Thursday, February 26, 2009

To Defend a Dissertation. Or Two.

I'd much rather not be thinking about the two books anymore. I feel quite burned out from the hybrid environmental memoir, especially, and I stupidly thought that once I turned it in to my committee that'd be that. I see now that the editing never ends, knowing full well that if a press takes it (oh happy orgasmic day), many more edits will occur--likely helpful ones, too, of course. But I'm tired.

I am thrilled and lucky to have such a good committee of thoughtful, caring, fascinating folks who are very talented writers. Even the biologist. And I look forward to their comments on my work, probably sometime next week. In fact, I'm very very very eager to hear what they thought.

Then I look forward to some paperwork. Then some running around campus to see how my abstract and front page formatting is. Eventually more paperwork and signatures, more formatting issues, more hidden fees to be paid, and then this incredibly stupid electronic dissertation filing system the university has adopted that gives your work an ISBN but does so sneakily. Kinda makes it hard to publish in a REAL venue after that point since it's already copyrighted with some other company you don't know from boo but who now own your writing. There's a temporary stopgap to the e-filing ISBN business, but I've come up with a more permanent one. You'll have to use your secret decoder ring to see how.

Anywho, I think April 1 will be when I defend* the memoir and poetry collection. I think April 1 is also when the memoir will make its full debut to publishers (the poetry is already out, and has been for some time, garnering favorable handwritten, one to two sentence rejections grrrr).

Now I've got some essays and stories to grade, an essay to edit and send back to a journal, a tree to find to block the view of my neighbor's front porch (dogwood, redbud?), and some beehive candy to eat.

*Defend means a nice congenial conversation with people you admire followed by bursts of suddenly intense questions (like a hailstorm) about your work that make you shutter to the core because you are A) fairly nervous even though you don't need to be so nervous omg B) you came with naive ideas of grandeur, mochas and delicate pastries, pats on the back, gifts, divine light and ascension on to some higher existence, et cetera C) you're a writer and can't express yourself coherently via oral expression so would much rather have the oral be a take home exam or even another 250 page book with paper handmade by you from your cat's fur.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Light is Timeless

Any object, or organism, traveling at the speed of light will not experience the passage of time. Everything around that object not traveling at light speed will experience time (even if at 99.9% the speed of light). So, if a spaceship left earth at light speed and returned in 20 years (our 20 years on the ground), those aboard would not have aged.

In the garden the sunflowers absorb all light but yellow, and so yellow is the only color reflected and is then what we see. In fact, the sunflower is every color but yellow. And yet, our perception of that sunflower--which visually is the perception of the speed of light being reflected--must be timeless. Our visual perceptions are timeless because everything we see, what is reflected to us, is traveling at light speed.

The sunflower will fade and turn to seed, but our perception is timeless, and not only because we remember it or write about it, but because observing it, seeing it, is timeless. Experiencing it is timeless. I don't mean this romantically, I mean this practically. When we allow ourselves to drop into the moment, into perceiving the sunflower, time does literally fall to the side. All of our outward perceptions slip away and all life is the moment, is the sunflower.

We can "lose" ourselves in any moment of course, and not realize the passage of time until we look at the clock with amazement, or we can not look at the clock at all and travel beyond ourselves into the now which has always been and will always be. Through a moment in our lives we can travel at the speed of light and glimpse the origins of the universe.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Notes On A Writing Conference

Or editing. Or publishing. Or drinking. Or brown nosing. These may apply to most any professional conference, but mine was the annual AWP conference in Chicago this weekend.

1) It is inevitable that, in the long days of panels and socializing, you will begin to picture everyone naked. Then you picture everyone picturing you naked. Then you picture yourself naked. Then you start leaving your coat on in sweltering rooms just in case.

2) No matter how much of a big name you are, people will arrive 30 minutes late to your reading, then leave 30 minutes early as if they've just heard their mother died.

3) People you once knew--and who you never really hung out with all that much (maybe you should have)--will be very excited to see you, even calling out your name from across the room. You will talk a few minutes but the initial excitement will fade, and you will part awkwardly, wondering if you are now best buds. The trick in any encounter like this is to end it early, when you're at the top of your game, and not un-retire like Jordan or Favre.

(Notice the udders)

4) At some point you will feel like a dirty dirty tramp for telling a few people about your writing projects--especially editors. You realize you are the 100th person to do so, but feel you must say SOMETHING about yourself when they ask, when all they really want is for you to buy a book.

5) When someone asks you about yourself, you ask them the same questions to be polite, and sometimes it's even genuine curiosity. But the conversation and words tend to circle one another and never catch up to themselves, like a dog chasing its tail, so you aren't too sure if you even had a conversation in the first place.

6) You will wait at hotel reception for 30 minutes because Expedia did not book your reservation correctly. You will talk to them on the phone and they will cancel it and refund you (the hotel's idea). Then the hotel offers to rebook your room, but only for 2 nights when you need 3--turns out lots of lovers are coming in for V-Day (victory day? venereal day?). But hotels always have rooms in reserve for VIPs like you, and so you get bumped up to club level and get a tv in your bathroom mirror. Nothing like watching cops chase criminals across your chest.

7) Your feet will stink. Get over it.

8) You finally hang out with all the people who you work with, go to school with, and who live minutes from your house.

9) You will need to decompress by doing a list of your weekend since you don't own any deep pore cleansing cremes, or have a sauna in the basement.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

177 Bird Species Moving North with Global Warming

"When it comes to global warming, the canary in the coal mine isn't a canary at all. It's a purple finch.

As the temperature across the U.S. has gotten warmer, the purple finch has been spending its winters more than 400 miles farther north than it used to.

And it's not alone.

An Audubon Society study to be released Tuesday found that more than half of 305 birds species in North America, a hodgepodge that includes robins, gulls, chickadees and owls, are spending the winter about 35 miles farther north than they did 40 years ago.

Over the 40 years covered by the study, the average January temperature in the United States climbed by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. That warming was most pronounced in northern states, which have already recorded an influx of more southern species and could see some northern species retreat into Canada as ranges shift....

The sandhill crane, a large gray bird that migrates to the southern U.S. for the winter, has a range that expanded about 40 miles north in the last 40 years. This small movement has likely contributed to the bird's population explosion in Tennessee. The sandhill population has grown to a point that state wildlife officials are considering allowing the bird to be hunted."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

D**N F***ing !#%#%&^ RABBITS!!!!!!!

I've invested pretty substantially in shrubs. I don't want an all perennial garden that looks like crap (flat and blah) until July.

But the rabbits are eating everything beneath 12-18", and since most of my shrubs are 2-3 feet tall at most in their young lives, I'm losing at least a whole growing season, if not more, with dozens and dozens of nicely clipped off stems. And buds on those stems. (And just how lopsided or top heavy will these shrubs now grow?)

Dogwood. Chokeberry. Clethra. Viburnum. And, most pissing-me-off-the-mostest, the 'Trost's Dwarf' weeping white birch. I'd say 75% of this very very small tree / shrub are gone. The thing has a few longer stems up top, about 2' off the ground, but every stem beneath is GONE. Like 20 stems. GONE. Do you know how hard it is to find this shrub? How cool it is? How pricey it is? That, amazingly, I got it for $1 at a RICULOUS plant sale while visiting my mom last summer because someone upstairs liked me at that moment?

Pepper spray appears not to be working. Suggestions?????????? Does anything withstand snow / rain / cold for longer than a day? Liquid Fence? Plantskydd?

I thought I'd enjoy the 65 degrees today. Nope.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Geese

This time of year the Canadian geese are on the move at dusk. At my house, dozens, hundreds--some far up, some just above the house. I can hear them, and not just their calls, but their wings, as they move west to east (a peculiar direction, but maybe it's the wind and a free ride?). How can you not be amazed, be floored at this planet and the life on it? What do I matter without it? How can we be so passive about this world, give our consent--known or unknown, direct or indirect--to its ill health? I touch a spikey coneflower, I put my hands to the cool soil, I pile frozen rain beside the drive, I take in the air like a deep kiss, I open my mouth and my eyes and my ears and I sing, I vibrate with the tune of the world. I am a disciple of the inventor Nikola Tesla: the world has acoustical resonance. And I need to be retuned.

Corn Ethanol No Better Than Gas

I've had it with corn-based ethanol. And don't get me started about the abuse of government farm subsidies. Switchgrass, baby--restore the prairie ecology, restore the rich soil, create cheaper fuel, pollute less, feed more. NO BRAINER. Death to the corn ethanol lobbyists.

"Corn ethanol is no better fuel than gasoline, and it may even be worse for air quality, according to a new University of Minnesota study.

The study, released Monday, is the first one to estimate the economic costs to human health and well-being from three different fuels -- gasoline, corn-based ethanol and cellulosic (plant-based) ethanol -- its authors say.

Scientists and economists looked at life-cycle emissions of growing, harvesting, producing and burning different fuels, and concluded that ethanol made from switchgrass and other plant materials is far better than either corn ethanol or gasoline....

The study concluded that the total environmental and health costs of making a gallon of gasoline was about 71 cents, compared with a range of 72 cents to $1.45 for corn-based ethanol, and 19 to 32 cents for cellulosic ethanol, depending upon the technology and type of plants used.

A major difference between corn-based and "cellulosic" ethanol is that biorefineries producing corn ethanol need to purchase electricity, while those producing cellulosic ethanol can burn the plant waste and generate their own power, the study said. That adds another source of air pollution to corn ethanol as well."