From An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic (Daniel Mendelsohn; 2017):
This strangely tentative careering between concrete specifics and unhelpful generalities gives you a familiar feeling: the feeling of what it’s like to be lost. Sometimes it’s as if you’re on familiar territory; sometimes you feel at sea, adrift in a featureless liquid void with no landmarks in sight. In this way, the opening of this poem about being lost and finding a way home precisely replicates the surf-like oscillations between drifting and purposefulness the characterize its hero’s journey.
Children always imagine that their parents’ truest selves are as parents; but why? “Who really knows his own begetting?“ Telemachus bitterly asks early in the Odyssey. Who indeed. Our parents are mysterious to us in ways we can never quite be mysteries to them.
For the best teacher is the one who wants you to find meaning in the things that have given him pleasure, too, so that the appreciation of their beauty will outlive him. In this way — because it arises from an acceptance of the inevitability of death — good teaching is like good parenting.
You never do you know, really, where education will lead; who will be listening and, in certain cases, who will be doing with teaching.
Photos taken at, near, and around my daughters’ new home.
I served as move coordinator, which explains the gap between posts, and may I just say? I did an awesome job; at least that’s what my three closest friends tell me.
With the appointment to have cable/internet installed tonight, my older daughter and I will have largely completed the mental checklist “Create a home away from home,” so we have begun to relax a bit. Yesterday I finally unpacked my flute and practiced for the first time in much too long; and today before it got too hot, we walked in a nearby preserve. This summer may, in fact, end up looking a lot like last summer: Because her job did not begin until August, my older daughter and I spent several weekdays in June and July 2018 alternating adventures in Chicago with reading, music, and other pursuits. Once she accepts an offer here, we are hoping to do the same in Boston.
What makes this July so much different than last (or any other, for that matter) is that we are separated from the rest of our group by a seventeen-hour drive. Depending on how everyone’s schedule sorts out, I will have been away from my younger daughter for twice as long as I have ever been by the time I can hug her again. And for the first time since the eighties, Mr. Nerdishly and I are apart for something other than business or a funeral. I miss them both more than I miss central air (and let me tell you, I have definitely been missing central air).
In all earnestness, though, as I’ve written before, our family prefers to be together — or at least not too far apart — and eleven hundred miles is too far apart. We are all focused on the moments we are in, however — acknowledging the distance but making it work.
And I guess we will need to get used to it, won’t we? When I return home, it will be just Mr. Nerdishly and I — and the cats. And our daughters will be in their new home — together, which gives me so much comfort — but far from the forever home.
In a Captain Obvious moment, our neighbor advised us that after this summer we will be empty-nesters. Thank you, neighbor. We never heard that before. Then again, if we are still living in the nest, Mr. Nerdishly and I, how is it empty? We’re the original birds, aren’t we? It will be a less full nest but not an empty one. And while we have already reclaimed the “Girl Cave,” we have left their bedroom intact.
Because you will always be welcome, my tiny birds. Always.
Earlier this month, my older daughter and I spent a morning reading and birdwatching by the lake. When we arrived at our usual spot, lifeguards were dragging battered rental canoes to the water’s edge, and maintenance crew members were rolling mowers off the truck, so we headed to a less frequented part of the shore and lingered there until nearly lunchtime. It was lovely.
While some summer breaks are, metaphorically speaking, mornings by the lake punctuated by flurries of activity, this summer break has been a flurry of activity punctuated by the occasional morning by the lake. Yesterday over lunch, though, I realized that at least four days of (metaphoric) mornings by the lake stretch ahead of me. Walks, books, and music practice; maybe a movie or two and some games. I don’t even care that it’s supposed to rain. Again. The house is clean. The yards are mowed and trimmed. The refrigerator and pantry are full. This is going to be great!
Speaking of books, here are commonplace book entries from True West by Sam Shepard:
Act Two, Scene Five
LEE: It’s not a film! It’s a movie. There’s a big difference. That’s something Saul told me.
AUSTIN: Oh he did, huh?
LEE: Yeah, he said, “In this business we make movies, American movies. Leave the films to the French.”
Act Two, Scene Nine
LEE: Sounds original now. “Intimate terms.” That’s good. Okay. Now we’re cookin! That has a real ring to it.
LEE: (continues) “He’s on intimate terms with this prairie.” Sounds real mysterious and kinda’ threatening at the same time.
And from the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf:
Lines 24 – 25
Behavior that’s admired
is the path to power among people everywhere.
With Beowulf, I reached sixty books read this year. So how am I doing with my reading resolutions, particularly my “Read from the shelves” challenge? Well, twenty-seven of those books were from my shelves; seventeen from the library, twelve acquired this year, and four other. With only a little more than half the year remaining, then, it seems unlikely that I will read one hundred books from my shelves. But my acquisition rate has certainly slowed, and I will handily meet my goal of thirty non-fiction titles — I’ve already read twenty-one. Of course, only ten of those were from my shelves, and my goal was twenty-four non-fiction titles from the shelves, so I have some work there. It’s achievable, though.
I also remain optimistic about reading at least one book from each of the following “special collections”: Shakespeare, poetry, NYRB, Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, philosophy, art, and children’s / YA. In fact, I reread Hamlet last month and will reread Vonnegut’s Player Piano over the summer. As for my close (re)reading of Moby Dick, that may be a fall project.
Today we located the twelfth of fifteen finds on the geocaching passport we hope to fill before summer’s end.
We also signed up for the summer reading program at the local library. Although we were advised that movies and library programs could also be used to satisfy the requirements ( !!?? ), we agreed among ourselves to stick with books. The summer selection for our family book club is Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.
— 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 fourteen 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.