Two weeks

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Last Friday at Lake Geneva, WI.

Since my last post, the rose-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, Baltimore orioles, and ruby-throated hummingbirds have returned to our yards, and I have

— reached Book 52 in Robin’s 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge;

— seen Hamlet at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and realized that last year’s Gift Theatre production may prove the most electrifying and memorable Hamlet I will ever see;

— planted impatiens, purslane, and geraniums and mowed the lawn at least five times;

— reread fifteen of the eighteen chapters of James Joyce’s Ulysses (in anticipation of seeing Remy Bumppo’s Bloomsday) and wondered, “Why?” at least twice during each chapter;

— visited Cantigny Park (much of which is under construction) and Lake Geneva, WI; and

— watched my younger daughter graduate from university.

Route 57 revisited

A037F87C-EEEC-49EC-BD9A-368EBD37828FAs I’ve mentioned, this is my favorite landmark along the 3.25-hour route that links home and campus.

A few things occur to me as I look at this most recent image.

• Three years have passed *SNAP* like that.

• The trip to see my youngest graduate next weekend may be the last one I make to that part of the state for a (long) while. Given what a pain in my back it is, I can’t believe I am saying this, but… I will miss it.

• When my daughters, who had always maintained that they would attend college together, were in the midst of preparing their transfer applications, both had thought they’d like to stay within a two-hour drive of home while completing their baccalaureate degrees. Their acceptance into the state flagship, however, meant that they would be at least 3.25 hours away. For so many reasons, this represented a stretch — for all of us. We’re a tight-knit group who have been through, as they say, “some stuff.” In short, we appreciate proximity. The distance wasn’t a deal-breaker, of course, but the idea of going (even further) away to college did require some getting used to.

This is a little stressful, I confided to someone. Why? she replied. I don’t get it. That distance isn’t “going away to college.” I actually went away to college, she concluded; 3.25 hours is no big deal.

Three years later, I can still recall the sting. To us? At that time? It was a big deal. The exchange had its humor, of course: The speaker attended college 4.25 hours away from home. (Ah, the difference an hour can make. Heh, heh, heh.) After one year, however, she transferred to a college less than two hours from her home.

I think they call that irony.

Happy holidays

P1000477Christmas. Not my favorite. Never has been. Never will be. And for a while there… well, it appalled me.

When we adopted Rosemary in June 2014, it became clear in only a few days that she was one “crazy cat.” As the winter holiday approached, I cautioned that a tree might throw our somewhat calmed kitty back into a frenzy. My daughters reluctantly agreed, and I? Well, I thanked the universe for my offbeat new pet.

In the intervening 4.5 years, Rosemary has mellowed, so I guess I wasn’t surprised when my older daughter gently pined for a little tree this year. I’ve never been able to resist trying to grant my children’s wishes, which are usually so modest and doable; I love making them smile. So, about the tree in my house, I will say this: It made her happy, and when it comes down tomorrow morning, it will make me happy, too.

Notes from the past two weeks

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Detail from Ken Krimstein’s graphic biography of Hannah Arendt.

📚 Today I reached 121 books read this year. Twenty-six of those are non-fiction works, which means I am only four books from my goal of thirty.

Speaking of non-fiction… from Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom (Ken Ilgunas):

p. 74
It never failed: When I’d gaze at the stars and the aurora, I’d see my problems for what they were. I always told myself that I’d been under the control of other forces: parents, school, work. And I’d convinced myself that my debt was to blame for everything as if I had nothing to do with contracting the debt in the first place). I hated my job even though I worked for a wonderful company. And I told myself that, because of the debt, I couldn’t travel, couldn’t go back to school, and now couldn’t even leave my room.

Part of me liked being in debt. Part of me even wanted to stay in debt, to keep going on random and expensive three-week trips to places like Ecuador so I could spend my hard-earned dollars on halfhearted adventures, instead of staying focused on what should have remained my true goal: busting out of the great American debtors’ prison, steadily chipping away at its walls with each paycheck.

Part of me like being in that position of submission, tied up in leather, willfully cowering beneath a ruthless whip-wielding Sallie Mae. Life is simpler when we feel controlled. When we tell ourselves that we are controlled, we can shift the responsibility of freeing ourselves onto that which controls us. When we do that, we don’t have to bear the responsibility for our own unhappiness or shoulder the burden of self-ownership. We don’t have to do anything. And nothing will ever change.

Also on the subject of non-fiction… I loved Krimstein’s The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt. What a fabulous introduction to the philosopher’s life and work! Good customer service story: My copy of Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (Elisabeth Young-Bruehl), ordered not long after I finished The Three Escapes, arrived with a bent cover and chipped pages. Hoping for a modest discount, I wrote to customer service, and Amazon refunded the entire cost of the book.

🎭 Since my last post, I’ve seen two plays — Nell Gwynn at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (meh) and Mansfield Park at Northlight (misguided, at best) — and one opera — Il trovatore at the Lyric (fabulous; review here).

☕️ On Thursday I was sick enough to call out from work for the first time. After dragging my tired, sniffling self in on Friday, though, I began a nine-day break, arriving home just a few hours before my younger daughter, who is here for Thanksgiving. (My husband and older daughter begin break on Wednesday.)

🍂 Autumn visited for about three days. Not kidding. A few of my neighbors were unable to finish leaf removal before the first snowfall. It snowed again this past Thursday. We were lucky: During a break in my fever last Sunday, we cleared many of the last leaves; and on Monday, in a scarf, earmuffs, and warm coat, I did the last mow of the season.