I am still emotionally drained reflecting on the life lessons from the Milwaukee Rep’s performance of Thornton Wilder’sOur Town that Debbie and I enjoyed last Sunday. As a high school student and undergraduate, I used to keep journals documenting how literature and the arts impacted me. Thornton Wilder was born on my sister’s birthday and attended my alma mater Oberlin College.
Precious Moments: The entrance to this world by a new grand-nephew, Finn William O’Connor. Welcome!
Precious Moments: Quality time with Debbie, Dog, and Friends.
Today I am “dog-tired”—it was a three dog night yesterday as we celebrated a birthday with dear friends.
Several summers ago I was humbled at how much I have yet to learn about teaching and about learning. A friend Mary directed her, beloved, devoted blind Newfoundland Ernie to “rescue” me by, on command, swimming out to a rowboat where I feigned being in distress and he towed me back to shore.
It has been 6 months since Robin the Newf left my life. She leaves me with many fond memories and enduring lessons about patience, love, persistence, forgiveness, coping with pain, loyalty, and playfulness.
Her successor, Leo the Great, already is reminding me of all those lessons and, in his own way, offering me new things to learn.
Robin and Glenn the Big Dog and Mollie the Golden Retriever and Queenie and Duchess and Snapper and Freud and Leo have made me laugh and cry, exhausted and rejuvenated me, and constantly pointed out to me the frailties of being a human.
My father-in-law, Walter G. Schmidt deep love of dogs was extolled in a eulogy given by the Reverend Charles Valenti-Heine:
…”And that world, for Walter, included his beloved Canines. Lucy, Canis, Oaf, Chaucer, Trollope, and Freud, the last named because Walter was told that the companionship of a good dog was of greater worth to people than any other therapy! The one time I remember Walter speaking in church was when Trollope died, and he stood up during joys and concerns to opine: ‘If there is a place in heaven for Presbyterians, then surely there is a place for greyhounds.’
I have had many dog role models both real and fictionalized. As I child I fondly remember Mr. Peabody and his seven-year-old sidekick, Sherman. I am attracted to the nonsense of dog cartoons in the same way that my dogs are attracted to scents. Though many of my friends claim I behave more like Dilbert, I have often learned from the philosophies of Dogbert and of Snoopy. Rudyard Kipling and Lord Byron have warned us ofhow dogs can capture your heart! Dogs continue to teach me so much! Some day soon I hope to be their full-time student.
“What good books have you read this year?” recently asked my former student and fellow bibliophile, Susan Gusho recently on FaceBook. Susan, who like so many former students, continues to influence me in what I read and how I teach. Though I do not read as much or as widely as colleagues like Hugo Hartig, who since retiring, has often shared his annual reading list on FaceBook, I try to read books for pleasure on a regular basis.
Here are books I have read this year that were well worth my reading:
David Mitchell’s Slade House: A Novel
Lauren Groff’s Fate and Furies: A Novel
Robert Galbraith’s (aka JK Rowling) Career of Evil (Comoran Strike)
Carroll Colleague John Garrison’s Glass (Object Lessons)
Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest. Alas, I must wait until August for the translation of the third part of this science fiction trilogy.
Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman: A Novel
Steven Jarvis’ Death and Mr. Pickwick: A Novel
Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves: A Novel
Ann Morgan’s The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe
Naomi S. Baron’s Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.
Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (Thank you, sister-in-law Becky O’Connor for giving this to me—and for instilling the love of reading in children and adults).
Kazuo Ishhiguro’s The Buried Giant
Sian Beilock’s How the Body Knows Its Mind: The Surprising Power of the Physical Environment to Influence How You Think and Feel.
On my short list of books to read (or finish) over the holiday break—I don my invisibility cloak from Carroll on December 18 until January 19)—- are the following:
Brian Selznicks The Marvels
Mark R. Schwen’s Leading Lives that Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be.
Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Thank you, Davis Endries, for calling my attention to this book.)
Jonathan Franzen’s Purity: A Novel
Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. (Thank you, David Lewis for alerting me to this gem).
Martin James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings. (Thank you, Susan Gusho, for sharing from Kansas your book recommendations. You know what I will like.)
Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It Every Time.
Roger Angell’s This Old Man: All in Pieces
Joan Hustace Walker’s Great Pyrenees (Complete Pet Owners Manuals) (Recommended by Leo The Great)
Recommend to me some good books and prove to me that I have a reader or two:)
I’ve been thinking a lot about lions lately. Lions are so prevalent in art and literature across time and across cultures.
Lions are in the news today: I just read about the Copenhagen controversy concerning dissection as an educational tool. Not to long ago was the controversy about the killing of Cecil. Two weeks ago I attended Benjamin Scheuer’s Milwaukee Repertory’s performance of “The Lion”. The songs follow me.
Such a majestic feline:
And now I have Leo in my life, presently lying near me in his dog bed. Perhaps he is dreaming about his first day at Doggy Day Care where he had this photo taken. My lion sleeps tonight.
I recently purchased a five-year journal and I’m using it, as a planning tool for things I want to accomplish in the next five years. Inspired by my sister-in-law who a year ago told me that she might attempt to read my late father-in-law’s copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, I’ve begun identifying “great books” which I’d like to have read in the next few years. Ulysses is on my short-list at the moment, though I vacillate on whether I should invest the time in READING it. If so, I want to finish reading it by next Bloomsday.
The question, now, is should I commit myself to reading Ulysses—or instead curl up with Robin the Newf and study my dog-eared copy of Berke Breathed‘s Classics of Western Literature: Bloom County 1986-1989.