3 min read

Friday Open Thread (with Finished Things)

Tree branches against a bright blue sky, bursting with red buds.

Dear Friends,

On Monday, I paid my taxes; on Friday, I turned in the last of the grade books. Three courses taught, the work of some 200 students all marked, and term is officially over, very nearly flush with the Cruellest Month's end. I won't teach again until September at the earliest.

I cannot – or, let's be honest, would prefer not to – remember the last time I could stare down a full four months of time during which I would not have to do any work but write. It feels like an inflection point – a cusp, an open door. Months, and a summer coming on, and the beginnings of a path to walk through it, some milestones already set for me to meet.

These last few days I've felt a kind of simmering, a mix of anxiety and anticipation accompanied by a very clear-headed knowledge of how much work needed doing and how and when it was going to get done. Finishing it has felt like a series of small miracles, grace after grace, days that had more than one thing in them. I found myself thinking, Thursday and Friday, "I did all the things on my list," and hearing Wendy Cope's "The Orange" in my head, and then tearing up because I always do when I think of that poem and its last few lines.

(There's a symmetry there, too, which I only just realized, writing this: "The Orange" is the poem I open my introductory poetry courses with. To think of it at the closing feels good, feels right.)

Is there a poem that makes you choke up when you try to read it out loud?


I keep thinking of what I did this week that made me feel so peaceful, so complete. I marked exams, yes, but I also read books, and took my friends' dog for walks, and helped them build a fence, and baked bread, and went for runs, and watched very small colourful birds near the river: ruby-crowned kinglet, golden-winged warbler, black-and-white warbler, pine siskin. These things feel like treasure, and not just because the birds have jewels in their names.

I bought myself a Parrish Relics piece a couple of weeks ago, the words "oak" and "summer" in its title. It arrived in the post today with all the weight of a talisman: a reward for work completed and a signpost towards what I want to do next. I want to be seen in these colours again; I want to be outdoors again. I want to be in summer, touch trees and people. I want to write under the auspices of this good and beautiful art.

Close-up on a pendant made of antiqued metal encircling turquoise glass, resting in cotton batting. Covered in bronze patina, the circle of the pendant frames a stylized oak branch made of the same metal: three leaves point upwards and to either side, and between them grow two clusters of acorns. This figure is set over the turquoise glass. There's a turquoise glass bead dangling from the bottom of the pendant, and a bronze-coloured chain is visible above and below it as it lies flat.

Wishing you a safe and lovely weekend, and an easy route into May,