It is not that there is nothing to do; indeed, there is far too much that needs to be done. I need to reconfigure class schedules to deal with days lost to snow, to write lectures for classes starting in less than two weeks, to sort through messes on tables and boxes still unpacked almost five years after our move.
Yet I do very little. I replenish the birdseed on cookie sheets and set them just outside doors and windows because the feeders are barricaded behind drifts of snow. I file some receipts for the 2009 tax return. I peruse the goings-on entered on Facebook.
I re-read e-mails. Cousin Gordon the Artist relays complaints from the slopes and forests of the Adirondacks about the inadequate snow pack: “Of course,” he writes, “it’s snowing again down your way. Another winter like this one next year may result in a mass migration/invasion of snowmobiles headed south… probably to be known as the Northern War of Climate Aggression…” I laugh because this artist was born of aggression and the fearsome coupling of scions of both the North and South.
I finished A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, a melancholic history of families fraying in the turbulence of the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century. Byatt conjoins fragments of narrative focusing and refocusing on this character and that with passages from tales penned by a writer for her children as well as an Edwardian market voracious for stories that are neither myths nor fairytales nor cautionary instruction, but all of this and more. At intervals Byatt includes summaries of real events, wars, investment scandals, cultural doings, that blur the boundaries between the real and imagined, while so many of the characters struggle to imagine themselves into a reality that is gentler or more important or morally righteous than the one they believe they inhabit.
I started Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock by Henry Adams. Both artists are difficult to explain in the classroom. The general outline of the relationship is known to me; what I like, so far at least, are some of the different vantage points on the material offered by the author. Books such as this provide breadth and context if not much depth; but I find they lead me toward a more complex sort of visual thinking even as they distract me from scholarly issues.
The snow, what Edna St. Vincent Millay called “the urgent snow,” had abated but now it swirls with renewed vigor. At six the sky is dark and it is the whiteness of the ground that gives the illusion of lingering light. Out back that is. At the front, the lamppost challenges the darkness and its beams illuminate the flakes. I prefer the dense dark blue of the drifts behind the house below the denser, darker blue of the sky.
I am still restless.