Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thoughts of varying depth and clarity

The moon is just an all-around cool thing. Tonight as I came out of Starbucks it was about halfway from zenith in the west, a perfect bright little crescent. Earlier in the summer I slept with my shade open a crack. I woke about one in the morning with the full moon shining right on my face. I don't think I've ever slept in a puddle of moonlight before. I hope it happens again.

It is good when one spends one's time either working, playing, or resting. Most happy activities seem to fall into one of those categories: or more. (Like worship. I think the philosophers were rather silly to wrestle with whether duty or pleasure is more meritorious. Equating work with what one ought to do, and play with what one wants to do, what's really best is when your duty becomes your pleasure: when the will of your Father becomes your will, too. We are commanded to worship, but we worship better when we want to. Worship seems to partake of work and play and rest. To be sure, there is honor in fighting to do right despite what one wants, but you fight to make all of you want what part of you wants. If no part of you wanted, even indirectly, you wouldn't fight.) What is not good is doing nothing without resting: boredom, which is tellingly near "restlessness."

I like the way light comes in bigger lights and little lights. Sunlight is awfully good, and so are fluorescent lights and skylights and big fixtures that flood one's entire area with brightness, but there's something about candles, little 25-watt lamps, the moon, stars, and twinkly Christmas lights, too.

Rain is an ambiguous symbol. Usually it connotes depressingness, like "raining on my parade," but when one lives in a dry and weary land where there is no water, one rejoices at it. While I was at work today it rained. And we rejoiced. This evening the air in the valley was clear, washed by the rain, and the mesas glowed and the distant mountains gleamed blue, blue, rarest blue.

Taos to Espanola

I wrote this Sunday afternoon, but only just now posted it.

The highway winds through a deep canyon only wide enough for itself and the river. To the left, a hill rises steeply so I can barely see sky before the top of my window blocks it out. Streams of green-lichened gray rocks tumble down the steep slopes, with tall dead forked bushes between short green chamisa and shorter yellow grass.

I have driven this road before. I have driven it in the winter night, exhausted from a debate tournament, with my sister asleep in the backseat but a (rare) 2nd place award for policy my lap. I have driven it on other nights, discussing with a boy—who was it? I cannot remember him now—but we picked out constellations for one another and speculated whether Lepus, the Rabbit, was that one in the west, just above the hill. It probably wasn't. I have driven it in the Atkins' big blue suburban in the late afternoon, on that trip we took to Elitch Gardens in Denver. We played Mao all the way back and made a rule that whenever you played a three, you had to ask, “Are those rafters in the river?” And every time, I forgot it was a rule and looked at the river. It flows just beyond the guard rail, sometimes hidden, sometimes barely visible over it. Today the river runs full, but it is still difficult to see over the guard rail.

We rise out of the canyon and into another one. It opens up a bit; now on the left is a sign for a vineyard. “Does it have samples?” asks Mom. “There's a tasting room,” I say. But we are past it. A new little hospital, pretty adobe with wooden columns and sage trim, appears, in the middle of a tiny town, all ramshackle art galleries and houses with degenerate machinery in the yard and amateur coffee houses. The number of java cafes along this road amazes me. A town might not even have a post office, but it could have a coffee shop. Oh that I had world enough and time to stop at them.

The town passes and a farming valley appears on the other side of the river. The green patchwork of fields and houses, sandwiched between brown juniper-spotted hills, takes away my breath. It is so vibrant, such a reminder of what the desert could be if we only had water.

We're nearly to Espanola. The pearly clouds are sprinkling on us. The valley is now quite wide; the eastern Sangre de Cristos are nearly hidden behind the clouds, with yellow plain stretching away toward them, interrupted by power lines and casino billboards, and to the west a narrow line of green leafballs marks the Rio Grande. Beyond it rich brown mesas fade into bluer and bluer Jemez mountains, ending in the clouds showering rain. Houses appear, first few and far away, then clustering closer to each other and the road, with wooden or cinder-block or chain-link fences and green trees. We are at the town.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A drive north

My family decided to head up to Denver today. It was a lovely day for driving. There were a few cumulus clouds, so we hoped for rain, but it never did where we were. Haze from forest fires made a brown layer; as you looked into the distance, you could see the line where clear air began.

In a desolate, arid plain on the border of Colorado and New Mexico, there were odd white volcanic-looking rocks, set up in lines and circles on either side of the road. An occasional dolman jutted up. It looked like the druids came to New Mexico and gotten bored. About half an hour south we had passed a commune or development or something called “Dragonwycke Ranch.” I wonder if the dragonwyckers had been setting up rocks. Oh that the sacred-circle people would worship Someone worthwhile.

In Antonito, just over the Colorado border, we stopped at a tiny “Tourist Center.” It was in a modular building that turned out to be bigger inside than outside. On the left were bathrooms, a TV blasting the weather channel, a table covered with maps, a stand of brochures, a vat of coffee, and a stuffed bear almost as tall as I am, entitled: “DO NOT PET THE BEAR (more than once).” On the right was a museum kind of like the antiquities museum in Cairo of the 1880s, as Amelia Peabody described it, full and unexpected: old newspapers, bits of machinery, booklets informing me in red and blue ink that it was my patriotic duty to write to the troops, Mexican iron pyrite, crystals, other rocks, pins saying “ALF FOR PRESIDENT,” antique housewares, and a large wooden sign for the Antonito Buddhist Temple, complete with its address, all jumbled together on full shelves and in glass cases, somewhat grouped by thing but with hardly any labels. Against the front wall was a painted educational mural of the type beloved by national parks, with stuffed mountain goats behind a little fence. A nice, talkative lady asked us about our trip and where we were from and where we were going and what we meant to do when we got there. She recommended the water park; she said her son-in-law worked there. The tourist center was very clean, but extraordinarily random. It would be fun to stop there again.

Then we headed up to Alamosa for lunch. There we stopped at Mrs. Rivera's Restaurant; it was in the Triple A guide. The building was not terribly prepossessing sitting as it did across from an ugly Exxon-Mobil structure, next to a noisy railroad, and being very plain outside. Inside it was dark with yellow-overlaid lights like Tomasita's in Santa Fe, and decorated with festive paper chains and ads for Corona and Cuervo. The bathroom, of all randomnesses, was decorated with artificial greenery and pictures by John William Waterhouse, which had been torn from a calendar: Ophelia by her lake, and Arthurian and classical illustrations, all of young women with firm chins. We had three different waitpersons who stopped by our table to make sure we'd been taken care of. The tea and enchiladas were so incredibly good, I decided I was in my happy place.

We continued north. Emily used the binoculars for bugspotting, and actually made bug points that way. She got way too many bug points, in my opinion. She ended with 45 1/2 today, to my 10.

We passed through the tiny town of Mosca and thoroughly discussed the Latin and Spanish meanings of the name. It sported a dead hotel called “Sand Dunes Motel,” and sure enough, I looked east and saw the Great Sand Dunes against their mountains. I have many fond memories of the Great Sand Dunes. If you go at just the right season, the creek will still be running so you can make sand castles, but the snowmelt will have warmed enough not to give you frostbite. When I was very little, we went camping there with our church and some of my friends and I threw rocks in the air, and one of the boys hit himself on the head with one and cut open his scalp so his mother had to run him to the hospital.

But we only saw the Dunes off to the east. We kept heading north. By this time, the desolate brown of the southlands had given way to actual greenery. We wound up into the mountains. Streams and rivers ran along the side of the road, and ponds began appearing in green meadows, and we found a lake where there was no lake on the map. Dad showed us a place where he hunted rubies with his geology class in high school. We went up and down mountain passes, through pine forests and broad meadows. I can't do it any better justice than to say the mountains were New Mexican and the fields like Virginia, and water ran everywhere. Snow still slept on the highest peaks, showing white above the tree line. Houses were tucked back in valleys and snuggled on hillsides.

Roadcuts towered two hundred feet high, some in their multicolored and upturned-layered and jagged glory, red and gold and black and brown and raspberry, some covered with metal netting to keep bits from falling onto the highway, and one actually bricked up with stones like a fireplace, in levels like a rice terrace. I don't think all roadcuts ought to be civilized like that; while I'm all about dominion over nature, there's something honorable about leaving a foe its dignity; but that particular bricking was pretty cool too.

It was a beautiful drive.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The longest day

Happy summer, y'all! I meant to post this the other day, but this is as soon as I could get to it. June 21st, as you are probably aware, was the longest day of the year. There were points when it felt like it, too. I had quite the series of adventures.

The day got off to a complicated start when, just as Dad and I were heading out the door, Dad got a splinter and we lost the truck key. So we both got there late.

A man came in to have his teeth done. That was fine, but then he wanted to pay with a credit card he didn't actually have with him. He called his wife to ask for the number, but she wasn't available either. He finally decided to pay with a different credit card and the credit card printer ran out of paper. I couldn't find the refills. I went and got Rebecca (dental assistant, same-church-goer, and homeschool friend of mine). She couldn't find the refills either. I went and got Dr. Matthews. He found the refills, and then the phone rang. So I answered the phone and the dentist refilled the credit card machine, and I finished the phone conversation and consulted the instructions on how to reprint the receipt. It worked! So I got the poor man out of the office and happily it was almost lunchtime. So I escaped too and Dad came and got me and we went to the bank and then the picnic table outside the library to eat.

Rebecca discovered that we (mostly me, but I had help) had submitted her insurance claim wrong for the previous day and then done something to that day's procedure, which was also entered wrong, so that I couldn't even delete it and start over.

Mrs. Matthews came in to do financial stuff and showed us a package that had just arrived. It was full of flashing light-up toothbrushes that she'd ordered at the convention a week or two ago.

The entire afternoon was full of random things like that. We lost a chart—how we could lose it, I couldn't fathom, because we're very careful about not losing them and the man had just been in to see us, and furthermore it's a tiny office and there's really nowhere it could go. It finally turned up. I'd filed it by putting “Ma” before “Mc,” when it turned out that the rest of the Ma's were after the Mc's. Apparently this is accepted dental filing procedure. Mrs. Mathews said we didn't have to follow accepted dental filing procedure because it caused problems. Yes!

The phone kept ringing. The waiting room was much fuller than usual, because all the patients brought friends and relations. The to-be-filed pile of files piled frighteningly.

That was also the day the entire office went to Santa Fe for a good-bye dinner for Lori, whom I'm replacing. Reservations at Olive Garden were for six. So the entire office congregated around five, just as all craziness had about spilled loose. A fire truck sirened past in the middle of this, but I didn't think anything of it; I was busy enough. Lori solved three or four tangles, Mrs. Matthews did some of the end-of-day stuff that I couldn't get right (it went perfectly smoothly Tuesday and Thursday), and we discovered Angelina (the other dental assistant) had told her husband to meet her in Los Alamos at six. Whoops. So we piled into the Matthews' suburban and went out on the town.

We got as far as DP road and discovered a traffic jam, the likes of which are but rarely found in Los Alamos. We suspected the fire truck was probably headed to the scene of the accident, which explained the traffic jam. We were running late. So the dentist did some exciting driving and we turned ourselves around and tried to go down the truck route instead. We got caught in more traffic. We didn't have a cell number for the lady whom we were going to collect at the Y, either, so we couldn't even let her know why we were late.

The left turn signal at Diamond and the truck route, for some odd reason, was set so that only about three cars could get through per cycle. So we waited, and advanced three car-lengths, and waited, and advanced three car-lengths, and finally we were second in line. Yes! The signal finally turned, and the car in front of us—didn't. So we honked. And honked. And the car behind us honked. They sat there! It finally got going just as the light turned yellow, and we saw a bicyclist laughing.

We finally got to the White Rock Y at about ten to six and picked up the other hygenist. Angelina and her husband made it to Olive Garden before us.

Angelina, I would like to state, has an evil sense of humor. She's Iranian, and while her English is fluent, her first language is definitely Farsi. We had a very good dinner, and then it was time for dessert. Rebecca and I split a berry thing, and Angelina tried to say she didn't want dessert. Her husband got them a big chocolate and cream cake thing. Angelina took one look at it and started trying to give part of it away. “I'll take a bite,” said I. Little did I know. Angelina sliced off a third of her cake and tried to give it to me. “That's not a bite, that's a hunk!” I said. Somebody laughed and told me to define my terms, and Angelina grinned and went, “I do not speak the English well.” Yeah, whatever! But it was really good cake.

On the drive home Rebecca told a story about back when she started working and didn't realize Angelina was a patient. In thoroughly Derridean fashion, Angelina's real name is not Angelina. Her nickname is Ferishte, which is at least pronounceable, but both her first and last names legally are these long jawbreakers, and her jawbreaker names are what got into the computer. So Angelina made Rebecca go out and try to call this patient who turned out to be her. Well, I guess when you're in a foreign country you might as well get some fun out of it!

I finally made it home at about nine o'clock. It was just about dusk on the longest day.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cars (the movie)

So. I just got back from watching Cars. The blogosphere--or at least the portions I just checked--has been discussing pork and music, but not Cars, and I think this ought to be changed. It's definitely worth talking about. I can't quite remember the complicated Haunt of Macbeth rating system I dreamed up last March and I don't feel like rummaging through my archives just now to find it, but I'll do something like it.

3 bloody daggers: there was no actual blood or violence, except an occasional car turning over, but there was tension. I got emotionally involved about three minutes into it.

7 warm fuzzies: oh, where to begin?? It was Pixar being its usual brilliant and self-aware self. (The credits were hilarious.) There was plot--not terribly original, but well-handled. There was characterization. The Main Point was actually one worth making. Cars was genuinely funny, as opposed to being filled with stupidity and immaturity being passed as humor. It was made by people who knew whereof they were moviemaking.

But perhaps best of all, I liked it because it made me love America, especially the west. You may remember a certain conversation this spring when I was asking if there were any movies that did that; this qualifies. I now love the west, cars, Route 66, small towns named Radiator Springs, big bright stars, racing, and neon lights better than I have ever loved them before. I think this is an accomplishment, especially about the neon lights.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A momentous day

When I took my mother up town this morning, I was still firmly in the ranks of the unemployed and meant to come home about noon. When I came home this evening about 6:00, I had a job and nearly five hours of training toward it done. :-)

I'm now the dentist's new receptionist. I know one of his dental assistants and she said to apply, so I did this morning about 9:00, and got interviewed, and started right after lunch. He's wonderful; I've known him forever. Our families used to go to church together and his daughter was Hamlet in our production. His current receptionist is permanently leaving for Kansas early next week, and then I'll be on my own. The days are long, but I get every Friday off and all the lab holidays, and the pay is excellent.

Cool! Yikes! Good blessing! Most providential that it happened; pray I'll be able to do the job with a week's training. But it is a good blessing. I'm grateful.

A divine irony

Visualize, if you will, a metal staircase by a cinder-block wall, ending at a door. A sign hangs above it: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” The sign is lurid yellow with drippy black lettering. You duck below the sign (if you are over about 5'6”) and darkness and heat blast you.

You enter a hallway. Black hangings drape the walls. The only light comes from a single fixture, partially obscured by yellow and orange flames, and through a doorway at the end. You look down. A broad black path is laid for your feet, with flames emanating from underneath it, here and there.

Your attention is drawn to a number of signs on the wall. All of them are neatly labeled, “1st circle,” “2nd circle,” and so on to “9th (deepest) circle,” with an arrow indicating the direction to find said circle. The “2nd circle” sign marks a door, which is also labeled “male” in lettering much like the hopeless sign. The “5th circle” shares space with the “female” door. There are random flames along the doors and walls, flames with black at their hearts. In short, you have entered hell, and I spent my evening creating this exciting location for Vacation Bible School tomorrow. Someone else hung most of the black plastic and let me do the flames and signs, because I was telling her all about Dante and really seemed to be into it!

If, furthermore, you manage to pass the ninth circle, a doorway cut out of the black, and a curtain of streamers, the first thing you may notice is about a ten degree lessening of temperature, together with brighter and bluer light and a bright sign (also of the unfortunate yellow, though it looks much nicer in good light) saying, “Christ has conquered hell.” Stars hang from the ceiling, and over each light fixture hangs a gauzy cloud with small silvery balloons. Scrolls, hand-lettered with awesome burnt edges, hang upon the walls proclaiming Jesus' lordship.

A waterfall comes down, ahead and to your right. Two shades of blue stream down into a rounded pool, and silvery bubble balloons foam around.

Below your feet, you will find a white (labeled) “straight and narrow” path. Follow it, and you will come to a place where the drawn stones make way for a wooden segment. This puzzled the author, who had, after all, just come from a region not known for its brilliant reasoning skills, until she noted that the wood corresponded with the river from the waterfall. Someone built a bridge on the straight and narrow to cross the river of life! Wasn't that brilliant of the Dante-listener and my sister? :-)

Since we did not turn D5 into the Divine Comedy for Jennifer and Jonathan's birthday, I thought it was ironic and awesome we did for VBS. And I didn't even have anything to do with deciding on it--I just helped put it together. :-)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bear stories

So I went to a gathering for a lady who used to live in Los Alamos and came back to visit. It mostly consisted of the people who went to my church fifteen years ago. Hardly any of their children--my old friends--were there; we had a ten-year-old, myself, and a girl about six years older than me. Other than that, it was my parents and their contemporaries, all of whom have known me since I was four. Good--good for me, after going to college--but weird.

At this party they told bear stories. And I thought they were so funny, I'm going to tell them to you. :-)

Somewhere back east there was a territorial cat. This territorial cat who ran a bear up a tree. It was sitting down there keeping it in it. Somebody has photographic evidence.

And then another lady's son, about my age, went rock climbing up in the Jemez. He got maybe 150 feet up, and then in a tree just about eye level, he looked up and saw a bear. The bear saw him too, and was so surprised it fell out of the tree!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Macbeth scrapbook

Today I dragged out the Macbeth scrapbook to work on it. :-) Guess what this next page is about? The stabbing. Yup, that's where I left off at Christmas.

So if anyone has a comment to make on the subject, post it or email it to me, and I might include it. :-)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Coffee, Hamlet, Lion King, Much Ado, world travel, used books, and a star-crossed windowsill

I went to coffee with the debaters last night. Josh talked about how his friends analyzed The Lion King and discovered it had the same plot as Hamlet, only with a happy ending. The king's brother murders the king, tries to marry the queen, and sends the prince off into “emotional exile”; an array of friends bumble around; the ghost of the king appears to the prince, says “Remember me,” and convinces him to confront his uncle; and there's a final duel. So then I shared how when my friends analyzed The Lion King we noticed how it was about growing up and becoming what you were born to be, rather than what you irresponsibly wanted to be, and further ended with an arranged marriage that made everyone happy. Quite a movie. We also analyzed our schools' productions of Much Ado and compared them to the Kenneth Branagh one. We immediately decided that our families needed to have a Much Ado fest.

I went to coffee with the Bible study girls this morning. One is leaving for Russia tomorrow, another is going to South Africa within a week, and a third is going back home to Texas with her husband and baby. It's impressive we all managed to be in town at the same time.

After that I spent $2.15 at the library used book store and acquired six books: The Tolkien Reader, Virginia Woolf (to be a well-rounded lit major), Edgar Allen Poe, Alistair McGrath, George Kennan, and the first Dune book. Life is good, though I mysteriously don't have any shelf space again. But I did take three bags of stuff to the thrift shop this afternoon.

In other news, I read how a visitor to a Cambridge museum tripped over his shoelace, fell down the stairs, and shattered an entire windowsill full of Qing vases. Apparently, they'd been there for the last 40 years and never quite made it to a display case. The museum expressed gratitude the visitor was not injured.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Snippets of writing

They're just a first draft. Leofric (from whose point of view this is) is currently in denial about Maiwyn. But I promised you snippets, and here they are.

"O Maiwyn, most beautiful among women, will you come out and show me the constellations?" Had he said that? That was almost as bad as what he hadn't said that afternoon. He had read way too much Wulfred the Rhymer. Too late to get out of it. The offer hung in the air between them.

"Did I tell you about what Bear and I did to Mell with the giant spider?"

"I don't think so." Her voice was perfectly normal. Good. It came out low and smooth, like honey over cornbread. Her hair was the color of honey, too. Enough honey. He was talking about spiders.

"Well, it was back before they got married. She hated spiders, and I came across a really big furry one out by the mines. I caught it in an empty coffee cup, and we flattened it on a piece of parchment exactly the color of her pillowcase and got her roommate Nadder to put it there for her to find."

"How did you know what color her pillowcase was?" Maiwyn demanded.

"She brought it out for a reading-aloud once. It's all right, I promise. So Nadder left the spider there and we hung out in the building after Mell said goodnight, and she screamed so loud she woke up her entire hallway and came running out and yelled at Bear and told him he'd have to wash the pillowcase for her before she slept on it again. It was really funny."

"I don't think it sounds funny."

"Well...then we told her it was on parchment and not actually on her pillow, and she stopped boiling and brought it out and let us ritually incinerate it. I think spiders on Swostor must eat sulfur or something, because it burned bright yellow. But the ashes still looked kind of like a spider, so we burned it again."

Maiwyn laughed. Good. "That was a very male thing to do. Did she forgive you guys?"

"Oh, definitely. I think she took it as a sign of affection."

"I noticed your garden yesterday. It looked great, really green. You must spend a lot of time working in it."

"Well, it's worth it. I grow thyme," she said, with her inimitable I-just-made-an-awful-pun tone.
He hadn't heard her pun for three years. He laughed. "That was very sage of you."

"Thank you. And I commend you on that herbal pun," she reposted.

Not over Pride and Prejudice yet

Today on the radio, I heard a song. It was a good enough song, I suppose, all about grace...

only it was by Phil Wickham. The last name disturbed me.

I decided maybe I wasn't over P&P yet.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Unpacking and writing

Hullo, all:

You've been most patient while I neglected my blog. I'm really home now. And Chrysophylax (my laptop) works and has internet access and everything. (Happiness!)

Saturday: Home! We unloaded the car and truck. They were full. I moved my bed, vacuumed my floor, and promptly put books, boxes, boxes of books, clothes, suitcases of clothes, and tubs of clothes and books on it. I commenced unpacking. The closet became completely unreachable, though the long bookshelves weren't. They were just stuffed with books.

Sunday: Church! Then I unpacked. I set up my nice wooden shelf--the one that held dishes at school--and put books on it. My sister kindly organized my desk so I could get to it (and write DRW thereat). Clean laundry started piling, but I organized the closet enough to sort of get at it.

Monday: My first ten-page installment of DRW for my mentor was due. So I wrote an eight-page outline of my story at a rate just better than a page every two hours and sent it to her, unpacking in the corners. I discovered I couldn't deal with the manuscript itself after that.

Tuesday: I wrote the other two pages I owed her for Monday, sent them in, finished two books, watched Hitch, and unpacked. Mom had an extra shelf in the backyard (I'm still not sure why it was out there), so I set it up and put books and DVDs on it. I think all the boxes of books became empty and put in the hall. The clean laundry piled higher.

Wednesday: Mom and I went shopping. All day. We also did some eating. :-) Em's birthday is this Saturday, if you want to email her, and Dad's is Monday, so Mom and I bought them presents and party supplies. I also got two Chinese lanterns, one defective (sad days), both of which I attached to my ceiling where they belonged. I also unpacked my other Chinese lanterns and put them up, packed away sundry figurines which did not match my room's projected new Asian-beach theme, and decorated a candle to sit (along with a red vase, nice piece of volcanic black rock, and little Chinese doll) on the shelf formerly holding figurines. It is now a decorative and thematic shelf.

Thursday (today): I wrote all day and sent in the first ten pages of chapter 2, and my rate improved to about a page an hour. It was blissful having my books on shelves where I could consult them, besides the double bliss of having my family's library available. I love having books. I named several characters, though my heroine might need a different last name, and my plot is sort of having technology issues. I also seriously misjudged how much paper various events were going to take up. I did get back quite helpful and sensible comments on the outline. I feel revisions coming on. One thing, it's DRW, so I can't get discouraged and abandon the story to the bowels of Chrysophylax.