Les Semaines

May 24, 2009

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


Genteel Squalour

Isn't squalour a wonderful word? Oh, I mean "squalor" for all my Altered States friends. My olde friende the OED says squalour = misery + dirt. Mine isn't all that miserable. There's some dirt involved, though.

I have been living in squalour* for a while, and the only energy I seem to be able to expend towards doing something about it is mental. I have made a million plans for dealing with it. If I spent half the physical energy I've spent thinking about it, I'd be done with it by now.** I even typed up a list of projects this weekend.

And, and while typing this and looking up at the gorgeous sunset I realized I need to add "wash windows".

Housecleaning is not my natural mode, while housemessing is. It's a very good thing that clutter doesn't bother me, because I am a bit of a magpie and my house decorating is made of Stuff somewhat Randomly Arranged. But when I look at certain friends' houses I long for the empty spaces on the floors***, the gleaming wood, the lack of embarrassment when they pull a book out of their shelves because they don't have to blow the dust off it before handing it to anyone.†

I love the feeling I get when my house is clean, oh, and especially when my study feels organized.††

Toward that end we've continued our poetry book purge††† and I have started pulling off the poetry magnets that cover one whole side of our fridge and thus have kept me from cleaning it for at least--well, I don't want to admit how many in public--years.‡

Damn, I've got a list. I'm going to type "wash windows" on it right now.

I go through these bouts of madness. I hope not too often.


* It's not that we don't vacuum, dust, and clean the bathroom and kitchen. We do. And fairly regularly even. It's just that we have three cats, and the cobwebs that have built up again in the laundry room, the overflowing (and dusty) bookshelves, the chronic stacks of mysterious paper that arrive in my study and never depart. The stacks of CDs that I need to listen to. The half-completed projects...

** I may be exaggerating here. A little.

*** Our somewhat small house is full *full* of furniture. And cat scratching pads, and bookcases, and tables holding things up. There's very little wall or even floor space left.

† And also, my parents' house, which I was visiting last weekend. Had a lovely time, thank you, but it did occur to me that their house was cleaner than mine and they're thirty years older than I am. My mother loaned me a book which [the Barbara Erskine, okay?] which she did not have to blow on.

†† Yeah, that's not often. Especially given my penchant for tidying up by throwing things into boxes and hiding them away.

††† Avoidance activity? Us? C'mon, this will help. Some. At least our poetry book shelves won't be overflowing.

‡ Are you laughing at me? Don't think I can't hear you.

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


Carina Round has a new downloadable EP and I'm in love with it.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Jo Graham's historical fantasy novel, Hand of Isis is just as strong and compelling as Black Ships, her previous novel. This follows a girl and her two half-sisters, one of whom is Cleopatra, all daughters of Ptolemy, Pharaoh of Egypt, though each has a different mother. The two sisters become Cleopatra's handmaidens and are tied to her political fortunes. A fascinating story, well-told.

Barbara Erskine has long been a guilty pleasure of mine. The Warrior's Princess has the same pattern as the rest of her work: a contemporary woman whose complicated life suddenly gets entangled with that of some from hundreds of years ago. Here Jess is attacked and fleeing from the situation, she gets caught up in the story of the daughter of Caradog, a Welsh warrior king defeated by the Romans and taken to Rome. Through following the Welsh woman's journey, Jess's own story plays out. I love this stuff.

Devon Monk's Magic in the Blood is the second in her paranormal romance series about Allison Beckstrom, a woman who tracks magic spells back to their source. The story starts headlong, and Allie is immediately involved in way too much powerful magic that she doesn't understand--but she's not going to let that slow her down in the least. A quick, fun, compulsive read.

Laura Whitcomb's young adult fantasy novel, A Certain Slant of Light is about a ghost who has spend many decades attached to various writers. They don't know she's there, but she can't move far from them. Her contemporary host is a novel / high school English teacher. She's used to being invisible, but suddenly a boy can see her in class. She discovers that he also is a ghost and has taken over the body of a drug addict who OD-ed and left his body untenanted. We talks her into finding a host so they can be together. An odd and intriguing story.

Deb Caletti's young adult novel The Secret Life of Prince Charming tells the story of Quinn who lives in a household of women, all of whom seem to have a lot of cautionary tales to tell of broken hearts. She's been cautious, but her boyfriend has dumped her for the new girl in school and she's discovered that her newly rediscovered father is kind of a jerk, too. She winds up on an journey to return things her father has appropriated from the women in his life, with her older half-sister, her smart younger sister, an attractive musician (brother of the half-sister's boyfriend) who just starts off getting a lift from them, and a huge statue of a hamburger-eating boy. Deb Caletti is always above the mass. This one I found particularly true to life and entertaining. Good characters, too.

I also highly recommend Lisa Yee's young adult novel, Absolutely Maybe --the characters in this one were particularly well-drawn. Maybe (Maybelline) is the daughter of the proprietor of a charm school who prepares other teens for beauty pageants. Maybe's mother has been married several times--but not to her father, who remains a mystery. When her mother's latest fiancé makes a move on her and her mother blames her, Maybe takes advantage of the fact that one of her best friends is moving to LA to attend USC film school to take her other close friend and run away. She wants to get away, and she also has a clue that her biological father might be there. Maybe's struggles to get out of this mess are realistic and a good read.

Also really enjoyed Elizabeth Scott's Stealing Heaven. It's about a girl whose entire life to date has consisted of moving from town to town while her mother cases houses in ritsy neighbourhoods in order to steal their silver. When they reach a small ocean-front town things start to fall apart--for one thing, she's attracted to one of the town cops, for another the daughter of the house her mother is current targeting wants to be friends. This time she's not sure she wants to move on. Good characters and an interesting situation.

last week's reading § next week's reading


I'm struggling still with the cutting revision. I'm resisting it. During my writing sessions I try to do anything but work on this. Sigh.

A second new poem at Blue Skies Poetry, "Corriecravie/Torr A'Chaisteil".

And announcing:

She Say CD coverThe CD of me reading my poems is available again!


Since the original publisher is no longer printing these, Midfire Press is back in business. Except these are free. I will mail you one for the cost of postage: $2.00 in the U.S and Canada; $4.00 elsewhere in the world. PayPal to my first name at zipcon.com, or mail to me at P.O. Box 30187, Seattle, WA 98113-0187, U.S.A.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Tuesday, June 10, 1997

In Peebles, Scotland with my parents

Got rolling 9:30ish. First spent some time worrying about being lost, but gradually we made our way to Bothwell Castle, made of a lovely red sandstone in a beautiful setting on the Clyde.

Bothwell CastleMom & I heading to Bothwell Castle.


Pigeons and rocks in the tower. I climbed to the top of one and a pigeon kept trying to fly in the window but there I was. Mom says there was a nest in one of the latrines, but I missed that.

Then made our wandering way to Craignethan Castle, up a winding way.

The view from Craignethan CastleThe view from Craignethan Castle.


The pain part was still 16th C--later than many but still medieval. Went down through some storerooms--one had a very strange feeling, even when I went back. Then went back to the main castle. One room in the basement where there was a covered spring it was very cold and damp. The air felt it. Then up back to the kitchen. Stairs to the minstrel gallery, and the lord's room off the main hall and a space where they thought his great bed might have been. Cool wind through the whole building. Very grey.

Old defensive building in the ditch made to let a gang of guards shoot anyone coming towards them.

On the way back down the hill the car was too far to the right, and we hit a little concrete ridge at the roadside and had a flat. Drove further down and a guy who built Harleys helped us change it, since we were missing a key to take the locking hubcap off. He did the final work.

Then to Lanark where we booked a B&B in Peebles. I drove there. Had a lovely roast lamb pub dinner then back to the room for gooseberry fool.

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