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retrospective: old journal

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Restless & Unwilling

I hate it when I get in a mood like this. Unwilling to do anything productive. Sullen and irritable. I think it's because this has been such a busy week, with meetings and trying hard to get piles & piles of Clarion West stuff in the mail, and catching up and trying to get ahead at work, given that a week Friday I depart for Bulgaria and Turkey. We had quite a social weekend watching movies with friends but it was a little fraught, too, and there was a Clarion West board meeting. It went well, but wasn't restful, and I still haven't quite decompressed. It's like I'm bursting with it, and tomorrow's Monday and work again. I have a writing workshop tomorrow night, but I'm not sure I can bear to go, as I'm just weary unto death.

It didn't help that last night my stomach was upset and so I sat up a while, but ended up by falling asleep sitting up on the chesterfield. I didn't wake up until it was light. The light beside me was still on, and the cats where looking out the window behind me. I was still dressed. I just lumbered downstairs into bed beside Jim and slept there until about 10:00. I probably didn't wake up at all today, despite the coffee.

So I've been spending the day napping, reading, catching up on Sluggy Freelance. playing computer solitaire, torturing Sophia by picking her up, and trying not to bother Jim too much while he's writing. He has also been doing laundry. And he did the dishes. And he cleaned the litter box while I didn't clean it this morning. He's a martyr to the cause, he is.

And me, I'm still in a mood.

Neile & Sophia sorting packetsPre-bad mood, Neile & Sophia sort through stories and packet material.


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



I rediscovered Petracovich's blue cotton skin this week. I've had it for a while and really liked it, but had mislaid it. I found it again a coupe of days ago and started playing it, fairly obsessively. It's got alternarock and electronica touches, gentle, lovely vocals and intriguing melodies. A fine, fine, album.


last week's listening § next week's listening



Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Avatar is the third in her fantasy series about Phèdre (see my June 24, 2001 and February 23, 2002 entries for my comments about the previous books in this series). In this Phèdre is driven to rescue her oldest friend from a situation he placed himself in for her. To do so requires finding a secret that she has been seeking for years, but her worst and best enemy will give her a way of finding out the secret, as long as she does her a huge favour. Again, this was utterly captivating and enjoyable. A wonderful, rich and absorbing series.

Elizabeth Gouge's The Middle Window is the story of a wealthy, urbane young woman in the 1930s (contemporary at the time it was written) who feels drawn to take her family and fiancé to a remote valley in Scotland for a holiday. There she suddenly feels whole and at home, but the house they're staying in has a boarded-up window that terrifies her. She not only falls in love with the setting, but also with the owner of the house. The novel is about her acceptance of this dramatic change in herself, but also about how she discovers more of the tragic story of the woman who had blocked up that window.


last week's reading § next week's reading



At last! I heard back from one of my submissions. My poem, "Westward Ever Dreaming" (a collage made up from journals of women pioneers) will appear in a future issue of Canadian Literature, probably this autumn.


last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

January 1990

1587. White Lies
January 21, 1990

     for Christine

I hang the Thunderbird your son carved
by my door: It is to say that I know
you, and what belongs to your people
mine can only borrow. I hope to misuse
only as less badly as I can, for what little
that is worth, and that pains me, but I fear
I had even little right to that pain.
Everything we take is usurped, even our what guilt
we feel isn't ours honest. The carving is small
but cedar and richly stained. It is somehow

I live in the city where you came
to see the house you grew up in
lodged in a building you have to
pay admission to enter. The signs there
talk about your uncle, call him chief
though that was your father's place,
don't mention what he did with the money
for selling a home that was also yours.
I went there myself once, weaving through
crowds of children playing with bright
and loud games of science, tricks and progress
--modern, white magic--to enter the proper silence
or your house. I was nearly alone there.
Wondering first how it was when it was yours
and lived in, then how it must have been
for you to enter that way yourself. These
walls, these cedar planks, organized held your days,
held the first words you spoke--and now
they're here.
I only know I can't know
how you felt then, seeing them here, the word

Just as I can only imagine being beaten
for speaking your own language at the mission
school--beaten for using the only words
you knew. I can't imagine why English
a language I foolishly love could become law
and pain, why a language that like a magpie
picks up every shining word it sees
couldn't pick up taste yours, but had to
smother it. Conquering pride, it's called,
but we conquered by disease, by

I'd like to think that I can speak
honestly, without lies, but I can only
talk of myself while thinking of you.
I have no other way of seeing life
but through my eyes. You speak of live with salmon
cedar, thunderbird and tell no
lies. I offer you only my dishonest guilt
All this rhetoric
has no place here between us, I offer you only the
honest affection hidden in my lying words. [1]

1588. All the tigers
January 21, 1990

Sun in January, crisp-cold and bright
it its honour we walk to the zoo,
sharing my two mittens between us.
We pass the zebras, the new elephant
house, don't go the way of the gorillas
(you know I fear them), avoid the
wallabees, even the red panda, we've seen
them all before--no, today we go to see only
the cats. In the dark shed the small ones
are housed in, most have winter sleep.
The sandcat sleeps, the meercats
hunker, rise and stare, the caracal's long-tufted
ears don't twitch in her dreams; one ocelot
curls against the wall and glass
while two young ones play, indiscriminately
batting at each other and a mouthful
of grass. Outside one caged snow leopard
paces, stares, returns to a pile of feathers
on the concrete to wash and doze.
Then the three leopards, mother and
cubs, lie regally among the trees and grass
of their small range, high above us.
The mother, closest, stretches out on the
rock ledge, head high, tail so long
unbelievably long and round bends
over the edge behind him. One cub
so far behind the furs we can barely
see him merely watches. The third
catches the last of this sun, stretches
his smooth furry belly to the hint
of warmth in it, stretches and rolls.
He remind me of our own cats
now stretched warm along my legs
then jumps down to curl on the chair,
back to me, alone. I remember now
a dream I only remember part of
now, and that because I remember
telling about it days later, at a party.
I was a witch, powerful, flying above
the fleeing animals, flying low, straight, and
even with the ground, helping them escape.
And right below me, so close he could
be my shadow, a tiger--my familiar
and the source of my power. Today
it's colder, no trace of the sun, and the wind
has chased all the neighbourhood cats
inside. I think of all of them,
in the zoo only blocks from me now,
wonder what they are doing now,
sniffing the wind with its stories
of the shoreline and mountains and the
city around them, warm and breathing,
an alien sleeping in the city's core,
the lion's wide paws beating the rich red
earth of the jungle's heart. [2]

1589. What I'm Thinking
January 28, 1990

I cannot write a word that has not been already written. When I turn the room's heat off, the temperature falls so quickly I think it will not stop. Wind and cold sun shake the cedar outside but it won't give up anything. So this is how we live, by what we won't give up when we are shaken to our very roots: not what is impervious to the shaking but what we hold onto. That cold sun, thin as January drawn out to the end, rain over for now.

All that I won't take time to read and what I would write to my friends. What I would warn anyone of. Dust fallen onto the things that I live with. The cats bothering Jim in the cold room.

It's Sunday and we're in our usual places: Jim in the study, I'm on the love seat and Zach is fussing in between, Maddy somewhere asleep. Jim and I have stacks of books of poetry beside us, books that we leaf through and taste to get a kick start, to steal from. Yes, we are thieves.

It's dark now. I'm cold. Rain on the glass, solid as ice, wind in the trees like hands.


1. After quite a lot of revision, this poem appears in Spells for Clear Vision.

2. I never did try to do anything with this.

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