Les Semaines


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


Half-Past November

I can't believe how quickly this autumn is passing. The leaves are almost all gone, the sun rises late and sets early, rain has set in, and fall is threatening to turn into winter. We've had a lovely rain-and-wind storm to further help the disappearance of leaves.

hawthorneOur hawthorne hasn't given up, yet. Those orange dots are the haws, not turning leaves--I wish I could have gotten a better picture.The leaves are just showing hints of turning while most of our other trees are bare. This is a tree we planted about a year after we first moved into this house, so it's about six or seven years old. It has a younger, smaller twin, only about two years old, because that twin's predecessors didn't survive raccoons chewing a ring around the bark and then a blight. This one we're proud of, though. It's all haws. And thorns. And soon we'll be proud of its sibling.


Tamar and NeileThis is from last weekend: Tamar and I ignore the fact that Jim is pointing the camera at us.


JimJim doesn't do so well as ignoring us.


SophiaAnother picture of the chair thief. Can you see the stripéd tip of her tail? I love that tail.


Another busy week. Including another university drama production. This time a play called The Lover, which I didn't enjoy quite as much as last week's The Seagull. Not that the production and acting weren't good--they were--but the play seemed to end so abruptly, I felt like I didn't get it.

Another event this week was yesterday's day-long Clarion West Board Retreat. The first of an annual event. It was a long day of talking and thinking about all kinds of issues. Working our way through things, and especially thinking about the maturity of the organization itself as an organization. And especially of wishing the room we were in wasn't so darn hot. It was 84 for most of the meeting--I'm glad I was forewarned, and broke a summer top out of storage. When I came home all I was good for was sitting on the chesterfield and making a lap for Zach and reading. Jim lit a fire in the fireplace and joined me. A lovely evening, and because the day-long meeting made me feel like I'd done something I didn't feel guilty about taking the evening off and doing nothing. What a delight!

And you know what? I don't have much else to say.

Let me think. Work is busy, and I'm far behind, and scrambling to catch up there. I feel behind with things at home, too, given how distracted I've been and the long lists of things I have to do. I'm trying to ignore them and just concentrate on the tasks immediately in front of me. How do other people manage? What is there about our way of life that makes us feel so damn busy all the time?

I often try to think about what I could give up to ease the feeling of pressure in my life, and about the only thing I come up with is work, and unfortunately the bankbook reminds me that I can't do that. I certainly don't want to give up Clarion West. Sometimes I think how easeful life would feel if I didn't want to write novels or fiction at all, but I can't bring myself to give it up. Perhaps I should. There are so many other people out there how want to write fiction, too, and I'm in my mid-40s and still haven't finished a novel, so it's not like I'm going to be able to make a career out of it. But still I want to. Perhaps it's silly, but I'm not going to give that up, either. Or seeing my friends once or twice a week. I should probably give up reading books, but that's an addiction I couldn't live without, even for the sake of my writing. My reading feeds my writing, so without the reading the writing would likely die.

I should really give up my other addiction, to computer communication of all kinds. Then I might have time for sewing again. But I don't think I can give up that, either. Not after 11 years.

Simplify, reduce, focus. I don't think I can.

Especially not with Christmas coming, and my parents and their dogs due down for it and Christina coming from Bulgaria. Luckily, all of the (including the dogs) like to sleep.

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


I really like Carina Round's the first blood mystery. I don't know much about her. She's British. Her music is hard to describe. Kind of if you mixed PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Ani Difranco, and a mystery ingredient. It's individual but recognizable. And tough. Highly recommended.

Another disc I got at the same time, Storm Gordon's songs for birdman hasn't fared quite as well for me. I really like the first two songs: they're jazzy, fragile, with interesting electronic effects. But after that the songs or perhaps the production, just doesn't do anything for me. I could, and do, though, play those first two songs over and over.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Stephen Mitchell's The Frog Prince: A Tale for Consenting Adults is a brief stylish retelling of the fairy tale by that name, with various editorializing about relationships, people, frogs, princesses, and marriage. Relatively entertaining, but ultimately a little disappointing. It felt like it wanted to be more, but wasn't quite.

I finally finished Dorothy Dunnett's King Hereafter, just a few minutes ago. It was a long book. Full of strategies and battles. It took me two weeks to read it (with the brief break to read The Frog Prince); there were many pages and the type was small and the tale complex. And wonderful. It's a novel based on the historic figure of Macbeth and his wife, and what he accomplished in his lifetime and the changes he made to his part of the world and the chaotic world around him of the Norse and Danish and Norman and the various English factions, all related by blood and marriage and striving to primacy. Macbeth was Earl of Orkney and later King of Alba, so there was much time described in Orkney and in various places in Scotland, and my memories of the place rang out. The relationship of Macbeth and his wife was wonderfully portrayed, too. This was a book that I ended and said "Wow". It's quite an accomplishment. A fascinating tale of a fascinating figure and era. Highly recommended.

last week's reading § next week's reading


So now I have three stories out in the mail. Or more literally, two copies of one story out in the postal mail and two stories out in the ether of email (though both have been acknowledged as received). Now for patience, and looking forward to finishing something else. Other than touching those up to get them out in the mail, I didn't get much writing done this week.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

May - August 1986

1463. Back Again
May 28, 1986

The second night in a row. In May or the very end of. Spattering ink on the page to keep the pen writing. I don't know what's wrong with it that I have to keep on doing this, and filling it, and then it splotches like this. O well, I love it anyway and I've had it for years. It's served me well and I haven't lost it. In praise of the pen that I haven't lost.

1464. Another one of those contemporary memory poems (if the pen holds out)
May 28, 1986


Now I'm thinking back
to a place I've never been
Whitewold, and my mother's
two-year-old bare bottom
dancing away from the primitive
move camera's eye. 1930, she said,
and long before me. Plants are healthy
and alive and the lake's light
is stronger than the sun. Hoarded
it all winter. the man holding the
camera only lived to see his daughter
another 16 years. [1]

1465. Heat and the City
June 4, 1986

Heat. This is the city we're leaving.
Sweat and the sound of the mill
and birdsong out our window
and scars. This is why and everything falling. This is why.
I'm trying to put it all together,
six am and my husband breathing
sleep beside me, his back turned
and his face hidden in the cool
linen sheets. We're leaving here
because it's all too tangled
with the way we've been building
our lives and failing, so
we put it behind us. Bears
lumbering out of their dens
to the spring do this. But summer
doesn't burn off as easily as snow.
Everything dies first.


And so, young and just married
we went to New York: the squalid
hot urine smell of the city. Summer,
of course, and I couldn't make
sense of it--the derelicts in the subway,
the museums full of anguish
and beauty, my new husband
distant and awed beside me.
At least I stopped trying
to put it all into boxes.
     Wiping the sweat off my throat
all night at the Y. Him naked and restless
in the other bed. We saw Eva Hesse's fibreglass
boxes mounted and holding nothing. Saw
Starry Night and Dawn's White Wedding Chapel,
Godard's Breathless in a stale and dank
theatre. Walked through the streets
our arms just touching, sun
and the film of dust wouldn't fade
from our skin.
     And we took the wrong subway, stepped
out into a foreign air that was Harlem.
Sent out through the city streets
and Needle Park, I can't understand
the word ghetto and what it didn't mean
that morning. The park was green, held
birds, a man walking dogs, two young men
talking intently, who hardly glanced
at our fear and flight.


I understand our lives here still less.
How we can live a place through
season turning and never
learn it, always feeling as stifled as in
this simmering heat. You can only
blame a place for not being home
for so long before the distinctions
blue. Her we walk beside the river
into town and the sky is open as
a child. It's not the Hudson, this
river, and we've caught our dinner
there. We should know it, but
we don't, as if in acknowledging this place
knowing we're leaving would tear some flesh
from our bones, leave us diminished.
As so we ask the city's pardon
as we pack our books and pans. Say
goodbye to the creek, the wind from
out the mountains (the Hellgate), dreaming
of that green city we're always approaching
that isn't this one--as if the completion
would undo us. [2]

1466. Maddy chews the spiral binding
June 9, 1986

and it's spring but cooler. Our evacuation plans continue.

1467 Almost September
August 31, 1986

Almost September, almost three months have passed, and we've lost Jeremiah in the same way as Bryer [3], gained Zacharias, and have been in Seattle nearly a month. Job hunting. Setting up a household. Naming this place ours. It doesn't seem so like the coast here--it's too city for that--but I feel better for being away from Missoula and starting again. Am I somewhat the worse for wear?
     I sit in the living room of our new apartment. It's almost seven and the sun comes straight in the window. The traffic is loud and I can barely hear birds over it. Jim is sitting in his tiny study with the tape machine going, and Maddy-and-Zach sleep on the bed. Through it all. They are better cats for apartment life than Bryer and Jeremiah, and they have each other in a way that Bryer & Jeremiah couldn't. We love them well, made kittens that they are. Affectionate.

1468. Bless Me
August 31. 1986

     I will not let thee go,
     Except thou bless me
Transparence of water
tangling my vision
     I shall not let you go
running between my fingers
I cannot hold you
though you hold me
in a very dream of change
and what that means
what that means is you can't
go there without me
     except thou bless me
and so you do, with a
turning over of light in yourself
so I can see under it
what I never saw
what is beneath itself
I see...where I was a year ago
or wasn't even longer than
that...centuries of elliptical
winding years yearning for the
blessing that is the water
pouring over my hands
disappearing between the round
stones below. [4]


1. Fizzle.

2. The first and last sections of this became "Leaving Montana in August" which appeared in Blood Memory; the centre section became most of "September, New York" which appeared in Spells for Clear Vision.

3. He disappeared and we searched for him and later found out that he'd been hit by a car. This time our downstairs neighbour found him, and at least we found out what happened.It still feels so strange that that happened twice in five weeks to us. We have since kept our cats indoors. Maddy lived to be 14 before cancer got her. Zach is still with us, complaining because his dinner is late.

4. Another poem that never went anywhere, though I confess I kind of like this one.

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