Right about now we all wander the halls saying to each other, "April is the cruelest month," as if no one has ever heard that before. But I wonder if that is just history departments, and whether in English they just start throwing things at you if you say something that dumb? Those of us who went to Oligarch back in the day sneak up on each other and whisper, "Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote..." and crack up. They probably don't do this in English departments either, even Oligarch alums, but for historians and other social science types it's a funny memory of the Path Unchosen on the way to the Ph.D. Oh, the English Lit. degree that might have been.
Anyway, to use another corny metaphor, this is when the chickens come home to roost, guys. Pre-registration for next year; recommendations for study abroad (hint to new profs: everyone who gets the application in on time gets in, and all they want to know is that the student isn't bonkers); applying for visitors for next year; applying to fill lines next year; getting your NEH grant in; helping students finish honors theses (to line edit or not to line edit -- that is the question); evaluating finished honors theses; two more assignments to grade; helping students figure out how to finish the class in a respectable way when the first two assignments didn't go so well; student demonstration (hint to new administrators: if it gets warm early, there will be student activism); meeting about things we forgot to meet about all year; getting courses into the curriculum for the people we just hired....and so on.
And meanwhile, there is still the garden to get in. One of the most dramatic ways my life has changed in the last fifteen years, as I progressed from probationary newbie to full professor/Drag King of the World has been less and less time available,not just for gardening, but for talking about gardening. For the first five or six years after I came to Zenith, there was a group of us who tracked each other's gardens with great care. We swapped seeds, we discussed mulch and cold frames, we talked about whether it really made sense to plant the peas on St. Patrick's day, given how wet our springs are in Zenith. We left overgrown surplus tomato seedlings on each other's doorsteps. We commiserated with each other the years that we did plant the peas on St. Patrick's day, and it worked, and then a late April windstorm destroyed the trellises and the vines that were on them.
Screw common intellectual life: it was a really nice way to know people that seems to have disappeared along with those dinner parties where we sat up half the night drinking and dishing, and still came in the next day and taught, goddammit. Mary McCarthy coulda written about it.
Now of course, we live hither and yon: some of us have summer places, so planting a New England garden no longer makes sense; all of us have more work every spring than we can hope to know what to do with. And some of us have children who are old enough to go to college next year. But you know, every time there are complaints about how Zenith has frayed as a community, or how we have to do some kind of structured activity so that we can cohere as a community, or what have you, what I really want to say is, "Look. We have too much work. Way too much work. Maybe we need fifty more faculty lines; maybe we just need to spread out the work more fairly among the people who work here already. But you know what? We used to plant gardens in the spring...."
Zhang, "Cultural Paradigms in Property Institutions"
17 hours ago