The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

January 10, 2010

On the new USC semester, hibernating adjuncts, Pliny the Elder, and Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemurs

Filed under: Holidays,USC,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 14:40
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It hasn’t even been four weeks, really, since I turned in my final grades, stacked my notes and books in the least dusty of the corners in my office, and changed the time on my alarm clock to “whenever.”  And even though it wasn’t long ago enough, it still feels like longer than it was.  That’s because Christmas break for college students, professors, and instructors isn’t like Christmas break for American children.  For kids, it’s two weeks solid — unless your break starts on a Saturday — and really, why don’t all Christmas holidays always start on a Saturday, affording kids at least the illusion of an extra weekend without classes?  Otherwise, you just get two of everything — two Saturdays, two Sundays, two Thursdays.  And those days go by fast!  You’ve just finished making out your Christmas list when, suddenly, you’re opening presents, wadding up the ripped up remains of meticulously creased and taped packages, making room in your toy box for new junk, and just about the time the wheels on your Tonka truck start to spin with ease, you find yourself sitting dope-eyed at the kitchen table eating oatmeal and heading out into the cold January morning to go back to the same old unfulfilling drag that is elementary education.


For college kids and the kids who teach them though, Christmas break goes on just long enough to start feeling routine, then, whack, it’s time to start getting up early again, packing up all your little ditties in a satchel, and hauling your sore head back into the lab rat race.  But there is this time of fantasy that sneaks in sometime after Christmas is over and just before you absolutely have to have your syllabus completed.  Yeah, you have things you should be doing — things that need doing, but not so much that absolutely has to be done.  Right. This. Minute.  That’s when you pick up that novel you’ve been wanting to read, try to catch up on your tivo’d sit-coms, think about exercise.  But mostly, that’s when you hibernate.

As with pretty much everything out there in the world of culturally interpreted science, there’s a lot of mythology about hibernation; do bears actually hibernate and the like.  Pliny the Elder wrote about the hibernating nature of swallows — they don’t, of course — and that’s another good reason to question thousand-plus-year-old history, as if the Apologists weren’t enough.  And for years, there was the question of whether primates hibernate.  Turns out the Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur of Madagascar is all about hiding in a tree trunk for a good seven months out of the year and snoozing, so yeah, primates do.  But here’s the thing — so do academics, especially the adjunct kind, and I’m betting there are plenty of other primates who do so when the chance arises, as well.  A lot of what Christmas and Thanksgiving is about is eating large amounts of food and storing energy in fat deposits during a period of pseudo-dormancy.  Throw in some bedroom slippers, left overs, and boxed editions of series like the Office or Ally McBeal, and neither woman, monkey, nor man find it easy to move very much.

So, just as it ultimately does for the Fat-Tailed Dwarf lemur, the sun rises significantly for me and thousands of other USC kids and the kids who teach them tomorrow morning.  Like most of us, I love/hate the beginnings and endings of semesters.  A case of vertigo has kept me even more cave-bound than usual the past few days — and made me miss too many fine things going on in town, so I’m wondering whether Wee Blue Bug II will even run tomorrow morning, or if either of us will be able to find our way back to campus.  But, like the salmon, the sea turtle, and yes, even the sparrow, we’ll find our way along migratory paths determined long before us.

So, for those of us who must crawl out of our hibernation caves and back to the Ivory Tower tomorrow morning, I wish us well.  Happy Semester, USC Students, Faculty, and Staff.  Let’s be careful out there.


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