LFH: I’m losing count of the days

by Sunita

I’ve been neglecting my blog lately, and don’t ask me how many days it’s been since we went into isolation. 40? Something like that. We landed in STL on March 13th, came straight home and the great sequestering began. So that was 41 days ago. Tomorrow will complete six weeks. It feels much longer in some ways and shorter in others. Mostly longer, though.

Yesterday I taught my last two Zoom sessions. It was bittersweet. I’ll miss my students and I’ll miss the structure that teaching twice a week provided, but I won’t miss the exhaustion, stress dreams, and wakefulness in the middle of the night. I read that everyone is sleeping badly now and having bizarre dreams when they do sleep. There are reasons for this, but no remedies. But last night we both slept reasonably well, and I’m sure it’s because we aren’t mentally preparing for the next onslaught of Zoom sessions. The cognitive drain of Zoom is so much greater than face-to-face teaching, or any other kind of meeting, really.

On the happy side of Zoom, though, I had my first two Zoom Happy Hours. One was a replacement for our semi-annual conference dinners (one of the conferences would have taken place this past weekend) and the other was a Blast From the Past get-together with regular drinking buddies from my NYC days (only one of us still lives there now). It was terrific to catch up, even though in both cases the conversations had their depressing phases. Higher education institutions are not in good places now and things are only going to get worse. And we (the Zoom Happy Hour people) are the lucky ones. We’ll still have our jobs in four months.

My university furloughed 1300 people this week, mostly from the medical side, but the Arts & Sciences furloughs are coming. Budgets are being reworked. And so on. There is just so much uncertainty. It seems highly likely that we’ll be teaching at least part of the fall semester online, but no announcements have been made. The possibilities include starting online and finishing face to face, starting the semester later, and probably other options I haven’t heard about.

Beloit College is going to split the semester into two halves and have the classes begin and end in a single half rather than having them all run across a normal-length semester. The idea is to reduce the number of classes students and faculty have to juggle at a time, and also to allow for an easier adaptation to a partly-online, partly-offline fall. I know the students are dreading having to take online courses in the fall, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them took a gap semester or even year. And that’s not counting the ones whose changed economic circumstances make paying tuition, fees, and room and board much more difficult if not impossible.

Gosh this is depressing. Sorry.

There are good things happening! My students and I agreed that even though classes weren’t what we wanted them to be, they were still worthwhile. Many expressed appreciation for the changes to our syllabi which took account of their varied and demanding circumstances. And they assured me that they had learned plenty from the course, even if they hadn’t been able to apply their learning through individual papers and projects. They’ve been using the twice-weekly worksheets to think about the topics in interesting ways, so they’ve had some space to be creative.

I didn’t get a TBR book read for SuperWendy’s challenge this month, which makes two months I missed. I just haven’t felt much like reading romance, and while I know we can read whatever we want (and I didn’t read romance in February), I’ve drifted away from challenges this year. I took note of the International Booker, Women’s Prize, and Best Translated Book Award long and short lists, but I haven’t had the urge to structure my reading around them. I even sent back library hold books when I got them and cancelled most of my upcoming holds.

All this is because I was already reading less overall this year (challenges turn out to make a difference in the amount I read), and then when the pandemic changes hit my time and inclination for reading fiction went out the window together. Both have slowly come back, but I’m gravitating toward old favorites, comfort reads (whether new or rereads), and 19thC doorstops. I picked up I Promessi Sposi again and started from the beginning, and I’m quite enjoying it. Manzoni’s novel has been enjoying a renewed popularity lately because it deals with the 17thC plague in Milan, but I haven’t got to that part yet. I’m still in the early chapters, and it’s very 19thC and operatic. Everyone has dramatic lives and interesting backstories and there is much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. It’s kind of fun. And Renzo and Lucia haven’t even started the bulk of their adventures yet.

St. Louis continues to be a manageable place to experience the pandemic. There have been way too many cases in majority-minority parts of the city and county, but the hospitals are still running below Coronavirus capacity and should continue that way. The dreadful governor and some idiot county officials are pushing for opening sooner rather than later, and we have our share of #Covidiot #teapartyalumni demonstrators, but for the most part people are being sensible. Workers have masks and other forms of protection, and shoppers and walkers are wearing masks more.

And it’s spring! We planted our annuals and some tomato and herb plants and are thinking about how to make our deck more habitable. We should have a brief respite before the hot and muggy STL summer arrives.

On the TV front, we haven’t been watching much, but we’re working our way through Star Trek: Picard so that we can finish before our free month is up next week. It’s pretty good, and for all my complaints about fan service I did love the episode with Riker and Troi.

FORMATTING NOTE: I’ve enabled nested comments so that we can talk to each other more easily. Our numbers are small enough that we shouldn’t run into problems and if we do, we’ll figure it out.