It is a beautiful summer morning here in South West Pennsylvania. Our city is rather small which makes it quite easy to enjoy pleasures that are almost rural, like dappled sunshine on shady lanes. Morning is my favorite time of day. I call them, quite selfishly and possessively, ‘my mornings.’ Every morning Jelly Bean, my Collie Dog, and I enjoy a long walk then breakfast at my desk and some early morning reading.
My desk and study is my favorite place in this very fine house. This is the best place for listening to music and for reading. There is always a vase of fresh flowers on my desk and the whole room in illuminated with sunshine through the tall windows. This sunny room looks into my neighbor’s garden, where she always seems to be working away. No matter what time I sit down at my desk she is quietly and industriously tending her beds. Her efforts sometimes shame me into trying to do more for my hydrangea, but more often than not this pantomime of labor and its burgeoning, blossoming results inspire me to work harder at my studies. I am somehow encouraged to read a few more pages and be a bit more contemplative as I watch my neighbor tirelessly weed, till, and water under our cloudless sky.
We have clear blue skies here in Pittsburgh, but I hear it is raining poetry in London. How wonderful! I would like to see the Poetry Parnassus, and 100,000 poems dropped from the sky. It might make it easier to choose what to read. In America we have a new Poet Laureate; Natasha Trethewey’s recent appointment by the Library of Congress means she will provide advice about all things poetic for the next year. That sounds very helpful to me. Along with our new ‘poet in chief’, the nation’s library has an exhibition of ’88 Books That Shaped America.’ It feels like everybody is thinking about summer reading.
It probably feels this way because my sunny little room is knee-deep in books. In a way it is raining texts here inside my house, despite the serene backdrop of my neighbor’s constant gardening. Right now wading through the stacks of books all around me is like wadding through puddles after a good summer rain. My puddles of books seep into other rooms as I re-arrange book shelves and try to decide what to read this summer and in the fall term.
A lot of things started me thinking about what to read this term. Here I sit, perched on a Lillie Pad made from masterpieces of English Literature debating the merits of selecting texts based on time constraints I am imagining are associated with sitting four units, or reading what fascinates me. Over the last few years I have learned the length of a text has nothing at all to do with its complexity or ease of reading and study. And in this program I can select any texts I want, so a mix of novels, essays, drama and poetry is always an option for each unit. Time is precious this term, and after thinking it over, I don’t want this term to be ruled by the ticking of an imaginary clock. Instead, I want this term to be a real intellectual immersion into my deepening pond of texts, albeit a selective immersion.
This term I want some true intellectual engagement and stimulation from my reading. My syllabus is going to be designed around what interest me most. Maybe that is the best time management strategy of all. What do you do when everything seems interesting? ‘Everything’ is defined by the four courses I am especially interested in this term. Let’s save ‘selective’ for next week. This morning, with one eye on my neighbor’s methodical, rhythmic gardening, feeling like I want to ‘read everything’ seems slightly less promiscuous, and even very possible. Especially on a summer days that feels like it will never end.