Thursday, November 29, 2007

weekend fears

Melampodium one profusely growing plant once you get it established. It is an annual and reseeds easily, that is at least what everybody will tell you. And my neighbor's melampodium was blooming indeed for months, whereas I have tried several times growing it without any success, it either did not like the location or does not like me. So this coming year I will sow seeds, from my neighbor and from Thompson & Morgan, and then we will see what happens. This will be my last stubborn attempt at melampodium.

Yesterday afternoon I started to read a novel by Jonathan Coe, The Rain Before it Falls (the link is to with a number of reader reviews). Yes, I took the entire afternoon, evening and night, did not prepare any food, nor did I correct papers, tests or anything, I just read. Not an outstanding book, but a well written family saga which enfolds when an old woman looks back on her life by describing twenty selected photographs, recorded on tape and meant to be listened to after her death by a young blind girl she lost contact with. The story demonstrates the inevitability to escape your family history, especially the mother - daughter relationship. It was an interesting read since it deals with what it meant to grow up female in postwar Britain, an unloved child turning into her unloving mother, a gay young woman seeking love and fulfillment, and again an unloved daughter not able to love her own daughter herself. It is a story about women, but written by a man, and convincingly so. The narration, following the description of the photographs recorded on tape, feels at times constrained, and the subject matter reminds me a little of Marilyn French's Her Mother's Daughter, as much as I remember it. It presented me with the painful insight that it is impossible not to become to some extent your own mother - like it or like it not. I have not read anything else by Jonathan Coe, but I will look for other books.
I used to read a lot of fiction, now I read mostly scholarly stuff and feel almost guilty if I read for the sake of reading. Maybe that feeling of guilt makes the act of reading even more luxurious and pleasurable.
I needed that before the weekend. I have volunteered to help out with a weekend workshop for high school students, which means spending 48 hours with those students, eating with them, sleeping in the same quarters and of course teaching them. I think it is an important community service, helping out those hard working teachers who are so engaged in educating their students that they write grant proposals to secure money so that they can offer those interested students a full hands-on weekend learning experience. I participated last year, so I know what to expect. And I dread it; the beds are horrible bunk beds with plastic mattresses making a loud screechy noise if you move ever so slightly. And I will not even mention what it means to be constantly surrounded by thirty high school students with hormones running high. I will be relieved to return on Sunday night. I will again appreciate my life as a professor, even if accompanied by tedious meetings and administrative matters, it is so much easier than the life of the dedicated school teacher, underpaid and mostly unappreciated.

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