notes from fields

image of the cover of a book "Naturalists Notebook" with a lizard on it

As a night owl, I really thrive when the days get longer. As a freelancer on the east coast, my circadian rhythm is also good news. Starting in late May I have been teaching an intensive class at the University of Hawai?i at M?noa LIS program which ends today. Intensive means students get three credits for six weeks of work instead of sixteen. So I try to make it count. They do a lot of work. Which means I do a lot of work. The class is asynchronous, but I still try to get us together in a Slack channel once a week. However, since they are all on HAST (Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time) and I am on EDT, we’re six hours off this time of the year. So we meet at my night time for ninety minutes and it works out okay. I’m glad I have this option.

The class is Tools for Community Advocacy and it’s all pretty much online. I’ve been asked to teach another class for them on Community Engagement in the Spring. I took everyone’s advice and asked if there might be a way to actually GO THERE for part of the class, even a half a week, and they said maybe. I like the idea of travel more than I like the mechanics of traveling but I like being “somewhere else” whatever that means at the time. And I like the state of having been somewhere. I like that I’ve been to all the US states. I wish I had been to all the Canadian Provinces. I’ve been following the Mayor of Yellowknife on Twtter. I’m going to Edmonton and Toronto in the Autumn (both provinces I’ve already been to but I’ll schmooze with people from up north I hope).

And, since it’s Summer (please see this excellent Summer Solstice page Matthew made) I’m now down in Westport MA, just another way I can be somewhere else. I’ve been doing the usual things, tidying, organizing, evicting animals and insects from the inside and feeding and watering them outside. I’ve been trying to get house projects done including getting the septic pumped, getting my old car out of here and plugging away at deferred maintenance. I’ve never been good at leisure time, so I decided to mostly redefine it. I know it sounds a little woo, but waking up and meditating can make the entire rest of the day seem like it’s going by at a more “normal” pace. I used to always feel rushed, now I’ve gotten better at determining my own role in generating that feeling and doing something else with it. I’m getting a lot of reading done. The usual open door policy applies if you’re in this neck of the woods. It’s nice here.

watching, waiting

red squirrel on my feeder

I have a lot of birdfeeders, maybe too many. We all know that the cat to person ratio you are allowed is N+1 (you can have one more cat than person in your house otherwise you risk veering into Crazy Cat Person territory; not judging, this is just math). I’m not sure what the birdfeeder ratio is but I think I’ve passed it. I have a few hanging “squirrel proof” feeders, a suet feeder, and two window feeders. All of these are visible from my office. There is another feeder hanging off my porch and a finch feeder that no one seems to like. All of these are full of prime sunflower seeds because I am a lady with a job and the birds all seem to hate millet anyhow.

In fact I was concerned that they might hate ME because they were scarce a lot of last year. I did the feederwatch so I could see my numbers dwindling. I chalk this up to some ancient birdseed Ronni gave me, an owl that was lurking, and hey it was pretty cold out. The leaves suddenly came out on to the trees this week. Which means birdwatching has taken a few sudden turns as well.

1. I can’t see all the birds all the time, and they can sort of sneak up on the birdfeeders, and lurk. So I see more birds because there are more around, but I also can hear birds I haven’t even seen yet. The trees are ripe with bird possibilities.

2. Everyone is starving, you’d think. This momma red squirrel is going after my feeders like it’s an Olympic sport. She sits in the windowsill and chitters at me. I think I’ve found the right weird set of noises to respond with because I can make her growl when she’s in a nearby tree. I think we have a relationship. She probably thinks I am coming to take her babies.

3. All new birds have shown up this week that I haven’t seen all winter. Aside from the usual suspects–chickadees, nuthatches (both kinds), goldfinches, juncos, titmice, woodpeckers and and cardinals–this week has also delivered rose-breasted grosbeaks, blue jays, purple finches, house finches, and starlings. And they’re all sort of chummy with each other, spending more time hanging out rather than just grabbing seeds and heading back into the trees.

Watching the birds for me is calming. Even the squirrel’s frantic machinations are calming. They don’t know who is president. They have some fairly simple concerns. They make nice noises and are pretty. They’re a reminder that the natural world is still somewhat functional.

finch on the feeder

explore

bed with quilt made out of running  t-shirts

Whoops, I missed April. I had a headcold. Unlike the one last time, this one lasted a few weeks. I blame sleeping in the same room as a hamster.

Since last time I’ve done some more traveling and am in an extended period of being at home. Well, except for maybe going to MA this weekend but that’s another sort of home. After I travel I usually upload sets of photos to Flickr. I do this despite all the reports of Flickr being basically adrift with a very small staff and a parent company which has been bought by an even more who-cares parent company less than a year ago. I don’t care, I’m going to keep putting photos there until I stop being able to.

One of my photos, the one you see above, actually made Explore. Explore is a thing, algo based I think, where images that are some sort of popular show up. There’s a new Explore every day. A lot of people look at Flickr to just see nice photos and so if a photo “makes Explore” it suddenly gets more traffic. This was true back in the day and it’s still true now. The photos do have a bit of samey-ness to them but it’s still a good place to go look at some neat photos in an ad-free environment. I was surprised that this photo made the cut though. I mean I think t-shirt quilts are cool but I didn’t think they hit some sort of zeitgeist.

So, the photo sets I’ve put online since I last wrote include

So, not much to say but a lot for people to look at. Things are good. Spring is mostly here. I am mostly better and staying put for a little while.

mini-jinx, mini-fix

I scored a 114 point word in Scrabble last week. The word was SEVENTY. On a double double, and then a bingo. Bam. I had a cold just after Town Meeting and a return from Montréal that lasted far shorter than it should have. In contrast, Jim has been sick an unreasonable amount with some sort of lingering crud so I haven’t seen him in a while.

What’s that, you say, you were on Montréal? I thought you were in Toronto! Both are true. Jim and I had a vacation scheduled to go see friends and walk around and eat food in Montréal. He was too sick to go. I figured I could stand to get out of the house anyhow. I had friends who had a friend who had a few cats that could use company and I hung out with them (friends and cats) for about a day and a half and had a nice drive up and back. Went to a new library and picked up some local library gossip. I’ve photographed 40 of Vermont’s 183 public libraries so far. Checked out a museum and got to use my Harvard Library card to save myself $10 (it’s almost like it was a paid fellowship!). Went to the public library and tried to get help getting on wifi from people who spoke French as a first language. Interesting experience. Stumbled into a street fair and walked for miles in five degree weather, it was a good time. More photos under this photo.

image of Douglas Coupland art project

Lastly, I brought bagels down to Town Meeting which was the day after I got back. We have a little coffee hour before the meeting and I’d always fill up on cinnamon buns and then be all jangley and crabby through the meeting. This year I said “BE THE CHANGE, JESSAMYN” and brought something with protein. And so did other people. I wrote a little bit about my Town Meeting experience on the Harvard blog, it was a good experience. Between getting up for coffee hour and staying late for vote counting (and getting to tell my friend he’d won his election!) I had a 12 hour day being busy. This is not usual for me. More photos under this photo.

stapler with a smiley flag sticker on it_f0fce3e108_c

So I got home and crashed and stayed crashed for a few days. My positive self-talk is that I was snuffly because I hugged too many people and that is the story I am sticking to.

Next week I am working at an actual library (filling in for Virgil who got a new job!) and tweeting for a week the @ThisisVT account which is something done by the State Department of Tourism. I am also feuding with the State Department of Taxes so I am sure this will all be just grand.

trying not to jinx february

immer  grafitti on the side of a brick wall in Toronto Ontario

I’m exceptionally lucky in that I’m not too affected by the shorter days. I mean… I require more coffee, want to stay in pajamas longer, and probably sleep more, but I don’t wind up with SAD and am generally able to get out of bed with good humor most days. However I post less frequently to my blog in the winter both because I’m a little more low-functioning generally and also because I don’t want to say “Hey things are great!” and then jinx something. I am aware that this is superstitious so I figured I’d come clean about it. Things really have been okay and February is more than half over.

  • My trips to Florida and Toronto went just fine even if it was a bit too much travel for me (wrap-up on my newsletter, photos here)
  • I had a fly-by trip to Cambridge which went really well and got to spend some time with Jim. We found a new favorite lunch place where if you show up right before closing they give you all the leftover hash browns!
  • I kept to my writing deadline and submitted an article for Computers in Libraries magazine about some ways libraries could be using Plex a sort of Netflix front end for digital content. As part of that, I learned new software which is basically the librarian version of doing Sudoko to keep your brain limber.
  • I’ll be going to the CiL Conference in DC (actually Virginia), running a panel on small/rural library directors and giving a cybertour on mailing list software. Not glamorous work, but worthwhile and very enjoyable.
  • I made a MetaFilter post about a dead groundhog which is perfect.

Big things coming up include a visit from Kate, a trip down to Westport where we’re going to donate some of my dad’s old tools to the local vocational school here, and doing some more Wikipedia work for Black History Month. The usual, keep on swimming.

the music of solitude

home stereo set up

Wintertime is for woodshedding. For me this is a combination of catching up on reading (current title is an ARC about the North Pond Hermit), catching up on housework and home care, and catching up on correspondence (email, postal mail, social communication). I spend a lot of time busy usually, enough so that it’s a little hard for me to figure out what to do when I’m not doing paid-for work. Helen and Scott Nearing, when they were talking about their version of “the good life,” spoke of splitting up their day into thirds; roughly a third for vocation/wage earning, a third for the community, a third for fun and hobbies. Mine seems to go in bigger chunks: a day for fun, a day for community, a day for work.

Today I woke up determined not to do job-work and applied myself to more of the house projects here. I’m sure from the outside it looked like work. It can be hard to explain to people that, to a librarian, or at least to THIS librarian, putting things back in place is a deeply pleasing activity. So, I rewired the stereo, dusted all the bookshelves, found out when I went to put the iron back that there was already an iron there, hung up a few pictures and listened to some records. Yesterday I was the house manager at the Chandler for a talk by Amy Goodman and Bill McKibben, two favorites of mine. I got to help people find parking, help them find their seats, help the volunteers find their coordinators, help lock and unlock doors and keep the place running. It reminded me a lot of the work I used to do at the Odd Fellows hall and made me wish there was a little room in there somewhere where I could live. Jim was up before that and we went to VINS and admired the birds and I got to cross three more libraries off of my VT 183 list (Woodstock! Northfield! Quechee!) a list which is sort of slow to get filled out.

Wintertime is also for Wikipedia. I have more free time, enough that that if I learn a new thing (particularly if I got it from a print source), I try to add it to an article if it’s not already there. The next few weeks are a project called #1lib1ref, a campaign to try to get every librarian (or anyone really) to add a citation to Wikipedia to help make it better. There is a tool called Citation Hunt where you can look for articles needing citations in categories you are interested in. I found the five articles about African American Librarians needing citations and went and tracked down some sources. A lot of this can be done with some determined Googling and some Wikipedia-wrassling to get the citations right.

It’s more challenging finding citations in categories like this because history is often racist and the historical achievements of people of color didn’t make the papers in the same way achievements of white people did. One of the things that helps with this is libraries and the (Googleable) finding aids that they create. Not everyone can become famous for single-handedly recording 40,000 VHS tapes worth of TV news footage, sometimes you have to dig harder to make the connections and verify the claims. And all the while I got to do this stuff while listening to all my old records. Woodshedding may look like work, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

dull people have immaculate homes

photo of a closet, well-organized

My place will never be immaculate. As long as I have long hair, it will fall off of me and wrap around every piece of fuzz and create pernicious dustballs. However, the place can be organized. One of the great things about being underemployed is being able to really attack the mini-shameholes in this place. I live in 700-ish square feet. It’s a good amount of space for one person, but I have a grown-up lady amount of stuff including a full kitchen, set of tools and hobby equipment, multiple computers and laptops, ample book collection, and a guest bed. As much as I like to keep things in order, I’m not going for the minimalist aesthetic. At the same time, clutter clouds my mind, pulls away little parts of my attention that I could spend working or bird watching. So, every few days I pick a little part of the apartment that has been “silting in” as we say in my family, and take it apart and put it back together again somewhat improved. This week that included putting up a shelf in my kitchen that I’ve been meaning to do for about seven years. Yesterday it was emptying and refilling the hall closet, the one that is storage for coats, mailing envelopes and packing material, window screens and storm windows, tents, tripods, houseplant equipment, and birdseed.

Along the way there are assessments to make. Are you ever going to wear your seventh favorite scarf? Can you justify needing three separate tripods when you used your camera maybe three times last year? Does a raincoat need to spark joy, or is it okay if it just functions as a raincoat and you live where it rains? Tough questions.

“Jessamyn, just because those rocks that look like Vermont bring you joy, that does not mean you NEED to keep them.”

I’ve been swapping messages with an online friend who works as a professional organizer and she’s sent me links to a lot of interesting critiques of the recently faddish Kon Mari “magic tidying” approach which has been my latest hobby reading. I’m a big fan of “What works for you.” but we all know that “My way or the highway!” approaches sell more books.

Why The Magic Art of Tidying Up Doesn’t Work For American Women
A (slightly snarky) book review of the life changing magic of tidying up
The real reasons Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic doesn’t work for parents
Confessions of a Professional Organizer (I’m organized enough, and not one bit more.)

Ultimately while having a tidy closet will save me a little bit of time and a little bit of hassle, the glowing accomplishment of an offline project well done from start to finish (and an excuse to use the labelmaker) was the true reward here.