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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



Waiting for The Brain Cells to Start Talking Again

Damn freaky cold still hanging around. I was feeling like I was getting better, but on Wednesday it decided to start messing with my ears, so when I go up out of bed the walls and floor kept tilting at me. I got really stupid. Truly. Like my brain cells stopped communicating with one another and I couldn't figure out what was going on. I managed to get myself dressed and ready for work but I couldn't get myself to my car, so I phoned in worked and tried to figure out how to say that I couldn't come in. I did that, somehow. Then I sat on the daybed in my study with the phone in my hand, trying to figure out what why everything was so tilty and what to do next. I couldn't figure it out, so I phoned Jim at work. He said, "Well, duh, why don't you call the consulting nurse?" Actually, he managed to keep the "well, duh" part subvocal. He's kind that way. So I phoned the consulting nurse. She pointed out that I still sounded congested. "Yes!" I said. And that you know the whole eyes, ears, nose and throat thing--the congestion was gotten to my ears. A revelation! The two working brain cells on either side of my head got all excited. So then she suggested that I try taking decongestants and steam and all those things.

So I'm getting better. But boy I felt stupid.

I stayed home all days Wednesday, because it took that long for the walls to stay still. Worked on Thursday, and had two Clarion West meetings that evening. I knew I couldn't site through three hours of meetings, so I skipped the first but went to the second. Which was a good meeting with a sudden, surprising consensus about how to choose the instructors for 2004 (yay, Kate!).

Work Friday, came home to do some cleaning, then Karen and Barry came over and we got hot and sour soup to help cure Karen's and my colds and watched a half really interesting, half really bad horror movie. We still had fun.

Saturday was Leslie and my big annual meeting about finalizing the class list for this year's Clarion West class, where we always agonize about those we can't invite. Much agonizing, made up for by the wonderful reactions of the people we phoned to invite to come.

Then Saturday night the concert (see below). And then today and the fiction writing workshop and many many phone conversations. I feel like I'm all talked out, and I didn't even get to return the call from my Mom. Poor Mom!

Got to remember to copy out and mail all the tax forms. Must not forget.

But here's some other, better, news:

Pear tree in bloomOur pear tree in bloom.


Sophia in a basketSophia in my waste paper basket.


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



We went to hear the Academy of Ancient Music on Saturday night. It was really lovely. I wish that my ears still weren't congested and I could have heard them better. It also would have helped if we both weren't so tired. I hate to admit that we actually left during the intermission. It wasn't the music--the music was delightful.


last week's listening § next week's listening



Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza: City of Masks is a young adult book about a boy who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer who finds a way to travel into a parallel world that resembles Renaissance Europe, in particular he's in a town that is like Venice. There he gets involved with a young woman who wants to be gondolier, the Duchessa who reigns over the city, and her magician. There's also a plot afoot to kills the Duchessa so the city and its environs can be taken under the control of a devious powerful family. As I read this I kept having the powerful feeling that it should have been much better than it was. Elements of the plot were handled a little too simplistically, the characters were rather wooden, and it just didn't have the verve that that it could easily have had. Disappointing. But you know, the book smelled good. Literally. So I kept reading it.

I'd read a lot of Vivian Vande Velde's young adult novels (see my June 13, 1999 and July 16, 2000 entries) and each time I've been just a little disappointed. So beginning Heir Apparent I didn't really expect too much, which actually helped. I took the novel as a romp and didn't expect much from it and so I enjoyed this one. It's the story of a young girl who gets stuck in a virtual game, and her life really is in danger because of malfunctions caused by people protesting children using fantasy games. She has to work her way to the end and win the game. It was fun watching her figure things out and what not to do. Not a book I would read again, but I had fun with it.

When I was dragging my derrière to the drug store to pick up cold drugs and kleenex, I also picked up a copy of Jennifer Crusie's latest paperback, Faking It. It was just what I needed: fast, funny, interesting characters, and a plot that kept humming along. I laughed out loud, which I rarely do. Great fun. (See my September 3 and 24, 2000 and April 28, 2002 entries for comments about other books of hers.) This one is about a young woman who life has been painting replicas and forgeries. She's trying to steal one back when she's nearly discovered and hides in a closet only to be trapped in there with a charming young man who is also trying to steal back something from the same woman.


last week's reading § next week's reading



Still too sick to work on anything other than sleeping.

However, I did get a fan letter by email! That was unexpected, and really lovely. If the author is reading this, thank you! It's really inspirational to know my work has reached someone so clearly--and was moved to tell me so.

As part of the fiction writing workshop today we spent some time talking bout moving our writing to the next level, about some frustration at not being able to do so, and about how to push ourselves. It was an interesting talk. The market is so saturated with competent stories that getting to that point is only a preliminary step to publishing stories. What you need to do is have some kind of a spark, something special to offer. And that's just the beginning. Then you've got to be persistent and productive. It sure isn't easy.


last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

October - November 1989

1568. The Moon in October
October 1, 1989

Not seen, hidden in the city night sky
in the thin twitching of cedar
in equinoxial wind. Still it shines.
On the dead leaves of the park
on the lake glass, disguised as cones
of streetlight, shines.
     How can you paint the moon?
Great void of light in black sky
(the death of hope; the old one
three moons gone who promised
black harvest in winter
promised rain) I say you do it
like this remembering
the old and the new, what
starts and what ends all at once
and in that great confusion
whatever it is appears in the clouds
heralding clear nights of frost
days of cold rain. [1]

1569 Bulgarian Christmas
October 22, 1989

The song's magic returns me
to December, the dark of the year
in a colder town than this--dirty snow
and warm friends, the river high
with thaw but slowing for the freeze.
The song brings back Christina and nights
of Dr. Who and sewing and good books
and lazy talk. Cooking and naps
and loving the cats. (Now Maddy says
she could do with a little of the love.)
Haunting foreign voices, weaving
aching harmonies, disturbing voices
loud and alive with thought and passion
over our slow days. [2]

1570. Elementary Level of Faith
November 5, 1989

Daylight savings is over and Zach can't get used to the change, that dinner comes an hour later. He tormented Jim--who was trying to write--all afternoon. Jim gave in and Zach got fed early. Jim is still writing and it's 5:30 and dark outside.
     I have been listening to Gabriel Yacoub off and on all day. Since the wonderful concert I have been--off and on--obsessed with his music. The concert was simple and astonishing. How easy it was to fully listen to him.
    --unlike the Merwin reading of last week; he reads so quietly the strength of the poems, except perhaps "The Last One" which suits it, is lost.

1571. All the Novembers
November 12, 1989

past & gone
     I've written into
           (writing off into the sunset
                 on my famous black horse,
                    the Pelikan pen)
"...what would I do without you?
Take away the love and the anger
What is this deep longing
that sucks our bones dry
that hollows us, hallows us?
What is the pain
that stiffens us into our familiar
postures of body
     and of mind?
We can name it with any word,
call it love or grief; when
the answer is this abstract
     any infinite work is true
     any thing felt
           if felt enough
It is the fabric it weaves upon our bones
that becomes our shroud
     the warp of days
     the weft of repetition
           this way then that
                 (but always again)
It is the argument that breaks us finally
the same repeated words
same more than twice with the same
abandon of anger that breaks us out
and weaves us in again.
     So what is this pain?
Let me explain:


1572. Its name is joy. Its name is waking

in the too early morning
and finding your body moves without
     thought, just the way you dreamed it would
It's after the argument, the sorrow
of being unable to erase any word
--the pain is laid bare--
     but knowing the possibility to heal
for what's torn is torn and need not be torn further
but maybe there is mending, healing
     the day's renewal, the bite of change...
Bronwen would call them the stubborn
particulars of grace
and it means that and all the joy
     that can be torn from the womb
           that we are still living
                 that there are days ahead we cannot frame
                        that wounds heal and scars remind us
                              that we live in spite of it all
                                    that the world has more than one name
                                         that one of those words is joy [3]

1573. Outside my window two cedars
November 12, 1989

to replace what is not now the forest
to remind the sealed soil of the life
it once had--but this is not only
complaint and sorrow for what no longer
is. It is sanctuary for the small birds
who remain in the city, haven for squirrels
hoarding summer in fear of the rain.
It is something left to hold the wind
And when I am sleeping, my face washed
in unnatural light the city abounds with
the cedars talk between themselves
with the mind of the forest, of something
not beginning, but always there, of
precious seedlings finding soil and light
enough in the cracks of the pavement
life enough to call this place home.


1. Nope, it's a nothing and never went anywhere.

2. Just a memory with line breaks. Not a poem.

3. I did save the last two lines of this two-entry drift and used them in a poem, "Plum Trees" in Spells for Clear Vision.

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