Friday, November 28, 2008
random thoughts on a November afternoon
It has been sunny today, with the kind of brilliant blue sky you only see in late autumn. The bare white branches of the sycamore make a dramatic statement against the sky.
While it was warm in the direct sunlight, the air was cold, even at noon when I took Rosie dog for a short walk. Both she and I need more, longer walks. We both need to lose weight, and get more exercise. Dogs, unlike cats, seem to sense their human companions moods and share in them. Both John and I have been in something of a funk lately, and poor Rosie has gotten droopy too. No real personal reasons for our "funkiness," although the general economic gloom of the nation is contagious.
We may be doing less discretionary spending this fall, but only because we have been hit with large veterinary and human medical bills. I am very lucky in having relative economic security of a tenured academic position.
A more personal source of funkiness, is the nearness of semester end, but not the end yet. Everyone, students and teacher alike want it to be over. Motivation flags.
For reasons that seemed logical and rational at the beginning of the semester, my college decided to combine a few vacation days normally scattered through the semester with the three days allotted at Thanksgiving, to give us the entire week off. Unfortunately, my mind has taken the notion of vacation (vacating) all too literally. Not a good thing when I still have a pile of papers to grade, and the last week of classes (next week) still to prepare for, and on-line classes that did not pause for the holidays.
I wonder what kind of attendance there will be in my SOC 101 class next week. With only one week left of the term before finals, how many of my students will stretch the Thanksgiving week off, into Christmas break? This has been a semester of poor attendance and disappearing students. I began the term with 26 students, at this point there are only 16 left, and of those, about 10 to 12 actually show up on any given day.
Can anyone explain why, when there are only 10 students in a room large enough for thirty, they decide to sit in two clumps in the opposite far corners of the room? They seem to be trying to get as far away from me as possible.
The spare open landscapes of late autumn and winter, are linked in my mind to how the cold, hard times in human lives and societies strip away the soft coverings -- as the leaves are stripped away -- and we are left with a starker hard-edged social landscape, that has its own beauty. The beauty of some trees, such as the sycamore, are only revealed when all the leaves are gone. The beauty of some people shines most strongly in the cold times.