Sunday, January 02, 2005

Where I've Been and What I've Been Doing

I think I've finally learned how to vacate properly.

I spent the first part of the week in Massachusetts, celebrating Christmas with my family. It was fun and peaceful. Everyone in my family was pretty worn out from our various lives--perhaps a good thing as far as getting along was concerned. My uncle, two aunts, and grandmother came out for Christmas dinner.

I came back on Monday with my brother. We tried to go to the recently renovated Museum of Modern Art, but unfortunately it was closed on Tuesday. New York being a city of millions, there were about a dozen other people peering at the hours posted on the door, dismayed. So, we decided to go to the Whitney, but we passed Takashimaya department store first, one of my favorite places in New York City, so we stopped there. I've only bought something from Takashimaya once, but I love the place. You see, it's not like other department stores. Instead of perfume and handbags, the entrance opens into the florist shop, which smells heavenly and is serene, filled with little garden sculptures, absurdly expensive shears, trowels, and terracotta, and beautiful arrangements of flowers. On the floor below is a Japanese tea shop, where you can sit for a cup of tea or buy one of the dozens of exotic teas contained in baskets along the back wall. The floors above are filled with housewares, clothing, soaps, lotions, the usual. It's all too expensive for me, but it's the idea that a department store could be a peaceful and reflective place that draws me in.

When we left Takashimaya, I lost the Whitney. Yes, lost it. I've only lived here for five years, but when we got to 72nd and 5th, we found the Frick, not the Whitney (which, it turns out, is just a few blocks away on Madison... sigh). In the end, we headed to the Metropolitan and saw an exhibit on ancient Chinaa which was pretty interesting... it's fascinating to see bits of textiles preserved from 1500 years ago, and to realize that it was all handwoven. Leaving the museum, we made another New York City discovery: it's beautiful to walk down the main stairs of the Metropolitan Museum at closing time on a winter evening with a light snow falling in Central Park. You look down on hundreds of people moving slowly towards the doors. You look out through the windows at the snow and streetlights. And you see all the details in the design of the museum itself. I wish I'd had a camera, but then again, sometimes it's best just to see and remember.

We walked home through the park, through the snow.

The next day I put my brother on a train (or, really, pushed him out the door towards a cab to the train...), and then went to the Natural History Museum to see the Frogs exhibit. The exhibit closes this week, but it's absolutely worth seeing. They have dozens of live frogs - including lots of the bright blue poison dart frogs and the even more lethal golden frogs - and very helpful and engaging explanations of the anatomy, behavior, and environmental signficance of frogs. I really wanted to take my students to see this exhibit, but can't due partly to my own poor planning and partly because of the state testing schedule. I encouraged them to go and even told them they could meet me at the museum on Wednesday, but no one took me up on the offer (even though it was actually a student's idea!).

Most of the rest of the week I spent sleeping late, watching movies, and just... vacating.

Friday, V. called to tell me about his engagement. I feel like I'm watching a train wreck that is none of my business but involves people I care about and may, in some indirect way, have been caused partly by my actions. And that's all I can say about that here. So, I mopped the floors in my apartment and then went shopping with some money I got at Christmas - in the naive believe shared by so many of us that it would make me feel better - and then went out with really good people to dance madly to gypsy music. (All the other New Year's stories happened other years... I've had some fun ones, but overall New Year's is not my best holiday).

Yesterday I did nothing.

And today I planned the week's lessons. The kids are going to learn about how different body shapes, mouth shapes, types of fins, etc. help fish fit into different environments... and then they are going to design their own fish! I only started panicking - that wonderful last-day-of-vacation-ohmigod-I-have-to-go-to-work-tomorrow panic - a couple of hours ago. I need to plan a couple of health lessons and then go to bed. I've wised up some and no longer expect that I will plan the rest of the year every time a vacation rolls around. A week of good lesson plans seems perfectly reasonable, especially if I've soaked up the free time, caught up on sleep, read a good book or two, and spent time with family and friends. And I have.

And by the way - so many, many thanks to the readers who responded to my letter to Santa.


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