While the world at large seems as unstable as ever, in my little microcosm, life has been relatively calm these past few weeks. In part, this is because I found out shortly after spring break that I received the grant that I had applied for, which will allow me to finish my dissertation in the summer. On the one hand, perhaps this isn’t a good thing since it prolongs the writing process–a process that I have long wanted to be over–but, on the other hand, it means that I don’t have to feel like a crazy person as the May deadline approaches. I can take a little more time and finish the project “in peace” after classes are over. Or in as much peace as is possible when the task at hand is filing a dissertation.

Of course, there is a part of me that is disappointed that I have 98.9% given up on the May deadline, what was claimed to be a realistic conclusion to the whole three year affair. But there comes a time when one has to accept that there are limits to what can be accomplished in 16 hours (I try to get 8 hours of sleep per night, which perhaps violates the graduate student code, but I don’t care. Health comes first and should always come first) and also that it’s okay to take a little more time. And, fortunately, I’m not talking another year here; I’m talking about another two months–two months that will be frenetic, but also balanced. Without having to teach, things will just move faster; more importantly, the fact that the end will well and truly be nigh will heighten the sense of urgency. The thing that was truly driving me crazy was the question, “Can I or can’t I make the May deadline?” Is it even the kind of thing that can be well and truly up in the air? Finishing a project is a conscious decision that requires focus and attention. At the end of the day, there’s just something so much more kind and sane about saying I will file by x date and knowing that that very thing is within your grasp.

 I started to wonder if this meant I should actually celebrate my graduation or if I should hold off until the dissertation was actually filed. After debating for a few days and then consulting my friends, the answer was an unequivocal YES. And I suppose this is the right thing to do: graduation is the formal marker of the end of my time here–the end of the coursework I’ve completed, the classes I’ve taught, my self-identification as a graduate student, the end of 7 simultaneously tumultuous, yet somewhat stable years. While I may hate pomp and circumstance and dread the donning of the hideous little robe and Harry Potter-like “hood,” I’m excited about the “after party” at a Persian-inspired restaurant in the city (see, I told you this obsession would last): Zaré at Fly Trap. The Greek, sensing my disappointment at my writing pace, comforted me, sweetly remarking that this just means we get to have two big celebrations. It just may be that the glass is almost full, rather than almost empty.

Some other interesting and exciting things of late: 
1) My radishes were a success! I’ve never successfully grown anything before (I have a purple thumb, as one friend suggested to me), let alone grown food, but now I’m wondering what’s next. I really have my heart set on lemon verbena and, to help aid my gardening attempts, Deborah Madison’s new book, Vegetable Literacy, which is all the buzz in food circles these days.
2) A professor of mine published this article and it’s a fascinating account of a real-life scholarly whodunit, which started with a fake encounter between Dostoevsky and Dickens and then turned into a rather complicated web of deceit via footnotes. It definitely shows the darker and more lonely side of scholarship. 
3) I’m really loving the new series, Restaurant Takeaway, in the Dining Section of The New York Times. I bought some bananas this weekend, hoping that they would ripen quickly so that I could make this perfect pudding.
4) Lately, I’ve been feeling that my apartment has turned into an aphid war zone thanks to our CSA box. While I love the idea of eating seasonally and the farm to table movement (although, truth be told, I never want to see another butternut squash…at least until the fall), I’ve had a hard time accepting the occasional bug in my carefully prepared food. This doesn’t really bother the Greek, but it really bothers me, so we’ve been blanching all of our greens like crazy. I recently discovered, however, that, according to our farm, that there might be a better and easier way and, since maybe some of you are going through the exact same thing, I decided to share this discovery.

5) The strange and wonderful history of rhubarb, from political weapon in border disputes to prosaic symbol of spring.

6) To end on a happy note, I recently saw the Danish drama, A Royal Affair, about a royal love affair’s role in the birth of Danish democracy; it was fascinating. More importantly,  this fulfilled my thirst for more Danish drama, which I’ve sorely been missing since season 3 of Borgen has yet to air in the US. I should also mention that, if you’ve got some free time and want quality television in your life, Borgen is now airing again on LinkTV. I promise that you won’t be disappointed!!

7) I couldn’t resist adding this one since I had a huge crush on the author in college; my crush stopped precisely when one of my friends convinced me he was gay and also when the crush went off to the Czech Republic for a semester abroad. Naturally, I then forgot all about him, remembering him only occasionally over the years. I always wondered if my friend’s instincts were right though, and, upon reading the article, it turns out that in that elevator in Schapiro Hall, a great misunderstanding took place. It hardly matters though, since all’s well that ends well: I’m more than happy with the way my life has turned out up until this very moment. But, nevertheless, a quick word to the wise: ladies, do not be led astray by your friends.

8) If you happen to have some late season pears on hand, this pear crisp makes for a refreshing spring dessert (as featured in the top photo). 

Until the weekend, when there will be cake!!

8 thoughts on “Lifeline

  1. Congrats on the grant! I know you'll appreciate a bit of extra time 🙂 And thanks for the all the lovely links — off to check out a few of them now…

  2. Hurray for all these things! I so know the feeling of itching to be done, but I really think this grant is the best of all possible worlds. It will give you some time to finish without feeling frazzled by teaching, but it also has an end date. And hurray for walking!! I wish I could be there to see it! I usually hate long ceremonies, but you can totally tuck a book into the sleeve of your Harry Potter robe:) Congrats on your radishes too! I have never grown anything to that stage of maturity/edibility!

  3. My mom grows lemon verbena and has made scones from it. Eh, they're okay. Keep in mind that it will need a fair amount of sun probably. Udachi with it!

  4. That is so true, Jess; two months are but the blink of an eye. I will do my best to enjoy this period of hibernation and creation…I know it's rare and valuable, but, when you're in the moment, it's just so hard to appreciate it.

    Love to you in PA, k

  5. That's a good idea–the tucking the book in my sleeve thing! I may just have to do that; there's still the small issue of who will hood me, but only time will tell…I was recently thinking I wouldn't walk after all but I guess there's no turning back now.

    p.s. I hope I can repeat the radishes. 🙂

  6. Hmm, I've heard good things about lemon verbena; I guess I was thinking of using it to infuse things like pickles and alcohol, but I'd be willing to try scones too. Thanks for the gardening tips!

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