Nice Girls Finish Last

And now for a bit of fluff. I discovered Sparkle Hayter's first Robin Hudson mystery, What's a Girl Gotta Do?, at the AAUW Used Book Sale last October. The cover was so funny that I snapped it up. The heroine was so funny that I ordered the sequel from pbs, and the SEQUEL was so funny that now I have to read the rest of the series!

The books remind me a little of Janet Evanovich's bountyhunter series, though less raucous and more cloak-and-dagger. And, apparently, more autobiographical - check out the bio. of Hayter by clicking on the title link! The call numbers of the tv station for which Robin Hudson works are ANN; one wonders just how many of the incidents and personalities in these books are based on Hayter's real-world experience at CNN.

Much of the humor derives from the fact that Robin works in the special features section, and her boss persists in assigning her to hideous stories that send her undercover in S/M clubs, sperm banks and funeral home embalming rooms. But part of it is that Robin herself is such an intriguing mix of gutsy woman reporter and paranoiac. On the one hand, she pursues murderers and wrong-doers with dogged persistence; on the other, she cultivates potted and hanging planters filled with poison ivy all over her apartment in case robbers break in.

As I said, funny. Very. Fluffy, too.

Hm, I think I'll head on over to pbs now & see if anyone's posted any more . . . .



Vertigo by CSJ

Not a mandala, okay, but note the circles! ;-)

I am delighted to showcase something by C for a change! The first assignment for his 3-D Art class this semester was to create a paper pop-up. Using Robert Sabuda's America the Beautiful his grandmother gave him a couple of years ago as a study guide, he recreated U2's "Vertigo" concert as he, my mother and I experienced it last year in Philadelphia.
The fellow in front with the mike is Bono, of course. If you click on the title of this post, you can see what the walkway looked like - using complementary colors was a great way to capture the glow!
He really had fun with this project. He came home from class today somewhat less enthusiastic about the next one, having had goop smeared all over his face to create a mask. C has never, even as a very small child, been into goop. He paused just long enough to say he was back and then took a shower even though there wasn't much hot water left.

Forgive me the brag, but I'm very proud of him.



Lesson Two: "Cosmic Explosion"

For anyone who's just joined me: my mother and I are working our way together through Clare Goodwin's mandala course. (Information may be had if you click on the title of this post.) We did not purchase the full course with feedback; we bought the lesson plans and are working on it by giving each other feedback.

I became seriously interested in mandalas two years ago, as a result of teaching a course in comparative religions at a community college. As I delved more deeply into the subject, I discovered The Mandala Project and other wonderful resource websites, from which I learned about more recent uses of mandalas as personal and community spiritual projects.

I added a mandala-poster project to my religions course this past fall, and it was a resounding success! I am very excited about it, and will be continuing it this semester as well.

I found Clare's website a year ago, but had neither the time nor the money to pursue the course. Thanks to a gift from my parents, I began it in earnest this month. It has been so fulfilling to do it with Z&N (and this evening with my niece S), that I am considering teaching a course this summer in the college's non-credit program for parents and children.

Each lesson consists of at least six mandalas. I have just begun the second of seven lessons, in which I am to explore mandalas consisting of concentric circles. This evening, Z had another art project to work on, so N, S and I sat down to work on mandalas. This was a completely new word and art form for S, but she was game! And just see what she created!
I was really impressed. I love the central flower, which is both delicate and well-formed. S is 12 and in a target school for the arts - you can see that in addition to dance, harp and piano she has other artistic talents. She was quite self-depricating about it, but her mandala shows more imagination and less self-consciousness than my first mandala.

N played around with the compass for a while - she really enjoys it! and then settled in to color a mandala we had downloaded from the internet. After laboriously coloring it in (a task she does not enjoy - she has never enjoyed coloring, but she said she thought if she colored some of the shapes it would help her learn to draw them better), she drew a ballerina on top of it, with a tank of air since she was underwater. She loves to draw freehand.
I am beginning to think that N, like a member of the Dine (Navajo), finds the circle shape too confining. Perhaps I should next time give her a square and show her some of the many fine examples of square mandalas.

My assignment was as follows: "Create a mandala honoring a metaphorical doorway you wish to pass through." I was to use one of three templates of concentric circles.

I left a small space in the center and then drew a series of several circles around it. In the center, I experimented with a shape N had made a few days earlier, quite by accident - she'd been trying to make a star and it had quickly become lopsided. To me it had looked like an explosion of lightning, and I'd loved it. I had tried to convince her to keep it & build on it, but she had viewed it as a failure & thrown it away.

I salvaged it, and this evening I copied it for the center of my mandala. The whole thing is worked in silver pencil, silver gel pen and white pencil, on black paper. The elements of the design came to me, one by one. The doorway is at the bindu (center): it's the doorway I must pass through in order to learn spiritually what I need to create and teach others to create mandalas for healing and insight. All around the doorway you can see what is on the other side of the doorway. I call it "Cosmic Explosion," because it is what I felt while I was making it and when I was finished.
It's late, and I've got to go to sleep. I have a sense of promise and of good things to come.



My First Mandala

This is titled "O I See," and it is officially my first mandala, because now I truly see how to do it.

Colored pencil and white gel pen on black construction paper.

I started making it, very quietly, all by myself as other people were going about their business elsewhere. I was relaxed and at peace. And it just sort of flowed out of me.

Well, the center portions did. Everything worked beautifully until these weird 1960s green hanging lamps appeared and ruined everything. By this time, I'd stopped for dinner, N had had a fit and was upstairs being put to bed by R, and Z had come down to work on a black mandala of her own. I persevered, however. I refused to give up, and eventually it all worked itself out.

The one thing I consciously added was movement - lines that created a sense of moving. I did this to remind myself that the only way to learn to create mandalas is by creating them.


Mondo Mandala Post

Click on the title of this post to see some neat things one woman does with mandalas!

Yesterday & today the girls & I went a little nuts with mandalas, so this will be a long post! Yesterday, N & I tried mixing gesso with white glue to see what would happen. She loves to paint, and whipped out a couple of pieces she didn't much like while I did the same. When she saw that I was willing to throw out a circle and start over, she seemed comfortable doing that as well, and soon became engrossed in this one:
"It's a game board, because mandalas should be fun!" she enthused. I should mention that this time we were listening to an eclectic mix of music the whole family had made a year ago - quite upbeat - and it certainly affected her mood. She insisted that her hand be in the picture "because it's my artwork!" She knows that I am posting these on my blog, and is very proud of that.

While she worked on this, I made some swooshes in an attempt to free myself from the anxiety of working with paint (a medium that makes me feel quite incompetent and not-in-control). Then I decided they needed arrows; and then I added a dot for the bindu. At which point I realized that I'd missed the exact center, so I added a few other randomly-placed dots & thought, I wonder why the bindu has to be at the center? So I call this "Where's the Bindu?" Where is the bindu, after all? How does one find one's bindu?
N's second mandala of yesterday she explained was a globe. I had told her that a mandala sometimes depicts the way the world really is, so that's what she drew. She placed it on a stand, because her globe is on a stand. She drew clouds covering part of it. And again, her hand needed to be in the picture, this time showing the peace sign because she wants peace in the world.
My second gesso mandala began with the bindu again, this time the Chinese character for "heart." I was thinking about Chinese calligraphy, since I noticed that the gesso - at least when mixed with glue - paints strokes very much the way writing brushes do, leaving a trail at the end. After painting some wavy lines (what is it with me & borders?), I added the Chinese character for "water" four times, and a few dots, and came out with this:

I'm not particularly excited by my gesso mandalas, but it was a useful exercise in the medium.

Today was different! Z joined N & me, as she's on break this week, and we worked through an exercise I'd downloaded from the Mandala Project's website. The plan was to use watercolors (high quality ones, not one of N's many $1 sets) and watercolor paper to create a color wheel mandala in a particular way. N put on some quiet music (I don't even remember what it was, we were all so busy with the project!), Z got out her good brushes - and let me say right here what a HUGE difference it makes, having really good brushes instead of the crappy little kids' brushes N&I used yesterday!!! - and we got to work with the compass, making sets of three interlocking circles.

All was fine until we discovered that many of our good watercolor paints, which have been sitting unused for about a year now, had dried up completely in the tubes. So we settled on "primary" colors of red, yellow and green instead. Each of us did her own mixing, so the colors came out slightly differently, and N did not leave her center white. We used different concentrations of paint as well. Here is Z's. She titled it "Tulip".
Isn't it pretty? She sprinkled a bit of salt on it for sparkles. You can tell she is very comfortable with paint in general and watercolors in particular.

N used less water, as she likes more concentrated color (no surprise there!). At the end, she took a paper towel and stroked downwards to create stripes. She was the first to come up with a title for her mandala - it's called "Striped," in two syllables. ;-)
I like the way she stroked in three different directions - it adds to the texture of the design. I really like this mandala a lot, and she was very happy with it.

Mine was fun to make. I call it "Traffic Light Colorwheel," for obvious reasons!
I tried coarse kosher salt on mine, but it didn't work as well as regular table salt. Next time I will know better! I also played around with the feathering at the places where the two colors met, and you can see this better if you click on the image to get a giant version of it. It was a lot of fun.

Some time in the next couple of weeks, we plan to get more watercolors so we can do more with them, since we still have plenty of paper. But there are several other media we have yet to experiment with.

I wanted to post one more mandala that N drew last night. We'd been talking about mandalas also being a way to work through ideas about God, or things we were worried about or wondering about, several days ago. Last night while I was working on the computer, she drew this:
She explained that the figure on the right is God, the one in the middle is a little flowerchild who is praying to God because she is afraid of dying, and the one outside the mandala circle is the flowermother who is also praying. God is explaining to the flowerchild that it's all right, everyone dies eventually and it isn't anything to be afraid of, because when you die your body just becomes part of the earth and then your spirit stays alive forever. I asked why the mother is outside the mandala door & she said because "the flowerchild is talking just to God just the two of them right now." I asked why the two flowers are crying, and she said they aren't, their eyes are starry.

I think it's a marvelous picture, all the more so since she's labeled herself and me.



Valentine Mandalas

Ever since reading Clare's remark that one woman used flower petals to make a mandala, I've wanted to try using some of the leaves that N & I gathered and pressed in the fall. Today I did just that. N wasn't interested (alas, Z had shown her a new game online while I was on campus, teaching, and she was too absorbed in it to be happy doing art when I forced her offline). Z, however, was delighted to sit and have an "art hour" with me.

Since Z decided to get a head start on valentines for her friends, the notion of making valentine mandalas struck me. I put on the cd that just arrived today from swapacd - windchimes with a background of wind and water - and it turned out to be perfect, calling to mind leaves blowing in the wind. Just right!

I remembered that we'd found a number of heart-shaped leaves, so I sorted through the hundreds we'd saved (it's hard to pass up a pretty leaf in autumn!) and began. I ended up making two. The first is this one for R.
The bindu (center) is a large heart, with a funny little heart-leaf the shape of which intrigued me. Across the heart is a bit of grass that had begun to seed, representing the continuing growth of our relationship. Around the outside are three pressed rose petals from the rose garden R planted for me, each with a different pair of leaves (one pair is a "whirligig" representing the games he plays with our children). The rose petals point outwards. Between these are three more heart leaves, this time pointing inwards.

Another simple valentine mandala is this one, which is for my parents but won't be sent to them IRL because it would arrive in shards.

Working with the leaves is tough. They're quite brittle - the smallest and thinnest of them must be handled with tweezers, I discovered (to my chagrin, after destroying one of them by picking it up with my fingers - note the tiny "heart" on the left, missing part of one lobe).

The bindu is a very tiny heart (cloverleaf) on top of a strawberry collar. This reminded me of the tiny wild strawberries we used to pick in Montana. Above this are two "roofing" leaves sheltering the bindu, as my parents still try (in vain) to shelter me. ;-) The entire mandala is bordered (I know, I know, borders again!) by a variety of leaves I found interesting, most of them with twisty points. Sprinkled here & there are leaves reminding me of lace or hearts, to make it more valentiney.

To see the colors and the gorgeous details of the leaves themselves, you really have to look up close (which you can do by clicking on the images). Unfortunately, then you also see the shiny glue. Bleh. I was afraid to use Elmer's, since it often leaves lumps, so I tried craft glue. Unfortunately, it is very sticky (at least, my 3-yr-old bottle of it is sticky; perhaps I need a new one?). This means it's slow to pour (consistency of COLD molasses) and, while it doesn't leave lumps, it dries very shiny.

I need a different kind of glue. I will continue to experiment.

And for the spring: I need a kit for pressing flowers - one of those that helps retain some of the color! If you look closely, you can see that the rose petals have a bit of color, but not much. I look forward to creating mandalas with fresh petals, but it would be fun to do some with dried flower petals, too.

Hey! Maybe with potpourri? But my allergies . . . .

Oh, the other down side of working with the leaves: at one point I sneezed. I'll tell you, it's like working with a stamp collection. NEVER SNEEZE. Worse than playing 52-PickUp.



Mandala in B&W

I never know what to expect when I begin a mandala - at least I've learned this much!

Today I decided to use Z's colored pencils. I carefully marked the bindu (the center) - and then wasn't sure where to go from there. I was still in a Japanese mood, so I looked for something on google images (I've decided there is no such thing as "cheating" when it comes to mandalas), and found the one of the tree (click on the subject of this post to see it).

Hm. Okay, how about a road and a tree? So I drew a couple of lines curving and swooping away into the distance, and two more lines next to them as borders (not sure why I feel such a need for borders), and then set about drawing stepping stones along the road.

For some reason, I began drawing from the distance and moving toward myself, instead of from close to far away. And as the stones came closer, they turned out not to be stones at all, but fish! Okay, I thought, it's a stream, or a river since there are so many of them. They are swimming downstream, by the way, which I take as a sign of my optimism. I planned to color it in blues.

Then I messed around a bit & found a good spot for my tree. I tried to replicate the tree in the photo, but I'm no good at that, so I just gave up & made it fit the shape of the circle. I put twigs where I thought I could get away with it, and had one curly loop down just because I wanted a curly loop.

At the last minute, I realized that the end of the longest branch really needed to feed into the river, and that the tree was growing out of the river itself. Which meant the whole picture was a natural b&w.

Which was what my previous mandala had started out to be but wasn't.

This process of mandala creation certainly opens up my psyche in interesting ways.

Here is #3. I call it "cycle." It represents where I am in the process of studying mandalas at present.


Mandala Lesson 1, #2: Mandala Evolution

I started out fully intending to make a black and white, highly detailed mandala this afternoon for my second mandala of the six required for the first lesson in this course. N was busy playing with Z, and I had two hours or more to myself. What I had in mind was something reflecting the sudden cold that has descended upon us after all the unseasonably balmy weather (no doubt killing all my spring flowers that are, in mid-January, now ready to bloom).

I began from the outside in this time, while listening to Cat Stevens' "Numbers" album. (Sorry, it predates cds & so will always be an "album" to me!) I noticed that the little designs I was making with my pencil were tripartite - something I hadn't tried before. Fun! Maiden, Mother & Wisewoman (I don't like thinking of myself as crone). They also looked kind of like frost on a window, so I doodled around, trying to make more frost-like designs in all the rest of the empty space. But nothing I made looked right.

Tried adding other types of tripartite designs. Didn't like any of them. Looked online at some photos of frost & ice crystals, but didn't get any inspiration.

Then I noticed that the three main big, sweeping lines I'd drawn (which rather reminded me of a three-part yin/yang symbol) could be added to to make a sort of Hokusai-like wave pattern. (Click on the title of this post - ALL my post titles can be clicked on, actually! - for more on Hokusai.)

I ended up not embellishing them at all, so they're not really much like him; but by the time I'd finished, I had Hokusai & Japan on the brain. And water. So I added a fish that was (to my mind) vaguely Japanese.

But I thought another fish would be too repetitive. So I tried a Japanese-y crane in the next section. Hm. Now I need an animal in the third. I couldn't think of any animal I could draw, though!

So I got out my markers & colored everything in, including adding a few gems in the border, representing little surprises that I happen upon from time to time. ;-)

And then, still needing inspiration, I google-imaged "Japanese drawings animals" and the first thing that came up was - well, I had to put him in.

The fish represents my mother, who taught me how to fish (which means I'll never go hungry, right?). The crane represents my friend in VA, S, who lives where there are cranes. And the third element represents my son, C, the reason for which will be obvious to anyone who knows us.

Unlike my first mandala, I'm pretty happy with this one. And I can't believe I actually drew some things that looked like reasonable representations of things.

Here it is:
I call it "Japanese Threes." And yes, that's Gojira - Godzilla. ;-)


Do You Choose Ranger or Morelli?

So after Deogratias, I decided I needed something very escapist. And lo & behold, Janet Evanovich came out with a little fluff just at the right time! Since joining PBS, I have tried hard to limit my book spending, & have largely succeeded; however, there are a couple of authors I still do buy in hardcover right as their books come out, and Evanovich is one of them. I can't help it - her books make me laugh out loud, and I treasure them for that. This time, the book was on sale for $10.50, and I had $2.70 in Borders rewards, so it was a pretty darned good deal.

A quick apology right now to anyone who might read this review without ever having read any of the Stephanie Plum books: none of what follows will mean anything to you, unfortunately. But if it intrigues you, please begin with One for the Money and not Plum Lovin', because you need to start at the beginning of the whole silly saga in order for it to make any sense at all. And oh, it is definitely worth reading. Will take about 2 hrs. a book, max. Less, if (once you get into it, which should take about 1/2 a page), you start beating your family off with a heavy bludgeon when they want you to, say, fix supper or anything frivolous like that. Because you won't want to stop reading in order to do that.

Anyway, back to this book. A couple of thoughts came to me as I read it. Actually, they re-occurred to me - I've thought these before. First, I think you can tell a lot about a person from her choice of Ranger or Morelli. Or, I suppose, there are the other two options: neither or both :-) .

So, which kind of person are you? And what do you think that says about you?

Me, I'm not willing to give Ranger up. I'm not so sure what she even sees in Morelli, to tell the truth. I am the monogamous type, so I'd go with only one, though.

And now here's another, to my mind, telling issue: with which of the supporting cast do you most identify when it comes to food: Lula, Grandma, Stephanie's mom, or Ranger?

I'd love to say I identify heavily with Ranger, and I really do try hard. I am proud to say it's not with Grandma. I don't go at all for those nasty, pasty little cookies they serve at various social functions, even when you can get them for free. And no no no no no to Stephanie's mom's food, either kind. ;-)

Nope. I'm a Lula, dagnabbit (though perhaps not on such a grand scale). Her diets send me into gales of laughter, not just because they're so outlandish but also because her logic is my kind of logic.

How about you?

J.P. Stassen's "Deogratias"

from http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/rwanindx.htm

This is a book I will be reposting on paperbackswap again rather than keeping. It needs to remain in circulation. It needs to be read. It needs to disturb and haunt as many people as possible.

And it needs to
not sit on my bedside table in order to continue to disturb me. It is so upsetting that, long after being read, will stay with me. Just looking at the cover is enough to give me a case of the spiritual shudders.

And yet I will never, ever regret having read it.

What Stassen has done is truly remarkable. The artwork is amazing, if difficult to read without bright light due to the many subtle shades of black ink he used.

My God, what we humans are capable of.

Read it - if you are strong enough in spirit.



Big Clay Pot, by Scott Mills

photo by iom keith, flickr
I happened upon this book quite by accident - it was offered on sale at Daedalus Books for a pittance, and since I was already ordering a few things from them anyway, I tacked it on to my order. It may just turn out to be the best of all the items on the packing slip! Now I'm eager to read some of his other graphic novels, and I've added this book to the suggestion list for my students.

Although it takes place in Japan around 200 B.C.E. and at one point relates the story of the Shinto goddess Amaterasu, the book is more Zen than anything else. It is the story of a little Korean refugee and her developing relationship with an old man, Kokoro (which means heart/mind/spirit - it's a concept that does not translate directly into English). Lovely little piece and I recommend it, even for children. I read it with N, who understood even some of the subtleties underlying the simple text.


The Book of Salt, by Monique Truong

photo by Simon Pride, flickr

What a gem. People all over the world are clamoring for J.K. Rowling to write another in the Harry Potter series; I am waiting for another book by Monique Truong. I don't care what it's about, either. I will happily read anything she writes, simply for the joy of seeing how she puts words together with such beautiful facility.

This book should sit on a shelf right next to Like Water for Chocolate, for those readers trying to eat their fill of words. It is for those of us who love the blending of cultures like spices, who yearn for the extra-ordinary love story flavored with a pinch of the exotic. Most of all, it is a book that defies the boundaries of genre and of expectation. It is a book about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and their cook "Thin Binh," as they call him, but ultimately, it is about the ways in which we are all isolated and wish so hard not to be.

It is not presented as a love story - let me state this right now, because I don't want to frighten anyone away! Here is the passage that hooked me:

I wanted that afternoon to ask Miss Toklas whether the household budget would allow for the purchase of two pineapples for a dinner to which my Mesdames had invited two guests. I wanted to tell her that I would cut the first pineapple into paper-thin rounds and saute them with shallots and slices of beef; that the sugar in the pineapple would carmelize during cooking, imparting a faint smokiness that is addictive; that the dish is a refined variation on my mother's favorite. I wanted to tell her that I would cut the second pineapple into bite-sized pieces, soak them in kirsch, make them into a drunken bed for spoonfuls of tangerine sorbet; that I would pipe unsweetened cream around the edges, a ring of ivory-colored rosettes. And because I am vain and want nothing more than to hear the eruption of praises that I can provoke, I wanted to tell her that I would scatter on top the petals of candied violets, their sugar crystals sparkling.
"Madame, I want to buy a pear . . . not a pear."
Miss Toklas looked at me, recognition absent from her eyes.
I, yes, lost the French word for "pineapple" the moment I had opened my mouth. Departing at their will, the words of this language mock me with their impromptu absences. When I am alone, they offer themselves to me, loose change in a shallow pocket, but as soon as I reach for one I spill the others. This has happened to me many times before. At least I now know what to do, I thought. I repeated my question, but this time I had my hands on top of my head, with only the bottom of my palms touching my hair. My fingers were spread like two erect, partially opened fans. Complete with my crown, I stood in front of my new Madame and Madame the embodiment of "a-pear-not-a-pear." I remember seeing GertrudeStein smile. Already, my Madam was amusing herself with my French. She was wrapping my words around her tongue, saving them for a later, more careful study of their mutations.

~Monique Truong, The Book of Salt, pp. 34-35. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2003.


The Road to Mandala

Well, here's my first-lesson, first mandala. I had fully intended to begin on Monday, but I told myself that it will happen when it happens, and no pressure. N and I sat down to create together. I cleared the table as best I could, rucking up the tablecloth so as not to create indelibly all over it. We lit the candles and put on one of our favorite cds.

I began by marking the bindu. I'd read about it in a small book I have about mandalas (which I don't have at hand at the moment, so I can't cite title and author). The bindu in a mandala is the center. I'm still not sure whether one is supposed to start with the bindu or end with the bindu, but I started with it. Mine's very small, but I really wanted it to be larger. Not sure what happened there . . . .

My idea was to create a safe place mandala - one that made me feel secure and comfortable while I was making it and when I looked at it. This was important to me, because I feel very much that I'm going out on a limb by trying something artistic. I've got three very artistic children (two who plan to make their living in the arts!), a brother who is a professional artist, a mother, uncle and cousin who are professional artists, an aunt who was. I'm surrounded by them, and I've never been able to create beauty, though I've always wanted to. So I thought that while I was doing something that felt dangerous, I'd at least try to make it come out giving me a sense of safety in the end.

Twisted logic, I know.

N told me that she planned to make a little wooden doll in the center of hers, "with a round, round face and round, round eyes, but a very pointy nose!" We both chose circles, for the obvious reason that we were working inside the circular outlines provided by the lesson plan - though you will notice that neither of us filled them in with circular patterns. I played it "safe," I noticed, by tracing around little round objects instead of freehanding, and I discovered after a few minutes that I was sitting all crunched-up, so I attempted to loosen my muscles somewhat.

We were fine, until Loreena McKennit began singing about "The Highwayman." By the end of the song, all my lovely circles, which I'd originally planned to fill with filigree patterns, had turned into moons (the one that isn't a crescent is the full moon)! I didn't do it consciously; it just happened, I'm sure, because the road was a ribbon of moonlight. I wasn't really listening to the song, but I had to memorize that poem in 6th grade, so I know how it goes . . . .

And N's!!! During the last verse of the song, she announced, "I don't like that song. It's sad. Now my mandala is called 'Sad Girl' and the little girl was mean to her wooden doll and drew her with big tears and put her away in the attic and doesn't play with her any more because she is all grown up and doesn't want toys." I looked over at her mandala. I was both impressed by the detail and artistic ability, and deeply shocked by the graphic horror it conveyed.

I find it profoundly disturbing. So did N, who said "You can put it on the mandala blog, but I don't want it any more, it's too sad." We decided we were done with our first mandalas. We also decided that it really does matter, very much, what music we listen to while we are creating! So tomorrow we will choose something completely different. We are also planning to use an entirely different medium.

In other news, I've spent (with the help of Rabbit's many friends & relations) hours & hours moving virtually all the books (and bookcases) from the bedroom down to the study, and my computer desk and computer up to the bedroom. Things are still at 10s & 3s (not so bad as 6s & 7s), but for the most part it's finished. And I am delighted with the result!

There is still much to be done to prepare for the upcoming semester which, for me, begins Tues. 1/16. C starts on Monday. Z, on the other hand, will finish her fall semester on Friday 1/19 and then take a one week break (during which she will work frantically on her Chinese). N went back to school on 1/2 and has been busy every afternoon for almost two weeks already.



When is a Mote Not a Mote?

Photo by Simon Pais (flickr)

When it'a a shingle. Okay, so the eye in the photo is definitely not mine. I have shed a few pounds since last month, but I'm not gaunt yet, and I haven't grown facial fringe yet, either. And my eyes, at least what can be seen of them, are still green.

That haunted look, however, fits well.

The day after I wrote the mote post, my lid swelled even more. Far worse, I began to feel as though something were crawling around just under my skin. (You may now hum the theme from the "Aliens" movie, if you know how it goes. I don't, and anyway, I'm living this, so I shall refrain. And just a btw - did you realize that Ewan McGregor was in the original 1986 "Aliens"? Interesting tidbit.) By Thursday I could hardly see out of the eye, and by Friday I was so creeped out by the whole thing that I called and scheduled an appt. with Dr. W. Naturally, because of the holiday, the earliest she could see me was Tues. morning.

Over the weekend, a sort of hole appeared, so I thought great, something has bitten me and laid eggs inside. The eggs have hatched and the creatures are crawling inside me.

Yeah, yeah, I know it's an ear & mine's an eye, but you get the idea. The expression of horror still holds.

Dr. W. takes a look, listens to my description and pronounces it shingles. Then insists I see an opthalmologist immediately to make sure it isn't affecting my cornea.

So the upshot is that I'm on medication to keep it from spreading, though I assume that if it hasn't spread by now I am fairly safe. Now I just wait for those little guys to get out of my face . . . .


Small epiphany here, which came to me in my cousin K's voice (though she was probably unaware of it): this mote-that-is-not-a-mote was not of my making after all, and turned out not to merit any guilt. Perhaps I should not be so quick to shoulder blame. Note to self: remember this.



Book: The Mermaid Chair

So two nights ago I finished reading Kidd's The Mermaid Chair. I received it last April for my birthday, and saved it till I had time to read it all the way through in a couple of days instead of in the five-minute increments of which my reading life has consisted for far too long.

Wise choice. Had I been forced to read it in dribs & drabs, it would have ruined the experience for me. I spent a great deal of time thinking about it each night after I stopped reading, and I find I'm still thinking about it now, with deep satisfaction. This will be one of the rare books I will read a second time in a year, I think - as much for the joy of the language as for the ideas in it.

I came to Mermaid Chair at a time in my life when I needed it - not for the "woman in love with two men" theme, but for the more vital themes, which I won't go into here because I don't want to spoil it in case anyone actually reads this.

Wonderful book. Inspired writer. I suspect that the parts which spoke most deeply to my soul were autobiographical. I can't wait to read her Bee Season, which I've ordered from paperbackswap.


New Year's Epiphany

Photo by Optimist from Utopia (flickr)

Today's little epiphany: I need to avoid all the usual new year's resolutions and instead just shoot for more tranquility and simplicity in my life. My cousin K is right: those danged resolutions just put pressure on us; what we need is to be kind to ourselves instead. There are many things I can do to increase the amount of tranquility in my life; in fact, even 5 minutes' tranquility a day would be a distinct improvement. So that is what I will work on.

A friend has suggested that the virus that hit us was the norovirus. In any case, Z is fine now, C is pretty much over it, I think my mild case is gone, and now R is feeling lousy. R did manage a short walk with me today, and N rode her little bike in circles around us. It was a grey day, cloudy with occasional sprinkles, but warm enough for light jackets and gloves. It was good to get out instead of sitting inside and feeling sad about the end of R's vacation.

N misses school dreadfully. Consequently, so do the rest of us, but for a slightly different reason. She goes back to school tomorrow, and all five of us eagerly await the 12:20 arrival of her school bus.

Speaking of N and school, our kitchen is decorated with many colorful characters, all of whom have mouths full of teeth. Some people might find this disturbing; I certainly wonder what the art teacher thinks of N's approach. From pre-K she brought home this fierce angel, which later acquired a "paid" sticker from Giant as part of its festive decoration:

Note the sharpness of the teeth, please. This year, from kindergarten, she brought home a rather manic pumpkinheadman:

Then just before vacation, she came home with a snow man, whose teeth were made of tiny snowballs but who, nevertheless, I am not sure I'd want to meet up with in a dark (snow-covered) alley.
The really interesting aspect of this artistic tendency is that only the artwork done in school includes teeth. Most of the stuff she draws at home is in anime style, showing no teeth at all. What dark and forbidding subconscious issues does this point to? . . .

Tranquility. I need tranquility. N's teeth are not a topic conducive to tranquility.