Les Semaines


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


Wrestling With The Self

This week I've been wrestling with my own worst personal demon, sloth, and have been making some advances. I hesitate to even give the suggestion that I might be winning, because really I prefer doing nothing to doing anything these days (my head can keep me so busy) but I've been trying to Get Stuff Done before going back to work September 1st, trying to arrange the details of my life so that they don't get swamped again like they did this past year.

So my study is in a huge mess with boxes and paper and gaping file drawers and a cat or two asleep in the midst of the mess. And me in the midst of the mess, ignoring it all and staring at the computer like a lost soul. It's not like I haven't been trying to do this for at least a year. Several years. Why it is so hard for me to keep up and deal with all this paper. Could it be because I'm easily distracted? Noooooooo. Surely not. See the nice tree out my study window? If you wait long enough a bird will come by. (Sophia knows this and so do I. We spend lots of watching time together. Our favourite is the bird who keeps trying to dive at his reflection in the window glass.) And the room is full of the worst kind of distraction. Books. Oh, I can get lost in all these books, even if the ones in here are mostly reference books I'm using for my writing. Or my Scotland pictures and brochures and books and journals for the series of poems I'm working on. There's also the box of Turkey ones if I get bored. And there's a dictionary and my father's old and wonderful thesaurus. I don't dare open either of those or I can be lost for hours. And of course there's the computer. It's a really scarily absorbing object.

Or I can go and take another shower to be able to think about my novel. During one shower this week I got so optimistic I planned the end of this novel, the revision of Bryony's Needle, the prequel to it that I have a few chapters for, and even started plotting the novel after that. I just wish it hadn't all faded from my mind as though it had been a dream. So now I'm trying to reconstruct the ideas and most of all that state of mind that made me actually think I could complete a novel, let alone two or more.

I've been staying up till 2:00 and 3:00, pretending to be actually accomplishing something and sometimes the pretence is true. Earlier this week I was almost willing to start saying I was on a roll, but inertia--oh deadly inertia--began to weigh heavily again. As is its wont.

So I start writing by pretending I'm doing something else. The only problem with this technique is that sometimes I actually end up by doing that something else instead of writing. Especially playing one particular solitaire game, which is the only one I haven't managed to get sick of. I've even tried to get sick of it--playing when I was already tired of it but it hasn't worked. It's a habit that's gotten way too habitual. I especially like playing it while listening to music, because I can listen and keep busy at the same time. The solitaire doesn't really distract me. Except from writing.

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


I have been obsessing on Sarina simoom this week. After finishing the Ectophiles' Guide entry for them I ordered their disc and I've been playing it ever since. The music is hard to describe, so all I'm going to say is that it's odd and individual and I really like it. I wish they included the lyrics in the booklet somewhere.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Lois McMaster Bujold's The Warrior's Apprentice is a part of her Miles Vorkosigan series, and is the first of them I've read that features Miles. Here he's 17, suffers greatly from the weakness of his bones caused by the attack on his mother while she was pregnant with him (see my July 15 entry for comments on Cordelia's Honor where his parents meeting and this incident is covered). His medical problems cause him to fail the entry tests for military school and so he sets off to visit his grandmother on Beta, but he has barely arrived before he finds himself buying (on a pile of wangled credit and promises) a freighter and embarks on an adventure will involved smuggling, mercenaries, his true love and a million parts of wheeling and dealing and manipulating people and getting the best from them.

Diane Duane's The Wizard's Dilemma is the fifth in her series of young adult novels about young wizards dedicated to fighting the entropy of the universe. In this Nita and Kit have a disagreement and stop talking, while Nita is in a crisis because her mother is seriously ill and Kit's wizardly dog has discovered an entirely new kind of universe. This is fun but also has depth, especially with the complications of human relationships and with Nita dealing with her mother's illness. Recommended.

The Vor Game is the next in Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan series. Here Miles is a young ensign and is assigned to the hinterlands, where of course he finds himself in trouble. A a result of that on his next assignment he's heading out deep into space and of course finds himself in the midst of a political mess and meets up with his mercenaries again. These are entertaining novels.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Building a world, sentence by sentence. Slow work.

Lying to myself and calling it work. See above.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1980

1126. Poem that needs a better title, a little work                                            February 20, 1980

For Robin's class, which was cancelled again.


          The strangers are those
     who live here, those
     who are part of the coast
     and these islands.
          Each one is a traveller,
     moves without
     recognition through
     the familiar land.
          They walk the forests
     without submission:
     only strangers
     can do that.

          It is winter now, inextricably
     the first winter I will spend here,
     and the last, and the
     one I live now.

          It was this year,
     or last, that I saw the whale,
     scarred by all the years
     he had lived here,
          he rolled slowly in the
     deep surf again the
     beach. This is his island
     and he is old enough to claim it,
          turning slowly in waves,
     marking the show
     with the thick
     black log of his body.

          It was last, surely,
     that I walked to the edge of the
     cliff, trying to find
     an end to the island.
          I stood above the beach where
     I had seen the whale,
     and breathed the gray light
     of the winter dawn.
          A large black shape
     suddenly flew at me,
     missing me
     by inches.
          I had never seen
     an owl here before,
     only heard them in the dark
     searching for the end of the land.

          It must be this year
     I saw the bald eagle
     fighting the wind
     in a thin tree by the road,
          hunched and angry
     at the weak branch,
     the strong wind,
     and the cars streaming below.

          I knew then
     this land is a branch
     that doesn't quite
     hold me. [1]

A poem made out of blood and sweat and despair, in a needless rush. O well. Plans for Brenda's and my weekend escape are made. (Yay!)

1127. Two-thirds into Winter                                                                        February 21st, 1980

I wouldn't have believed it, but I woke up this morning and there was sun lifting all the winter shadows. This is the difference--and I woke up this morning to make even more. Still windy, but I stepped outside.
     John and I went to hear Joe Rosenblatt read at Open Space, expecting nothing much, but there were new and better poems, and the two bee poems he read echoed so beautifully in the room that it was worth going. He was funny, too, coughing in the air, and sipping "B.C. Bourbon."
     Then we went to Ann's to visit, and we talked over rejection slips and acceptance slips and all those things piling up on our files. We talked about the group in France in the '20s, Being Geniuses Together, looked at the pictures and wondered who they really were, why their poems weren't better, and why some died so young. Ann is writing about one of them and his two lovers and daughter.
     I am writing about no one except myself and every thing, all together and how it all works and why it doesn't, and why February is such a hard month until a day like this comes along and there is sun, and people to talk about some of those things that matter, in this day that marks the way two-thirds into winter.

1128. Harold's Visit                                                                        February 22nd 1980

Today is another day with sun to help me wake and do, though I still think not heavily enough on my essay. It was a day to bask in the sun through th window, sewing, reading Graham [2], and drying my hair. The wind is just enough to keep the air chilly, though it is still frosty at night.
     Harold and Diane came for lasagne and berry pie, while Harold pruned the crab apple tree. He seems to do it instinctively, as though it has gone beyond the point of knowing how to prune to the point where the tree itself tells him exactly what it needs, and he flies around the tree until it is done. Amazing to watch all the red twigs flying like leaves around the tree. We picked them up and stacked them.
     Harold helped with "Home Out of Place". He said it is a good poem, which helped me because I didn't know what to think of it. It is one of those poems that is a haze in my mind because of all the changes it has gone through.
     Harold played with my typewriter for a while, then got sleepy and wanted to go home, so I drove them home and then there was nothing, and still nothing.

1129. I never wake                                                                        February 23rd 1980

The sun is becoming a habit, an expected visitor. It was already warming the sky when I was driving to work, almost up when I got there. This makes such a difference to how I feel about d day, about work. All is fine except the morning is painful, and I never wake, all day.

1130. Another early morning                                                                        February 24th 1980

Another early morning, and one full of disasters, beginning with not getting to sleep early last night. Mom and Dad were out and I had a brief visit with Linda and a fire. I stayed up to listen to Patricia's poems being read on CBC Anthology. I never realized they were read by different people and the woman's voice trivialized it.
     This morning was pain, and the fire department coming up because our direct line alarm rang for them (but not for us) time straightening that out, then the switchboard went on the fritz. Power cut off and fuss and bother and my sense of dysfunction when I had no switchboard to look after. I was very glad to leave at 3:00, to run away. (I want to run away from everything this morning, and am looking forward very hard to next weekend.) Why cannot my essay write itself, I'm too yawn to write it.


1. This poem appears in something very close to this shape in Seven Robins. I don't think this is actually the first draft--this version is so clean I obviously copied it from wherever it was I wrote the first draft.

2. W.S. Graham, the Scottish poet who lived in Cornwall and is no relation but whom is still one of my favourite poets.

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