It's an evil winter wonderland out there, with crazy 22-below-zero wind chills and walls of horizontally blowing snow.  Our apartment building is so old--with its original 1905 windows semi-intact--that I woke up this morning with a breeze blowing across my face.  This is not the kind of holiday chillin' I hankered for.

All of our books are gone, already hauled in boxes over to the new (better insulated!) apartment, and our art is down, so the walls even look nude and cold here.  Just our furniture, clothes, and computers remain.   We move on Saturday the 16th.

Classes start Monday, and as I prepare for the first week of the semester, I'm taking heart from the words of Anatole France:  "Do not try to satisfy your vanity by teaching a great many things.  Awaken people's curiosity.  It is enough to open minds; do not overload them.  Put there just a spark.  If there is some good flammable stuff, it will catch fire."

I like this very much. 

But of course, I can't help but wonder if the notion that I can open minds by trying--that teachers do so, as we often tell each other and ourselves--is a kind of vanity in itself. 

Rather:  In what ways is my own mind still closed?  How can I learn to open it?  That seems like the more honest and gentle way to move forward.   Teachers do succeed in opening minds--we hear about it from grateful students who write to say so.  But I think it may be in ways we don't even anticipate, much less plan for.  Students remember the most casual comment, dropped in haste.  Small things make an impression.  That's why teaching is such a careful business.  It's good practice in mindfulness.

I'm teaching intro to women's literature--to women, for the first time!*--and autobiographical nature writing, which is a new course for me.  In women's lit, we're beginning with fairy tales (widely understood by scholars to be the narrative products of women:  mothers, nurses, the much denigrated "old wives")  and then working through about 200 years of intertextual responses:  Jane Eyre, The Yellow Wallpaper, A Room of One's Own, Wide Sargasso Sea, The Bluest Eye, The Bloody Chamber, The House on Mango Street.  Should be interesting.  

In autobiographical nature writing, we'll be reading environmental lit--and writing, writing, writing.   We'll go outside once the weather warms up, but before that happens, we'll be watching two documentaries, which I recommend highly if you haven't seen them:   Andy Goldsworthy's Rivers and Tides and Arctic Dance:  The Mardy Murie Story.  

Grey left.  I did howl--quietly, at home.  Parenting is such an ambivalent practice.  One loves so passionately, so profoundly--yet really wants the kid to grow up and get on with life.  I won't go into detail about the particulars of our situation.  I'll just say this:  I always face Grey's visits home (now that he's been away at college) with trepidation--there will inevitably be tensions, arguments, friction, as he defines himself and his life in a different way from ours (and lets us know that in no uncertain terms)--and yet, I'm always wrenched with sadness when he leaves.  It took me a good 24 hours to recover after his bus pulled away.  Are other parents laid so low?  Is there a manual for this?

*Teaching women's literature and feminist theory at an all-male college is an education unto itself.  I recommend it highly.  For short periods.