Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Yet Another Mid-Life Crisis

Christina leaves a voice mail message (Jim's on the modem); she's in Istanbul. I can tell from her voice that it feels like a miracle to her to be out of Taiwan and back in Turkey. The dog is happy--she had a long walk along the Bosphorus. She and Matt are about to go out for kevalte, which I know I have spelt wrong but which means breakfast of bread and honey, tea, cucumbers, white cheese, olives. On a restaurant probably looking out toward the Bosphorus. I can see it and feel the wind.

Jim isn't exactly hating his job, but he's sick of the long commute from our house in the western part of the city over to the eastern part then across the commuter-clogged 520 bridge then deep into the Eastside. And to top it off, many of his friends there are leaving the company. His best friend just quit to move to Britain and start a new life there. He said goodbye to him Friday. All week we've been angsting about what to do about his job.

I keep thinking we can do anything. We could move somewhere. (Where?) We could rent the house out and be somewhere else for a while. We could take the cats and go to Turkey and have breakfast on the Bosphorus and find ourselves jobs of some kind, teaching maybe. We could learn Turkish. Or my grandparents were both born in Scotland. We could go to England ourselves and try to find something to do there, though the cats couldn't come unless we wanted them to go into six months' quarantine. We could move back to Canada. I could find a job. Jim could be on call somewhere until his papers came through and maybe a permanent job. But we can never decide what city we'd want to live in. Vancouver seems too much like a bigger Seattle so why move and Victoria seems a little stifling to return to after all these years away, and jobs are hard to get there.

I wonder if wherever I go my good job karma would follow me. I've had it for a while, ever since I left the job with the rabid nun the hell in which I probably earned it (but even that was good job karma in that I desperately wanted a job and I got one in a place where jobs were extremely hard to find).

Then I wonder: can I really be and do anything? When does that statute of limitations run out when you can really change your life? I feel restless now and I've been busily committing myself to a bunch of different things (teaching next year, more volunteer work for Clarion West) because of it. But those aren't really changes just additions to the same old. I'll be 42 in September and as I get older it will be harder to get jobs given that my education and experience are somewhat odd things and I already have strikes against me (grey hair, my weight--appearance matters when job-hunting) but strikes for me (I'm smart, have a range of skills and enthusiasms, learn quickly).

And why would I want to change my life? Is it because something in me has gone a little stale? Because I think something drastic might shake me up again? Because starting new has always been good for me creatively? I remember when I ended the Clarion West workshop in 1996 (four years ago!) I was totally frustrated that I couldn't figure out what in my life I wanted to change when I desperately wanted to change something.

I was reading Sarah Astruc's journal, which I'd lost track off when she stopped it a while back, and came upon this in her new journal:

I'm always looking for magic. I spend so much time in my head it's a wonder that I'm able to exist and function and hold down a job and be competent.

Some people understand me. Most people do not. They think I'm vague, dreamy, snappish. I do get snappish. Mainly when someone interrupts my reverie. I exist almost entirely in my own head. It's sort of hard to explain, unless you're a little like me, too.

Magic is where you find it.

This is me. (Jim especially will vouch for the "snappish... when someone interrupts my reverie" part.) Maybe what I've been missing recently is forgetting to look. Being busy with non-essentials. I wonder how much of this itchiness is to do with my new hazy commitments, how much to do with staleness, how much to do with coming up on my two months of freedom (and no money), how much to do with the fact that Clarion West has just started and I remember (oh, how I remember!) the intensity of those six weeks. I want that intensity back, but it's not achievable. In many ways I would love to live at that high a pitch full time though I'd surely burn out. How could I not? But I still yearn for it. Clarion was definitely magic for me.

Sometimes I sit and wonder what it is that I'm afraid of, and other times I wonder what it is I'm not afraid of. What is running away? Changing? Not changing? What is the bigger challenge, making something of my life from here or making a new start?

Can I write my way into this other world I want to create for myself? Write my way into myself and magic?


Oh, and what did we do for our seventeenth anniversary (besides talk about What To Do With Our Lives, of course)? We went to the beach to listen to the waves and not for a long time but long enough to remind me why I like to live in Seattle, and then we picked up take out (we were going to go elegant but decided to go gyros) and we watched Rear Window (the Hitchcock version of course) and if I need to tell you anything more about our anniversary evening, I'll think you're sadly lacking in imagination.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Jim has been listening to Marvin Pontiac. It is odd, compelling stuff, creative out of the velvet grit of "Pontiac"'s voice and sensibility, and the words and tunes he builds. Impossible to describe, for me at least. Someone else might do it quite handily. (I say "Pontiac" because I rather think he might be a made-up character.)

I gave Jim the stack of discs that were lurking around my desk and he has filed them away with the rest of the discs and now they're hidden there. Well, not all of them. There are still several here. And of course that huge pile of tapes that I started listening to in February or so of 1999 is still stack neatly on the small bookcase. I never listen to them.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Read the second volume of Mary Gentle's Ash series, Carthage Ascendent. The story continues to be gripping as sets up for battle with the Visigoths and finds herself carried off to Carthage where she finds out more about her background and the voice that instructs her in war than she wanted to. The telling of the story is visceral, almost brutal in some ways, but it's well-told and captivating.

The Tower of Stony Wood is vintage Patricia A. McKillip--in other words, beautifully written and imagined, transporting, inspirational, and the slightest bit confusing as to the details of the action. This is the story of a knight sent to rescue a beautiful woman in a tower--her imposter has married his king--and the fabulous adventures that happen to him, to a prince from the Northern Isles, and to a baker and her daughter who visit another tower and see visions of the woman in the tower. A fascinating and intricate story, and highly recommended.

last week's reading § next week's reading


The novel progresses, a trickle of words at a time. It's still forming shapes in my mind.

I'm still waiting anxiously for Blood Memory. I wish it would hurry up!

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1977

733. Here i am again

Well, here i am, breaking in a new Phono. (Breaking in, like a horse?? Oh well....) New book started today (there's a nice picture on the cover--it's a stream [1]. I think Phono covers are becoming obsessed with water, at least the last three, and the first one).

734. Clear and Distinct ideas

It's Philosophy again (still) and i (for once) have a clear and distinct idea. This clear and distinct idea is about boredom. I clearly and distinctly think that i am bored. Poor Descartes. I don't think he bothered philosophizing to bore all persons enrolled in Phil 100 (Y02). Is it his fault? I clearly and distinctly think that Descartes was okay before he was enrolled in Phil. 100 (Y02). (It could do it to anyone.)

735. Art and reality and life

"Six characters" mix-up of all. Life is chaos. Chaos is reality, reality is truth, and truth is art. For sure. Drama is litterature [sic], i have challenged Pirandello, though i didn't intend to, frankly, when i started i hadn't even heard of Pirandello. Poor Glenna has been scrapped along with "When the Hurley-Burley's Done"[2]. Pity.

736. Sidetracked however

All of Phono is one great sidetrack. Diversionary tactics, maybe? the hurley-burley is part of the battle strategy. The sidetrack off the main track of (*sigh*) life. I should say LIFE. (Excuse me.) LIFE & WIND & RAIN & all the TRUE & REAL THINGS THAT EXIST!!! Excelsior!!!!

737. Experiences

Too bad experiences can't be held and kept better. Even imagination and memory can't do it. There are certain things I'd like to replay. Just to experience again. I'm not talking about those things you want to do over and correct, but those moments you want to feel again. The emotions you want to know again, the peace, the love, the hate. Not dramatically, just to re-experience.

738. Oh dear

Howdy, Phono. I think mind-body dualism is driving me insane, i think the presence of my body in this classroom is contributing to the disintegration of my mind. I wonder if first year [3] turns everyone into vegetables? H E L P ! Maybe i should crawl back into my hole.

739. On a 2,000 word philosophy essay due in 6 days

Can't do it. Won't. Descartes can crawl in a hole. If only there were some books!! An article! Anything !!!! I think i've used up my quota of exclamation marks. I didn't have many saved. (What to do with exclamation mark?) I think i'm getting sidetracked. First year vegetables aren't very good at writing philosophy essays. Much less 2,000 word ones due in 6 days.

740. Varieties of escape

There must be various methods i could use to get away from writing this essay. [Quotes from Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" omitted.] Suicide would be a great answer, but it takes too much guts. Besides, it's much too permanent. I want something that will apply only to Philosophy essays, nothing else. Think. What will work? Particularly on a prof who always catches me when i'm giggling (yuck) over a note from Rob or Bill.

741. On having wasted time and accomplished nothing

Well, that's it. More hours gone to waste,and here i am with nothing to show for it (like always) [4]. There are, however, a few underlined (or hi-lighted) parts in Berkeley. (For all the good that will do.) I've been to the moon and back again several times. Now i want to go to the sun. À la Peter Frampton. Rah! Excelsior!!

742. Too many mornings

There've just been too many mornings lately. Though at least it's Friday (TGIF). Don't think i could bear getting up early again. This was even a short week! Only three days! How will i handle a normal week, a five-day week? (Keep on lyin', keep on tryin', keep on sighin'....) Too many mornings, not enough nighttime [5].


1. More like rapids in a rocky, narrow river canyon.

2. I think this might have been a play I was working on for my creative writing class.

3. "First year" is the same thing that Americans call the Freshman year.

4. Glad to know some things never change. By the way, I was not an efficient hi-lighter--or perhaps I was too efficient. I remember looking at my copy of Descartes and discovering that I had hi-lighted nearly one whole damn chapter. Pages and pages where 90% of the pages were covered in blue.

5. Another thing that never changes. I never get enough sleep.

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