31 October 2009

An Alcove of One's Own

I spent my afternoon trying to carve a suitable writing space out of the downstairs room with the books.  It's not an office, as it also houses our dressers and so many bookcases that there isn't room to put a desk down there. It's not a spare bedroom, as there is no bed (or any other furniture on which to sit or lie). It's just a room, and its predominant feature is books. There isn't, in fact, a spare 6 inches on any of the walls against which to put a desk, a card table, or even a collapsible tray table, which is what I have right now as a working flat surface. There is an empty space in front of the closet (a seldom-used closet that houses seldom-worn coats and boardgames), though, and so I set up my folding tray table and one of those collapsible canvas camping chairs in front of the closet, facing one of my bookshelves. I set up a lamp, too--effectively in the center of the room--and toted in my electric space heater (as the "downstairs" is half underground and the carpet, I am certain, is the only thing between my feet and the cement foundation, and therefore I could also hang a side of beef down there without worrying about spoilage). My goal is to procure an electric blanket instead of the space heater as it has greater efficiency and practicality (when the writing is done, I vacate that room post-haste), but so far, this is a decent stopgap, I suppose.

I also made an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my writing for at least the month of November. For some reason, I am motivated by numbers, despite my general hate-hate relationship with them, and I am willing to take any motivation I can rustle up. Why November?  It's National Novel Writing Month.  I'm not officially a NaNo participant, but the aura of writing floating in the ether is helpful. I'm not tallying on a single project, but I'm taking the month as a chance to finish up some things I've started or to get some projects onto a running start. Words are words: however they come, I'll take them.

26 October 2009


I was in the seventh grade when I first encountered a pomegranate. My enrichment group was putting on a pantheon supplement for the whole grade's Greek Week, and, of course, we had a Hades and a Persephone in our group. At the time, I refused to be anything so domestic as a member of that (or any) complex couple. I was Artemis, solitary huntress, and I made a bow and arrow from slim branches and string. I stole my brother's model paints to make it all silver, and my fingertips were stained ungoddessly gray, too. But my gray fingers are not the point of this piece. They did, however, factor in: our teacher--flawlessly hip and hatted in rural Pennsylvania where no one was hip or hatted in any way beyond the baseball cap--had purchased pomegranates. They were to illustrate the Hades and Persephone story, and to give our very limited palates something new and striking to process during our historical and mythological course plan. I don't know where she got them. She must have driven the forty miles south to Harrisburg; our grocery stores didn't carry anything more interesting than kiwifruit until 2000. And those pomegranates turned my fingertips a wet kind of ruby, and I'm certain that some of that model paint wore off under the fascinated touch of my tongue. I was and am a lover of all things sweet, but the tart, bright burst of each aril amazed me. Amazed us all, standing in the basement hallway of our aging middle-school, wrapped in togas made of the cheapest bedsheets our mothers could buy. We picked the seed-shards from our teeth with our fingernails and ignored the grapes and the plates of dense bread and olive oil, and we were all of us far, far away, clustered around red-stained paper plates, tasting the legend of longing, of hunger, and of a kind of soured passion we were a decade from even scenting.

18 October 2009

Sunday Quiet

It was mid-week when all of the leaves quit Casper. Taxed limp and brown by too-quick snow, they leapt into the lost Wednesday wind (some balmy remnant of September curls around Natrona County until Monday's sweep east, taking shelter in the mountain's lee before the work-week starts again), but the cold melted their crisp spines, left them without the capillary bones to kite the air, and they fell, muddied and silent. There is no crunching underfoot, no sound to echo back for the bare, waving, sunlit limbs.

09 October 2009

Early and Often

I won't apologize for the blog being something of Wyoming Weather Report central.

This morning we had our first shushing kind of snow: enough depth and heft to quiet everything on the surface. The clatter of dry stones in the side-streets of Casper halted; there was no rustle in the cottonwood leaves. The cottonwoods themselves have their frosty jackets on always: silvered leaf-backs that flutter up and show with each breath of the west wind (don't tell me that has come from some bag, Ulysses and Aeolus--it comes from the Absaroka Mountains and follows the snakelike North Platte). But today the trees show nothing because the snow is white gravity, holding down even the air. The small, white flakes fall vertically today, dense as wet sand, and it's just the kind of thing that gives me reason to read to my class my favorite paragraph in modern English: the last 160 words of James Joyce's "The Dead."