Thursday, June 7, 2018

Another teacher with the summer off.

It's summer in the Dakotas at last, and as a teacher, of course I have the whole summer off to lounge and eat bonbons. 

SERIOUSLY?!? That has NEVER been true for ANY teacher EVER. In my case, Ray, my mom (who has a slowly progressing form of blood cancer), and I all live together. Sure, I could lounge for minute between trips to the store/pharmacy, doc visits for any one of us, occasional grandkid snuggling/sitting, and gardening/canning. Or maybe I could toss down bonbons while I WORK (catch up on the last semester's unfinished To-Do list, or work on next semester's list, already piling up; put together a student journal the editor bailed on; facilitate a bimonthly Little Town writer's group, etc.)? Even when I'm on "vacation," you can bet your non-contractual working arse that I've got my laptop, and that at least in the mornings, I'm swilling hotel coffee while I'm typing/scheduling/planning/updating away. (Did I mention before that the "teachers have the summer off" excuse for sheit pay and lack of respect is one of my pet peeves?)

Anyhoo...I guess we’re down to two seasons here on the SoDak prairie: blizzard and boiler. In April, we thought for a minute that we might have spring. Temps got up to the 60s, migratory birds/fowl started coming back, our leftover snow melted, and those stalwart hyacinth and iris pushed up. Then we had a blizzard. Now it’s in the 90’s with 8,000 % humidity. South Dakota likes to keep our population limited to only acquiescing, layer-donning/offing, hearty, fatalistic folk.

In spite of global climate change (my Republican brother calls it Gore-bal Warming), Ray and I got our garden in. We’ve cut back this year to only tomatoes, cukes, one pepper plant, and herbs. I had ambitions for two new raised beds (asparagus and strawberries) gooseberry bushes, and a fenceline of honeysuckle, but life foiled my plans (life often knows best, I find, and understands exactly how much area I’m able/willing to weed).

Spearfish Creek is COLD.
We’ve already been quite the travelers this year. First, Mom and I went to Grand Isle, Louisiana, so Mom could stick her toes in the Big Water. Then we went inland to soak up the southern spring with my two Louisiana nieces and their beautiful families, and to meet our newest little Cajun great-nephew. We barely got home when we left for the Flint Hills of Kansas. The Flint Hills, like the Black Hills of South Dakota, are quite a surprise for folks who think both states are all Little House on the Prairie. The Flint Hills are beautiful rolling hills, home to sweet little lakes, astounding mortarless hand-built stone fences, and (I’m not even kidding) the historical Beecher Bible and Rifle Church. There, we had more family/friend gatherings and a little lake recreation, and I left Mom to spend her twice-yearly month at the lake with a rotation of brothers. The we came back home, another quick turnaround, and we were all off for the Black Hills, where we got to celebrate a grandson’s graduation with more friends & family, and where Ray and I did our traditional annual baptism in Spearfish Creek.

New babies all look like Mr. Magoo.
This week, I kayaked for the first time ever, thanks to several friends who loaned me a kayak, hauled me to a calm little lake, showed me the ropes, and put up with me for the first several minutes when I was terrified to paddle. Or move at all. Or breathe. I did get a wee bit burnt (the Ginger Danger) in spite of several coats of SPF 100 (I’m not even exaggerating), but I definitely have the bug now and will go again as soon as I can pester my friends into taking me.

Soon, I'll be able to paddle, too!
Soon, my friend and I will leave for our annual “Get Thee to a Nunnery” road trip. Last year, in lieu of my annual birthday hermitage, my friend and I went to a convent in eastern Iowa. The trip itself was lovely, and once we were there, we spent a few days exploring the property (a working farm), enjoying our own individual contemplation time, and visiting a nearby monastery, where, over 40 years ago, I was part of a trio that played music for a Trappist brother’s Silver Jubilee. This year, we’ll be staying at a Benedictine convent in Missouri. There’s a monastery nearby, too, and between the two, they have some incredible religious art/sculpture. Although I’m not Catholic and have my own non-Christian sort of spirituality, these getaways gift me with invaluable time for writing, a spot of work, re-centering, and unwinding in what I feel are sacred spaces. Ohm...

Also this summer, I'll be working on the Magdalene poems (, so any dedicated writing time I can find will be especially precious. Just this week, Dublin hosted the first-ever reunion of Magdalene laundry survivors. It was an incredibly moving scene. I'm hoping, as one survivor suggested, that this becomes and annual event, and that I can plan my laundry research trip to Ireland around the next reunion.

On July 20, my first legit published book (a chapbook, but a fat one) comes out from Finishing Line Press. It's called The Sea is My Ugly Twin. It's a mythical, wishful little tome of watery poems, for which my youngest brother ( did the cover illlustration--the most wonderful, haggard mermaid EVER. You can pre-order the book online for $15, and read what some much finer poets than myself have to say about the book here Finishing Line will send books out on July 20 to those who pre-order.

My trouble-making sidekick, Doris.
I also have a full slate of school work to do this summer, including teach myself the software I need to put together that student literary journal before fall, complete three online English course templates, write two presentations' worth of material for a fall conference, and get ready for regular fall classes.

I'm not a whinging Negative Nelly, honest. I’m incredibly grateful for my good health, for Mom's stable health and good humor, for Ray's limitless love & patience, and for the summer schedule to combine work and adventure. Today’s adventure is hiding out in my home office while Mom and the Fearless Foursome play bridge downstairs. This could be one of the most dangerous, unpredictable adventures of them all...

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