


Carine said...

I too thought it was a great post Denise!

Anonymous said...

Great! Get that work done and then POST, POST, POST!!!

Cheering you on...

with big hugs, Anna