In the High Peaks

Friday, December 31, 2010

Please Bear with Me: No New Year Plans Yet!

We had a wonderful Christmas, but the last few days have been dark indeed. Our beloved eight-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever Sophie died very, very suddenly on Wednesday at around 6pm. She became suddenly, extremely ill. Although she seemed fine at 1:30pm; by 2pm, she felt unwell but seemed to be resting comfortably for the afternoon. Then, just after 5pm, her status became critical. We rushed her to the vet, but she had already died by the time we arrived. The vet told us that a tumor on her liver or spleen had suddenly burst, causing her to bleed out very quickly. What a shock! Our friend Wendy, who is a vet, told us that in this situation, there was nothing that could have been done to save her.

So Ken and I have been sticking together very closely. We didn't go out at all yesterday, but today we hiked all our trails, crying and laughing, remembering Sophie's antics and quirky habits. Enough said.

Books????? I finished Open by Andre Agassi. What a revelation that memoir was--a remarkable book.

Lately I have been reading art books in the morning, then painting. Real literature doesn't seem to be part of my life in the present, though I'm sure I'll be back on track soon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sojourn at Lake Placid Lodge

How lovely of the snow to hold off until I turned into the driveway of Lake Placid Lodge! I was welcomed with a glass of a new, not-yet-on-the-market rose (accent on the e) French champagne. I noticed a subtly sweet and mellow flavor that had all the zing! of champagne. I did not refuse a second helping.

It's 6:10 pm EST and I'm sitting in front of a roaring fire in my room, Tamarack, named for a deciduous evergreen that thrives in the Adirondacks. I know, "deciduous evergreen" is an oxymoron, but trust me, the tamarack is a conifer that sheds its leaves late, late in the fall. It is a beautiful tree and no tree comes close to its exotic beauty or appearance.

After my tour, not long after I first arrived, I went for a hike on the "Jackrabbit Trail," about two miles' worth of wooded trail that skirts Lake Placid near a beautiful waterfall.

I then had a bit of lunch in a pub overlooking the lake before retiring to Tamarack to start a fire. (The photo does not do the room justice!) I've been basking in the fire's warmth and glow ever since. Someone, please slow down the clock!! I don't want this day and night to end!

Am I reading? Who could? I confess I read an interview with Johnny Depp in Vanity Fair, one of a dozen current magazines on hand in Tamarack. Am I the only one who thinks Depp looks SCARY, though tantalizingly so. Believe me, I am not a fan of his, but the article was interesting.

I wish I could read a book; heaven knows, I have enough here with me, but I'm mesmerized by the beauty of this incredible room, all decked out in the traditional rustic Adirondack style. I did write a page in my journal. Maybe I'll do better in the reading and writing departments after some supper. I do NOT want to go to sleep tonight! I want the fire and the magic to glow on and on.

This is a MAGIC place. I will return here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Five Weeks and Five Days

That's how long I'm away from the classroom, from tomorrow until the first day of classes on January 24th.

I still have lots of work to do of all kinds, but I will have a delicious break. I am going away to Lake Placid Lodge for 27 hours of delicious pampering. Yes, I'm doing this all by myself, although a full pack of books will accompany me. Ken is a very grumpy traveler and is happiest at home, so I'm thankful he doesn't mind if I take this mini-retreat to Lake Placid Lodge. The "village" of Lake Placid is a major destination in the heart of an important valley within the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. It's a two-hour drive for us in winter.

My room will have a full fireplace (continuously burning), a lake and mountain view, a king-size bed, a table to write on, and much more. What do I plan to do?

Every Christmas season I enter a state of reflection. I reflect on the past year, my life present and past, my relationships, my goals. And I think about what it means to be alive, what is good, what I need, what I'm missing. I think about whom I've been neglecting and how to improve my relationships. So I will be writing, a lot.

Believe me, I enjoy doing this very, very much. I enjoy entering a state of total calm so I can think deeply. It may sound selfish, but thinking about my life and how to keep it in balance helps me be a better, stronger person and gives me the peace I need to be more caring of the people closest to me.

Books: Too many to count! And, because I'll be writing, who knows how much time I'll devote to reading? But I will bring a full bag and both my e-book readers. My laptop will accompany me, of course, and I'll have full internet access.

It's conceivable (though not entirely likely) that I'll devote 100% of my time to reading and save the reflecting for Christmas Eve day at home or the day after Christmas, who knows? Boxing Day, St. George's Day--just wish we celebrated something on the day after Christmas. In these parts, December 26 is just a huge let-down after the hubbub of Christmas.

One book on the "Maybe List." Note, I haven't read Russian Winter or Sunset Park as I thought I would this month. Not yet. But there's still time! Do any of you know Chris Bohjalian? His new book The Secrets of Eden is in my book bag from the library today. I've loved many of his books, though he deals with many difficult topics. He lives not far from here, in Vermont.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

So Out of the Literary Whirl!

During our last month of classes, my 12 students in Writing/Reading Workshop, a developmental class for students needing extra time and attention paid to their reading and writing skills, created their own blogs. Some students have put a great deal of work and thought into their blogs, and these are really terrific. I find that some students are writing about their personal dilemmas and their difficult lives in a way they never have before, despite the amount of personal writing we do in this developmental class. (By the way, this is NOT the class with plagiarism issues.)

How I wish I could help some of them! But I'm just their English teacher, whose job it is to help them express in writing what they want and need to say. It's been a fascinating semester. Our final classes are this week, and on Wednesday, it will be farewell to them, and a happy Christmas to all, I hope. I will miss this blogging class, particularly, and will never forget them.

What about my READING???? Really, now, will it ever come off the back burner?

NEWS: I am reading The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page (see below), and am finding it wonderfully relaxing. It's set on an island in Maine, and because I've spent considerable weeks on a Maine island, all because Ken grew up spending his summers at his aunt's cottage on Peaks Island in Casco Bay, I'm finding it particularly reminiscent of my island experiences.

BUT THEN: I downloaded The Christmas Visitor by Anne Perry onto my Nookcolor. This Christmas novella, set in the 19th century, had particularly good reviews a number of years ago, so I'm going for it.

How I wish I could gobble up books by the wagon-load! But I can't right now. And, good news, I'm rehired for the next semester, starting January 24th.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Breathing Life into My Literary Lungs

I really must fully engage with the literary life. I feel so much more alive when I'm reading a great deal and involved in literature. I've been so overwhelmed, I haven't been able to nourish this part of my being. No job, no project, no worldly effort is worth giving up books.

I'm torn because I have so many books I want to read all at once. First I need some comfort (see my previous post below). So why not start with Katherine Hall Page's The Body in the Sleigh, a Christmas title from 2009? I happen to know Katherine; we served on the board of our alma mater's library for years, until I moved to the Adirondacks. Katherine has had quite a following for her mystery series. Given my trials of late, I think I could use something fun.

Another Week, Another Post? Plagiarism Has Slowed Me Down

My reading life has come close to a stand-still, though this morning I finished a memoir I've been reading. I've had so little time to read.

I'm looking forward to another way of life, when I have mental space and time to read.

My time has been devoted to tracking down all the malfeasances in my students' research papers. It's so easy to plagiarize these days; so easy to cut and paste off websites and online database articles. No wonder colleges and universities are at their wit's end about it. But the trouble doesn't stop with plagiarism. I've got students playing all kinds of games with sources. I have spent days tracking down all the foul play. I'm more than disappointed, particularly considering how much time I spent teaching them how to do a paper the "right way." Some of them have been quite ingenious in their criminal activities. If only they put this mental energy into doing the work, imagine what they could accomplish...