Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Easy Writer

Three weeks and counting. That’s right—exactly three weeks from today classes start at my community college. And just last night, I agreed to take on another section. No big deal, really. I only had one course for the fall, so the second one won’t be an overload. And the subject is exactly the same! So, I decided I had best get moving on writing my syllabus. Problem is—I don’t have the basic composition text book. That prompted me to make a quick trip to campus today. Well, things are in a state of almost readiness. First, the car in front of me has a license plate designed to deter peeping?

(Just in case you can't read it, the license plate says ICUPKIN.)

The campus is quite pretty during the summer. The grounds are always a treat—with master gardens digging away seemingly everywhere. In fact, every year in the late spring, the gardening department holds a kind of Oklahoma land rush on flowers. They take all the extras they have, send out a general email, and invite staff to come with boxes in hand and at the stroke of noon, rush toward the plants and GRAB. Thankfully, no one is displaced, and there are no fatalities.

Ah—here is my building. It houses the English department, along with Theater, Arts and Humanities. So, by campus building standards, it is a little more interesting than the average building.

The signs of readying for classes to begin are everywhere. Painting, painting, painting. Fresh paint signs hang all over the place. The college must have gotten a great deal on rainbow colors, as every door, door jamb, and window sill is painted in a different color.

Entering my office, I see something NEW? What is this? Cool—new computers for everyone. Now, let’s see if I can remember my password. Is it the dog’s name? the cat’s? my children? my husband? Hmmmm—think, think, think. Got it!

Next I check out the classroom. Six rows wide, by five rows deep. This is very important, as every year I draw up a diagram and then fill in student names. Human nature being what it is, we tend to sit in the same seat each time we go back to a public space. (Uh-huh—so, last time you were in church . . .assuming there was a “last” time, did you sit in the same pew?) I rely on this human tendency as a way to learn student names. I fill out the chart for a couple of classes, then keep it handy and as we have discussions, I call on students by name. I once had a fellow instructor tell me he did not know whether or not someone was in his class because he doesn’t bother to learn their names!

Oh great—it is a SMART classroom, for both sections. That absolutely makes my day (and very likely my semester). I use this technology to prepare PowerPoint presentations for students. Another human tendency—if the instructor is lecturing, don’t take notes. If she begins to use a PowerPoint, TAKE NOTES. Don’t ask me why—it is just true.

Finally, the text books. The reader Every Day Everywhere, I have used before and loved. It has such wonderful essays in it as “Sperm in a Jar.” This is one I frequently begin with—after all, you have to get their attention first. And then there is the grammar handbook—Easy Writer—this is what I went to campus to retrieve.

Now, must stop writing blog. . .time to write my syllabus. . .ignore Harry Potter calling my name. . .must write syllabus. . .eyes getting very sleepy. . .must write sylla------zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Glass Garden

For the past several days, I have been visiting my son and daughter-in-law in Pittsburgh. Each year, my husband runs a week long workshop for teachers, so I have a week to fill. It has become a sort of tradition that I go to Pittsburgh! While I am at my son’s, I have started another tradition—I spend part of the time trimming the bushes around their house. Call me weird, but I really enjoy clipping back overgrown yew and arbor vitae.

The one evening I was there, they suggested that we all go to the Phipps Conservatory. We have visited there before, but around Christmas time, so the extent of the display was partly limited by the cold weather outside. The Phipps is a local treasure, and it seemingly always has people visiting. Back in February, Julie Z wrote about her visit to the Phipps in the dead of winter.

Our visit was prompted by an unusual display at the Phipps—
Dale Chihuly, glass artist extraordinaire, has an exhibit there. I was first introduced to Chihuly’s work by my favorite aunt who showed me and my daughter, during a visit to her, a video of Chihuly at work.

While the glass garden exhibit is open all day at the Phipps, there is a special emphasis at night, called, appropriately, Chihuly Nights. The works take on an other-worldly quality at night as the lighting makes them glow. The glass creations are placed all through the plants that are permanently living at the Phipps, with each room featuring shapes and colors to complement the living plants.

Shapes are organic, and the arrays quite stunning. Words fail, so I will let the photos do the talking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day

William Shakespeare SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:

But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

I had fun interweaving this classic Shakespearean sonnet with scenes from a hammock, taken at our friends’ lakeside cottage. The final photo is NOT our friends’ house, but is a house across the lake from where they live. I liked the evening lighting falling on the house.

The photos were taken this past Saturday, which was a picture perfect day--blue skies, lovely clouds, good food, wonderful fellowship--if that doesn't define a summer's day, I don't know what does.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Beauteous Evening

I was sitting at my computing desk which is in our lower level family room, when I glanced up at the window. The evening sky was awash with a lovely coral glow.

So, I rushed out, camera in hand, and kept turning as I photographed 360 degrees around the entire horizon.

The lovely colors reminded me of a once favorite poem of mine, William Wordsworth's "Evening on Calais Beach." I still love the opening lines: "It is a beauteous evening, calm and free."

Here is the entire sonnet.

Evening on Calais Beach

IT is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder--everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouch'd by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worshipp'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.