Sunday, December 31

Frickamuttering new years.

I never do have anything particularly uplifting to say for the New Year. Once I announced that I was emotionally broken, once clinically depressed, another that I was just plain homesick. (These things would be more dramatic if they were less predictable.) And before that I wrote in my paper-and-leather journals.

This year I can't complain of anything but youth and ignorance, which are both entirely too curable.

I've promised myself I'd actually begin thinking about living somewhere. It's going to take a major shift in thinking, for me, since I'm used to transience and it is what I'm familiar with. I wonder if I could always be ready to get up and go . . . it's rather nomadic. My recent group of friends is not used to the expatriated lifestyle I'm used to living, and they find the ideas of constant adventure a bit wearing--one of them went so far as to say it was wrong, that no one could have relationships that way. But really, their lifestyles are strange. A constant routine sounds so odd, to me. Maybe it would be comforting. Maybe I'd get my memory back. Anyway, I'll think about it.

The pretty colours, shiny lights, and consistent crises that carousel through my brain are keeping me occupied, but they can't hide the feeling there is a wind that roars in the hollow places in my heart of hearts. I'm cold when I'm by myself. I'm not ever going to be enough to fill myself with meaning and reality. Even my ego isn't that big:)

But even after reading this and knowing a small part of me, you still won't talk to me about it, and I will keep it guarded and yet free for you to see. You won't talk to me about it because it would require the kind of conversation that talks about emptiness. That means clich├ęs and an itchiness that may or may not lead to a sure conclusion. It would mean that you would already have to have a basis of trust with me that would allow you to use that kind of vocabulary. There aren't that many people who do, just because the subject, thought not inappropriate or off-colour, is an odd one.

It's only almost 6 p.m. and I am exhausted. What am I going to do with myself.

Be myself. I hate that answer.

It's midnight. I'm already thinking badly of the new year.

It's 2 o'clock in the morning. I hate consequences and misunderstandings and blocked up kitchen sinks and nice hairdryers and everything about love that makes us want to test it.

Also I should go to sleep before I feel like blogging any more. It's only downhill from here.

Wednesday, December 27

Merton, Hopkins, Daniel, Duns Scotus, Norton, and me.

Once again I find myself in Robert-Louis-Stevenson-mode, feeling bloated and sore-chested. I woke up this morning and immediately coughed up a mouthful of blood and phlegm. Yay: I'm home. As usually happens when I become ill this way, I feel like reading poetry. Sonnets, in particular. (Gerard Manley Hopkins rocks.) Shakespeare is too much of a summer picnic for my mouthfuls of phlegm and swollen eyelids. I rarely feel as if the clean modesty of beauty has rested on my face, and today is markedly not one of those moments.

In case you didn't know, I've been wondering these past few months what to do with myself, and why I am where I am, and where I shall be led from here. Because my beliefs are all there should be of me, I am not going to dysphemise my vocabulary for those of you who don't don't want to understand what "prayer" or "hope" mean.

With that marvellous introduction to this post, I promptly became very dizzy and looked around wildly for the nearest trash bin. Yay. But no such luck; I'm still in my chair and just rested my head and hands for a moment. I hate this feeling; my mind is so trapped inside a mess of bones and hair and blood and skin that doesn't function correctly.

As to my identity, I've been reading some Thomas Merton (proffered by a friend of a friend, and accepted with much gratitude and a tardy note of thanks) and some Hopkins. They use terms like "inscape" and "instress" that I'm not sure how to use correctly quite yet. In my Norton Anthology (2nd. vol., 7th ed.), the notation on Hopkins talks about the ideas he took from Duns Scotus, whose name came up in our medieval philosophy classes as one of the Irish who knew Greek, and was one of the only original thinkers in blah yadda I don't remember without my notes.

It kinda fits that I have once again found my answers through relationships and medievalism. Which basically sums me up.

From Norton: "[H]e felt that everything in the universe was characterized by what he called 'inscape', the distinctive design that constitutes individual identity. This identity is not static but dynamic. Each being in the universe 'selves', that is, enacts its identity. And the human being, the most highly selved, the most individually distinctive being in the universe, recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act that Hopkins calls 'instress', the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize its specific distinctiveness. Ultimately, the instress of inscape leads one to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of the divine creation on it. In the act of instress, therefore, the human being becomes a celebrant of the divine, at once recognizing God's creation and enacting his or her own God-given identity within it."

In regards to the "stamp of the divine" and the end bit, I've written about this before when I said "It is an awful thing to seem".

So, basically, the idea can be summed up with a quote from Merton: "The special clumsy beauty of this particular colt on this April day in this field under these clouds is a holiness consecrated to God by His own creative wisdom and it declares the glory of God."

Hence the cheery encouragement to "be yourself!" turns into something rather ominously beautiful.

I am being myself. I had faith that God would lead me someplace and he has and it is a university in Ireland for a year. What that means is beyond my ken. However, looking at the future . . . if my purpose is to be my self, then maybe my PhD and my writing is not in vain. My shyness and my clumsiness are to a purpose. And my sickness must be also to a purpose.

In the process of typing, I have somehow produced a mountain of balled-up tissues. Time to go find a nap, or a bubble bath.

Sunday, December 17

Joe's death is still so very close, and it is Christmas.

It is good to be in a place where I can mourn for Joe and not be alone. Being unable to share grief is almost as bad as having joy and not being able to share it. It's comforting to see someone else's tears instead of my computer screen and a chat window.

Saturday, December 16

Sleepy blogging from Venetian train stations.

I petted the cat in the left luggage room and now I can't bite my nails any more. Petting the cat was calming, but it just doesn't compare with the supreme calming effect of making my hands look really gross. And I think I have to pay millions of euro to wash my hands in a clean bathroom. And I usually bring hand-wipey things with me on account of my penchant for not wasting chocolate, but I don't have them this time. Belgium.

Generally speaking, I like night trains. To remark specifically on the subject of tonight's train, I am in love.

I slept for an hour last night between 2:30 and 3:30 and unfortunately could not make it to sleep on the plane from Dublin (a middle-aged punk with bleached hair in several different styles at once thought it would be cool to explain precisely why the water at Huntington Beach is not swimmable innable; he was Irish) or the bus from Treviso (Sufjan Stevens and his Christmas carols kept me giggling, which greatly perplexed the deliberately casual-looking German next to me). I get to sleep tonight.

What makes the whole deal even cooler is that I get to wake up to Italian caffe, and other stuff that makes life worth living, like sisters and Naples and that I will have new jeans when I get home and won't be wearing the ones I am now (they used to be too big and stretch and now they have no stretch and are MUCH too big). A long hot bath and an extended conversation with my cat/dragon are also in order, but something tells me I won't kill two birds with one stone if I try and consolidate the desired events.

By the time this is posted, I will probably be downloading the updates I've neglected for so long, and dealing out mince pies and bad news and hugs and stories to anyone in the close vicinity.

That is very exciting. Especially considering that I have about 3.5 hours left to wait for my train.

I am blogging to keep awake, I think. I could be reading, but the stuff about Courtly Love is actually starting to be interesting to me for reasons I can only explain away as a bizarre madness that has to do with a footnote related illness that insists on adding ligatures wherever possible. And I'd like to stay away from getting too engrossed until I absolutely must admit a mild interest.

That probably made no sense but I'm not going back to edit it because I'm too sleepy. Oooh! I know! I'll buy a coke! Then I will be jittery and sleepy and have a funny taste in my mouth.

The feeling of going home is an odd one, especially when I am so out of step with reality and sleep.

Monday, December 11

Jon . . . we were wrong; I don't think I'm afraid.

Mmk, darlin's. I just had one of those formin'-stormin'-normin' talks with some of the folks I hang out with. (Not only can you tell since I just told you outright, but they both talk like that, too; all southerny and comfortable and not what I'm used to.) What I mean by that is that in group dynamics theory, there are stages that every group goes through: forming, storming, norming, and performing. Look it up on wikipoo if you doubt me. Anyway, it is useful to know.

We are all polite human beings and inordinately concerned about each others' feelings, so the forming stage was easy, the storming stage not as bad as it could be and more informative than anything, and the norming is going to surprise all of us in hopefully delightful ways. Most of tonight we just nodded and made noncommittal noises to show we were listening and taking in the new info even if we didn't agree with it or didn't know what to do with it.

And so we are fairly much in the norming stage. Which is nice. I get sick of only ever playing at the first two stages with immature people who flip out when it gets itchy. Not that it happens all that often, but it is hard to get to the third stage when the time spent together amounts to little less than an hour a week (say my flatmates, for example).

And what we chose to talk about was romance. Of all things. In that, we all have widely differing backgrounds, too, which is hilarious fun. I who have never dated, one of them who is about two years out of a four year relationship, and the other who is one year out of an eleven-plus year marriage.

Commitment seems to be a big thing among them and their kind, tied to ideas of casual dating and simply the basis of attraction. They don't talk so much about choice as I would when talking about love (even in general, beyond romance in specific, which is only a tiny itsy part of Love).

Issue number one which I am still thinking about: One of them brought up the point that it was odd if I never "just feel attracted to some guy and think 'hey, I'd like to spend time with that person alone to see what they're like'?" I don't even remember what I said, but I think it had to do with going to extremes (I do go to extremes. I cannot find such a happy medium.). Anyway, I say now: sure. But . . . what's the point?

* * * * *

And now I just finished a long chat conversation in which many things were hashed, mostly relating to casual dating and the nature of love in relation to people you don't know well. Also friendship. So I don't really need to rehash it here to understand myself or anyone else. But it was an interesting conversation, and now I am not going to cram for my Old English final. I shall study it all morning. After breakfast.

Also the nature of love is something that has been keeping me busy for a while, now. It's a pretty interesting subject; showing love in appropriate ways. Very interesting.

Got to go. Morpheus is such a darling.

Friday, December 8

Pan left, close on the steeple of the church: how did I get here?

My day has been filled enough with irony to send me flying into walls, laughs, and tears within the first few minutes of being home. Home. Whatever. This is not my home. My dorm room, I mean. There is nobody here--how can it be home when there is nobody here!?

I need to curl up on the couch with a sister and a cat and some stupid sitcoms or old B&Ws. (I'm not quite at the Breakfast at Tiffany's stage but certes I have reached the Onegin stage.)

I would have taken a long hot bath in the prosaic style of all modern damsels in distress, but that's particularly difficult with only a shower stall in my bathroom and only sporadic hot water in our building.

It's funny how odd my life has become. I've taught a child not mine her first words. I've walked out to my locked car at night to find a rape victim inside huddled on the back seat; she said "Your mother said you would take me home". I've tended the heartbreak of very dear friends. Josh and Joe and Kelli have died in the past 8 months. I've seen a family member and a few friends go to war. I've been in the middle of a messy church split. And yet I still worry about my exams. The dramatic irony just hurts.

And also there are really funny drunks outside my window. I don't really want to get up and get myself a coffee (I think I need a boyfriend; people are telling me they do those sorts of things--either a boyfriend or a cappuccino machine in my room).

Tuesday, December 5

I am not bald.

Freak- INFJ
20% Extraversion, 93% Intuition, 46% Thinking, 73% Judging

Well, well, well. How did someone like you end up with the least common personality type of them all? In a group of 100 Americans, only 0.5 others would be just like you. You really are one of a kind... In fact, I do believe that that's one of the definitions for the word "FREAK."

Freak's not such a bad word to describe you actually.

You are deep, complex, secretive and extremely difficult to understand. If that doesn't scream "Freak!" I don't know what does. No-one actually knows the REAL you, do they?

You probably have deep interests in creative expression as well as issues of spirituality and human development.

You've probably even been called a "psychic" before, because of your uncanny knack to understand and "read" people without quite knowing how you do it. Don't fret. You're not actually psychic. That would make you special and you'll never accomplish that.

You're also quite possible the most emotional of them all, so don't take this all too hard. Nevertheless you most definitely have the strangest personality type and that's not necessarily a good thing.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Extraversion
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Intuition
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Thinking
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Judging

Link: The Brutally Honest Personality Test written by UltimateMaster on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

On how to make P soop.

Fry one onion in butter until it gets translucenty, then add a handful of chopped-up celery and let it get a little discouraged.

Then add whatever spices you want (I just used a bit of salt and pepper today). And also a carrot or three, chopped up into bits that would fit into a spoon. Stir around for a few seconds, and then add a couple of handfuls of split peas (3 handfuls for every person) and then the water/broth (about three times as much the amount of the peas) and anything else you may have forgotten.

Boil or simmer until the peas are soft. Maybe a half an hour. Or a little more. Maybe less.

Then eat it.

Ways to spiff it up include a dollop of sour cream, a lovely piece of crusty bread, and a glass of fresh apple juice (NOT NECESSARILY IN THE SOUP but with it).

Nice lunch--warming and filling and enough of a meal to keep you going. Also it is very simple. And it makes you look really good when your roomies come in with their "handmade sandwiches" from the cafe on the street that uses bad tomatoes and papery bread and lots of mayonnaise. That is when you gloat.

Thursday, November 30

The most appalling of realities eventually lose their novelty.

I do love the mind-candy of philosophy. And in our medieval philosophy class (mostly focused on Aristotle's effect on Aquinas and the religious integration of classical philosophers), the topic of the Immortality of the Soul was brought up. Don't let it scare you if you haven't thought about it.

Aquinas had to edit and revise (and hideously butcher) Aristotle's system of ideas in order to make it amenable to the religious community, and one of the topics he had to mess around with was the idea of immortality and the nature of the after-life, etc. and I found out that individual immortality is instinctively important to a lot of people.

That is: people find it comforting, and have in themselves a feeling of rightness when they think of living forever in some form or another.

Did you know that? Because I didn't.

Our professor opened the subject with the hypothetical situation of the Arts Building catching fire while we were in it--what would we do? Just walk out calmly? Others said they'd probably be a bit panicky, and I was surprised, and said so.

What would be the point of rushing over people? Because you want to live! Life isn't THAT important. WHAT! I reminded them that my belief system places emphasis on life but that it's not the most important thing.

"Surely you're not being literal when you say you would calmly amble out of a burning building," one of them remarked. Well, no. I have my father's daughter to protect, my mother's daughter to take care of, a blurred and imperfect reflection of God to preserve . . . letting myself die (let's put it in assertion: killing myself) would not only be against the promises I've made and the vows I've taken but it would be just plain rude to inconvenience everyone. Lots of people love me, whether I will or no or know.

But for myself--my self--I'm not that concerned. I've given myself over to something bigger than myself, and in carrying out that will is my rest.

That part of the discussion ended with the instructor pointing out that he had rarely seen such flippancy (that wasn't the word he used) except by very old people who had no energy for new relationships, and then also people of very strong faith. It doesn't follow that since I'm not A I must be B, but I'll take the ego-trip nathless.

From there we went on to talk about peace and happiness, and I said there was a difference. Which is not a widely held belief, apparently. I've spoken about this before, and this ties in with one of my long unresolved struggles I've written about before (1, 2).

Unfortunately the discussion ended over a crepe that was not mine and the endearing but upsetting exclamation of "You don't have to be afraid; we won't judge you!" Said after I tried explaining how one could be at peace and yet unhappy. (Was I afraid?) I wanted to simply say that happiness is a luxury, that one could be content, that you did not even need to be at peace to know that what you were doing and they way you were living was the right way to go about living and doing. Read some Hopkins, for crying out loud.

All of this comes together to surface much of the same struggles I've been having over the last couple of years. Care to read more, and answer my riddles?

I figure that'll do you to start with. While you go get your whiteboard and marker to write me a nice rounded "42" I shall go take another nap. Credit to Penelope Wilcock for the title.

Saturday, November 25

On food, since I've already blogged several times about food at the Antipodes.

I wonder if it is safe to like grocery shopping. There are many interesting faces, places, smells, and tastes to be experienced that it is quite an adventure to go out on a Saturday.

I don't like the flaccidly vague fish smells or the cloying rotting veggie smells or the dull nauseous raw meat smells, but I can certainly handle that mix of fresh fruit and veggibles and warm breads and hot crepes and grilling sausages and drifting wood-smoke and somewhere in there, the odd smell of the sea.

And then coming home, I get to cook for myself for the week; this week is carrot soup (2 meals), leek & potato soup (2 meals), veggie broth for cooking more soups and veggies (bunch of miscellaneous bottles), half of a butternut squash leftover from tonight's dinner, a bag of baby spinach (with garlic and onion and pepper, oh my!) and bag of runner beans (must find tasty recipe for this) that someone was throwing away.

It is a lovely thing to be able to organise such tastiness (is it safe to take such pleasure in order?). For the soups, I will stir in some cream after I've heated them up in my Greatest Pot In The World. I will probably find a scone or a piece of brown bread or something for them.

And sometime in the beginning of the week I will be having a gigantic omelette with brown mushrooms and cherry tomatoes and really good sharp cheddar cheese (someone was throwing out eggs and their expiration date is still three days away) for which I will attempt to frighten some poor hungry people to eat with me since there will be too much food and eggs reheated are generally icky.

It is a pain to just cook for myself, tho. And it is much more fun to cook for other people as well. I miss home, that way. I've offered to cook for people a couple of times, but most people seem to think it more of a chore than a therapy and don't really want the guilt of making me happy. IF ANYBODY FROM FACEBOOK IS READING THIS YOU CAN JUST LET ME KNOW AND WE WILL ARRANGE SOMETHING.

Tomorrow I must make banana muffins with chocolate chips and nuts in them. Or something with overripe bananas in it. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, though. And I get to wear my Christmas present!

I feel so very feminine right now, all talking about cooking and warm clothes and grocery shopping. Perhaps I should go read some Kate Chopin or Emily Dickinson to shake myself out of it.

Friday, November 24

I have stolen three tablespoons of Cadbury's chocolate mix from Julian.

I've got over the major phase of homesickness, I think. That means I feel more smug than sad when people tell me they've enjoyed something I learned to cook from my mother. Mwahahaha.

Well, not really, but you know . . .

And people did enjoy the cranberry sauce. For which I am thankful.

I miss the feeling of sleepy and contented usefulness. That is one of my favourite bits of holidays--along with the secret feeling of being loved and not having to talk about it. And fireplace warmth on toes.

And there is really none of that this Thanksgiving.

Don't get me wrong; I was in the company of very caring people who probably don't realise just how much we appreciate (or ought to appreciate) how much they try to love each other. But they are not familiar, and our relationships are still in the phase of policy and agreeableness. I'm afraid I still feel fairly awkward. Perhaps it is also that they don't yet know how I like my nerdy self and don't play social games well. I live inside my skin, even more so now.

I'm beginning to see the differences in the way my fambly loves and the way other people love, too. It is so odd to be so vulnerable, and yet so confident. And then when I feel hurt (which is due to the voluntary vulnerability) it isn't the part of me that loves that is hurt. It is a very odd process that seems to constantly keep me off-balance, afraid, and compelled. There are so many people that need loved . . .

And once again I wish I didn't have to be involved as a face to my cause. It is an awful thing to seem.

Tuesday, November 21

I just don't think I'll ever get over you.

And another low day full of Schumann and desperate laughing at demons. I'm not sure why I've been so moody, here. It is hard to find any happy medium.

I went to a church today that I'd not been in before. Or maybe I had--it was familiar but I don't think I'd ever been there. In it there is a sculpture of my sleeping, dying, wounded and weary-minded brother.

Those phrases sound stupid, sound awkward, sound sallow and shallow and as if I was trying to infuse them with some meaning they chemically cannot carry. I don't mean them that way.

He looked so cold in the marble and so alone behind the glass. What if he had been my son?

Saturday, November 18

The only thing that makes me unhappy is myself. I can ask for nothing more.

I've been in a library full of undusty books and florescent ceiling lamps for the past few days, and I emerged to buy groceries at the organic market a few blocks from campus, on the river's side, and there I ate a crepe with lemon and butter and sugar in it. And the air was that bluish cold that made my fingers numb on the walk back.

My favourite pair of jeans got a hole in them, in an unpatchable place, and I have been forced to wear my other pair, which are two sizes too big and must be draw-stringed by a belt that doesn't go with them. I have made up for it by wearing stripey socks and reciting poetry to myself.

I'm sure it looks hilarious as I pad about the cobblestones with my hair flying every direction and my overstuffed bag and a stack of books on an author that very few people have heard of or care about, but I'm starting to feel more like I'm a real person.

I'm surrounded by extremely good people. How does this happen? What do I call my feeling for the words that make me rich and orphaned and beloved?

Just in this small space of time, I ask nothing more. I don't understand this feeling of contentedness.

Friday, November 10

Went to see Chris Thile at a concert at the dubiously named Sugar Club.

I am dubious about the name "Sugar Club". So should you all be. But the inside was friendly enough, and a nice venue as far as I'm a judge of such things. Comfortable couch-like seats and long tables for ridiculously adulterated alcohol (they did have some of the stock drinks, but it must be one of the only places in Dublin that did not serve Guinness--my friend ordered a Murphy's probably out of pure shock). Plenty of leg room and enough height that you didn't have to crane your neck to see the stage made the experience a comfortable one.

Chris Thile is the slightly nutsy mandolin player from Nickel Creek--he is the one making faces on the flyleaf and playing with falsettos on the tracks he can manipulate. He is a twentysomething young man with a bit of style that doesn't quite belong in the America I remember. He plays a fun solo and has a strange way of rolling back his eyes in his head when he plays, dancing around a little bit and seeming very very intent on his instrument.

His banter between songs was carefully witty but seemed to be pulled off without too much effort; he claimed to be full of nervous energy because this was his first solo tour, but rather than making him seem awkward his goofball efforts to be funny were, indeed, all in good fun.

The playing, though, was not at all awkward and seemed to be awfully high-energy and creative from such a laid-back, enthusiastic type of guy Thile seems to be. One gets the feeling that he can certainly withdraw into himself to create the music he plays.

He played a bunch of covers and a few of his older songs, though none that I know, and a few of his new ones (and a few classical pieces that were jaw-dropping). I liked all of them, though there were maybe two that could have used a little less of the pick-up and the pretty girl who left him (not to mention the dog that died and the train ride home). Hey, if two is as much as I could come up with, I'm well satisfied!

Also he is personable and nice to his fans and might need a haircut but doesn't seem to mind; all this speaks well of him. Not to mention he's a bit of a nerd (what with Star Wars magazines and songs named after Calvin & Hobbes and Tolkien), which is nifty in my book since I happen to claim nerdhood myself.

And that was fun. Comfortable company, comfortable music, comfortable venue. I would say that makes for a good night.

Wish you'd'a been there:) I miss you.

This is not poetry.

I don't know. For some reason it seems natural to try, right now. Probably because Dante and Havelok and everyone keeps writing and being written in verse . . . bless their little hearts . . . So yes, as long as I read things in verse I shall be tempted to write in verse. Very shakily. It takes practice and you should probably have something worth saying before you start. Which, umm, never mind about that last bit.

But this is my blog, so even though I feel like apologising I will refrain from doing so. In fact, I am going to find a sugary, carbohydratory pastry, and a cup of mediocre coffee. And then I'm going to study with my feet against the radiators in the 1937 Room. Or go to the Library for Langland studies.

Or maybe just collapse. I can't wait till I get into my normal studying groove of things. This last month has been so full of beginnings that it is hard to find a place in which to continue anything. The beginnings seem to take up all the room. I am going to go resent that fact with some caffeine.

Thursday, November 9

I find that I talk about myself too much.

I've become wrapped up in the way my mind
ticks (which may or may not be self-centred).
Always talking about myself, the centre
of attention in my words but mind,
I am trying to find a ground common
to the people I know, and to think
of finding some connection; think
that we may find not only a language in common
but maybe I'll find I'm not so different
from the people I don't understand.
It's difficult to try and take right meaning
when heart and mind proclaim their difference
(and heaven knows I don't understand).
Oh, how do my words disguise my meaning . . .

Tuesday, November 7

Haven't the time of day for Boethius.

Like the yellow smog that curls around
the door-frames, the pedantic shabby grandeur
of industry lurks on the road I'm bound.
Down go the books, up go the sleeves, with candor
and humility attempt to move
my clumsy hands and countenance in ways
useful to the means my cause approves.
Stumbling with hesitant smiles through weary days,
I find myself day-dreaming about you.
Weary, a-weary I have sighed
over spilled hopes and broken memories;
I'll wait till you come home. Darling, what drew
you from me draws me to you. I hold tight
to dreams of you and I at rest, in peace.

I wanted to write about Sunday, but that isn't turning out well.

James hums the Dies Irae he used to sing in school.
It really isn't so bad when you get used to it; Medieval Latin.
Pumpkin bread that brings the flat together in a fit of affinity for cream cheese icing.
My parents who are awesome for sending me cans of pumpkin.
Lunch at the house of an Irish family.
The Donegal accent.
Leeks and mashed potatoes are starting to seem normal.
White wine in a bottle on a lace tablecloth.
A conservatory.
Everyone in civil Sunday clothes.
Trains home in the dark.
Watching children on the train.
Listening to conversations about facts, and being sleepy.
The kindness of strangers.
The kindness of perfect hosts.
The comfort of coming home, and the necessity of using a key.
The symbolism of using a key for home.
There being only a few chairs in our kitchen at home, I sit on the floor in front of the oven, where it is warm, and watch the bread rise and bake.
The warmth of the spot near the oven.
Looking up at people who come by, people who are happy to see other people enjoying themselves.
Am beginning to get a reputation for cooking, now.
Feeling a little more like home when I am able to do things for other people like baking.
Cleaning up the kitchen is a ritual of special import.
The way that people in my flat actually do care, and don't mind doing their part, and the way we haven't had to label much.
Which reminds me, I owe one of my friends (the same of which I am constantly borrowing, which is embarrassing) for two things of cream cheese and a half-carton of eggs. In money, that is. I owe a good deal more than that to my friends, especially after my THNGVB day yesterday. I hope I was not rude.

Monday, November 6

Someone to watch over me.

It is taking me a while to realise that Joe is gone, gone for good. I still expect to find myself curious every now and then about whether he is still going for organisational psych ('cause I thought that was interesting--he really cared about people and was insightful, and with his gift of being a solid, strong back; I wondered how he'd fit into the business-type world) and how the band is going.

I can almost not bear the thought of his family without him. They won't be complete without him. He has always been there. They were such a family unit; living and sinewy and alive and separate and connected. But without one of them? I don't understand . . .

I've been really good at not crying for the past two or three days; my friends have taken such good care of me in that I do not have to be alone if I don't want to, and I am not pressed to talk about it but they don't seem to think it would be odd or uncomfortable if I did break down in tears in front of them. And it is funny how gracefully friends can do that; some of them so I didn't even notice that I was being supported until afterwards. But that is harder to explain, and so I will content myself with telling you how awkward and wonderful that care can be.

I haven't cleaned my room. I have no clean facecloths left. I left my heater on all night last night so that I mightn't freeze this morning. I finally broke down and joined my peer group in our isolated meals that consist entirely of pasta. I can't seem to get the articles of Old English to fit into my head, and one of my professors thought she'd cheer me up by telling me how she remembers seeing one of her young tutored students crack his head open on the pavement. Medieval Latin is alright, now, with ironic thanks to the Dies Irae and my translating partner, J.

I really must give them names.

Joe's family will sound odd without his name in their list. It will be unbalanced, unreal, and the air will hold the silence as if it were fragile, and maybe it is.

Family holidays will be hell; Christmas and Summer and Easter and birthdays for the next (at least the next few) years will end up with a few tears shed in a quiet room. Even to be temporarily distanced, the echo of someone else's laughter is something you can almost hear. Will Joe's laugh echo for how long? We'll never forget him.

It feels so strange to be the only one grieving for him, on this island. Yet I am not alone, but yet am I the only one who feels this grief for my self. In a way, it doubles the pain and dries the tears at the same time.

My voice only quavers sometimes. I have kept myself busy and given myself time to weep.

When does God feel this way? Christ wept.

And now, I have classes tomorrow, all covered over in magnifying glasses of Old English script and sections of photocopies and tea that is too hot in stained and homely mugs. Latin dialogue on the nature of philosophy, the nature of the body, the nature of the universe and of her mystery. Academic words that I want to make practical.

Tomorrow is a Tuesday. How can it be so early in the week?

Chronos is not well, confused by a fever, curled up in a chair in my dorm. Even time grieves.

And my embarrassing metaphors only show their own silliness; what are my words to express anything when I am so confused . . .

Tonight I may be eating alone.

Friday, November 3

Dante and another Doctrinal Fart. This time I have reverted to the sonnet.

Dante and I are having a h'argument again. And this time I've just decided to give him a rebuttal in his own form, except I've changed the rhyme scheme a little. First sonnet is his, second is mine.

Love and the noble heart are but one thing,
Even as the wise man tell us in his rhyme,
The one without the other venturing
As well as reason from a reasoning mind.
Nature, disposed to love, creates Love king
Making the heart a dwelling-place for him
Wherein he lies quiescent, slumbering
Sometimes a little, now a longer time.
Then beauty in a virtuous woman's face
Pleases the eyes, striking the heart so deep
A yearning for the pleasing thing may rise.
Sometimes so long it lingers in that place
Love's spirit in awakened from his sleep.
By a worthy man a woman's moved likewise.

Love and the noble heart are not one thing,
Even as before the poet does greet
The one without the other have been
A singer without note or tune to sing.
Nature, disposed to self-love, Love defeats,
Making the heart a battle-ground for him
Wherein he heals and guides that wrongful king
Teaching proud hands to wash poor pilgrims' feet.
Then a virtuous woman's face, beauty within,
Pleases the eyes, striking the heart so deep,
A yearning for the pleasing thing might rise
Sometimes so long it lingers in that hymn
Love's long-awaited sabbath he may keep.
By a worthy man a woman's moved likewise.

Monday, October 30

The first floor kitchen door is still broken. Because of the bank. Holiday.

I hate Hemingway; he is so memorable. Too much of Paris and Venice are under stencilled with the face of Hemingway in my memory. Venice not as much, but Paris . . . perhaps I should not be as upset about this. After all, Paris and I are not entirely on good terms with each other. We could meet in social places with small talk but never got around to affection that runs beyond a week's necessity of crepes and Belgian waffles.

OH. Did I mention you can get sweet waffles at the organic market here in Dublin?

Also that the loovly jazz of Harry Connick, Jr. goes very well with stale scones and mugs of cold milk and the sound of people cheering on the marathon runners outside my window? And my plaid pyjama pants? But not Latin. Oh no it does not.

Saturday, October 28

Books and abstractions and obstructions.

I have finished the delightful story of Havelock the Dane, in which many things are smitten and there is a happy ending where everyone gets married. (The bad end unhappily.) It would be fun to retell, though.

The added books to my bookshelf are delightful; a Latin dictionary, a book of Latin verbs, and a copy of the Vulgate Bible. In Latin. I think I will try to make it my church Bible--the versification is different, I think, but that isn't too much of a change, and I think that somewhere in my mountains of photocopies I have a guide to tell me where the differences lie.

Meanwhile I have been busy not reading fiction or writing poetry but actually studying Latin and Old English and deciding whether to try and second-guess my professors in regards to what, exactly, we are going to read next.

I do enjoy the abstract classes we have. This week's was on the concepts of Body & Soul in Dante's Commedia. He is contradictory (I suspected as much) and awfully odd about the whole thing. I am not sure I even like the idea of a vegetable soul. Next week's will be on the Ideas of a Nation, I think, and another lecture on Love & Free Will in Paradiso.

These are very interesting classes, except that one of the professors has a very soothing voice and references Wordsworth, both of which make me sleepy. It is a great nuisance to have to talk in class in order to remain awake.

It is not a nuisance to sit in my window-seat with a comfy pillow and a cup of tea and a book and my feet against my hot water bottle, though.

The centre of my soul, still axis of my self,
the immortal spark within me carries much
that longs, that yearns within me to breathe free.
Love is bound by infinite restrictions
of, perhaps, societal or kindly obligation
but not as much as love's held captive by
my doubt.

Tuesday, October 24

A vulgar comfort.

Have finished Augustine's Confessions, am already nearly half finished with Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, which I like very much indeed. Have also read Dante's Monarchia. Am very glad to learn that the Commedia was the answer to Dante's fuzzy Aristotelian logic about knowledge versus love being the highest perfection of our souls. I was not thinking very kind things of him.

I'm still in the same place when it comes to my other books.

But I'm having a bit of a Trouble because I am lonely. Or something. I don't know that I necessarily want to be with people; I think I just want to be comforted.

Not that real comfort that gives you courage and leads you to noble thoughts (ergo noble actions) but a vulgar comfort that makes me feel loved at the present moment the way I want to be loved.

Which is why I am drinking hot chocolate in a cafe when I should be scanning in The Elements of Old English back at my dorm room.

Tuesday, October 17

The portrait of an Italian face against the rows of Irish teas and coffees was an odd one.

I heard him speaking Italian, muttering under his breath and then calling out coffee drinks with an unmistakable accent. He spoke to a customer at the mahogany bar who looked very much Italian, but the man explained in northern accents that he grew up in Germany and knew no Italian.

"What part of Italy are you from?" I asked, for surely this man looked southern and familiar.


He leaned on the counter and looked at me oddly, as if I might burst out into some radical action now that I was apprised of the proper information.

"I've just come from Naples." I smiled when I said it, and it sounded so strange to say! Even the word "Naples" sounded strange in my mouth; it should be Napoli, always.

"Ah, Naples. You like Capri? Amalfi?" He began to name some more specific touristy areas that I hadn't been to or hadn't liked.

"I don't know." I shrugged. (Honestly, I've never been to Capri though I lived in Italy for several years before I came to be in Ireland--but you don't just go about admitting that to people.) "But Naples . . . Naples is beautiful. I loved Naples."

He squinted at me. "You liked Naples?" I thought perhaps that he was questioning my command of the English language, but perhaps the question was merely the natural cross-examination of a traveller by a countryman.

"Yes. Good coffee in Naples, much better than here. I don't know how you stand it." Always, Italian coffee will be better than the coffee from anywhere else. "Is there anywhere else around here that makes good coffee--Italian coffee?" He handed me my coffee (oddly called a "latte") over the counter.

"There is . . . hmm, I used to work at a place--you know the quay? Bar Italia on the quay?" He pointed in the direction of the river and pronounced "quay" with an accent. People came in and out of the leaded glass doors of Bewley's with their handbags and pale faces and low-heeled shoes, and I felt oddly out of step with my normal self-consciousness.

"I know of it. Good coffee, though?" But of course I had noticed the pseudo-Italian restaurants on my meandering walks through Dublin.

He shrugged. "It is like coffee from Rome." His face was carefully blank. I wrinkled my nose and made a face, and he nodded emphatically. "Neapolitan coffee is better." Suddenly I felt as if I'd spent the last few hours reading Hemingway.

"This is good coffee." He said grudgingly, gesturing to the machine next to him.

"Ok." I smiled and my phone protested. "Grazie!" I said, and carried my coffee over to the coffee-doctoring table where I would put a few too many sugars in my pocket so as to have a better cup of tea this evening.

"Arrivederci." He said it with mannered nonchalance like I've heard it many times before, and it sounded so familiar that I couldn't help but feel more at home. Only not.

Saturday, October 14

Saturday update on books.

On the penultimate book in Augustine' Confessions. Further than I thought into T.H. White's lovely novel.

Also reading Dante's Convivio for a class, though I can't seem to find de Monarchia even though I can pronounce it (that is exciting).

Thinking of reading Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy after this; Dante seems to pair it with Augustine a lot and the introduction to the book left me intrigued.

Something also very nice--one of my classmates burned me a copy of Seamus Heaney's reading his own translation of Beowulf! Nice people abound here, but to find nice and nerdy-like-me people is even rarer! YAY US!

Dante and the Doctrinal Fart

Aristotle is one of our Great Thinkers. Dante is one of our Great Writers. Dare I step up and contradict either of them on a moral basis?

Of course, my family will say 'yes!' because they are willing to hear all and sundry by the bar of experience and the truth we hold in common. My friends will only mumble 'well, you are going to anyway; you may as well do it out loud' and I sympathise with them even though I am not going to have mercy. This is my blog, after all.

Ok, down to business: Aristotle says that knowledge is 'l'ultima perfezione de la nostra anima'--the ultimate perfection of our soul. Dante, in his Convivio, says that he agrees with Aristotle (it's somewhere in the first paragraph). Yet, we know that Dante held beliefs of such a morality that allows only for love (not knowledge) to be the highest perfection of our souls.

If it isn't a doctrinal fart, we must assume that Dante was too easily tempted to opt out of a life of selfless dishwashing and rolling bandages. He lived a life of scholarly devotion which he defends throughout the Convivio as a part merely of his nature--therefore also avoiding responsibility for this decision to refrain from making himself vulnerable.

I have a tiny inkling of what it is like to struggle between a life of academics and a life of manual selflessness (if you really want a good essay on this try Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night). It isn't easy for those of us who are not naturally gifted conversationalists, who have not developed our abilities of graciousness and gracefulness (see Austen's Pride and Prejudice or get one of your girlfriends to recite the piano scene for you), who often find more of a spiritual connection to people through books than through the nitty-gritty of daily living. It is not easy, this struggle. There is some nobility in study, and to love studying is not wrong . . .

Read it on a wide demographic of blogs, whisper it to yourself when you are in pain, smell it in the steam off of home-made chicken soup: LOVE IS ALL WE HAVE!

Sunday, October 8

Very much missing my scarves. And my velvet scarf.

Done with half of Augustine's Confessions. Appalled by the beginning of the second book of T.H. White's The Once and Future King.

Have a strong urge to read more of the older type of literature. Gawain, and so forth. I feel less overwhelmed and more over-extended. I think I may need a nap.

Friday, October 6

Literary Inclinations.

Have finished the first book of The Once and Future King. I do love that book. What a marvelous writer.

Completed study of Passus X of The Vision of Piers Plowman. Intend to start on Augustine's Confessions shortly, and eventually pick up Vergil's Aenid (or however it is spelled).

Have finished another journal, am onto the next . . .

Wednesday, September 27

Update on diplomatic relations with Bookholm.

In other news, I have finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and I strongly suggest you all read it. I loved it. In fact, I still love it. It fits in perfectly with real ideas and real things and is quite plausible, maybe even congruent with the generally more reliable sources of information about the wide world.

The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, was given me by my sister before I left. It is odd how cross-over fiction can be a definite article of sororital affection; the book is not only Arthurian but is also a central point in the X-men. Well, maybe not central, but still important. Very nicely done gift. It continues to make me giggle while keeping me still engrossed because I have a fairly good idea of how things were going on and what sort of clothes they wore, etc., all of which details are candy to my imagination (an imagination that likes to be generally realistic, or at least conceptually accurate).

I'm still reading The Vision of Piers Plowman and have only gotten up to the IXth "passus" or "step". It remains very confusing and ridiculously dated, but still very colorful and full of interesting descriptions of little episodes. I read some of it aloud to the laundrette last night and I daresay my pronunciation is improving at least a little.

Ovid's Metamorphoses and St. Augustine's Confessions are on my reading list for the term, so my mum kindly bought me paperbacks of them from a lovely store called Hodges & Figgis. As soon as I have a break from Piers (11 more chapters to go!) I'll start on them, probably Augustine first.

On-and-off reading is Chaucer's Knyghtes Tale, which I also have an audio.

Thursday, September 21

Tuesday, September 19

Ok I am going upstairs to pack.

For real, this time. Oh, and I have work to do tomorrow, drat it all. I hope people get their papers in. I hate failing people.

Moving boxes: not any more done yet!

I am a terrible packer. Procrastination is so easy, especially with YouTube and Google and Mindsay . . . Also my sister is making me things from yarn and I shall have many arm warmers. I don't want to pack anything.

Monday, September 18

Moving boxes: 5.5!

Doing better. Have packed almost all the books I intend to take with me, as well as stuff to treat myself when I get there, my favorite writing pads and pens, and the half-a-box is still my biggest box, the one with my clothes in it. I may have to have two with clothes in them . . . hope not . . . we'll see . . . for I will cram things into boxes with great aplomb!

Also I wish I had the presence of mind to go get LOST Season 1 dvds today but no. I forgot. Don't even have any new ANY episodes to watch. By the by, don't ever watch anything having to do with Grey's Anatomy or Desperate Housewives. I watched the "catching up" episodes from iTunes just to see what they are all about and all they are about is sex and conformist just-out-of-our-ordinary-goody-two-shoes-league drama. As far as I can tell. I still prefer LOST, which is about very exciting things that don't make sense.

Feels so strange to be leaving, actually leaving.

Moving boxes: 3.5!

I am leaving on Thursday! And I only have a few boxes packed! I think that there won't be more than 7, total, but still! I only have 3 1/2 packed!

Sunday, September 10

Love will set you free, right?

I've spent a lot of my life trying to quietly grease the squeaking cogs and wheels of the relational machine.

It starts with the people you know that need a small service; I began by helping a mother feed her three children. It was a busy time before our evening bible study and the church building was buzzing with people on various activities. I had eaten lunch earlier in the same kitchen where I helped heat up mac & cheese in the microwave, grabbing a few spoons and running up to feed the kids in the all-purpose church-of-christ room that always smelled of stale coffee. It is simple enough to feed a child so that someone else might feed two, and the mother thanked me.

Then it went on to little things; I babysat for free, I worked in the church nursery (I can change diapers), I washed dishes at youth functions, I made chamomile tea for my adolescent sister when I knew she was upset. It wasn't as if I was opened to the world wholly as a human being and knew how to do the things that would express my love for those around me--I started small with the things I understood. I muddled much more than I helped, I'm sure, but I hope some of it showed through. I was starting to grow up of my own accord--and that, as I hope some of you will attest to, is not an easy thing.

I began to realise that my small actions and contributions to my limited sphere actually had to do with a deep-seated longing for the healing of other people. That sounds so poetic and so noble, but really; to my chubby, pony-tailed adolescent sensitivity, to see other people in pain of loss or grief or exhaustion hurt me more than the mocking and bullying at school, the burning embarrassments of whatever mistakes I made socially. Not only did I feel their hurt more keenly but I could also do something about their hurt when my own was something I knew not how to conquer.

So I bumbled and fumbled and did my best to be worthy. Even my hobbies began to revolve around healing people; I found happiness in having a garden. It was an herb garden--and as those who know me can imagine, it was based on medieval designs and medicinal purposes. I grew mints, thymes, oregano, chamomile, rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, roses, honeysuckle, sage . . . the smells of warm herbs mixed with the smells of bread baking in the house and of the copse of pine beyond our fence is a memory that sustains me.

During that time we also had boarders at our house, sometimes up to 5 at a time, and 7 to 10 on holidays. Aside from having two sisters and two loving parents, doubling that number kept the household a busy place, full of adventure. Our boarders were constantly in and out on business, and some of them did not stay very long. One of the longest staying mistook my anxious care for a deadly emotional obsession that consequently embarrassed me highly, and another paid me the highest compliment of declaring that he should have been quite in love with me had we been the same age. I kept insomnia and sinus infections and headaches at bay with teas and inhalations, and everyday scratches as bruises were treated as much with my poultices as with antibacterial creams. I felt useful.

We moved, later, and I began to take other responsibilities. I did small things, like washing the dishes and folding loads of towels; I put up groceries and fetched things from shops and aisles when my mother went shopping (mostly for groceries). I earned good grades in my classes at my community college. I began to learn to cook. I learned how to drive, and then I could take my sister to her classes, go to the grocery store on my own, get our bottled water from the units down the hill, return rented movies and library books, and perform small tasks of trust and usefulness. I served food at our church soup kitchen, I cried and I prayed, I volunteered to speak about my experiences, I talked politely to a good many people I would much rather have avoided, and I supported my family and continued our familial quest of hospitality to strangers and those in need.

So much happens in my life, my misadventurous life, that I am sometimes boggled by my own actions and reactions. I do believe that I wanted the best for the people in my life, but I am sure that I let go so many opportunities to help other people that sometimes I look back and wish that I could have only known more. I am sure I was much too ignorant. I hope those who know me will forgive me for the things I have done or have not done . . .

I began to learn that much of love is endurance, patience, and constant, careful attention. Details like cups of tea or leftovers from dinner or clean sheets or remembering the names of grandchildren and pets--these are important to people. Sometimes I was upset over people I could not help, or the injustices of the world . . . people told me I cared "too much". They still tell me that, sometimes. Others that I care "deeply". I appreciate that, but I'm still not sure what they mean. And the words "I love you"! I am so exasperated with the English language; these three words have put me into so much trouble I can hardly recount the incidents individually.

Now that I have been considered "grown up" by my recent acquaintances and most of my older friends, I wonder if I have not erred and love improperly. One must find outlets for love somehow, or it becomes too much to bear and is overwhelming . . . is this what it means in the song when it says that "love will set your heart free"?

Wednesday, September 6

Dreaming again.

I had a dream last night; easily interpreted, if that is what dreams want.

See, I was with friends. I don't remember their names or who they were, but I knew them and I was equal to them and we were standing in a garden in front of a building at dusk. There was a warm sunset, fading to a cool night, and we were talking about where they were going--across the long gravel walk and down to watch the stage hands set up for whatever event was going on (a play or a band or maybe a game).

I said I would wait to go down because I wanted to see the sunset, and left the group to sit on the stone steps in front of the building (was it a house? a conference center? a church?). It had been a warm day, but one with a breeze. I knew that when the sun left us we would want other means of warmth, so I was planning, too, on bringing with me a pile of blankets and some communally shared hoodies. I was in a restful mood, so comfortable in the company of friends and knowing that the evening would be mellow.

I didn't realise until I turned to sit down that one of them had followed me--a friend of a different type of acquaintance than I'd had with the rest of the company--I think maybe I had moved away from the majority of the group and met in some foreign place this man of whom we had mutual friends. We had a different friendship, a singular one that involved much surviving, much waving through windows during the day and talking of books and morality over coffee after work--all this but not too much time. We had known each other about four months, I think.

He sat down close to me, rested his chin on my shoulder, put his other arm round me; I grasped his hand and squeezed it.

It felt so good to feel safe.

We watched the sun move to the very edge of the horizon, there was still a gleam left. Our friends could be heard very faintly as they laughed near the far edge of the green.

So safe, so comfortably, that even my normally hyperactive sense of personal boundaries was relaxed--normally I would be very uncomfortable with someone's chin on my shoulder. It didn't even shock me when my friend began to to kiss my face--three times, he kissed me--but before I might have turned my head to reach his mouth, I closed my eyes and told him to stop.

"Why should I stop?" He murmured, then sat back, his hand still resting on my back, not so much as embrace but a worried touch on an emotional pulse. "You didn't like that." He sighed. "I'm sorry."

In an oddly detached fashion, I was glad he had said "that" and not "me", but then another part of my mind said that only a selfish prig would have been concerned so much about himself. Another boost. My friends are unselfish. I love that about them.

"No," I said, "I liked it. But . . . " My emotions were kicking in, my wants and desires and principles and habits were all waking with a terrible urgency that overwhelmed my senses. I said his name. "Wait. We just . . . we have to talk about . . . this." Hearing the silence after my voice, the full darkness registered in my mind and I was reminded that our friends would be waiting for us. He raised his eyebrows.

"I'm sorry," I said; "I want to kiss you. But I can't--I have to know--I mean, I'm so used to believing the idea that even a kiss is a promise."

He gave me a puzzled look.

"That if I kiss you, that I love you. That I will love you."

He still looked confused; "Actions should stem from thoughts, thoughts stem from motives, motives from goals. I can't just kiss you. Even if I want to." I said this last with a smile, and he smiled with me.

"No hard feelings, okay?"

"Yeah, okay." He shook his head, and I thought he must be wondering why I impose such limits on myself, or why I had to be so illogical, or why I couldn't just kiss him and let it be a single, simple kiss.

"We should get going. I was going to go get some blankets and stuff to take down." I gestured towards the lights at the end of the walkway.

"Can I help?" Very unselfish of him to not run away. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps I should have kissed him. He probably deserved a few, having built up the credit with unselfishness points from using turn signals and accepting apologies for the last few years.

"You can get those pillows from the trunk in the hall. I'll get the blankets from upstairs." Were we in a hostel? It might have been a hostel, come to think of it.

We parted ways, and before running down the long hallway to the linens closet, I stopped in the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I was angry, upset, regretful, guilty, confused, and thankful that I had held my ground. I liked him, but my principles would always come first. Oh shoot--what if it really was something I was mistaken about? What if I was just mean to one of my friends? Was I being hypersensitive--again?

I tried to smile--I knew I would have to laugh and smile when we met up with the rest of the group--but my lips wavered and my eyes were certainly not smiling. Something caught my eye and I realized that the inside of one of my teeth was rotting, horribly rotting into a reddish-brown cavity. I ran my tongue over its jagged surface and winced. Then I remembered I was dreaming--thank goodness. I had read about this in dreams, and it probably just meant I wasn't comfortable with my appearance or performance or something--all of which were valid and true. I dismissed the idea and hurried on to fetch the blankets.

Coming down the stairs, I realized my friend had stayed behind to wait for me. Our eyes met, but I looked away, and we left the building together, walking over the dim green. I remember the feeling of walking across the grass, still warm from the light of a sun that had just set behind the line of trees.

Monday, September 4

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Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle are You?

You're mature and get the job done. You are a natural born leader, and normally want to be the better of the group. You take your job seriously. You must! It may NOT be a game. When you select a sport, or something you want to do, you train continueously, constantly trying to perfect it. You're always prepared for a challenge, and are normally found one step ahead of your enemies. Loving family more than life itself, you are a good friend, and can be depended on at all times.

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Tuesday, August 29


another piece of genius from Toothpaste For Dinner

Deciding on an academic life.

I'm slowly coming to terms with the idea that I may be meant for a life of academia. It's what I'm good at. It's what I love. And it is becoming clearer every day that I was not meant for a life of relational activities.

This explains why I am not great at my job, and why I don't like it. This explains why the idea of marriage or even courtship is not something I find attractive. This confirms the reason I chose not to continue in my training as a linguistic interpreter. This confirms my reluctance to work with community activities.

Is it selfish, I wonder, to not want to work with people? The reason I ask is that one of my friends says that "the final ontology is relational", meaning that when the final judgment falls on us, God will judge us by how we have treated other people. I know that God will judge us on our deeds, our words, and how they reflect our beliefs.

"Whatever you do, do it with all your heart for the Lord." (Colossians 3:23)

I have to take this into account, but do I take it into account in the sense that it supports my love of books and research, or do I take it to mean that I should find something I'm totally sure about? And "with all your heart" doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to like whatever it is.

"Where your treasure is, there also is your heart." (Matthew 12:34)

Is my heart in books? I don't know; my heart is in helping people, and in writing. Somehow, I have to join the two. I've got faith that this will happen, but I don't know how . . . and my faith is not misplaced, surely it cannot be misplaced.

Anyway, it's been a hard time of it, deciding what I want to do with my life. I still don't know. Maybe I just won't know, ever. Bweh.

Monday, August 14

alliteration on my unmusicianship

The dares of defiance that, from dozens of dear
Musicians from marvelous missives
On albums, act as on-the-air
Challenges and voices of inevitable chiding
To, at, and for me . . . !

That is, they do act that way
And I'm actually wishing to achieve
Maybe one day a merry meeting
Between my bumbling, fumbling, hands
And a carol, a chanson, a song of some serious silliness . . . !

That perhaps maybe might prove some kind of musical competency.

Sunday, August 13

I love I swim.

What kind of dragon are you?

You are a Water dragon. You love being in the water. You love you swim. Also you like some competition but not to much.
Take this quiz!

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Tuesday, August 8

part 2: William the Hero

Shortly thereafter, William's father left with a small retinue of men and did not return for several months; the next message that came to the castle emptied it of fighting men. His father's chair remained empty for the better part of a decade, and William grew to be a man while he waited for the return of his father. It was an eerie time for William when Adam left to be a squire for a knight that served along his father, replacing a man who had died from battle wounds. The day was darker when word came on a slip of parchment wrapped in oilskin, that William's father wished him to be knighted and sent to battle within the fortnight.

A knighting ceremony typically involved a long night of prayer and fasting, several councils of elders and more experienced knights who had known the man about to be knighted, and a ceremony that usually ended in happy feasting.

The council on behalf of William was held in a small room with a low fire; the few older men that stayed behind because they could not fight were surprised to find that William's mother was in attendance.

"It isn't right for a woman to be here!" growled one of them from a chair that had been cushioned for him to save his bruising bones.

"I don't see what we have to say that must needs be said without her," muttered another, bald and smiling into a hundred wrinkles. "There aren't any lads to make fun or lords to offend, unless ye've a mind to bring them out of that cloak."

Wiliam's lady mother closed the door behind herself. "His horse, his weapons, and provisions for his men . . . all this I have tried to make ready before I came. Is there anything I have neglected?" One of her damsels brought forth a sheet of parchment with figures on it, denoting amounts and numbers and a few stewards' marks of approval. The darkness in the room would have made it difficult to read even had the men been sufficiently literate or their eyes been young enough.

Such a message from a quivering and feminine voice struck them to solemnity for a moment, and then to pity.

"Lady, go to thy son," said kindly by the man who was no longer smiling; "my lord is done well by with thee for a wife."

"I cannot." She said, sinking down by the hearth and spreading her hands before the glowing coals. "He is in prayer."

His night of prayer and fasting was lonely and anguished as he lay on the cold stone before the empty altar. How the wind howled! But to prayer: he could hardly find words to say, beyond chanting the familiar prayers said every day at morning masses since his childhood. The priest who was supposed to support him in prayer was dozing against the far wall; when the wind abated, William could hear gentle snoring.

He felt strange to be clothed all in white, pure and holy before the darkness of the altar and the dimly outlined crucifix. Such suffering he felt he endured already. Fatherless! I am fatherless, he thought. A small voice whispered and I have no heir, but was silenced by the wind, or the priest snoring, or William sighing. So cold, it was so cold. He cleared his throat and heard it echo against the unprotected stones in the empty chapel.

For a fleeting moment, he thought he heard something else, and then a moment later he was sure of it--somewhere close, someone was playing a lute, playing a tune he didn't know. He was distracted by the delicate strains of melody and harmony that wove through the darkness and the howling wind to his lonely vigil in the empty chapel. Without being able to track the passing time, William thought he could hear the lute playing until the twilight. Comforted and yet still afraid, William knelt to pray and offered up no words.

Te next day, he was knighted--a friend of his father was sent back wounded, to his own hall, and it was merely in luck that he happened to pass by and offer his sword and nominal authority. William's celebratory feast was little more than a hurried meal in a half-empty hall--less than the farewell they would have given his father's friend had he come in happier time.

In preparing to farewell his mother and his household, he found himself ashamed at having to leave them with patched clothing, withered vegetables and thinning cattle. He hated himself for being powerless to stop the driving force of battle that left behind so little provision, so many blackened doorways, so many orphans, so many widows. The anger at his powerlessness became a driving force that hid away his fears and allowed him to ride away from home without looking back. He lead a group of men scavenged from the countryside and mercenaries, most of them dejected and a few of them wearing their hauberks with an air of decided unfamiliarity.

Monday, August 7

part 1: William the Hero

Most of the boys of his age would have been more than satisfied to be the last standing fighter on the field of scrimmage, cheered on by the score of his friends that lay propped up on their elbows in the summer grass and claiming various invisible wounds inflicted by blunted training weapons. Instead, he stood above his adversary in a worried and unhappy victory, wooden sword poised steadily until the admission of defeat.

"Get up!" he cried, his voice breaking with sudden panic. "Adam, you must get up!"

"Dead! Ibe dead! Williab god be!" yelled Adam, rolling over and getting shakily to his feet. Blood streamed from his nose. "Show be how do do thad?" He grinned a bloody grin and spat a mouthful of gore onto the grass.

"Sure." Slightly nauseated by the smell of his friend's blood, William probably would have agreed to anything his friend had asked.

The boys that lay sprawled nearby cheered William's victory and the end of the game. It had been tiring work, but they still reviewed and reenacted the fight as they struggled to their feet and made their way back towards a postern gate near the stables. The yeomen who had been judging their performance began to follow the boys lazily, picking up neglected weapons as they walked. One of them stopped to check that Adam's wound was no more than a bloody nose; their game had gone on longer than was their wont and it was difficult to see through the dimness of the dusk.

"You're alright." The yeoman held the boy's chin and looked into his face. "Just wash that before you go home, or we'll catch the death from your mother."

William laughed nervously and Adam chuckled. The younger boy ran on ahead to join his comrades, and William started into action, keeping stride with the men as they reached the warmed stones of the outer walls.

That evening at meat William served his father at the high table. The table subjects turned to the most promising pages and squires among those on the scrimmage fields, and William wished they would quit talking about it. His name was spoken of favorably, and his father gave him one quick appraising glance before a messenger came into the hall with a piece of parchment wrapped in oilskin. Such a small piece of paper created a silent wonder in the hall that turned to muffled chaos when the William's father abruptly quit his lordly seat to retire into an inner room with his closest advisors.

Wednesday, August 2

A non-freaky-outy medieval lunch.

DON'T PANIC! IT'S OKAY! THIS IS ME AND MY BLOG! You know me, right? Ok? Calmed down a bit? Man, the things that scare you . . . simply the word "medieval" was enough to make you lose it that time.

Oh? Not you? You were fine?

Yeah, and I bet you'll go out and try a hand at cooking this later, too, right? Well, some of you might, when the windows are shut and the lights are dim so that the neighbors don't get any ideas, making sure your spouse or family isn't home so that you'll have time to make it look like nothing suspicious was going on while they were out.

But down to business. I haven't got all day, you know.

Right. So, normally a well-balanced meal might include one dish of meat and two vegetables. (For example! I'm not talking about pasta dishes or one-pot meals or things of that sort.) Generally, cookbooks tell you to have a balanced group of colors, flavors, and textures for a meal; some savory and some sweet, not to mash everything or have everything be fired to the same consistency on the grill, and not to let the entire meal be a single color. Also, ketchup does not go on everything.

This meal will include a meat dish and two types of vegetables, cooked in different ways and with different textures and different spices. And as a bonus and a personal favor to you, it is easy to make. It is also geared for a single person at a single meal. Example: I just made this for myself for lunch.

The meat that I used was a skinless boneless chicken breast I found in the freezer. I thawed it in the microwave and cut it into slices for faster cooking. On the same cutting board, I chopped up a half of an onion. On another cutting board (or you could just move the food from the cutting board to a dish), I sliced up some carrots (I cheated in the authenticity dept. here because they are modern carrots) into bite size pieces, and also chopped up a half of a slice of bacon into tiny pieces.

In pan 1 on the stove I put a drizzle of olive oil, turned on the heat to a medium temperature, and added the chicken and onion, which began to sizzle. I added salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg, stirring it around and then adding just enough water to cover the pieces of chicken.

In pan 2 I put a little bit of water (maybe a half of an inch?) and a drizzle of honey and put the heat on a low temperature underneath it until I could see it simmering a little bit--that's when I put in the carrots and covered the pan.

Pan 3 I used to cook the slice of bacon until it was browned and the grease was covering the bottom of the pan; then I took the bacon bits and the accompanying grease into a small container and put them aside for the moment. Then I added some frozen peas and a handful/mouthful/.2 cups of water and turned the heat to low so that the veg would simmer.

This is the part where you wait for a few minutes while things cook.

When pan 1 has lost all water in the pan due to it boiling away, add some oregano and thyme and brown the chicken a little. Chicken has compiled!

When the carrots in pan 2 are done, you'll know because it will be easy to stick a knife into the vegetables and it will come out of the veg without you having to argue too much with it. That is the point where you pour the extra water out of the pan and drizzle a long squeeze of honey on top of them and stir it around and turn the heat off. Congratulations! You have just steamed and glazed carrots.

Pan 3 will have soft peas in it that taste good. You'll probably need to drain them, too, unless you put just the right amount of water in. Add a tiny pinch of salt and then add the bacon and its grease. Put back on the heat for a second and stir it up until the whole thing is hot.

In medieval cookbooks, they'd say to "serve it forth", at which point we translate the idiom to approximately "pig in". Serve it on a pottery plate or wooden bowl, and use a spoon and a knife to eat it, if you want to be more authentic. That wasn't so hard . . . and it really isn't that different from a normal home-cooked meal, if you think about it.

All the recipes were taken and adapted from, a delicious website.

Tuesday, August 1

The kind of introspection that makes you want to learn French.

To the high annoyance of most of my friends, I tend to take a lot of time in analyzing my own motives.

The part that annoys them is that I am usually wrong, but I don't mean to talk about that (and my wish to sometimes talk about my own motives is a tricky subject since I'm hypersensitive and then it comes across as a selfish way to inject my nearest and dearest with complete and utter, unadulterated misery--even if I never HAVE asked them if they think these pants make me look fat).

Sometimes I hit the right idea, and those times act like gambling machines on retirees . . . very unhealthy but OH SO ADDICTIVE. And as a bonus, I can do it all day long in the comfort of raggy clothes, stopping only to cross streets and complain about the price of coffee.

For example;

I realized on my travels that I like to smile at women who have small children. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS.

It's a fairly harmless question, like most mundane things. But why is it that I do this thing?

What are my experiences with taking care of children . . . well, for one--being embarrassed when I can't control the annoyance they create for others. I don't like baby-sitting since so many parents have a bajillion parenting styles and even with my training in family systems and growing up with a highly multicultural background, there are no words to explain "what WAS I doing taking Jimmy to the park when clearly it was time for board games" and "why did I not know this song to sing as Emily goes to sleep?" and "why did I mention the word 'bathroom' when the only word that Jenny knows for that is that ambiguous word 'peepee'?" and I can't seem to comprehend why parents get angry when I tell their children that they "can't" do something.

End rant; wrap up: maybe I'm trying to avoid making women uncomfortable who might already feel as if they are a burden to the people holding open doors, carrying things, and stepping aside for them. I would. I have. (Point against: I'm weird that way.)

Also, maybe it is just that I like the fact that people spend time with their children, and I want people being with their children to have some sort of positive reinforcement. I hope I don't come across as a baby-stealing creep, because that wouldn't be good . . . I guess I see a lot of negativity when it comes to people and their children. Lots of people consider children to be a burden and a nuisance. I don't like that.

Maybe deep in my subconscious it is a wish to have children for myself? Ew, that sounds so wrong right now. Can't rule it out, though; a lot of my friends are getting, as my grandmother says, "P.G." . . . and having "kiddlins". Thank goodness I have some obstacles before I have to deal with that sort of vocabulary from her; the traditional steps of boyfriend, fiancee, and husband (preferably the same person who merely changes titles when the convenience strikes) are still firmly in place.

Like you, I'm going with option A, and I think you've made a wise choice. However, as you can see, out time is at an end. Thank you for coming and listening in! Tune in next time on "Introspection: How Low Can You Go?"

Monday, July 31

"The City of Dreaming Books" by Walter Moers

Books are not safe any more: this is one of the lessons of Bookholm and Optimus Yarnspinner, a yet unpublished writer from Lindworm Castle.

This book is one of the marvels of the literary world. It makes me sorry that I don't read German (I read an English translation, wonderfully and fearlessly made), which is quite a feat and has not been accomplished since The Neverending Story, and even that I did not delve into with such rapaciousness (had to have an excuse to use that word) that Moers' book elicits. It makes me glad I like to read books and drink coffee and sit in cafes till late, reading and rapt and content in the smell of old books.

How does one explain?

It fits within the realm of adventure, thriller, mystery, coming-of-age stories, and stories about stories and also books. It is about what it is to be a writer, a reader, and a dragon. Or maybe not a dragon--just a dinosaur with very small wings. It is about the importance of knowing what you read--that books and knowledge can be very, very dangerous and can sometimes hurt or even kill you. That there are all types of good books and all types of bad books--that you should be able to tell the difference.

The concept of literary identity is explored through the awesomest of venues; the cycloptic Fearsome Booklings that devour books and name themselves after famous authors (more to these creatures than first meets the eye!), the bookemists that try to make novel-writing machines and dabble in poisoned pages, the gagaists that remind one of Joyce and Cummings (is that heretical?), and the authorial godfathers that inhabit the world of bookhunters and authors and readers . . .

I almost literally could not put this book down. I frightened several waiters and cafe patrons with laughing out loud, feeling my eyes tear up and having to sniffle, and then sitting blankly at the cafe table staring straight ahead of me in absolute horror that the book actually ended.

Please go read this book. Please go buy this book. Give money to this author. We want this man to keep writing. He needs to pay his rent and his legal addictive stimulant dealers (probably a Lavazza cafe, since he's in Germany). Be a patron of art and literature! Buy the hardback!

Saturday, July 22

"A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula Le Guin

As I was given this book, with a strong recommendation to read it as soon as possible, a friend walked by and expressed my sentiments:

"Well, her name WOULD be Ursula, with a title like that."

Yeah. But the book wasn't bad. It gives a good idea of what it is like to have been to an ancient port city, as well as the clearings in woods that let you see green hills below you . . . tries to portray what it is like to have a power and be able to use it for good or evil.

The narrative is very impersonal, lending itself to memorisation or to letting it be read aloud. Unfortunately, the characters are also very impersonal, and almost inhuman. They have some human feeling, surely, but there is no real connection between the characters in their humanity--I don't mean an emotional connection, I mean that they don't seem human. None of them sneeze.

I dunno, it just kind of drew me away from thinking they were human. Not antihero enough for me, maybe? Even Aragorn (LOTR) had some notion of what it was to be in the human indignity of human (and other) company . . . I don't know. Not a bad book, but definitely a class C book.

Thursday, July 20

about the song lyrics

What I mean is that "There's a ghost on the horizon when I go to bed" came from Antony & the Johnsons' "Hope There's Someone", that "When you lose something you cannot replace" is from Coldplay's "Fix You". The "What did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?" is from a Robert Hayden poem. And the most recent blog entry is by You Know That Band from their album "The One That Just Came Out".

Ha ha. So there. But I do tend to use song lyrics a bit--I do so like making playlists on my computer.

Friday, July 14

/ When song lyrics give a new dimension to short stories that are not really short stories but maybe will be one day/

There's three short, connected pieces about things I'm not altogether familiar with. I've never seen people kissing in a bar, for instance (usually places with greasily varnished mahogany bars and the sour smell of stale beer and old cigarettes; ew ew ew). And I've never broken up with someone or had to seriously comfort someone who'd just broken up. But I have made sausages fried with apples and served with mashed potatoes for a meal! I do have some worldly experiences! I do!

Oh, dear. What AM I writing about, anyway?

Poor Joan. She is a bit pathetic, but maybe she is just having one of those days where you are selfish and naive and can't stand to be yourself (or when I am that way, since I don't necessarily have to project ALL of my problems). Or maybe she is just pathetic and lonely.

Anyway. I have no idea where all that was going to or from, except that they both seem to be craving affection in the wrong places for the right reasons.

I'm so mentally tired. I need this creative high, I want it badly. Can't I be used to write something true? I've got to come up with something I recognize. I think moving might give me a chance to organize and arrange some things, read my old journals. Maybe that will give me some inspiration, heeheehee. Did I tell you I've kept a journal since I was 11 years old?

I'm wondering a lot, lately, what it is in me that I've written; what does my writing say about me?

Thursday, July 13

/ When you lose something you cannot replace /

William returned home late in the evening when Joan had already settled down at the kitchen table with her work (she was grading papers, maybe, or editing somebody's thesis), and was found himself relieved and still uncomfortable at how their evening routine of mumbling a hello, putting up scarves and coats on the rack, throwing his briefcase on the couch--how all those small things had become machinated because of their mundane familiarity. It annoyed him. Maybe he needed a change.

But not too much of a change. Today had been full of change; today had been the second time that Eric had broken up with him. William actually found Eric at at the bar with another guy (was his name Jack? did it matter?) this time, and Eric had most kindly taken his tongue out of whats-his-name's mouth to say something vague to William. "I can't do this any more; I'm sorry Will." Or maybe it was: "F* off, William; you never have time for me and [insert new guy's name] actually cares." It was something stupid. Eric always said stupid things. No he didn't. He and Eric had been good together. But what about the time . . . oh, don't think about it. That hurt too much.

He had felt his emotions building up pressure inside him. What to do now? He nodded slowly and walked stiffly out of the room, out of the bar, back to his little beater in the parking lot. Driving up the hill to the flat, he felt the evening hit--he'd worked hard all day into several hours of overtime he hadn't wanted to do--on a Saturday, no less: no reward. He'd done all he knew how for Eric: no reward. There had to be some place he was safe from that complete assault. He didn't even feel like getting drunk. He thought about going down to the docks and just sitting in his car, watching the water, but he realized he didn't really want to be there alone. So he went back to the flat.

The flat smelled of food; Joan had made dinner. There were sausages fried with apples in a pan on the stove, and some mashed potatoes. It was odd how all this made him feel mortally exhausted. He wanted to change clothes, get out of his starchy office clothes, maybe walk around the house in pajamas.

"You gonna eat this?"

"Go ahead."

"Eric and I broke up today." He said awkwardly. It surprised him how steady his voice was.

Joan could see two red splotches on his face, could see him wavering between emotions she couldn't identify. "Oh, William, I'm so sorry." She stood up, ready to . . . do something. Was it appropriate to hug him or should she just offer to make tea? The microwave made a little ringing noise, so he got his plate and sat down at the table; she returned to her chair and tried to move some of her things to make room for him.

"Can I do anyth--"

"No. Thanks."

"Do you want to . . . umm . . ."

"No, but thanks."

"Well, let me know if you think of something."

"Okay." He started to eat, and she tried to look at her stack of papers. When he was half-through with his plate, she rummaged around under the sink and brought out a bottle. The dishwasher was open; she pulled two tumblers out with one hand and set them on the table and poured them a finger each of something peaty.

"Just one?" He asked, looking up with what he thought might pass for a smile.

"Just one." She said quietly, not looking at his face. How weird. She wanted to back away.

He mumbled about having to go get something, retreated to his room, and ended up coming out twenty minutes later after a shower. Joan thought he looked a little better. She'd finished her tumbler and put it by the sink when he picked his up and sat down on the couch with a pillow and the ratty cover from his bed.

"Hey, Joan."

"Yeah?" She looked up from her work, a little worried.


"Sure. Are you sleeping there tonight?"


"Okay. Things will look better in the morning, Will."

"Good night."

"Good night."

She felt out of place, disconcerted by a grief she couldn't really take part in. What a strange day; she'd wanted badly to have his companionship earlier. Why did grief have to be such a private thing? Giving up on her studies, she flipped the lights on in her room and turned off the kitchen lights. She dragged out another blanket for William and spread it over him. She lit a candle, blew it out; turned on the heater, then remembered she'd brought out a blanket and turned it off again; thought about doing the dishes but decided she wouldn't risk waking William, and finally decided to go on to sleep in her own room. It was cold, and she slept fitfully until her alarm beeped at 5 a.m., and she got up to the sound of a thunderstorm.

Wednesday, July 12

What did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?

When she woke up, the apartment was filled with a morning twilight and very cold. She was alone, so for a few more minutes she huddled in the blankets William had left when he got up to go to work or sleep or wherever it was he went. In an effort to get up and around, she pushed the power button on the space heater with her toe, and pushed herself to a sitting position on the couch. The city outside the window was grey and foggy. Rivulets of water ran their accustomed paths down the sheet glass. On sunny days, you could see the lines that the calcium-loaded water left on the glass.

Only half awake, Joan watched the city in its Saturday routine. Ships didn't come into the dock so often, but there were smaller boats out--the orthodontists and accountants were out on their little sailboats, grilling seafood and eggplant for parties and families. She wondered idly how many of them had golden retrievers.

By the time she had an estimate, the room had become several degrees warmer. Not warm enough for her toes to be on the hardwood, though. She pulled her the elastic legs of her sweatpants down over her feet, and waddled in a haystack of blankets to her room. It was amazing how fast she could get dressed when she was cold (hoodie and jeans in 10 seconds flat--the hard part was getting on the three pairs of socks).

Still half asleep, she went through her weekend morning routine of washing and brushing and picking up--it occurred to her to wonder at which point William's habit of leaving two empty beer bottles by the couch had become something she didn't mind picking up after. Somehow it had just become so familiar that it seemed natural. Joan beamed at them with sleepy affection as she tossed them into the recycle bin.

After cleaning up, she felt better. The apartment was warming up a little with the heater. She'd stood by the window with a cup of tea as the sun came out for a half hour, a cold white light that made sharp shadows on the walls and then faded quickly as the skies clouded over again. Suddenly, the flat felt small and stuffy, the very air unbreathable, so she grabbed an empty rucksack and headed for the market.

Fresh sausages, a few apples, and some dishcloths later, she stood under the awning of a newspaper stand and stood a moment to experience the smell of rain-washed concrete and vegetables and the odd smells of cars and paper--she knew her life could not last and that she'd lose it all one day. Or at the very least, her life was going to change. Or maybe she would just move out of the city. Anyway, it was a smell she wanted to remember.

Riding the bus home, she made a point to remind herself how lucky she was to have so much time to herself on a Saturday. She would even cook dinner when she got home, and maybe William would be home. Maybe the flat wouldn't seem so stuffy when she got home, either; maybe she should light some candles or something. She urged the bus up the hills of the city. Maybe she'd go out and see a movie after dinner.

As it turned out, William was not at the flat when she returned. The flat seemed a calm place after the market, and she noticed how very comfortable it was to have a place in which nobody could see her face.