I had a good conversation last week with an old friend about the eerie deja vu of returning to the department hallways and routines after the summer. It's a strange mixture of welcoming the familiar-- getting into the rhythms of teaching, seeing former students, seeing colleagues again-- but tinged with faint notes of familiar despair: the first department meeting, the low morale in the main office, the pompous grandstanding at the welcome reception.

We're now in our fourth week of the term, so we're hardly beginning anything any longer-- I've graded two sets of student writing and feel pretty accustomed to this semester's schedules and routines. But I'm trying to focus on what I had suggested to my friend: that we have the opportunity this semester to rewrite some of the patterns and outcomes of last year. That we have the opportunity this week, this day, to change something, not just to fall into the dull mediocrity of the routine. I always am happier at the beginning of the semester, when I'm excited about new courses, new texts, new students. But I'm also trying to focus on what actions or attitudes I can cultivate that will help new ideas or events emerge.

So far, I'm deliberately stepping back from a lot of things. I'm thinking or writing about my current research every day, even if only informally. I'm doing a lot of mantra chanting. And I'm trying to think of each day as a potential new start.