Seeing Derek Walcott Friday night was worth all the ferry and car traffic I had to navigate to get out to UBC by 6 -- an early start for an evening event, really. And I think it was also worth the hour plus of speakers we had to listen to before Walcott read for ten, possibly fifteen, minutes. The reading had been announced in the Books section of last weekend's Vancouver Sun, and although the announcement did mention that it was the opening event of an academic conference on Commonwealth writing (CACLAS, I believe, is the acronym) the public was welcome to pay $15 and attend. On that basis, it didn't occur to me that I'd be dragging my dear husband to listen to the current Chair, the previous Chair (who spoke for at least as long as Walcott read, probably longer), the university president, the chair of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize committee, and the introduction for the university president, for Walcott (understandably) and for the young Maori woman who sang (stunningly, beautifully) for us. Still, the Musqueam First Nation drumming and welcome speech, the comments by Jeannette Armstrong, a First Nation Okanagan writer, the Maori musician, and Walcott himself were all very much worth hearing, but wow! academics have a lot to learn about how to interact with the public. Couldn't help thinking they shouldn't have bothered inviting us (and getting some help subsidizing their use of the beautiful Chan Centre auditorium -- a "stately pleasure dome" if there ever was one, as one of the speakers pointed out -- if they weren't going to warn us that we'd be listening to business proceedings from the last conference, material better covered in an AGM, one might think.
As an academic who has been at those awkward opening events, it was interesting to observe the ritual of meeting and greeting -- those high-profile participants (my former supervisor was there and I got the big public hug) who tend to cluster together or be surrounded by acolytes, those shy folk at the periphery, trying to look comfortable with their glass of wine. And many, of course, happy with the opportunity to renew friendships with farflung colleagues.
As usual, observing the very ambitious, very published academics tweaks my sense of under-achievement or even inadequacy, and I oscillated between self-flagellation over my commitment to blog-writing (rather than more career-appropriate stuff) and determined defiance -- the time I'm spending blogging isn't going to get me published, but I'm not in a publish-or-perish institution. I'm a good teacher committed to keeping up with the research needed to support my teaching and I'm having more fun writing since I started this blog than I've had since I was an undergrad.
Anyway, enough about that -- gets boring even to those of us who "get it" and I suspect the rest of the world beyond academia just thinks it's a very strange concern -- why shouldn't one write what one wants to and do what brings joy in one's spare time?!
Other fun I've had this weekend: running! I had a good run along the seawall and I am starting to feel confident I might be able to get back to decent distances again. Maybe two weeks ago now, I decided to try running for longer stretches, altho' my physio had urged me to stay at four minutes' running, one minute walking. I've been starting with 5-1,5-1, then going to a 7-minute run and a 2-minute walk, and even to 8 minutes before moving back to a few 5-1 sets. I think the difference this makes is that I get to a point that I'm hitting my own stride and I've had less discomfort in either my right knee or my left Achilles, knock on wood. My short-term goal is to run twice around our island by the end of this week and then gradually add seven minutes a week or so 'til I'm back at four times 'round the island (approx. two hours' running). If all goes well, I'm hoping I can run the Fall Classic Half Marathon at UBC again this November. Cross your fingers for me!
While I was out running, I passed the walkers who were out on their Weekend to End Breast Cancer, walking approximately 60 kilometres over the weekend, camping out on Saturday night, each one representing $2000 raised to fight breast cancer. One trio of young women were particularly noticeable given the nude-coloured inset on the front of their white t-shirts -- the inset featured very lifelike breast shaping, nipples and all, for an amusing and eye-popping attention grabber. Made me think about the mammogram I finally had (first in over 15 years!) on Friday. The staff at the Screening Clinic were so warm yet professional and the whole process was so efficient and respectful. In the small room with the briskly-moving technician and the big "squisher" machine, I felt oddly comfortable standing nude from the waist up having someone poke and prod my boobs into the best position. Somehow it felt like a respite from a lifetime of having my breasts scrutinized continually for size, shape, sexiness, adequacy, bounciness, droopiness, and the list goes on. Here they were just what they were, one pair of the thousands this tech must have seen in all their variety over the years of her career. The momentary discomfort was really nothing more than that, although I do understand that many women find the process quite painful. Still, I finally went -- should you schedule your screening too?
btw, Derek Walcott is a Nobel-prize-winning Caribbean poet and playwright. I wrote my MA thesis on his long poem, Another Life.
also btw, I ordered a pair of boots from B2 (sold out since I spotted them last week!) -- more on those later.