January 11, 2022

January Jump

When I opened my laptop at the end of December, determined to post to this blog once more before the close of the year--well, that's how I found out Betty White had died. I thought, Nope, see you in 2022. I closed the laptop's cover. If you've struggled with social media for this past year, I get it. I've needed to go silent for long periods. That's particularly painful when the pandemic hasn't given us a chance to connect in other ways, because it can feel like damned-if-you-do, erased-if-you-don't. But I'm grateful because when I look back at the second half of 2021, I spot bright glimmers of living, of pleasures taken, seized in a time that felt dark. 

I went to Nationals games, mostly with my dad, and we cheered when the team was good and hung on even when they were terrible, having traded away almost all our star power. The cactus in our bedroom bloomed a half-dozen times. Sal the Wonder Cat kept us amused, though for a stretch we had to refocus on his critical care--a crisis he came through thanks to Marshall Veterinary Clinic and VCA SouthPaws. 

We took advantage of the post-vaccine, pre-variant lull to visit friends in Maine; one of them, Maureen Thorson (pictured distantly on the shore), has a great poetry collection coming out next month called Share the Wealth. We went sailing and ate many oysters. Their house backs up against a stunning Audobon preserve. 

The day before fall classes started at American University, my husband and I day-tripped down to the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center--the planned part--and added on a dusk hike to Calvert Cliffs--the unplanned part. My semester was good but busy. I instituted contract grading, which is a larger conversation I'd like to have; not sure if this blog is the place to do it. I had very few chances to gather in-person with writers, which is usually a big part of why I teach, but we did have a lovely reading at GoodWood on U Street. That doubled as a chance to say goodbye to longtime local fiction writer Leslie Pietrzyk, who moved down to North Carolina. Fortunately I think she'll be back to visit because her new story collection, Admit This to No One, is all about DC.

My one bit of book-travel was for Lit Youngstown, and poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis was a much-needed passenger for the long drive to Ohio. I got to give a lecture on the golden shovel as a form, and introduce Jan Beatty for the closing night reading. The unexpected gift was a painting by Kelly Bancroft inspired by my prose poem, "Cherry Tree Rebellion."

Our neighborhood is right by the water, and I've tried to take advantage of that--there's no quicker lift to my spirits than a walk along Hains Point, and for many months a free jitney ran back and forth across the Potomac Channel for the sake of the neighborhood. The Wharf restaurants are too expensive to visit regularly, but one quiet afternoon I treated myself a a Vesper and worked on an essay collection. 

I'm very ready for the new year. Let's be honest, that exactly what I said at the end of 2020. 2021 did right by me in many ways. I put out my fourth collection of poems, Made to Explode, and had work appear in three anthologies. My family got to celebrate my sister's wedding in October at Glen Echo, and we managed to safely host my husband's family for Thanksgiving; these are immeasurable gifts. And yet I'm ready, I'm ready, and daring to be optimistic. I hope you are too.