Friday, April 18, 2014

Adjectiving through the verbiage

While slashing my way through an overgrown jungle of student drafts, I encountered a mutant species of verbiage: an adjective masquerading as a verb, and a transitive one at that! The word is inert used as disempower or emasculate, as in the witch inerts her victims or the victims are inerted by the witch.

Yes I know it's wrong and bad and very very dreadful, but that long lonely trek through the jungle has left me limp and powerless, utterly inerted by the demands of swinging a machete through stubborn vines of solecism while swatting off pesky infelicities. So why not? Adjective as verb? Let's give it a go:

If your prose limpids past
picturesquing its way,
then I'll caustic it up
in my red-pencil way.

If it turgids and softs
and egregiouses error,
then I'll bellicose you,
'cause my pen is a terror.

If it dowdies and lazies
or if it even mundanes,
better hit the delete key
or I'll bilious your brain.  

If it irksomes or fretfuls
or parts of speech are inverted, 

you'd better brush up your vocab
before your prof gets inerted.

There. That feels better. Now let's get back to lugubriousing our way through the verdant verbings, shall we? Scary on!  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Trilliums triumphant

Dutchman's breeches

Our endlessly recurring winter does not seem to have discouraged the early-spring wildflowers suddenly blooming all over our woods. Yesterday we picked our way up a slope covered with the feathery leaves of dutchman's breeches--it'll be a sight to see when they all bloom. Trilliums triumph on the steep wooded slopes and bloodroot blossoms poke their tiny heads above dry leaves, but the rue anemone blooms so visible last week have faded to insignificance. Meanwhile, plump pink buckeye buds revel in their annual strip-tease all over the woods. This is why I love where I live. (Please remind me next time I gripe about the weather.) 
Rue anemone

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April showers (of papers)

Okay, so now my dungeon is an island. The best thing about living in the basement has always been the colleague in the next office, but this morning she moved to the great big corner office to serve as department chair, so until some new hires arrive this summer, I'm surrounded by empty offices. Great. Fine. I'll just sit over here in the corner and molder away all by myself. (Can you hear the tiny violin?)

I shouldn't say this out loud but I'm actually caught up--on everything. Well, everything capable of being caught up on. (Caught-up-on-able?) But I can't leave because I'm showing a film this evening, so I need to stick around campus all day long. I would go out and enjoy the lovely spring weather--except that's SO last weekend. Yes, it's snowing. And cold. And gray, damp, and dungeonlike, even outside.

Tomorrow everything will change, except maybe the weather. Thanks to an excess of really horrible planning, I'm requiring all of my students to turn in papers or drafts this week, which means that starting tomorrow I'll have to entirely give up sleep or else learn to respond to drafts while eating, driving, and showering. ("This paragraph is all washed up, but the soap-bubble thesis is a novel idea.") I wish I could use my entirely afternoon today to read some of those drafts, but I can't read 'em until students submit 'em.

If my poor syllabus planning is putting a squeeze on my schedule, it's positively brutalizing the student who is enrolled in three of my classes. She'll be writing papers for me while eating, driving, and showering, and sleep is just entirely out of the question. Two more weeks and this will all be over! Until next fall, of course, when I'll welcome a new colleague into the office next door. I'll probably still be grading papers by the time he arrives. I'll just hand him a stack and say, "Mind the soap. They're slippery."

Monday, April 14, 2014

I just like the word "detritus"

This was supposed to post on Saturday but something went screwy with the Internet, and now it feels outdated since we're now entering another round of winter weather, but for what it's worth, here's what our brief weekend of spring was like.
I was raking the random detritus of winter out of my front flower garden this morning, heaping up masses of dried leaves, rotting straw, and matted vines, when I spotted a speck of purple--a tiny intrepid grape hyacinth hidden beneath the rubbish. It spoke of hope: after a cold, gray, barren season, beauty survives.

The jury's still out on some of our plants. Two small rhododendrons on the near side of the driveway look fine, but the huge grandfather rhododendron on the other side looks blasted on top, all the leaves dry and drooping. One area underneath still shows glossy leaves, but the rest of the massive plant appears to have retired from active ser.

The little Japanese maple has a few buds--very few--and a lot of dead-looking branches, but the buckeye trees are budding out obscenely pink all over the woods. Up on the hill a few young fruit trees have been gnawed by deer, but only one looks like a total loss. 

After the raking and sweeping and window-washing and grill-cleaning, I paused for a drink on the bench out front and contemplated the glories of spring. Our garden still looks brown and barren, but in my bones I can feel the colors coming. In the end I was inspired to hunt down the hummingbird feeders and brew up some nectar. I don't know how this kind of harsh winter will impact the hummies, but if they're coming back, I intend to be prepared.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mopping up a messy week

Looking back over the mess that was this week, I can't decide where to locate it on the continuum of messiness from aftermath of child's birthday party to zombie apocalypse. It makes a difference, because let's face it: the cleaning products that work on Play-Doh won't be much help when you're swabbing up entrails.

What kind of mess is this? I see bird droppings and dragged bones, flashing feathers that light up the sky, bright white rue anemone blossoms sprinkled around the woods, columbines popping up all over the front garden, pollen clogging my sinuses, roaches invading my bedroom, rain graying my days and thunder rumbling my slumber. 

I hear dogs yapping incessantly at 2 a.m., a great horned owl hooting at dawn, students reading their wonderful poetry to rounds of applause, a literature student saying "Maybe that's why my generation hates poetry," a writing student saying "I just don't like it" (about everything), an advisee insisting that he intends to take a particular course online even though it's not actually offered online ("I want to take it online," "But it's not an online course," "But I want to take it online," "But it's not offered online," "But I want to take it online," and so it goes, an infinite loop of illogic).

This week's mess smells of leftover pasta with chorizos, homemade ciabatta bread with hot-pepper jelly, droopy daffodils starting to rot in the vase, jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and the sour sanctimony of a colleague who thinks I'm a phoney (and makes me fear that it's true).

I see confetti everywhere, or maybe those are remnants of bills torn up and tossed aside in a huff, sprinkled amongst the random messages: invitation to my granddaughter's first birthday party (already?!), fan letter from distant scholar who thought my article was peachy-keen, message from a friend who's just earned tenure at another campus (hurrah!), massively multiplying e-mail chain regarding curricular issue only tangentially related to my work, sticky-note reminding me to contact the woodworking dude and the piano tuner and the faculty marshals and the Indian food truck, and right in the middle of it sits a big greasy chunk of broken tractor that will cost an arm and a leg to fix but with all this rain we'd better go ahead and fix it before the grass grows up to the eaves-troughs.

A year from now (or 10 or 20), what will matter from this mess? The students who read their marvelous poetry offset the students who hate poetry or literature or everything, and the fan mail and good news offset the snark and bureaucratic bumbling. That leaves the flickers and my friends' successes, and the fact that I refrained from strangling anyone, even those who may have deserved it. (Especially those who may have deserved it.) It's a middling sort of mess after all, and the good news is I won't need to mop up any entrails.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fledgling flickers, feeding

Entertaining evenings these days: watching a family of northern flickers leave their nest in a hollow tree on the edge of our creek. The young ones are old enough to fly out of the nest but still too young to feed themselves, so we've been watching the adults feeding them. Yesterday I saw six at once--four flickers on the nesting tree and two on the next one over. It's hard to get good photos, however, because they're always on the move, up in trees, often with the sun behind them. These are my best shots.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The case of the multiplying hooves

I'm not sure what it says about the nature of our household, but if you'd been listening in last weekend you might have heard me asking, in a tone of concern, "Are those hooves multiplying?"

Cow hooves started appearing in our yard about a week ago, first one and then another until there were at least four, which ought to be a sufficiency for any hound. Hopeful is a retriever, and lately she's been doing her retrieving at the site where our neighbors burned the remains from the slaughter of cattle. I don't know what she sees in charred hooves but she must love them because she's very protective. 

Hopeful's dedication to chomping on the hooves distracted her enough to allow my husband to gather up a big bucket of other bones, the remains of carcasses the dog hauled home over the winter. This morning he packed the bones into a bucket and stashed them in the trunk of my car so I could pass them on to a colleague whose big dogs love bones. I popped open the trunk and the first thing I saw was part of a deer's jaw with the teeth and some fur still attached--not something one expects to encounter in the parking lot of an academic institution.

I wonder what people thought when they saw my colleague walking across campus carrying a bucket of random bones, some looking as if they were walking through the woods fairly recently. At least they're out of my car (and my yard and my life), which leaves plenty of room for the next outbreak of multiplying hooves.