Friday, May 19, 2017

2.5, Suburban Standard

"This was the week we planned on..." A gauntlet to the chances and fates, no? This was not the week we anticipated having our compressor fail, nor was it the week we looked forward to camping in the kitchen and den, the two rooms that the portable a/c unit we'd purchased after the last a/c failure is able to keep cool.

Take a deep breath. Crappy, discursive sentences aside, it has been a week that reminded me of all the ways that houses are built to function singly--for one particular type of family (two adults, no more than four children), for one physicality (healthy), for continuous provision of electricity. Half of the house is already humid and silent, two days of disuse rendering it odd and unnecessary. The television has been mostly left silent and one of us has made a dent in his reading list. The other of us has spent several afternoons with the dogs in the backyard, watching the tomatoes and mouse melons change colors and following the spiders and crickets and whatever those nasty orange bugs are creep through the jungle that is the vegetable bed. The zombie pumpkins are billowing out of the sides of one bed. This morning, a female cardinal landed on the fence, watched us sitting on the hammock, and then dove into the garden for a snack run.

If I go into the back, intending to work on a project, I'm caught by the stuffiness and the smell of the house reminds me of relatives' houses on summer vacations. Those houses had thinner walls and I remember the curtains moving. You kept the windows open to let the air flow. You served hot coffee on summer afternoons and the adults sat in the kitchen, close to the coffee and the cool tile. If possible, you turned the kids outside.

I was a reader--it was hard to get me outside but it wasn't hard to install me in a quiet room with a book. For a little while. Eventually, the stillness would get to me and I would go outside just to move around and chase the breezes.

Some of that restlessness returns with the stuffiness. I want to open the windows, but I'm asked to shut doors and close curtains and to be careful if I want to go sit in the back of the house, where the coolness is not but the silence behind the fans is thick and damp and happier when undisturbed. The house wasn't built for this. It would prefer us to go outside.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Goals

It's been almost five months since I last posted and it seems right that this is the lead post away from that silence. There were several personal goals and deadlines that I'd set for myself during the beginning of the year:
  • Stop blaming the negative drag on my mood as remnants from the election
  • Finish a story I'd begun for my husband
  • Finish the poetry book I'd been inspired to start last year
    • Before the recent local author book festival
    • Before the beginning of May
    • Before the first half of the year was gone
    • Before this meeting and then that meeting
  • Outline the duology about suburban magic
  • Outline a vampire novel about a vampire who decides to give up the faith
  • Actually decorate for my husband's birthday
  • Finish the short stories that would serve as the introduction to the book of poetry
  • Finish just the one short story featuring a monkey
  • REALLY. Sit down and work on the monkey story.
  • There is a story. About a monkey who wrecks a woman's ability to enjoy stories once upon a time. FINISH IT.
  • Forget about the monkey story.
  • No, you're not going to work on that story.
  • STOP NOTICING MONKEYS EVERYWHERE.
  • Crap. Okay, one page hinting at the theme of the monkey story. In this tiny notebook. And then stop.
And then I picked up a book by an author whom I've met and looked at it. Looked at the back, where the blurbs sparkles like bubbles down to the edge of the dust jacket. Looked at the cover, looked at the table of contents, weighed the entire book in one hand, thumbed through the pages. Thought about all the work that had gone into that book. Asked myself whether goals deferred and goals unmet meant goals that I no longer believed in or cared about.

Seriously considered that what I really wanted to be and do was something else and that writing was always a second choice.

Once upon a time there was a monkey who could see that some things--stories, dreams--were alive in a way that animals are not. It wanted to know what they were made of. All it needed was a room and two little kids who would believe in the buttons and dials and Jacob's ladders of a lab long enough for the monkey to see through to the bones of the stories and a few tame stories.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wisdom

I am going to eat it. Everything sparkles around the edges of my vision and yet the golden bug floating just beyond Minerva’s shoulder gleams as if each scale on its wing is lit separately by a thousand suns. It looks delicious.
I hold still. There is eternity and there is this pose. Minerva has the profundity of a goddess, exact in herself, exact in her consideration of the point the artist has given her, beyond the butterfly, beyond this second, through the portrait itself. She has an icon’s immobility, holding a pose for the painter standing on a scaffold. The butterfly has come into the impossible second Minerva has derived for the painter, too deep or wide for Chronus and his stuttering insistence on wax rounds, ticks, atomic decay. Everything is chopped fine in his salad universe.
Minerva has promised this painter immortality for a painting and she has granted it—this second in which time does not move, although the painter breathes and mixes his paints and slides that brush across the canvas. And now a gilded butterfly has come into eternity, which she is welcome to spend in my belly.
Can I allow a butterfly to shine brighter than Minerva? Wisdom overshadowed by gold? I cannot.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Not a Review of C.J. Cherryh's Angel With the Sword

I finally finished C. J. Cherryh's Angel With the Sword yesterday, barreling toward the end as various boats and bridges caught fire or were swamped beneath the prow of larger vessels. This is my first venture into the world of Merovingen and although it wasn't necessarily the right book at the right time for me, it did eventually pull me in and stay floating in my thoughts for several hours afterward. I wanted to know what happened next and I was curious enough about the world to go through the appendix material and various maps at the end. Altair Jones' constant consideration of her situation (which had led to a general recommendation to read the book at a writers' group) made her a character that you could still feel lurking, considering her next move, after the book was over. Although, truthfully, she wasn't much of a lurker in the book--that mental conversation doubled her character slightly, so she was both active and heroic and shadowy and reckless at the same time.

It also led to the question--what if I had discovered it at the right time? If I had read this around the time I read The Hobbit or The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper...if I had encountered Altair rather than Frodo. In the middle of making notes for a draft, the question of why fantasy and whither narrative strikes more forcefully than usual.

I think about coming to a book like Pilgrim's Progress and loving it for the cracked spine, the line drawings in the chapters, the feel of the dry pages against my skin, knowing I had to take care of the physical book itself as I read it. Later, coming to Tolkien's books and having to be judged old enough to read them with care. In my current household, the same consideration would go to my husband's comics, of which I am very careful without particularly loving. Care is its own kind of veneration, I suppose.

This leads to the question of what fantasy does, what kind of escape or care it provides to the vanished and the magical and the forgotten. Am I reaching backward toward something that feels lot, trying to gild something that was never worth it? Did I discover books in accord with a preservationist, nostalgic character or did I become so because these are the ideas that I encountered that swallowed all others?


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Er...What is Crawling on My Ankle?

Good morning/afternoon/evening! I'm back at the picnic area, enjoying the cool breeze that comes with cloud cover and the will it/won't it grey of potential rain. Wind in the oaks sounds an awful lot like rain, actually. And things (such as leaves) will fall on you. Probably still safe for the devices, though, right?

Today there have been more,larger bugs at the table. At least one carpenter (?) ant...it looks like an ant but moves fast. And it's maybe half an inch long? So far, it's explored the water bottle, my keys, and, just now, my ankle. As it turns out, ankles carry significantly greater risk of minor crushing injuries...although in this case, more sweeping than crushing. It seemed fine. I'm sure it's fine.

I don't know why sitting out here makes me so solicitous of the insects. Perhaps a mild form of Writer's block? Probably the same reason I'm facing the parking lot, so I can see all the people who are jogging and feel completely sedentary trying to write around the ants and whatever that thing is that looks like a crawling chunk of concrete. And that jet engine masquerading as a bug.

In front of me is a circular concrete pad that used to have a small grill bolted to the center. Crawling concrete and former grill pads in the chape of tiny saucer-landing platforms should spark something...combined with the guy who is 'jogging' while catching up on his phone calls. Guess that's just modernity, though. Aliens who encounter too many blasé people? People who aren't really interested in first contact but in better phones and hey-what-kind-of-cool-tech do you have?

Maybe the aliens aren't interested in us, either.

I'm sure the bugs would prefer a clear table for hunting and whatnot, if not sloppy patrons with scavengable trash. All I have are pens and paper, which I'd prefer to not have chewed while I'm...er...working. Is there something on my ankle again?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Mercer Mornings

Okay, let's try this again. Maybe Google won't eat my post THIS time. It's been awhile since I posted--I've been missing Magpie Tales and the poetry prompts and caught up in the poetry collection that I'd like to have finished by the end of October, jut in time for the literary marathon that is NaNoWrimo. When the collection is done, I'm sure I'll have a post about whether or not I'm brave enough to put it up on Amazon.

Meanwhile, it's one of the last cool mornings until the next cool front next week (that's fall in this part of Texas, waiting for each gust of seasonal temps in between the heat) and I came out to Mercer's picnic side to catch up on some writing. Instead, I find myself watching the ladybug with the one damaged wing crawl all over the top of the picnic table and contemplating how to convince the tiny green spider to move from the lip of my water bottle so that can have a sip, too. Pretty sure the spider is set for the day. I have to wonder what a clear, condensate-heavy water bottle looks like to a spider. Probably not something you'd want to climb down.

There are other small bugs that blend in with the concrete picnic table. I notice them when they scuttle across my draft, seem to realize they are reality-tv exposed, and leap back onto the composite surface. At this point, I'm convinced several of these little stones might conceal creepy-crawlies, but it's cool and the shade and presumably we're all happy to have our own little patch of picnic table. I am herding the carpenter ants away from my shorts.

I've been thinking about doing something slightly different for NaNo this year: two novellas rather than one novel. My short story about birds and wizards in Houston has swum into wider waters than I expected and I think it would benefit from the increased length and I'd still like to work on my robot story. I'm not a sci-if person, generally, but I have reached a point where I hate abandoning devices (cell phone, tablet) for the latest model because we can't upgrade them or whatever reason the consumption/growth-minded crowd comes up with this year. Would we continue to do so with sentient tech? So...two very different stories, two different side of the brain? NaNo has been pretty rough for me the past few years and I'm hoping this keeps me motivated.

It seems that the day has warmed up enough that the spiders are restless. Guess that means I should get on with the day.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

All the Heat of the Afternoon

All the Heat of the Afternoon

He preaches to the three dogs,
Terrier mixes shining in the heat--
They pant and grin and tumble,
Then his pale eyes spear me.
He casts words but the window's up.
It deflects them, smothers my prayers
Before they ignite in the daylight,
A/C soft as a votive candle.
The car is neither confessional
Nor salvation. A/C bleeds out.
You can smell the tar simmer underneath
Dark drops sweating through concrete pores
Beneath my soles, slick rubber footprints
Leading beyond the curb, smeared
Across the grass dying in those vapors.
Shade fills with still, solid heat.
A hot sigh shakes the leaves overhead
Dryadic dragons drying their hair
In air thick as tarmac, boiling
A ballroom shimmying mirages.