Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer - when a middle-aged medievalist art historian's fancy turns to...

... taking early morning walks with Seamus Heaney reading Beowulf (very motivating, that Grendel greedily groping).

... reclaiming this stressed-out mortal coil with sleep, and random conversations, and vegetables from the Amish.

... deciding which book Mac and I will read together this summer.

... knowing, as I witness Iris graduate from second grade and get ready for a new school and say goodbye to the teachers and students she's loved thus far, that the best I can do for that girl is stay out of her valiant way.

... marveling at the incredible opportunity to speak with those who have inspired me and moved my work so far in so many ways on medieval ecologies at Kalamazoo.

... marveling, too, at the warm reception that my other Kalamazoo paper received - turns out a) everyone wants to know more about alabaster because it's so cool and b) the conservative element either is or wants to be displaced.

... thinking of the great things that await medieval art history.

... being gripped by a forum on activism in the academy and talking with Mac and seeing students graduate and thinking through how long changing even one person's world takes, what it takes to have your own world rocked, and being grateful for Jeffrey Cohen's generosity and expansive good will in bringing together voices on/to complicated things, and his eloquent defense of multiplicity, and what activism means and is it on a spectrum with humanism and yes, let's keep talking and doing, and even the "contemplative" monks saw themselves as "wrestlers" for God and let's say academic life is active and live it that way.

... relishing the return to the "Ecology of Medieval Art" syllabus, and wrestling with the place of the human in It All.

... relishing the return to thinking period, and trying to understand how I find myself hanging on to conferences for dear life as the only opportunity to think during the academic year.

... the never-ending struggle with beastly self-doubt and thinking what if just this once I forged ahead without it, ignored it, told it it was wrong (even though I know it's right).

... having to come back to this post and add that, doggone it, I had two articles come out this year, wrote a conference paper and will participate in two round tables at different conferences, finished an article this spring, will write another this summer, and am getting ready for three more conferences next academic year. (and then feeling sheepish, but deciding to leave this in anyway)

... watching Eleanor run to get her baseball signed at our first ever attendance at a baseball game (a minor league Indians game - wow!) and wanting her to hold on to that rush.

... being glad to hear my father make a joke for the first time in two years, and wondering about the small but precious re-awakening that has come with his latest bout in the hospital.

... finding a discarded apple core and, soon after, a pair of flip flops on a morning walk, and wondering about how objects narrativize, how they bring forth a compulsion to tell a story, even when nothing may "truly" be connected.

... connecting that to the many compulsions of the medieval art historian - to narrativize, to tell stories about objects, to find meaning in objects, to be moved by objects' agencies.

... living in my children's world more and making sense of mine through theirs more.

... helping my dear Oliver with his perennial insomnia with more than an exhausted "go back to bed."

... wanting to know what makes warm milk such a merciful agent of sleep, but also happy to keep it a mystery.

... thinking, incredibly, about a return to Brittany as (and yes, it's only been two years but...) the beginning of what I now see is a new part of my life.

... thinking through an epistemology of touch - a certitude of being there that comes with touch; not evidentiary but experiential.

... taste, too - the ready presence of tasting something wondrous: a homemade chocolate cake sent from France (!!!) for Oliver's birthday - and something delicious transcending thousands of miles (move over, Proust).

... gratitude for love and possibilities. At the end of every litany, they are all that matter.


  1. Love this. And we're not human without our "beastly self-doubt." It's there, but it can be a motivating monster rather than one to back away in fear from (or so I find: I always ask myself, what exactly happens if I do fail? As it turns out, I just dust off and try again -- but I am always reminding myself of that fact).

    Happy summer!!

  2. Ah! just discovered your most encouraging comment, Jeffrey! Dusting off and keeping on - I'd never thought of the motivation possibility. an entirely new dynamic. looking forward to following your thinking and travels this summer!