Winner! Yay! Goodies!

As usual, the WriMo is coming through for me with awesomeness.  Now, the only question that really waits is which goodies do I want?  Do I want ‘Steaming Cup’:


Or ‘Viking Ship’?


Nope, I’ve got it:  BOTH!

Is this funny? I don’t think it’s funny.

A long time ago, in a land far away, a girl composed a poem about worms.  i can’t really remember much of it, except that it was hilarious.  SO, for my WriMo, I set out to create a similar funny (if not hilarious) poem, to be added into my tale.  Of course, feeling not so inspired for most of the time I was writing, I left the poem for the end, for the last of my creative juices.  The result is less than pleasing:

Digging, delving, ever pinker

Rolling juicy earthworms pant.

Singing gaily of their prowess

Who can tell what makes them dance?

Dancing come they, willy-nilly.

Dancing come they, to a feasting.

Festive garbage, festive eating.

How to move, then, with no feet?

Jiggle-juggle go the earthworms

Jiggle juggle dancing sweetly

Keeping time with rings of gristle

Keeping jiggles as they creep.

In there tunnels none will mark them.

Eating refuse, breathing deep.

So, now I need to make this funny.  Or, if you already think it’s funny (you weirdo, you).  I need to make it funn-ier.  Please help.

3,000 words to go.

I feel like my brain is fried and I will never write again – probably because I’ve been trying to chug out the last words for this foolish thing before vacation.  Yep, that means I spewed out 7,000 words today.  Ugh.

Some of the work though, is still good.  A sample:

Nightmares.  I see a large fat child that eats its still-live victims, that grows red and horned when backs are turned.  A glossy and reflective grand piano chases me, stomping and jangling keys discordantly.  I hear a mewling cry and it is the sound of my heart clawing its way up out of my chest and out through my throat and mouth, a glistening gory red.  Two stoned kids poke at a derelict hat moves oddly in the breeze and a squirrel leaps from it, gnawing away at their faces.  I am pushed over the edge of a cliff and fall and fall and fall, just waiting for the last and final crack.
After some time, I wake.  I am in a white, anesthetized room.  My sister is there, reading to me – Le Trois Mousquetaires.  I breathe the deep oxygenating breaths of freedom.
“What happened?”  I ask her who has stopped reading.  “Tell me everything.”
She adjusted herself more comfortably in the seat, closing her book.  “There isn’t much to tell.  I got here.  You were insensible and losing blood, and your doctor decided to go forward with some procedure she’d wanted you to consider.  I OKed it after the fact, after i got here.  You could have died.  peter did not know what to do.”  She looked at me severely, knowing my heart.  “He’s been very kind.  He’s a good man.”
“You told him, didn’t you?”
“Yes.  He didn’t know there had ever been a danger for you, didn’t know there were heavy risks for you to carry an infant to term.”  She considers me for a moment.  “You didn’t do it on purpose, did you?”
“Do what?”
“Get pregnant.”
“No.  No, I would’ve liked a child, but you know how committed I’ve been to adoption for some time.”
“Do you think it would’ve helped you, if that had been a possibility for you earlier?”
How could I have ever given up a piece of my own soul willingly?  I shook my head.  “No, I think it was the right choice at the time.  I dealt with what happened…better.”  I looked away from myself, trying to find some point in the room that was not bright and stark.  “With Peter, things have always been a little unusual.  I’ve taken risks I normally wouldn’t.  I think I love him.  No – I know I’m in love with him, still.  All the risks seemed like good ones, euphoric and wonderful ones.”
“Until now.”
“Yes.  Until now.”

It is typical for me (perhaps for most of us) to trust in my heart more than my reason.  I like to think that this is due to kindness, rather than self-interest, though there are some that would tell you no person acts other than for their own benefit.  I would argue that those who say so are the ones who are most unhappy, probably because the believe this.  Still, I am aware that I often act in illogical, unreasonable ways and a I do feel some guilt for this.  I often wonder if my best intentions hurt more than they help.  We move among each other, so many ripples in a pond, and even the greatest or deepest of us has little perspective on how wee affect the world around us.  I wonder if the things I do can have any meaning, or if they are gestures helplessly lost in the oncoming waves.
Peter has stayed with me in the hospital when my sister needs a break.  I have no idea how he’s explained away his odd absences from work, and I’m not sure I would want to hear the explanations.  He does not try to talk to me, but sits in silence reading.  Occasionally he’ll share something from what he reads.
“Hey Sam, listen to this.”  He was reading Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath.  “‘Purring is not so different from praying. To a tree, a cat’s purr is one of the purest of all prayers, for in it lies a whole mixture of gratitude and longing, the twin ingredients of every prayer.'”
Otherwise he lets me sit in silence, for which I am grateful.  No explanations or discussions, no thoughts or reflections or moral directives, no inner jihads – I am on pause.  I take each day like a crystal fruit, beautiful, unchanging, sharp, and completely inedible.
Eventually my mind must return to the land of the living, must begin to revolve around what has happened to me, and what I still have to do.  But for now, I am content to wait.  I will need time, and for now at least the bodily scars can be allowed to heal.

A few words…

It is odd to wake up to the sound of rain at the end of November.  It is odd at any time of the year to wake up to rain, the gloom of unvaried cloud cover, and the persistent annoyance of an early alarm and think, ‘At last!  A beautiful, wonderful, WARM day.’  But so I did, just this morning.  I do not mind the rain, and I hate the cold that glares down at us despite the sun when the sky clears.  It makes me feel a certain kind of joy, a certain loose, floating satisfaction that has nothing to do with the absence of need or desire.  I want many things and still need a few, and yet I am joyful, thankful, truly alive.  I cannot describe it as I want – I must rely on the words of others:

“Sometimes as I am falling asleep in a dark, quiet room I have for a moment a great and treasurable illusion of the past….We are inside, the two of us, in shelter, at rest, at the center of all things.  Outside, as always, lies the great darkness, the cold, death’s solitude.  In such fortunate moments as I fall asleep I know beyond doubt what the real center of my own life is, that time which is past and lost and yet is permanent, the enduring moment, the heart of warmth.  I am not trying to say I was happy….I certainly wasn’t happy.  Happiness has to do reason, and only reason earns it.  What i was given was the thing you can’t earn, and can’t keep, and often don’t even recognize at the time; I mean joy.”

– Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

It sounded like dinosaurs were walking.

I love the descriptive techniques of children.  They help us remember to see in ways we’ve forgotten, to approach the world with wonder, to allow our minds to leap across improbabilities as easily as we step across a puddle.  Life becomes simple: problems become places to experiment, rather than mourn.  Crops drying out?  Rain dance.  Flight delayed?  Ride the unicorn.

In that spirit, I give you a meteor.  Its sound may not quite be like the Giants of mythology or Paul Bunyan wrassling with his ox, but it is something that can be imagined as powerful.  Its light may not have taken the world, but it has illuminated something, a brief, intense flare of great beauty.  Perhaps it will spark some of that childlike wonder in you.

Death on the Red Line Express

Today, coming home from a night of laughs, we were stuck on a ‘disabled’ train not quite able to pull into Davis Square.  It’s never a good sign when the intercom announcements are interrupted by bursts of laughter – it just doesn’t make one feel safe in the hands of the professionals.  The engine that couldn’t still thought it could, and we backslid down the slight rise halfway to Porter several times.  Fortunately, as the conductor kept mentioning in passing, the breaks still worked.  So at least we weren’t speeding to our deaths.  But it’s still pretty creepy realizing just how much the tracks cause each car to tilt, and seeing the ‘power rail’ sparking in giant arcs of power as the engine tried to tug us uphill.

I thought for awhile we would have to eat Lauren, as she was the one who jinxed us.  Seriously, it’s not a good idea to start talking about all the horrible mishaps that have befallen you on trains right as we’re about to pull into our station.  Simply not a good idea.  Still, i promised her we’d eat limbs first, so she’d still be alive for a few days at least, and Jeanne promised we’d start with her left arm since she didn’t really need that one anyway (see photographic evidence below, and thanks to the random stranger who took this photo and didn’t steal Jeanne’s phone).


Fortunately for us all, the second engine they brought in to push us from behind was able to do the job, and Lauren offered us Swedish Fish to keep us off her limbs for awhile.  I’m not ashamed to say I accepted the bribe.


When I was a teen (or even as a pre-teen) I used to torment both my parents with my resolution to never become a mother.  I taunted my own mother with her bad parenting, and vowed I would never inflict the same kind of horror on an innocent being.  Since I was well aware taht each of us is destined to become our parents in turn, this necessitated me never having kids myself, thus breaking the cycle of Evil.  As further proof of parenting at its finest and the doom we all face if the human race (but probably not humanity) is to survive, I submit this.

Upon further consideration, life experience, and the tik-tok of my biological clock, I’m rethinking my earlier vow.

The story of THE FUTURE.

I was asked recently (as I seem to be asked whenever I complain about my current career or lack thereof) what I would do if the normal constraints of family, friends, finances and talent were eliminated.  Usually I go with some sort of writing, but in this particular instance, inspiration struck.  I would be a wandering storyteller.  I would wander from town to town, sharing stories and telling tales and generally amazing crowds with my talented tale-spinning and imposing persona.  I would be just like the minstrels of old, except without the lute.

It seems, however, that the MIT Media Lab has beat me to it.  They’ve recently created a new ‘Center for Future Storytelling‘ with the express purpose of “transforming storytelling into social experiences, creating expressive tools for the audience and enabling them to embellish and integrate stories into their lives, making tomorrow’s stories more interactive, creative, democratized, and improvisational”.  Hm.  Sounds strangely like the minstrels of old.

But before you get huffy about a supposed ‘tech’ school going old-fashioned, keep in mind that they plan a wide range of virtual tools to be integrated into this ‘modern’ storytelling.  Key features to be newly included are ‘synthetic’ characters (go robots!) and new imaging technologies, both of which are supposed to make stories more interactive and adaptable to audience response.  Of course, all this new stuff doesn’t add up to a real, live minstrel.  But one day it might, putting me right out of the job i never had.

A bit more…

THE NOVEL continues to come together.  Not only do I have structure, but I think I even (GASP!) have developed a plot.  Of course, at almost 30,000 words, you hope your characters aren’t still bumbling around aimlessly.

A further sampling:

“I’d like to try to get to Zimbabwe.  While Jim is still there.  I want to see all those great stone cairns, all the houses.”
Linda looks up from her reading.  “Have you heard from him recently?  Jim?”
He’d run off earlier that year this the Peace Corps, spreading AIDS prevention materials and attempting to assist in the building of some new clinics.  “I heard form him a few weeks ago.  The guy was hard enough to keep in contact with when could corner him with email, cell phones, and stalking.”
“But he’s obviously making a huge effort if he’s emailing at all.”  She sniffed.  “I haven’t heard a peep from him.”
“Yes, but did you want to?”  I laughed at her.
“Face it, Jim gained appeal as soon as he was no longer available.  I, at least, made the effort while he was here.’
“Well, he is one of your best friends.  It’s expected.”
“Just like it’s expected he’ll make the extra effort to email me now.”  I could feel my face freezing into seriousness.  “I miss him.”
“Yes, but you haven’t lost him.  That’s the imperative thing.”

Living in a foreign country at all times carries with it a sense of unreality.  If there were a period in my life clearly marked as ‘without consequences’, those years away from my own family and typical friends and lasting environment would’ve been that time.  Perhaps Conrad is right, that without some civilizing influence, we are all lost to a savage, more primal world, some dark heart that is kept locked within each of us by the proper marked decorum of our familiar world.  But if he is right, and that decorum rests in the delusions and protection of women and the home, then we are already lost, and civilization has failed – this same darkness rests also now in me, dreaming only uncomfortably and shifting in its sleep.
I had lived for two years on the line between propriety and daring.  I occasionally taught in tank tops, exposing bare shoulders to the young and impressionable minds of my male students.  I danced with abandon every time the opportunity presented itself – with other teachers, with students, with university administrators.  I walked in sandaled feet through the winter chill (in Slovenia, every chill was winter chill) and risked my death in the isolated and drafty countryside homes of several of my charges.  I went out, at night, alone.  While my skin could not identify me as a foreigner, my habits did.  As soon as I opened my mouth, my voice did.  My accent and lack of coherent sentences did most of all.  I began to find I was more afraid of the world than I had thought – the risks I knew and calculated and had lived with in another place seemed distant.  In their place, was the odd fear of a system I would never quite understand, that I could never quite use to my complete advantage.  It was a fear I would bring back with me – i began to see my old patterns of behavior as an outsider.  Comfort was scarce, confusion varied.  I was stronger than change, but barely so – my self-image shifted and reformed, melted and rewove, became a fire-flicker of change.  To this day, I am not yet resolved into a single coherent whole.

Maps, yum.

Cartography has always been an area that has interested me.  How do we express our relationship to teh landscape in depictions that are supposedly ‘accurate’?  what features of landscape or human relationship do we emphasize?  What details reveal how much (or little) we know about a particular area?  What markers and symbols to we place on the edges of maps, at the edge of the known world?  How do we orient ourselves?

But recognizing those prejudices also allows the way for something else.  Recognizing the flaws inherent in representation, we can begin to tell other stories with these same shapes – the outline of borders, the sizing of regions.  And technology is beginning to help us in this flow of information manipulation, in this case, new software that creates equal area cartograms.  Using the software and compiled data, a book has been written and a website launched, displaying visually some of the more interesting and startling comparisons between nations in the world.  In particular, I thought the span of the Shinto religion was very interesting and spread over a strange area.  I guess it’s the Pacific Islands that make it that shape, but still, whoa.

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