The unusual in the everyday

I’ve done little of consequence this Labor Day weekend — no travel, no big plans. Instead, I’ve been vegging outside, reading Middlemarch, drinking wine, and cooking the random kinds of meals that I tend to eat when A. is traveling, as he is now. I’m in my most ordinary environment — I haven’t really left my neighborhood — and yet it seems that I’ve been seeing things differently than usual. It might be A.’s absence, or the leisure afforded by an extra day, or the fact that I’m reading a 19th century novel instead of my usual diet of 20th/21st century fiction. I realized the difference most acutely when I saw these crazy green parakeets in a neighbor’s oak tree, swooping down to feast from a nearby pear tree. I work from home, so I stare at these trees a lot — and yet, I had only caught a glimpse of one of these bright birds on one previous occasion, and then I thought that I was imagining things. But now that I’ve associated the raucous cries that I hear all the time with these unusual monk parakeets lovebirds,[1] I realize that they must be in the oak tree quite often. They may even have a nest there. In the course of the afternoon, I saw them perch on neighbors’ balconies, trees, and fences, and even on the telephone wire right outside my apartment. And yet, I hadn’t ever really spotted them before today.


Perhaps I’m feeling more perceptive because I’m alone in my space, with more time on my hands than usual; perhaps it’s the shifting season, or even the way I’m slowly savoring Eliot’s prose. Whatever the reason for the shift, it feels like a good time to do things a little differently. For so many years, Labor Day marked the start of the new academic year, with all the excitement and stress and nerves that I see now in my Twitter feed. It’s been a couple of years since my year started in the fall, but it still feels like a time when the energy picks up and work comes into focus. Fall line-ups from BAM and NYPL are already out, and I’ve been eyeing the new books appearing in this year’s rentrée littéraire. I’ve been thinking a lot about the weeks and months ahead, especially with regards to SCI’s study, which will close in just under a month (and which was just profiled in this Chronicle piece). It feels like a fertile time for new work, so I’ve been sketching some project ideas with pencil and paper, distilling a few of the ideas that have been bouncing around my head while they wait for my technical skills to catch up. The sketches will get thrown away, but they’re helping me to think through where I want to go next, and I think physically working with a pencil and paper helped clarify my thinking. I may not have a lot to show for my weekend besides a few blurry photos of shocking green birds, but I feel refreshed and ready for things to come.

(Also: Middlemarch! I’m not quite sure how I went so long without reading it, but I’m enjoying it so very much.)

[1]Flickr user City Parrots helped me to identify the birds that I saw correctly: Agapornis roseicollis, or lovebird. How poetic!