February: some notes
by Jeff Oaks
In my world it is now midterm, and I’m breathing easy this time around. Next year’s schedules are in and done, and though they’ll undoubtedly have to be tweaked as things change, the whole of next year’s classes have been imagined. It’s a grand gesture toward the future. I’ve submitted a book I never imagined I’d write to an editor who’s interested. I’m caught up on papers and grading, where I’d been stalled for the last few weeks, caught up on my duties on a couple of university committees where I’m expected to say informed things, and even the smaller things–a letter of recommendation, a long overdue comment on some poems a former student sent me. Even our taxes have been submitted, our returns deposited and already spent, clearing a couple of credit cards. I feel like I can talk again to people again, without checking my phone all the time. I feel a kind of lightness I haven’t felt in a while.
Some of this is due to an unusually warm February, full of sunshine and warmth. February is usually my least favorite month, the month I hunch into, the month I simply “endure” until our Spring Break in early March. I thought this was going to be the year I’d have to replace our furnace and water heater, but neither of them got so tested by winter that they broke down. I can put off that expense a little longer, which makes me breathe a little easier, too.
There’s a bright sunshine flooding the cafe windows right now. It seems like a good world, even if the political world is impossible to speak of rationally. There is such fire and smoke coming off of every politician that it’s hard to know who is serious, who’s merely political, who is a fiction, who is a monster. The factions grow more absurd every day. Everyone is electable, I guess, in that every single cracked pot of a politician has his or her constituency, and his or her billionaire willing to back him or her up. Please choose between the Scylla and Charybdis or Gandalf or Xena. The sunlight gives me enough hope to wait, to be patient, to pay attention.
Meanwhile, the poets and novelists and essayists are working hard to address issues, to say things. A few of them get heard, given awards, disappear, are replaced by others. The artists are making statements and “organizing encounters” between Isms, trying to do good work, important work, vital work. Beautiful books are appearing. New installations, paintings, music, words, dances. There is hope. I’ve started lately collecting images on my tumblr account because I get so tired of words being drained of meaning by politicians and commentators on television whose real loyalty is to entertainment. I’ve been spending more and more time trying to sit and not speak, sketch in my iPad, write longhand in my journal. I hope to have something to say soon.