June 2014

Books read in June:

  1. The Princess and the Goblin. George MacDonald.
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Neil Gaiman.
  3. The Princess and Curdie. George MacDonald.
  4. The Eye of the Heron. Ursula K. Le Guin.
  5. The Lowland. Jhumpa Lahiri.

Like last month, June has featured lots of time in airports and train stations. As ever, I overestimate how long a book will last me and find myself needing to buy a book in the airport. That is how I ended up acquiring both The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Lowland. My supervisor gave me the gift of Orkney by Amy Sackville, which I have already started… except, I have a week here in Vienna before taking another transatlantic flight back to the U.S. I feel I ought to make use of Elena’s library and save Orkney for the flight home, though I do hate setting aside a good book, even if it will be only temporary.

The Eye of the Heron by Le Guin was a book I bought from Half Price Books thanks to a gift-card Kelly gave me for my birthday. I was surprised to find it as used-bookstores tend to only carry books by Le Guin that I already own. Naturally, I snapped it up and read it in one sitting (on a plane). If you have read and enjoyed The Dispossessed, you will find that The Eye of the Heron treats some of the same themes, and, though shorter than the other novel, in a slightly more sophisticated way. Le Guin rarely disappoints.

Transitory

transitory, adj.
/’transɪt(ə)ri,’trɑːns-,-nz-/

1. lasting only for a short time; not permanent
2. of brief duration


As I was in transit from Praha to Wien, I thought about how unsettled I have felt this year. I was just leaving a weekend in Prague with Lola, a long-time friend and fellow academic and ex-pat. I have just finished my doctoral degree, she is just starting. Many of our conversations dealt with the Academy, our roles within it, our critiques, what needs to be done to pursue our respective academic careers.

One of the things I had planned for myself for this year after my PhD, and that I have been chiding myself for not doing, was to resume my study of French. I need it for my career. But, sitting on the train, reviewing my travels this year and for next month, I realized that this summer I have only been home in Texas for two-week snatches. The longest I have been in one place in 2014 was the six weeks I was in St Andrews for the latter part of January and February. Six weeks during which I was sorting, packing, throwing my life in boxes and stripping my house bare of my presence in it. Hardly a stable time.

Not only am I in transition – from student to unemployed, from living in Europe to living in the U.S., from living on my own to living with my parents – I have also been transitory. It is no wonder that I have not sat down to incorporate French study into my routine. I have not had a routine.

Come mid-August I might, I hope, will be in one place for a while. No plans for international travel in the near future. And yet I am overdue a visit to South Carolina, to Oklahoma; I have promised to be in Massachusetts in October. 2014 may yet continue to be transitory.

Leaving

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I am leaving St Andrews today, and the UK tomorrow. I don’t know when I will be back. My time here was, of course, too short – but it is better to leave a place wishing you had stayed longer rather than feeling that you stayed too long. Someday, St Andrews, I will be back. Even though I have lived here for nearly six years, I know that I have yet to discover in this Kingdom of Fife. There are hills I’ve yet to walk, paths I’ve yet to cycle, castles I have yet to visit, cafés I have yet to sample, people I have yet to catch up with, moods of the North Sea I have yet to learn. I am going to miss this auld toun by the sea.

True voyage is return. I will come back someday.

Until then, farewell.

Vivat academia!

Today I graduated with a Ph.D. in English from the University of St Andrews.

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That, my friends, entitles me to be addressed as Dr. and to wear a vibrant shade of blue.

IMG_0399It was a joyous day indeed that I got to graduate with both of my medieval office mates, Jen and Claire. (Of course, now we’ll be competing for jobs. Hm.)

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With my parents in St Salvator’s Quad and later recreating a photo I took when I graduated with a Master of Letters (MLitt) from St Andrews.

The ceremony was nice and I enjoyed graduating with fellow English postgraduates and seeing a couple of servers from All Saints and a friend from the Renaissance Singers graduate with their undergraduate degrees. It seemed like I knew almost a fourth of the academic procession (the academics who sat on the stage), which helped make a formal ceremony feel more personal.

Some student wore kilts, others wore traditional Norwegian clothing, and I, too, wore a bit of ‘national dress’. Once we were outside, I changed into blue cowgirl boots.

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Take that, Patrick Hamilton! (What am I talking about? Read here.)

So there it is. I’ve been tapped by the beretum, congratulated by family, friends, and strangers, received lots of comments about my boots, been stopped on the street to be thanked and congratulated for my wonderful thesis title, and eaten a lot of cake. It has been a long, exhausting, but thoroughly enjoyable day. Thank you St Andrews.

 

WIP: Teal & Grey Blanket

This week’s WIP is a teal and grey blanket:

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A friend of a friend was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I said I would knit her a lap blanket. She is being treated for it and the prognosis is really good. In fact, she’ll probably finish her course of treatment before I finish the blanket. I hope she’ll like the blanket anyway!

The pattern is a 2×2 rib loosely based off of the Wayside Motor Rug from Patons and Baldwins’ Specialty Book No. 102. I’m using US #7 size needles on a long circular and Elsebeth Lavold’s Cable Cotton yarn. I chose to use 100% cotton yarn because it is soft, washable, and wouldn’t irritate skin made sensitive by chemo treatments. The colors are grey (#22) and teal (#23). Teal is the color for ovarian cancer awareness and support, as pink is for breast cancer (and blue and purple is for RA).

Needless to say, I have been watching a lot of Doctor Who, and will watch quite a bit more before I finish!