And that means it's my birthday.
I have decided over the years that I far and away prefer associating my birthday with Imbolc than with Groundhog's Day (although they are not unconnected themselves, actually); this may have to do with memories of being made to crawl out from under my desk in grade school to see if I could see my shadow. I don't know where grade school teachers get ideas like that, nor why they think that such a thing would a) lead to positive memories and/or b) not lead to major teasing throughout my remaining school years, but the upshot is that my general feelings vis-a-vis Groundhog's day are not the most positive.
Imbolc, though, that's another story. Here we are, at the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The sun is truly starting to come back. It's no longer dark when the girls and I leave piano lessons at 5:30, and I'm beginning to have faith again that the day will come when it's no longer pitch black when I leave campus on Mondays at 8:15. That's a good thing to remember when there are still fewer hours of light in a day than there are hours of dark. The wheel is turning, and will continue to turn, so I'll enjoy the light as it comes and remember that next year, I will once again be eager at winter solstice for a time of dark in which to rest.
Meanwhile, today's a furlough day, which means I got to start my day with a lovely walk with a friend, followed by some quiet time spent knitting and reading (knitting on the project that I cannot share right now, alas, but good knitting nonetheless). Then Rick took me out to lunch at Q'ero, which I do believe I've mentioned (whilst drooling on the keyboard) in the past. Love that place. Love love love it. It's been a peaceful day, rare and wonderful, and especially nice after a late-working Monday.
(Fair warning: Some of you expressed interest in the field methods class. This may have been politeness on your part, which I very much appreciate. The reward for your civility is more information than you could possibly want about the class. I'm sorry. This is what happens when someone makes the mistake of showing any kind of interest in one of my passions. Please feel free to skip this bit.) Last night we had our second field methods class, which went really well. Two teams of students were in charge of the elicitations, and they'd met with me last week to plan them all out. This isn't easy, as they've never had to develop questions about the inner workings of a language before, let alone follow those questions up with an actual plan as to what they want to ask a speaker in order to investigate those questions. It's the scientific method in action, but not everyone is comfortable with the idea that one must be simultaneously rigorous and completely open to changing direction based on new evidence when necessary, often on the fly.
I suggested that they start with something simple, and try to figure out whether and how nouns are marked for singular and/or plural, and whether those markings change depending on the role of the noun in the sentence. To that end, the first group developed a set of sentences around intransitive verbs (e.g. The wind blows; The airplane flies; The cat sleeps), and then played with the number of the nouns in the subject (e.g. Airplanes fly; Some cats eat; Cats eat; etc)(those, by the way, are some of the actual sentences that they used). They also elicited subject pronouns (e.g. I sing, you (sg) sing, she/he/it sings, etc), and found (to my delight and their consternation) that second person subject pronouns (you and y'all) distinguish between the very casual (to people younger than oneself and those with whom one is very close), the "regular" (used when talking to people who are one's peers), and the formal (used with those older than oneself, strangers, social superiors). My friend, the speaker of Bengali for this class, is a fabulous consultant, and is very aware of some of these kinds of forms in her language, which means she's good at providing the information the students need; it's a real treat to work with someone like that, and after last night, I think the students really realized how it makes their job easier.
The second group looked at the same kinds of issues for noun phrases which are direct objects, in sentences like, The boy hugs the girl; Some girls hug some boys; Girls hug boys, etc. We're already getting all kinds of neat information (like, plurality is only marked once; if the word "some" is in the sentence, the noun doesn't get the -ra plural ending). By the end of class, the next two groups of students already had some sense of what questions came directly from these data, whose answers should be investigated next week (for example, prounouns for object noun phrases), and some ideas for new areas of investigation (kinship terminology). It's a pretty exciting thing, even if we're all just wiped out by the end. The part that makes it the most unpredictable of any class I teach is that there's no way to tell from week to week what we'll find, and therefore what we'll need to cover the next week. One week's results lead to the next week's questions, in a way that's very organic, and which requires a certain willingness to be comfortable with log-rolling -- always trying to keep up with the bit of log that's under one's feet from moment to moment.
Which is probably a useful lesson for life in general, right? With that, I think I'll go knit a little bit more before getting the girls from school. Soon I'll be swatching for my knitting olympics project, and there will be some knitting that I can actually show off. In the meantime, happy Imbolc.