A walk in the woods

99E9F91B-9709-450B-981A-C325C27474067869250F-7F6B-49FD-8EE7-6B6BF69B3455The weather has been so odd, and the trees and plants are taking it hard. For example, the ginkgo in our front yard dropped all of its leaves this morning — they were still green. The forsythia rebloomed and then froze. The same with both rose bushes. Although fall colors have been difficult to find, however, some autumn gold glimmered during our walk in a new-to-us park near campus yesterday.

Out walking

DED1AC6F-FB16-4766-9EC1-32879FEAAD60986E6E01-EB29-4BBD-8214-CAA342E1DB88C8DB745F-4D88-4577-91EA-A13906B13BA895ABBE3A-55EE-4D6E-A895-27C68A80FEA2From Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study:

In my belief, there are two and only two occupations for Saturday [or Sunday] afternoon or forenoon for a teacher. One is to be out-of-doors and the other is to lie in bed, and the first is best. Out in this, God’s beautiful world, there is everything waiting to heal lacerated nerves, to strengthen tired muscles, to please and content the soul that is torn to shreds with duty and care.

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Connoisseurs of summer light

The light has changed a great deal in the two months since this photo was taken.

From one of my favorite Mary Schmich columns (Chicago Tribune, August 1, 2008):

If you merely count the days from summer’s official start in June until its finale in September, August 1 doesn’t even mark the summer midpoint. But it does mark the high point, which means the beginning of the end.

The light shifts, softens. The shadows on the leaves and the living room floor make you wonder: When exactly did the wane start?

People in other places may not wonder, but Chicagoans are connoisseurs of summer light. We spot the changes as surely as a foodie detects the difference between fennel and star-anise.

Yes, the light has shifted and softened, but the unofficial conclusion of my summer has been heralded by more than that: My older daughter will conclude her work at the therapeutic riding facility this week, then submit the last of the paperwork required to begin her new job in a nearby school district. My younger daughter will give a talk on her research at [insert name of national laboratory here] later this week, then move back home — only to begin packing for her return to university.

The Girls Rule! School will enjoy a short and joyous reunion in the interval between her arrival home and her sister’s first day on the new job, but the season is most certainly waning: My flute teacher held her summer recital this weekend, and the beach closes for the season next weekend. Leaves are dropping from the beleaguered but rallying oak out back, and acorns are abundant on the others. Subscription tickets have been mailed, and many single tickets are now on sale. On the to-do list, “Bring winter coats to cleaner before Labor Day” is underscored. Twice.

With back-to-school (which has always seemed more a new year than January 1) only weeks away, then, it feels right to assess my progress on this year’s reading goals.

Since my mid-year review, I’ve read another fifteen books — five novels, one play, seven works of graphic fiction, and two non-fiction titles — for a total of eighty-three books read, to date. Books XI and XII and Lectures 9 through 12 remain in my quest to read The Aeneid and finish Elizabeth Vandiver’s The Aeneid of Virgil. About two and half hours remain in my audiobook of Hope Never Dies (Andrew Shaffer; 2018), and about one hundred pages remain in Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland (2017). Despite having a number of books in various states of unread, I’ve gamely begun Squeezed (Alissa Quart; 2018 — review here) because I must return it to the library later this month — right around the time I help move my youngest back to university and resume my academic-year position.

One of my reading resolutions for this year is to finish at least thirty non-fiction titles. In May, I misstated this as thirty-six, but when I revisited the original post this morning, I was delighted to realize that I am within ten books of the goal. Admittedly, I have made less progress on Resolutions 1 (Read from the shelves) and 4 (Finish reading several books abandoned in 2017 (or *gulp* earlier)), but I remain upbeat about rereading at least one Vonnegut novel (Resolution 3; probably Sirens of Titan and likely for Banned Books Week) and completing a close reading of Moby Dick (Resolution 2).

By next Sunday, I hope to post my (tentative) autumn reading plans.

Two weeks

Before they struck out on their own…

How the time passed:

■ two fledged robins and numerous other juveniles, including cardinals, sparrows, red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, and goldfinches;
■ one play (Buried Child at Writers Theatre);
■ two museum adventures: the Field and the Shedd;
■ one documentary (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?);
■ fifteen hours of music practice;
■ one music lesson;
■ one American Red Cross course (Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED);
■ four “dates” with the lawnmower, edger, and trimmer;
■ three trips to the car dealership (Bleah!);
■ two hours of volunteer work;
■ two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale;
■ the first week of my current MOOC (music theory); and
■ six books:

Macbeth (William Shakespeare; 1606. Drama.)
Royal City, Vol. 2: Sonic Youth (Jeff Lemire; 2017. Graphic non-fiction.)
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace (Patty Yumi Cottrell; 2017. Fiction.)
Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) (Jo Nesbø; 2018. Fiction.)
Hamlet (William Shakespeare; 1602. Drama.)
The Lying Game (Ruth Ware; 2017. Fiction.)

As well as all of the even more commonplace activities (e.g., errands, chores, walks, games) that this parttime educator’s summer months comprise. Apart from car shopping and the excessive heat warnings, the season has been quite kind to me, so far. How has your summer been?

Next up: mid-year reading review.

Backyard birding

Over the last nine days, I have, among other things:

■ followed the progress of the robin family that calls our forsythia bush, “Home”;
■ mowed the lawn three times (!!);
■ seen a play (Suddenly, Last Summer at the Raven);
■ visited the Lincoln Park Zoo;
■ prepared for and undergone one of those screenings doctors recommend for all of us fifty-plus folk;
■ potted a couple of new plants and repotted some older ones;
■ lost a battle against an unidentified and insistent weed in my back garden area;
■ seen a good movie (I, Tonya) and a good documentary (Jane);
■ caught up on the harrowing second season of The Handmaid’s Tale;
■ fretted about how little I have practiced my music; and
■ finished four books:

Sometimes I Lie (Alice Feeney; 2017. Fiction.)
Buried Child (Sam Shepherd; 1978. Drama.)
The Idealist (Justin Peters; 2016. Non-fiction.)
Behold the Dreamers (Imbolo Mbue; 2016. Fiction.)

For the commonplace book, from Act Two of Buried Child:

SHELLY: Can’t we just drive to New Mexico? This is terrible, Vince! I don’t want to stay here. In this house. I thought it was going to be turkey dinners and apple pie and all that kinda stuff.
VINCE: Well I hate to disappoint you!
SHELLY: I’m not disappointed! I’m fuckin’ terrified! I wanna’ go!