Early Morning Melodies

I am struggling with a rare bout of procrastination and I hate it. My refusal to procrastinate is honestly one of my only skills as a scholar and I live in fear of losing it. But right now I just don’t feel the inspiration that usually drives me into hunching over my computer for hours. This would be fine—the semester has started and I am teaching and don’t have a ton of writing time anyway—were it not for the fact that I have two conference papers and an article that are supposed to be done in….two weeks?! Jesus Christ I just looked at the calendar. WOW okay.

Finishing my book and then immediately going on the epic birthday trip and then immediately starting school, I am just not in the zone. I’m in a very active, Pentacles sort of zone where I want to do concrete labor. Also my old man just informed me that I end sentences with prepositions a lot, and that it’s irritating, can that be true?? I don’t even know how to notice such a thing. Man, when someone points out a writing quirk you have, and you had no idea, it’s really amazing. My book coach told me I use passive voice all the time and I was mortified, because that’s something I BELIEVED I cared about and would never do. But then typing “ed by” into the dread “find all” function in Word revealed the true extent of the darkness. And now this preposition thing, what’s next, dangling modifiers?? NEVER

Lord I teach writing at the college level and here I am ending sentences with prepositions. Just one of the many things that make me feel like a turd. Is “turd” a fuckin’ preposition??

I’ve read that we’re supposed to say “climate catastrophe” instead of “climate change,” because that “change” is kind of passive, it implies something natural and fine, something that we’ll sort of just have to adapt to, when in reality the world is basically ending and it’s our fault. So lets all make that switch in our lexicons! Doing our part lol. Last night in lecture I asked the students how we can prevent ourselves from submitting to nihilism. They didn’t know what nihilism meant. I defined it. They were like “people feel that way?????” So

My friend gave me 10 pounds of damson plums, which is a lot of damson plums. I googled “preserving damson plums” and there were so many results that were blog posts that began “my friend gave me 10 pounds of damson plums, what the heck am I supposed to do with these?” It turns out there are five things you can do with damson plums and I did 4.5 of them: you of course can make a nice jam; you can make sloe gin; you can make something called slivovitz; you can pickle the plums; and you can make shrub out of the leftover picklin’ brine.

I began with the pickling, which took 4.5 pounds of the plums. You make a thick wild syrup out of vinegar and sugar and spices and then you dump the plums in and let ’em boil for a minute. Then you ladle plums and thick syrup into jars and seal the jars. You’re supposed to let them sit for “at least six months” before eating! To which I say: lol.

Then when the brine was cool I poured it into some decorative jugs I got at an antique store, and now I have shrub, which is a thick medicinal drinking vinegar you can make cocktails with. So far I have not yet successfully made a delicious cocktail with it but I am trying.

Then I made jam, which took another 4 pounds. This was a huge pain because halving and pitting damson plums is a real bear, as they are almost as small as grapes. I did this chore for ages while my old man read me the newspaper and we mercilessly made fun of the vice president of our town council, who is a professional idiot and fool to boot. When the plums were halved and pitted, I poured in many cups of sugar and lemon juice, stirred it into a thick globby mess, then covered it and let it sit for 24 hours in the fridge.

With the pounds of plums that were leftover, I made gin and fake slivovitz. The gin is easy, you just prick the plums, put them in the gin, and add a ton of sugar, and apparently in four months that will become “sloe gin” and you can make things like “dented sidecars” and “sloe gin fizzes.”

Slivovitz is an actual proper fermented wine made from the skins of damson plums. But at this point I was like hell no, so I just dumped the rest of the plums in a jug of vodka and will simply refer to it as slivovitz.

The next day it was time to can the jam! All you do is boil it for ages until it gets as thick as jam. It makes a huge, spectacularly colorful mess, all over your kitchen, the walls, everything. Even though I have one of those splatter guards. Then you pour it into half pint jars and water bath can them. After all that labor it only made 4 li’l jars but at the same time, that’s probably like 2 years’ worth of jam for my family (not big jam-heads, us).

I truly felt the satisfaction of an old timey farm woman. The Lord gave me a bounty of some food stuff and I figured out a way to put it all up. To be fair it is mostly in booze form but still.

You know what I wish I’d done is dried some of them and then tried to bake them into a loaf of bread, don’t you think that would be good? It’s too late now.

Does anyone have advice for what to do if you have a dog you love a lot, and your house gets really cold at night during the eastern winters, and your dog is skinny and short-haired, but also crucially he is too stupid to know how to use blankets or crawl into one of those dog beds with the top on it? Is the only option to bite the bullet and get one of those bourgie heated dog beds that then you have to also worry will catch on fire? All suggestions welcome. It’s just that he’s not getting any younger and I hate thinking of him shivering all night with his achy joints. That’s a young man’s game for sure. One time last winter we tried letting him sleep in bed with us, but we have a full size bed only, and he is leggy and pushy, and it didn’t work for any of us.

Speaking of, I have learned that most adult middle class/-aged people, particularly couples, have beds larger than full size. This has never occurred to me, to get a bigger bed. How did I miss this? I didn’t know this was A Thing. I see now that all these people who sleep in a bed with their partner plus two dogs must clearly have a king or at least a queen size bed. When did they make the switch? My old man and I actually slept in a TWIN for about four years; for us, moving up to the full felt so luxurious I suppose we have never gotten over it. And now our bedroom isn’t big enough for a bigger bed anyway, so I guess that’s that. Anyway the dog can’t sleep with us for a number of reasons, is what I was saying.

I’ve entered the phase in a person’s life where they start waking up naturally at 5:30 a.m. and just getting on up and making coffee and getting to work. I don’t really mind it—I actually like being up in the pitch dark when everyone else is still snug in their beds. Currently it is 6:28 a.m. and I am in a bathrobe. Last night was the first frost and it’s finally getting chilly here. I’m worried about my kombucha, which similarly I think I’m supposed to get a heated mat for. So many heated mats! What did people do before heated mats? I know in olden times women used to sleep with their sourdough starters, to keep them warm. Maybe we just have to start piling everything into the bed with us: sourdough, kombucha jug, dog. It could work!

FYI there is a wood chipping business a couple blocks up from our house and they start wood chipping every day at 6:30 a.m. on the dot, as I now know from my new reverse vampire morning life. 6:30 seems so early, not only for work that causes such an enormous amount of loud noise, but just for work generally. Are there that many woods to chip, that these dudes have to start at 6:30 a.m.?? Anyway there are always articles in the paper about how the neighbors complain but the wood chip guy is like FUCK Y’ALL

Guess what now it’s a week later and I am awake at 4:30


I lay there for so long thinking “please just let it be 6:00 or almost 6:00.” NOPE

Do you know the Stephen King novel “Insomnia?” It’s about old people who wake up earlier and earlier and earlier no matter what they do, until they’re like going to sleep at 9:00 p.m. and waking up and looking at the clock and it’s 9:02 and they are like “I am ready to die now.” I am scared I am beginning this journey. Why would someone wake up at 4:30? I’ve been waking up before 6:00 for months now but this is a bridge too far, I simply can not tolerate this sort of thing.

Someone on the internet says that “women transitioning through midlife” (ugh) often have this kind of insomnia. The long list of possible solutions is all stuff I already do. So that’s that! NEW LIFE

It’s surreal waking up that early for no reason and starting your day. Now it’s 5:30, I’ve been up for an hour, and it’s still pitch black outside. It’s also fun (not) because regardless of what time it actually is when you get up, to the dog it’s always “breakfast time,” so here we are at 4:30 and the dog is doing his Breakfast Dance and I’m like trying to shush and shoo him away from the bedroom door where my poor husband is trying to continue sleeping like a normal person. I give him breakfast just to shut him up; then he goes immediately back into a deep sleep. Currently I’m sitting here in my underwear, wrapped up in a poncho my mom got in Guatemala in 1970. I’m in my office in the pitch black dead of the damn night, the dog is snoring in his chair under several blankets. Feeling okay. I can do this! DO WHAT??

– write this STUPID paper I DON’T WANT TO WRITE
– email this student back about a question about time signatures they asked me
– stare fretfully out the window into the darkness thinking about all the ways I am failing in my career and as a person

My mom got this poncho on this Guatemala trip that is part of our family lore. She and my dad apparently broke up for awhile before getting back together and having yours truly. This blows my mind, as they really are so sympatico as a couple, and they yearn for one another when they are apart for longer than 12 hours. But apparently they went through a rough patch at the very beginning of their marriage and my mom was like “see ya” and trotted off to Central America with her best friend. She claims not to remember how long they were down there but it seems like it was months. They worked for awhile at a home for profoundly disabled people, they worked as waitresses, they took crazy all-night bus rides along cliffs and dirt roads. And somewhere along the way my mom acquired this poncho. Which I’d never seen before in my life, but then the other day I said “man I wish I had a poncho” and four days later this one showed up in a package. So you always learn new things about people.

One thing that is so charming about parents–mine anyway–is how little they value these wonderful heirlooms that you yourself fetishize and covet. This poncho is such a cool artifact of what is, to me, a very compelling time in my mom’s personal history, and she’s had it for over forty years! But then she’s like, oh this old thing, you can have it, take it to Goodwill if you don’t like it. One time I mentioned flippantly how I would enjoy having her wedding ring after she died and she goes “well you can have it NOW!” and started trying to wrench it off her finger

The stack of unread New Yorkers is ten feet tall. I am getting sick of the New Yorker. I wish David Remnick would honestly just shut the hell up. I’m sick of New York generally. Stop talking about it. We get it, it’s a big-ass city with all kinds of cool stuff going on. It’s also full of shit about itself. What are these restaurants that are in a phone booth and it costs $100 to get a seat and all they serve is local duck eyeballs or some shit. Jesus take the wheel! Every other thing you see in the New Yorker makes you feel like, welp, I guess I hope the world ends sooner rather than later. Some fashion show where everyone looks like an extra from Tommy. Some cutesy blurb about some idiot taking a cab somewhere. Lord. But then right when you’re going to finally cancel your subscription there’ll be some hardcore 20 page article about how intuition works or where chalk comes from and you realize you can never truly hate the New Yorker.

Everything That Is On My Desk Right Now:
– stack of Voyager tarot cards
– small arrangement of crystals and a shark tooth
– salt candle holder
– roughly six post-its with things scribbled on them (“J BA ensemble requirements?” “send review sheet to everyone” “’making the world a better place’ slides”)
– very very truly sad “note to self” written on an index card about how to become tougher at work (“smile and laugh less”)
– stack of French flash cards I never look at but ritualistically keep on my desk at all times
– reading list about “innovation” as a cultural value
– two pads of post-its
– coffee warmer with Titanic replica coffee mug on it
– old piece of paper with “TRUMP THOUGHTS” written on it then a bunch of notes about my project w/r/t the election; notes aren’t super helpful but they are still sitting here and have been for about 2 months
– stack of four notebooks: I use these hardcore Leuchturm notebooks that are made in Germany and I use them for my research notes and currently they are all out, stacked in chronological order, and looking at them gives me great pleasure
– pen
– dish towel
– hairpin
– headphones
– piece of paper with timings for teaching Stairway to Heaven
– stapler
– variety of incense
– owl-shaped incense holder
– New Yorker cartoon showing a bunch of people stepping into coffins and one guy is saying “what do you think of the new cubicles?” which I clipped out because it is an illustration of something Théophile Gautier wrote in 1841
– Used-up scented candles
– My phone
– Stack of unread New Yorkers and issues of Dissent
– My other, less special notebook where I take notes at conferences
– Bell Hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
– Angela McRobbie: The Aftermath of Feminism
– Other books on feminism. I’m trying to develop an idea and am supposed to be reading these books but so far I have not been
– Lighter (for the incense)
– My parents’ mailing address on a post-it
– “Tension Tonic” roll-on tincture I got in North Carolina

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2 Responses to Early Morning Melodies

  1. dv says:

    I got to the point about New York and thought, “She has caught up to me w/r/t being sick of New York.” Then I kept reading and you used “w/r/t” and it felt like a strange coincidence, because I don’t use that term often.

  2. Cole says:

    Get your Snoop one of those little portable electric fake fireplace thingies and park it next to his sleepin’ spot. He’ll stay warm.

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