Ballet and Stars and other stories

Happy second week of Easter! It's been a rather lovely few days, despite the continued Maytagging and a sudden cold that consists mostly of feeling like someone scrubbed my sinuses out with a bottle brush.

At work, the Macintosh I have to do some of my editing on has had fewer laughs at my expense; my new desk is comfortingly secluded, and I got some decorations up; the talkative half of my department went out of their way to make me feel at ease this past week; and, emboldened by desperation, I finally found the espresso machine in the building where the Mac lives. Said espresso machine promptly broke, but it made Wednesday survivable first.

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The star I wrote a book about was well on the way to its zenith when we came home from Easter vigil. It spends most of the winter rising close to dawn, so that was my first glimpse of it for this year. I spent a few chilly minutes out on the deck staring at it, unaided by technology; it isn't much through the telescope, but it's a beautiful thing through the eyes of my beloved A.D.

The vigil itself was splendid. Triduum was so exhausting last year that I was particularly grateful to be able, this Holy Saturday, to put Friday's Goth mood aside for candlelight and vivid color and the Gloria.

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Also, I have discovered blue eyeshadow. This has proven difficult to photograph.

I tried shutting my eyes, but then my camera decided to take its own mirror-selfie.

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I wore blue eyeshadow in some quantity Friday night to see WWU's performance of the Benjamin Britten opera A Midsummer Night's Dream. The play is one of my favorite Shakespeare works—I could mouth the words along with Helena when she sang
You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant
[and yet you draw not iron, for my heart / Is true as steel... why didn't you leave that in the libretto, Sir Benjamin?]
Leave you your power to draw,
And I shall have no power to follow you
and our friend Jade was harpsichordist, and it seemed like a good opportunity to make my husband take me out on a hot date. :)

Maybe it's that modern music and even—to some extent—magic and fairy tales are so new to me still, but my inner child sat up and paid attention, awash in wonder. My grownup brain could tell that the vocal work and choreography were challenging for the all-student cast, but grownup-brain mostly sat indulgently back while the aforementioned inner child bobbed up and down in the theater seat and wished all her fairy-tale besties were around to help her fangirl over the wild dark beauty expressed in set and scene, music and dance.

Lou and I once talked on the way back from some opera we saw—probably Tristan und Isolde—about opera's unique combination of various art forms. I thought back to that as I admired Greek and Hindu-inspired set pieces, lively comic acting, and ballet alongside the music. And such music! I had only a slight acquaintance with Britten, but I will be hunting out more of his music, oh yes.

Also, I just about cried laughing when the wall was singing.

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I love it when the apple tree blooms.

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Sunday I wore purple and pink eyeshadow, and after church I hopped on my bike in the sun and went to see a play my friend Pat was in: Deborah Brevoort's The Women of Lockerbie, which (fictionally, but loosely based on true events) depicts the intersection of grief and generosity between women from Lockerbie, Scotland and relatives of victims of the 1988 Pan Am flight 103 terrorist bombing.

It was quite the powerful story. I cried so hard that I felt awkward for the strangers on either side of me. Brevoort brought out the eucatastrophe, though, which—of course—was what really made me lose it.

Anyway, I love local music and theater arts. You can run down afterward and hug your performing friends. :)

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Blog-friend Shallee MacArthur's sci-fi YA debut novel, The Unhappening of Genesis Lee, is forthcoming from Sky Pony Press (cool publisher name to go with cool title). It has a gorgeous cover design (ballet and stars? Practically everything I love, right there); it has a highly suspenseful premise, and it currently has a live rafflecopter through which you can enter to win an ARC! I did.

Congratulations and more congratulations, Shallee!

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Solomon's seal... and dandelions

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I was born in #42, grew up in #24, live in #6, and—fortuitously—ended up with a university in #1. I call this moving up in the world. Here's to Nerd Heaven! And Cosplay Fridays! Now, how to sell my company on that one.... It sounds like fun.

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Maia watching, always watching
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Thoughts of the return of the Harry Potter Book Club have begun surfacing in my consciousness. Stay tuned.


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.

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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. :)


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.

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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.

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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!

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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.



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.


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!


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.

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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.

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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.

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

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