The End (of Sabbatical) is Nigh

And just like that, we are at the end of 2015! I’m always amazed at how fast a year whips by, but I was especially aware of it this year. When I began my sabbatical year back on January 1, 2015 a year felt like a nearly endless expanse of time. Perhaps I thought that this year would be different. Perhaps I thought that being on sabbatical would slow down the passing of time, that if I took the time to read, to savour, to think, that I wouldn’t feel as though the weeks were flying by. I was wrong.

So, now I’m in the final days (7 left!) of my sabbatical, although as my friend and colleague, Gregory, pointed out the other day, I am, in actuality, “like everyone else at Brock now, on holiday break.” I suppose he has a point given how quick I was to jump in to sabbatical mode this time last year.

It has been a good year. It was a busy year and when I look back at where my days went, the list looks something like this:

Over the course of the year I also was constantly reminded about what sabbatical (in an academic context anyhow) is and isn’t.

  • It is a gift. I felt so grateful to have so much dedicated time to work on my book manuscript. I sat with it day in and day out for months. I immersed myself in the project in a way that would have been impossible without sabbatical. I put in long hours and worked 7 days a week on the manuscript for a good chunk of my sabbatical time. People kept telling me to “take a break,” but I had been gasping for time to really sink myself in to this work and I wasn’t going to tear myself away from it until I had a full and polished manuscript ready to send to the press.
  • It is a privilege. If you get to take sabbatical you are very, very privileged. Do not forget this. It is important to check your privilege and to be careful how you talk about your sabbatical with others.
  • It isn’t a vacation. I am sure I had friends and family who were genuinely baffled by the fact that I couldn’t drop everything and come for a visit or go on a leisure outing this past year. As mentioned above, I am sure that I actually put in more hours at my desk this year than I regularly do during the years I’m not on sabbatical. When you are on sabbatical you are hyper aware of how rare and precious this time devoted to your research is. I know I won’t get another sabbatical for a while and I didn’t want to waste a single second of it.
  • It isn’t a magic “cure all.” I think I was guilty of imagining sabbatical to be this blissful, stress-free year. I might have imagined that I was going to sit at my desk, think lofty thoughts, and become a better person. When I imagined my sabbatical I didn’t imagine the days filled with writer’s block, panic, and stress related to “imposter syndrome” (“what if I don’t have anything interesting to say after all?”). My imagined version of sabbatical also didn’t include getting sick, debilitating migraine headaches, sick pets, sick friends and family members, bad weather, travel woes, and financial worries. But, guess what? All of those things were also part of the year–of course they were, because sabbatical isn’t a magic bubble!
  • It is a limited amount of time. At the start of sabbatical it may seem that you have SO MUCH TIME to do ALL THE STUFF. But, in reality, it is only 365 days, just like any other year. I did get many of the things I set out to do crossed off my list, but there are other things (clean out the basement, reread all the Sherlock Holmes stories) that I’ve not yet managed to accomplish. I guess I still have 7 more days!

It has been a good year, but I am looking forward to going back to teaching  in January. I love my classes and I am excited to teach in the beautiful new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts.

Unbound: Women on the Front Lines of Animal Advocacy

Today is the launch of a new project I am working on with Jo-Anne McArthur (We Animals). We have been talking, dreaming, planning, and meeting (often in delicious vegan restaurants like Crossroads, Hogtown Vegan, and Rise Above) about this project for several months.

Unbound: Women on the Front Lines of Animal Advocacy is a project intended to celebrate the many women who have worked tirelessly to make the world a better place for animals. It is a multimedia, multi-faceted, social media-driven project, and the plan is to have a richly illustrated book filled with stories and photographs of featured women in the coming years. We will be focusing on women who are currently working for animals, but a large part of the project will also be historical. I’m excited to share some of my research on women activists from previous generations.

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Niagara VegFest News

Great news on the Niagara VegFest front! We have received funding from the City of St. Catharines. This will help us continue to build and promote the festival for 2013. A huge thanks to the City’s Cultural Investment Program for this grant.

It may be a cold and gloomy day in Niagara today (apparently it is Blue Monday), but before we know it, Niagara VegFest will be upon us! We are working away getting things ready–much excitement here at Niagara VegFest headquarters! Registrations are starting to come in, the list of speakers is nearly finalized, and we are busy working on other plans for the festival. Stay tuned!

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Weekend Planting + The First Harvest of the Year!

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This weekend we got some more veggies planted and we’ve now got rhubarb, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, potatoes, corn, beets, runner beans, garlic, onion, tomato, lettuce, red and yellow peppers, dill, mint and lavender growing. I still want to get some spinach and some basil in, although we are quickly running out of room.

Right now most of the garden is planted with seedlings we bought, but the seeds we started in the house are trucking along and hopefully we can plant them outdoors soon too. We’ve been hardening off the seedlings on an almost daily basis and transplanted some into bigger containers this weekend. Below is a snapshot I took during the transplanting activities. I call it “Tomato and Basil sandwich in the Making.” 🙂

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We harvested a whack (that is the technical term!) of rhubarb on the weekend. The scent of rhubarb pie, rhubarb chutney and rhubarb sauce lingers in the air as I write this. Yum!

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And in other gardening news, I was delighted to hear that Gayla Trail (of You Grow Girl fame) will be a regular columnist in The Globe & Mail. This makes me want to renew my subscription to the paper!

The Power of Art and, well, The Power of Art

I’ve recently been watching Simon Schama’s series, “The Power of Art.” Wow. Even though I am a huge fan of Schama’s work (Landscape and Memory remains one of my favourite books of all time), I have to admit that I was a little reluctant to give “The Power of Art” a chance. I knew Schama would do a good job of presenting the artists and artworks selected for the series, but I guess I felt a little uncomfortable with the selection of artists. They are all “dead white guys,” the canon revisited. “Haven’t these guys been given enough press?” was my initial response. Upon reflection I can see that was precisely the point — Schama is asking us to consider just why it is that these artists (Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko) have fascinated so many. Schama’s characteristic style coupled with some amazing cinematography (I can only imagine the size of the budget for these), makes for some pretty interesting viewing.

On a related note, Damien Hirst has had a good week. Hirst gets a lot of criticism for what he does, and may argue that what he does is not “art.” On a conceptual level I get his work, and I think his work brings a lot to debates regarding the meaning and function of art in contemporary society. However, what I simply can not accept is his continued exploitation of animal bodies. I guess if people are willing to pay millions of dollars for these pieces he has little incentive to stop.