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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines




We moved bookcases around in our basement Wednesday night, and found 27 furry cat toy mice! I'd been wondering where they all were because they kept disappearing, but I didn't think she could squeeze them back behind those bookcases. Surely there wasn't enough room between the back of the bookcase and the wall. She couldn't push them in back there. Yes she could. 27! Most of them don't have much fur left. 20 of them were under one bookcase alone. Obviously the favoured bookcase. Unless of course it simply was a bookcase hungry for furry mice and Sophia had nothing to do with it. That's the story she tells.

What a hectic week! In fact, I can't believe that a week has elapsed since my last journal entry. And yet if you asked where the time all went, I couldn't tell you. I haven't really been doing all that much, and yet my time is all disappearing. Maybe it's because that Monday holiday just evaporated on me, so the week seemed shorter than normal, and the weekend busier, between spending Friday afternoon looking at another sorority, we rented a movie to stare at on our new TV, then Saturday Paulette and Karen came over and we went to see The Two Towers again (I enjoyed it the third time around, but I think I'm done seeing in the theatre) then we had tea with Jim at our house, then Tamar came over bringing dinner (burgers) with her before she went out for a band practice, then Jim and I both spent the rest of the evening on the computers. Then this morning I tried to get myself to wake up then went over to Redmond for the end of a Clarion West communications meeting then for a board meeting, which followed immediately thereafter.

I came home and snarfed down dinner. Then tried to get some work done, but all I could do was sit on the chesterfield and do nothing for a while. I guess the bug that was bothering me a while back still hasn't quite gone, because wow, I have no energy. Unless meetings suck it all out of me, which could be the case. Or maybe it's that I haven't been sleeping well, so I've been staying up reading (hence the longer-than-usual reading list, below). Maybe if I could get enough sleep I'd have enough stamina to get me through the day. You never know.

So we're a little short this week. You should be glad.

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



Fernhill's latest, whilia, is really powerful and lovely traditional folk. Energetic, but only using simple instrumentation and Julie Murphy's powerful vocals.


last week's listening § next week's listening



So gobbled down Garth Nix's Abhorsen, the final volume in the series. It's hard to describe it without giving too many spoilers to the previous volume, but suffice it to say that here Prince Samiel and Lirael have to confront the evil necromancer and the power behind him. It's a novel about travelling across the land and the confrontation. I felt a little like the travelling took up too much of the book--I just didn't care so much about what they found along the way: the little battles with the Dead, etc. Part of what I loved about Lirael was her exploration of the magic in the library--all the weird and wonderful things there. That seemed new and different, while journeys in fantastic lands where enemies surround. I hate to say, yawn, but yawn it is. Because of that the power of this book was a little undercut for me, but I still liked it, especially the interactions of all the fascinating, and very real-feeling, characters. (See last week's reading and my May 27, 2001 entry for comments on readings and re-readings of books in this series.)

Marianne Curley's the named is the second of her novels I've read and enjoyed (see my January 12th entry for comments about the previous book). Both of them feel immediate and very much the experience of the teenagers whose voices they use. They feel authentic. This is the story of a young man who is one of the Named, and who must travel to the past to make certain the forces of chaos don't cause history to change and thus the world's destruction. Parts of the tale are also told by his apprentice, the younger sister of a his previous best friend--who now hates him. The relationships between the characters are presented with a light hand and the efforts they must make are challenging in a convincing way. Deftly told and entertaining.

Jo Walton's The Prize in the Game is an alternate world retelling of early Irish myth about the days of cattle raids and many kings and their frequent wars. It focuses on the romance between Conal and Emer, and on Emer's older sister, the beautiful Elenn, whose mother uses her as a way to use the men who have fallen for her beauty. It's a tale of myths and gods and champions, and for me was far more successful than her previous two novels, The King's Peace and The King's Name (commented on in my October 29, 2000 and January 6, 2002 entries, respectively), I think mostly because I'm less interested in large-scale trials and tribulations (wars and politics) than in people's day-to-day trials and tribulations (relationships and daily events).

Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones has received a huge amount of hype since it was published. It's the story of a teenaged girl who is raped and murdered, and then watches from heaven the impact of her death on the people left behind: her family, her friends and almost-boyfriend, and murderer. I'm not sure it's a remarkable novel, but it certainly is well-done, highly readable, especially given the subject matter, and actually life-affirming. Recommended. I also recommend her memoir, Lucky (see my comments about it in my July 14, 2002 entry).

I also read Barbara Vine's Grasshopper, which is of an undefinable genre. It's set up as a mystery, but the mysteries only come from the narrator telling her story and withholding information until she decides to tell it. This is the story of a young woman who likes to climb things. As a teenager she climbed electrical pylons, at least a little ways. Her boyfriend decides to climb with her one day and goes up higher than she ever has, and doesn't realize that touching a cigarette to the wires will kill him. The charge burns him and she is left holding onto his dead, burned body until his weight pulls him from her hands. She is considered to blame for the events and her life falls apart. The is the preface to the story--the main part is when she moves to London, ostensibly to go to school and put her life back together. And she does, but not in any expected way. She meets a strange group of people there and becomes involved in their lives. An interesting story. (See my February 25, 2001 and June 3, 2001 entries for comments about other Vine novels.)

last week's reading § next week's reading



Tried hard to get myself to concentrate and write on Monday, a holiday from work. I don't know quite why I couldn't settle down. I had that precious element, time, and I couldn't/didn't use it effectively. Sigh.

The poem that won Arc magazine's Confederation Poetry Prize is available online at their website.

last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

October 1987

1519. Dreaming of winter
October 2, 1987

Here, tonight, well near asleep I stumble
at your door, knock and the door
wanes to a face you wear that
is not your own. I am on the outside
of this open demanding door. Will
you walk through it out, out
into the dust falling snow?
You put on your boots and scarf
and your own face again, and we walk
out into the sky solid dust-red
with snow and the held city light
Each streetlight is another world
and the snow grinds at each step
announcing us hushed to the
next angel, angel of light
sharped by the maples' bare
branches, thickening, dull
with snow. It falls on us
melts into us, through our cold-thinned
skins freeing us from the weight
of our wet clothes. My hand
when it finds yours is warmer
than fire, leaves you back
at your door, and I'm drunk
with ice, with this white-bound world
with the turn of my tracks in the snow. [1]

1520. Fourth night
October 4, 1987

Fourth night in October. The fat
moon, almost full, skims the points ridges
of the firs, pulling the hill higher.
Just past the solstice of the year
the usual storms have skipped this shore
the wind is still gentle and balmy
and hasn't yet heralded a hard rain.
So lazy a wind spins out summer
like a twisted thread of yarn, drawing
it out ever longer and we haven't
found its end yet. It will be a sudden knot
when it comes. Banging at its heels will be rain. [2]
And so it doesn't matter that this says nothing. I am learning again just to write just to write and so worry about whether it is great or it is something at all. Just writing to be doing it. I still feel that I want what I write to be wonderful and to matter too much, that time is so short and I spend so little time writing that I have to make it count, so I'm doing (or trying to at least) undo that by writing more often. I'm trying to write every night this month, though I have already missed one. I'd rather I didn't know so early on that I would fail in my decision, but now I need to see how well I can stick by it the rest of the month. I will do my best; I will do it. As best I can. Try not to let the quotidian overwhelm or underwhelm me. And it's only the fourth night in October. I'm three-quarters there.

1521. Letter to myself further in
October 4, 1987

In this warn green house in the waxing moon
the striped cat stretches, relaxes back into
sleep, winds himself around the gray cat,
yawns and sleeps. The light wind plays
around the window, teases chimes,
taunts us with a taste of ocean
and is gone. It's late in the year for days
so warm and golden they seem not real.
Walking along the beach yesterday we
held hands, tossed stones, kissed each
other's warm faces. Kicked the loose
leaves on our way back to the car
and reminisced about Montana and autumns
there, bright like this, but edged with frost
and the promise of a dangerous winter.
This coastal October seems more like spring,
and the flowers are fooling themselves
into blooming again, fearless as angels.
I can't blame them; this summer seems
as endless as the ocean, more days to it
than waves landing on the rocks we
clambered on. I'm making myself
remember this, these days before
the real winter comes, so that it
will not burn me away.

1522. For Jocelyn
October 8, 1987

I look out from the rim of my perfect life: it centres me, grounds me, as I travel through the world, survey my chances. Husband, happy marriage, no children yet to complicate, money enough. Don't you know it's not any different? Any weight behind you may not be enough to keep from falling over the edge. [3]

1523. By candlelight
October 11, 1987

Another night by candlelight, which for me is magic. I'm at the kitchen table and should be asleep, so Zach says from the chair across. Sunday night of a day when I dozed off a few too many times, and now, restless, I pay for it--by the light of a 10¢ candle. And Maddy on the table now. Mindy next door barking. Maddy looks out at her now.
     I am reading Bruce Chatwin's Songlines, which I like because it is wise but not stuffy about it and I am learning something of the true world from it. About people and how we live here, or try to. And how we die here. We are all conquered. I am thinking about things and I am grateful for candles. They are the only light to work by this late at night. Jim is trying to sleep and I fear I keep him awake by not sleeping beside him.
     Susan and Alan pass through, on their way to Missoula to move her out of that city--which is sad. One less home to go to there, our old place. [4]

1524. Spice and ashes, salt and dust
October 11, 1987

Late at night, by the light of one candle, I am out of my bad dream and open again. The world comes in, the real one tasting of salt and ashes. Spice and dust. The weariness of my bones is lifted and settles deeper in, where it belongs. I can open it like a gate and walk through. It is a stone, a door, a promise and goodbye. If I held it in my hands, if I could hold it, it would thrum with heartbeat, a hidden song. Inside it might be stars.
     I am inside and outside at once, just as I have knowledge and only the very edge of knowledge at once. This is not contradiction. Whoever reads these words knows this is true, and possible. The world is wonderful, like the word possibility.
     My pen needs feeding.
     The ritual of filling my pen has no significance at this hour. It is merely noise to bother my sleeping husband. The cats don't even come by to see what I am doing.
     I feel like doing something to remind me I am alive. And Maddy comes by. She is always alive. And Zach chirps by, but doesn't join us at the table. These cats have great beauty.


1. I worked with this poem for a long time, it even got published in a magazine. Eventually it became part of "Lovers in Grey" in Blood Memory.

2. Though I thought this an exercise, it still became part of the poem "Out of Speech Out of Silence" in Spells for Clear Vision.

3. Jocelyn is my sister. I wrote this on my 29th birthday.

4. Our friend Susan had wound up living in our old apartment in Missoula while she completed her MFA. She met a man who lived in Vancouver, and was moving there with him to complete her thesis.

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