Thursday, June 23, 2016

Lake Life

Last night the light on the lake was so lovely, it made me realize again how lucky we are to live here.

These pictures were taken around 9:00 pm.  We are so far north here, and the nights are very long.

The days are pretty nice too.

Everything is lovely, except that I hurt my hamstring sometime during the move, it got worse during the drive up here, and continues to get worse.  I have cut out walking in the morning, which is a big disappointment.  But everything still hurts.  Even sitting, my number 1 position, hurts.  So I don't have a lot to say these days except that it is beautiful.  I am reading a lot.  And I finally made an appointment with a doctor in Houghton.  It was too hard to get an appointment with an internist. At 68, I passed the test for a gerontologist, being old enough to qualify for the nurse's explanation that the doctor only saw "old people."

I am reading a Sweetwater, a book for the book group in Copper Harbor, Little Dorrit, the book Tony and I are tackling this summer, and a history of Hungary during World War II.  Tony and I watched the last season of Downton Abbey, which we had saved for up here, and are now in the middle of Judge John Deed (being big Martin Shaw fans).  I am back to cooking (sort of).  My garden is barely hanging on, because it's difficult for me to work in it.  But the lake is warm enough for swimming which is one of the best parts of being here.

Not the most interesting blog post I have ever written, but you get the point, I hope.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Narrative of Retirement Redux Again. . . .

Me with statue of Odon Lechner at his Church at Kobanya in Budapest
About two years ago, I wrote a post asking what is thenarrative of retirement?  Then last year, I asked the question again, what is the narrative of retirement redux?  I am now beginning my third year of retirement, and I am posing the question anew.  What narrative path am I on?  Where am I headed?  What is my story?  How do my days move, like a narrative, towards something, rather than just feeling like "being one damned thing after another.”

In Retirement Year 1 (2014-2015)--I still live by an academic calendar—we had a series of adventures.  In May, we went to the Southwest and did some of our favorite hikes and National Parks.  Then we went to the lake, where we stayed til autumn.  After we got back from Louisville, we got ready for our trip to Budapest for three months.  Then right after we got home, we went back to the lake.

Retirement Year 2 (2015-2016) began at the lake, where we stayed til December because a friend was renting our house for the fall semester at UofL.  So we saw some winter.  We came home to what eventually became the Year of the Move.  We bought a condo, went to Budapest for a month (having no idea when we planned it that we would be in the middle of a huge transition), got our house ready to put on the market (doing a lot of what our realtor called “deferred maintenance”), cleared out our house of 27 years of stuff (oh why did we save so much?), moved our belongings into our new condo and took possession of said condo.  I didn’t have a lot of time to worry about the Narrative of Retirement, because I was too caught up in the Narrative of Downsizing.

However in the fall of 2015, I made a decision that part of my Narrative of Retirement would be writing a book about Hungarian Architecture  that I would self-publish.  I spent a lot of the summer figuring out how to format a book for publishing online, as well as working on an outline of the chapters, and writing the first chapter, on Historicism.  I also began the second chapter, on Art Nouveau, but when I got back to Louisville I dropped working on it because of all the business connected with buying and selling a home.  But I am still committed to it; it is a big part of my retirement, and this summer I will finish the Art Nouveau chapter and begin the chapter on Odon Lechner.

Retirement Year 3 (2016-2017).  I am beginning my third year of retirement, and this is what I have learned so far.  There is not a single narrative of retirement (I’m sure I knew this already), but lots of stories that one lives in retirement—or any other phase of life.  In the first two years, there were a bunch of medical narratives (none of lasting seriousness but some a pain at the time); several trips, (and as all good narratologists know, the “road” is primary narrative structure); lots of reading, often going on “kicks,” such as reading about climbing in the Himalayas, Arctic exploration, head-hunting in Papua-New Guinea, American prisoners of war in Japan, and Bog People. There was also shared reading with Tony (Tom Jones in Y1, Ulysses Y2, and Little Dorrit coming up in Y3). Plus, of course, reading lots and lots of novels just because.

And there is writing.  Deciding to write a book has given me an important sense of direction.  It makes my trips to Hungary more purposive.  It organizes my otherwise rather inchoate interest in the topic.  And it gives me a very strong goal.  Writing has always been a mixed pleasure for me (hate to write but love to have written), but this book is something different.  It’s not for peer-review; I will do that myself.  It’s not just for pleasure, as it offers to tell an accurate history, but it is a pleasure. And for me, it is a kind of necessity: as I really need a goal and I need to have writing in my life.

I have also learned that I love being retired.  I am so lucky that I have one wonderful dissertation student left, but that’s enough for me.  Higher education is changing so much everywhere, including Kentucky, UofL and the English Department, but I was lucky enough to have a career during a relatively stable time (aside from the inevitable budget crises):  I knew what I was expected to do, and I knew how to do it  I don’t think young academics today are as lucky as I was.  I love the freedom retirement brings. 

What’s up for Year 3?  5-ish months at the lake.  Meeting my family for Thanksgiving and going to see Hamilton in Chicago.  Another trip to Budapest in February (research!).  Settling into life in a condo (and finishing unpacking boxes).  Learning what it’s like to be in Louisville.  (I still haven’t quite figured out what the Narrative of Retirement will feel like there).  And of course other stories yet to be realized. 


Sunday, June 5, 2016

"Michigan, Where the Trees Are the Right Height." Mitt Romney, 2012.

In 2012, I--along with most of the MSNBC reporters I listened to constantly--used Mitt Romney's line about the "trees being the right height" as further evidence of how dopey he was (e.g., the dog on the roof of the car, the"cheesy grits," the  fake use of "y'all" et al.).  However, having lived in the Upper Peninsula for 4 years (or half years), I have come to realize Mitt's claim about tree height was a great insight.

In fact, in Michigan, the trees ARE the right height.  As you drive up the mitten of the Lower Peninsula towards the Mackinaw Bridge, the landscape becomes greener, denser, and more beautiful.

On the other side of the Big Bridge is the eastern shore of the Upper Peninsula.  As you drive west (as we do to get to Lake Medora in the Keweenaw) you are literally driving through a forest for most of the trip.

If you grow up in a landscape, it feels "right" in a way that is visceral and alway evoked when you come back.  For me, it is the piney woods of North and South Carolina.  I have lived in Michigan enough to sense this feeling when I cross the state line from Indiana to Michigan and see the "Pure Michigan" sign.

Although, I did not agree with Mitt Romney on most of his policies (though he looks pretty good compared to his current fascist counterpart), I do agree with his insight about the beauty of Michigan, which lies in its vast green spaces that envelop you as you proceed through them.