Thursday, August 28, 2008

Suicidal Wildlife

I have to drive about 15 miles through the country to get to work. It's a lovely drive in the morning, with lots of beautiful scenery and farms and fields and forests. In the evening it's an altogether different story. Right now my homeward route takes me on the road right at dusk, and I must say that fifteen miles seems like fifty when you're dealing with all manner of suicidal wildlife!

You expect the crazy animals (yes, I'm anthorpomorphizing here... endulge me, ok?) like the squirrels to play their game of chicken. You know what I'm talking about - they stand in the middle of the road and stare you down until you are about to plow over them, then they dart to one side (and hopefully NOT the side you're swerving towards to avoid the animal in the first place!) You even expect that with the larger critters like groundhogs and possums. And unfortunately for them, they are neither as quick nor as canny as the squirrels. And they're also LARGER, which means you, the driver, are more likely to swerve to avoid having to clean your vehicle's undercarriage. The frogs are a bit more challenging - you can sometimes see them hopping across the tarmac, but more often you only hear a tiny "squimph" as you careen over their squished bodies. And really, there's no way to avoid those anyway.

Then there are the deer. Bambi also has a death wish. Fortunately for me (because I drive a tiny Ford Focus) they prefer to wait, poised on the side of the road, for that F350 to zoom by before making their leap. Unfortunately for me, there are a lot of them. And I worry continually that Faline will someday consider it a challenge and see just how Ford-tough my car really is.

The bugs, of course, have plastered themselves so thickly on my front grille and windshield that I really should wash my car every day. And it's the bugs that bring my greatest problem during my dusky commute. The BATS.

Bats are supposed to be smart, right? They have that sonar thing going for them. They can fly, for crying out loud. So I can only conclude that they wish to commit suicide in the most thrill-seeking way possible - by colliding with my car. I counted at least a hundred bats on my drive home last night. What, you say? Bats are small, so how could I possibly count them while driving at 50 miles an hour? Ahh. That's simple. They were flying so close that they were getting caught in my slipstream!

These close encounters with the natural kind brought to mind a disturbing story I read many years ago. It's one by Stephen King called Mrs. Todd's Shortcut. In the story the main character (who appears to be taking "short cuts" through worlds not our own) finds on the front of her car a startling animal after one of her "jaunts" through the back woods. A dangerous-looking animal. One with teeth. One that would probably scare the bejeebers out of me if I saw something like what King describes. After considering my plight concerning terrestrial animals (stupid, suicidal ones, yes, but terrestrial nonetheless) I will be thankful that I find nothing but moths, dragonflies and the occasional bat on my front grille.

Finally, I must not neglect to mention the cattle. I pass several cattle farms, ones where the fences are right up against the road. Almost every night, all those creatures will be close to the fence, as though they were rubberneckers of an accident waiting to happen. I am reminded again of something I read, this time Gary Larson's "The Far Side". There's a particular comic about "what cows do when no one's looking" where you see in the first pane cows standing (on two legs, mind you) in a field next to the fence reading the paper, playing cards, smoking, drinking a beer. The next pane shows a cow (apparently on lookout) yell "CAR!" The last pane has a car driving by, with all the cows down on all fours, looking suspiciously normal.

So that's it, then. The cows are watching the road while playing poker and relaxing with a nightcap, taking bets on which fellow creatures will manage to smash themselves into the next poor slob that drives by. Let's just hope it's not me!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Little Good News

As you probably know, the professor and I have been in our current locale for almost exactly a year (in fact, we closed on our house here last August 31, so we can consider it an anniversary of sorts!) He has been working on what he jokingly calls "a cranky book about education and philosophy" while continuing to look for another permanent teaching post somewhere. Since I'm comfortably employed, I have encouraged him in this sabbatical. His research and writing is very important to him, and to me, and we are blessed to be at a time in our lives where this opportunity is even an option. We're close to family here, and that has been an even larger blessing because of his family's trials and my mom's recent cancer scare.

But, after 12 months, he is a bit restless. He wants to get back into the classroom and teach again. (I finally realized the depth of his desperation when he applied as an adjunct to the local community college. Alas, classical philosophy is not a sought-after field in the CC/JC world these days.) A friend from our "previous life" told him about a possible one-semester adjunct opening at a Christian university about an hour from here, and after some research about the school he applied. We didn't hear anything over the summer, until last week when they called him for an interview. He went down yesterday and had an exceptional meeting with the department head and the dean. (Usually you don't interview one-time-only adjuncts for two hours!)

Today. He. Has. A. Job. Teaching two upper division philosophy courses to majors. God is good! And to make it better, there were hints during the interview that the professor he is replacing (who's on sabbatical) may not be returning. If so, the extended interview becomes more meaningful. We want to stay in the south, and from everything we know and have learned about this school, it would be an excellent fit (for both of us, even). So, my friends, I ask for your prayers. For guidance and His will, of course, but also (in the spirit of Matthew 21) that He may bless us in our faith and trust that we will come to the place where He needs us to be and where we hope to be.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Day in the Life

Well, here I am. All set up in the brand new library in the brand new building on the brand new branch campus of the college where I work. Fancy new computers and StarBoards in every classroom, new furniture and bookshelves.... and books from the main campus library dating back 30 years or more. Sigh. They didn't plan for a book budget for the library, so I had to go through the main branch and pull "copy twos" to transfer up here. At least my stacks are not completely empty! Though, perhaps, it is a good thing that I don't have many books. They only sent me 15 sections of library shelving. I was supposed to get 28. So the library has a good bit of echo in it, as I rattle around in the empty room. ::heh::

As if setting up a new facility isn't enough, I also agreed to teach two 10-week classes. Those of you who know me, please pick your jaw up off the floor. Yes, I am Teaching. Two. Classes. Thinking about a roomful of thirty students expecting me to know what I'm doing has stirred up the butterflies quite fiercely. And it's not even a library instruction class - it's two sections of "Orientation to College", something akin to a Freshman Seminar teaching good study habits and time management and where the buisness office is. I try to think of it as a way to connect with some of the students, many who will come before my desk in the library at some point desperately seeking help on a research project, or at least asking me to show them how to use the catalog.

I have the shiny new laptop here on my desk, which I will soon have to take down the hall to my classroom and hook it up to the StarBoard. The Board was only installed this morning, so no one is quite sure if it even works properly. I don't plan to use it for anything, but I have to run the laptop through it if I want to connect to the internet. And if I want to show my students the new Blackboard interface for our online coursework, I need to connect to the internet. Otherwise I will have to stand there and say, "Close your eyes. Invision a computer screen!" Right now the gallumphing butterflies in my belly are convincing me without a doubt that this is exactly what is going to happen.

I never thought of myself as a teacher. I am far too self-depreciating, and nowhere near thick-skinned enough to deal with cranky students on a daily basis. I watch my professor husband with awe as he (seemingly) effortlessly works on his classes. I say "seemingly", because really, he put huge amounts of effort into every class he's ever taught, both in preparation and grading as well as student interaction. My objectives are nowhere near as lofty as his, and for that I am insanely grateful.

So my "first day of class" continues, and I look forward to the end of my first ten-hour day with joy and abandon. I plan to go home, kick off the shoes, have a cup of tea and some tomato soup, and watch some meaningless television. Heck, I may even watch GhostHunters!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Goldberry's Washing Day

Yesterday and last night we had the most glorious rain here in north Alabama. It was an all-day event - a soft, gentle shower that watered thirsty gardens and lawns but left no damage in its wake. In the last few weeks, we've had some torrential downpours - over an inch in half and hour - with hail and high winds. So this fall-like weather was a blessed reprieve from the thunderstorm warnings.

My new job takes me about 30 minutes north of where we live, and my route takes me though the country. Driving home last night I beheld a scene that reminded me deeply of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry (from Fellowship of the Ring). As I passed through a dense area of trees, the road suddenly opens up onto farmland. But the road is elevated somewhat, as though on an earthen dam or dike, so my car is raised above the crops growing below. (My guess is it's either cotton or soybeans, but I haven't decided which yet.) The rain was coming down, and there was a blanket of mist hanging low over the fields. I just imagined Goldberry singing for rain on a hilltop somewhere and the plants drinking deeply, giving thanks.

Anyway, random thoughts this morning. Now the sun is shining and I'm sure we'll be back to the sultry Alabama summer soon.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I find this immensely fascinating. So much so that I really want to read his book. I don't want to read the OED, but I would love to read ABOUT him reading the OED. So I suppose that does not make me a vocabularian, but neither do I think his endeavor was quisquilious.

So there you go - and remember - eschew obsfucation!