what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout
Where does the time go? How does it happen that a friend is in his new house for a year before I go and visit him there? We're all so good at saying how badly we'd really like to get together and spend some time but when it comes to actually pinning down a date we don't do it. And it takes us a year of this waffling "we never see each other" thing before we just say to one another, "Okay, so what nights are you free next week?" Which is really all it takes. Then it happens. And I see our friend's new house.
I don't think I ever saw his old one, either, as far as that goes.
So we did go over to dinner at our friend's new house and saw his cats for the first time in years and hung out and watched him cook and ate his excellent food and talked and talked and talked and washed dishes and nothing could have been more pleasant except it was a work night and we have to go home. We should have done it months ago. If we could have gotten it together to do it.
We do this little dance of getting in touch--but not often enough. And then another year has gone by and we send a holiday card. Or we would if we had made them yet. (They'll be ready in the next couple of days--we've done the final print out. Why did it take so long? How did the days in between disappear so quickly?)
So today I looked at the calendar and was shocked--I tell you shocked--to realize that there is only a little more than two weeks before Christmas. You would think at my age I would realize that that is what December is all about, that Christmas is only a matter of weeks and then days away, but every year it sneaks up on me like this. There are so many things I wanted to do and so I'm doing my annual reassessment of what I want to do and what I actually will be able to do. Blah. Happily, most of my shopping is done. Most.
Okay, here's my list of things I still want/need to do:
That doesn't look too impossible for a little over two weeks, does it? What am I worried about? Just relax, Neile. Sheesh.
- tidy my study so my parents and then Christina can sleep in there without avalanche danger
- find a place for the boxes of files somewhere in the basement
- finish shopping, wrapping, mailing
- get one of those lovely small rosemary trees to be our holiday tree
- clean the ever-annoying mark-collecting grills on the stove
- polish the silver (Mom's coming! The silver must be polished!)
- send the holiday cards & write beautiful, expressive, touching letters to all our friends
- bring up the box of holiday decs from downstairs and dec the halls
- 1 more batch of cashew shortbread (I've made one batch but it mostly goes to one person as a present)
- 1 batch of poppyseed cookies
- 2 batches of welsh cakes, our Christmas morning specialty
- meal planning for when our house is full so we don't have to go to the crowded grocery stores every day
- dog-proof the part of the house the dogs will be in
- clean the house, of course
- organize and beautiful everything, including my mind
Oh, and the other thing I learned this week: raspberry crisp isn't going to be. The crisp sinks. And makes a slightly thickened raspberry sauce. Which, by the way, is quite good over baking powder biscuits and with ice cream on top.
Tune in next week to see if I've knocked anything off these lists.
last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing
Jim and I have both been obsessing on the new Gabriel Yacoub disc, :yacoub:. What a wonderful and original take on the singer songwriter thing. Right now I feel like I could listen to it forever.
last week's listening § next week's listening
Rebecca Neeson's The Thirteenth Scroll is one of those rare books that has a sense of a gentle pace and thoughtful progression without (to me) being at all boring or slow. It's the tale of a woman who, blinded in a traumatic rape when he fiancé and parents are killed, retreats to a forest cottage where she heals animals and occasionally people, and is adopted by a wolf, whom when she touches his back she can actually use his vision to see. She also has flashes of an even stronger spiritual vision, and it is this that tells her that she must leave her safe haven because has a task to do out in the world. She resists, of course, but eventually makes her way out to a town where she finds a priest who has been given a similar message via a prophetic scroll--that they must follow its directions to find a child that will save the country. At the same time a powerful witch is allied with one of the barons and will stop at nothing to gain power through him, and the country needs a new king--she is determined that it must be her partner, but there is this message in an obscure prophetic scroll that indicates she must first follow its directions to find a child...in order to destroy it or have it under her power. I really enjoyed this novel. It makes interesting use of spirituality and faith and I found the characters intriguing.
last week's reading § next week's reading
Today in our fiction workshop we went over a story that I forgot to mention revising last week. I guess because it didn't really feel like writing. Anyway, I was glad to get feedback about this version of the story as it's an updated version of my original take on the story--before I got all earnest about it. I think it's a better direction. And I hope to revise this one and just get it out the door. I need to have some fiction in the mail. It's time. I just have trouble letting go of things.
last week's writing § next week's writing
About the Phonosnout
January - February 1981
1202. The man from the wind has a heart of stone
January 14, 1981
From the east the wind
brings him with the stink
and push of cities. Tossing smog
from his hair, h walks
down the hill to you house
and pushes the bushes
from him as he would
strangers. He stares at you
through the open window,
saying he's left it all behind.
He smells of too many
other women, then tells you
only your flesh will wash
the scent from him and
though the smell sickens you
it is too hard to tell him
to leave when you know he's
The wind turns, and the stone
he's left spreads the grime
of cities all through your house.
And he's back again
with the wind from the south
moving slowly now as though
the heat has drawn all
the winter from him. He
doesn't say a word and
your clothes fall from you
like birds. His eyes
hold you too closely
you cannot even be surprised
and everything happens
at once, but so slowly
that it almost lasts forever
in the languid night.
In the morning you wake
as slowly as you fell asleep
He's left one flower for your hair,
and one stone
The new stone in your pocket
rubs against your thighs
As you move through your house that day
warm and breathing
like some small animal. 
1203. Full Moon
January 21, 1981
I begin the night knowing
something will come to me,
[as though it had been promised.]
First comes the wind and the rain
and they are more than enough--
it's the wind that makes the chimney
make noises like birds and the rain
that makes the windows hum.
The house creaks as though trying
to fly. Wind and rain and the
crack of the branches outside,
things caught by the ear and
not by the tongue, and if I look
I know that the wind is the sound
the trees make as they spin past
the clouds. 
Th trees are darker
reflecting the sun than
away from it, and we
have not found what
we were looking for there
and know that someone
has been there to more something,
to make new trails and hang
florescent ribbons on the trees
which are darker now than
we had expected, and we
didn't find the lovers there. 
1204. More short poem sketches
January 22, 1981
--it was a dream
And we were running after
stolen apples, I and the love
I have hated for years, apples
golden in the white light of
the white hall we were chasing
through, they were golden apples stolen
from the country he came from but not
his apples or mine thy only belonged
to that country and must be returned. 
1205. A good day
February 1, 1981
...of beginnings and good news and relief. Today I have begun to accomplish things, and I have made rules for myself for the next twenty-eight days. Here I am hoping that I will accomplish more, and that February will be a growing month (it must be). February is usually my depressed month, something about the rain and all the steadfast gray, but today there was sun and there will be.
The sky is that moment--black blue against the
black trees, between twilight and full night.
Love, you and I are where we
always are: in our house where you
light the candles while I am
at the window, closing the curtains
behind me; or on the mountain
you fight with matches to build
a camp fire as I turn, glad
that the rain has left the wood
damp; or yet on the trail between
home and mountain and you're
angry that I have dawdled and kept
us walking after the sun has gone
down, still here we are love, between
twilight and full night, waiting for the first
star to spark in the darkness. 
1. Appeared as sections of the long poem "Heart of Stone" in Seven Robins.
2. This never became anything.
3. Nor did this.
4. Nor this, either.
5. This one, however, appears in Seven Robins is almost exactly this form.
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