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Les Semaines

01.09.30

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

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This Week The Leaves

I lied last week. All the leaves are suddenly turning, and turning fast, as though making up for lost time. Lots of rain and wind this week. Some warm sun, too, but it definitely feels like autumn--there's that chill in the air and all the new students have come in for orientation, and I survived it.

I'll survive all the rest, too, but I'm not looking forward to it. Next week is the first week of classes. Busy busy busy. I don't want any part of it.

I can't believe tomorrow is October. It seems far too soon, like this month just raced by. It's like the days barely happened and this month was stolen.

I'm in a really funky mood and just want to be left alone and it's bothering Jim. It's just that I'm tired and everything feels like too much. Yesterday I could accomplish things but today I'm just too tired. It took me nearly all day today just to have my shower. My hair took forever to dry (not that it doesn't always) and when the sun finally came out it was nice to sit in it and be warm but today there was a basic coldness in the bones that wouldn't come out. Maybe becase I sat in a summer-weight nightgown for most of the day. Reading. Dreaming. Playing solitaire a bit. Doing a bit of email. Feeling restless and out of sorts. Yesterday I vacuumed out both cars and it took a long time and my arms were already a little sore from all the typing I've been doing and today my arms didn't feel like typing. It's like my arm bones ache right now. I was going to organize some poems to send out for a contest, but decided not to as it felt like a waste of time. It all feels like a waste of time. I know I'll get over this but right now I don't want to do anything and nothing feels right. Maybe it's the events of September catching up with me. Maybe it's that and that work is crazy and I can't concentrate. And that my grant is finally done so I don't have this particular time-pressure biting at me (though plenty of others, that's certain). And we've organized the reading tour to take place at the beginning of next month and right now I keep thinking that I'd much rather stay home.

I know I'm being silly but I can't help it right now. Self-indulgent moodswings R us.

I'm sure you don't want to hear any more about this, so I'll close and maybe go and get some sleep. Some more sleep.

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

Listening

Lots of listening, but not anything in particular. Sorry.

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Reading

Susan Fletcher's Shadow Spinner is a young adult novel about a crippled storyteller who is taken into the harem to meet with Shahrazad. Shahrazad is her hero, having kept the Sultan enthralled by her tales, herself alive, and thus suspended the Sultan's practice of marrying a wife and killing her the next morning until there were almost no young women left. Alas Shahrazad is running out of stories, and the crippled storyteller must help her collect a special one.

There's something really lovely about Rumer Godden's novels--they're upbeat, almost sweet, without being at all smarmy or sugar-coated and they have an underlying tough knowledge about human nature. They're mostly about complex interpersonal relations. The one I read this week, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy, was the second of hers I've read that mostly took place in religious houses--but this one also took place in a bordello and a jail. This is the story of a madam and murderess who becomes a nun in an order that does prison work, and all the complexities of the relationships that brought her to those three places. Anyway, I would recommend Rumer Godden's novels highly. (China Court is commented on in my July 15th entry, In This House of Bredein my August 5th entry.)

Molly Gloss' Wild Life is the story of a turn-of-the-century feminist living along the Columbia River in Washington State who wrote adventure tales to support her five sons after her husband's disappearance. Feisty and romantic, when her housekeeper's granddaughter disappears in the woods, she decides to become part of the search party, and she herself gets lost. This is a fascinating story of an interesting woman, an interesting time in the history of the northwest, when the wilderness was becoming populated by Europeans and logging was at its height, when feminisism was just beginning to gain a foothold in some middle-class life, when the novel was becoming a popular entertainment, when the frontier was still full of the unknown. A rich time to read about. I loved this.

Candace Robb writes murder mysteries set in medieval times. I've read three of her Owen Archer mysteries, set in medieval York (see my April 18, April 25, and June 6, 1999 entries). A Trust Betrayed is the first novel in a series about a woman in medieval Scotland. Though I had only kind of liked the Owen Archer series, I couldn't resist the idea of a novel set in medieval Scotland, and enthusiastically started this one, only to find it rather like the Owen Archer series, where the details of the murder come out rather flat and not very much like a revelations, and the details of medieval life are overshadowed by the mystery. I did like the portrayal of life here--the details felt right--and the story is definitely set in an fascinating time when the English king was taking over Scotland and Scotland itself was divided between several claimants for the throne, but this volume was ultimately unsatisfying as the core of the mystery is caught up in politics far more complicated than could be resolved in this one book, so it leaves a lot of the emotional threads driving the story--particularly Margaret's search for her husband--unresolved. The ending here feels more like a pause than an ending, and knowing who murdered the victim felt very by-the-by.

Eden Robinson's Monkey Beach was entirely complementary to Wild Life, though Monkey Beach takes place in contemporary times and much farther up the coast mostly in Kitimaat on the northern B.C. It's told by a young Haisla woman, whose younger brother and the fishing boat he was on have disappeared. As she waits to hear word from her parents and then starts down the coast in a motorboat to catch up with them, she tells the story of her life, of the warning she has of danger and death, of her favourite uncle and her grandmother and what they all taught her of life. Of the strange little red-haired man she sees in her room who warns of impending disaster. In so many ways she's a normal, rebellious wild child and in others she's eerily haunted. Wonderfully well-written, I found this a captivating novel. Even in the mood I'm in today.

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Writing

I spent much of this week working on a grant--organizing the writing sample and working on the project description. Because work was so busy and tiring, this was all I could manage to do. So now inertia has hit the novel--I only added a few sentences to it all week. Alas.

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Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

May 1980

1155. Let me think                                         May 16th 1980

I have to sort out who I am. I have gone through all stages of this, of hollowness and fullness, of rich belief and no belief, of holiness and sinfulness, and I arrive in a no-man's land. Neither believing nor disbelieving, whether unable to decide or imply unable to act on a decision already made. Must I decide whether to narrow down or to widen into a diffusion of nothingness? Push myself until I am a small hard unbreakable seed, but one that will never flower, or spread myself to encompass everything until I am so spread out that I might as well be nothing? I don't know which wy to go or even that i should go. Let me think.
     I believe in God, and seen through His order, the universe, answered prayer.
     I do not understand His nature. He is not passive, whatever He is. If He is holy and pure, then He is uncompromising. If He is less then He is not God.
     So I have to believe in a holy God who is there. How am I to react to that? Does this necessitate the Christian god? Am I then to be uncompromising? Should I be uncompromising in my will or in his, I mean does He want me to compromise myself entirely to Him? Let me think [1].

1156. How spirit comes                                         May 17, 1980

Today was bright, windy and fresh and unspoiled even by work. I longed to go for a long walk, but didn't, and so I am somehow still spirit-aching. I need so to be refreshed and quiet and fed, to just sit and stare and breathe above it all. I read tonight of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and I wonder how He comes now. Does He come to the masses, or quietly, like spirit comes on a walk through the forest, or does He rampage through, like some avenging God. Like the avenging God.
     I don't know if I am on the verge of a new acceptance, or a new rejection--I am teetering on the edge, with winds alternately blowing me one way or another. I want to go the way I won't regret. The way that is larger, freeer, and mostly truer, and I don't know which way that is. I need a spirit (and only the best, the true) to bowl me over, knock me into a wall and show me. My own spirit aches to be free, wanting a decision as to which door I shall let him out through. Odd how I think of my spirit as male. There are so many principals involved, and I am terrified of it all, of walking [2].

1157. The Volcano Erupts                                         May 18th 1980

This morning sitting at my desk on the mountain a blast of sound shook us. It was only later that we discovered it was the volcano erupting to the south [3]. Looking at the news tonight, as the ash blew north, but east away from us, the event fascinated me. The mud pouring down the river, knocking over a fir. The mushroom of cloud, looking more than atomic over the mountain, the town of Yakima dark as midnight with ash. I was absorbed in it, it enthralled me far more than any contemporary event could.
     The movement of the ash, the two dead from the shock wave, or was it the hot mud, the picture of the man who wouldn't leave, at the player piano, the pilot who "became disoriented" in the ash and flew into a power line, the lights of the cars, etching into snowing ash of the town, and the mountain in the distance. And the mountain in the distance, calmly belching ash and rock, oblivious to the rivers filled with mud, the bridges washed out, the cameras and mechanisms focussed on it, the people both dead and watching, and ever to me, feeling the shockwave and hearing, so far north.

1158. An interesting dream in the midst of Lessing                         &May 19th 1980

It was an odd dream, even for me after reading Lessing for several days [4]. I dreamt that I was someone else entirely, and that I and my husband found an old wrecked house in the middle of a playground. We decided to fix it up, it was small but attractive, and we cleared the rubble out of it, repaired it and moved furniture in, through we knew that because of its location, the house was dangerous. The first time I and a friend were alone in the house, a window was broken, and I knew that was the first sign and we should leave because the house would be overrun soon. It was so strange, that feeling of being in the house with all that dark and the danger out, and some of it starting to come in.
     It's from reading Lessing, and her territorial sense and the dangers of interpersonal relationships in this space and time, and the sense of the world outside and trying to enter it, and it trying to enter you. It's from reading and dreaming and trying to be different and knowing you must get out of it all.
     Play is dangerous, players filled with malice.

NOTES

1. Looking back at this time, I'm surprised that I still believed in a capital "G" god. I thought this had long since burned off and I was long done with wrestling. I guess it took longer than I thought.

2. From so much of the language it seems I had already made my choice. I think I longed for the security of my previous belief, or the certainty I could have then.

3. Mt. St. Helen's.

4. Either the last book in the Martha Quest series, The Four-Gated City, or Memoirs of a Survivor.

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