Yellow Ginkgo Trees at Centre & Guilford

Bright yellow gingko trees on a busy street against a background of a brick building and blue sky.

This semester has been a slog. Energy levels reached end-of-the-semester levels by midterms, and the joy of being with each other in the classroom, while still there, has been dampened by the part where we’re still in a pandemic, we’re packing our days as if we still don’t have the commutes we lost last year, and we’re all overwhelmed by the energy it takes to pay attention without being able to turn our cameras off for a minute. It has been a great semester (though it’s not over yet), but it has also been an incredible amount of work–intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Still the best job ever.

Many bemoan the return of the commute, and though I miss the extra 8-10 hours a week that I now spend biking, walking, and waiting for buses, I’m grateful to have returned to the everyday of watching the city. During quarantine, for example, I missed so much of what was happening on the blocks that are home to Lexington Market. I’d go a couple of months without a bike ride down there, and suddenly the bones of a new luxury condo complex were there.

Now I ride down Eutaw Street at least two mornings a week, and up Paca in the afternoons. The two sides look so different, and I wonder if that is about proximity to transit, presence of police, habits, or what. I’ve watched windows go in, walls get wrapped, and the roof go up. They’re planting trees now, and every day it looks a little bit different. Once it opens, who will go inside? Will the folks I say my how-you-doin’s to every morning feel invited in? Or will it be for the one resident of the luxury condo project that is NOW LEASING? I’m sure more people live there, probably, but I see signs of life in only one window as I pedal up Paca Street. The gift of a bike commute to the same job for years is getting to watch change happen on the everyday, if you pay attention.

Thanksgiving is Thursday and campus closes Wednesday, so I went ahead and gave myself and my students the whole week off. We needed it. I’m spending this time getting caught up on grading and class prep, doing administrative work no one will ever notice, and riding my bike places that aren’t work. On Monday, that was to Safeway to see if they had the condensed soup I wanted for a recipe (they didn’t, neither did Giant–is this “supply chain,” or just city grocery stores?) and then to the gym. They’ve got a challenge going–attend 20 times in November and December, and you get a free hat. Yes, gym, you have my number, I’ll see you there exactly 20 times.

I stopped to snap this picture of these glorious yellow gingko trees that line what used to be the Baltimore Sun but is now set to house the Baltimore City Police Department. What an awful swap. I want independent and well-funded local journalism. I do not want all these cops. No matter what they put in there, they better keep these trees, because they are a reminder that they have been here long before cops, and will be here long after. The city could be other than it is, because it has been other than this.

And then I popped in the gym, lifted some weights for awhile, signed the sheet to bring me one step closer to a free hat I’ll never wear, and got back on my bike to head home for more work, grateful for a job that brings me pleasure, and breaks that let me sink into different parts of it for a minute. See you next week, commute and students. May we all be refreshed just enough to get to the finish line.

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