My Hobbit Hole

A very picture-heavy post follows. You have been warned.

Kitchen:

The hydrangeas were a moving-in present, pitched to me as “a houseplant that doesn’t need watering or feeding”. We didn’t have any furniture up at the time, so someone put them on top of the fridge, and I liked the way they filled that space so well that I haven’t moved them.

Current memorization project.

Artwork credit to my sister

Dining room:

Artwork again credit to my sister. This is on the dining room wall right next to the front door (I don’t have an entryway area at all).

The flower stick at left has more on it now, including a long scroll of birch bark.

Living room:

The curtains came with the place.

Artwork: two Scripture verses hand-callig’d by my scribal SCAdian friend, Jenny; frames handmade by an adoptive grandpa whose business is woodworking. Blanket hand-knitted by a biological grandfather’s grateful patient. Those of you who knit will understand what I mean when I say SHE DID THE ENTIRE THING IN SEED STITCH.

Spare Oom:

Tolkien calendar from 197-something. On the opposite side of the window from it I have a framed copy of Psalm 90.

My beautiful onions! Which already need to be re-potted. 

The SCAdian/handcraft/miscellaneous half of the walk-in closed

I really like the angle Ariana got the black one at.

Bonus two fuzzy pictures of me showing off the Black Wasp work-in-progress, functionally a sideless gown, and currently hanging over the back of the desk chair:

Bedroom:

Squirrel also handmade by the same adoptive grandpa, as well as the tiny bird and birdhouse hanging from the hook second from right. Flowers, left to right: daisies, willow, goldenrod, and a mixed bunch of a different variety of goldenrod with some purple asters and a thistle.

Here ends our tour, as the bathroom wasn’t very photogenic.

Quote from Manalive.

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Writing limbo

Not having STOML demanding every moment of time and energy I can (reasonably or unreasonably) devote to it has left me strangely weightless. It’s not that I have huge gaps of time unclaimed, because plenty of perfectly ordinary and important things have hurried in to fill the breach, but I guess you could say it’s made a difference in the arrangement of my mental space.

On one hand, not having to focus quite so much on such a heavy story, not having to be alert all the time for things I’ll have to write down later, is nice, like having a weight off my back that’s been there for more than a year. But on the other hand, without something constant to work on and a train of thought always ready for me to pick up again, has left me unanchored. And I know it won’t last, because soon enough it’ll be time to pick it up again and tackle revision, but for now it’s odd and not entirely comfortable. And I suppose it doesn’t help that things go on happening all around me and the only difference is that I’m not writing about them — usually.

I dunno. It’s weird being in my head these days.

For the present I’m trying to refill my creative well, with LotR and library books (which recently have been turning out really good with hardly a dud among them), and when I’m ready I hope to go back to the Two-Legged League and start its revisions. On Sunday I’m going to a concert of music from 1919, so maybe that will get things moving again.

Posted in So That Others May Live, work in progress, Writing | Leave a comment

In Which: I sort of return from the dead.

Once again, apologies for the abrupt silence, etc., etc. I write this post from my dining room table, which is finally cleared off enough to allow for that sort of thing, although it’s fast filling up again. I count four books, an issue of the National Geographic addressed to the previous occupant, one candle (which I am not allowed to burn), two ceramic mushrooms, a handful of acorns, a birch stick, an alabaster egg in a nest which I promise was not its original one, and assorted napkins.

In fewer words: I have moved! Four weeks ago tomorrow, and still not all the boxes are unpacked. But we’re getting closer.

So far I’m enjoying living on my own: the quiet (I live in an apartment building but the walls are nice and thick; more about that later); conversely, the ability to blast Classical MPR when I want to (just now it’s Eric Whitacre’s October on Youtube, though); getting to set up my things in my own space and spread out a little. Since I am now living in town, and I can count about two dozen people I know living within a three-mile radius of me, I feel the opposite of isolated.

For the first couple of weeks I didn’t have internet here, but between working two jobs and doing all my own cooking and cleaning and laundry, I didn’t really notice it. Fortunately I can keep working in Google Docs without internet, and I got a fair bit of writing done. . .

Which leads to my biggest piece of news: The first draft of Levi’s story, So That Others May Live, is finished! and even now in his parents’ hands. (No, I’m not nervous at all, why do you ask?) I would like to ask a professor of mine to help me with revision, because have I mentioned before that it’s a massive project and I’m comparatively new at this? I think she might be on sabbatical right now, though, as I haven’t heard from her. Not that there’s a huge hurry.

Another piece of news I don’t think I’ve properly announced here yet is that the bakery I work at now belongs to a family from church — officially, three generations of that family. So since late August I’ve had friends for coworkers, and that’s been fun. (The music on the radio is changed too, alleluia.)

I’m still a librarian, too, four days a week, and I work at the bakery the other two, and then there’s Sundays. And somewhere in all that I’m still unpacking boxes.

Right now, with STOML’s weight off my shoulders for a little while at least — the weight of the book, that is; the story is slightly different and goes on — I have no pressing writing projects, and I’m taking some time to fill up on library books and the annual LotR re-read (just finished FotR). I hope to start revising the Two-Legged League next, but we shall see. I’m wary of planning writing projects ahead of time these days, for perhaps obvious reasons.

Oh the stories I could tell you about the bakery, and the people I meet at the library (if confidentiality allowed), and why my sister and I laughed until we ached in Hobby Lobby last weekend when she was on break — but I simply haven’t the time just now. Unfortunately that’s been a bit of a refrain in my life of late. If at all possible I’d like to return to regular blogging, even if it’s not as frequent.

Posted in Ordinary life, So That Others May Live | 8 Comments

Behold, I tell you a mystery

I.

1:55, Wednesday, August 29, A. D. 2018

I was coming around the corner between the bakery I worked at and the place I’d parked my car, to get my lunch. As I turned, I saw a certain truck coming down the hill, and as it slowed to turn onto Main Street, Levi stuck his long arm out of the window and waved at me, grinning. I waved back with all the enthusiasm I could put into my own arm, and then the truck turned and was gone.

   Thirty-two hours later, he was dead by his own hand.

   I didn’t know, when I waved and smiled to him, that I was saying goodbye.

II.

   No matter how often I listened to Brahms’ Requiem (and I listened to it almost every day for a couple of months, the first half on the half-hour drive down to work in Granite and the second half on the way home), I can never quite remember the place in the first and last parts where the turn from sorrow to joy comes in. Life, too, seems to make it easy to escape noticing the moment you come out of the shadow into the light, even if for only a little while before things go downhill once more. I would notice, halfway through a day, that it had been a good one, but not remember when that had started or what had brought about the change. Or I would catch myself noticing the little good things around me without having to prompt myself to do it, and wonder when I had begun. Grief goes in cycles, but eventually good days — truly good days, not just neutral ones — become part of the cycles too.

    Always, said St Benedict in his Rule for the monastic order he founded, we begin again. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

   Things never go back to the way they were before. That holds true whether “before” is before the Fall of Man, or the fall of Levi. But the fortunate fall means things can be better than they were before. Perhaps when we come back around, as here we are now, we can be a little higher on the spiral. For some of us the bad days begin to be farther apart, or aren’t as bad when they do come. For some. —

   This time of year, we can focus on his last moments, or our loss, or the fact that he’s happy now in Heaven — or we can focus on how God has orchestrated everything, taking advantage of a/our lengthened perspective to notice all the small ways he has provided: in food (especially that first weekend), in comfort, in physical needs, using people to give each other his word when they needed it [most]. This is what “God is in control” means, not that he’s a power-hungry bully. He is wise enough and good enough to use his control well, not the way people always make a mess of it — like Levi, thinking he was in control of his life, thinking it was his to take, whereas it never was. “God is in control” means (as Mrs Mary reflected over and over again in those first days) that Levi’s death did not somehow surprise him or not fit in with his plan: it was in a way Levi’s appointed time, as much as when a ninety-year-old dies after a life well spent, or even the death of Caleb and Jenn’s baby at the same time. 

    “But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned,” says Aslan, speaking of the White Witch who had killed him the night before, “she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” Most Christians’ deaths glorify God, martyrdom not required; Levi’s death was definitely evil. Because he willed his own death, good does not automatically come from it, as it did from, for example, Mr Dale’s mother’s. God working in us, it is our responsibility now to make Death work backwards. Every single day someone gets up and refuses to let Satan win him for another victim, every single day, is a victory. That Mr Seth, for example, seeing all he has seen and suffering all he has suffered, still gets up every morning and continues in his faith, is one in the eye for Satan. 

III.

1:55, Wednesday, August 28, A. D. 2019

I was coming around the corner between the bakery I work at and the place I’d parked my car, to get my lunch. As I turned, I saw a certain truck coming down the hill, and as it slowed to turn onto Main Street, the driver regarded me. Though I didn’t know him — Always wave when you get the chance — I waved, and he tentatively waved back.

IV.

But this is not the last line of the book, because things never go back to the way they were before.

V.

What is the last line of the book?  I have a guess, but it will be at least next week before I know for sure. I can’t wait till I find out. But for now it’s a secret.

Posted in Non-fiction, Ordinary life, snippet, So That Others May Live, work in progress, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

More recent reading, and other things

We have now moved my sister to her college, five hours away, which meant a lot of things, among them lots of time for reading in the car (and elsewhere).

The Dream Peddler, Martine Fournier Watson. The parts of it I got were okay, and it was good at setting up atmospheres and paying attention to the bigger meaning of the little details. But perhaps it was that I read most of it while sleep-deprived, or perhaps it needed more concentration generally, but the parts I didn’t get were kind of large. I don’t know that I liked it enough to try it again right away. It might be one of those books you understand if you read it at the right time, and I didn’t. From library 1’s new releases.

Nest, Esther Ehrlich. Library 1’s Juvenile section. (Most of these — unless otherwise stated — will be J’s.) Similar thoughts to those above, actually. Coffee stain on the outside edge of the lower corner, quite pretty.

Word After Word After Word, Patricia MacLachlan, read aloud to Olivia on the drive. A class of fourth graders learns things about writing that most of us would do well to learn. I like Hen. Olivia likes Ollie. We are predictable.

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt. I read Kneeknock Rise a long time ago and the mood of it has stuck with me, though I couldn’t tell you much else; this one I think will do the same. Good kids’ books are good reading for grown-ups too, as C. S. Lewis says, and this one is. Kids can appreciate a good book about immortality as well as the next one.

Wintersmith, Terry Pratchett. So I’ve recently discovered the Night Watch series, which is for grown-ups, and I like his writing style, and when I was shelving and discovered he had books in the J’s too, I thought, Why not? This one does the same thing I’m discovering seems characteristic of him — for four-fifths of the book you think you’re getting a lighthearted fantasy that pokes fun at fantasy tropes (and drops the occasional innuendo) and teaches you a thing or two about good metaphors, and then the last fifth of the book ties together things you didn’t see coming — though hints were dropped all the way back — and hits you over the side with something profound about human nature. In this case it was about Story. Would recommend, if only because I want someone to talk with, instead of to, about it.

Rowan of Rin, Emily Rodda. Last day of work before the trip, I was collecting interesting-looking books for the trip, and this one caught my eye. Not bad. If a kid has serious fears to fight (as who doesn’t), I’d recommend it.

Ariana lent me Death Be Not Proud (Rowntree, Suzannah, probably not J), but I was saving for the last something I could count on to be good, and I haven’t gotten to it yet. Given what I think is in store for the next couple of weeks, I may not get to it for a bit longer.

And at a used book store on the other side of the state, I found some interesting things, like a book of poetry by an SMSU professor, now dead, or a book about the Minnesota Orchestra on their centennial. But I only bought two: a book of George Herbert, containing quite a lot of his poems; and the Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume 1a, The Middle Ages, which is the one I didn’t buy back at the end of the term and have kicked myself for not doing ever after. Both together were under ten dollars.

Posted in Books, Ordinary life, Reading | 1 Comment

Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax

You know, I still stand by this.

Of Dreams and Swords

This is going to be a long post. This “artist’s statement” was supposed to be a lot shorter, but you know how that goes. I even tried to abridge it and then found too many gaps in the argument that way. It is about 3,300 words, so if you haven’t got time, go and come back later. Maybe it’s nothing you haven’t already read here, but it’ll be more complete, and hopefully the thread of the argument is pulled tight.

Feel free to poke holes in it, though. It was written for an audience which I already knew disagreed with me, but that doesn’t mean any of you are obligated to pat me on the back. Or if I wrote a sentence so winding you still can’t figure out what it means, you can ask.

What is the value of Story? Why do I devote so much time and effort…

View original post 3,403 more words

Posted in Books, Fiction, Historical fiction, History, Non-fiction, Ordinary life, Poetry, Reading, So That Others May Live, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Recent reading (II)

In spite of working forty hours a week with at least an hour a day spent driving, and STOML waving its tentacles in the air and doing other odd things, I’ve actually gotten quite a bit of leisure reading done in the last couple of months.

The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates, books one and two (apparently the series has three, but the library only had those two). Piratical fun and fluff and wordplay, and setting up tropes (esp. with regard to character types) to be played with later.

After the War is Over: a novel about life in Britain after the Great War, with occasional chapters set before it, a device which was a little. . . obvious the way the authour handled it. Follows a former war nurse and a man with severe shellshock, though, lest this begin to sound too familiar to readers of the Two-Legged League, they’re in love with each other, not relatives. I read it more for a comparison to the TLL than anything else, so it has its uses, but it’s not great.

The Dust that Falls from Dreams: another novel about Britain around the time of the Great War. Very well-written, follows three interlinked families from when the kids are growing up to when they come of age and go off to war (all of them, in some capacity, including the girls), and then trying to adjust to life afterward (those who survive), in a society that’s falling apart, with spiritual doubts, trying to make life bearable for spouses and so on. Ends on a cheerful note in spite of all, which I appreciate, but it felt like something was missing to make the cheerful note make everything slide into place just right. (I think I know what it is and it makes me feel better about the TLL, cos the TLL’s got it.)

There was one whose title I don’t remember, but it was about a bookshop, mostly, and it was pretty good, so I include it because I did read it recently, even if I can’t say anything helpful about it. 

Lisette’s List: about World War II this time, a Parisienne moved to southern France — a lot about art and what makes a painting great and why art matters, and food, and the resilience of the human spirit. My favourite of the ones with wars in them. As in, I would probably buy it. (With the money I make working at a library, where you get books for free. I am aware of the irony.)

Children of the Desolate, a novella by Suzannah Rowntree, very good, of course.

Leave it to Psmith: not finished yet, but it’s funny and so very well plotted. It takes a lot of work to make so many twists seem so effortless and also make sense.

Loads of picture books — if anyone wants a list of book recommendations in a very specific niche, for kids who like cute-but-not-cutesy illustrations and also monsters, let me know.

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