6.18.2015

The Harry Potter Book Club: Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 16-17

Before proceeding with discussion, I have two items that must be mentioned.

First, the bad news: Christie has had to withdraw from posting, owing to other life commitments needing priority—things like working and having two children. She hopes to still read along, and maybe we’ll even get her to comment from time to time. :)

Second: I would be failing in my duties as your resident Potterhead if I did not embed the following video.



At your service.

Masha responded to the last chapter with some insightful comments on Trelawney and the subject of Divination. She’s right that Trelawney is “a delightful fraud”; my favorite comment, however, was
Maybe Trelawney's merely a reminder that attempting to make a formula from a mystery is impossible and makes those that attempt it look ridiculous.
I’m delighting in academics and am lately feeling crazy fond of knowledge, the scientific method, theorizing, philosophizing, and all that—but Masha’s point introduces a nice little check into the West’s zeal in both the scientific and religious arenas. Not a halt, just a check—a warning not to dash off the edges of the earth in pursuit of the one explanation that solves everything.

On to the next chapters!

This Week in Reading Harry


Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, chapters 16 and 17

Art by afo2006

Potential discussion points:


1. Hermione irritates her classmates by fussing about how her Transfigured teapot looked more like a turtle than a tortoise, while everyone else is saying things like “Were the tortoises supposed to breathe steam?”

As someone who this week got a patient "I know you attempt to get 100% on your exams" email from a Spanish professor who knew I'd be upset with a 95%, I ... think it's a good thing I'm not on campus to irritate classmates who have healthier priorities. We annoying worrywarts are typically more invested than we need to be in the given moment, and we tend not to know how to stop that.
Art by Norma Peters.

2. Professor Lupin’s final exam. I absolutely love this. Around the time I went up against my Statistics final, I think I would have battled the exact same boggart as Hermione—substituting professors, of course.

3. The Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures makes its decision before finally weighing the evidence. “Justice”—to borrow Thomas Hardy’s scare quotes from the end of Tess of the D’Urbervilles—has all too often done the same.

4. I’d like to say that Harry’s fabricated crystal-ball viewing, in his Divination final, is testimony to Rowling’s confidence in the act of choosing—but that would involve SPOILERS.

5. Regarding humans' astounding capability for self-deception, I have to wonder how much of the students’ crystal-ball reporting Professor Trelawney actually believes. “A little disappointing,” she says, “but I’m sure you did your best.” Her disappointment appears to center in Harry’s failure to see death in the ball. I find this a mystery indeed.

Art by Ederoi
6. The real prediction, which—again, self-deception—Trelawney refused to believe that she actually made.

7. Ron demonstrates his bravery. I love that it’s Ron, wobbling on a broken leg, who says, “If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us too!”

8. Crookshanks demonstrates his humanity. I like a cat with a feel for justice. (It's outside the norm. The Oatmeal: "Dogs are a man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killers.")

Art by cartoonsilverfox
9. Hermione gets two out of three questions wrong. It happens to the best of us; it’s shockingly hard to get all the evidence regarding any tolerably important matter in this life.

10. “I’m Moony”—a werewolf. Here's Moony's backstory, drawn from Pottermore, for your reading pleasure. SPOILERS for latter books abound.

* * *

More Moony and the introduction of Peter Pettigrew, next post. For now, to tide you over until that day, here are some links to give you the warm fuzzies: first, Kelly Orazi's beautiful MuggleNet piece on J.K. Rowling's recent Twitter statement that "You got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together." (If that doesn't make your week, I'm not sure how to help you.)

Second, BookRiot gives us the option of “Imagining a Fandom Edition of an Annotated Harry Potter.” I am so down with that.

Happy reading!

4.10.2015

Harry Potter Book Club: Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 15

It's been almost exactly a year since the last Harry Potter Book Club post went up on my blog. I, for one, have missed our conversations. People have gone on talking about books and stuff, but it really just hasn't been the same.

Fifty shades of gray, listed by hexadecimal value.
I have such a weakness for puns.
Not having read that book, I have nothing else of interest
to say about it.
It's asking a great deal, I know, but perhaps you all might forgive the H.P.B.C. for having taken the year off. Masha had a baby. Christie traveled to Wales and back again, and had a baby. I took a job, entered college, and underwent metamorphosis.

But I'm still twelve years old at heart.
Some things never change.
Source.
I'll let Masha and Christie discuss their lives or not, as they choose. For now, I'll limit myself in this post to the subject at hand, which is Harry Potter—but I've seriously been through enough Transfiguration this year to find it worth noting that going forward with Harry Potter, picking up right where we left off in the middle of book three, I'm reading with new eyes. New eyes, and a few more unicorn hairs.

:: Conversation with my friend Bekah ::
Me: I found more gray hairs.
Bekah: Not gray. They are silver in a magical way, like unicorns.
Me: THAT. Yes.

Never fear: if you're curious, the general thoughts and feels will come up. Harry has experiences that can be made relevant to nearly everything important, and I'm well practiced at making mental leaps. Till Rowling brings it up, then.

Flippantly minor newsworthy item: I got a smartphone this year. I love it almost as much as Mr. Weasley might.

My favorite tech junkie.
So, right—Harry Potter. Remember, anybody can post to the book club on their own blog! That said, for the sake of one priceless commodity—time—I'm dropping the little-used link carousel. If you're not Masha or Christie and you post to the book club, leave me a comment with a link to your post, and I'll link back to you in my next post. M and C, I can of course find your posts without the aid of magic. :)

Also, with an unpredictable schedule and practically no time for reading, I can't promise to post regularly. I can, however, promise to give it the old college try! I'm in college. I'm doing stuff like that.

(NB: College is way better than middle and high school. J. K. Rowling should really write a book about wizard university, because MERLIN'S PANTS IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL. LIKE BABY UNICORNS.)

We left off with chapters 13 and 14. Recap:
  • Sirius Black broke into Gryffindor Tower
  • Lupin and Snape confronted the Marauder's Map
  • Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle got punished by McGonagall for dressing up as dementors and sabotaging the Quidditch game
  • Hermione got herself in over her head.
I must say, the number of times I've thought of Hermione's near-hysterical "I can't, Harry, I've still got four hundred and twenty-two pages to read!" these last months has not been insignificant.

Now, on to chapter 15! It's theoretically an easy one, as we're talking Quidditch.

* * *

This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, chapter 15

Potential discussion points:


1. Injustice in the Wizarding world. Hagrid has lost his case for Buckbeak against the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures—which is a remarkably chilling name. Disposal?

The loss of the case is too easily written off by Ron—and therefore Harry and the reader—as a result of Lucius Malfoy's throwing the weight of his wealth and power around. What has to be remembered is that Buckbeak did actually savage Malfoy, albeit under direct provocation, and therefore a handful of people who weren't present at the savaging chose to defend the child over the animal. It happened to be the wrong choice.

Wizards and witches, Rowling reminds us again and again, are human. Humans universally make choices based on the information at hand, fed through layers of conscious knowledge and unconscious presupposition, obvious passions and muddled emotion. Injustice can result at any point: misinformation, misunderstanding, wrong presuppositions, conflicting emotions and loyalties.

What's shocking to me is how easy it is, especially when you're removed from a situation, to be part of injustice. It's awful when you realize you have been.

Hermione delivering justice.
Art by periwinkle-blue.
2. Hermione slaps Malfoy in the face.

I'm not a huge fan of corporal punishment, but occasionally it seems to be the only way to settle an attitude—noting, of course, that this was a very small and not ultimately damaging strike given in response to an attitude the size of Grawp.

3. Cheering Charms. They sound addictive. You know how when you have chronic pain, you don't realize just how much pain it is till the right medication takes it away suddenly? I was lucky enough to experience eight hours this year with my usual anxiety completely sedated, and ... oh gosh. No amount of chocolate or alcohol has ever provided the same sense of relief and contentment as having anxiety just magically gone for a little while.

4. The crystal-gazing scene. This is possibly one of the funniest scenes in the series.
Harry, at least, felt extremely foolish, staring blankly at the crystal ball, trying to keep his mind empty when thoughts such as "this is stupid" kept drifting across it.
I haven't pulled anything more profound out of it, however; not until the part where:

"There's going to be loads of fog tonight."
Art by Marigolade-69.
5. Intellectualism finally gets fed up with Divination and storms out of the room. I'll let Masha take the lead on this subject, but here are some foggy preliminary thoughts:

I have vivid, detailed, emotive dreams that do sometimes seem to connect organically to waking experience, though I see them not as predictive but as curiosities that can occasionally be helpful in clarifying thought processes.

Also, single crows make me nervous. On the whole, however, I take firm refuge in science—which, when it's done properly, at least is supposed to acknowledge what it does not know. What I appreciate about Masha's approach to superstition, however, is that she makes the same concession. If more of us made that concession, the world truly might be a better place.

6. The Quidditch final, House rivalry, and competitive sports. I played volleyball in high school (not that I was good at it; I was just tall); I haven't got a problem with a little team spirit and competitiveness. Learning to lose and win graciously are good life skills. Sports are more fun than running on treadmills, and I can definitely yell and cheer at a Superbowl party when the Seahawks are playing. All admitted!

But team spirit is both charm and curse. Humanity admittedly might never get anything significant done without it, but when it's directed against other people, it bleeds the human soul of empathy. Fiercely loyal partisanship in politics blinds people to the truth underlying opposing positions. In religion (or the rejection thereof), the team mentality is death to caritas; speaking as a Christian—and as one who looks like an insider while sometimes having outsider feelings—I get frustrated with communal habits of dismissiveness toward, and unwillingness to work with, people who live outside the inner sanctum.

Most of all, though, I worry about team spirit when it leads otherwise sincere people to fight dirty. (Fred and George, you know I love you like crazy, but ...) I worry about a sports team when it starts regularly fouling its rivals in a game, and that concern gets profoundly personal when dirty fighting makes its way into things like politics and religion, which affect real humans' lives. My own record is hardly perfect here—I am absolutely as human as the next girl who hates losing—but part of growing is learning to play fairer, so there's always hope.

And there's your Hufflepuff optimist talking. :)

That ought to be enough to be going on with for this week. Happy Potter talk!



^^ The above setup terrified me so much that I had a hard time answering the questions myself. I never would have gotten Ginny's Patronus, either. I can rock trivia if it's book-based, but IMO, stuff that's only on Pottermore is not fair game.

9.28.2014

The Crack in the Tea-Cup and other stories

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
W. H. Auden, "As I Walked Out One Evening"

NB: I'm going to quote several parts of this poem, including its punch line, so if you want to read it in its entirety first, you can do so at poets.org.

* * *

LOOK what my piano teacher gave me.
My first month in Bellingham was mostly made up of September, and when I parked on the open top floor of the downtown parkade, I had a splendid view of fall color across the campus hill. The previous year had been spent in a brutal internal struggle I didn't yet have a name for—my first serious bout with depression—and I stood atop the parkade for a little while every weekday, letting brittle and frozen feelings be softened by red and orange and green leaves, sometimes blurred by fog; steely waters under woolly skies; and the damp, fresh, sour-salty breeze off the bay.

When my first boyfriend and I broke up, almost exactly a year later, I took similar comfort from a long afternoon walk in wind and occasional sputters of rain: over Taylor Hill, down along the beach at Boulevard Park, and back up through the university. That area, the south side of town, is arguably the most beautiful place I've ever lived, although the top of a foothill in the Bridger Mountains in Montana had a lot to be said for it.

This past week, the weather and color shifted to autumnal as, over and over again, I felt "the tears scald and start"—the natural consequence of lack of sleep, getting too obsessive about doing everything right in school, goodbyes, and other fun life stuff. I've been crying at weddings and blog posts and emails and Gospel readings at choir practice and music and random song lyrics, and sometimes I get choked up when I recite Auden's poem out loud.

Meanwhile, the vines on the parkade entrance wall have gone brilliant red. The silver dollar birches are all shades of orange, and the maples with the tiny leaves have started to take on their standard glorious wash of color. The bay has gone from blue and green to silver and gray, and the clouds are thick enough to need lamps on all morning and from late afternoon onward.

Seasonal depression is common enough here, but I find a lot of seasonal healing, too. I love this town, and never more so than in the fall.

* * *

"I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky."

(Best. Imagery. Ever.)
* * *

School pride. Go, Aggies!!!
* * *

Crazily enough, this was my fifth week of college.

It's a huge amount of work, but I love it. I love Utah State, and the fact that they're clearly determined to make me earn this degree. I love horticulture and English, and I'm quite certain I'll love Spanish when I can get to it (fortunately it's not semester-bound; considering my limited study time, the other two classes have proven all-engrossing.)

I love the classmate who made a rather public sacrifice for a friend and then told me about how she's felt publicly judged ever since. It makes me a little sad that we're not on campus together; I think we'd be friends.

Whether I would end up being friends with the classmate who referred to our textbook's nuanced essays on difficult topics as "whinny"—he meant "whiny," and I guarantee he's going to think that about my term paper—is harder to say. He does something like that almost every week; I've gotten so I look forward to his posts with affectionate trepidation. It's entertaining.


* * *






* * *

In the burrows of the Nightmare,
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadows,
And coughs when you would kiss.

* * *

USU makes all their students take this little interactive online course. I was pretty captivated by this screen. As you can see, I'm a Hufflepuff:

Yes, that's definitely my top value set.

Which would you choose?

* * *

All of my adult life, I've been telling people I was 5'11". A couple of weeks ago, a wellness screener told me I was six feet tall. I didn't believe her. She made me step out from under the bar and look.

Seventy-two inches on the dot.

What the ... When did I grow another inch? Has it stopped?!

* * *

Science class! I feel a little guilty propagating something that is apparently a noxious weed in both Washington and Oregon (English ivy), but I needed loads of something easy to propagate, and this is what I had loads of. If these take root, I'll put them on my desk at work.




They're completely adorable so far. I'm kind of proud of the little things.

* * *

O look, look in the mirror
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

* * *

This may not interest anyone except me, in which case you can all scroll past it, but I have been reading Mudblood Catholic's (Gabriel Blanchard) "Why I Am a Catholic" series (Part I here) hungrily, and when I say I cried over a blog post this week, it was his "Why I Am a Catholic, Part III: Apostate":
For it is the whole point of the book of Job that God, when He confronts both Job and Job's comforters, offers no answer, no explanation. He gives no account of Himself. As Charles Williams points out in He Came Down From Heaven, God's reply mostly only plagiarizes things Job has already said in his storm of accusation directed upwards. There is no theodicy offered there. 
Or rather, there is; it is that offered by Job's friends.
I don't talk much, either on this blog or with anyone except for a few dependable friends, about how hard faith comes for me. But keeping inner realities secret also comes hard for me, and Gabriel has spoken into some of my deepest experiences of this year.

As an agnostic who chooses to believe, by definition I am someone who has not been able to reason herself into firm conviction. The one apologetic that helps, lately, is the one that comes with its own uncertainty—the one that takes into account that the idea of suffering eternally for finite failures cannot, by any standard we know of, be characterized as justice; the one that recognizes that for some of us, Christian strictures turn out to be more severe than most of us would be able to bear; the one that sees the dark and complicated and horrifying sides of Scripture as clearly as its comforts, and knows that even today, tradition brings both beauty and cruelty into the world.

The apologetic that shows the cracks from bearing the weight of those questions, and that still can find no solution to life but to believe in Jesus, is the one apologetic that speaks to me of God in words I can comprehend.

I have no satisfying answers to these conundrums, and nothing but sympathy for those who find them too much for faith. Meanwhile, when I pray the Jesus prayer, I lean on the word mercy, and I pray it for all of us. But maybe the fact that I feel those cracks in my own soul, and yet have no other solution, and can sometimes still hear those words—maybe that means I'm more of a believer than I realize.

* * *

In a Facebook conversation with a friend recently, I recommended John Green's Looking for Alaska, which is where I originally met this poem; the bulk of Green's story is bookended by a single punch-packing couplet. The poem speaks less directly to me in its cynicism about love than it does in its darkly realistic vision of the brokenness of life, but this couplet is the redemption of both. It's a way for me, with all the bends and breaks in my soul, to move forward.

You shall love your crooked neighbor
With your crooked heart.

* * *

Back to good cheer, for those of you who made it this far! Favorite comment I've gotten all week from anybody: "Just what is a Hufflepuff?"


Me! I am a Hufflepuff. And here are twelve reasons why.

Much love, everybody!

7.19.2014

Things to Do When Home Alone for a Weekend

  • on account of being too creeped out in empty house to go to sleep, stay up till two a.m. reading a novel about ninjas
  • watch a bunch of school orientation stuff
  • practice the heck out of a couple of musical instruments:
Our friends left town and bequeathed us their piano.
I shot out my voice last night singing Evanescence to my own
accompaniment. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
  • give t'ai chi a try, with coaching provided by YouTube
  • do a week's worth of housecleaning
  • clean out the refrigerator
  • trim bangs and take selfies with Dante, Dostoevsky, Paolini, and Debussy:
Also, the corner of the piano.
Did I mention that I love this piano?
  • accidentally lock the priest out of the parish office (sorry, Father! I don't know what I did to the door...)
  • contemplate cleaning old clothes out of dresser drawers
  • contemplate the meaning of life (42) and sanity (the number's probably somewhere in the same range)
  • contemplate labels, goals, and other forms of life organization
  • spontaneously spend an evening listening to Nikki Yanofsky with birthday-girl sister and her family
  • do the laundry
  • listen to Enya, because seriously, Enya
  • listen to random CD bought off random guy on street corner during Lent because he "wanted to have a voice"
  • get a hard lemonade and a pint of chocolate gelato and start in on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
  • procrastinate on nearly all of the above by blogging
  • contribute to the internet's ever-insatiable need for cat pictures:

I miss Lou a lot, but at least I'm not bored. Cheers, everybody! I miss you, too....

6.23.2014

A Dance in the Wildwood and other stories

For when the heart goes before, like a lamp, and illumines the pathway,
Many things are made clear, that else lie hidden in darkness.
—Longfellow, Evangeline

* * *

A month's absence from the blog wasn't in the plans. Neither was the sheer volume of comment spam I've gotten on my last post, none of which should have reached the internet or you... unless you happened to be subscribed to comments, in which case, I'm so sorry.

Meanwhile, Min and I have been getting acquainted and liking each other very much indeed. She's friendly with my camera card, which helps. Brace yourselves. I've got a month's backlog of spring pictures coming your way.

* * *

One of the glories of this spring: the Don Juan climbing rose, which this year has recovered in great style from being treated like a Mr. Lincoln by mistake two winters ago. (The latter are hybrid teas, and like to be pruned way back in the winter. Climbers, not so much.)

It's hard to make the photos do it justice, especially since I haven't had time to do much better than snapshots.




* * *

Obligatory cat picture.
Why, yes, Maia is sleeping in a Kleenex box. It can't be comfortable.

* * *

Music of the week: My friend Fred is in a music video! He's the first person you see, the star of the frame narrative. Isn't he debonair? I love Fred. He always greets me with superlatives and a hug. You're stupendously marvelous, Fred. <3

Parents, you may want to watch this without any small fry to whom you are not yet prepared to explain the birds and the bees and lacy lingerie. FYI. Cool song and sweet video, though.




* * *

While listening to the radio in the car this weekend:

Me: "How did someone who sings like this ever get a job as a recording artist?"
Lou: “That’s Bob Dylan.”
Me: “Oh, well, I guess that explains it…”

...but it doesn't!

If I hadn't grown up almost entirely ignorant of pop culture and all relevant contexts, would I have understood?
"To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan.... "Nobody is ever told that."
* * *

Sunday afternoon I finished a work begun in, if memory holds true, sixth grade: that of reading Longfellow's Evangeline.

The ending made me cry, as I pulled myself away from "the wail of the forest" and back into the late afternoon sun in my own peaceful little yard. But the poetry was astoundingly beautiful, and some of the thoughts haunt me—a friendly haunting, usually, like the quote above, though there’s also being shadowed by a spirit of fury. Why is the world so sad and full of suffering? I'm not sure I'll ever understand.

* * *

That thought doesn't just come to mind when reading tragic literature. I thought about it for ten minutes straight the other night, while enduring a particularly impressive foot cramp. It was a much less poetic experience.

* * *

There’s a scene from the WWU performance of the Britten opera that, like Evangeline, has gone on haunting me. Late in the story, the fairies held a dance, contorting in wild and unstructured forms—and in the middle of them, in an act of choreographic brilliance, a single ballerina was spinning in place, in arabesque position. Demi-pointe, double turn. Demi-pointe, double turn. Demi-pointe, double turn, over and over and over again. She was placed on one of the dynamic points of the scene, spinning mindlessly, with all those fairies twisting around her. The effect was thrilling and profoundly unnerving.

I find myself referencing that image in thinking through life over the last few months. Everything changed at once: rhythm and routine, ideas and ideals, dreams and goals. Rites of thought, writing, and prayer—my usual ties to sanity—all snapped off like frayed kite strings, ends fluttering in the breeze. It's felt like the world has spun, writhing and morphing, around me—like perhaps I wandered into that fairy-dance as a human and found myself spinning, too, involuntarily and with abandon.

Masha and Christie have me retreating with them for a few weeks, seeking prayer, bringing in flowers for saints, and organizing thought processes into words and meaningful visions. It's apparently working, since I'm sane and settled enough to blog tonight.

Of course, one doesn't dance in the wildwood and go home unchanged. That, however, is as it should be.

* * *

You wouldn't think an ice cream labeled "Death by Chocolate" could be improved by pouring massive amounts of chocolate sauce on it.

Turns out, it can. Kathryn! I might need your grandma's recipe, if it be not secret. It's amazing.

* * *

Speaking of deliciousness: the nectar of the gods.
I'm pretty sure the only flavor to rival home-ripened strawberries
is fresh-squeezed orange juice from home-ripened oranges,
which, unfortunately, don't grow in Washington.
To be fair, neither do alligators and cockroaches.

* * *

Two rather dear young friends have passed me up in height this spring:

Cherry tree

Sumac
I believe Seth thinks I'm nuts for planting this tree,
and maybe I will agree in a decade when I have dozens,
but so far, I love the beautiful little thing.
The fig trees are still working on that goal. Grow, grow, grow, little figs!

You can do it!
* * * 

In other news: I am registered for my first classes—English 2010 and Introduction to Horticulture, the latter of which is a Breadth Life Sciences requirement that looked particularly life-applicable. I still need to register for Spanish, which USU is kindly letting me take from the University of Idaho since they offer only Italian online. (Italian: very beautiful, but not very useful in the Pacific Northwest.)

I like my job, and am addicted to the free coffee. I love both my piano teacher and my priest oh-so-much this week, both of them for extending lots of sympathy and mercy to exhausted and overwrought little Jennifer, on account of which, I am working very hard at this Bach inventio and at all the Christ-imitating Father asked me to do. I knew we had day lilies and rosemary in the garden, but the iris came as a surprise.


Blogging promises seem to be difficult to keep just now, but I'm not planning on abandoning this beloved little place. For today—I hope you're all well and enjoying summer!

5.15.2014

Electronic Seer and other stories

Where we write, linking up with Masha @ Cyganeria. Like anyone didn't know where I write:


On the couch, of course. Wedged into the corner.

But look at the new baby 'puter!


It's so little. Even compared to my beloved, bluescreen-happy old Dell.


I've used that old computer long and hard for five years. Now, as I go into online school, it seemed like a good time to buy one that didn't have a near-death experience every time it encountered the camera card or Skype.

The new computer wanted a name, so I called it Min, after Min Farshaw. I thought about going all out and choosing Elmindreda*, but Min-the-non-girly-visionary would not have approved. Hopefully it will be loyal and dependable and follow me everywhere and take delight in books and libraries—and if it prefers breeches to dresses, well, most days that makes two of us.

Anyhow, I'm fond of it already.

* * *

Right now I don't have a lot of words, except to be grateful for sunshine and warmth enough to bike to work in short sleeves and a skirt, and then to bike home and walk barefoot around the yard and admire the flowers.

The flowers can do the talking for me.

rhody

golden chain

stars of Bethlehem

columbine
Wait till our big climbing rose really gets going on the bloom. :)

* * *

I haven't forgotten about Harry Potter. I haven't forgotten about book reviews. I haven't forgotten about cat pictures, or blogging in general. I've just been needing a little time to recover my sanity.

So much neediness from Jenna lately... I know.

Oh, right—cat picture.

Blurry Maia, wrestling the arm of a chair and one of her socks
Back soon!

* I will not be referring to it as Doomseer, however. Tuon is such a pessimist.

5.03.2014

Unique in All the World and other stories

It's a quiet Saturday—thanks be to God—and I just opened up one of my novels. The story has been whispering in the back of my mind lately, obviously anxious to be told. I can envision it as it's meant to be; I can tell it's going to be beautiful, at least to me. Today, after months of inactivity, I brought up the document and started reading.

Within two paragraphs, I was nauseous.

Both of my stories are suspended in more or less the same place. I'm reaching out to these characters, these tales, through a sickening force field made up of exhaustion, a dangerous chemical combination of heavy-handed past critique and authorial masochism, and present internal strivings and life transitions.

I wonder if I could write those stories over from the beginning without looking at the old manuscripts, which are so full of painful memories.

It would be easier to drop both and start something new, but I love them.

Force fields be damned. Invisible barriers lose a lot of their stopping power when there's love on the other side.

* * *

Mint juleps are back in season. YAY.

* * *

Music of the week—or of the month, more like: a piece that is especially dear to me, as it involves the work of both my husband and a friend.

Jade Coppieters caught us after Mass a few weeks back and asked Lou to lend his voice to this art song. I was beyond thrilled. Lou's voice has warmed in tone over the last couple of years, and its natural strength has mellowed without losing its power; I'd be completely envious if I didn't love him so much. And Jade, as I believe I've said before, is an incredibly gifted composer—and one of my favorite people. :) We made an evening out of the recording event, and I loved every minute of the hours with Jade and his Sam and my Lou, making music and friendships.

I got to play sound engineer, despite only half knowing what I'm doing, so I've listened to the piece enough to decide it just keeps getting better with familiarity. It's your turn now, so here's "Requiem." Words by Robert Louis Stevenson (he wrote this as his own epitaph, which did in fact make it onto his gravestone). Setting and piano performance by Jadrian Coppieters. Vocals by Louis St. Hilaire.



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It was too windy for photos outside today, but I planted cosmos by the front porch and watered the baby tomatoes. I've taken to walking the yard every non-rainy afternoon, watching the garden come wholly and enthusiastically to life.

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Maia zonked out, comfortably and ungracefully

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This commentary on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his novel The Little Prince, over at The New Yorker, sat open in my browser for several days before I got time to devote real attention to it. It proved worth the wait, even worth reading a couple of times. At first I was leery of what struck me as possibly over-exegeting a deliberately unclear fable, but a more thorough perusal cleared that up for me. The history is intriguing, and journalist Adam Gopnik captures some of the beautiful truth of the story.

He doesn't quote this part, which Christie reminded me of recently in conversation, but here's a bit of one scene I particularly loved.
"Men," said the fox. "They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?" 
"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does that mean—'tame'?" 
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties." 
"To establish ties?" 
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world."
Much love, all of you. <3