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What We Keep

Turning the Sun Around

Among the pleasures of the holidays, we found candy and poems on our doors in the Hollins English department, just before the students left, offerings from someone unknown who nevertheless knows that a poem and a chocolate bar are just what you need to grade those last three exams.

We are making every effort to turn the sun around, lighting up trees and houses, but as soon as the lights come down I will start dreaming of spring, and especially of summer, when the grad students come back. Summer’s pleasures are many and sometimes surprising. Last summer the video for the annual student conference featured a cameo by Neil Gaiman, which an enterprising crew of grad students talked him into by lurking at the end of the book signing line at the Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. That conference rolls around again in March and we are already packing our bags for this year’s event as there are always a score or so of Hollins students and faculty in attendance.

Come summer we will have our writer in residence, the wonderful National Book Award-winning Han Nolan (and in 2015 Terri Windling!) who will read student manuscripts and give individual sage advice. Accompanied by our scholar in residence, the learned but compassionate Lisa Rowe Fraustino, who will read students’ scholarly work and give advice on turning that term paper into a conference submission or that conference paper into a journal submission. And for the artists and art-lovers, Judy Schachner, creator of Skippyjon Jones, will lecture and give a workshop.

Outside of academics, we look forward to the wild things: families of rabbits romping on Front Quad and the ducks who sometimes nest outside the faculty lounge in Turner. The great blue heron who fishes in the creek. And if you hang about on the bridge between campus and the student apartments you might see Ratty in the water. So far we haven’t spotted a boat or a picnic basket, but we are sure they are there. Read More 
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Thanksgiving meditation

Yearly we are told to list what we are thankful for. Some years it’s easier than others. But I find that I am thankful at this season for odd things. That we are not promised a world without sorrow, for one. There are empty spots in the line-up of the beloved, and it makes it easier when Sorrow builds her nest, to remember that no one ever said you were immune and exempt.
Thankful for the power of story, the gift given to artists – to take sorrow and make art.
Thankful for the twinge in the right knee because, not to sound too much like Pollyanna, that means the damn thing’s still there.
Thankful for the freight train snore of the dog at the foot of the bed; in Edith Wharton’s words, “little heartbeat at my feet.” Thankful that someone has finally clipped his toenails.
... for people who used to drive me crazy who I can now make use of in fiction.
...for the grouchy old coot ahead of me in Kroger who insulted the checkers, and made me look like a saint.
...for ice storms that keep us from going places that we didn’t want to go.
...and that so far the cat hasn’t climbed the Christmas tree.
Not a bad list.  Read More 
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