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2023 was a Moving Year

2023 was a remarkable year for me and Peggy. I retired from San José State University after 28 years in the saddle there. I am now a Professor Emerita! We moved to Rochester, New York, to be near family and assist my Mom, the inimitable Dolores, in her continuing glorious dotage. This move also means we get to live near my sister Clara and bro-in-law Rick. It is wonderful to have more time with our amazing family. Every one of them is striving and accomplishing great things. My sister Clara has joined the ranks of academia the past few years, teaching nursing at Nazareth University in Pittsford (her fifth major career change, at all of which she has been fabulous!). The move and our proximity to Mom also means that we see more of my older sister Mary and her husband John, too, to discuss baseball and history. I have seen all my nieces and nephews, and almost all of my great-nieces and great-nephews in 2023! Our family has grown in 2023 with my niece Miranda’s engagement to Tim Carroll, who is so much fun, and my great-nephew John’s engagement to Belle, who has joined our family book club discussion group.


This year has been the most productive of my recent scholarly life. Four book reviews are but the tip of the iceberg. It was the year of Digital Humanities (DH) for me, featuring a new close colleague and collaborator, Nick Szydlowski, from the San José State Martin Luther King Jr. Library. Together we produced a permanent DH project hiving off from my study of the Canterbury Female Academy by “reassembling” the newspaper that supported Prudence Crandall, The Unionist. Please visit the site, which offers both serious historical research and a few touches of whimsy: The Unionist Unified.


The BIG achievement, though, was getting my full-length manuscript about Canterbury to the publisher, where it is now in production! It will emerge into the world in about nine months…there will be a cornucopia of announcements and links as the actual publication nears. The title is Schooling the Nation: The Success of the Canterbury Female Academy, to be published by University of Illinois Press, in a series on Race, Gender and Sexuality in American History. The book relates the narrative of how the white woman Prudence Crandall (1803-1890, Connecticut’s official state heroine) worked to fulfill the agenda set by Black women when she opened her select Academy to Black students in 1832, then changed the school to one for Black women only in 1833. While more Black women from across the northeast came to the school, which was sustained by a coalition of men and women, white and Black, the school’s opponents launched a campaign of legal and vigilante intimidation which continued for the 18 months of the school’s existence. What I was able to demonstrate is that, despite the brief lifespan of the school, many of the Black students became leaders in the struggle for Abolition and Black civil rights, and that the Canterbury school was thus a success, and a harbinger for a better vision of what America could be.


I hope to do a lot of book touring with Schooling the Nation once it is out in the world. If you have a civic group, university campus, historical home, radio station – I will speak anywhere and everywhere about this. The idea of interracial cooperation, of following the lead of women and people of color, of understanding the high points of the past – all of these are important concepts in terms of helping us out of this morass in which we find ourselves as a society. We have lead time on this – looking to Fall 2024 and Spring 2025! I am not an expensive speaker to secure, either! I just want to get the message out there, and spark fertile minds.


In May my Mom had a fall that resulted in hospitalization and a very close brush with death. But she made a miraculous recovery, and now has entered into another phase of her life at St. John’s Home, where she regularly comments on how to improve the efficiency of the place. She has joined the resident council to advocate for herself and her fellow inhabitants! Patsy Cline visits her regularly, and has also found another phase of her career as a therapy dog, visiting many other residents along the way. But once she is with Mom, she settles in alongside Mom’s leg and sticks to her “pack leader” like glue. It is the sweetest thing.


Speaking of Patsy Cline, we have integrated her into our menagerie along with our cats Lyssa and Ipo. The animals are working out their own relation to each other. Patsy still begs the cats to play; they still decline. But some games of hide-and-seek-and-swat are being beta-tested. The cats have adjusted to apartment living; Patsy still has a difficult time figuring out why we don’t visit every door in every hallway.


It was also a year of painful loss, as three dear friends passed away far too young. Doug Pomeroy lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in August, after he had seemed to be winning the struggle. He was a birding buddy, a Sequoia Audubon board member, and spouse of our dear friend Donna. Steve Goldman, one of my oldest friends (from the late 1970s), a math wiz and sports statistics fanatic, condemned to a life of fandom for the teams of Cleveland (I am actually grateful now that Cavaliers beat the Warriors that one year, so that Steve could enjoy a title year for Cleveland), and an aficionado of pop music, died rather suddenly in December. Steve was actually for a number of years a voting member for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but really kept to the code of secrecy; now I will never know how he voted. Back at the beginning of the year, I heard that my profound and profoundly grumpy colleague, Dan Williamson, a philosopher and revolutionary thinker, had passed away only months into his retirement. All three of these friends were around my age, which of course makes their passing quite sobering. Here I am looking ahead to what I hope are more productive years and travel, and they were deprived of all similar potential. But each of them lived full lives and did much good for the world, and had been recognized for their achievements by those who knew the work they had done.


My cousin David Malosh also died this past year, and Peggy and I were able to drive to Detroit to attend his memorial and visit with that branch of the family. His widow, my dear cousin Mary, and her three children, my cousins Kiffi, Kamala and Raj, their spouses and children, all welcomed us warmly. I learned of dimensions of my cousin David I had not known, including his interest in Bonobos! Despite the sadness, the vision provided of a life well-lived, the chance to see the family and reconnect (including my other cousins Dan and Carolyn and their dad John), made for a memorable visit.


We continue to bird and naturalize. While Jennifer has left her duties as president of Sequoia Audubon Society and board member of numerous Bay Area organizations, the impulse to organize walks and bioblitzes, to get folks out in nature, has not waned much. Here comes Rochester for the City Nature Challenge in 2024. However, the numbers were low this year  only about 250 bird species seen, and no new “lifer” species. This will change in early 2024 as we head (with our friend Donna) to Japan for the winter specialties of that remarkable land. I’ve only been to Tokyo before – this trip will take us to the Japanese Alps, the Sea of Japan, Kyushu and Hokkaido! There will be lichens, and mythical birds like sacred dancing cranes and owls that fish nocturnally.


We are happy and healthy, but of course we are in despair over the state of the world and of the United States. The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East are such horrifying wastelands, destroying human lives, peoples, cultures, and security. The need for a world order where justice and peace prevail, where we recognize each others’ full humanity, and share resources, has to be pursued more urgently than ever. Likewise, the destruction of the planet’s atmosphere weighs daily on us. As birders and naturalists, we can see an accumulation of small signs that point to changes in climate – or we can read about the massive storms and the destruction they wreck in the news. It is time to live as if we all loved life, all of it, human and animal and plant and lichens, as if we really meant it. It is a core principle of mine that giving our attention to anything generates love through that attentiveness.


The only place where this core principle is violated is with the likely Republican candidate for POTUS. He must be stopped from regaining the presidency he already damaged, because this time he would destroy it for sure.


Miscellaneous items –

1.     We have a family book club in which my mother participates. She has become quite an avid reader! This is my sister Clara’s great idea. WE meet about once every six weeks via ZOOM – Mom gets to see her far-flung children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren, and reading the book in time gives her an assignment to complete. I recommend this as a method for family togetherness – clone this idea!

2.     Peggy and I both have years-long streaks on the language-learning app DuoLingo. She is working on Spanish; I am working on Portuguese and a few words in Japanese. We enjoy it.

3.     In addition to our cross-country move, I also moved out of my office at San José State, and our family sold my Mom’s house, which meant moving all of her stuff, too – much of it distributed, to her great pleasure, to family and friends and needy young people just starting their careers, etc. So it was a year of moving, which naturally leads to longish reflections like this.

4.     Our sports teams did not win it all in 2023. But perhaps the Buffalo Bills will come through in 2024, and we’ve been attending the games of the local minor league hockey team, the Rochester Amerks. Even though our beloved Golden State Warriors often come on too late for us to watch them, they bring us great joy. We are especially enjoying the consolidation of the second string, and the emergence of the young players even as starters.

5.     While I miss my colleagues and miss teaching, I am happier in retirement (or, sabbatical-in-permanence, as I sometimes call it) than ever I thought I would be.


Thank you, friends and visitors, for letting me reflect and share. May the New Year bring sanity, peace, and love of each other and the earth

Lyssa checks out the view

The view from our apartment really is fantastic. Downtown Rochester.

Me with my cousins Dan (standing); Raj (seated), Kamala (seated); Carolyn (standing)

Me and my cousin Kiffi

My mother flirts at her 97th birthday party

Patsy Cline and Ipo cautiously co-existing

Mom with Patsy glued to her side

My very happy niece Miranda!

Me and my nephew Ricky at an Amerks game



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