Tuesday, April 21, 2009
In search of lost time
I'm in Houston this evening, here for my final round of thesis and dissertation defenses by grad students -- my last working day at the University of Houston. A very odd feeling, after a decade. I won't be walking into that familiar building any more,a 30's hall of offices and classrooms, the first air-conditioned college building in Ameria, I'm told, built of limestone blocks all marbled and speckled with fossils, the caught lives of ancient seas.
My ten years in Texas feel like an intricate, layered expanse of time, during which the program where I've taught has had several different sorts of atmospheres. And during which my relationship with Houston has shifted several times, too. I wrote an essay about the city for Smithsonian Magazine that tries to think about the odd ways it got under my skin, and made me start to feel at home in a place that isn't, on the surface of things, a place I thought I'd like.
And now I'm done, and wondering a little what I will miss. A certain chatty good-naturedness, exemplified by the people at Baby Barnaby's, my favorite breakfast place. Huge Gulf Coast clouds. My gym. Splendid conversations with graduate poetry students so intent on seeing into the workings of poems. The vegetarian tamales at Berryhill's. Knowing there's a small-but-immense brooding temple of Rothkos down the street. Sitting out by a swimming pool on a warm night in April.
I'm not sure why I have the urge to juxtapose this with the news story I read today about the discovery of a very well-preserved baby mammoth. A month old, more-or-less pickled by the muddy clay in which she drowned, and her mother's milk still in her stomach, after forty thousand years. Her photo's lovely and moving, I think.
Surely one of the pleasures of blogging is curatorial, placing things side by side.