Les Semaines


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


Week from Hell

So I got home on Sunday and everything seemed fine. Jim picked me up at the airport, we found each other and my suitcase and our car, and our house was there when we got home. I unpacked and we did a bunch of laundry (well, Jim did) and I said hello to the cats (Zach at least, Sophia was played hard-to-get for a while) and all seemed well with the world.

Monday was even a holiday, so I had a day to go through my stack of paper mail and make a first attempt at my stack of email and to make Sophia pretend that she was glad that I was home. Shortly after dinnertime, a friend, Rich Warren arrived to use our place as a base of operations for his Seattle job search (he is moving back to the U.S. after spending several years in Japan). Tuesday was also a fine day, even though it was my first day back at work. The problem that erupted the week before I left on my travels seemed to have quietly resolved itself in the hoped-for manner, and I spent the day catching up with work paper mail and email. Getting back to the real work was a little painful but not too bad.

Then somewhere in there, it started to rain. Hard. For a long time. And it didn't stop. And showed no signs of stopping.

Now life is already a little complex with returning from a trip and having a houseguest (the guest room is my study, which meant that access to my computer was a little problematic, which is partially responsible to the delay in getting the previous two weeks' entries up--I say only partially, as I really could have transferred everything to my laptop and worked from it. I just didn't.)

So back to the rain. No, wait, first a little background info: way back in 1994 when Jim and I first bought this house we had some flood-preventative work done as part of the purchase deal. And then when the rainy season started we had a basement flood when just this type of rainstorm occurred. When I say flood, I mean leakage all over and a stream through the furnace room that came in faster than we could wet/dry vacuum it up. The original company had messed up a lot (we took them to the Better Business Bureau but due to not knowing how to document our case in a way that would impress the arbitrator we lost) and we spent a lot of money to a second company to have an entire-basement drainage system put in, as the basement happens to be where our bedroom is, and soggy toes in the morning and a creek running through our furnace room two feet from the bed do not appeal to us much. We worked with a company that gave us a lifetime guarantee that our basement would be dry. There was one problem a few years back and they came our promptly and repaired it. Fast forward to this week. At work, Jim emails me to suggest that I just check that the drains are clear. Okay. I get home from work on Wednesday and look in all the drains. No backups. So far so good. Then I take off my shoes and tiptoe around the perimeter of the basement. Nothing at the bottom of the stairs, the furnace room is dry, the laundry room is dry, so I continue to tiptoe around the bedroom carpet...fine fine fine...gish. A huge puddle just at the corner of our built-in bookcase. I pull back the carpet. The puddle is big. And wet. Wow.

So I go upstairs and pull our the home-repair file and phone the dry-basement-guaranteed-forever-cross-our-hearts people, only to hear another company's name when the phone is picked up. No, they're not All Seasons. They haven't bought the company. No, they have no connection with all Seasons, they just happen to have scarfed up their old phone number. All Seasons is out of business and they have no responsibility. No, none whatsoever. They'll be happy to come out and give us an estimate on repair, however...well, shit shit shit.

Many irate phone calls ensue where I am a pain in the rear to my poor husband and I throw up my hands in furious, frustrated despair and dismay. He makes a lot of phone calls, too, to no avail except we book a couple of people (not the people who have taken over the phone number but not the business), but of course since it's pouring rain they can't make it till Friday and they have a lot of bad things to say about the company that did the work in our basement. Oh, and the first one that we took to the Better Business Bureau, too.

The day isn't going so well. And then there's a message on our voice mail from one of Jim's sister's asking us to phone her right away. Immediately our alarm systems go way way up as Jim's father is 83 and his stepmother is 79 and has some health problems.

But it's his eldest brother, Rick, who has been in a bad, bad car wreck on the beltway around Baltimore and is in critical condition with badly broken legs and crushed right wrist, a bruised liver, and both lungs punctured by broken ribs. But he's alive. [As of Wednesday he's still in critical condition but stable and won't be considered out of the woods for a few days yet.]

Jim's father and sister went up to Baltimore to see him and do whatever they could. We decided to hang tough here and just keep harassing on-site family members for news. But it's really hard.

We really couldn't do much after that. We went out to a group dinner on Thursday to celebrate Rich's visit, and on Saturday had to go to a reception to celebrate Jim's Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship, but I don't think we were really good company. Even for each other.

It's been a tough, tough week. And it rained until Friday.

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


No time to open my ears and really listen.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Time to read: reading is a great drug to help you cope with life.

Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin is a novel about a 15-year-old girl who finds herself with no other way to support herself other than to prostitute herself on the streets of 18th century London. Based (though highly embroidered) on a true story, this novel gives a bleak and acerbic picture of life in England in this time period for those without the means to support themselves. It was instructive and interesting, though a somewhat depressing read. Maybe not the best book for this week. See my October 24th 1999 entry for comments about her novel, Hood.)

Paul Brandon's Swim The Moon came highly recommended by Charles de Lint, which is why I raced out to borrow it from the local library as soon as I got back from WFC where he talked about it. This is the story of a young Scottish widower and musician who falls in love with a mysterious, enchanting woman. While I loved his evocation of the Scottish landscape this takes place in and its seasonal changes (as well as the interactions between the characters) I had some real issues with how there were no surprises in the novel--everything unfolds just as I thought the novel set itself up to. I guess I found it a little disappointing. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations for it. And I didn't quite believe in the romance of it all because of the one-sided depiction of the mysterious woman. She didn't seem mysterious to me, just that she was seen as mysterious and I was annoyed that the main character seemed so thick. Still, beautiful and evocative in many ways.

Terry McGarry's Illumination is one of those books I didn't think I' was going to like at all. It seems incredible complex and a little confusing at the beginning, and I wasn't sure it was going to be different and intriguing enough for me to stick through unravelling the complexities and confusions, but I'm really glad I stuck with it. The story quickly swept me away and things became clear as it became important to know them. This is the story of a young mage who just after she is initiated loses access to her magic. She makes her way to the head mages, who are the ruler of her land, and they cannot help her, but send her on a quest to help rid themselves of a renegade magician. While this might sound like a standard plot, trust me, it is not, and it simply gets more and more interesting. I really liked this, and it was the perfect distraction from this week's stress. In fact, I spent Sunday reading it because I couldn't stop. Recommended.

last week's reading § next week's reading


No time or emotional energy to write. I even missed my fiction writing workshop because I wanted to stay home with Jim, waiting to hear updates from his family.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

October 1980

[In which I'm working full time, just like a grown-up. Blegh.]

1186. Woman of the Dunes                           October 15, 1980

Tonight, to escape my poem, I went to see Woman of the Dunes. I was at the point where the poem was pulling the marrow out of me and the pain was enough to make me run.
     Now I can taste the sand in my moth. I escaped into a trap. Pulling yourself from the middle of a poem is worse than dragging yourself from a dream. The disorientation was stronger. To use an old analogy, I felt like a salmon that has suddenly noticed it has jumped out of the water [1]. It's this poem; it turned on me. I had it all planned to be a celebration of the point I had achieved, and of what my friends have achieved--of who they are, and who I am--but it turned instead into a poem about our despair, and so particularly about my own. It was having my deepest wound opened and thoroughly explored (or perhaps only the beginning of a larger exploration, beginning there and continuing through the rest of the body.) [2]

1187. Hard voices                            October 28th 1980

Poems have been coming to me in fragments, bits of images, visions, dreams, but the helicopter trip three days ago is a stream of images to me, and maybe a poem. [3]
    I was showing Robin three of my recent poems, and he took all three of them [4]. It is a joy when they find homes.
     I will write a poem for the helicopter ride, I will finish "Three By Eagles", I will write the 2nd Maudlin poem and I will write my poem for Christina gone [5].
     I am changing in subtle ways, sleeping in the old ways, too.
     Things are going on all around me, and I'm am getting ready to take more notice of them--I don't know how I will be affected by them, if I will be, or if there will be a time, later, when they reach me.
     There are moments like this when my hand is not connected to my conscious mind, when the words (though unimportant) are coming from some less obvious place: I saw K.C. today on campus, but some chance. I should see Derk tomorrow or soon about those forms--I have so many little things to do. I rarely remember what they are.
     The end of Christina's poem:
Trees that are the hard voices of strangers
come to knock against your window
when you are trying to sleep. [6]

1188. Listlessly                            October 29, 1980

I am weighing my pen in my hand and I am watching the end of October. Some months end before you have noticed, but October has made its impression, and I am wondering what now I should do. The night is almost too quiet--Gillain barely hums with machinery. It has been an odd day. I am so caught up in the tasks I have accepted that I haven't had much time to see anything as a whole, or t see with any perception what direction I am moving in.
     Lately I have been reading again--it seems to happen in the fall when things wind down after the hectic summer.

1189. Eagles twice                            October 30, 1980

I have to write poems--there is a dearth of them around me now. I have begun again to read The White Goddess and it confirms things I have known: that the function of poetry is the religious invocation of the Muse. That, like everything else, I have trouble fitting into life. It is that my life must change its shape, to follow these things that are true. There are few things that are true. So few, that once you stumble upon one you should live for it--unless you find a bigger truth, which you must. Sometimes it is too big for you, and you have to take backwards steps. Sometimes you can leap forward.


1. In my third year of university when I was taking a summer Shakespeare class, the professor told me and my friend Linda that we were like salmon. We would swim invisibly in the stream and suddenly would pop up with an amazing, surprising insight.

2. I think I am referring to "St. Maudlin (La Folle)" in Seven Robins.

3. My sister's second husband (at the time a boyfriend, later and ex) was a helicopter pilot, and took us up for several amazing flights over the years.

4. Robin was at the time the editor of The Malahat Review. I'd just brought the poems in to show him my current work, not to submit them, so this was a lovely surprise.

5. Of these I'm not sure I wrote the helicopter poem, but I did finish "Three By Eagles" and put the eagle I saw during the helicopter ride in it. I don't think I ever wrote the poem I thought would be my second Maudlin poem, though I have one that I really like to read as a companion poem now, "Ravenous", which appears in Blood Memory. I did write my poem for Christina gone, "This Far Place", which appears in Seven Robins.

6. These lines became (at the very end of the poem):

the trees are hard
voices of strangers
knocking against your window

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