what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout
Getting ready for this year's Clarion West workshop has been a little fraught with complications. Monday morning's was that our first week instructor is too ill to teach this year after all. Within 24 hours we had a replacement (hooray for Paul Park, who was willing to rearrange his life to come and teach for us at such short notice), but it was rather stressful. Now I'm pretty frantically trying to Get Things Done before the workshop start. In a week!
So here's a good example of what my days have been like. Try Wednesday. It began with my carpool partner pointing out that the lot I park in had been removed from our parking pass, so we stopped off at the university's parking office to have it straightened out. Only to find out that it is unstraightenable--passes are not going to work in that parking lot in the future. Thanks for not sending any notice. And if I try to get reassigned to another lot I'll be at the bottom of the waiting list. Boo!
Next was an argument with my boss about how to accommodate extra demands in my job. She feels that the program should be compensated for it, since I don't want to work more hours, nor is it a good idea to try to go for an upgrade given the current budget situation. This makes me angry, as if anyone is going to be paid for this it should be me. I consider working more hours and it makes me want to die. Maybe I'll quit instead.
Then a conversation with my other boss. It goes better but changes nothing. Sigh.
Happily, my wonderful coworker offers me a ride to where my car is parked so I don't have to wait for the bus in my explosive mood. She is the best.
Then I drive up to Capitol Hill and buy grocery-store sushi and Odawalla lime juice (it's hot out), then take it to the Clarion office, but lo and behold, for the first time ever I run into another Clarion worker on her way out. A pleasant surprise. Hooray for friends!
She leaves after I sigh that I don't have time to go to coffee, and I sit down with my sushi and juice and start opening the mail. Yay! A nice donation! Which helps us cope a little with other bad financial news. Also a strange letter from someone who doesn't have a clue who we are and must think we can help him sell his book, which he doesn't say what it's about. Write down replying to him on my things to do list. Moan.
Go to Kinko's and pick up reams of photocopying. Go to SCCC visit classroom and worry about the noise from the electrical room next door. Stick head in various other classrooms. They're all noisy, especially the ones with big windows (this year we have a classroom with no window, alas) as the air conditioner struggles with the heat pouring through the glass. Step back into our room. Aha! It's actually cool.
Stop by the SCCC facilities office to try to meet my contact there. He's always all over the building. I never see him there. I leave him a note.
I drive home. Almost immediately a call comes that the vet has an appointment cancellation and I can bring Zach in. Grab cat, shove into carrier. Loud wailing ensues, but I get him in the car and drive to the vet. And wait.
And wait. Zach wanders around the examining room, occasionally yelling. The vet apologizes, and then Zach gets blood tests (the vet called with his results--he's doing okay for a 16-year-old cat), which make him hiss and growl. I take him home.
So Zach was at the vet's long enough and between that and the alcohol and stuff he got for the blood test, when he came home he really must have smelled of the vet. Sophia was totally freaked out, sniffed him, hissed, and hid under the bed most of the rest of the afternoon.
I had a scare when Jim had left the back door open while watering the garden (though there was another closed door between it and her) because I couldn't see her under the bed (we looked everywhere, including Jim looking under the bed and not seeing her, too) and suddenly there she was under the bed again. Cat magic.
Later in the evening she deigned to come back upstairs but was terribly skittish and wouldn't let either of us near her and she hissed again at poor Zach. Then she was climbing up to a window and Jim decided to help her, some books fell onto the floor and freaked her out and she hissed and swatted at Jim and now he has a black and swollen eye. A Sophie shiner!
And the scars still aren't gone from when the toy attacked her and she bit us so badly.
Sophia is a dangerous cat!
I'm joking, but I must say, though, that never again am I going to get a rescue cat. I love Sophie but her freakiness gets to me, and I hate having a cat I frequently can't touch. Jim's keeping his distance from her, which is sad but understandable.
Please, all the gods that be, no more crises.
last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing
Finally did an Ectophiles' Guide entry for Rachel Smith and Sully (kind of terse), and Christine Fellows's wonderful new album that we've been listening and listening to. And the recordings of Veda's concerts arrived--wonderful to experience them again. I can't hardly wait for the official release!
last week's listening § next week's listening
Cecelia Dart-Thornton's The Lady of the Sorrows is the second in her The Bitterbynde series, and has the charms of its predecessor (see my comments about The Ill-made Mute in my July 1, 2001 entry) but also its flaws. The world is fascinating but the characters are a little one-dimensional, and again the plot felt more wandering than driven. Here the former mute has regained her beauty (astonishing, surprising beauty!--of course) and her voice, but not her memory. She is driven to the court to pass on news of her discoveries in the previous volume to the king but there gets caught up in caught an eddy of court intrigues. This book is full of eddies, which might bog down impatient readers. I also was quite strongly bothered by the too-familiar story she tells when she does suddenly regain her memory. Still the world make this one worth reading. For me at least.
Karl Schroeder's Permanence is about a young woman, abused by her father and brother, who finally escapes, and by a series of events lays claim to a strange ship--she is thus embroiled in huge political struggles between people fighting for the survival of their worlds--and the survival of the human race. It is also about a disillusioned monk who has been collecting the kami of various alien places and races--until he collects the kami of a dying race, which alarms him beyond his ability to cope. He finds himself on a team to figure out what it is that the woman has claimed. This is a complicated and interesting story. If the characters realize things just a little too quickly and superficially, well, at least the events of the story effect change in them. Overall a good read.
Kara Dalkey's Ascension is the first in her young adult Water fantasy series. This is the tale of a young mermyd who lives in Atlantis. She has always aspired to become an Avatar, but her family chooses her cousin to try for the position instead. Rebellious, Nia investigates the competition for avatar and senses something is wrong. An interesting, if incomplete, tale.
last week's reading § next week's reading
Hey, I sent out a batch of poems. The Arc Poem of the Year contest, which has thus far generated for me four honourable mentions and The Confederation Poets Prize for the most recent honourable mention. I figured with that track record, I shouldn't let the deadline go by.
And our new copy of Arc arrived, with the published announcement of the Prize in it.
In the process of sending out the poems, I also did some revisions to the poems I sent as they were all fairly new. I think they're in decent shape now--enough not to embarrass me at least.
I have been desperate to get into revising Gypsy Davey, but it has been so hard to find the time. Sigh. Still, I'm thinking about it and shaping things in my mind so when I do get some time I will be able to leap into it. I hope.
last week's writing § next week's writing
About the Phonosnout
Something between the branch and the leaves has taught them to fly. Simply, wind. Or not wind. Today, walking home with the breeze moving against my face, I could call it more distinctly, death. Which doesn't frighten me--at least for the leaves. Let's not worry about it.
October 6, 1983
It's autumn, October,
the magic potent words
in my private vision.
I'm Home again,
we're planning for winter
and work has started and I live it
After a summer of nothing. After
squalid thick heat, sirens, and the boom
of fireworks across town. It was
nothing, And then New York: the squalid
hot urine smell of the city. I couldn't
make sense of it--the derelicts in
the subway, everyone walking as though
armed. the museums full of
ed and beauty. At least I've stopped trying
to put everything in boxes.
Wiping the swat off my throat all night
at the Y. Jim naked and restless in
another bed. Saw Starry Night behind glass.
Saw O'Keeffes, Frankenthalers, and part of Dawn's White Wedding Chapel.
Saw Eva Hesse's
Sans II, a sequence of fiberglass
fiberglass boxes mounted and holding nothing.
Boxes that reminded me again of Beckett. The Unamable.
And Desmoiselles D'Avignon dominating a wall. Jim
saw his Hoppers.
which brings be back. The city scenes
of New York.
We spent time in the Village and sat
through a thundershower in a glass restaurant
eating cheese blintzes. We saw Godard's
Breathless. On the second morning
Jim and I
took the wrong subway
on our way to Columbia line and didn't notice the warning signs
and wound up in Harlem emerged into a strange bright
morning world that could have been old anywhere
but was Harlem, and a young woman sent us
out through two blocks and Needle park--only
that--to Columbia. I can't understand the word
ghetto and what it didn't mean that morning
But I'll always remember all the stairs we climbed The park was green and normal.
through Needle Park.
That morning it
held only a man walking dogs, and two
black young men talking
intently, they hardly glanced at our fear
But that was summer and over. Now
we're home and something between
the branch and the leaves has taught
them to fly. Here and in New York City.
We're planning for winter, which
will take us by surprise again
it's something we can't order and the leaves
will be long gone. 
1348. Twenty-five yesterday
A quarter century old yesterday, and it was, of course, a depressing day, but the evening was fun. Six of us went to dinner at the Mustard Seed --Georgia, Bette & John, Fred Rice, Jim and I. It was wild.
October 9, 1983
That was the month we reached
the ocean. The children began
taking off their shoes a mile
before, itching till the time
we got there. It was rocky,
the ocean inky black looking
oily as the grey skies. The
bigger ones carried the little
ones over the barnacles, and I feared
someone would fall breaking
someone as they slid over the kelpy
rocks. Just as the first reached
the water, the clouds broke
and let fall the dense rain
that had chased us for
The children made their way
back slowly, came under the dropping
shelters, wetter than they'd ever
been. Sarah held her hand clenched
tightly over a small pool of water
in her palm and would sometimes
stick her tongue in it, quick
and puzzled as a bird. 
1349. Parable of the Headwaters
October 16, 1983
This is where it begins:
I'm not sure this works; I have no distance. It seemed to want so much more, and this night it's not in me to give it.
here where th wind rolls
down the mountain like a boulder.
se empty stones in the streambed play ed the water
like lute strings, bending and releasing it
in so many pulses they became on song.
Child, I have seen you drink this water
and sing. You
can tell me how bears
taste fill themselves before
their long sleep, slake their whole
winter's thirst here. You know how
the wolves come here to wash their snouts
clear free of the blood of deer who drank here.
How hunters stop on the banks to rest
and forget their hunt. I want
to tell you so much you already
know about what the water does
to them all, vibrating like a harp in their bones,
with the same music envoy of the light that can never
reach so close to the marrow. 
1. It took me ten years to finish revising and tinkering with this poem. It changed quite a lot, but is still recognizable in this beginning. It appears as "September, New York" in Spells for Clear Vision.
2. An oriental restaurant, not anything to do with the drop-in centre I worked in as a teenager.
3. This odd story/poem never went anywhere, but seems rather like part of a larger piece of speculative fiction.
4. Much revised and tweaked, this appears in Blood Memory.
last week's Phonosnout § next week's Phonosnout
Last Week § Les Semaines index § Next Week
Email comments, questions, and complaints to email@example.com § Neile's main page
3472 people have wandered through this week with me