Category Archives: Literary

Things To Remember

things you want to remember

I want to start a journal.

I’ve wanted to start a journal a million times, and have nearly as many books with one to three entries. Sometimes, I have even tried digital journals. I’ve tried to turn this poor blog into a journal, and I’ve tried to keep Word documents as journals.

Why–if I keep repeatedly failing–do I still want to start a journal?

I have lots of reasons, and no reasons at all. Maybe the most compelling things aren’t really properly defined reasons at all, just quiet, sneaking suspicions in the back of my mind, like Einstein’s little pinky finger.

There a wonderful things, probably every day, that we need help remembering. Not just 50 years from now, or 5 years from now–right now. What wonderful thing did you witness today? What seared you today, with a sharp edge, but maybe not big enough to really be noticed–something like a paper cut to the soul?

It almost seems that having a journal would be a mark of respect for the awe of the life you have been given to live. It’s unfolding, like a flower; you don’t know what it will look like when it’s fully open, but can you not at least appreciate what you have been able to see yet?

But you have to be patient, waiting for flowers to open. And I’m not patient. And that’s why I need a journal and why I can’t seem to keep one, all rolled into one.

Maybe this time I won’t fall asleep in the garden.

teacups

“somehow my dreams seem like
a chipped and dirty teacup.
somebody elses’ hand makes them charming and sweet but
I just make them look ordinary and worn out.

I was skimming through old journals this afternoon. Well, I suppose you would call them journals. I write copiously in spiral bound notebooks and never date anything, and don’t have any order to how I store them. One has to infer from the context the approximate time, but even that is not much help, because I mostly write what I feel, not what has happened. So I don’t know when I wrote this, and I don’t even remember writing it.

Looking over my blog, I realize I haven’t been writing much on it. It isn’t because I have nothing to write about; I could always write reams. It’s just that it seems that so much of what has been tumbling through my head is highly personal, which means I can’t write honestly about it in a global nature, and what’s the point of dishonest writing?

I suppose there really is a time for everything, and maybe this is just not a time for many words in public spaces. Somehow I know that the time for many words will come again, but for now it is time to be satisfied with few words.

sometimes you wish you had a choice to
chose which dreams you wanted to dream
they’re like a shadow, uninvited
they drink the tea you don’t want to serve.

Summer Solstice

The light shines down and all around–
light and life and growth abound.
Strong and straight and tall and proud,
Land and beast these men have bound.

. . .but the glory was fading away
the glory was fading away
yes, the glory was fading away

The sun runs long and reaches high;
Nations, kings and peoples rise.
But who can hear the grieving sighs?
No one looks on as one bird dies.

. . . Oh, the glory is fading away
the glory is fading away
no, the glory is fading away

God has stooped to meet us here,
but we don’t want a prophet or seer.
“Empty words,” they mock and jeer.
“Our time of power is now so near.”

. . . but the glory was fading away
the glory was fading away
yes, their glory is fading away.

Girl Drama

So last night Evan finally became cognizant of the fact that I am in the process of writing a story, and he can’t see it. It is, I informed him, a girl story, and it would ruin my fun in writing to have a bunch of boys criticizing it as I wrote it. It amuses me to write it, so I am; I don’t guess that it would amuse them, so I’m not sharing it with them at the moment.

Needless to say, the only thing Evan heard was “girl story” and he proceeded to get all worked up that I was writing a romance, which (spoiler alert) it is not! And, equally needless to say, I did a poor job of attempting to defend myself, including saying such things as “if it was a boy story there would be more violence, and since it’s a girl story, it’s more touchy-feely.” By which I MEANT it was centered more around emotions than actions, but of course, saying something is touchy-feely is a horrible way to defend yourself from accusations you’re writing a romance.

Justin, at least, understood, very sagely explaining that it was a girl drama, and that you can write ANYTHING to be a girl drama; it just depends on how you write it.

“Even a StarCraft documentary?” Evan squawked.

Oh, yes, definitely, Justin assured him.

This required great thought. Finally he came up with:

“Even if it’s a silent film on human cannibalism??”

“Yes, even that,” says Justin.

“Really?” says I, having difficulty imagining it.

“Of course; all the old movies were silent. You just have to greatly exaggerate the emotions.”

Evan and just looked at each other. I think we both learned something last night. I learned you can make a girl drama out of a story based on human cannibalism. Evan learned I was writing a romance.

*Sigh.*

(It really isn’t a romance!)

Revisited

I was reading my assigned reading for history, and I kept thinking over and over again of a piece I had written 3 years ago. It was a very wandering piece, and in sore need of editing, so I won’t re-post the entire thing. But here is what I kept thinking of, with a little editing and re-arranging:

Nowadays, people don’t even know what they’re saying when they say “what do you do for a living?” They think they mean something like “what meaningful contribution do you make for society?” or “what do you do besides eat and sleep?”, but no one really means “what do you do, in order that you may live, and not die?”

Nowadays, people consider living not as a privilege or something earned, but as something they have a right to. They don’t believe in the “right to pursue happiness”, but the right to be happy—something they are owed, something they reasonably expect to have. . . They deserve it. It is only reasonable. It is what life should be like.

But [there is a] different world, a world of which I sit at the cusp. I can see into it, just as I can see into the world where people clamor for things they think they deserve even if they don’t pay for them.

I don’t provide food for my entire family from the labor of my own hands and the sweat of my own brow. But I’ve made enough meals, worked enough ground, gutted enough animals that I can taste the effort that goes into it. I can guess all too clearly what it is like, the quiet anxiety in the back of the mind as you put the garden in, that it will fail; it won’t produce enough. I know what it is to put away food in hopes of sustaining people in the winter. I know what it is to feed people who are exhausted in every fiber of their body. All too clearly I can feel the hopes of the women, weaving hoods as tight as they might—not out of pride, or amusement, or entertainment, but out of a strong urge to protect. The tighter they weave, the warmer and drier their loved ones will be. Every stroke, every effort, is not some meaningless occupation but provision and care for the men and children and elderly they love. Every action has behind it, driving it on, love for those who will be on the receiving end of those actions.

I can see, in bits in glimpses from my life, my imagination, things I’ve read, things I’ve seen. I can imagine spinning, spinning all the time, hands working independently of anything else. I can see people working together, laughing and coordinated, young with the old. I can see truly working for life.

But only in bits in glimpses.

Because I have yet to see it fail. I have held many children in my arms, but I’ve yet to lay one in the uncaring dirt, dead and no longer anything but an empty body. Sometimes, after reading disturbing things, I have actually dreamed of holding dead children, children I know and love. But I have never felt life stir within me, set my hands to spinning, and then weaving, and then sewing—and knowing with each inch of progress that this work will clothe my child. I have never put hundreds and hundreds of hours into the work of making a child’s clothing—clothing that is meant to carry the child on in life—and then, seeing it have no use but to carry the child in death to the ground.

You see the perfectly preserved clothing for a child, the child itself long gone, and you wonder what the cause was. Did it get too cold? Did it get sick? Did it starve? Did it have a freak accident?

And you know you are no better. If it was you, and your hands—nothing except your hands—could you have kept it from dying? Could you even have kept it alive for so long! Stupid mistakes are so fatal. They say the first person who tried to settle Greenland forgot to gather hay the first summer he was there; and naturally, the animals starved and the people were quick to follow, though I believe it said some were able to escape, to flee back to populated land. Could you learn quick enough, hard enough, fast enough to keep your loved ones alive? Or would you have to watch them die at your failing?

How hard, how hard to live each day as a struggle for life, but how much harder to struggle and fail.

Not, maybe, the most polished thing I have ever written, but somehow I always find it a continual surprise at how much quality my writing does seem to hold for me when I go back to it. Some how I always maintain in my mind that I’m not much of a writer, rather slap-dash and poorly thought out. . .but when I go back and revisit it, whether it be in old blogs, or saved word files or poorly scribbled missives to myself in lined spiral-bound notebooks, I am taken aback by how captivating I find my own writing. If that’s not narcissism, I don’t know what is! But it’s true. Sure, there’s a lot of chaff in my writing too, but sometimes I can’t believe how well I’ve captured an emotion, sometimes I can’t believe I wrote some thought so succinct and relevant. . .and typically I marvel to myself and yet don’t bother transcribe my chicken scratch from notebook to the digital screen where someone else might benefit from it.

In the future, I shall try to do a better job of reminding you all of my excellent writing qualities.

(Seriously, though, if a thing is properly written, it’s worth reading more than once.)

Tuesday the 24th

Yesterday I re-read a book I first read years ago. It’s really a children’s book (adolescent, perhaps), but that was kind of the point. I was baby-sitting some pasta water for my brother’s lunch the next day, and I wanted something to read. Good caution told me not to start anything long, because it was late enough I was unlikely to have the discipline to stop. It was true, too; I couldn’t quite till I’d finished it—at 1:30 in the morning. And I’d already read this book, and all. Imagine how much later I’d have stayed up if (1) it was longer, (2) it had been my first time reading it, and (3) it was actually more at my reading level.

The book is Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones (I believe that’s the correct spelling. . .). Unfortunately, I’ve never liked any of her other books. . .just this one. I appreciated it’s quirkiness. I appreciated some of the metaphors, as simple as they were (a truly bad mood creating a potent weed killer. . .sometimes I feel like I could make a potent weed killer out of my bad moods). In some ways, it’s a parody of some Brothers Grimms tales. But even though, as all fairy tales do, it ends in the happily ever after, the characters. . .well, they’re more like people, with their irrational bad moods, with their internal thoughts, with their interactions. That is to say, it’s less of a moralizing tale of how we ought to be, and a little more like how we’d really act, should we be living in the land of seven league boots. Sometimes that kills a fairytale, and sometimes it brings it to life.

It’s a children’s book. Don’t expect great literature. But it is a pretty good way to spend a few hours on your vacation. Just don’t be like me–start reading before quarter after ten at night.

Tuesday the 10th

Today I was supposed to study diligently all day.

That didn’t happen, of course.

Well, I did get a fair amount of studying done, but I did a fair amount of not studying too. One of the things I did was re-read my blog from when we started this challenge. I discovered several things.

(1) I do an awful job of staying even remotely near the word limit.

(2) My writing seemed to be at it’s best when I knew what I wanted to say before I sat down to write and I stayed within the word limit. (There wasn’t very many posts like this!) Those posts were also the most satisfying and difficult to write. Every word had to be measured carefully, but you could tell that every word counted when you read the final post.

(3) It was interesting to watch things progress. Often times, when writing, I would be frustrated that it seemed I was always talking about the same things. In retrospect, it was interesting to watch things develop.

As far as gaining the discipline to write every weeknight evening, the challenge has been quite successful. In terms of actually improving my writing. I’ve got a lot more discipline learning to go. Unfortunately, the reason why most of my posts wandered was because I didn’t actually have anything to say, which kind of breaks the first rule of writing–don’t speak up if you have nothing to say. But it only “kind of” breaks the rule, because, as with anything else, you improve with practice. Someone (it’s disputed who) is credited with saying all authors have a million words of junk they need to get out of their systems. At my current rate, inflated beyond the challenge though it is, it will still be quite some time before I reach a million!

Today the 29th

Today I was complemented on the color my shirt; my boss said it was a very nice color on me. Actually, practically the entire department thinks I look good in colors, and complains that I always wear dark, boring colors like navy blue and brown, and says I should really wear colors more often. I felt like Jane Eyre.

Ha. Wonder how many people got that.

Jane always described herself as wearing plain, quakerish sorts of colors, like grey and black. That’s actually something I had picked up on previously. We don’t like wearing COLOR. It makes us feel like we are trying to get people to look at us, and it makes us squirm. I don’t wear “plain dresses” like Jane, but I’m probably pretty “quakerish” by today’s societies standards.

And then that dratted Mr. Rochester wants her to wear this awful pink dress–I’m sure it wasn’t awful, but it is awful if you like wearing unobtrusive colors. A kind of a brightish bluish-purple is as colorful as I can get, and actually I usually avoid that shirt because it feels too bright. The only reason I wore it was because now a navy blue shirt with the hospital logo on it the official sign that you are a computer expert with their new electronic records program, and I didn’t want to confuse anyone.

I went out shopping on Tuesday and bought (another) pair of black pants, a shortsleeved t-shirt (it was really cheap!), and a longsleeved crew neck shirt that was. . .dark purple. I almost got a grey and black print that I liked, but it looked too busy when I tried it on. And I tried on a dark green shirt, but I decided it was way too cheap/thin to spend my money on. The brown one wasn’t dark enough, and the red one was too bright, and blue-green isn’t my color.

It’s almost–almost–embarrassing how almost all the clothes I wear are all just about the same color, but that’s who I am. I like to wear dark colors.

Instead Of Sewing, I Wrote This: “Quiet”

“Would you kids please be quiet so I can hear the vacuum cleaner?!”

There is a moment’s pause to their raucous playing and yelling as they process the absurdity of her request, followed by shrieks of laughter.

“Shhh!”

They cluster around, trying to figure out what she’s listening for. She doesn’t know either. Something didn’t sound right. In the relative calm she can now hear it clearly—a squealy-grindy noise from the motor.

“Crud, crud, crud.”

“What? What’s wrong?” Everyone wants answers.

“Oh, the vacuum cleaner is dying,” she responds irritably, shutting it off and pulling the plug out of the outlet.

“Well, I sure don’t think it sounded right!” one of the boys spouts importantly.

“Of course you didn’t.” How can they possibly manage to make it sound so much like proving her wrong when they’re agreeing with her? Supper. She needs to get started on supper.

They see her heading for the kitchen, and they follow.

“I’n hundry.” Her daughter sticks her sucking-finger back into her mouth.

“Do you want an apple?”

Pop. She pulls her finger out.

“No.” Puts it back in her mouth.

“Want a piece of toast?”

Pop. “No.”

“Want a cracker?”

Pop. “No.”

“Well, then I guess you’ll just have to wait until supper.”

“But I’n hundry!”

She starts opening cupboards. “Hooray for you. Wanna help me make supper?”

There is a thoughtful pause. “Uhn. . . no. I anna ice cweam.”

“Well, tough, deary. You can have an apple, a piece of toast, a cracker or wait until supper.” She stares blankly at the cupboards.

“No! I don’t anna!” Her daughter sulks off into a corner, faking a whimper and pretending to be persecuted.

“What is for supper, anyhow?” The boys always want answers.

“I don’t know. Something with ground beef.”

“Bisghetti!!” they yell. She sighs.

“Can’t. I forgot to check before we went to the store; we’re out of spaghetti.” She looks over to the corner. Her daughter has her finger back in her mouth and her blanket clutched to her chest. Her eyes are only half opened as she thumps the wall, gently and rhythmically, with her foot. She’ll be out in another five minutes and sleep until supper.

“How ’bout we just have meatballs, plain, and no sketti?” Giggles all around.

“Yeah, let’s just have meatballs!”

“Guys, we can’t have just meatballs. How about meatballs and mashed potatoes?” Lo, she is a genius. They think she’s brilliant, anyhow, and of course express their delight by making more noise.

“OK, we’ll have meatballs and mashed potatoes and gravy. How about you guys help me peel the potatoes?”

“I get the best peeler!”

“You always get the best peeler!”

“I can’t hardly peel at all ‘less I get the good peeler!”

She closes her eyes and shuts the cupboard doors.

* * *

Her husband came home while she was mashing the potatoes and Miss Finger-Sucker was very grumpily waking up. He was late, but early for him. The cry “Daddy’s home!” triggered the stampede to the door.

“Hi, Squirts.” He closed the door and ruffled their hair. She glanced over. He wasn’t smiling. As usual.

“Hi, Hon; how was your day?” She asked him.

“Fine.” Liar. He leaned over the counter to give her the ritual I’m-Home kiss. “How was yours? Anything happen today?”

The kids can always beat her to the punch.

“The vacuum cleaner broke!” They announce it like it’s good news. She cringes. He looks over to her for confirmation.

“The motor’s dying,” she admits. Blabbermouths. Tattletales.

He sighs and sits down, muttering something under his breath she is sure he didn’t think she or the children would be able to hear. He possibly didn’t even realize he’d said it. This was dumb. He shouldn’t have to worry about a stupid broken vacuum cleaner.

“You know, I’ve been thinking.” She plopped the potatoes onto their plates. “How about we just rip all the carpeting up? It’s a pain to have to vacuum it all the time anyway.”

“Fine.” He began eating mechanically. She wondered if he was even tasting it.

“Daddy, we helped make it!”

“Did you?”

“Yep! Me ‘n him ‘n him an all of us helped to do it mostly!”

“No wonder it’s so good.” No, he probably wasn’t tasting it. He caught her watching him. “It’s going to look awful under the carpets, you know.”

“Oh, so what. We’ll paint the floors bright green or something.” Hys-ter-ic-al. The kids erupted into laughter. The idea of bright green floors kept them going the whole meal long, which was good because it helped cover some of the silence. He finished eating and stood up.

“I’m going to bed.”

“Okay.”

He must have caught something in her voice, because he stopped, turned around and looked at her.

“Want some help with the dishes, babe?” he asked gently.

“Nah, the kids’ll help me. You’re tired; go to bed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” No.

He hesitated. Please don’t go to bed. Please don’t go to bed.

He went to bed.

* * *

Everyone else was in bed now, and the lights were all off. She had just finished taking a shower, and was getting a drink from the kitchen sink. She stood in the darkness looking out into the moon-lit yard. A tear welled up in her eye, and that was the real reason she’d stayed up to take a shower. She’d hoped to get in a good cry with no witnesses, while everyone else slept.

A few tears grew fatter and fatter and finally rolled down her cheeks, but that was all. She just felt too tired to really cry. The glass felt cold in her hands. Everything looked still and lifeless in the harsh moonlight.

If only he’d smile. If only he’d want to do something, anything besides go to bed. If only he was here, if only he didn’t have to have such long hours, if only. . .

The kids really, really need new shoes.

She scowled out into the night, put her glass down abruptly, and went to bed.

———-

Yay, bravo, encore and all of that.

You know how people always say to writers “How do you come up with this stuff?!” Like they think that everything is oh-so-carefully planned out and built, like a house. Well, it’s not. Well, I don’t know, maybe for other people it is. Not for me. I was up in the my sewing room, and I could hear the kids making a racket, and suddenly into my subconcious pops “Will you kids please be quiet so I can hear the vacuum cleaner?!” This is, of course, hysterical, because most people yell at you to shut the vacuum cleaner off so they can hear the people, not ask the people to shut up so they can hear the vacuum cleaner. However, if you’ve ever spent the winter with a bunch of little kids, you might perhaps have some sympathy to the idea that the rather regular noise of the vacuum cleaner might be the noise you’d prefer listen to for a while. But really, who in their right mind would want to listen to a vacuum cleaner? So I had to find a home for that absurd thought that popped into my head.

Yes, I wrote the entire story just so I could have someone yell “Will you kids please be quiet so I can hear the vacuum cleaner?!”