Josna Rege

504. Things are looking up

In Books, Food, reflections, seasons, Stories, Teaching on October 13, 2021 at 2:31 am

It was a horrible evening that was looking ahead inexorably to a horrible night. Grading, comments on rough drafts of student essays, and deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, as far as the eye could see. I was already sleep-deprived, and my eyes were burning and heavy with the dull pain of a bruise. They still are, but somehow, despite the long night ahead, things are looking up.

Funnily enough, it started with the stink bug in the hallway outside my office. When I stepped out to get myself a cup of tea from the thermos, there it was, looking young and sprightly, antennae waving airily. My heart sank; it was that time of year. The stink bugs were coming indoors for the winter and, with my luck, they would duly settle in amongst the books and papers in my office, one inevitably materializing on my computer keyboard during a late-night work session and strutting about as if it belonged here. I couldn’t face it, but sidestepped the issue and went down for my refill of tea. It was still there upon my return, but I shut myself into the office and huddled at my desk, insect-like, antennae well drawn in.

I should tell you that I’m starting to teach Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis in my World Literature class tomorrow morning, so insects and transformation were on my mind. After a few minutes of huddling, I could distinctly feel my exoskeleton hardening. I could allow this mood to get the better of me or I could do something about it. Taking a plastic tumbler from the kitchen and a square of card stock from my office, I stepped smartly out into the hall again and in one decisive action, swept the young bug into the cup, clapped the card on top, and deposited it outside the front door. It clung to the walls of the cup when I shook it, so I left that outside too; it might need the shelter overnight.

Back in my office I thought about what might relieve this sense of unending gloom. Thankfully, I didn’t have to think long. Today on my drive home from work I had stopped in at the Petersham Country Store and picked up a fresh loaf of locally-made, multi-grain sourdough bread. An open-face Marmite-and-tomato sandwich! Five minutes later, back at my desk with the same workload ahead of me, things are looking decidedly brighter. The stink bug has been dispatched to where it belongs; so has the Marmite-and-tomato sandwich. And oh yes, I chopped a small green chili onto the hot buttered toast before adding the other ingredients.

I wonder what my students will make of The Metamorphosis tomorrow, of a man waking up on a workday morning to find that he has been transformed into an insect overnight? For my part, I feel more human already.

 

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

78. October Rains

In Stories on October 8, 2021 at 11:45 pm

Re-posting October thoughts [from the TMA archives].

Tell Me Another

At last the long-awaited rains have come, first the traffic-stopping, roof-leaking, storm-drain-flooding downpours and now the steady soaking the plants desperately need before winter. I love this weather and all that it evokes: awakening in Darjeeling to the chill of misty mornings; walking to school on the Hijli campus, Kharagpur, launching paper boats on the torrents raging in the roadside ditches; rambling over Hampstead Heath along paths strewn with elfin-capped acorns and glossy horse-chestnuts bursting from their spiky, velvet-lined casings.

What about here, now? Here in New England these rainy fall days recall  mushrooming in the woods of Winchendon, canning the last of the summer’s harvest, listening to the weather radio for warnings of the killing frost. I see Maureen and me, heavily pregnant, climbing the long-neglected pear trees on Orchard Hill, Amherst, to make organic pear sauce, the first food for our yet-to-be-born babies. I see Nikhil making apple-and-pear cider…

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344. Tropical Botanicals

In Stories on September 22, 2021 at 4:52 pm

Re-posting a story from several years ago and longing for a return to tropical climes as the chill begins to creep into this part of the world. Happy Autumnal Solstice!

Tell Me Another

Rhizophora mangle, or Red Mangrove (mangrove.at) Rhizophora mangle, or red mangrove (mangrove.at)

Forty years ago, in April 1975, a group of us in the co-op house at university decided to go down to Key West, Florida for our Spring Break. We drove non-stop, getting from Boston to the northern border of the state in just 24 hours, and headed first to Miami. Unusually for college students on Spring Break, our first destination was not the beach, but, because we had a budding botanist among us, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Once there, we made a beeline for the area where the Garden maintains a small simulated tropical rainforest; visiting that hot, moisture-drenched paradise alone made our entire trip worthwhile.

Erythoxylum coca Erythoxylum coca (altoona.psu.edu)

Peter, our resident botanist, had inside knowledge about the Garden; he knew the exact location of plants that were not labeled for fear that they would be stripped and stolen. The plant he took us…

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