Another solstice

I had a long conversation on the phone with Allen today. Remember Allen? He was the friend who accompanied me to Patagonia to spend the months of winter in a rather remote place. He’s feeling a bit nostalgic for the winter solstice we observed down there last June. He had found some discarded wooden pallets in the storage facility and broke them down to make a fire. It was quite a fire — and we used the leftover wood for a fire on July Fourth.

Allen has spent much of December rehanging Christmas lights that got blown down in recent storms at various family homes. He has found that if he keeps busy with strings of lights, he is less likely to get dragged to a mall — although one year, his wife forgot he was working up on the roof, and absent-mindedly took down the ladder and put it away before she drove off to the mall to do Christmas shopping. This was before he had a cell phone, and he couldn’t get any of the neighbors to hear him — so he was stuck up on the roof for five hours, unable to find any way to get down.

He has been busy with his chainsaw and has plenty of wood to take to another house for a fire on Christmas Eve, which is a HUGE occasion in his large extended family.

He’s very happy to hear that Alene is writing Zanda’s story — but disappointed that we still can’t find a way to be together. Allen is our one mutual friend — the only person who has known both me and Alene in Seattle. At times, he has been extremely sad for both of us. He wishes so much that we could be together for Christmas.

I joked that perhaps one day, we will end up on the same bus by accident — all three of us! He liked that — and added that we could then all go to the same bar!

These last six months went by far too fast….

The Imps

The Imps want us back.

It’s hard to describe who these Imps are. Anything Google turns up is only partly true. British Isles mythology knows lots of such creatures — but there is no one species that neatly correlates with our Imps.

Imps ARE pranksters — but not tricksters. They make mischief, but never out of malice — although it’s maddening when they hide things. Sometimes they will deliberately lead you astray — but later on you discover that they guided you away from almost certain harm. Imps are also great story-tellers and have a bone-dry sense of humor. They love cats.

Imps don’t have wings — but they can disappear and reappear at will — and so have no need of flight. They are also shape shifters — and often manifest as full-sized human adults. If you have ever worked with the public, you will have encountered Imps. They love to be around people — but prefer not to draw attention to themselves.

In the unannounced presence of Imps, people feel inexplicably happy.

Dignity is the word

Podcasts on the bus work well for me. First, I am unable to read without getting motion sickness very quickly — so while I listen, I cannot be doing something else at the same time. Second, Seattle bus etiquette means you can pretty much guarantee being undisturbed if you are sporting earbuds. So, a bus ride can be a good opportunity to listen to something a little more “heavy duty” that requires my full attention — like the 2004 Reith Lectures.

The BBC Radio 4 archives must be to broadcast radio what the British Museum is to cultural artifacts (except that Radio 4’s collection was acquired more honorably.) A few days ago, Radio 4’s Facebook mentioned the 2004 Reith Lectures — Climate of Fear, by Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka.

A lot has happened with the War On Terror since 2004 — but the content of the lectures does not seem dated at all — and Wole Soyinka is a very engaging (and sometimes very funny) speaker. This morning, I went looking for a title of his to download via Overdrive, but ended up getting a 2014 anthology he edited called Africa39 — so that’s my reading for next few days — when I’m not on the bus, of course!

On the way home this afternoon, I listened as he talked about dignity. Dignity. I don’t think about dignity often. I don’t hear about it often. I hear a lot about love. And respect. And the problem is, for me any way, a lot of people I encounter are hard to love. And quite a few are hard to respect. But it is not such a stretch for me to entertain the idea that even these people are deserving of dignity. I don’t know why the word strikes me differently — but it does.

I can’t quite recall the context of Wole Soyinka’s remarks on dignity. Perhaps I haven’t been listening as closely as I think — and need to give the lectures another play. But it doesn’t matter. I like the word. And I’m going to try to remind myself of it whenever I have to deal with someone I find distasteful.

I’m going to try….
Wish me luck….
 – Alene
Postscript: At time of writing this, I hadn’t heard Lecture 4, in which he discusses dignity at length


For Christmas of 2001, Alene was given a calligraphy starter set. Not by me, of course — by someone else. Neither one of us could fathom this choice of present — but we were both excited at the prospect of a new project.  A few days after Christmas, Alene bought some calligraphy paper and gave it a try.  Within a week, she had found a whole new groove.

This was definitely one of our happiest periods together. We were both living near the Junction in West Seattle. Neither of us was working. And we had both left much of our respective lives behind us. January 2002 was wonderfully dreary and dismal — ideal weather for an indoor project. Alene spent many happy hours of those winter afternoons standing at her kitchen counter working the ink.

About a year before arriving in Seattle, we had both had a vision of some rather strange calligraphy — and then forgotten it. But as Alene worked with pen and ink, the shapes started manifesting on her worksheets. Before long, Alene was producing articles such as this:


Over the next three months, we fancied that we understood what she was writing — and the following summer, she actually compiled a “dictionary” of the symbols — but the notebook it was written in was accidentally thrown away. It’s disheartening, because we no longer can translate these pieces. However, they do look pretty — and Alene has this one framed on her living-room wall.

The story of Zanda was inspired by those happy winter afternoons putting pen and ink to paper — and it’s so, so wonderful to be sharing it at last.

Inside-out shell

I keep being pulled from my shell.  I don’t realize it as it happens — and then it’s too late to go back in.

Inside my shell is the only place I feel I belong.

After a while, the shell turns itself inside out — and I find myself looking in at the world — the whole world — all contained with a single shell — and I watch it without being part of it.

But when I get pulled from my shell, I lose that capability — and my view is restricted to the people around me — and I feel terribly out of place.

I am connected — but just to nothing or no-one in particular — unless you want to count Mark – but he’s just in my mind….

Blacking out

Lately, I find myself zoning out as I walk home at night — hardly remembering any of it. Tonight I could barely remember which way I walked — and had to retrace my steps from when I left work — which bus I took from downtown Seattle — and which coffee shop I stopped at in West Seattle. After all these years, Mark knows my walking routes as well as I do — and perhaps he acts as my auto pilot.

I come to once I reach my apartment building. I have no idea why this is happening. It’s a very recent thing. If I’m thinking about anything as I walk, I don’t remember that either. I literally black out — and no drugs/alcohol involved!

Tonight I decided to revisit my 2014 NaNoWriMo writing project. Recent events at home and abroad have renewed my urge to tell a story that I have been incubating for the last fifteen years — OK, I guess it’s Mark’s story too — but I’ve been the one doing the writing — as usual. I don’t even know he exists anyway – so it might as well be my story.

The first thing I did, after making a duplicate file, was to delete all but four of the chapters. Sounds drastic — and the word count is now a mere 12,000— but those chapters are almost perfect! Now I will write two or three more chapters, perhaps incorporating some of the better sections of the deleted chapters. Perhaps this is what I think about as I walk.

On the bus, I’ve been listening to a Librivox recording of Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, by Herself, “herself” being Harriot Jacobs. On Twitter, I’ve been reading a backlog of tweets by Crimes of Britain (@crimesofbrits). And the hymn I Vow To Thee My Country, the subject of the post Mistaken Identity, has been an ear worm in my head since November 11.

It’s time to write the story.

Happy ending?

Heaven and Hell are two sides of the same coin.

It’s been going round and around in Alene’s head – and neither one of us can place the exact context of the quote as she remembers it. She Google’d it with no success.

We don’t watch TV or go to the movies. We don’t do Netflix. And we haven’t checked out any DVDs from the library in ages. That leaves just podcasts and M*A*S*H – or a flashback from Doctor Who – which we haven’t watched in the last year. It’s driving Alene crazy because it’s the opening line of a monolog she’s sure is important.

There’s certainly a battle going on her head right now. She hasn’t been talking with me much lately – not freezing me out – just preoccupied with more Earthly troubles – like the UK bombing Syria – and a lot of angst at her job.

I’m able to take heart from what goes on my own head. If I can step into someone else’s head (and eyes and ears) simply by closing me eyes – then it’s easy for me to believe that we are not here by accident. So when Hell comes my way, I just tell it to sod off. Heaven usually reigns in Alene’s head too — but lately, Hell insists on being heard.

Alene remembered a horse she rode when she was young — a very solid, reliable, sturdy animal who could go flat out all day and not get tired. He was exactly the kind of horse you would have wanted in older times, if you had to ride twenty miles in pouring rain in the middle of the night to summon the doctor in an emergency. He would have got you there safely. But this horse had no time for the show ring. He showed utter contempt for the idea of jumping over painted poles in front of spectators — saw no point in it at all — and usually mis-behaved when asked to do it.

 Alene is getting tired of jumping over the painted poles — just wants to head out into the rain and go for the doctor. But she keeps being asked to jump over the painted poles — and is finding it harder and harder to behave….. Every day begins with her feeling the need to apologize for something she did the day before.

“Enough of this,” I insist. “There’s enough Hell out there without you encouraging it.”

I honestly believe there’s a happy ending for Earth — but maybe not in our lifetime.

One day, we will go to war for the last time…..