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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



The Trauma That Work Is

When you've had the same job as long as I have (13 years last October) you begin to long for a little change. The year turning in its usual rhythm can drive you mad. There are all the usual big markers that you can't bear to go through One More Time.

I work at a university, for academic programs. So: there's orientation. And all the beginning of the year stuff. Then there's the start of a new quarter (yes, we're on the quarter system, so all this starts up four times, though luckily the students get the hang of it as the year goes along so they have less trouble with it, even if the faculty don't). Then there's admissions. Oh, and scholarships/award and another new quarter and graduation. In amongst all that there's updating student files and special projects and please god not another conference and why on earth are they cancelling that class.

I'm used to all this, and quite rightly hate it and suffer it as best I can because hey it's a job and more interesting than most and I get to work with students and with faculty members who are doing cool things, and mostly they value my experience here and my writing and editing skills. And it really, really doesn't hurt that the job is only part-time (25 hours a week) and 10 month a year, which allows me, quite nicely, to run the Clarion West workshop each summer and still have a month for my own writing before the whole damn cycle starts up once again.

But now the cycle has another added painful bit. It has had them all along but it's getting worse and worse now: budget cuts.

So far they've mostly been just annoying. No teaching assistant for a large class that has always needed one, that sort of thing. And the programs I run have used their tiny budgets to make up for some of the cuts from the other programs, and has helped us survive.

But now they want to cut the budgets for the program entirely.

One of them is 30 years old, and brings in some of the best students and is one of the big reasons people have ever even heard of our university in this field. The other is newer, but has a strong local reputation and our graduates are making a big mark in the field, at least in this area of the world.

They're run, of course, on a shoestring, and the budgets are nothing in the big picture. The university wouldn't notice the money added or removed. Neither would the college much. All told, we cost less than one professor. But it's all discretionary money and they want to start a new program and not spend any money on it. So they don't want to get rid of me, just move me to the new program.

On one hand, I am beyond ready for a change. On the other hand, it's not much of a change. And it kills me to see the programs I've worked on so long just tossed away. So there's all kinds of brainstorming about how to run them without a budget, all of which entails me still working on them. Which I guess maybe I'll do with the old program, too.

So this brainstorming has caused a whole new kind of energy in the programs. It has only been a couple of days since the word spread but the energy generated in the faculty has been pretty exciting to see (word hasn't filtered down to the students yet). So the programs will probably survive and the new program will almost certainly become part of my life which is kind of exciting because I'll be learning new things and have some challenges which I definitely need. Except the small problem that at bottom I'm just bone tired of it all.

the yin and yang of catsThe yin and the yang of cats.


Sophia's new favourite perchSophia's new favourite sleeping perch.


last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing



New Kristin Hersh and new Throwing Muses. Music seems to come from this woman like breath.

last week's listening § next week's listening



Kate Elliott's The Gathering Storm is the fifth and penultimate volume in her Crown of Stars series. (See my January 23, 2000, March 5, 2000, March 26, 2000, and November 26, 2000 for comments on previous volumes.) This follows and deepens the many threads of the stories and does come to a kind of conclusion, though there are plenty of threads to follow up in the final volume. I really do find this one enjoyable, and get pleasantly lost in the world and characters.

last week's reading § next week's reading



Well, I finished the poem in time for Monday's workshop. It's about the travelling people of Scotland, and a site that I saw near Loch Fyne called the Tinker's Wedding site, a heart laid out in white stone in a road. This is my first new poem (I've done revisions) since last September when I did so much to put the new manuscript together. I'm glad to be back at it.

Man, I rock so hard. I also managed to revise an old story enough that I wasn't too embarrassed to send it to my fiction critique group. I was a month or two beyond our submit something or else limit, so I was starting to get nervous that someone might notice.

last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

September - November 1988

[We're living in London, Ontario, which yes does have a Thames River, while Jim does his master's in Library and Information Science and I bide my time.]

1545. End of Summer
September 2, 1988

Coolth is here. The weather is no longer intolerably hot--my new office is cold, but that's artificial. I am coping, and learning my new job [1], but it's still up and down and pressured off and on. Ah well, at least it's proving to be a little more fun than micro [2] and a little challenging (though not as challenging as I had expected--so far).
     Jim was in Ottawa visiting John, and Christina came to stay with me for four days. We were lazy and did only what we wanted, though on Friday while I completed my first week at my new job Christina worked in the library.

1546. Autumn
September 29, 1988

The trees are beginning to turn, and the flu has been and gone (at least for Jim). We're just past the equinox. The days are really beautiful--cool but warm sun, and mostly clear. We haven't really had a good frost yet, though I'm sure it will be soon. I'm not certain I'm ready for winter--not even physically--I don't have a coat for snow or snow boots. Well, not to panic. I'll make do--and it's not even full fall yet. Weeks of leaves to enjoy. They're supposed to be beautiful here. I'm ready and waiting.

October 2, 1988

...call on the wind to begin
the healing here...

what is it we are beyond?
In the heavy wind, night-rocking,
rain blowing across the bow

So fragile it must be kept secret
this marsh, even we, lying flat
on the sea-grass as its edge, don't dare [3]

1548. In which I am thirty [4]
November 14, 1988

..and the world has not changed. Thirty and a month and some days, for accuracy's sake. The leaves have left the trees--but today was warm, sunny, and Diana and I are out lunch outside together and walked. Really lovely. More like October than November (maybe October was more like November, too. Maybe we're living backwards like Merlin).
     I am looking for a poem or a few lines to put in our Christmas card. It is very hard to find poems about joy or grace or peace or beginnings. Lots of others. Lots. Anyway, maybe a Berry candidate.
     Why not more about beauty?

1549. Last Night's Dream
November 29, 1988

It began with a dream about UVic--heading to a familiar parking lot--treed--more like one at UW than UVic. Then I went to a dorm-like place where a talk started about whether I could bathe there since I had come from home. Then I was among a large group of people--a band of us--walking to classes discussing our readings. Someone was reading from a textbook I had a different version of. I remember thinking it would be interesting to notice the differences of phrasing (in translation?). Anyway, suddenly there were people with guns on a ridge beside us and we were in the midst of a war and choosing sides, running out of the way of the fighting. This went on for a while until I realized I was an old man looking for my sons in the middle of this. I found my oldest son--about nineteen--who had become part of the power structure of the war. I remember (as the father loving yet not approving of the son--follies of youth sort of thing--and then I was the son, sorry, but moving away from the father into my own concerns. But one thing from the father held onto me--looking for my younger brother. Through my connection and playing careful, risky politics, I found where they were keeping him--separate, because he was a genius and they were grooming him for something. He was glad to see me--we were alone--but he was preoccupied with some kind of musical instrument he was playing--wildly. He seemed to get younger as I watched. I could see there was something wrong with what they were doing, both in the war and to my brother.


1. Actually, quite a cool job--doing publicity (posters, programs, newsletters, press releases) for the Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario.

2. My previous job had been as a word processor operator for the microbiology department at the University of Washington.

3. Scraps, the never went anywhere.

4. I talk about turning 41 in this entry.

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