Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tuesday Morning Musings

I woke up Tuesday morning at three and couldn't get back to sleep for the longest time.  Sometimes when I wake up, I can go back to sleep if I imagine invoking the four quarters and protective circle.  This time I got out of bed so I wound't wake Mark, and went out and joined the dog on the couch.  Part of what was keeping me up were thoughts about how I don't feel writerly enough, or gay enough, or NeoPaganly enough.  I think part of this stems from not being able to physically gather with peers and mentors.  A character-driven plot begins when the protagonist is dissatisfied with their life and ends when they A) make changes or B) resign themselves to their situation.  After an hour, I did manage to fall asleep.

Lately I've been RollerBlading up at the reservoir, the top is about two city blocks by a half-block wide, which means I can get a long gliding runs in.  The place is popular with other skaters, small children and their bikes, and martial artists.  Previously to RollerBlading there, I would only go for astronomy.  I'm hoping that if I can continue to go, it will be like a workout, and I'll get some of my muscle tone back (or at least lose a little bit of the belly that's crept back).  

Over the weekend I purchased a foliate head.  I've been wanting a traditional looking one for a while and just happened to find this one at a local store (they have lots of garden art, but they tend to focus on Buddha or gnomes or Quan Yin or winged pigs).  I found a place in the grape vines for it, but I think what it really needs is a stone column in the hedge to peer out from.  Perhaps in the next few weeks I can make a kind of Ides of Autumn altar with it.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Last Lazy Sunday of September

Today is a lazy Sunday.  The morning's fog has finally burned off and white clouds are scudding along a blue sky.  Mark and I had thought to go to the beach, but Mark suggested that maybe we could put it off a week; I was feeling disinclined to spend hours in a car, so I agreed.

I spent the morning sipping some tea, listening to Sunday Baroque, and virtually visiting the chapels of Oxford via a booklet put together here:  


and I came to the conclusion that Pamela Colman Smith must have been influenced by various stained glass windows when she created the images in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. 

Slightly related, I've been having some fun watching Dr. Colleen Darnell and her husband, Dr. John C. Darnell, at The Vintage Egyptologist:  https://www.youtube.com/c/VintageEgyptologist/featured  

The spiders are out and building their webs.  There are at least three visible from the back deck; they each hold quarter-sized orb-weaver spiders (I think).  The brown and dun bands on their legs and abdomens remind me of rattan.  I'm guessing the larger spiders are the females.  Yesterday I'm pretty sure I saw a mating ritual; a larger spider sat near the edge of its web and strummed one of the strands.  A smaller spider slowly advanced along the threads.  They faced each other, the smaller spider waving three or more legs so that the tips just brushed the larger spider's legs.  The smaller spider moved closer and closer, occasionally tagging the larger spider, then rushing away as if to a avoid a tag-back.  The larger spider eventually folded its legs close to its body and held still.  The smaller spider quickly wrapped its legs around the larger one (?pinning its legs?) and pressed its abdomen against the larger one.  About ten seconds later, it dashed off, quick as lightning, and hid under a nearby leaf.  The larger spider unfolded and splayed across several web strands.  I didn't stay to watch, but I think they were going to do it again.

Small hummingbird sits on the top of a basalt column fountain.

The hummingbirds continue to visit the fountain.  I'm torn between wanting to go out and get a feeder for them and the knowledge that eventually Cicero and Smokey will tolerate Aoife enough to venture back into the back yard.  Cicero's bad enough with dragonflies and snakes, and I can imagine catching and torturing hummingbirds would be great sport for him. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Autumnal Equinox 2020

Happy Equinox!  

We've had a few relatively smoke-free days, and when I checked this morning the Air Quality Index was something like 15 -- much better than the ten days of +400 readings we had after Labor Day.  

I felt so much better the other night when I stepped outside and I didn't have to worry about not wearing a particulate mask and I could see Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Capricorn.  The miasma that had settled over this end of the valley oppressed and depressed me -- I'm sure glad that I don't have some sort of breathing problem, because by the tenth day of the smoke I was ready to just curl up and sleep forever.

I can't imagine being a crow, eagle, hawk, osprey, hummingbird, heron, wren, or other flying thing sharing the sky with the smoke; I can't imagine being a squirrel, frog, raccoon, cat, dog, rabbit, deer, sheep, cow, newt, or other small creature picking through the ash-scape; I can't imagine being a grape, cherry, apple, rosemary, hornbeam, azalea, iris, lilac, laurel, pine, oak, or other leafy thing enduring a sun-block of burnt forest and houses.   

And I can't imagine why someone nearby would want to smoke a cigar right now and ruin an otherwise pleasant evening with their foul smoke.  I mean, honestly.  

Unfortunately, this isn't the last bad fire season we're likely to see (and I think the cigar smoker is a neighbor).  Fortunately, more wind and rain from the ocean is on our way, so we're in for a respite.  

On the plus side, the pair of hummingbirds who had discovered the fountain and come to bathe on top of the basalt column once or twice most mornings seem to be sticking around.  Aiofe bothers the cats so much that they don't venture into the yard, so the birds are safe from them for this season.  I've tried taking some photos of them as they rustle and flutter in the water, but so far I haven't managed clear shots.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Forest Fires, Smoke, and Ash

Cherry tree in early September afternoon sunlight.
Well, let's see. The West Coast has been on fire for a week and our skies havebeen Mordor Dark with a ruddy ember for a sun. It started late Labor Day Monday when Oregon got Santa Ana-style winds. A variety of fires in the Cascade Mountains got pushed down-slope into the easter Willamette Valley. Several mountain communities and towns have been burnt; there are a handful of fatalities. Eugene wasn't under evacuation orders, but parts of neighboring Springfield were.

The air quality index has been pushing 500 for at least the last five days; 250 is hazardous air quality for all populations.  0-50 is generally healthy, 100 starts to be problematic for sensitive groups.  The dog and cats don't understand why we won't let them outside.  Each morning, Mark takes a wet cloth and mops up the fine ash that has seeped in under our windows and doors.  Outside, cars, trees, the sidewalk, mailboxes, streetlights -- everything -- is covered with a fine layer of ash from pines and houses.

Supposedly, the smoke was to clear by last Wednesday; then Friday; then by this last weekend. If we're lucky, a new weather system will blow in Friday and we'll have blue skies -- or at least rain -- again. 

Labor Day itself was a warm and sunny day; it seems like a lifetime ago I arranged the Backyard Circle into a Ritual Writing Spot and invoked the four directions to help me write.

One bright spot in otherwise smothering days is that the hummingbirds have been using the fountain as a bathing station.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

August Reading

I've been reading.  I finished Ronald Hutton's "The Witch," which was more about using the historical or ethnological lens to have a global look at the cultural phenomenon of the witch, and less about actual witches or witchcraft.  He spent a lot of time criticizing Ginsberg's "Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath," mostly for folk-story back-projection.  The interesting histories, which I wished there had been more of a focus on, dealt with ancient Mesopotamian and Roman beliefs and records.  The tiresome histories dealt with when churchmen equated witchcraft with heresy (Satanism) and forced confessions into their paradigm of what an anti-Christian practice should look like.   Slightly less tiresome were the politically-motivated accusations of witchcraft between competing dynasties.  More interesting was the proposal that where random bad luck (e.g., lost crops) was less likely to have an economic impact or was more likely to be blamed on fairies, the result was less witch trials.

Okay; the most entertaining thing I read was that the Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of cc was "ch."  So it's spelled wicca, but it's pronounced (toss a coin to your) "which-ah."

Still, I think the comments about "service magicians" (folks who find lost items or turn the evil eye) and Hutton's five-part definition of a witch--which he used to nail down a specific cultural role--makes for some interesting ways to think about how to world build magic users in fantasy settings (i.e. are they evil, or can they use destructive spells for good? are they working with forces to bring down humanity, or are they simply annoyed at certain, bothersome neighbors? can they shape-shift?  do they fly for real, or only in spirit? how can they be resisted or counter-acted?  What is their relationship to the recognized, orthodox religion or state?) .  

Moving on, I'm in the middle of Jane Yolen's "Choose Joy," which is less a manual for writers and more an inspirational tract.  So far the open secret about writing that she's shared is, "get your Butt In Chair and write every day."  While she does organize chapters by various writing tasks and novel structures, this is not a workbook like LeGuin's "Steering The Craft"--although I think the two make good companions.  Yolen makes me laugh out loud in places, which is a good thing, and is a perfect antidote to sadomasochistic writing advice out there.  

Mark had made a comment about me not leaving the house on my writing nights, so last week I attempted to write out of the house at Hendrick's Park, but that didn't go over so well; there aren't many spaces to write comfortably.   I've concluded that one of the reasons I stick around the house is that it's covid-free, there are snacks, and, generally, spaces to write. 

On the submission front:  I had submitted a story to a contest and hadn't heard back from them; it turns out they choose contest winners and don't tell the losers anything -- so one story rejection by lack of response. The other story I have in the mail has been short-listed; I won't know anything more about it until probably October.   Sigh.  I need to work on my submissions.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

RollerBlade Interlude

 (John RollerBlades up to Mark, who is walking back from the grocery store.)

John (reaching for a gallon bottle):  "I can take the water."

Mark:  "I've got it.  Do you want a macaroon?"

John:  "Sure."  (Takes macaroon, RollerBlades in circles around Mark.)

Mark:  "The Child called; he didn't know where you were."

John:  "He could have looked out the front window or something."

Mark (in teen voice):  "'I tried calling him, but his cell phone rang in the house--'"

John:  "He was sitting in the bathroom when I left."

Mark:   "--'I didn't know where he went; he didn't say anything.'  I told him he was being controlling and said, 'Maybe he's in the crawl space; or maybe he's checking out the water main.'"

John: (recalling Lenny and Squigy from Laverne and Shirley):  "Or maybe I was puttin' on my luv clothes."

Mark (taking in John's RollerBlades, shorts, wrist-guards, black T-shirt, and bike helmet):  "You're not getting anywhere tonight if those are your love clothes, Electra."

John (sings from the musical, "Starlight Express."):  "I am Electra / I'm a computer / (elaborate arm gesture) I am electric / the future is me // if you make me board (pirouettes on RollerBlades)  / I'll hit my keyboard / you'll be erased from my memory (pivots to a stop, brings right hand over head, points at Mark)  // AC-DC it's okay by me / I can  switch and change my frequency..."

Mark:  "Is that how it goes?"

John:  "Well, it's in the song."

Mark:  "No, I meant trains; can they really change like that?:

John (finishing macaroon):  "I don't know.  It's Starlight ExpressCats for trains."  

Friday, August 07, 2020

Ides of Summer Dreams

 Dream One:

I was in some sort of classroom or church.  The room had white walls and light wooden floors.  There were rows of chairs or desks or desk/chairs or pews, with a aisle up the middle.  In the back of the room, three women -- an amalgam of various red headed women I've met over the decades -- began singing a kind of medieval song (in waking life, I think I'd scrambled a new version of Qntal's "Dulcis Amor" by moving the starting bar back two beats and adding more polyphony -- maybe I'd added bits of "Ab Vo d' Angel").   

Superimposed over the image of the three red-haired women singing, there was a kind of hinged metal toy? nut-cracker?   The base was a long tongue of flat dark metal (iron), about two feet long (no longer).  A metal deer with antlers, one angular fore hoof raised (the hook of the hoof and the 90 bends in the metal of the leg stick out in my mind) stood at the far end of the metal base, facing the hinge.  The hinged arm part was also metal, but it was angularly wavy, and represented the rushing waters of a river.   Wielded to the metal river was a smaller deer, also antlered; this was closer to the hinge, and it faced the far end.  When the metal river arm lowered, there was a way for it to rest around the larger deer, and the two animals could face each other.  

The river became real.  The song continued.  Real deer faced each other, with the addition of a metal wolf (metal angular mane squares around the wolf's muzzle) on the riverbank stalking the smaller deer.  The flowing river tilted up on its hinge and became metal again, and the wolf had been added to the sculpture.  

I have a sense the sculpture opened and closed several times, transforming between a real river with animals and metal tableau.  

Dream Two:

I was walking through a wooded area.  It may have been the North Side of the hill I grew up in.  I think I found a house or inn -- the recall is muddled.   Somehow, I'd stumbled into the story of a high school acquaintance.  I think there was a woman in the house/inn -- anyway, we found my high school acquaintance's journal.  The friend had disappeared in real life, so the journal entries were from 1980.  

He had written a series of short stories where he was living in a better life as the inn-keeper of the inn we were in, which was somehow enchanted, and under the protection of a large black bear, who had somehow banished (i.e. killed, eaten, or disappeared) my friend's abusive father. 

There was a "so that's where the bear came from moment"; the bear still roamed the woods, an angry dark shadow.  I think about now I realized I was in a parallel world and that I should figure out how to get back into this one.

Dream Three:

X-rated.  But highly consensual and with good communication.  

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

August Reading

Goodness... there's been a bit of a gap since the last posting.  

The current news is that the water main between our house and the utility meeter has broken, so we're on day three without water in the house.  I'd noticed a damp patch in our front yard Sunday evening; by Monday morning it had turned into a seeping spring that moistened the sidewalk for about ten feet.  I suppose this is practice for when the Big Cascadia Earthquake hits (and, yes, the Earthquake Folks are right about how much water one goes through in a day).  So far the most troublesome aspect is making the toilet flush.  I'm not particularly looking forward to the bill, and hope that fixing the leak doesn't involve slicing through the front sidewalk.  

I'm been actively reading more.  I skimmed through Pete Buttigieg's "Shortest Way Home," and am currently reading Ronald Hutton's "The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present."  Buttigieg's book starts a slowly and didn't really pick up for me until about page 50, when he gets into college.  The slowest parts forme were the accounts and exposition blocks of the campaign trails.  The better parts were scenes with dialog or first meetings.  The best parts are usually at the end of chapters, where he shares an insight -- like his discovery of the blinders he had about Big Data.  I was hoping for more about his process of coming out and his relationship with the LGBTA community, but the book paints him more of a workaholic than someone who actually dates -- the way the book tells it, he was sort of busy and only until he was thirty did he realize that if he wanted a family he was going to have to do something about it.  

"The Witch," is slow starting.  I always want to go into Hutton's book like I remember going into "Triumph of the Moon":  turning the page to see the next "ancient wisdom's" genesis in the 1950's.  This is a longer overview, which starts by skipping lightly over ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia,  Africa and Canaan, for views of magic and a working definition of what a witch is -- as opposed to what he calls a "service magician."  He's got five criteria: 
  1. A Witch Causes Harm by Uncanny Means
  2. A Witch is an Internal Threat to a Community
  3. The Witch Works within a Tradition
  4. The Witch is Evil
  5. The Witch Can be Resisted
I suppose I should note that this is a historical definition used by the book to try to get a grip on cultures spanning millennia and from around the globe.  The first section concludes -- which is as far in the book as I've gotten -- with the differences between shamanism and shamanistic practices and witchcraft.  I suppose it would be a much thicker book otherwise, but I do wish he had spent more time on actual artifacts like curse tablets and magical bowls and The Burney Relief (in the case of the Relief, there was some question as to its authenticity and provenance, which in turn has bearing on the question of Lilith as spirit, demon, or goddess).  

Anyway, skimming ahead, it looks like he touches on English fairy lore in later chapters, so that looks interesting.  

Saturday, July 18, 2020

More Comet Musings

The latest obsession has been trying to photograph comet NEOWISE, specifically, its tail.  I am coming to the conclusion that

  • the comet was better positioned last weekend at 4 AM than it has been the last couple of evenings at 10 PM;
  • there's a lot of light pollution to the Northwest of us;
  • having a camera that didn't need to be jury-rigged to the tripod would help, and;
  • that my camera has a built-in interlock that is preventing exposures greater than 1 second and 1600 ISO (or a half-second at 3200 ISO).  

Right now, the comet is too close to the horizon for it to be visible from our backyard.  It took me a while to figure that out.  In about a week and a half it should be closer to the Big Dipper and I won't have to travel six blocks west to the other side of the hill to see it.

NEOWISE, at least from the middle of Eugene, is difficult to see in the post sunset glare.  Until I remembered that my mobile has a built-in compass, I was guessing at the direction the comet is in and how far up in the sky it would be.  For the record, at 10 PM Thursday night, the comet is at a heading of about 328 degrees (or a little over 30 degrees West of North); if you draw a line from the bottom of the Big Dipper (as if it were pouring water) until you hit the 328 degree mark, you'll be (more or less) looking at the comet (about 10 degrees up from the horizon).  Add (roughly) 15 compass degrees for each hour after 10 PM (so, presumably, and I haven't tested this, NEOWISE would be due North at midnight in the Eugene sky).

I don't know if it's just standing around at twilight with a camera and a tripod, or my longish grey hair, or my glasses or what, but my experience so far hunting NEOWISE has included strangers walking up to me (unmasked), or stopping their cars and shouting from the driver's seat, to ask if I can see the comet.  Usually about three per night.  The unmasked folks are mostly keeping social distance.   I think everyone's been seeing really cool photos of a comet with a long tail... which is sort of true, but the pictures either have been processed or it was an extra long exposure (with some kind of tracking to keep things steady).

I'm looking forward trying to photograph NEOWISE some place with less light pollution -- and maybe some shots with the star-trails option on.  I'm hoping this will allow me to get a clearer photo (or more) of the tail.

Saturday, 4:20 AM

Sunday, 4:20 AM

Tuesday, July 14, 19:15

Thursday, July 16, 10:00 PM

Thursday, July 16, 10:00 PM

Monday, July 13, 2020

Early Mornings with Comet NEOWISE

 I haven't felt like writing lately, and as a result the blog has gotten quiet.  Some of my writing impulse has gone to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram -- which is, I suppose, a reflection on my ability to be able to hold more than a handful of thoughts together for any length of time.  I think this is the point where I say something about Mercury going direct and communications opening back up.

On the astro-photography front, I have managed to jury-rig together some zip ties to keep my camera (mostly) on my tripod.  Without the mounting hole in the camera's body, I'm not able to really secure the camera to the tripod, and the zip tie trick is temporary at best.  It worked for some photos that I took of comet NEOWISE over the weekend, but I was anxious that the camera would slip off of the tripod and fall to the ground.

Comet NEOWISE has been visible in the northeastern skies over Eugene, from about 3:40 AM until 4:50 AM, when the Rosy Fingered Dawn makes the sky too light to discern the smudge of the comet and its tails.  Or, at least it has when the sky hasn't been clouded over.  It's below the constellation of a Auriga, which had been off of my radar until last week (although I was vaguely aware of one of its stars, Capella).  Looking at a star chart, I should have at least known that it connects to one of the horns of Taurus.

The cats work me up in time to see NEOWISE  Wednesday, but I wasn't able to pull myself out of bed.  I tried to see it Thursday, but misjudged how light it would be by the time I eventually strolled outside.  The photos I snapped of Venus convinced me that I had to use some sort of stand to hold the camera ready.  Friday it clouded over.  Saturday morning, though, I managed to get out and look for it.  I searched and searched, easily spotted Venus and Aldebaran, but was mystified as to where Capella was, much less NEOWISE.  I figured it was below the tree-line across the street and strode up the hill a bit and managed to sight it.

It's always odd to be photographing the sky in the dark at the side of the street, let alone in an intersection, which was where I was.  I jacked up the camera's ISO up to 1600 to reduce shutter speed.  I hand't figured out the zip tie trick, so I was holding the camera and the tripod mount together with my hand and attempting to zoom and hold things steady as I pressed the shutter button.  And hoping that a car wouldn't come down the street.  After a few shots, I paused to enjoy the comet with my eyes and not through a camera LCD.  Then I went and woke Mark before going back out.

I had taken some more photos from the intersection when Mark came out with Aoife and said that the comet was visible from our backyard (both safer and more shielded from streetlights and porch-lights).   In the backyard, there were more useful references to orient with, including the brick circle.  I took more photos in the brightening sky, then turned the camera to Venus and Aldebaran and the Moon and Mars.

Sunday morning, I got up a little more early, but there was a a skrim of haze over the northeastern sky.  I dozed and intermittently checked the skies until they cleared.  This time, I had the camera's shutter remote (not touching the camera means it's more steady).  I had thought that if I dialed back the ISO to 400, I could have a longer exposure time (3 seconds).  I think a combination of subtle tripod slide, the haze, my inept focusing, and the increased exposure time wound up with, well, I suppose I could say the photos that came out looked like van Gogh's "Starry Night."...

I experimented with turning the ISO up to 3200, thinking that I would be able to increase the shutter speed.  However, there's an interlock that moves the limit on the timer.  What I learned was that while theoretically a half second exposure at 3200 ISO is equivalent to a second exposure at 1600, the shorter exposure picture comes out bluer and whiter than the longer one.  The other lesson is that camera takes sharper images at slightly less full zoom than at full zoom, and that fine-tuning the focus on a star and then not changing the zoom really is a must.

I'm looking forward to later in July when NEOWISE becomes an evening sky object and hangs out underneath the big dipper.  For one thing, I won't feel so indolent for the rest of the day after getting up so early.  I'm also hopeful that as the comet gets nearer to Earth, it will become larger and brighter.  I think the last comet I saw (sort of) was comet Hale-Bopp, back in 1997 (although I remember the local flooding more than the comet).  Looking through historical records, Oregon must have been clouded over in January 2007, because I don't remember seeing that comet, either.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Season of Summer

I thought we were done with poppies for the summer, but more blooms have appeared.  These later blooms seem paler than the ones from earlier in the spring.    Decades ago, our landladies had a field of poppies in their other lot that seemed to bloom all Summer; if memory serves, they were orange, yellow, and red.  Maybe the seeds dropping from our pods will be viable and we will get a second round of the flowers in early September -- although I'm not sure how that works.

Tuesday, the temperature got up to the low nineties.  The house did not really cool down until something like 1 or 2 AM.  Mark had set up some air-conditioning units, but the one in our room wasn't blowing cold air; I guess the coolant had leaked out over the winter or something.  Luckily, the daytime temperatures have gone back to Summertime normals in the mid 80's.

I had forgotten how much infrared light gets through the writing pavilion after the sun visits the Solstice Station.  The trick to keeping it cool is to open up all the sides, even the west one, so that any  breeze cane come through.  It does mean that 4 PM does get uncomfortably hot.

I've been reading short stories of Philip K Dick.  Some of the more anxious scenes in "Bladerunner" put me off of the movie, so much so that I'd never had a desire to read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep."  The collection I'm reading contains "The Minority Report," (again, the movie didn't look interesting to me), which I finally read.

So far the stories I've gotten through are from the late 1950's and '60's.   The plots seem to be, Captain of Industry / Government Stakeholder encounters Cold-War-inspired McGuffin which threatens the status quo of a morally-ambigous-to-unjust social system, and must sacrifice to save an institution that isn't the best, but is the best we've got.  "It's not what you think it is," tone, not quite entering the "Jar of Tang" trope only because the characters are gravely mistaken about a great many things.

The stories aren't happy in a "good guy defeats the monster, saves the world, and gets the girl," kind of way; I'm waiting for one that doesn't feel so pessimistic -- but they do raise interesting questions like, "What would a justice system look like if precognitives saw you doing the crime before you did it?"... Which, now that I think about it, is sort of a secular take on Original Sin.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Crescent Moon Muppet Philosophy

The clouds have moved away and the last two days have been hot.  The night sky has been clear, and the most exciting object is a very young crescent moon.  I might have seen Mercury close to the western horizon, but I can't be sure.   In a few days the moon will sweep by Regulus, in Leo the Lion, and a little later on, Antares, in Scorpio the Scorpion.

I managed to get some photographs of the moon -- the low angle made it look like it was being grabbed by a tree.

Composition wise, what interests me about these photos is that I think the farther away from the camera's lens the Moon or a tree branch is, the more in focus it is.  To me, the blurrier branches look farther away from the viewer than the more-in-focus ones do, but I think the opposite is true.  I guess we're so used to thinking "in focus = close" that, in absence of other clues (like color) can confuse things when that's not the case.

I'm sure Mark would point out the symbology of being more focused on the far away by channelling his Inner Yoda and saying, "This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing."

I think my only response would be to channel another Muppet and say, "A crescent moon in sky look like cookie, but it doesn't taste as good as a cookie!  Everybody sing!  C is for cookie, that's good enough for me..."

...You know, those trees kind of look a little like Cookie Monster...

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Finding a Good Book

I received a gift certificate for books from Powell's Books and now I'm trying to figure out which books to buy.   The ephemeral nature of e-books prevents me from converting my library to electronic holdings -- and besides, the physical nature of holding a book, turning the pages, and looking at the layout brings a pleasure to reading that pixels on a small LCD doesn't.

Perhaps some day, when I am very, very old and reaching the top shelves of my library is physically beyond me, I'll convert.  One can only hope that robotic assistants able to pull books from the top shelves will be within the means of the moribund.  (And now I'm getting sad imagining 90-something me, alone in a room full of books, unable to stand without a cane, much less raise my arms above my head to pull down the red-bound, ten pound six-book volume of "The Lord of the Rings."  Obviously, I need to design a circular bed that is on a central axis pivot, surrounded seven eighths of the way around with vertical carousel bookshelves.)

But back to the present.  I started searching for the kinds of books I'd want and came to the conclusion that it was easier to find the kinds of books that I didn't want.   I didn't need any more Wicca 101 books; or Coming Out books; and searching with keywords like "Gay Witchcraft" only brought up one book, which I already own.   I already have an extensive collection of Ronald Hutton's works -- and there really is such a thing as Too Many Dion Fortune books (no, I'm not getting rid of any).  I could fill out my Ursula Le Guin holdings, but it would feel like checking off a bird-watcher's list.  And I think I've already got all the charming Wooden Books on Geometry that haven't gone over the edge into woo-woo "the Golden Mean is Magic!" drivel.  Perhaps I could get an updated and revised 2005 edition of Jane Yolen's Touch Magic (to round out the 1981 first edition currently in my folklore section).

I want a book (or books) that will feed my soul.  Or at least be wonderful.  Or Sparkly.  Maybe a book on the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry (okay, I've got a MET publication on the unicorn tapestry), or an art book on mediaeval tiles, or a history of typeface (although, now that I think about, I already have three).    I'm thinking "Reynard the Fox," by Anne Louise Avery, might fit the bill, but it won't be released until November 2020.   I'm thinking Jung's Red Book, except the only copy currently at Powell's is almost $300.  

Or maybe...  I can't help shake the feeling that this is a CS Lewis moth unconsumed by the flame / unsatiated feaster situation.  That what I'm looking for isn't a book so much as the solace of reading from a well-crafted book a story that resonates with words of truth.  It's possible that in order to address this feeling, I have to make my own miraculous book.

Perhaps I'll have to take up book binding.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Evening Herons

The other day Mark and I ditched the dog and went for a walk through Delta Ponds.   I'm trying to remember when the last time I went was, and I think it was a month ago -- or something.  Like so many events during the COVID19 pandemic (and now the Black Lives Matter protests), past visits to the Ponds seem to have happened in previous life or on a different planet.

Since my last visit, the underbrush and trees have sprouted out and created verdant tunnels around the pond-side paths.  It's very mysterious, and good for stealing gay smooches, but it does block the view of the lake.

From an observation deck, we saw an osprey sitting on its distant tower nest, but the photos I took were too blurry.  I think there may have been baby osprey in the nest, but I only caught sight of a raised wing or two through the camera's LCD.  The song of the osprey carries far across the water.

Retraced our steps, Mark saw a rat tail hiding behind a concrete railing.  We took a few steps closer and the rat sprinted along the fence, leapt into the air, and scurried up a tree.  In retrospect, if squirrels can climb trees, and if rats can scamper up ropes to stowaway onto boats, I shouldn't have been surprised they climb trees; but it was unsettling.

Deja vu accompanied the rat, and the particulars of the morning's dream returned to me:  I had been in a dystopian English prep school; the instructors' voices came over speakers; the school itself was a maze of metal corridors, with mechanical instruments on articulated metal arms unfolding out of the walls; there was a swimming pool, surrounded by a metal railing, and steps descending down to fog-shrouded, murky water; mysterious, many-legged, human-sized insects lived in the pool.   In the dream the insects would pull you into the water, not to drown you, but to try to rescue you from the school.  It was very much like a Dr. Who episode (probably "Paradise Towers").   Looking over the railing over the pond, I half-expected to see a many-armed insect surface next to the log usually used by turtles to sunbathe.  

Later, walking over a bridge, Mark noticed a green heron fishing underneath us.  The heron had the perfect spot for fishing.  All it had to do was wait and the current flowing under the bridge would bring the fish right by its feet.   It would slowly stretch out, leaning over the stream and -- SPLASH! -- pluck a fish out of the water with its spearpoint beak.  We watched it catch five fish in as many minutes.

We lingered around the ponds and looked for more herons, but the only animals visible were ducks, geese, and nutria.  Mark enjoys the nutria, and I think they're kind of like mutant beavers or oversized water rats.  The light was fading; the last few days have been very cloudy, so instead of yellow-orange sunlight angling in over the waters, the sunset was an ambiguous smear from white-grey to shadow-grey.

As we walked back, Mark stopped again and pointed out another heron on the other side of a screen of greenery.  I thought it might be a white heron we'd seen before discovering the fishing green heron, but it was a different one.  I managed, for once, to convince the camera to actually focus on the heron and not the leaves and twigs in front of me.  The daylight had faded enough so that the local streetlights had turned on, and the ripples of reflecting light limned the heron, which was mostly facing me.   The light reminded me of a painting, "Midsummer Eve, C.1908" by Edward Robert Hughes, only now that I'm referencing the painting, in a much less twee fashion.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Interstitial Days

Another day with COVID-19 and the BLM protests.  We're still social distancing.  Yesterday, protesters on the U of O campus toppled two statues known as the Pioneer Father and the Pioneer Mother.

I am unsure when I will be asked to appear at in my office, and continue to work remotely.  Which feels kind of weird.  The other week there were some things requiring my actual presence on campus, and I had to jump through some administrative hoops to be allowed back.  The building I work in had an empty feeling to it -- it was stuffy because no doors or windows had been opened, and the steam heat was still on.    Normally, commencement events would be happening; two weeks ago, I wound up splicing together pre-recorded Zoom sessions into one mp4 file to be played off of the UO website.

Although we are having a cooler and wetter "Junuary," we seem to be in high pollen season--the household is tired and suffering from hay-fever.   I'm not sure how the plants make so much pollen between the grey and the rain, but the result is that I really just want to sleep all the time--even through the rare thunder and lightning.

Sunday is no-tech evening; I'm going to post this and then switch to books and longhand writing for the night.