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22nd-Nov-2015 06:36 pm - where the calendar lost me
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A local weekly published a holiday calendar. Its entry for December 23:

Embrace your inner goth. Make yourself a hot buttered rum (with or without the rum) and read "The Dead" by James Joyce.

There was a Martha Stewart calendar maybe 15 years ago that listed "Make croquembouche" somewhere around December 23. That one gave my eyebrows more of a workout.

I will also say, though, that the mention of goths poked me into peeking at Debi Gliori's blog (her Pure Dead series having come to mind [*]), leading to "A Pebble in a Pool," a post about how a letter (with glitter!) from a little girl in Germany reached the author's kitchen in Scotland.

[* That said, the Joyce would be more in tune with a Cure soundtrack than the Gliori, which is more goofy than gloomy in general (in spite of witches and devils and an undead Italian grandmother in the mix). Though Pure Dead Wicked does describe some December interactions as well... ("Christmas Day dawned wet and sleety. Sensing that this day was extra special...")

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/121644.html.
1st-Nov-2015 05:21 pm - plus ça change
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While hunting for some tights I'd stashed somewhere out of the way, I came across a sheet of notes for a paper I was drafting back in 1991 or 1992. At this remove, I don't quite understand all of it, especially as it refers back to even older notes from February 1990 (a Michael Murrin lecture on the Holy Grail), but I am amused to see this quote (of Murrin, I think):

"We're never going to get done, we never do, but then, this is medieval lit."

If my house weren't so firmly 20th century (thank God!), I'd be tempted to nickname it Medieval Lit. There is so much to do and to deal with. But then, it's a house. And sprucing it up is not that high on the list -- not when there are indexes to draft and avocadoes to mash (K&S had a one-day sale yesterday) and housemates to giggle at:

the day after Halloween

(That is a jack-o-lantern squeaky toy in Miss Dawg's mouth.)

Prompts 45 and 46 in Upper Rubber Boot's photo challenge, 100 Untimed Books, are "miniature" and "coming home."

miniature / coming home

The mini-book (created by Roger Culbertson and illustrated by Sarah McMenemy, 1997) contains pop-ups, including the wagging tail of a dog on a beach and the turning wheel of a bicycle.

I used to own a copy of Rosamunde Pilcher's Coming Home, and it contains scenes that remain in my memory, such as the night that Jeremy cooks steaks in butter for Judith. Though I'd forgotten that Judith had a cold until I looked up the scene again just now. (And glancing at some of the other pages online has reminded me of why the book irritated me enough to sell it.)

The Shell Seekers remains on my shelves, though. I think I picked it up at a used bookstore in Chicago, and it too has various characters returning to places they consider "home."

I didn't go to church today, what with the still-nasty cough, but I have The Shell Seekers open to a funeral scene, where the congregation is singing "For all the saints"": "It wasn't perhaps the most suitable hymn for a funeral, but ____ had chosen it because it was the only one she knew that ____ really liked." Another congregant thoroughly approves of the choice: "Music, flowers, and now a rousing hymn . . . just what _____ would have enjoyed."

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/121460.html.
30th-Oct-2015 12:21 am - semi-seasonal
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I had planned to wear my old cobweb cloak and gloves to the office tomorrow, but they are not where I thought I'd stashed them. I did find the bat-decorated kerchief a groomer had tied around my dog's neck a decade ago, which may suffice as a hair decoration.

One of tonight's reads: A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream (text by Kristy Dempsey, illos by Floyd Cooper), a picture book that takes place in 1951 and leads to a night at a ballet featuring Janet Collins, the first African American prima ballerina.

Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books prompt 39: far away

100 untimed books - far away

Prompt 40: electronic

100 untimed books - electronic 100 untimed books - electronic

Prompt 41: strength

100 untimed books - strength

(Picked this one up a week or two ago from the library sale shelf. Fifty cents. Bathtub reading!)

Prompt 42: greener

100 untimed books - greener

Prompt 43: honey - see previous entry

Prompt 44: swords

100 untimed books - swords

The book is Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night, which has been responsible for several longtime friendships as well as the fact that even old friends of the BYM sometimes use that acronym in sending their love to him through me, which is apparently what happens when blogging has been one's main vehicle for staying in touch with said friends since 2000. Lord. Gaudy Night is not one of my desert island books simply because so much of it already resides in my head, which is how it sprang to mind when it was time to think about whether I had any books referring to swords (though I now have to laugh at myself for not going straight to either copy of Cyrano de Bergerac).

The World War II bayonet was among the possessions of the late father of a former student of my honorary big brother, and probably belonged to her grandfather (Air Force), great-uncle (Navy), or great-aunt (Marine drill sergeant!). My friendships are indeed a fount of entertainment and wonder.

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/121142.html.
25th-Oct-2015 09:09 pm - roses with honey
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When Miss Dog nosed me off the couch this morning, my head was still aching and my throat still raw from the cold that hit me toward the end of last week, and I staggered back to the cushions thinking that I'd be flat on my back for another day and in no state even to watch videos (a library copy of The Crossing, is waiting for me; it may be of interest to some of you because, according to one YouTube commenter, "Alexander Hamilton [Steven McCarthy] never looked so sexy!" and I admittedly requested it because I'm still working through my Roger Rees fetish; he plays Hugh Mercer).

At any rate, three more hours of sleep + meds + coffee somehow worked wonders, at least to the extent of me feeling up to light gardening. I pruned the mess around the rogue rosebush and rooted three cuttings from it, dipping them first in honey:

Honey as a rooting compound

"Honey" is also prompt 43 in Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books photo challenge, so this passage from an Emily Dickinson letter (28 December 1880) caught my eye:

The Honey reached us yesterday.

Honey not born of Bee -- but Constancy -- which is "far better." I can scarcely tell you the sweetness it woke, nor the sweetness it stilled.

100 untimed books - honey

In introducing the letter, the recipient's granddaughter notes that "death was again uppermost in [Emily's] mind" at this time, "two more persons were gone who had meant much to her in different ways" -- the novelist George Eliot and the physician David P. Smith. I am not grieving, exactly, but I did hear of two deaths last week that have me perhaps clinging a touch tighter to the connections that have persisted across time and distance. Both women died of cancer -- one last November, one this past March -- and I am not surprised that I was not in the loop about either passing, as it's been more than fifteen years since I saw either of them and I am no longer close to the people who would have known to let me know. But I am also immensely grateful to the connections deep enough to transmit both news and warmth every few years, which is how I found out about the former colleague, and to the internet's obituary archives for providing me closure on Marilyn, whose paintings hang in my living room and library. My copy of E. E. Cummings's collected poems was already pretty beat-up when I impulsively gave it to her during a workshop we were taking together; I wonder if it survived her own moves since 1995, or if a family member chucked it into a dumpster during the final cleaning-out, or if maybe she handed it on to another penny-pinched artist to enjoy.

I am not really fretting over what happened to the book, of course; it is merely somewhere for the sadness to go until I regain the drive to channel it into poems. In the meantime: honey and dirt. For perhaps the roses really want to grow...

rose propagation

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/120879.html.
20th-Oct-2015 07:32 pm - best years
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Prompt 38 in Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books photo challenge is best years.

38 - best years

I'm indulging in irony here, as Niki and Harry's marriage did not last, though Harry would later remember their years together as "fabulous" and Niki would write about becoming close friends with Harry's second wife and sharing many secrets with her. A woman who spent her life with a paintbrush in one hand and a 22-calibre rifle in the other, Niki de Saint Phalle survived abuse and multiple suicide attempts to create compelling works of art.

Harry and Me is a book that zigs and zags from memories of delight to memories of frustration to memories of contentment. There's Niki being so distraught at the death of a parakeet that she slashes "a very good painting"; she says that Harry then became "furious with me and he made me promise to never ever take my grief out on my work like that again." Then, a few pages later, there's a clash of styles in Madrid:

Harry was very careful and meticulous with his proper use of the Spanish language. I on the other hand, wanted only to communicate. I did not care about grammar (or mistakes in general) and my Spanish annoyed him no end. Because of Harry's perpetual correction, which grated my nerves, I stupidly gave up speaking it although I could understand it well enough.

But there was also happiness:

One of Harry's and my great pleasures during our several trips to Spain was to eat in tapas bars instead of regular restaurants. We ate at tapas bars in Cordoba when we went to visit the mosque there, and I think also in Madrid. These tapas bars served a huge variety of spicy, heavy and delicious nibbles to be eaten while sipping the strong red Spanish wine. There were tapa of all kinds: squid tapa, sausage tapa, chicken and olive tapa, and shellfish tapa, etc. Harry and I would sit at the bars for long hours and just point to the things that we wanted to eat.

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/120769.html.
19th-Oct-2015 09:22 pm - joyful nails and tiny tomatoes
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Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books prompt 36 is "nails." I brought Donna Karan's new memoir home from the library today (along with a Pilates manual and a collection of Szymborska poems from the sale shelf for the grand total of $1), but this is the book that first came to mind:

36 - nails

I met with one contractor last week and will interview another this week. The sunroom will get built eventually. In the meantime, I hauled inside one pot of rosemary, four of peppers, and two tomato vines ahead of the weekend's second frost warning. Another vine was too far gone to bother with, but I plucked the two tiny tomatoes off its tip before chucking it over the rail:

tiny tomatoes in a sushi dish

(Diameter of dish = 3.5 inches)

Prompt 37 is "joyful."

37 - joyful

The holiday prayerbook is from West End Synagogue, where I've celebrated Simchat Torah a couple of times. The glossy guide to Tel Aviv was purchased during a stay there, prompted by the wedding of a college friend in Jaffa. That was indeed a joy-filled occasion, as was the wedding celebration I attended in Austin this past weekend (which also featured some Jewish elements, and during which I chatted with the woman next to me about New York and Houston synagogues and community centers). The bride is a librarian, so one of the cakes was decorated with the outline of a book, and the centerpieces were pop-up books with photos of the couple pasted into some niche or tab. Focal points during the gatherings the following day included a restored player piano and hundreds of silvery bats and an Irish band rocking through Elvis and Johnny Cash as well as more traditional-sounding tunes. (I can't hear "Ring of Fire" without remembering the contra dance mashup someone at Christmas School devised for an after hours session, which had a title like "Walking the Line of Fire" ...)

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/120517.html.
14th-Oct-2015 08:43 pm - prescriptions for loneliness
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[photo challenge: Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books] prompt 35: prescriptions for loneliness

Alfred A. Knopf's photo album came to mind when I was pondering this prompt, perhaps because it's where I store my copy of the program for the 1945 dinner in honor of Fred Melcher's fifty years in publishing (Melcher being a prominent Unitarian Universalist who, among many other roles, was a key player in establishing the Newbery and Caldecott medals).

35 - prescriptions for loneliness

35 - prescriptions for loneliness

In Victoria Glendinning's biography of Elizabeth Bowen, there's a photo of Elizabeth at the Knopf home in Purchase, New York. I find Glendinning's generalizations about sexuality and friendship irritating, but within the nonsense there are glimpses of a past generation's true moments of connection:

William Maxwell of The New Yorker/ observed that [Elizabeth] was at her best and most affectionate when she was with Blanche and Alfred Knopf -- "I always felt that they must have played together as children" -- and he remembered a dinner party with the Knopfs and Elizabeth as "a kind of blaze of happiness.

The clipping is from an October 4 edition of the New York Times, in which Penelope Green writes about interviewing Patti Smith:

"I just do my work, and I work every day, and my ambition is just to do something better than I last did," she said. "I'd like to write something as great as Pinocchio or Little Women. I won't say Moby-Dick because that's impossible. I'd like to write a book that everybody loves. I'd like to take a picture that someone wants to put above their desk so they can look at it while they're writing a letter or doing whatever they're doing while sitting at their desk. I'd like to do a painting that would astonish people."

But books are her deepest love, and writing them is clearly her keenest ambition. When she received her advance from Knopf, the publisher of M Train, she bought a bronze statue of a young boy who has caught a bird in his hands; she set it in her tangled front yard here.

"It was my dream to be with Knopf since I was 20," she said. "I wanted to have something solid to mark that. I bought him because he reminded me of Peter Pan."

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/120286.html.
13th-Oct-2015 10:35 pm - #100untimedbooks - 32 to 34
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I'm repeating prompt 32, "breathing," because I'd forgotten about this chapbook:


Of the books I've reviewed for Galatea Resurrects over the years, my favorite is Enjoy Hot or Iced by Denise Duhamel and Amy Lemmon, and my favorite poem in it is Duhamel's "Expired," which begins with:

When my mother says, Take something of your father's to remember him by,
I take his black and silver "D" cufflinks and an Albuterol inhaler ...

For prompt 33, I picked up my Gilbert and Sullivan treasury, expecting to find "Full Moon" from HMS Pinafore in it. It's not. Oh. So a glimpse from The Mikado will have to do:

33 - moon

For prompt 34, "declined," an excerpt from Robert Lewis's Slings and Arrows:


34 - declined

[photo challenge: Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books]

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/120012.html.
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The challenge: Upper Rubber Boot's 100 untimed books.

Over at Vary the Line, my response to prompt 29: equality.

Prompt 30: paper

30 - paper

30 - paper

Prompt 31: glass

31- glass

(Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine)

Prompt 32: breathing

32 - breathing

. . . That summer,

I sold squash alone, and my uncle started
a cough that didn't stop until January.

Nobody slept the week of his funeral.
Katie Teppe took a drink and said,

That's a damn nice looking coffin.

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/119802.html.
10th-Oct-2015 10:26 pm - oils and waters
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So much happening in Nashville today. Assorted friends and colleagues were at either the Southern Festival of Books or Frist Center events, especially in relation to the Shinique Smith show. My Twitter timeline seemed to be checking in from either Oktoberfest or the Grace Potter concert. I was tempted to walk to the trunk show hosted by my yoga studio (especially on hearing that hot whiskey cider would be served), and equally tempted to stay home and nap, since I'd stayed up longer than I should've rereading a Lee Bros. cookbook.

But I had reserved a spot in the free 9 a.m. screenprinting workshop at Plaza's Hands On Creativity day, so that's where I went after breakfast. The hands-on part of that session involved applying glow-in-the-dark ink to a t-shirt, which is now on my ironing board upstairs, awaiting the heat-before-wearing/washing step. (Note to locals: there are workshops and demos on various topics through Sunday, too.) To my relief, the group opted for the skull-with-flowers design rather than the four-leaf clover pattern. The rep warned that the blue ink we selected would not glow as intensely as the original practically-invisible-in-daylight formula, but I was willing to make that tradeoff, especially since it sounded like the latter might register as yellow (which, no thanks. I have plenty of dingy-looking shirts already).

While at the store, I also picked up a copy of Huis Clos, a new paper I'd heard some buzz about. The "What's It Like to Bike That Pike (Volume VII: Murfreesboro Pike)" column was both fun and informative enough read for me to see if the earlier installments were online, but I've come across only an abridged version of the feature on Hillsboro.

After a stretch of housework, I went back out to Charlotte Pike, dropping off dry cleaning and picking up twenty pounds of rice at K&S, along with a sack of snow pea leaves. Chinatown and Lucky Bamboo have both been out of those greens the past few times I've attempted to order them, so spotting them was today's winning-the-shopping-lottery moment. On the way home, I stopped at Sweet 16th for kung pao quinoa and an Elvis mini-bundt cake.

After lunch, it was back to Plaza for the Gamblin workshop, which involved 2- and 3-D color wheels as well as extended discussions about layering and opacity/transparency:

Gamblin oil demo

The take-home samples included a bottle of Galkyd Lite, a bottle of Gamsol, and a tube of Torrit Grey. A new pair of products of particular interest: solvent-free gel and fluid, which are sufficiently non-flammable that artists can bring them onto planes.

On my way out, I spent a couple of minutes at the Winsor and Newton table, where there were markers and blenders to play with. On my way home, I stopped at Woodland Wine Merchant, where today's tasting was from their barrel of Eagle Rare. Its smell? Glorious.

Upper Rubber Boot's prompt 27 for 100 Untimed Books is "dog-eared." That entry is over at Vary the Line.

Prompt 28 is "water":

28 - water

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/119372.html.
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