Sad farewells

Brief report from my house on things falling apart, or Why I Hardly Post Anything of Substance These Days. New medical problems — no serious details now, but a symptom of one is enormous exhaustion, so sleeping 10 to 12 hours a day, so not getting much done; and my hands all painfully seized up with arthritis in a terrible flare-up. But yesterday I had some remission and could slowly say farewell to my succulent garden. And then, later, could take some time at the computer slowly clearing out a chunk of a giant iceberg of unanswered e-mail going back to 2009 — a Monument of Things Undone, things that will never be done.

There are squirrels on your patio. Wicked squirrels. Another long story, in which new generations of squirrels appear in Arnold’s Window World, jockey for dominance and sex, covet all the seeds and nuts in the universe, and endlessly practice trying to climb the glass window to reach the bird feeders in the sky. Failing at this last task makes them petulant, so they run around terrorizing other squirrels, knocking things over, and chewing stuff (like the wooden patio furniture, the fencing, and, alas, some of the plants) in aimless anger.

They avoid gnawing on some of the plants — the cymbidium orchids and the pelargoniums (“geraniums”), though they do dig some of the latter up to plant nuts in their pots, for future hard-nut times — but succulents are apparently wow-delicious. I once had a very nice succulent garden. Eaten to the ground again and again by the squirrels. Never dying — supported by strong root systems — but enduring a sad, ratty-looking death in life.

A sampling of my succulents as of 8/8/18:

(Discussion of these plants in my 9/1/18 posting “An explosion of succulents”.)

Not pictured here: the one succulent that’s survived: a cluster of aloe veras in a little pot. If they hold out a while longer they will send up one or more flower shoots, which will bear blossoms that attract hummingbirds. One hopes.

Otherwise, yesterday the remnants of the succulents and their root systems got chopped up and, with the soil in their pots, became top dressing on the narrow garden patch on my patio.

I was barely able to manage that, really can’t garden properly any more; we’re now in a terrible drought; and all those cymbidiums require frequent watering. So I am despondently considering getting rid of the rest of the flowers (after caring for them for 35 years).

But who would take dozens of unlabeled orchids (my labels got lost long ago, in other crises) in current times?

The Monument of Things Undone. I intended to clean up that pile of e-mail, about 10,000 items, I really did. In the beginning — this pile goes back to 2009, so it has heart-wrenching things like my colleague Ivan Sag’s announcement that he had cancer (which eventually killed him) in it — I negligently allowed announcements of talks and faculty meetings and other academic mayfly mail just to pile up, without cleaning up the corpses as I went along, so such stuff is mixed in there with things I really should have replied to, followed up for blogging, and so on. But now I’m just deleting some chunk of stuff each day, not reading anything, not saving anything, not overwhelming Apple Mail with too many deletions at once.

I was alerted to the size of the pile by an unfortunate interaction between Apple Mail (on my Mac) and my attempts to install Cardinal Key software ensuring security in my access to Stanford systems. I hope to post some of the sad Cardinal Key story — it’s consumed about 20 agonizing hours of my time the last few weeks, plus the labors of several IT folks at Stanford. Now we might have to un-do everything and start the whole process over from scratch. I have been reduced to tears several times.

The most remarkable part of that story is that the sticking point seems to be that the Stanford system cannot cope with a professor who uses their own computer (as opposed to a Stanford computer) in performing certain kinds of Stanford-related business — like teaching courses and accessing Stanford library-related resources, including consulting the Oxford English Dictionary online, which is something I do several times a day (or did, when I had time to do actual research and writing).

But that’s (maybe) for another posting.


4 Responses to “Sad farewells”

  1. Ruth B. Shields Says:

    It must have been heartwrenching indeed to get that email from Ivan! He helped me so much when I was an undergraduate and he was my advisor, even though I didn’t finish in linguistics. And heartwrenching to be closing down your garden. Sending you much love and many well wishes.

  2. Michael Vnuk Says:

    ‘Academic mayfly mail’ – very expressive, and poignant when one considers that there are some beautiful and important things hidden among the corpses. I too have about 20 years’ worth of emails that I haven’t cleared up, although not from academia. I don’t know when I am going to review mine. I wish you well in your enormous task. I hope that you can enjoy a long period of productive time after the task is completed.

  3. Bill Stewart Says:

    I had a very visceral reaction to this. It brought up a host of issues that we are both facing or will face over here sooner or later.

  4. Jill Beckman Says:

    As one whose own inboxes are too often bursting with undeleted (and too often unread) messages, this post hits a bit too close to home…and comes, ironically, just as I was getting ready to send a note your way. ❤️

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