Les Semaines


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


The Holidays Begin

Just a quick message as my parents arrived today and so the holiday season has begun. This was a long week, as my back was bad off and on, and I couldn't get done as much as I hoped as quickly as I wanted to. Frustrating.

Jim was off this week and spent the time running errands and writing. I went to work as usual, working there on a desktop publishing project, as so I have having a better time there than usual, but with my back I've been having sleep troubles and I confess I drifted off at my desk once or twice. But at least if anyone caught me at it, they didn't say.

My heating pad has been my friend this week. That and ibuprofen and the muscle relaxants the doctor gave me, and of course remembering not to sit still too long. Lineups at stores where the worse part, as standing still seems to hurt the most. Walking hurts at first but as my back eases up it feels better and better. It's funny, last night, after working cleaning all day, I was in horrible pain and came home after looking after a friend's cats practically in tears because my back and arms hurt so much, and then took the pills and within about an hour I felt like a new person. I even stayed up late last night finishing tidying my study. Today my back feels better than it did all week, though my arms still hurt.

It's sunny, warm Sunday afternoon. Mom and Dad have been here about two hours, and Mom is having a nap behind me on the bed in my study with her dogs Charlie and Ben, who won't sit still. Dad's out in the living room, and Jim's in his study reading email. The cats are in hiding in the basement. Zach's fairly relaxed, and is probably out somewhere in the house but Sophia's in the deepest, darkest corner she can find under our bed, I'm sure. She was chewing ribbon until the car drove up. Zach was basking on the back of the loveseat in the living room window, and even when the dogs darted into the house he didn't care. But then Sophia magically became invisible.

So we're going to do all the holiday things, wrapping and decking the halls, and eating too much chocolate and cookies. We have home-canned salmon (courtesy of a friend of Mom and Dad's) for pasta for dinner tonight, a big--huge--brisket for Christmas Eve dinner, have a turkey on order for Christmas Day, and then Boxing Day Christina arrives and we turn vegetarian, except for leftovers. It will be a quiet but visiting-intense time. My favourite kind of holiday.

Here's the done report from the last two weeks' to do list:

  • tidy my study so my parents and then Christina can sleep in there without avalanche danger (well, there is still the possibility of avalanche but it's not too dangerous as long as no one messes with the two stacks of paper piled on the shelves in the corner)
  • find a place for the boxes of files somewhere in the basement (Jim did this--they're in the furnace room and gone)
  • finish shopping (done!), wrapping (have done Mom & Dad's gifts but not Jim's yet), mailing (the things that I needed to wait to arrive haven't so this is just going to be put off)
  • get one of those lovely small rosemary trees to be our holiday tree (some rosemary branches broke off our big rosemary bush so I'm going to use those as holiday greenery instead)
  • clean the ever-annoying mark-collecting grills on the stove (I scrubbed these so long last night that my arms ache now, but they look--temporarily, until they're used again--beautiful)
  • polish the silver (Done! Bright! Shiny!)
  • send the holiday cards & write beautiful, expressive, touching letters to all our friends (done all the cards, but the letters remain sketchy notes and didn't magically transform themselves, alas)
  • bring up the box of holiday decs from downstairs (done) and dec the halls (undone--Mom & Dad will have to help)
  • baking: 2 batches of welsh cakes, our Christmas morning specialty (Jim did these)
  • meal planning for when our house is full so we don't have to go to the crowded grocery stores every day (done, at least until Christina gets here)
  • dog-proof the part of the house the dogs will be in (done, but they're sure to find something to amuse themselves with)
  • clean the house, of course (done! I did what I could, but Jim did most of this)
  • organize and beautify everything, including my mind (undone, alas, forever)

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


Not much listening, alas. At least none of write-about-it significance.

last week's listening § next week's listening


I skimmed through John Prebble's Scotland, which was a mix of a travelogue and history of Scotland with some lovely pictures and much about the Highland Clearances and various battles. Parts of it were extremely interesting and other parts I skimmed more quickly. Hard to recommend, even for someone very interested in Scotland, as it's an odd kind of book.

Timothy Neat's The Summer Travellers is a wonderful collection of memories of people who grew up in Scotland's travelling families--tinkers, horse-dealers, pearl-divers. I never knew that Scotland had indigenous families that did this--I'd always through that they were Gypsies and immigrated, but they weren't, at least in Scotland. A fascinating way of life and a fascinating people. I loved reading their stories.

Elizabeth Haydon's Destiny is the final volume in the trilogy that began with Rhapsody (commented on in my October 31, 1999 entry) and Prophecy (commented on in my August 13, 2000 entry). Like Rhapsody this one started very roughly for me. For about the first hundred pages I wasn't sure I going to finish it--which surprised me as I'm unlikely to abandon a book when it was the final one and I'd already read the first two--I hate leaving things like that unfinished. But I kept reading, and gradually found myself more caught up in the story. Still I didn't feel like this was quite the story I really cared about. It seemed a little anti-climactic and unnecessarily complicated toward the end. I guess this wouldn't be one of my highest recommendations. I did like the first one quite a lot by the time I finished it and this was fine but not as wonderful as I felt it could have been.

last week's reading § next week's reading


My poem, "Wearing Nothing But The Midnight Sun", which was an Editor's Choice in Arc's Poem of the Year Contest, just appeared in their Winter 2001 issue.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1981

1211. Four Dead in Ohio                            February 6, 1981

A film tonight brought it all back to me, and more, because I was too young to understand when it really happened. Truth is stranger than fiction, and it can happen, just as the Donnelly murders [1] happened. Ignorance and fear kills--it is true, and all the grace and wisdom in the world cannot halt it. The film left me shaken--physically and all, spiritually wounded. I can't believe in honesty and love and an optimistic future. There will be more chaos, more killing, more hatred and ignorance, and there is nothing I can do, not even save myself. Not even start living dangerously.

1212. Persuasion is an Art                            February 6, 1981

xMy language cannot move you

Persuasion is an art
that language learns
words that turn
upon themselves.


Don't speak. Imagine
you have forgotten what you
came here for, if
for more than idle curiosity.
Imagine you can understand
me when I say you must
Though the words are foreign,
and my voice shakes

begin again.
Imagine that you do, that you are
waking again this morning
this same morning, but that
you are in a different room
and everything is not where
you left it. Object have
changed colour and position
the food in your fridge is foreign
and that your clothing does not
fit you rightly. Imagine going
out into a different street
where even the lines on the
sidewalk are different. Retrace
the steps that have led you
here, imagine you walking into
this room and I say: don't speak. [2]

1213. Falling Hawk                            February 8, 1981

Yesterday I worked on rewrites, but I didn't get very far. Today I saw Harold to practice for the reading, and got Buglet sort of ready to say goodbye. [3]

Everything is an omen:
the shapes of clouds,
the turn of leaves,
twigs falling together
in a certain pattern,
even the twist of the sun
through the branches
has a particular meaning.
I try to know exactly
how to interpret these
signs, but don't know
what to think as I see
the hawk I was watching
fall. [4]

1214. in verse for no reason                            February 9, 1981

Everything I write comes as
though stolen. Sometimes I think
I steal from myself, I find
echoes of one line in
another, reverberations
sound through all my poems.
I would like to call this
unity of vision--but this is
not so. I will call it theft
and I keep stealing
from the same person.
Thefts echo thefts and

1215. Imagine the forest that was                            February 9, 1981

Suddenly the wind spins
in the wood, and throws me
back against the trees as though
pushing me aside. The forest
has memories it wants
to play back to itself
and I am the intruder.
The forest remembers when
no one could call it a forest,
when it was only part of
the land, stretching the length
of the island. One wood, one
island, one memory. The wind
pushes my hair against my eyes
with cold and deliberate fingers,
and no amount of smoothing
keeps it back. I close my
eyes, take a step forward and the wind
gusts butts against me. Though I'm
still standing I have lost my balance,
vertigo makes my head rock
like the branches I step back
to lean against the solid trunks,
they are no help less solid now
and I'm gasping for air. there too
much of it--to much wind
pushing against my body and filling
my head. Too much of the forest
around me, taking it back with
itself, and I back out into calmer
weather, with threads of a memory
that isn't mind to haunt me. [5]


1. Murders that happened between feuding families in Northern Ontario. James Reaney wrote a trilogy of wonderful, harrowing plays about the events.

2. This poem appeared with some minor revisions as "To See You Again" in Seven Robins.

3. My father was selling me his rabbit, and I was selling Buglet to my friend, Brenda.

4. This poem appeared exactly as written here as "Hawk" in Seven Robins.

5. This poem appeared with some minor revisions as Part I of "Island Forest", "The Forest by Day" in Seven Robins.

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