Thursday, 2 April 2015

Hiking and a Spring Update

Our semester is winding down, and spring is in full bloom in Huntsville. I bought myself a little time to write since I surprised my students yesterday by catching up on homework and quiz grading, and because I gave them a progress-grade report. I still have a set of papers rotting away in my Turnitin inbox (and another set is due on Friday), but right now these are my only obligations (other than lesson planning and meetings) for a while.

Spring in Huntsville is breathtaking. Everything is so green--like Indiana or Delaware--and there are flowers exploding into bloom everywhere. I need to take more pictures of the flowers, because they are lovely (and I forgot how much I love wisteria until I saw some growing in the wild area next to my apartment complex). When we moved here, people told us that Sam was especially lovely in the spring because the grounds-crew takes full advantage of the warm humidity to plant many flowering plants. Now I can see what they mean.

David and I have taken to hiking around Huntsville State Park, as anticipated. It rains fairly often here, so we take advantage of breaks in the weather on the weekends for hikes (the park is only 10 minutes from our apartment, which is fantastic). The park has a number of interesting trails, which cut through the tall pines and trip along the edge of a lake (these lake trails are sandy). We really like parts of the Chinquapin Trail best (we’ve also walked Dogwood Trail). The whole trail is 6.8 miles, so we usually just take on a piece. The park trails have lots of hills and roots, so we get a pretty good workout if we walk down a piece for 30 minutes and then turn around and go back.

Chinquapin is the orange trail; Dogwood is the blue trail.
On our first trip, we came on a very early spring day, which was misty and made the woods look eery. I love a good eery woods.

On our second trip, the weather was much the same:

Then we went last weekend on a sunny day (there were many more people on the trails, which was disappointing to me), and we went at that time of the day when the afternoon light is magical.

My second disappointment with the park (the first being the amount of people on the trails; I prefer solitary walks) is that we’ve seen very little wildlife. There are certain types of wildlife we have no desire to see (snakes and spiders and things which would eat me), but I would love to see an armadillo or another rabbit or a woodpecker. I’m already looking forward to winter, when fewer people will be around (in general, Texans do not like chilly weather).

We only have four more weeks of school at Sam. I try not to think too hard about what this means for my grading regimen, and I am instead choosing to look forward to the fun we will have this summer. My classes are going pretty well (even my unruly section), but teaching 90 students and grading over five sets of papers for each class is just a great deal of work. [Sidenote: Really, Texas needs to rethink its policy of “the more papers, the better.” Students need to focus more on revision and rewriting their work than they do on producing as much as possible].

I know this isn’t a super-exciting post, but as I’ve said before we really spend most of our time staying on top of work (grading, planning, reading, meetings), so when I get done with things I watch TV and crochet. One only has so much energy at the end of a 12-to-16-hour work day. We sometimes go out with philosophers (philosophers are the best), but the highlight of my week is usually going out to dinner with David once per week (or hiking with David! Hiking is my very favorite non-work activity).

But I should note that teaching is absolutely THE BEST, even though it takes almost everything I have sometimes. How lucky am I that I get to work with young minds and teach them how to develop necessary skills (writing/communicating) better? I also get to step into their lives for a bit and care about them, which is a privilege. Work-life satisfaction = achieved.