Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page


In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Music, notes, Revision, Theater on December 31, 2012 at 9:12 am

Live. A live show vs TV, for example. Reading or writing a story. Live music – whether you’re playing or tapping your feet while the musicians make the music happen.

Energy. You like the show; don’t; like parts of it, but… Same with the story, same with music. Live energy.

Not that I’ll stop using the camera, but I seem to spend more time  soaking in views, scenes, incidents through my unaided eyes and ears. The way I did for most of my life. Then, taking the bits and pieces that stick around; finding the right words to add a point, or tell the story to one of my imaginary friends – always the same one, in fact, although he’s evolved along with me.

Traces of this friend show up as far back as I remember. Nothing unusual, all children talk and play with     animals or people they’ve conjured up from their own mind. I’m  not sure adults lose the habit, whether they grow up to be artists or chartered accountants.

Change. Something you considered a part of you. Gone, or seen in someone else’s behavior. “Oh,” you say.

What comes after the “oh” of recognition. Business as usual? Discomfort? An itch for change or an even more acute need to pay close attention – to behaviors, speech patterns, habits, assumptions. All the things you take for granted in yourself and others.


In Circus, Drafts on December 30, 2012 at 8:38 am

Two more days should turn the trick. After the longest time as the space in which I crammed all the overflow of books and papers, “the library” almost deserves that name.

Once discounted the doors serving as thru-way from one room to another, “the library” is 1.5 meters wide and 2.2 meters long. Crammed into it: two bookshelves, one overstuffed chair and one small table on coasters – the kind with a shelf on the bottom for bottles and a serving tray for the appetizers and drinks. The bottom shelf holds stacks of reading material; the top one, mementos and plants.

Partial drafts; stories that petered out; stories written, then stashed away; source materials ranging from poems to…gimbal locks? The Books of Enoch? Learned discussions on, yes or no, does anesthesia knock out the subconscious (one version); yes or no, does some awarenes subsist in the anesthesized patient (other version).  Reams of paper retrieved as scribble pads. Re-discovery of personal writing as in:  hey! this is pretty good! Photos I thought I’d lost, etc.

“Not over until it’s over”. A story – real life or fiction. When do you call it quits (and mean it). Or when do you say: I’m sticking around because I feel it in my bones, there’s something else here.  Same question as: how do you know the kid’s really sick, even if the doctor says it’s nothing?

Sixth sense? No. All the senses tuned. Listening, listening. What else do the characters want to say this time around? Writer; is it time to read through from the top yet? Is it time to stay in the space between the caravans, the stable and the house?

Tiny room. Saffron-yellow walls. Huge chimney. Hanging from the rafters: a knotted rope. You never know when a girl will tire of TV, and feel like stretching or practicing turns.

Reading Notes

In Current reading, Drafts, notes on December 29, 2012 at 7:41 am

What sets off new explorations . What the eye slides over. Backtracks to pick up a detail. Examines, as if holding up a pebble. What you pocket, what you throw back on the ground.

Lots of moodling yesterday. A condition different from obsessing.

Clearing through books and paper. Come across Nancy Venable Raine’s After Silence: Rape & My Journey Back

Alternate reading it with Tazieff’s stories about volcanoes. Fundamental differences between human rage and the wildest natural violence imaginable. Unless you’re addicted to guilt, you don’t ask yourself what you did to deserve a volcano’s paroxysm.

Through all the underlinings and scribbled notes, what most resonates for me in Venable Raine’s  book: chapter sixteen. The Persephone-Demeter myth and the sentence: “In this myth, and perhaps in the mysterious rites that so impressed Plutarch, the way back from victimization is not triumph over adversity. It is transformation through grief, rage, and loss.” And this which talks loud and clear: “… you cannot think or fight your way out of hell. You must feel your way out.”

“You must feel your way out.” Which may, can and often does involve going through unpleasant places with all senses in operation. But also learning (or re-learning) to laugh at yourself. To express true anger. True anything. Simple? Ha.

My favorite moment in the Tazieff book : geologist V.F. Popkov and chemist I. Ivanov’s ride down a lava flow on a piece of (quasi) solid basalt. You see, what with the razor-sharp boulders on the edges of the flow, they couldn’t run fast enough to dip their thermometers into the mass for accurate readings. They rode the crust of basalt for an hour or so. The part that has me laughing is imagining the two men’s discussions and the sight of them sounding the (more or less) solid rock before taking that one small step for humanity. “After you, my dear Popkov.  – I wouldn’t dream of it, my excellent Ivanov. Please, after you. – No, I insist.”

This last, fiction of the most obvious sort. No problem, makes me laugh anyway.


In Drafts, notes on December 28, 2012 at 7:54 am

Disoriented. Yes and no. Yes, if the objective is sticking to the map or whatever instructions the geo-stationary satellite beams down to your car.

I don’t have a car.

Disoriented anyway. The feeling akin to getting the pegs knocked out from under you. Or the earth  shaking because of a tremor somewhere, deep down in the crusty part we call solid ground.

The scenery changes, or doesn’t. The feeling persists. Things aren’t what they seemed. And yet, the amazing part: something like continuity. An underground stream picking up at the foot of a gulley. You turn around. Realize that, while you were lost in your thoughts or obsessing over a point of detail in your personal history, your body kept on moving with a purpose of its own. Guided by some inner compass that has little to do with any other magnetic North than the one you’ve been following all along. You’re on track to somewhere you’ve never visited, and nobody else either.

A seed, they say. At the core of the core. Under the crust. Below the mantle of magma. At the heart of what lies beneath our feet. The earth, like a weighted roly-poly. You: same. Flying through space, all the while.


In Drafts, notes on December 27, 2012 at 7:29 am

The interesting questions,  reading through old material – whether intended as fiction or not. (Sorting through reams of notes, both work-related and personal):

One scribble dated December 13 of an unspecified year yields a funny detail. I’m sure the humor was unintended. No matter, funny’s funny. I use in fiction where there’s a perfect fit, then throw out the scribble.

From a day in nineteen-ninety-five that yielded three endless pages of why-why-why: a paragraph relating to a dream. An unexpected view from the inner camera. Rip out and save, throw out the rest. Which character will claim the dream or something from it? I’ll find out, won’t I?

I find myself stopping short in the writing, sometimes in mid-sentence. Not in the don’t-go-there mode; in the been-there-already. Other characters have gone over this territory. If this character can do a better job of it, all right. If not, the scene stays on Hold.

Back to culling. Clearing out as much of the so-called personal stuff as possible. Not the notes from friends or treasures of that ilk. The stuff parading as the most treasured, most authentic Me of all the possible ones I could have been at any given time. The one insisting: “but this matters! I really, really, really mean this.” The fact being: if I really, really, really do or did or will, some nasty or kindly character will show up and make good on the claim.

The bits I keep and read over longest: the ones with the highest cringe factor. The whiny, bitchy parts. The grotesque, the overblown. Somewhere in the excess: something worth keeping. Or not.

At which point, another batch of paper heads out to the yellow recycling bin.

Landscape. All the things going unnoticed out of habit.



Red hyacinth

In Current reading, Drafts on December 26, 2012 at 9:01 am

Whose story?

A roaming eye picks up this character’s point of view; then, another’s. Whose roaming eye? The writer’s, like God in his heaven, playing at invisibility. All right. Accept the fact I’m playing God, and continue.

“Forgive us our trespasses,” the prayer said when we addressed our Father, in heaven. “As we forgive those who’ve trespassed against us.” The unspoken: someone else determined the boundaries. Questioning was part of the sins; the greatest, in fact, the unthinkable challenge. Trespassing worked in strange ways, just as God did. The old story in the Fable: we need a culprit, the animals say. Let’s review our crimes, and see who’ll pay for the community. The predators go first; give one another absolution. The   barnyard crowd comes next. The donkey. “Folks, I know I shouldn’t have. But there I was, grazing up against the fence. Just beyond it, a luscious thistle, the likes of which I’d never seen before. In the neighbor’s field? Yes. Did I reach out, and eat it? I did.”

Our best to the donkey. Our sympathies to his relatives.

Whose story? The draft consists of one long section, one short section, and several (too many) bits and pieces. Today, tomorrow or later, the writing god will kick in and decide: “The story goes like this.”

Not there yet. No point in wondering why Haroun Tazieff’s  Histoires de volcans is more appropriate reading from the old days than would be the Lord’s Prayer and other invites to submission.

In the world of real, here and now: I’ve never seen a red hyacinth bloom before. Something exciting about watching the process over several days.


In Animals, Circus, Collage, Drafts on December 25, 2012 at 7:48 am

Scar tissue. The real kind as reminders of life events – some, hardly worse than a scratch, others redefining notions of who you are. The so-called emotional kind – something un-serious attaching to the qualifier. Because of “talk therapy”, maybe, whether the professional kind or the incessant yammerings over past events. There goes so-and-so again; here comes the story about the War, or whatever obsession rides the person back to the scene where It happened.

Waking in the night, hungry for the one word or the one voice; or the one letter, the one phone call that will never happen.

A small circus. Nothing massive about the tent, that’s for sure. The artists? Always one step away from getting marched or flown back across scar lines known as borders – the invisible borders that remain even once you reconfigure the maps; change the green part to a pink one, spread out the blue or delete a symbol from a flag. Cirque Romanès, in real life.

The way the Roms see the story, their wanderings are the wheels that keep the earth turning. On foot, in horse-drawn or motorized caravans, they go up one side, and down the other. Shove them away here, they re-appear over there. When the pain’s too great, the violin plays faster. When words fail, there’s music. When music fails? There’s a night sky, somewhere; a huge inverted bowl filled with wordless messages from unknown places.

Then back to the known, and the search for  ways in which the wordless changed the scenery during the night.

Kadima (a horse), Davaï (another)

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, En français dans le texte on December 24, 2012 at 8:31 am

oh well.

They’re all over the place, aren’t they? The big names, the stars of the show. A passing nod to a famous newspaper man on a lecture tour to Canadian universities. Hubris doesn’t apply as the proper word, in this instance. The pre-lecture conversation was so fascinating, the silly Press aid piped in for her two-cents’ worth.

Silence can be louder than canons when eight or ten important males swivel heads in one direction at the sound of impertinence. So loud, in fact, the silly Press aid forgets what the fascinating conversation was all about, and her own contribution to the discourse. Oh well. A nod to the famous one; I’ve forgotten every word of his lecture, too.

Attempting to bring together the various strands of this story into a sustainable whole: should be something like trying to bring all the horses back from pasture when they have no such inclination. The grass is still green in the low patches. Going up to the stables can only mean something unpleasant – a veterinarian, for example.

Too much and too many, as usual: characters, scenes, unresolved or unsolvable riddles. Too many people attempting the impossible. In other words: the usual. Oh well.

Chapter 1 of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Essai sur l’origine des langues,  où il est parlé de la Mélodie, et de l’Imitation musicale is subtitled: Des divers moyens de communiquer nos pensées. In English, all this translates as Essay on the Origin of Languages, wherein are discussed Melody, and Musical Imitation. Subtitle of Chapter 1: On the diverse ways of communicating our thoughts.

Whether French, English, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, Swedish, Irish or Mauritanian, they’re all so much more clever and accomplished anyway. I’ll make a fool of myself whether I stop or whether I go on. So:  Onward to the Title.

Crossings again

In Animals, Circus, Current reading, Drafts on December 23, 2012 at 8:56 am

Confused doesn’t begin to describe my state of mind. Outside, the fog is lifting. A few more gulps of coffee may clear the way inside too. Not may; will; a given.

I left the mother and children when they reached the sea; the narrator’s birth stopping the mother from taking on a crossing of her latest obstacle – on foot, if need be. I’m talking about Le coeur cousu by Carole Martinez. Among other things, her book tells me: go ahead, dare write as you see fit. Or rather: as the story does.

Nobody says the experience is any easier for the reader than for the writer, or vice-versa. There’s something akin to surgery involved. In better circumstances, performed by someone trained in that art, and in a suitable environment.

I know little about the man. Not much more about his son whom I met only once. Both were heart surgeons. Of my brief contact with the son, I remember most the outstanding arrogance in his tone and manner, the way in which my mother seemed to wilt and cower in his presence, and my first experience with leg of lamb, served rare not to say raw at the center, and sliced sliver-thin with – yes, of course – surgical precision. My uncle’s birth name was Edouard; everyone called him Boy. We children said: Uncle Boy. Unless there are stories never told about his days at the hospital, I’m sure his nurses never called him anything but Docteur.

Of my own mother’s crossing of the sea, I know even less. Save for the fact she was born in July and war broke out in August. As the tale goes, the three boarded the last ship sailing from France to Canada.  Awaiting departure, her mother covered the baby with a shawl while nursing. A woman snatched away the covering, saying: “Don’t smother a young Frenchman!” This, according to family legend. For obvious reasons, I wasn’t there to record the patriotism nor my grandmother’s response to it; from personal experience with the granny, I’d say the response was snappy and delivered with an accent that proved she was no Frenchwoman herself.

Ah, me. Will I manage to make something of some of the stuff streaming through? Yes, of course. But something that might keep someone up reading way too late, or getting up way too early to pick up the book after it fell on the blankets?

False starts, and much wandering through the hills

In Drafts, notes, Theater on December 22, 2012 at 7:01 am

Hearing what the actors say, helps. Inside a huge, unheated  metallic hangar with kids insisting on running around (and parents insisting on chasing after them to make them shut up): strikes one and  two against the actors and their play last night. What I know for sure: amid a lot of laughter from one part of the crowd, four mecanics remove the motor out of a car, yell, curse, go through various existential breakdowns and smoke up the place with gas fumes plus pyrotechnics. People who peer into the entrails of vehicles and throw wrenches around at what they see there, found the evening grand. Outside  the hangar was colder and wet too. A friend expressed relief when I said what I’ve just written down, and more.

Zany, over the top: tricky territory. You don’t push far enough? As boring as a wet firecracker. Too far? A lot of useless noise you try to block out. A lot of useless movement. The finer bits, well observed, on the money: lost.

However. The river is wide but I shall get o’er; or something. The Holiday Season, like a vast cauldron of marshmallow. People giving me the pitiful eye, and extending invites. The invites, I can accept or refuse. The pitiful “poor you, all alone” expressions stick like old bubble gum; make me want to snarl and play Scrooge refusing the Little Matchstick Girl her last chance at… at… Oops, no matches left.

The draft. Aggravations. Getting lost, over and over again. Finding a trail; dead end? Maybe. If so, only one way to find out.


On a personal note: all I want for Christmas is the strength to avoid both the maudlin/lachrymose and its twin, the cynical/hurtful. Easier said than done. In my case at least, even silence doesn’t work as a cover-up for either one.