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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



I've Always Loved October

Well, I survived the first week of classes in good form, probably better than I have for years, though it was busy enough. I'm really glad that I decided to start having consistent hours, and work from 7:30 to 12:30 every day rather than just Monday, Wednesday and Friday and then working Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 to 2:30. It means that even if I do have to run an errand or two on my way home from work, I still have a couple of hours to work on my own stuff. And I've started to. Of course that makes me happy, too, and has a lot to do with me feeling good about this week.

I'm also still enjoying the learning process as I pick up new things I need to know to run the Ph.D. program. I met all the students this week, too, besides spending a lot of time advising my certificate students. Working with the students is my favourite part of my job so that also made this week good.

It started out with a surprise--Jan and I walked into the office at about the same time, only to see the whole main office covered in sheets and the floor a mess of wallboard and mudding dust. Over the weekend the window that had opened from my old office to the main office had been filled in as though it never existed. The guys doing the work had tried to clean up, but that dust is really hard to get rid of. Dotty came in and we took off and shook all the dust sheets outside and washed and washed and washed the floor. We worked on that for two hours and then couldn't ignore that it was the first day of classes any longer, and had to get back to our own work. It's amazing how changed the office seems.

I still haven't really had time to settle into my new space, and but I actually like it quite well. There are only two problems with it: that there are a lot of meetings right outside my door and it's hard to ignore them and students are nervous about walking through them especially when the door is closed; and I can't tell what's going on in the main office anymore if there are people out there who need help when Dotty and Jan are gone. I guess it's just not my problem anymore. My office is small, but cozy. I hope I'll have time to finish sorting it out soon.

The beginning of the week it was warm and sunny and felt just like it has all summer, even though the nights are cooler and the light is different, but the last couple of days it has been gray and more like autumn and suddenly the trees are turning. Jim has been getting the yard ready for winter, including taking out my dwarf Italian plum tree that has been sick and dying for the last three years. It makes me sad. I kept hoping it would pull through. Jim put a little stick cross where it used to be. I think to make me laugh about it. I still miss the tree but it's too late to hope for a miracle now.

There were other things this week. I finally made a bunch of appointments I'd been putting off, resulting in my having a mammogram on Thursday, and taking my car in to have its oil changed, an embarrassing five months late. The mammogram was only three months late.

Had Pho with Tamar on Friday and looked after her cat Genki today and will tomorrow. Had a Thai dinner yesterday with Karen and Barry and then they went with us to Redmond, where Jim was part of a group reading at Redmond Association for the Spoken Word (RASP). They have open mike sets, so Karen and I challenged each other to read. Jim had a good 10 minute set, but all of us had trouble with the mike and the crowd noise, including the espresso machine. Still, we had fun, but a late night.

Today I went to hear Robin McKinley answer questions at the University Bookstore. She's one of my favourite authors. I discovered her work when I worked at a friend's children's bookstore in Missoula and she paid me for my time in books. Reading Robin McKinley got me interested in the idea of writing fantasy, making me realize how profound and beautiful it can be. She and Diana Wynne Jones were the thin edge of the wedge in getting me to expand my writing from poetry alone.

You might be interested to note that when I submitted the passages above The Gender Genie determined that I was male. Ha! Gotcha! It's just the name, silly. (I should point out, though, that I didn't actually submit my name.)


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We're still obsessing on Noe Venable's the world is bound by secret knots, though I've also been listening to a couple of other things, like Françoiz Breut, who is very French--a kind of cross between Edith Piaf and indie rock/performance art.


last week's listening § next week's listening



John and Patricia Beatty's historical children's novel Holdfast is the story of an young Irish girl in Elizabethan times whose father, an Earl, is killed in war. Immediately his English allies come to take her and her dog to England to be sold to the highest bidder: she is to be taken to a family who will pay the queen for her wardship during which time they can take the income from the extensive lands she owns; her dog is to be given as a gift to a nobleman. Along the journey, she helps her dog to escape, but she cannot. The rest of the story is about how she and her dog are reunited.

After seeing most of Hayao Miyazaki's movies, I thought I'd try his series of graphic novels, Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind. This is the story of a young idealistic girl in a post-apocalyptic world who has a sympathetic ability to communicate with other species. Their land is being overcome by a ferocious war between two empires and by environmental poisons created by the pre-apocalyptic civilizations. Theirs is a world full of gigantic insects, where most of the land surface is covered by poisonous miasmas and forests created of molds encroaching on the few remaining pieces of arable land--that and war. Nausicaä grows into a heroic figure able to communicate with all sides in these battles--with the insects, molds, and both sides of the war. I found this intriguing and imaginative; my only complaint would be that I wish it were more clear when changes of scene were occurring. Recommended.

Matt Ruff's The Fool on the Hill is a book I've heard mentioned several times over the years, so I thought I'd finally read it. It's the story of an ancient Storyteller, a meddler in the world who messes with the world just to create a good story. Set in the very real, concrete world of Cornell University (and full of detailed information about the setting) it also contains an invisible race of fairies, a seductress named Calliope, and evil force and his rat army, a dog looking for heaven and the max cat who considers it his duty to attend him on this quest. The main human character is a fiction writer with the ability to call wind; his only other superhuman ability seems to be the magic of his writing. Mix all this up and you get a novel that is just a little too self-aware to make good use of the magical elements and the characters and a little too free with the magical elements to feel cynically postmodern. It's an odd mix of so many things it doesn't quite gel in any particular direction. I can see why many people are fond of its stew. I enjoyed reading it but it didn't go beyond that for me.


last week's reading § next week's reading



So just why is it when I finally manage to get back to work I get a rejection? A story came back that is beginning to run out of places to go. It gathers nice, personal rejections and good comments and all (this time an "almost") but hasn't yet found a home. Before I allowed myself to despair, though, I got back to the novel revisions I had just begun actively working on when the mail came--yes, this timing was perfect, perfectly terrible--and when I was done I went to my computer and reprinted the story and got the other submission bits ready. Rejection still sucks, though.


last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

February 1991: Trip to England with Jim and Christina

Wednesday, February 10, 1991
Hay-on-Wye to Avebury

Today after breakfast Christina and I walked down the road to the children's bookshop where they had a book I wanted (William Mayne's dark and powerful It--I'd called yesterday to check). Interesting man helped us. Hiked back into the wonderful poetry bookstore, where Jim and I managed to find several things to spend money on. He'd checked out of the Seven Stars while we'd walked, then he walked along the river again. We did some of the craft shops again and I found some fun things at the chandler shop for gifts.
     Went to the information bureau to find out about Avebury B&Bs and the bus there, then back down to collect our luggage and drag it to the bus stop. Jim had got the poetry shop's catalogue, which said they had The Edinburgh Review issue on W.S. Graham, so I raced back to get it, leaving Christina in perhaps the one bookstore we hadn't been in before.
     Then the bus from Hay to Hereford, not a double decker this time. The country is rolling and very green oaks in the middle of the fields. The hedgerows, and the lovely houses, organic stone, aged and blending in with the moss and walls all around them. Saw a sign to one of Arthur's stones--next visit.
     Took the train from Hereford to Newport (saw the castle again, then to Swindon.

baggagesThe baggages waiting between trains at Newport.


Took a cab from Swindon to the New Inn. By the time we were settled, it was growing dark. Walked to Avebury (a mile?) in the rain and dark--nasty, really. But reached the stones [1] and walked around a few of them in a fenced-off field. Wonderful in the rain and dark. Circumnavigated the church and then back along the road and traffic. When we passed a tree covered in ivy the wind came up and there was the most miraculous sound--a humming.
     Dinner at the inn, then sleep. Still wet from the rain.


1. Avebury is a town that is mixed in with a long avenue and circle of stone.

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