The other day Laurie, Scott and I took a walk down to the lake. Scott snapped this photo on his mobile phone — if you look closely you can see our tiny shadows under the shadow of the tree.
The Greenscapes conference wrapped up last night. All in all, I think it went well. I have so many things I’d like to blog about (neat papers I heard, wonderful people I met, the delicious Niagara wine served at dinner, etc.), but I’ll wait until I’m feeling a little less exhausted.
On a totally unrelated note, this news story on CBC made me giggle. When I was in graduate school, we often took the train from Kingston to Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal. The trains were always late, so we started joking about how Via Rail must operate on its very own, unique time system. We began calling this “Via time” (as in “the train is due to arrive at 11am — is that 11am regular time, or 11am Via time?”), which was typically about 20-30 minutes slower than “regular time.” Apparently the phenomenon of Via time is becoming more widespread.
After months of planning, our Greenscapes conference kicked off at Brock last night. Our opening keynote speaker, Lorraine Johnson, kicked things off with a wonderful talk entitled “Tending the Earth.” Lorraine’s talk introduced a number of topics that I’m sure will come up again and again at this conference, so it was a really good introduction to what will unfold over the next couple of days.
One of the key themes of this talk was the idea that personal gardening practices are very much a public act. Johnson’s remarks asked us to stop and think about the various ways that the act of gardening has an impact on our community and our environment. For instance, Johnson talked about how, in recent years, people like Sandy Bell and Douglas Counter have fought for the right to depart from dominant gardening practices in their own yards (click here for a recent article discussing these cases). The idea of having to engage in a legal battle in order to plant something other than a standard, close-cropped lawn is so ridiculous, but it continues to happen. Why do neighbours and communities get so up in arms when someone decides to plant native plants or drought-resistant species or (gasp!!) vegetables in their front yard!?!
Johnson also talked about gardening that goes on outside of private homes and yards, and brought in numerous examples of urban garden projects that, I hope, can serve as examples of how we should be thinking about our relationship to plants in cities. She discussed, for instance, the Green Streets Program in Vancouver, the Alex Wilson Community Garden (Alex Wilson, incidentally, was the author of one of my all-time favourite books, The Culture of Nature), and the rooftop garden on top of city hall in Chicago. These examples, of course, all go beyond the individual gardens we have in our yards, and I think this is an especially exciting point. Why should gardening be confined to the home? As these examples show, there are tremendous community, social and environmental benefits from expanding our notion of what a garden is and where a garden can be.
It is fall convocation time at Brock. I always love convocation as it is an exciting time of the academic year (the sense of ceremony, the proud parents, the happy graduates! Hooray!). This year I’m going to be a bedel for one of the ceremonies. I must admit that until very recently I had no idea what a bedel was, or even how the word was pronounced. When I was first invited to participate in this capacity it was by email, and when I read the word “bedel” in that message I assumed it was pronounced “buh-dell.” Imagine my surprise and sheer delight when I discovered it is actually pronounced more like “beetle.” In the official convocation literature I’m now referred to as Bedel Cronin; I get to stand on a bedel box to hood the graduates and I even attended bedel training today. This is so much fun!
The university does its best to rent academic regalia for faculty based on where they got their degrees. This is very exciting — I love academic regalia. It is at once beautiful (all that shiny fabric!) and bizarre (what’s up with that guy’s hat?!?). I probably should invest in my own set of robes from Queen’s, but they certainly aren’t cheap. Last time I priced this out, it was somewhere in the $600 range. Lemme tell you, if I spend $600 on a single item of clothing I’m going to want to wear the garment in question A LOT! I fear that if I buy a set of academic robes, I’ll have a hard time restraining myself from wearing them all the time. Oh sure, I’d look a little goofy, but it might actually be kind of fun to go grocery shopping in a vibrant red robe.
Anyhow, at bedel training today we were told that if we had academic regalia with big sleeves we’d have to be careful not to hook ourselves on the various stairs and railings of the convocation stage. Apparently this happens a lot. I couldn’t remember the exact cut of the Queen’s robes, but a quick scan of my grad photos (see representative sample below) reassured me that I’m totally going to be a candidate for some sort of physical comedy on stage. Those sleeves are just asking for trouble!!
I can’t believe we are into October already!! September was a bit of a whirlwind, but all-in-all things seem to be going rather swimmingly so far this year. As is typical of this time of year I’ve put a lot more time and effort into getting my classes up and running than I have in the writing/research side of things. I know this is totally par for the course at the start of an academic year, but I’ve got a conference paper and a grant application due very soon and am starting to get a little worried that I’ve not had much time to work on either since the summer. I cleared my calendar for Friday, fully intending to get up early and spend the day working on these two items (luckily they are somewhat related). I woke up right at 7am, put the coffee on and went straight to my desk to start working. I jumped right into it, things were going well, words were flowing, all was good…until…
At 7:30am city work crews showed up to remove a tree from out in front of my house. Suddenly I was being serenaded by a symphony of power saws and workmen shouting at each other over the din. I tried to put on my headphones and drown out the noise, but since my office is at the front of the house it was pretty hard to ignore the great tree massacre taking place outside. I decided to pack up the most essential work items and move the kitchen table. As you can see from the above photo, going into campus to work was totally out of the question since our car was blocked in. (We had, by the way, no notice that this was going to happen but I’m trying not to dwell on the rage.)
So, I relocate over to the kitchen table, headphones still on. Not a great setup, but it was much less distracting. Until…
What makes this particularly funny is that the essay I was attempting to re-read was John Berger’s classic “Why Look at Animals?” I’ve zoomed in on the page under Ms. Jenny-cat’s paws here.
Ever have one of those days where it seems that no matter how hard you try, the writing just isn’t going to get done?