Woke up with a cool story idea from a dream. Critiquing the dream plot, I see that the party scene doesn't make much sense... I mean, if I were at a party and two sorceresses were magically duking it out on either side of a very long buffet table, I'd make sure there was some distance. I guess the hors d'oeuvres were really good, because people kept piling food onto their plates.
Over the last few days, Mary Robinette Kowal posted things that have made her happy. It focused me on positive things, so, I present my (public) version of my list:
Writing (and reading and performing) the Lumbering Holiday Tale (A Story for Wicked Aunts Uncles and Parents to read to children).
Having Smoked Salmon and Eggs for a birthday breakfast (prepared by Mark).
Being ceremoniously presented with a birthday gift while the opening cantata to Monteverde's Orphero played and Mark fanned me with a Cook's Illustrated magazine (yes, it was wrong to enjoy this so much, but it was only for a minute).
Having a few hours to wander through the library stacks and lingering in the 299 section and then the periodicals and then picking up a copy of Unholy Business.
Writing with the Oltions while Walter (not yet Wendy) Carlos' A Clockwork Orangesoundtrack played (I need to get a copy of The Well Tempered Synthesizer).
Teaching my sister Pregnant Lady Judo to fend off strangers who wish to touch her womb (and otherwise channeling my hippy wise-womon by asking her questions fromThe New Our Bodies Ourselves -- pause to imagine us sipping mint tea and sharing a Red Tent Moment).
Receiving a copy of the 2004 Emergency Response Guidebook. This will allow me to play "Hazmat Bingo" on the road because, with it, I can read the four-digit code on the side of trucks and not only know what nasty chemical is inside, but how far away to get away from the truck if it's on its side engulfed in flames (did you know that for most radioactive loads, the first thing you want to do is put out a fire and then worry about any radiation?).
Whenthe year is cold and worn,
the sun appears in Capricorn.
Spinning planet circles sun. Winter's season has begun. Wind and rain and sometimes snow make us wish for fire's glow. We hope that it is not too late to clean our house and decorate. Wescrub and rub until we're sore -- we must have cleaned an hour (or more) -- Then drive out in the morning light to get a tree with dynamite! We travel on a country road; we've packed up an explosive load. The farmwhich sells folks Christmas trees Charges us with extra fees: We have to promise to be good before we can blow up some wood. The tree farmer is nice but stern and tells us when it is our turn, "Leave your driver's license, mate,or
we wont give you a detonator." We leave our ID and depart. Riding in a draft horse cart The driver and the people with us share their stories about Christmas. This farm is better, we tell them, than dealing with the BLM. We're here! The horses stop and steam. We've come upon a winter dream!
Firsand pine trees everywhere; explosives scent the alpine air. Rows of trees, and craters, too (which indicate where trees once grew). We sing songs with great aplomb, like "We Three Kings" and "Tanen-bomb." Here's a blue spruce -- it's too prickly; there's a brown tree, kind of sickly. Here's a doug fir -- way too droopy. And madrone is much too loopy. Here's a crater; there's a hole where someone bagged their woodlot goal. Will we find the perfect one? Perhaps the good trees are all gone. No tree to take back on our car?
Oh Horror!And we'd come so far!
But wait!It's here! The perfect tree! And it will blow up beautifully! The dynamite goes 'neath the roots (we relocate bugs, mice, and newts). The blasting caps and wires are set. This blast will be the best, I bet. The final countdown has begun:
Six five fourthree two & one! Blam! The tree is in the air; its flaming roots are like a flare. The pyrotechnics sure are bright and brings to mind the fiery sight Of birthday candles on a cake (or poetry by William Blake).
Itsimpulse spent, it arcs to rest. We're sure that this year's tree's the best. The farmhands help to douse the fire and wrap the tree in bailing wire. The tree is measured and we pay for our explosive, fun-filled day. Wedrive back on the country road glad to have our Christmas load; But kind of sad, too, in a way -- we'd like to do this every day, But we'll have to wait a year at least, or -- okay -- there's always eggs at Easter.
E P I L O G U E
If this poem has offended Then think on this -- And all is mended. The onlytrees which were molested: paper where these words have guested. The players are a poet's whim; Likewise their actions here within. Realfools and louts who sin With realnitroglycerin learn the lesson far too late -- After they disintegrate -- That high explosives' power unfurl'd Can erase us from this world. My tale's a Christmas fantasy: Do notharm trees with TNT -- Unless your antics are confined Within the borders of your mind.
The snow has all turned to rain. It's less pretty, but it does make for easier traveling. It's looking like we'll have a green (and brown) Christmas... although it's possible that my birthday will be white.
It was just a little above freezing when I took this photo. It's a lavender plant, and what was crazy was that when I took the photo, the sharpest scent of lavender rose from the plant. Most other outside smells (the earth, the grass, the pavement) were still frozen, so I had the curious sensation of smelling lavender as if it were wintergreen.
We're about forty miles away from the forty-fifth parallel, so this time of year the sun only gets around twenty degrees up in the sky. The weeks around the Winter Solstice are the best time (if the sun comes out) to take photos because most of the day has "magic light."
The snowy blossoms Fill my heart with thankfulness That I'm not a tree.
Another obligatory Sphinx in the Snow photograph. We really need to get her a grotto... and I'm trying to think of ways that we could incorporate a home for her in the labyrinth I'm thinking of creating around the cherry tree.
No Ice-capades Yet. I was sort of hoping that we'd wake up and everything would be covered with a layer of snow and ice because it looks pretty; but I'm glad that nobody has to drive in a frictionless condition. It did snow briefly around noon today, but then went back to mostly rain. Supposedly all the rain that's been falling is going to freeze solid this afternoon around 4.
Last night we had a "no power" drill. We turned off all the lights and the stereo, said "Oh no! The Power's Gone Out!", wandered around the house with flashlights, lit candles in the fireplace, and ate the emergency dessert rations (shortbread stars dipped in dark chocolate).
One thing I forgot to mention about the Wordos Reading last night: carols! We managed to get enough people together after all the grim holiday stories to be able to sing a few old carols. This is harder than it sounds because, as someone once commented, Wordos is one of the few groups that can provide technical critique on short stories involving Tarot cards and their usage, but gets totally confused by phrases like "washed in the blood" (we thought it was some kind of vampire story).
The carols were lots of fun. I got to sing the bass part.
In terms of weather, everyone is bracing themselves. So far the main streets are kind of dry, and there's some snow melting... but the skies are showing dark signs of precipitating something with a low coefficient of friction. (Ooops! Just checked the window -- it's started snowing. Off to cover the car! Ooops -- it just stopped. Here we go!)
Whew! More "wintery weather" is heading our way. This morning when I got into the car there was a little bit of snow on the floor and there was ice on the inside of the windows. Driving was particularly interesting; luckily, I still retain the winter driving skills I picked up living in Minnesota. I slipped a few times, mostly where the sun had only been shining on part of a road, creating a layer of water on top of the icy pavement. But it wasn't anything that driving at about 15 MPH couldn't fix. Okay, and slowing down about a half-block away from stop signs. And driving in low gears. With front-wheel drive.
But other than that it was fine.
We've been stocking up on things; Mark even arranged for firewood in case we lose electricity (we have electric baseboard heat). Wednesday's supposed to be a mix of rain, snow, sleet and other things that show up in the postal carrier's oath. I suppose the cold is good for killing bugs, and the snow is good for the snow pack -- but we usually don't get the combination of cold and participation at the same time.
So far it's been fun. I made snow pryamids on either side of our driveway -- it should be fun to see how they turn out in the next twenty-four hours. In the back I made a snow-lantern (take an artistically sculpted pile of snow and stick a lit taper into it; perfect for those Winter dinners at a yard side table) and of course took obligatory pictures of the Sphinx covered in snow.
In writing news, tonight was the annual Wordos Winter Holiday Reading. Despite the icy roads we had a pretty good turn-out. The theme was Secret Santa (with $%@* Christmas a strong secondary theme). Somehow, I managed to do both; judging by the applause it seemed the story was well received.
The Wordos are also doing an experiment -- we're all writing versions the same story (same setting, characters and problem) and then we'll critique them. It's an interesting exercise in writing to an outline, which I always find difficult. At first I wasn't enjoying the writing, but then I got into it. Writing the story was made more difficult by the iMac crash -- which resulted in half the story being on one computer and half on another.
We have snow! About three inches. This is enough to close the local school districts. Willamette Valley drivers will now spontaneously perform looop-de-loops as the snow purges any knowledge and experience with Newtonian Physics from their minds.
We went to a tree farm to murder a tree for the holidays. I still have ambivalent feelings toward Christmas trees. On the plus side: the scent of a tree in the house, the fun of decorating the tree with friends and family, the shiny bits, the memories of childhood trees, not to mention listening to The Nutcracker and imagining the tree getting bigger and bigger ... but, on the other hand, it's still killing a tree for decorative purposes.
I suppose if we were eating the tree and using the needles to craft our clothing... or if the tree were a potted tree I'd feel better about it. Unfortunately, our track record with potted trees isn't much better than with the ones we dispatch quickly.
The day was pretty mutable. Sunny and about 40 one moment and then rainy and about 35 the next. To get to the trees one could ride a horse-drawn cart. The horses were Percheron draft horses named Ruby and Ted. Ruby was 20 years old and Ted was her 10 year old son. Mark's family's tradition is to decorate the tree on December 24. Since this is my birthday, we will decorate a few days earlier. In the mean time, the tree is in a stand making the house smell nice.
We've got a lot of stain glass decorations up (Mark's family makes them). I think my favorite is a large snow flake made out of beveled glass tiles. I think Mark's is a stocking made with vivid red glass.
Well... the iMac is back. I'm slightly irritated because it's come back with a Safari problem. Before I took it into the shop on the 3rd for a power supply problem (which I pretty much diagnosed for them), Safari worked really well. Now, Safari runs about 90 seconds before crashing. Grrr.
I called the shop to see if they had installed any hardware diagnostic software. They said they hadn't until I told them that the iStat Pro widget had been installed Dec 9. (Ooops -- if you're going to tell the customer you haven't installed anything, it's a good idea to empty out the trash and reset the download history first.)
Anyway, they suggested going in and resetting my Safari library files... which hasn't worked. The weird thing is that Safari seems to work in the Admin account (not mine). At least replacing the faulty power supply seems to have fixed the problem.
While I was without e-mail I received a cluster of e-mail rejections.... most of which were very nice, "we'd really like to buy this, and we're sorry but we're not going to" kind. I did receive some feedback for two stories -- something most editors don't have the time to do, so that was good. As Mark says, "you're getting closer."
There's an intermittent power supply problem with the iMac -- I get about 20 minutes use out of it and then it shuts down. Apparently this is a power supply / video problem with iMacs, so I'm hopeful it will be a quick (and free) fix. We'll see. I've run out of quick tricks to fix the problem, so it's not the PRAM, a dead lithium battery, or any of the hardware tested by the diagnostic package that comes with the OS.