Dostoevsky in Beulah Land

Despite the glorious, almost too-warm temperatures for a day six weeks into autumn, I took off for my late-morning walk with a heavy heart. I was depressed, outraged, and frightened over lost hopes for a return to American values, a stolen election, and Soviet-style intrusions into the lives of patriots only one day after the election has been called. I remain so after my return. However, the catharsis of a brisk walk, the dark tale of The Idiot that I listened to on my AirPods, and unique sights of autumn on Old Beulah Road  gave me a needed reminder of my own smallness in this magnificent universe. I realized–nay, I experienced–that there are still moments of startling beauty on the Earth, that there are minute ideas to be examined closely, and voluminous philosophies to be pondered endlessly.

I am posting this photo gallery, largely unedited–the day presented raw–to remind myself and to reassure my readers of the important lessons in our tempestuous times. Continue reading

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COVID Masks and Comma Splices

For me, the cruelest part of the COVID-19 pandemic has been its stultifying and probably irremediable effects on education at all levels. Exactly at the middle of the spring 2020 semester, all our classes were switched to online-only instruction. I had a small but vibrant American literature class whose nine members provided me–for eight weeks–with the most delightful, stimulating, and challenging experience I have ever had from behind the lectern. Actually , there was no lectern because I pulled together two tables in the back of the classroom, and we sat around them together, seminar-style, all equals, as we discussed such topics as proto-existentiaism in”The Open Boat,” religious imagery in “The Hollow Men,” and blame and forgiveness in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Suddenly in mid-March, that time of wonder was over. Yes, they continued to be just as curious and creative and insightful, but even when we had a few virtual discussions, we never again achieved that chemical reaction that occurs a few few inches above the heads of engaged scholars sharing their ideas around a table and momentarily illuminates the entire space. Continue reading

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My #WalkAway Story

As I write, the Presidential election of 2020 is ten days away. I agree with those on both sides of the aisle that it is the most important election at least in my lifetime (which is long); I will not, however, be so hyperbolic as to include all elections since 1788 in that pronouncement. In any case, most of my life I have been (t0 a fault, perhaps) transparent and forthright about my views on all range of topics–until this year. Oh, I have spoken out about specific subjects that touch me deeply, but I have hidden my deepest thoughts and fears about the direction of politics in the United States. It has been difficult to see myself betraying the values I embraced at the University of Arizona in the early 1970s as I transformed from a naïve and conservative girl from a mining town in the West to an in-your-face and almost knee-jerk liberal who went to graduate school (twice!) at that bastion of Southern liberalism in Chapel Hill. Moreover, I have been embarrassed to have to eat the words of forty-plus years and even ashamed to confess my current thinking to my friends.

However, I have recently realized that I am in good company, growing every day, with the members of the #WalkAway movement–now almost 500,000 strong. With that throng of all ages, races, creeds, and sexual orientations, I am finally willing to confess–nay, proclaim–my developing political ideology. Because I believe that the most meaningful ideas are transmitted though narrative, I am going to collect here the stories of my initially tentative self-revelations over the last two months.

I realize that what I have written is long and tortuous (but not, I hope, torturous). I don’t expect many will have the patience to get through it all . . . but I have been voting since 1972. It’s a long story!

Continue reading

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Everything Not Forbidden Is Compulsory

When I first passed this sign yesterday morning on the way to class, I thought it was an instruction in etiquette: “Don’t sit here because this is a table, and sitting on tables is rude.” Silly me.

Continue reading

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The Common Cup

Altarpiece at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1547)

This post has been germinating almost as long as we–human beings, Americans, North Carolinians, Christians, Episcopalians–have been altering the patterns of our lives and our relationships with one another and with God in response to the novel coronavirus. Other preoccupations, however, pushed it aside. Preparing online instruction for six classes and then conducting office hours and presenting lectures in cyberspace took up most of my time. When I came up (down?) for air long enough to make a post on my blog about the effects of COVID-19, the concern for lost freedom momentarily overtook the more pressing concern for lost faith, and I wrote instead about arbitrary lockdowns, malleable truths, and an eroding Constitution.  Continue reading

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“A Vendetta” by Guy de Maupassant: An Analysis with an Existentialist Twist

Below is a translation from French into English of my May 8 post:

Like other writers of the 19th century (e.g. Charles Dickens in England and Alexandre Dumas in France), Guy de Maupassant first published his story “A Vendetta” in a newspaper,  Le Gaulois, on October 14, 1883. The story takes place in Corsica in the lives of four characters: the widow Saverini, her son Antoine, her dog Semillante, and the murderer Nicolas Ravolati. Continue reading

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«Une vendetta» de Guy de Maupassant: Une analyse avec une touche existentialiste

Comme autres écrivains du 19e siècle (par ex. Charles Dickens en Angleterre et Alexandre Dumas en France), Guy de Maupassant a d’abord publié son histoire «Une vendetta» dans un journal, Le Gaulois le 14 octobre 1883. L’histoire se déroule en Corse dans la vie des quatre personnages : La veuve Saverini, son fils Antoine, la chienne Sémillante et le meurtrier Nicolas Ravolati. Continue reading

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The First Casualty?

The question mark in my title was well and thoroughly considered. I actually have no idea which was the first of the constantly rising number of casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. But I am aware of many.

And no, my title does not refer to the death of the first anonymous but notorious person who died from exposure to the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, nor to an elderly man in Padua, Italy, nor even to a patient in a nursing home in King County, Washington. Nor does it refer to any among the constantly updated statistics of human victims around the world, enumerated so matter-of-factly and with such precision by worldometer: “32,164 people have died so far from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak as of March 29, 2020, 14:51 GMT.” I can’t possibly keep up, nor can worldometer–nor can the World Heath Organization nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ay, there’s the rub. Continue reading

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Prime Time

Trying to figure out what I will do when I grow up, four days before my 67th birthday, at the Mud Girl Run, Jacksonville, Florida, February 15, 2020

Two years ago, in a post to commemorate my milestone of a 65th birthday, I wrote, “The numbers that would seem the most noteworthy are the primes, but we have opted to recognize the boring and uncreative numbers instead.” Today, I am writing to celebrate another birthday, when I have become one of those more interesting ages, the prime number 67. Well, actually, that noteworthy birthday occurred three days ago, but I had no time to write a blog post in recognition of the event. After teaching two classes, holding two office hours, and preparing an exam for my literature class, I rehearsed with the college chorus, drove an hour to the gym, did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, and then swam 975 yards with my cardio swim class. It would have been the usual 1,000, but the teacher had prepared a sugar-free birthday cake for me, so we got out of the pool a few minutes early to celebrate. Continue reading

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Rest: Advent Word 21

On December 1, the first day of Advent 2019, I penned for all the world to see, “I have decided once again to participate in #AdventWord, the global online Advent calendar.” I managed to complete meditations for days 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 before the end-of-semester scramble–or the insidious sin of acedia–caused me to slough off that commitment and neglect not only #AdventWord, but also my entire blog, until yesterday, when the actual end of the semester inspired me to take up my (virtual) pen once again. Continue reading

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