Les Semaines

November 25, 2007

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

 §

The End of November

Had a good Thanksgiving. John came down to visit from Victoria. I cooked a turkey (which was strangely dry and used a whole quart of chicken broth to baste it and John still had nothing to make the gravey with). Jim made mashed sweet potatoes, Devin's friend Jeff brought sliced and baked squash, and Devin brought pumpkin pie. Luckily, despite the problems the turkey tasted good. It was a free-range turkey, and I think it had done too much ranging.

After dinner, we went to Tamar's for dessert--lots of them--to see her family and some of her other friends.

Friday we went to Open Books, Seattle's poetry-only bookstore and tried not to spend too much money (we let John). Saturday after my writing session at Karen's we were going to meet up in Capitol Hill for a movie but couldn't find a way to do that without spending $16 on parking (two cars) so we went to Jamjuree (one of our favourite Thai restaurants that we don't get to too often) for lunch, then to Diva's for coffee instead. Sunday we went to Seward Park for a lovely walk. We'd never been there before, because it's about a 40 minute drive across town, but it's a wonderful place. We started to circumnavigate the park on a paved trail, but about when my back was scremaing about walking on pavement so long with firm-soled shoes (I'd planned for walking on trails) we cut off into the woods and my back shut up and it was so beautiful and damn I love woods. After that we went to Cafe Ibex which Amy took me to about a month ago.

We had bad movie karma but watched a few anyway. Talked a lot. Ate a lot. Read some. It was a very pleasant weekend. We need more four-day weekends.

Now it's time to start seriously getting ready for the thick of the holiday season. It's time to put together our holiday letter (if you're not on our mailing list and would like a letter, just email me, and you'll get to see new, unpublished poems by me and Jim).

Susan Palwick writes in her blog about trauma and stories/narrative:

Compulsive repetition of such stories isn't just a sign of shock. It's an essential coping strategy: the speaker is desperately trying to regain control by turning the event into a known, predictable narrative.
This explains a lot about me talking about the murder last spring. I knew this, but it helps to have it said flat out like this.

I'm trying to decide if I'm going to mention it in my holiday letter. It seems the wrong news for a celabratory time of year, but a discussion of my year without mentioning it seems false.

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

Listening

Not listening much this week, though we have a new Christine Fellows, which sounds wonderful and I look forward to exploring it.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Lisa Klein's young adult novel Ophelia tells the story of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view. You know right from the start that she survives, and it's told from her point of view. It mostly follows Shakespeare's version of the tale, with earlier parts about Ophelia's younger life, when she comes to court with her father Polonius and Laertes, and meets Hamlet, then, quickly, her life for a short time after the events of Shakespeare's play. It's an interesting novel and I quite enjoyed seeing things from this point of view. I do wish that the author hadn't telegraphed a few things and that her Ophelia had just a few more layers.

Kate DiCamillo's children's novel, Because of Win-Dixie, is a brief, delightful story of a girl who has just moved to town with her preacher father and is at a loss and lonely, who impulsively adopts a large, ugly dog who is roaming the supermarket. To her surprise, her father lets her keep him, and with the dog at her side, she's able to meet people, makes friends, and find her place in the town. The back cover described her as "disarmingly engaging" and both she and the novel are just that.

Christopher Paul Curtis" The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 is a middle-grade-level novel about an African-American family in Michigan in 1963, narrated by the middle of three children. He seems a little too well-behaved and a little too smart to go unnoticed and so attracts a little unwelcome attention, his older brother gets into trouble but seems to be a good kid, basically, and his younger sister is the baby of the family. Their parents seem to be doing pretty well, both financially and as parents, but a few too many incidents with the eldest brother makes them decide to take him to Birmingham and leave him with his disciplinarian grandmother. The trip south makes them learn a lot about each other. This is a warm-hearted book that makes for a delightful read.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Still chugging along. The brain is firing, too.

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Retrospective: old journal

June 17, 1994
Orkney: Rousay

Jim's Journal

Used by permission; Neile doesn't seem to have kept a journal this week, but she talks about her 1992 tour of Rousay here.

Up at 7:00. Potato cakes, toast, O.J. & tea. John was sick, so he decided to stay at B&B. Shelagh, Jens, Neile, and I caught bus for Finnstown at 9:00. Walked 2 miles while waiting for bus to Rousay ferry (Rosy Coaches). Rainy, drizzling most of morning. Caught ferry for Rousay on a short 20 mintue or so hop. The man who chatted to us at the pier ran the ferry for 25 years before turning it over to his son and grandson. Still makes the trip as passenger most days; not much else he can/wants to do. Were met at ferry by Island Transport.

First stop was at "Little General's" mansion. Built in late 19th century to house last Laird of Orkney/Rousay. He wasn't satisfied with existing mansion. House changed hands numerous times. Last was going to a hotel, but workers using blow torch set first to roof; upper floors & roof burned out. This workman was great-granson of the last man forced off land by the laird in the Clearances (increases in taxes that drove people off land--money was to finance laird's lifstyle).

Took a driving tour of island. Got to look out over to where Edwin Muir was born, raised--and where his family was froced from by same Clearances. Guide told us story of how Muir saw laird hunting birds, a sight he'd never seen before. Muir farm was on site of Viking castle.

Viewed from roadside farms and storm dikes. Circumnavigated island counter-clockwise.

Were dropped off near Westerness Walk--Midhowe Broch & Cairn. This was in sight of Viking settlement, and in turn not too far from medieval farming site (with kiln). Amazing how long this site had been used, over 4,000 years. Cairn was in slate building put up in 1930s. We got up on cat-walk and could see the late "stalls" where bodies--well, parts, skulls and some other bones--were placed after burial ceremonies. After death body was taken (dragged) into cairn for elaborate ceremony (as part of ceremony, body was draw up into crouched position, like a symbolic death/reburn re-enactment), and then left on raised platform in weather for some time. Finally parts of body left were taken back to cairn (check details).

We walked 1 mile or 2 along cliff front, past various houseremains and mounds that are sites of Viking burial, house sites. Got to farm (Brough Farm empty since 1845 during Clearances, saw Scottish Fold cat) around 2:45 and sat on oldstone bridge to eat lunch. A sheep dog came running up while we ate, rolled on its back and wanted Shelagh to pet it.

Bus came to pick us up after 3:00. Saw earth Dike near Saviskaill Bay raised for property dvidions

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