28 March 2008

Real life

We have now lived in our new house for two weeks. We’ve had nearly everyone we know to a meal. We’ve woken and slept, we’ve unpacked and organized, we’ve cooked and baked. The jury is in: this is a spectacular house!

It is pretty much ready to live in, too. There are three nearly-finished bathrooms (with a total of two useable toilets, two useable showers and a tub). The upstairs is totally unfinished, with gib board hung with lightless wires. Ah, but the downstairs feels like a house, and we have filled it with food and friends and all manner of good things.

My cousin Mike has come and gone. On his trip to the south island he did High Adventure—jumping from the highest bungy jump in New Zealand and heading down white water rapids with only a boogie board. Back in Paekakariki he showed a different kind of bravery. On Thursday morning, he joined in for our typical morning coffee and patiently drank his mocha while Melissa and Carolyn and I chatted about girl things and then grilled him about the adventure—and the girl he met at a hostel. Then, in a serious show of courage, he joined Carolyn and me for our weekly yoga at St. Peter’s Hall. He bent and stretched and held poses and then discovered the near-miraculous utter relaxation at the end of a yoga session. Walking down the beach afterwards, he admitted that he had had enjoyed it way more than he had ever expected to, but we promised we wouldn’t tell anyone. Shhhh.

Mike seemed to seriously settle into life at the beach, though, lazing around, reading his book in the sun, swimming in the cold sea, biking through the hills. We walked up the beach to get pizza on his last night and we sat and watched the trains and people go by as we ate the superb pizza from Rob’s deli. He pointed out that most people don’t get to actually live in paradise—they only get to visit. It’s too hard to find work in paradise, too hard to find a village with interesting people and good things to do. But here we artists and academics and interesting people everywhere you look. And we have a train to the capital city a 10 minute walk from our new house. Not bad.

Finally we were at T minus 1 hour, and I asked Mike what he wanted to do with his remaining 60 minutes in New Zealand. I had been talking all morning about eventually baking bread that day, about cinnamon swirl bread rather than hot cross buns for Easter morning. Mike decided that with his last moments, he’d learn how to make bread. So those are my last memories of him here at my house by the sea. He mixed the milk, butter, sugar, salt, and yeast. He beat in flour until he began to complain (“MORE flour? It’s not going to be able to all get in there.”) and then he poured the globby mess out onto the new granite counters and watched the waves as he learnt the push-pull-fold kneading motions. He felt the bread turn from sticky to smooth and elastic and was amazed at the change that his hands could make. Then a flurry of shaving and packing, and he was off.

And in his wake of his leaving—and Carolyn and Jim leaving for a week on the south island—we have been settling into what real life in this new house might feel like. It’s still not finished by a long run, still filled with the craftspeople we like sawing and painting and plastering away. Our nights are taken up with tidying the old house to go back on the market (which it will on Sunday) and living in the new house. Last night, with boxes to unpack and piles of work stretching so high to the ceiling I thought I’d weep (I have too many trips coming up and too much work to do before and during those trips), I put it all aside. I sat at the kitchen island and peeled the now-ripe peaches, mixed them with sugar and lemon and pectin, and poured them into their containers. Fresh peach jam from my own peach tree. And then, to celebrate, the kids and I went for a swim. So this is real life in paradise. Not bad at all.

25 March 2008


On Easter, after tea with Robyn and before heading to Melissa’s house for dinner, I ventured into the garden for the very first time since moving into the house. I’ve been rather busy inside, and the weather hasn’t been fantastic, but on Sunday the unpacking slowed and the sun shone. I went down to see my new backyard. There had been a strong southerly the night before, and the peaches were thick on the ground (and thin on the tree). Naomi and I took a big bucket outside to see what we’d find.

The garden is a tempting, overgrown jungle. A small lawn surrounded by steep terraces with flowers and fruit trees, it is the secret garden from the Frances Hodgson Burnett books, a mysterious, once-tended thicket of weeds and flowers intertwined. My memories of the first time in the house were strongest in the front room which is now my bedroom, and in the garden. Back then—more than a year ago now—I had assumed I was too sensible to take on a project of this magnitude, and it was the garden and the bedroom which gave me the strongest pangs of regret about the loss of the house. But now, having not lost it after all, it is these places which make my heart sing the loudest. These are magical—and I use that word in the most literal way I possibly can. Both of those spaces are otherworldly and somehow improbable; if I were to see the lost ship of Atlantis surface in the sea beyond my window, or hear fairies singing in the garden, I would be only mildly surprised. I have never known space to be so wholly creative. Rob, living in the space affectionately called “the bomb shelter,” isn’t sleeping. When he walks out to his room to go to bed, he wakes up. The whole garden hums with a kind of deeply creative energy which so far has been impossible for him to tamp down. And besides, he kind of likes it.

The magic has been only increased by the presence of the peach tree. We had known about the apple tree, had eaten one of the apples the day we decided to buy the house in the first place—in a symbolic final gesture (like Persephone, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to back out from the house sale once we’d eaten from its garden). The peaches have been a surprise this spring, though, coming as indistinguishable little berries on the tree before growing the shape and fuzz of a peach. We have found that they’re furrier and more fragrant than any peach we’ve ever had before, and we have learnt that Perry loves them, eating them happily outside and then proudly depositing the pit on the kitchen floor. I have long wanted a real lemon tree—with real lemons—but never even imagined a peach tree of my own (odd for someone who bought her first house in the “peach state”).

It turns out, though, that there is something especially magical about a peach, about the soft furry skin of it, the sweet but not cloying scent, the shy blush. Naomi and I peered under thick clumps of weedy grass, beneath the browning blooms of hydrangea bushes, on the paths and terraces around the tree. We admired the unblemished windfalls and we occasionally squealed in disgust as our fingers sunk into the hidden buggy or rotten underside of a seemingly-lovely peach. We came away with a large bucket full of not-quite ripe peaches, which sit in our laundry room waiting for the ripening when they can be made into fresh jam. Once they’re jammed, I’ll be able to taste the magic from my garden long into the cold and dark August winter. Some magic lives around you, and some you have to make yourself. Jam from my own peach tree contains both forms in one sweet mouthful.

(pictures from today are the kids on Easter morning (that's a good story too) and the kids rowing their log boat on Easter afternoon)

19 March 2008

Fork in the road

I have had last Sunday planned for weeks. It was the only weekend day Mike Garvey would be with us, the only real day we’d have for the whole family to spend with him. He wanted something like a rain forest, and so I picked the most wonderful one we have nearby: the stunning Kapiti island, the biggest presence on our horizon, whose shape in the distance orients me and helps me know I’m home. In addition to being magnificent to look at, Kapiti is a DoC reserve, covered with native birds—some of which are so rare that they are only found on a handful of little island reserves around the country. This idea thrilled Jim, who is quite a birder, and all the Coughlin-Harrises. So we were all off—the five in my household, cousin Mike, and the 5 Coughlin-Harrises. Or so we thought.

After a perfect Saturday, Sunday dawned slightly grey, but with lovely still silver seas. I got up and began to make sandwiches while the rest of the house slept. At 7am, Carolyn rang, her always-cheerful voice dimmed: a southerly was coming and the boat captains had decided to cancel the trip to Kapiti. Our weeks of forethought—permits, boat reservations—were all for naught. Torn hair, gnashing of teeth, and a couple of hours of the kind of delays that only a group of eleven (with five people 10 and under) can manufacture, and we were on our way to a newly-developed Plan B. Since the bad weather was coming from the south and west, we’d go north and east to Otaki Forks. Keith had wanted to go there on his birthday well over a year ago, but we had been prevented by slips from the hills covering the road; I had been curious ever since.

I hadn’t ever imagined how good it would be, though. After 30 minutes on the state highway (=two-lane road) and 20 minutes on a back road (=sometimes not quite 1.5 lanes, sometimes paved), we pulled into a hidden paradise: kelly green lawn next to clear blue river surrounded by mountains. Mike smiled broadly. Now THIS is what I wanted! he said. We picked a 1.5 hour loop track and set off, our sandwiches and water in our backpacks, the sun high in the blue sky.

The 11 of us walked over swing bridges, up forested hills, across plateaus covered with high grasses. We ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches under the shade of native trees and tree ferns. We talked about life, the universe and everything, as you do on a walk, alternately admiring and feeling irritated by the children (who were alternately having fun and whining). We peered over cliff faces at the river in the gorge far below. Mike opened his arms wide at one crossing, the mountains layered into the distance, the fields golden below, the river carving a path through white rock. “This is EXACTLY what I thought it would look like in New Zealand!” he told me with delight. “This is perfect!”

We took our hot bodies down the hills and tumbled—with various degrees of coverage—into the river at the bottom. Some of us dangled feet; others dove in and played with the currents. The children, so used to the sea now, were struck by a body of water that always pulls in the same direction, that keeps moving you farther and farther away from your starting point. Mike, used to Alaska winter, was at home jumping into the icy river, manoeuvring his long body into the deepest parts of the shallow water.

This too is one of the deepest gifts of New Zealand, to have so many magnificent choices within an easy commute of home that when one goes wrong, another one pops up to take its place. And, while I felt so pleased that Mike had found his perfect New Zealand landscape, I have to say that it isn’t hard to make that particular dream come true. Magnificent New Zealand landscapes are all around us—on the train to work, over the next ridge, from my dining room table. With dear friends—and family—to travel with, could I get any closer to perfection?

17 March 2008

PS Not all glam

Ok, so it's not all glamorous sunsets and stainless steel appliances. Major notes from this evening:
Rob cooked his first dinner in the new kitchen and then moved his stuff into the bomb shelter! G stopped by unexpectedly for dinner--our first impromptu dinner guest. (And he came the right night since Rob had made the fish Dave caught on the weekend.) And Carolyn and Jim et al met the fire brigade (click here for their blog)
Pics are all obvious...

first days

This is my first day coming home from work to my new house. I’m as excited as if I were going home to a new love—which, I suppose, I am.

I expected to love this house; there wouldn’t have been much point in buying it otherwise. But I hadn’t expected to love it so passionately, to walk around and admire each detail and feel so deeply at home there. If anything, I expected that the first days in the new house would be a let down, marred by overly-high expectations and the clear knowledge of all the work yet to come. But that’s not my experience at all. Instead, I have something of the delight and surprise of Harry Potter when he first discovers he can make things happen with his magic wand. We have used tools other than magic, but the result is the same: we have made this house happen. I admire the new layout and know it was my idea. I admire the clever lofts in the kids’ rooms and know that one came from Robyn. The dropped kitchen ceiling which enables the lovely upstairs hideaway? that was Keith. The pendant lights were copies of the ones Michael fell in love with on our trip to Wanganui. The colours were picked out by the kids. Everywhere the house is about us. And even though it has taken months of work (and money) to bring it to fruition, it feels like we blinked our imagination into a reality.

And there are unexpected surprises, mostly at night. I had pictured the view from the kitchen window as I washed the dishes—had fantasised about it since I first stepped in that house more than a year ago. But I hadn’t thought about how pitch black the back yard would be, how many stars I would see when I stepped outside and looked up. And I’ve thought long and hard about the view from my bedroom at sunset, but I hadn’t thought about how at night the walls would disappear—even the windows go missing with all the lights off—and how it would feel like I was sleeping outdoors: the rhythmic pounding of the sea, the twinkling of the streetlights below us, Orion keeping watch over me as I sleep. It feels like a precious gift has been entrusted to me for a time, and I have the responsibility to cherish it for as long as it is in my life. And I think I’m fully up to the challenge.

Still, the house is not really finished. My dad bit into Chips Ahoy cookies one day years ago and gave me a big smile, “Almost good enough to eat!” he said, reaching for a second. That’s how my house is: almost done enough to live in. Last night, after grouting the laundry room floor, I soothed my cramped back in our new tub. The tub sits in an unfinished bathroom, with a wall-hung vanity that has no tapware, and bare gib (= drywall) walls. The future-recessed lights hang from a wire, awaiting the painting of the ceiling to be fully installed. The water emerges into the tub from a plain pipe, the tub spout having been misplaced or not delivered. There is a handle to turn on the water that sticks out of the gib. The button above the handle is circled with pencil and highlighted with a stern warning: **Please do NOT push this button!!** It has been everything I can do not to push it. Still, after I washed the plaster dust and construction detritus out of the tub, I ran myself a bubble bath. The first tub I’ve ever picked out, it’s long, deep, and sloped to hold my body perfectly. Dave has stuffed the cavity with insulation so that it stays hot longer. And, like everything else in my house, it is as close to perfection as an unfinished thing could be. This whole house is like a bubble bath in paradise.

16 March 2008

moving on up

There will be time tomorrow for me to write a post describing our first two nights in our new house (one of them with my cousin Mike!), but I'll need to sleep on it to come up with enough words for magnificent/perfection/bliss or else it'll get really boring.

So tonight, pictures from moving day and from the little dinner for 13 we had on the night after we moved in to christen the house and fill it with laughter and good smells and all good things.
Those are the sunsets you get to see from our place--and the sunset picture was taken from the living room. And I can say (after waking up on my third morning) that this is the best room I've ever slept in in my whole life! But who's counting?

15 March 2008

Moving omens

I am sitting at my little desk looking out my study window at Kapiti Island. All around me there is the bedlam of work—powertools, fellas talking to one another, the soft hum of sanding, and the sweet tones of the builders singing the best of the 70s, 80s, and 90s from the static-y radio. And, when all that stops for one precious second—or really, even if any part of it stops, the rhythm is kept by the sea beating on the shore. We saw this house more than a year ago, bought it eight months ago, and tonight we’ll sleep in it for the first time. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up from this dream and find myself in a hotel somewhere with a view of a brick wall and the throbbing noise of a heat pump. I seem to be awake, though.

Yesterday—when most of our furniture moved in (but no people because no water yet)—had the most auspicious beginning imaginable. Michael and I went for our morning dog walk along the beach, laying out the plans for the friends who were about to show up on our doorstep, and I saw something right out of my flield of vision. The sea was a flat silver, reflecting the flat silver of the clouds and the still of the air. And, puncturing the smoothness, flashes of black fins: a pod of dolphins just off the shore. My breath caught and I was suddenly breathless. “Oh look!” was all I could manage. We stood, these dolphins so close to us, dozens of them swimming, spread from the beach to Kapiti island.

When I see something as spectacular as that, the first thing I want to do is share it. I grabbed a cell phone and called Naomi and Aidan at home and told them to come down to the beach. They raced out in their PJs and bear feet, and we stood, hugging them against the chill in the morning, as the dolphins swam south. When they were south enough, I called Carolyn (who lives at the south side of the village for the next couple of days before she moves into Ocean Road). She grabbed her family and went out to stand at the beach and watch the dolphins swimming away.

It was moving day, and a school morning, so we left before the dolphins were out of sight. We walked past a woman rushing to the train, and I told her about the dolphins. She turned and sighed: there’s no time this morning, I’ll miss the train, etc. Aidan and I followed her regretful back towards the house before I realized that Hey, I don’t have a train to catch. The whole point of living in New Zealand is to spend less time rushing from place to place and more time BEING in place. We walked back down to the beach and cuddled and looked as hard as we could until the last dolphin was out of sight. We had to rush when we got home to be on time for school, but who really cared, anyway?

And that was the beginning of moving day, a day that left us grouchy and sleeping in our old beds in our old house, but which led to me writing this in bliss right now. Soon my cousin Mike gets here. Since having no family here is nearly the only cloud on the horizon (and, watching the sea like this, it’s a long horizon), Mike comes to blow the clouds away a little.

Love to all. Pictures coming soon!

11 March 2008

house tour again

Ok, here, with perfectly beautiful floors, is the penultimate house tour. The next one will have our furniture in it and it will look suspiciously like a real house!

04 March 2008

On the bench

I always remember Jamie's birthday because her birthday is an order: March forth! But here when I tell people how to remember Jamie's birthday, it doesn't make any sense to them because it's 4 March which isn't an order at all.

For Jamie's birthday this year, we got new kitchen benchtops (=counters). We went over after dinner to hang out with Ken the sparky (=electrician) and admire the nearly-completed kitchen. More rooms are finished; every step brings us closer to an actual finished house!

Pictures today are of the granite being lifted into the house and the finished product. We linger longer there each night--and not just because Ken is a fantastic guy (although he is). We're dying to move in!

03 March 2008

And in unrelated Aidan news...

Aidan had a good day at home today and seems very nearly all recovered from his concussion. He's cheerfully taking his various supplements and feeling sorry for himself that he can't start soccer with his friends. But the most exciting news of the whole day is that he lost his very first tooth! This has nothing to do with the accident, which had nothing to do with his mouth. It's just the result, I think, of having a whole day without school to wiggle and jiggle the loose tooth out. He wants the tooth fairy to bring him $5 and a lump of gold. We'll see what happens next!
(pics tonight are of a concussed but happy toothless Aidan and the Coughlin-Harris family looking magnificent in Wellington)


Last night after dinner we went to see the new house. We do this most nights after dinner, and often a friend will come along to see it too. Last night it was Melissa and Ayla. The grownups wandered around and ooh-ed and ahh-ed about the house (which is getting so good you can’t even believe it). The kids played outside in the chilly windy evening, playing hide-and-seek and watching the surfers bobbing like seals in the choppy sea. And then sudenly, as I was trying to lock the balky new door, Michael got in the car (which we had brought because of the load of boxes that came along to the new house) and drove away. Naomi told me that Aidan had hurt himself and Daddy had taken him home, but that it wasn’t a big deal and Aidan was mostly just crying for nothing. So we finished the tour, said goodbye to Melissa and Ayla who scootered their way to bed as we walked home.

At home, though, it didn’t seem Aidan had been crying for nothing. He was still weeping in Michael’s lap with a goose-egg on his forehead and a bleeding elbow. His head was hurting, his elbow was hurting and—more worrisome—his vision was blurred and he was having difficulty reading. I’m a big believer in the frozen-peas-cure-most-ills school (to wear, not to eat), but blurry vision after a head injury seems like the right time to go to the doctor. We bundled Naomi and her gear for the next day into the car, and dropped her off at Carolyn’s to have a rare school-night sleepover. And I, who used to be an avid MASH watcher, kept Aidan awake while we drove the 10 minutes to Paraparaumu to go to the emergency care centre. By this point Aidan’s vision was less blurry but his stomach was really hurting, and he was tired beyond all recognition.

Ah, but New Zealand is a beautiful country in so many ways. We walked into the urgent care centre and were the only ones there (other than the medical staff). They took us in overlapping waves, Michael filling out the forms while Aidan and I went to talk to the lovely Irish nurse (“What’s a handsome boy from America doing in New Zealand with such a lovely Irish name as Aidan?” she asked in her Irish lilt.) She took lots of notes which turned more serious as his symptoms were laid out before her—the blurry vision, the nausea—and she told us the doctor would be in “in a few minutes.” Less than 30 seconds later, a gentle, no-nonsense doctor came and talked earnestly to Aidan and to me. He asked lots of questions and then gave us our directions: this was a concussion, not clear how bad, but his gut sense was that it was not serious and Aidan would make a full recovery. We were to observe him at home, though, waking him every 90 minutes to check his pupils and have him answer a memory question or two. No school for 2-3 days. No sports or bike riding or anything for 6 weeks. Getting one mild brain trauma was probably not a big deal; getting another before the first one healed was a very big deal.

We came home and put our boy to bed and suddenly all the symptoms were mine. I felt shaky and nauseas, and I was teary with worry. I know too much about the brain and the long-term effects of even seemingly minor brain injuries. I happen to love Aidan’s neo-cortex. His anguished, “Mommy, I used to be such a good reader. Will I ever be a good reader again?” from earlier echoed in my head as I watched him sleeping deeply. I read about concussion until I was shaking with exhaustion. We woke him the first time, an hour into his sleep (but well before ours), and he was nearly impossible to rouse. He couldn’t answer simple questions (“What is your sister’s name? What is your Grandma’s name?”) and couldn’t keep to his feet. His pupils responded normally, though, and he is a deep-sleeping kind of a guy in the best of circumstances, so it was hard to know whether this was trauma or exhaustion. We set the alarm for 90 minutes and fretted ourselves to sleep.

Now, there was a time, about a year ago, when I was overcome with how alone we were here, and how far away we were from everyone who loved us. One of my deepest fears was that something would happen to someone and there wouldn’t be any slack in the system. As I fell asleep, I felt the relief of a much healthier system than before. Carolyn would make Naomi’s lunch and get her to school in the morning. Melissa was on deck for anything we might need. Rob, who had come home from work while we were at the doctor’s, had offered to take a night shift with Aidan so that Michael and I could sleep more than 90 minutes in a row. And I had emailed my mother with all the symptoms to run by her knowledge of the brain to get started with recovery techniques, supplements, etc. while I slept. This was quite a rich system, actually.

The second time we woke Aidan up, he remembered his sister’s name pretty quickly. The third time he could remember the names of all of his grandparents. The third time he woke with a. “Yeah, Mom?” and when I asked him his address, he sleepily asked, “The old one or the new one” and then gave me both. I cried myself to sleep several times, but the last time was with relief: that was Aidan I had heard there, and the upward trend was exactly what we wanted to see.

This morning, I woke to emails from my mother and from one of the best brain doctors in the US. On a Sunday morning, she had mobilized her troops and gotten advice from experts who know an awful lot about ameliorating the effects of head trauma. They offered reassurance and advice about which brain-healing supplements to offer my little concussed boy. (Chuck Parker, the brain doctor, will write a blog on what to do with a kid who has a minor head injury to avoid long-lasting implications; I’ll attach a link to that blog as soon as it’s written.) Carolyn and Melissa first called in and then stopped by to check in on us all. I felt surrounded by help and support.

And Aidan? His bump has gone down, but he’s decided not to get a hair cut anytime soon (the doctor says it’ll be a rich purple bruise for 3 weeks). He is cheerful and playful and loving all the attention. His reading has returned to normal, and his two biggest sadnesses are that watching a computer screen isn’t good for his healing brain and that he’ll have to miss the first month of soccer practice. Other than that, he’s a happy camper, loving the fact that children all over the village rode to school this morning in helmets because of the lump on his head (Aidan was riding Ayla’s scooter with no helmet when he crashed and hit his head).

I’m going into work for a few hours while Michael and Rob and Aidan head to buy legos (which are good for a healing brain) and grapeseed extract (among other things) which is also healing and inflammation-reducing. And I am newly grateful for my friends and my family. And, while I never—not for a second—lose track of how lucky I am to have these two magnificent children in my life, today I was aware of my good fortune in a very front-of-mind way. To be a mother is the most wonderful and terrible thing in the world (probably to be a father is too, but I don’t have much experience there). Last night I had a glimpse into the terror of it; today I will give thousands of kisses, play some board games, and revel in all of the joys of bringing a magnificent boy like Aidan into the world, and then protecting him as well as I can for the journey. Buckle up everyone, and wear your helmets. This life-thing can be a dangerous ride.

01 March 2008


There is this funny moment that happens and happens again in the life of the academic. In order to get into a doctoral programme, you have to write an essay that says what you want to study and why. The better your description of the work you want to do and the more clearly well-thought your plan, the more likely you are to be admitted. Then, having considered this fantastic plan and project, the first thing you do when you get to grad school is people sit down and ask, “So, have you given any thought to what you want to do while you’re here?” The first time someone asked me that, I barked out a laugh: I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek thing. It turned out, though, to be the central theme of the first couple of years; how will you decide what you want to do.

Then, there’s a grant you can get in grad school: the Spencer research training grant. It’s pretty competitive to get; again, you have to prepare a research proposal as your application, and because it’s a research grant, they expect that the proposal you put in will be thoughtful and full-blown. At the first meeting, all the new grantees sit in a circle, and, by way of introducing ourselves to the group, we talk about what sorts of things we might want to do with the research grant. This time, more than a year into the doctoral programme, I was brave enough to put up my hand: “Didn’t we have to tell you exactly what we’d do before you gave us this grant?” I asked. Kitty laughed. “That’s to get in the door,” she said. “What you do with the money is all opened up to you now.”

I am beginning to feel that way about tenure. I don’t think I ever noticed how much the idea of tenure subtly shaped what I was doing—even when I was clear clear clear that it absolutely wasn’t doing that. I have heard about the post-tenure crisis: people begin to wonder for the first time what they really want to do next, and now I’m experiencing some of that first hand. All the things I’ve done I’ve really loved, but do I love them The Best of all the things in the world? Which things have I done because I’ve loved doing them and which things have I done because I thought they would help me get tenure? And how can I even tell the difference?

There is a way, I’m discovering, that the lines are mostly cut now between the seeking of tenure and the decision-making process I go through about how to spend my time. I didn’t realise before how connected those two things were. The disconnection is sometimes bewildering. I am very far down the homestretch to tenure, and it’s unlikely now that I wouldn’t get it (still conceivable); in any case, there’s nothing I can do anymore that would influence the path. If I don’t get it after all the recommendations I’ve had so far, it’s just out of my control. But there are all these different options about what there is to do, all of these opportunities and so little time. And there is the small matter of the two mortgages to pay for the next while and the requirement to earn rather large sums of money to pull that off. So which books do I want to write and which workshops do I want to teach and which conferences to I want to attend? How do I spend my time and how do I know which decisions to make. If, as it turns out, my being on the tenure track was in some ways helping me manage my decision making, what will my being off of the tenure track do to me? What is my next great ambition? How do I work toward it?

Long ago I cut out doing things I have to do or things I’m not interested in. I learnt to say no to those things that other people wanted from me but which I wouldn’t enjoy. Now all that’s left is work that I love. And with probably 60% of my working life ahead of me, how do I figure out how to spend my time? As I type this, I’m returning from two seriously interesting meetings where I got to do really engaging work with people I like and respect and which serves a cause I believe in strongly. And I’m looking out at the sea on a nearly cloudless afternoon, my green roofed house visible in the middle of the village, flooded with light from the new windows and skylights. At times like these--which I have to say are becoming downright common--I am overcome with my sense of my own good fortune. It is moments like this when I think I might be made of happiness, when, as James Wright says in the poem "A blessing,": "Suddenly I realize/that if I stepped out of my body I would break/into blossom.” Not a bad problem to have, really, whether on or off the tenure track.

Pictures for today are of sunrise over my house this morning-- the most beautiful dawn I've ever seen, and of my new bedroom which is so perfect in every way that I stood in it and cried today. I watched the surfers in the rain and wrapped my arms around myself so that I wouldn't break into blossom...