Les Semaines

May 23, 2004

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal

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Back and Alone

Well, I'm back. I didn't mean to be gone so long. Blame it on jet lag and my advanced age and that Jim was leaving on his trip and Elaine visiting, and life and my inability to write about it. And the longer I delayed the more there was to write about so it became too much to start idly.

I don't have much of a journal from this trip to Turkey and it might be a while before I get it on-site, but we did end up having a good time.

I say end up, because all was in doubt for a while. The Tuesday after I wrote my last entry, I was woken even before Jim's alarm had gone off by a call from Christina to tell me that Dad (who had gone ahead of me to Turkey) had gone off on a trip to Cappadocia and had started having chest pains, and he was being flown back to Istanbul where she had arranged for him to be admitted at the American Hospital there, and she'd let me know when he got there and as soon as she knew anything. She had cancelled her own trip back to Bulgaria to teacher her final classes of the year (her husband, Matt, took them over for her).

It was a long and anxious time as you can imagine, with many calls back and forth to Istanbul, to Victoria to update my mother, to Alberta to update my sister and all. It turns out that my father has emphysema and his heart is okay. The muscle around it was inflamed from his breathing problems and the problems were caused by a combination of travelling, unaccustomed, altitude, stress, a cough from his horrible cold that wouldn't go away, and the damage to his lungs from the emphysema. We also found out through this that he hasn't stopped smoking, though we all were under the misapprehension that he had stopped about ten years ago. The doctors there made it clear that if he continued smoking the damage to his lungs would continue and soon enough he'd find himself having to carry an oxygen tank around. I hope that's enough to get him to stop smoking. And if you reading this are still smoking, well, hey, think about the people who love you and ho you don't want them anxious over your emphysema, okay?

Dad was in hospital until the day I got there. Christina's apartment is up three flights of steep stairs (she calls it the Turkish Stairmaster) but he did manage to get himself up them. He was only allowed to do one slow thing a day and no travelling for the first week, but on Thursday we took him back to the hospital and they cleared him for travel, so on Friday we found a flight to Antalya--on the Mediterranean just before it rounds the corner to the Aegean--and explored there. A place full of Greek ruins, mostly Lycian. Really lovely and we had some fun, yes we did. It was heavenly. We saw an abandoned city atop a mountain, saw towns sunken into the Mediterranean, saw a place where Leto was worshipped, saw Lycian tombs of startling beauty and peacefulness.

So it did turn into a lovely vacation. I got home Saturday after two weeks away and went back to work on Monday. I spent most of that week in a blur of jet lag recovery and catching up with life, my day job, Clarion West, email, and Jim. The next week was more of the same, adding in getting Jim ready for his trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) with my mother. Yes, I know it's pretty interesting that I had a trip with my father and now my husband is travelling with my mother.

He left a week ago Friday. Unlike on my trip where I made him phone me on Christina's cellphone every other day (she doesn't get charged for calls in but they really kill her on calls going out, especially overseas), he has only phoned once to say it would be really difficult to phone and emailed once to say it would be difficult to email. I trust he's having a good time up there, with all the forest and ocean up there. I'm trying very hard not to be jealous.

Tamar and I celebrated Jim's departure by watching the five-hour Pride and Prejudice and eating food that Jim doesn't like much. The first night and first DVD Tamar cooked pork tenderloin with blueberry chipotle sauce, which was to die for, and the second night and second DVD I did a lamb roast. Heh.

I was alone only until Tuesday, when a friend came to crash here. She has a lot of friends here so she was out a lot which made her an almost perfect guest. I would have liked for the two of us to have more time together, but that also makes it perfect because we didn't get tired of each other at all. It wasn't entirely her schedule: I picked the wrong nights to be out myself, at dinner and a movie with Zac, and she left this morning, after I'd already gone out for brunch with Tamar and her visiting sister, Ani. Which made me feel a little bad. So it goes. We did have a nice brunch, then went to the Seattle Art Museum to see a medieval art exhibit they had on, then went grocery shopping to pick up a few quick things and I've been home since.

I've also been on an Austen binge since Pride and Prejudice, having since watched Emma and Mansfield Park, and now I'm re-reading Mansfield Park.

Another bit of interesting news, is remember Jim's niece Devin just visited Seattle? Well, she liked it so much she applied for a job here and got it, and now she's moving out to Seattle in August. Very exciting.

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

Listening

We picked up the new Patti Smith album, Trampin'. It got a rave review in Mojo, so I've really been looking forward to it, but I have to say that so far I'm disappointed. It doesn't have quite the spark and individuality of say, Gone Again. I fear to say it's clichéd but it veers in that direction for me, both in sound and lyrically. I hope further listenings will change my mind.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

On the plane to Turkey I re-read Orson Scott Card's amazing novel, Songmaster, because Christina had remembered being impressed with it some years ago and wanted a copy so I brought mine for her. I remembered liking it a lot, too, so I decided to read it before giving it to her. It's the story of a young profoundly gifted singer in a society where such singers are the most highly prized and are assigned only to extremely special people. Much to the surprise of the people who assign the singers, the emperor not only wants a singer but is worthy of one. This young singer has to be prepared to be able to handle both the burden of his gift and the world he will live in. This is the story of his training, what happens to him as the companion to the emporer, and after the emperor's death. A profound and moving tale with lots of philosophical issues to mull over. Especially with Christina to prompt me to do so.

While travelling in Turkey I read Iain Banks Consider Phlebas, which was very much not what I thought it would be. I thought it would be a difficult, philosophical space novel. Instead it was a space opera and actually rather superficial. I'm not so sure now what it is exactly what people like so much about Iain Banks, though that probably isn't fair to say on the basis of only one of his novels. Though some have named this one as his best. In any chase, it's the story of a Changer, a man of a race which can use a combination of biology and technology to assume other shapes. He is caught up part of a huge, long space war between the amorphous, huge cluster of the Culture, ad group of humanoid races who are protected by AI and technology and their profound belief in its superiority and a warlike race. He's against the Culture: finds its smugness annoying and prefers the straightforward aggression of the non-humanoid race. In a rather picaresque-feeling manner he attempts to get to a planet where one of the Culture's strongest AI is hiding itself in order to capture it for the other side. I confess I did like the Epilogue to this novel a lot, but it could have had so much more a zing if the novel hadn't seemed so scattered and picaresque.

The fifth volume in the Spiderwick Chronicles, The Ironwood Tree (see my November 16, 2003 entry for comments on the previous three volumes) is another charming installment in the story. Here the plot thickens and the children are even more deeply involved in the alarming world of faerie. The books are such delightful objects, too: nicely printed and bound and with terrific illustrations.

Elizabeth Moon's the speed of dark is a knock-out novel. It's the near-future story of a autistic man who with new learning techniques has learned to be pretty functional in the world. He's part of a working group for a corporation, but when his group gets a new manager who wants to save the money that is required for the accommodations to make their working conditions possible for the autistic group and who wants to force them to volunteer for a new surgical procedure that will "cure" their autism. It was a fascinating look into another way of thinking (Moon herself has an autistic son) and an exciting look into future possibilities.

Had to bail on Isabel Glass's Daughter of Exile more than halfway through. I finally couldn't stop myself from saying the fatal words: I just don't care. I wanted to, but couldn't.

Another powerful novel was Victoria Strauss's The Burning Lands. This is a complex, fascinating novel about a young man, a kind of priest, who strongly believes in his strict religion and is assigned the task of finding a group of exiles. He's a Shaper, which means he has the power to change matter from one thing to another--but their religion requires that he subdue this talent with a drug. But on the trip across the desert to find the exiles he is forced to stop taking the drugs to survive and what then happens when he finds the exile community who have their own Shapers and their own believes about their religion? I found this novel captivating, realistic fantastic, human and utterly absorbing. (See my January 9, 2000 entry for comments on another of her novels.)

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

I didn't get any writing done in Turkey at all. But since I got back I've had three productive Saturday morning sessions with Karen (the first time her husband Barry and my Jim came along) at a West Seattle coffee shop. I've been working a little at other times, too. Have been doing some good poetry revisions of a few of the Scotland poems, and am now on the third chapter of Gypsy Davey. I shudder to think what draft this is of it. Probably about the tenth.

You know, I still need to find a better title for the novel, as Gypsy Davey is just the genesis for this novel that is tangled in many different ways. The Gypsy Davey ballad still haunts it, but so does the Donkeyskin fairy tale and the main theme of the novel is about making choices and creating your own life. Having the right title is going to be very important. Obviously, I'm going to be thinking about this a lot.

Similarly, I doubt that the final title for the Scotland poems is going to be either The Scotland Poems or The Walk She Takes: Poems from Scotland. Sometimes these things fall into my lap and sometimes I have to sweat each word. "Spells for Clear Vision" was like a puzzle, each word falling into place as I struggled to name the poem. As soon as I had those words, I knew they had to be the title of the book, too. Blood Memory had to be just that as soon as I ran across the August Wilson quote.

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Retrospective: old journal

Alas the Retrospective Journal is still on hiatus.

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