Thursday, March 08, 2012

Zombies and yellow wildflowers

by J J Cohen

Where does the time go? Somehow it's already late in the first week of March. The changing of the season has brought longer, warmer days, greening leaves, and dusty tree pollen. Despite itchy eyes, I love this time of year. Luminescent yellow wildflowers appear along every semi-wooded path. Vernal pools shimmer under bare trees, and I can't pass them without thinking of my son's childhood obsession with hunting salamander eggs. I miss the little boy he used to be. Sometimes I get as much communication from the eye-rolling adolescent who replaced him as I would from a zombie. And perhaps that's why I'm writing on the topic of the undead at the moment.

But as winter becomes spring I have been increasingly anxious about not having accomplished enough during my fellowship leave. I fret about the vast amount I have on my plate ("Ecomaterialism," SAA, Prismatic Ecologies, three keynotes, three additional conference papers -- and that gets me only to July). My book project is on hold as I toil away at a big talk on Elemental Relations, and another on the Undead. I wrote for something like six hours straight today, stopping only to run down the street to buy some drainage rocks to finish a small project before the rain comes tonight -- all of 30 minutes break. By 3 PM my head was so full of zombie thoughts that I had to get out and get some air so that I could do more than moan and shamble when confronted by other human beings (I don't want to be my son, I just want to understand him). I'd downloaded the new Magnetic Fields album to my iPod so I took the opportunity of a warm day to listen and lose myself along the Capital Crescent Trail (a beautiful jogging and biking trail that runs not far from my house). The photo above is a glimpse of how it looks at this time of year; I snapped it just a few hours ago.

And you know, that little getaway made a tough day seem OK. Maybe that's because it was the only 45 minutes I had to myself with my brain turned off. One of the best things about leave is the ability to think intensely, and then to recover from that intensity without having to teach a class or talk to a colleague or file a report. On days like today that oscillation between zombies and wildflowers feels good.

Nonhuman relations in Michigan, undead in Orlando, deformity in Edinburgh: bring them on. And maybe I'll write SIX books on stone. And incise them on granite, too. Yes.


ProMedievalist said...

You may chastise yourself for not getting enough done, but from the perspective of us mere mortals you, sir, are a phenomenon of productivity!

ntbw said...

Ditto ProMedievalist. I don't generally THINK I'm too much of a slacker until I come over here and see what you're doing! Yikes! It all sounds fascinating, though, and the rest of us will certainly benefit from your prolific production.