4.23.2014

Currently Reading: The Line

Happy Easter! I'll see if I can rustle up some thoughts and a cat picture later in the week, or over the weekend... in the meantime, here's one of those book reviews I keep promising.

* * *

by J.D. Horn
47North, 2014

The premise of this made me think agreeably of how a spinoff Harry Potter story about a Squib might have read. Mercy Taylor is the only non-magic person in a very powerful witching family. She enlists the help of a disreputable Hoodoo practitioner in order to fall in love with her best friend instead of her sister's boyfriend—and then the family matriarch is immediately murdered, and Mercy is stuck pitting wits against magic, family secrets, and an enemy that wants her dead next.

The book contained magic, witchcraft, demons, political correctness, and a few other things that make it hard for me to recommend it unreservedly to about half my normal readership. It also contained a thoroughly enjoyable plot, a lot of surprising twists, a reliable genre voice, and some lovably human characters, of whom Uncle Oliver and Aunt Ellen were my favorites aside from protagonist Mercy. It made the hour or so of sitting in Les Schwab pass much too quickly.

Rating: Two peanut butter cookies and a chocolate one. With milk. There are a couple of oatmeal raisin cookies on the plate, but they'll only set your teeth on edge if you expect them to be chocolate chip, and if you don't like raisins, and if you eat them. :)

4.18.2014

Let Me Mingle Tears with Thee and other stories


Be not far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is none to help.
Many bulls encompass me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax,
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
thou dost lay me in the dust of death.


* * *

There's always something, Holy Week—something to distract me from Triduum. This year, it's the darkness resulting after weeks of not sleeping enough and getting Maytagged* by anxiety.

Fine, I say. Good Friday is as good a day as any to face your own demons. I'll wear black and put my skull-and-crossbones earrings in and Goth out a little. It's appropriate.

Tomorrow I can fight the dementors with chocolate, but for today, black coffee and a little proactive anger might just be good enough. There's beauty to be found in darkness.

It's hard to photograph, but it's there.
* "Getting Maytagged": river guide slang for getting caught in a recirculating hydraulic, e.g., the looping wave that forms when water goes over a submerged rock. The experience is supposedly comparable to taking a spin in a frontloading washing machine, and can be almost as impossible to escape. Fun stuff.

* * *

Pollyanna also helps.

I am glad of many things, and tulips are not the least of these.


I'm so glad to have tomato plants to care for again.

Eggplant and peppers, too!

* * *



In this your bitter passion
Good Shepherd, think of me
with your most sweet compassion
unworthy though I be
Beneath your cross abiding
forever would I rest
in your dear love confiding
and with your presence blest.

Have a blessed Good Friday, and Happy Easter!

* * *


Eia, Mater, fons amoris
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam. ...

Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifixo condolere,
donec ego vixero.

(source)


4.16.2014

Harry Potter and Love: Less-Than-Ideal Family

Usually I prefer to link art I can credit, but for this I can only give a source.
To the unknown artist:
Thank you for including Harry and Hermione in the Weasley family portrait.
It wouldn't be the same without them.

The word from Masha:
What's missing for me is a healthy family dynamic. Not ideal..I'm not expecting ideal, - really, honestly, I'm serious! - just reasonably attractive. I know everyone thinks I'm mean for rejecting the Weasleys... I hate-with-a-passion the 'hen-pecked husband' thing. Can't stand it. I am way too sick of the over-abundance of Father-as-object-of-Ridicule gigs to embrace yet another. I'd love to see a family where spouses share a mutual respect and nurture each others dignity...
And I'm going to repeat what I said in response, which is that:
I'm OK with my love for the Weasleys being a bit irrational. Because it's true that the dynamic between Arthur and Molly is far from ideal, and is the sort of thing that's absolutely insufferable in real life. The dynamic between Molly and anyone is less than ideal, except for Harry perhaps—and it's her love for Harry, her mothering of the motherless, that redeems her so thoroughly to me.
To be fair, she welcomes Hermione as freely as she does Harry. And anyone who had to raise Fred and George can perhaps be forgiven for being a bit prone to panicking and yelling.

Allie Brosh and the Weasley twins FTW! From Cheezburger.

We don't see a lot of healthy family dynamics anywhere in Harry Potter, actually. You get a little of it in Harry's flashbacks of his parents' death scene, so you know what he lost, but there aren't a lot of clear, positive family pictures in the stories.

The Weasleys are far from ideal, but Potter fans everywhere love them, and I do, too. Maybe it's just that at thirty-six, after that much lifetime with a close-knit family that is capable both of wounding deeply and surviving those wounds, I sympathize a bit. Or maybe it's that there's sort of a Catholic nostalgia around the prolific, poor family where nobody is perfect, and nobody quite follows all the rules, but everybody is wanted and welcome.

Molly and Arthur Weasley remind me of two couples I've known for whom bickering seemed to be part of the package. One of those couples is gray-haired and still together—and possibly still bickering—and the other seems to have ironed out their differences, at least for public viewing. I would call them both happy, though I don't know either well enough at this point to say for sure.

As for hen-pecked husbands, I generally dislike the caricature on principle, but I can't say that I've ever been acquainted with the reality. At least, not with anything fitting the general image. The dominant husband and painfully subservient wife—now that I've seen, and if the Weasleys had been that, I would have responded with visceral dislike much like Masha has expressed. Ergo, no judgies from this quarter.

In other news, I went hunting for Weasley fan art, and now I have "Weasley Is Our King" stuck in my head.

4.12.2014

Stopping By

Happy Palm Sunday!


I haven't forgotten that I owe you a Harry Potter post, ideally before the end of Lent. It's just that as soon as I decided I was getting the hang of working nearly full time, I got sick. It was the wrong week to make fish tacos—that's for sure. I lived mostly on Coca-cola for three days. There's enough kid left in me to kind of enjoy that, at least.

Kindle readers, blogger Natalie Whipple's Transparent is on sale right now for $1.99. I just bought it and can't wait to read it.

Ooh, and I still have half-written reviews for The Line (J.D. Horn), and Fiddler's Green (A.S. Peterson) to post, and I just read Cress (Marissa Meyer)... ooh. But first, I have to go plant my tomatoes and practice some of the music I'm supposed to be singing tonight. Shortly!

4.05.2014

Bits of Light and Air and other stories

It's been my habit, these past few weeks, to think of the utter disintegration of all my routines as a bit like falling into a lake. You spend a few long moments flailing for the surface—knowing you'll find it, but panicking a bit all the same.

Amid all the burbling and greenish darkness, I'm starting to catch bits of light and air.

Favorite parts of work: Donut Friday, to which my trainer introduced me yesterday. (It'll get better, too, soon as Lent is over!) Getting paid to fix bad grammar before it goes live on the internet. Running into old friends by the elevator, at the coffee machine, and in the breakroom.

Least favorite part of work: Hearing one of my favorite new coworkers blurt to a friend, under his breath and around the corner, his agony over his boyfriend's walking out on him—and not feeling like two days' acquaintance gave me enough right of friendship to walk around the corner, put my arms around him, and let him curse off a little of the pain.

One of the reasons I keep believing in God: the desperate need to pray for people I can't immediately help or comfort in any other way.

* * *

I planted Jerusalem artichokes in the rain today. While I was at it, I weeded the vegetable garden and dug the little peony out of the yard. (Whether the latter will survive the uprooting, it's hard to say, but it has a better chance than it had against the mower.) If you wait for sunny weekends in Bellingham, you'll never get anything done.

That said, I'll take rain over the piles of snow Maine still has—"always winter and never Christmas," as Christie put it the other day. I'm praying for spring, Masha! In the meantime, I feel guilty for posting the following, but seriously, GARDEN.

Flowering quince: one of the first things to bloom around here.



I had raindrops on my camera lens, but the grape hyacinths
are still adorable.

Fruiting quince tree!

The bad garden news: two of my three red currants are jostaberries. I never had any intention of growing jostaberries; I keep trying to grow red currants. This is five out of six I've been wrong about. Either I'm going to have to learn to tear up healthy plants, which always hurts me, or I'm going to have to find some use for jostaberries.

* * *

Tonight's meal: polenta cooked till creamy, stirred up with butter and parmesan, topped with chicken and leeks and mushrooms cooked in garlic salt and sherry with chili flakes. Not very Lenten, but then, it's Sunday vigil.

* * *

According to Maia, it is as important to sleep on work jeans as on clean laundry. This is a mystery to me.


* * *

The Harry Potter post is half written. I'll try and finish it soon.... bonne nuit.

3.31.2014

The Quest for Understanding and other stories

"Traces"
Printmaking/woodcut; plywood and canvas
Work and photo by Margot Myers
Those of you who have been around for a while might remember that I'm on something of a quest to understand modern art.

It's something that comes to mind a lot in Bellingham. Sometimes—e.g., when walking around the giant macaroni noodle on the street corner, or navigating my way across the abstract-statuary-punctuated WWU campus—I feel shut out, as if I'd attempted to get to know someone and they'd snubbed me.

On account of which, I've been offering eternal gratitude to anyone who helps me understand modern art in any form. Masha and Christie have begun that work for me in poetry; Jade carries it forward musically; and Margot Myers joined that list of teachers a couple of Sundays ago with a beautiful visual piece called "Traces."

Margot is my friend, and maybe friendship is the best way into understanding art—or maybe I'm drawn to make friends with people who call me forward artistically. Whichever be the case, I see a lot of my own feeling reflected in her artistic statement:
The incredible, ordered power in natural systems and organisms is the main thing that informs my work. I respond to the great beauty and delicacy that I see in the sky, the ocean and in the dirt.... I want my work to increase consciousness of and a connection to the fleeting, intense and sometimes frightful beauty that exists around us. 
"Traces," she explained in a statement that accompanied her exhibit, is about travel and the traces we leave behind us as we move around the world. She studied everything from vapor trails to boat wakes in the creation process, and invited strangers to participate by leaving painted footprints; when you get close enough, you can see shoe treads marked in yellows.

Detail of "Traces"
Work and photo by Margot Myers
I had to read the words first, because I need explanation so badly. After that, though, I walked around the piece, considered it from different angles, and saw everything she'd mentioned and then some: dots on a map, headlights and taillights, land and sea and motion, salmon traveling upstream, and even comings and goings between stars. And, because my mind works this way: ferris wheels, tiger colors, film reels, peacock feathers, and Golden Snitches. (I think the latter actually represented a map symbol, but am not sure.)

Sometimes I just looked at the sweep of line and color across the boards and canvas and thought, "It's beautiful."

It was nice to meet a piece of modern visual art and feel like it said hello and smiled at me. I'd like to meet more. In the meantime, I recommend Margot's site and her Facebook page! Enjoy.

* * *

*grin and blush*

So. On March 27, I was finally able to sign up for orientation at Utah State, SAT scores in hand. And I was able to tell them that I got a 620 in Math and an 800 in Critical Reading.

Required score for getting out of college math entirely: 580. :D

I'm tempted to light off fireworks, even though they're not legal in Bellingham (not that that stops anybody). Since I'm not in possession of any, however, I'll have to settle for a VERY LONG AND EXUBERANT HAPPY DANCE OH MY GOSH.

:D :D :D :D :D

* * *

This is not the first time in my life I've worked thirty-two hours a week. What I can't figure out right now is when I used to do stuff. When did I go to the grocery?—do laundry?—sleep? I get up at six and go to bed at midnight and I still can't get it all done.

Meanwhile, the flowering quince is blooming, and the fruiting quince is leafing out; there's another peony coming up in the lawn; Lou found a brick border buried an inch deep under sod around the front gardens; I rode my bike to work for the first time today (terrifying and exhausting, but it'll get better); I'm drinking rose-and-jasmine tea sent me by Masha (best-smelling package EVER, Em! That oil! And I keep cuddling the scarf for feel and scent, and thinking of you <3); and I keep smiling because Saturday brought me some rather lovely friendship and music, like a thoughtfully-chosen gift.

The music you might just get to hear one of these days, as the composer is a certain aforementioned friend, and the vocalist is a certain aforementioned husband. ;)

Oh, and I never got you a cat picture last week. Laura, thanks for giving me permission to miss a few. George and Maia, I'M SORRY.


Harry Potter post coming soon; Masha put up hers, and Christie is planning to join back in before long as well. In the meantime, I hope you're all having a great week!

3.26.2014

Hufflepuff Party

I have a post on a friend's beautiful modern visual art that I'm desperately trying to get posted. Not to mention the two book reviews that want writing up. They require conscious thought. Conscious thought takes work, however.

Conscious feels—not so much. :D

Kristina Horner, this is so perfect, and I love you. I always knew we were a lot alike, even though I called myself a Gryffindor and you called yourself a Slytherin.



The only thing—well, I'm not so sure about cuddling a badger. They bite. I don't need a badger for biting instead of cuddling; I have a cat for that. Most of the time, I can pry her teeth out of my hand.