Summer has been hot (finally), full of writing, travel and a complete suspension of any sort of schedule whatsoever. August was full of pre-semester practicals, the first three weeks in September too. (oh, and Ramshackle was short-listed for the Scottish Mortgage Investments Awards, which is fabulous!)
Now the academic year has started and I turn to teaching and students and this particular balance with my own work (and with family)…
Jay Parini, in his The Art of Teaching writes – with support from Robert Frost (who stated firmly that he was a poet, teacher and farmer – in equal measure) – about having an essential balance in what we do. We are more than one thing and these multiple elements of who we are and what we do are essential to each other and help define the directions we choose to take.
So it is possible to be a writer, a teacher, lover, a daughter, a runner, a friend and a bread-baker and they exist in the complete, dynamic living system that is me.
The novel I’m writing is in large part elegy (and elegy, we know, is all in largest part about the living). The idea for this book emerged out of the emotion and experiences of my dad’s illnesses and a close friend’s brush with death and now, a few years later, the writing of it dovetails with my mother’s deep, mean illness.
I am thinking about balance and what we put out into the world. How I’m quite private and still (daily) wrestling with how to be in the public sphere (and resistant to the constant need to create drama and presence, which is exhausting, can be inauthentic, and definitely takes me away from my writing) and this autumn I will be faced with pressures from some elements of self more than others. I haven’t baked bread in six months, for instance, but I have been writing daily. I’m a bit behind in my teaching prep, but I read ten books this summer, just for me, and last week I got to see my mom, which I wasn’t sure I ever get to do again.
Autumn is the cusp of the year, a time existing between when things are in bloom, fertile and when a winter quiet takes hold. I saw the harvest moon from the plane on Wednesday night a week ago, above the clouds. Autumn is full of new starts, of promises made and fulfilled, and it’s here we re-affirm commitments. It is also colder and darker and full of focus. I don’t have any big revelations to share, only that autumn is here and so are we.
Autumn brings a bit more routine too: Yesterday I was at Little Sparta & Brownsbank cottage with students, and my colleague Zoe, for a relaxing day out. Today, I have emptied the trash, taken the recycling over to be recycled, bought eggs and veg locally, am doing laundry, and my first loaf of bread is doing its first prove as we speak.