Thursday, September 22, 2011

The palm at the beginning of fellowship leave

by J J Cohen

The title to this post is an obscure Wallace Stevens reference. Yesterday I was invoking Luigi Pirandello to explain the changes to Facebook, which tend towards the meta. What's wrong with me? I am guessing that without a classroom in which to pontificate, I'm getting all professorial in other parts of my life.

I've been on fellowship leave since July. How much work have I accomplished for that book I'm writing? Not much. Well, there was that talk in Melbourne, which yielded a draft of my introduction (nice link to audio here). But then I was waylaid by the Speculative Medievalisms conference, as well as the convergence of recommendation requests that September always yields: job letters for grad students on the market, project endorsements, and graduate school recs. I'm also directing MEMSI while on leave, probably a mistake. I'm presenting some talks in the spring semester that have nothing to do with stone (more likely, both will treat zombies: one on their eating habits, one on their aesthetic sense), and have had to give those some thought. Eileen and I have been hard at work at a proposal for a collaborative grant.

There have been some great moments. Australia was the best trip my family has taken together. NYC had magical moments, as when we were walking to Eileen's lecture at an architectural bookstore and suddenly the tallest buildings glowed orange: the setting sun penetrated the day's cloud cover (picture here). But where are the hammocks, palm trees and drinks in frosted glasses that are supposed to come with a year of leave? I don't have an answer to that, yet, but I have made a start in that festive direction. I've placed a small palm tree on my desk. When I look at its unnatural but nonetheless attractive fronds, the little thing reminds me that I do have a freedom from service and teaching obligations that is precious. More importantly, when my colleagues look at the palm tree they are reminded that I am on leave and they are not.

Oh, and I do have a new skill that not being in the classroom has allowed me to hone. I am making a hobby of shaping pieces of dried fruit into likenesses of friends and family. As you can see, my daughter loves this new enthusiasm of mine.

Today's mission is to decide if hanging a hammock in my office will be too much, or not quite enough.


dan remein said...

the left eye of the fruit-portrait is a little low. but keep working at it. i've got a friend running a gallery here in brooklyn that 'eat that up'

ouch. i'm so sorry. that's out of line. its just that no one else had said ANYTHING about the fruit portraits

Anonymous said...

Palms are good. Very good. The total insouciance icon.

dan remein said...

i mean, of course, 'that WOULD eat that up'

Somerset Wedding Gal said...

That dried fruit shaping hobby is certainly one of a kind! It's an astonishing likeness in that picture!