Friday Randomness

A few random thoughts for the last Friday in June(!)…

  1. That actually makes me think that I should share this thought first… I (and, I think a lot of people) put so much pressure on myself to pack everything good into the summer months. For me, that’s mid-May-ish through mid-August, based on my academic calendar. And at this point in the summer – nearly halfway through – I feel as though I haven’t accomplished, well, anything. Which makes me think… why do we do this to ourselves? Why do I tell myself that I MUST go to the local Arboretum (which is, apparently, lovely) this summer? Why can’t I go in September? I know that the weather limits some opportunities, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t keep doing things that fill my professional and personal cup throughout the year. The challenge, of course, is maintaining that mindset when the chaos of the academic year starts.
  2. I have a family member dealing with some health challenges, and it has reminded me of just how hard it is to be this far from them. I am always aware of it, but these kinds of things just bring it to the forefront of my mind. I wish I could be there for them. Sigh.
  3. I wrote up a day in the life post to share, then realized that before I do that, I should maybe write something about, well, how my job differs from other jobs. This has been a challenge for me throughout my working life as an academic. Even my spouse and my parents have difficulty understanding *why* my work life is the way it is, and why it is so all-consuming. And yet, it’s completely normal for people who have similar jobs. Anyway, you’ll all think I’m bonkers if I post that day in the life without some context, I suspect. So that’s next on the list. 🙂
  4. I learned this week that there is, apparently, a really excellent mini golf course about 10 minutes from me. Huh. Who knew? (Clearly, not me…) Unfortunately, solo mini golf is not appealing so I need to find someone to drag with me. Ha.
  5. The one thing on this summer’s list that’s non-negotiable? Getting some custard, for the love of pete. I live in Wisconsin. Land of frozen custard. There are so many options to choose from, and yet most summers I don’t indulge. Time to change that. Maybe I should make it a goal for each weekend – try a different frozen custard place. That seems a worthy goal. Maybe more achievable than the mini golf goal…

Sorry for the boring randomness. Feel free to come back when I share something more interesting. 😉

Art & Music

I don’t often write about my love for art and music here. I am not an artist, nor am I a musician (I leave that to Susanne and others far more gifted than I!). But what I do have is a deep appreciation for both, and a recognition that they are important for making my life more complete (and perhaps, more complex).

I listen to music nearly every morning. A wide range of genres, which shift somewhat frequently (and seemingly randomly, to be honest). Right now, it’s Celtic folk, which has been going strong for several months now. But it’s mixed in with The Chicks (a throwback to the early 2000s…), as well as Brandi Carlisle, several Australian, Canadian, and Scottish groups and artists, and others. It’s an eclectic mix, to say the least.

Why do I do this? Well, to be honest, it brings a bit of joy to the start of my day – putting my meetings and other obligations on my daily calendar, writing out the (usually long) list of things I would like to accomplish by the end of the day, and getting started on the first big thing. I also get to sing along, happily out of tune, much to the chagrin of my neighbors.

Yet, this is a more recent development. For many years, I started my day in silence, thinking that would make me more productive. But music adds another dimension, a reminder that life must also include moments of joy and uplift, not just, well, work. (As much as I love what I do, it’s still work!)

I feel the same way about art, although I admit that opportunities to bring art into my life occur much less frequently. (Side note: you’d probably be appalled to know that I have lived in the same apartment for four years and… there is literally nothing on the walls. Nothing. I Have art propped up on various surfaces around the apartment, and on top of my dresser, but there is nothing actually ON the walls.)

I actually count time spent in nature as time spent with art created by the universe. But oh, I cherish visits to art museums and installations when I can make them happen. My parents emphasized the importance of appreciating and taking the time to learn about art. What’s interesting is that none of us – me, my parents, my brother – are artists, or creative in the traditional sense. My mother is a wizard in the kitchen, and my father is an artist in his garden. But traditional art? Nope. Maybe that reflects the pragmatism with which we tend approach life…but I digress! What I really wanted to get to here was a recent experience that reminded me of just how important art is in my life.

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet up with a friend and her daughter in Chicago to see one of the immersive Van Gogh exhibits that is traveling the country this summer. (I think there are 3, this is the one that I saw.)

This was so different from any other art “exhibit” that I have seen… and so amazing. It literally left me speechless. It’s hard to describe, but they truly bring the art to life. Paintings, details from paintings, handwritten text… all projected around you in a large room. Pieces morph into one another (often completely unrelated in terms of theme or color…which makes the experience even more amazing). There is a full soundtrack that included many pieces I knew, or at least recognized. It’s a truly immersive and almost overwhelming experience, particularly for someone who has spent the last 17 months in isolation, with only a few opportunities to see others in person.

The feeling of awe, of joy, of uplift that I experienced was an amazing way to (start to) emerge from the challenges of the last year+. Seeing art literally all around me, surrounded by music, and others who were similarly immersed… it was a wonderful reminder of just how important art is to my life.

The experience reminded me of a fabulous essay in The Paris Review a few years ago, by Claire Messud. I’d recommend reading the whole thing, honestly, but these lines always stand out to me whenever I read it…

“There is glory in each day, for each of us. It is waiting to be illuminated and observed. Auden wrote that poetry makes nothing happen, but in our hearts and in our lives, we know that is not true. Art has the power to alter our interior selves, and in so doing to inspire, exhilarate, provoke, connect, and rouse us. As we are changed, our souls are awakened to possibility—immeasurable, yes, and potentially infinite. If ever there was a time for art, it’s now.”

Family, friends, flowers, fruit…

I was finally able to visit my family a week and a half ago, after waiting what seemed like forever. I had to wait until we were all vaccinated (now we are, even the teenager!), and I had to wait until after the semester and my contract were over. Those events finally converged right before Memorial Day here in the US, and I planned a road trip out East to spend time with them for the first time in nearly 18 months (we last saw each other around New Year’s, 2020).

I know that others are still waiting for the opportunity to spend time with their own beloved family members, and I hope that you get to experience the same happiness I felt at seeing my own family very soon.

Anyway, I wound up driving out all in one day – about a 13.5 hour drive with stops. Hard but not impossible, particularly when you are bound and determined to reach your destination. There was no way – despite what I told my father, who worried that I’d be too tired to make it – that I was going to stop with only a few hours left in the drive, when I knew that I could be seeing them instead. No. Way. So I pushed through, helped by fairly liberal amounts of caffeine and snacks.

And oh, was it worth it. The hugs alone were worth it. I am not a very physically affectionate person, unlike the rest of my family, but those hugs… they were just what I needed to remind myself that this was real. The best part about the visit was that we did not try to do too much. We spent time together. I toured the gardens. We went on walks. I went on early-morning runs. We went to the farm stand, the stores, on a country drive. We had ice cream and strawberries for dessert. We (finally) celebrated my nephew’s birthday. Dinner with my second parents. Good food… so much good food (which, remember, is my family’s love language).

One of dad’s flower pots… a bit out of focus but oh, so beautiful.

Then it was over. I was driving back home before I knew it. I hope with all my heart that it won’t be 18 months before I see them again. I hope that we have mostly kicked this virus, but I also know that vaccination rates are slowing down and it’s entirely possible that by the holidays we will be back under restrictions. But I can’t let myself think of that now…. instead, I’ll remember the joy I felt spending time with some of my favorite people in the world, and look forward to the next time.

Yes, it was strawberry season. And yes, they were just as good as they looked.