Archive for the ‘nanowrimo’ Tag

Interim

A singe grosbeak inspects our feeder, and as I look out through the living room picture window at the bird plumped against the cold, there’s a reflection in the glass of flames from the woodstove inside.  In its orange vigor, my fire faces west, Druidically inappropriate, but very welcome on this grade A gray day.

In the northern U.S. that’s an image of this time of year: reflections, of heat inside, of life still proceeding outdoors and in, of the time of year itself.

The interval between Thanksgiving and the December holidays can be a delicious space, a “meanwhile” or middle-time for re-tooling and starting to close up shop on the current year.  To feel that it’s often too busy, or merely filled with worsening weather forecasts, as though that is all it has to offer, is to miss something profoundly meditative about these days.  What’s the opposite of miss?  Attend, intercept, catch, be there.  Whatever it is, that’s what I want to do.

There is as well in November and early December a late-autumnal melancholy, it’s true.  The peak of Thanksgiving has passed, and some may see the next months as a pretty solid trudge through the valleys (in our boots, scarves and gloves, and hauling snow-shovels) until the climb to the next holiday.

So when I can take a look from this end of the year at a season at the other side of summer, I do. Off to that start of spring transience which mirrors something in us now as well. I followed a link from an article in today’s NY Times and there on the page was the sudden pure pleasure of “Sakura Park,” a poem by the late Rachel Wetzsteon (pronounced “wet-stone”). Take a visit to late spring, six months ago, or six months to come. The cherry trees (the sakura of the title) are in bloom …

Sakura Park

The park admits the wind,
the petals lift and scatter
like versions of myself I was on the verge
of becoming; and ten years on
and ten blocks down I still can’t tell
whether this dispersal resembles
a fist unclenching or waving goodbye.
But the petals scatter faster,
seeking the rose, the cigarette vendor,
and at least I’ve got by pumping heart
some rules of conduct: refuse to choose
between turning pages and turning heads
though the stubborn dine alone. Get over
“getting over”: dark clouds don’t fade
but drift with ever deeper colors.
Give up on rooted happiness
(the stolid trees on fire!) and sweet reprieve
(a poor park but my own) will follow.
There is still a chance the empty gazebo
will draw crowds from the greater world.
And meanwhile, meanwhile’s far from nothing:
the humming moment, the rustle of cherry trees.

Yes, that’s a poet for you — insisting on a connection between cherry petals and the growth of self, when all the cherry need do is be a self beautifully ready to attract bees, produce fruit and fulfill its cherry-tree-ness.

And yes, there’s a whiff of early middle-aged cynicism creeping in here (Wetzsteon died at 42), the dry rot that afflicts so many who tell themselves to be content with meanwhiles.  “Give up on rooted happiness!” she urges.  There is still green chance and raw luck and sweet grace in the world, but until they salvage something greater than what’s at hand, be content with meanwhiles, the poet advises, the “far from nothing” moments that hum with possibility even now.  So it’s back to trees, where maybe we should have remained.

Too often we are literally “self-important.”  We worry about the self like a barefoot child abandoned in a parking lot, or an opened can of tuna that will spoil unless we eat or cook or refrigerate it.  The cherry tree sends out blossoms unworried about November.  Not because November won’t come, but because it’s not November when it’s April.  And when November comes, the tree will be a cherry in November, awaiting the next humming moment.

And yes, if I meditate among the swaying branches and crackling leaves this time of year (trying to fluff myself against the cold like an outsized bird, so I can sit or kneel a few minutes without shivering and breaking my focus), the “stolid tree on fire” matters more than it did before, and my own concerns matter less.  Restoration that we seek, visit all who long for it.  Find it in the silent witnesses of trees.  We who listen for “a voice that will save us” forget what burns in front of us, the fire in the stove in the living room, this day passing with us into “later” and darkness and tomorrow, the trees wintering, summering and wintering again, the air itself, with its metallic crispness on the tongue and in the nose, the fire that burns in all things.

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The 50,000-word deadline this Wednesday 11/30 at midnight looms before us “wrimos,” and I’m finally within range.   Woo-hah!  The Nanowrimo site obligingly lets participants grab icons of progress — anything to keep us writing.  Much of what I’m drafting now is detail, filling in missing scenes, background, snatches of dialog with disembodied characters, pieces of Harhanu physiology and psychology — and I suppose, not surprisingly, a brand-new and potentially primary character — because of course what I expressly did not need at this point is a strong new presence telling me “when you are done, you are not done, for I have more” — to paraphrase Omar Khayyam in his Rubaiyat.  He already has a name (Tehengin) which he obligingly repeated to me till I got it right.  But, probably, I do need him — in some way which I’m sure he’ll inform me about.  In detail.

So anyway, here I dance at 44212 words, taking a break to blog, before I return to dance some more.  Wish me well in this home stretch.

Nano Update

With the Thanksgiving holiday, travel to my in-laws in FL, and nano-ing, it’s been a busy week.  I’m in the home stretch as far as writing, with 38,177 words completed.  Huzzah!! 5000 words came through yesterday, including a draft of the ending, while I was tucked away and mostly out of earshot of happily noisy relatives.

Back to regular (full) blog posts soon!

Posted 25 November 2011 by adruidway in fiction, nanowrimo, writing

Tagged with

What’s freedom for? (Part 1)

[Part 1 | 2 | 3 ]

With so much attention to freedom these days, both freedom from and freedom to (they can feel like — and amount to — very different things), it’s strange there’s so little discussion of what to do with it once we get it.  We’re supposed to know intuitively, like eating or breathing.  Let me “do my own thing,” “don’t fence me in,” “don’t tread on me,” “a man’s home is his castle,” “do what you want,” and countless other phrases and proverbs and old saws and aphorisms to capture that sense of a supposedly “inalienable right” to do — what?  Along with life and the often asymptotic* happiness we’re supposedly in pursuit of, this third leg of the American Independence tripod got declared and delivered to us and we haven’t done a paternity test to see whether it’s our baby.  Liberty.  As in “see Statue of.”  As in Patrick Henry, who gave himself and his audience only two choices (“liberty or death”), proving he was definitely not a true American, because as we all know, Americans love their choices.  “Have it your way,” goes the old Burger King advertizing jingle.  OK, my way.  But once I get it, how do I know I have it?  Is it like a lottery ticket — changing in value by the day, and up to me to claim it if I won it?  And then what?  What’s freedom for?

More to come in Part II.

*An asymptote, if the Wikipedia definition above doesn’t do it for you, is a curve that keeps edging ever closer to a line, but never actually arrives.  (Unless you want to count infinity.)  Think of it as a geometric tease.

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Passing the halfway mark of 25,000 words a couple of days ago felt as big this year as reaching 10K last year did — a milestone. Inevitably I’ve fallen behind — this time by about 5000 words.  Got nothing written at all on Monday, and Tuesday was little better.  Today’s quota is 30K. I’ve gotten down 3000 words so far, in a burst of catching up, and hope for another few hundred by day’s end, which will bring me within striking distance.  I’m at 28,125 as I write this.  (Yes, my break from writing a novel is writing a blog entry.)  Definitely some interesting material has come through.  I’ve put my poor succubus Alza in a number of implausible, erotic, challenging, historical and dangerous situations, just to see what sticks.

I’ve also found out that in order for an important historical meeting to occur, she needs to be about a century older than I’d made her.  Not sure how she feels about that.  Will no doubt find out.  And I’ve gotten down a description of her original appearance that she has just discovered, the “face she had before she was born,” as the Zen masters like to say — before she shape-shifted the first time in her life among humans.  That discovery seems to give her a stability and sense of self nothing else has.  Here’s a striking image I found online and used for inspiration as Alza.  It comes, both appropriately and ironically at once, from an Australian evangelical website, in the form of a pamphlet providing counsel to victims of Incubi and Succubi.

A Druidico-linguistic Rant

OK, indulge me in a fit of professional pique.  Grr.  And afterward, having carefully checked my counterpoints below, show me where I went wrong.  Until then, my case stands against careless authors and bad linguistics.

I spent undergrad and grad years studying linguistics, both in class to get degrees, and on my own, to “follow the bent of my genius, which is a very crooked one,” as Thoreau says of himself.

So when any published authority who should know better does a bad job with linguistics, it provokes my ire and righteous indignation.  Stings me to creative invective, expressed in various naturally-occurring and invented languages.  If you’re a fan, think Firefly and Joss Whedon‘s creative use of “gorram” and Chinese for the characters when they need a good brisk curse to capture their feelings that won’t get censored by feckless Anglo censors.  (So I slightly misused feckless.  It’s such a great word, I’m automatically forgiven.  Why isn’t there a feckful?!)

When it involves an attempt to set the record straight about Druids, we particularly need careful scholarship, along the lines of Ronald Hutton, whose consistently excellent and thoroughly researched books shrink Romantic inflation, while leaving the essential mystery.  In fact, that could be a definition of mystery:  what remains intact, even more vital, after the facts have been established.  Mystery isn’t obscurity, but a depth beyond easy ratiocination.  It transcends language, though intuition and imagination are both on to it.  It’s home turf for them.

People believe all kinds of nonsense about language, and often on flimsy evidence — perhaps because in the West, most people know only one language, so the ways of them durn furriners will always be inscrutable — not a true mystery, but the consequence of mere ignorance.

A classic example I’ve cited before:  “Samhain is the Celtic god of death.”  It really isn’t, but people get seduced by the appearance of authority and mistake it for the real thing.  This is reminiscent of Kipling’s Monkey People in The Jungle Book:  “If we all say so, it must be true.”  The linguistic falsehood is still reprehensible, but it’s understandable here in propaganda like the anti-Pagan tract in which this Samhain citation appears.

On to the source of my wrath.

A Brief History of the Druids by Peter Berresford Ellis is a necessary book, providing analyses of evidence for an understanding of Druidry that aren’t available in print elsewhere.  He’s cited as “a foremost authority on the Celts,” is the author of half a dozen  books on the Celts, and for the most part deserves this accolade and others.

But …

How is it, then, on page 96, that he can foolishly, carelessly assert that “the very word Teutonic is derived from the Celtic word for tribe, tuath in Irish”?  This is simply wrong.  “Teutonic” comes from Latin teutonicus, and refers to the Germanic tribes.  The cognate word — the “sister word” in Germanic, because both Celtic and Germanic are daughter languages of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) — is thiudan-, related to King Theoden in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Deutsch, the German word for ‘German.’  However much Ellis would like the sound laws of PIE to reflect his desire for Celtic to be the mother tongue, they don’t and it’s not.  Neither is Germanic, of course.  However, Proto-Indo-European IS.  And Ellis knows this, but lets his carelessness sway him into a baldly wrong, and worse, misleading assertion.  The Celts indeed contributed much to Germanic culture, and that includes words as well as objects, but tuath isn’t one of them.

Here’s another example among others from this one book.  On page 111, once again, Ellis wants Celtic to rule the roost.  “When we turn back to Medb we find that her very name means ‘an intoxicating liquor’, [sic] and is the origin of the English mead.”  And once again, the Irish medb and the English mead are cognate, or “born together,” from PIE *medhu.  The English word doesn’t derive from the Irish.  Both however do descend from the same parent — and that is PIE.  [The * indicates a linguistic reconstruction.]

One instance of such false derivation in a scholarly work is possibly a “mistake” or oversight.  Several instances become part of a consistent pattern of misuse of scholarship in the service of an agenda.  It makes me question and doubt his other claims (not a bad thing, says my inner rebel; find out for yourself); and he gives just enough evidence to convince someone who doesn’t know enough about historical development of the Indo-European languages generally, and Celtic and English specifically, to challenge his assertions.  It sounds right.  But it isn’t.  Boo — hiss!

Not the end of the world.  But shoddy.  Very shoddy.  OK, enough ranting.  <end rant>

Thank for indulging.  Back to your regularly scheduled program.

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Nano update:  hit the 20,000 mark — in fact, passed it last night, with 20177 words.  Somehow this feels more substantial in many ways than passing the 10K mark, which seemed such a milestone at the time — not merely twice as many words, but a kind of undeniable solidity or substance that can’t be denied or dismissed.  Got some new (potential) characters, too, knocking to be let in.  Will have to see whether this story needs an incubus to muddy the waters, or a preacher bent on saving Nick (Alza’s “chosen”), or a girlfriend (and second succubus?!) for Nick’s best friend Paul.  Anyway, onward …

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