Friday, May 1, 2015

Walking on clouds with Nancy

[Nancy, June 30, 1949. Click for a larger view.]

I, too, am walking on clouds today, giddy and more than slightly in a trance. After thirty years of teaching, I’m retiring. All semester long, I’ve been feeling like Bunny Colvin: “Five months to my thirty.” And then four, three, two, one — and none. Three final examinations next week, and I’m done.

Last things:

The final scene of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (1931), which ended a look at films that owe something to Homer’s Odyssey. Tramp returning, intuitive understanding: it’s the Odyssey.

The streamside scene from the Father Knows Best episode “Betty’s Graduation,” in a class that began with Gilgamesh. There is no permanence.

In an American lit class, the end of chapter 6 of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pnin. I am leaving academic life in very different circumstances from those of poor Timofey Pnin. What moves me most in these pages (which I read aloud): after a cracking sound, Pnin’s aquamarine glass bowl, a gift from his not-son Victor, lies not broken at the bottom of his kitchen sink. It’s a goblet that broke. The bowl still has its integrity, as Pnin has his.

I’ll have more to say about teaching and not teaching. But not now, not yet.

comments: 14

Geo-B said...

Retiring? We can do that? I wish you well.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, George.

Elaine said...

My experience: it is really hard (painful) to give up doing something that you are really good at.....

At the same time, although I missed 'my kids' badly, suddenly I no longer had the double burden of special education plus long-term-care paperwork--a gift that kept on giving, so to speak.

I miss teaching in the same way I miss our children's presence in our home--the routines, the familiar grooves of our lives and activities--I feel deprived and bereft. In saner moments I realize that my stamina and patience were waning, and that the luxury of going ahead and just Being Sick when a cold was coming on was freeing me from guilt and anxiety about failing to meet my obligations.

Word of warning: in the first flush of excitement after retiring, I planted way more stuff than I now feel happy about taking care of.... so, learn from my mistakes!

And congratulations on your retirement!

MK said...

Interesting ... I am in the same situation, but much more ambivalent about it!
As my kids put it to me: Congratulations!"

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Elaine, and thanks, Manfred.

The only planting I’m doing is of some cuttings from an enormous dracena in my office — about ten feet tall, too tall to bring home. I hope the cuttings take.

Anonymous said...

Moss Hart's Act One is suggested reading, if you haven't done so. Part of the takeaway from this autobiography was that there is another act to follow, so laugh and be merry. Or Michael.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Anon.

Berit said...


A Big Change is coming for you.

Are you good at them? I'd like to be. Or is it that I'd just like to feel like I can be?

I'm looking forward to hearing your More Later.

Michael Leddy said...

I hope I’ll be good at it. I had a conversation about it the other day and realized, heck, marriage was a big change too. This one too is a change I’ve chosen, and it too feels well timed. A marriage can go on and on, but for teaching, thirty years (more, counting grad-student days) seems like enough.

Fresca said...

Oh, wow, I just now read this post closely and see it's an Announcement.
It seems the time is ripe for this change---lucky you! That's wonderful.
I look forward to hearing more about how retirement unfolds for you.

Broken bowls...
You know James Merrill's poem "The Broken Bowl"?

"What lets the bowl [broken]
Nonetheless triumph by inconsequence
And wrestle harmony from dissonance
And with the fragments build another, whole,
Inside us, which we feel
Can never break, or grow less bountiful?

Love does that. "

Michael Leddy said...

No, I didn’t know that poem, but now I do. Thank you for that, Fresca, and for the good wishes.

Geo-B said...

Do not go gentle into that, good knight!

Jim and Lu K said...

As the Roman orators used to say:
Ave atque vale, Magister.

(Of course, they usually said it at funerals...but we won't go there just yet!)

Enjoy your retirement (I'm so jealous),

Michael Leddy said...

Or in Beatle, “Hello, Goodbye.” Thank you, Lu. I taught that Catullus poem last semester — I love it.