There and Back Again

In late January, Stephen and I took a short trip to Washington, DC. I was already planning to go for a three-day conference during the week, so Stephen decided to fly down to meet me on Friday night and stay for the weekend.

In past years, we've often visited the DC area in March, when Boston is still snow-encrusted and dreary but the first flowers are popping up in mid-Atlantic yards. It always cheers me up and gives me hope that spring truly will come again.

But this time we found ourselves there in the deep cold of midwinter, so we had to find our flowers and greenery indoors at the Botanic Garden. It was warm and misty inside, and even the relatively cool and dry desert room full of succulents and cacti was a welcome break from the blustery weather outdoors.

Looking at these (slightly blurry) pictures reminds me that the spring bulb show at Smith opens this weekend. We went last year and it was packed. The crowd was literally shoulder-to-shoulder, and we had trouble getting to the exit when the exhibit closed because there were so many people lingering in front of us. We New Englanders are starved for signs of spring at this time of year.

We also saw some greenery in our hotel, which had quite an elaborate courtyard. We had brunch in that little indoor "forest" down by the lagoon. Note the floating piano!


Snow Pro/Con

We've had a lot of snow this winter - 70 inches as of today. The average for the  entire winter around here is 42 inches, and we've still got two or three months of winter weather to go! The extreme weather has its benefits and drawbacks.


1. Snow days! This is my fifth winter in Cambridge, and my workplace has had one or maybe two snow days in all of the previous winters combined. This year, we've already had two, plus a handful of delayed openings and early releases. You just don't expect that to happen much once you're out of high school, but it's a nice surprise when it does.

2. New snow. Freshly fallen snow is so lovely, and week-old snow is so gray and dreary. It's been nice to have the fresh snow replenished so frequently this winter. The city looks clean and fresh and bright.

3. Extreme conditions. It's kind of thrilling to see snow piled higher than the cars, so high that you can't see over the snowbanks. The neighborhood feels like a different world with this new landscape.


1.Traffic pile-ups on the sidewalk. By "traffic," I mean pedestrians. I realize that I'm lucky not to have to rely on a car to get me to work, but the snow limits walkers, too. As more snow falls and there's fewer places to pile it,  the sidewalks get narrower and narrower, which means no more passing lane. If you get stuck behind someone walking slowly, you're stuck for good. And if you run into someone coming the other way, one of you has to "pull over" into the snowbank.

2. Flooding. Our apartment is on an upper floor, so I'm not worried about my stuff getting ruined, but the office where I work is slightly below ground level, and any melt-off leads to water running in under the front door. I once had a minor moat around my desk during the spring thaw, and I anticipate that there will be a lot more water coming in once the temperature gets above freezing this year. And here's the gross part: the rising water flushes out cockroaches looking for higher ground. There is no insect that I like less than the cockroach.

3. Dirty snow. As I said, we've had frequent fresh snows this year, but at some point the storms are going to stop and the snow will begin the long, ugly process of melting away, gradually turning gray and black and revealing all of the litter that was buried beneath drifts as the snow fell. It will be an extra-long process this year.



I love to make things, but I rarely set aside time to do so. I like to handsew and knit and bake, but I put those things off until some indeterminate point in the future when I'll have more free time - as if that's ever going to happen. This NY Times article that I found a while back ("Carpe Diem? Maybe Tomorrow") really hit home. Like many people, I procrastinate when it comes to fun things as well as pain-in-the-butt tasks.

Luckily, I have some friends who feel similarly, so we've started meeting for a biweekly "crafternoon" during which we eat pizza and work on whatever projects have been languishing around our apartments. Earlier this winter, I finished crocheting an afghan that I'd begun before grad school and then put away for three years. I've repaired and altered a lot of my clothes at crafternoon, and I'm finally nearing the end of a hand-quilting project that I began in 2006. Stephen recently finished knitting a mitten that he'd had on the needles since college! I try not to get too ambitious and stress out over being super-productive, though. Sometimes I just chat and eat pizza if I'm not in a creative mood, or I'll make us a banana cake for dessert and call it a day. 

I'm surprised at the extent to which this phenomenon has improved my quality of life. Instead of feeling overwhelmed when I think of non-essential projects ("When will I have time to re-hem that skirt? Never."), I just add them to the crafternoon to-do list. Now I just need to learn to set aside time for all of the essential tasks that I procrastinate on. I don't suppose filing my tax return counts as a craft, does it?

P.S. We thought we were so creative coming up with the term crafternoon, but it turns out someone has already published a book with that name! Oh well.



I really like school. I hate doing homework and having assignments hanging over my head, but I like learning new things and the sense of progress that school gives you: every lecture, exam, and paper brings you one step closer to finishing the class, and each class completed means you're a step closer to a degree.

Even though I finished my Masters program last May, I decided to take a molecular biology class in the fall, and I’m going to take another in evolutionary biology next semester. I haven’t taken bio since high school, and I really liked learning about the human body and going to lab sessions. The exams were really tough, though. I had to re-adjust my expectations of a “good” grade. But I'm undaunted! In face, I’ve got a whole long list of classes (epidemiology, negotiations, etc) that I’d like to take once I'm done with these. It’s like a hobby now.

I like that school moves in cycles, with high and low points of activity and new people coming in each year. That’s one reason that I like working at a university, too--the cyclical nature of the work--although it’s sad when our favorite interns graduate and leave town.

But I also like the breaks from school, the negative space around the semesters. As difficult as it was cramming for my lab practical and final exam in mid-December, I felt so relieved and light as soon as I left the lecture hall on the last day. And I really treasure the hours I have now, between the fall and spring sessions, to catch up on reading-for-fun and projects around the apartment. And sleep!