Friday, September 29, 2006

Making the rounds

I stop by Arts and Letters Daily on a regular basis, and was pleased to discover Jay Parini's article "Other People's Books" on its front page this afternoon. It's the kind of essay I finish reading and want to print out, frame, and otherwise honor. Mr. Parini says what I have always thought:
A personal library is an X-ray of the owner's soul. It offers keys to a particular temperament, an intellectual disposition, a way of being in the world. Even how the books are arranged on the shelves deserves notice, even reflection.

Over at Heaven Tree, Gawain has been musing on clothing again. Why do we dress ourselves according to popular fashion, instead of dressing to suit ourselves (our shapes, colorings, bearings, personal tastes)? In the eighth section of "Shopping with Mrs Sei (2)" he recounts a telling story of one shopper, Ariadne.

But what I really want to report is Ariadne’s manner of shopping.

This is what happens in the no-name boutique.

She spots it immediately and heads straight for it, like a mechanical homing pigeon. This is the jacket she wants. She had seen it displayed in the window of the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo and there is cost $4,000 and here it is half-price. She wants it.

I am mystified. It is, for one thing, two sizes too big, making her look like Robocop. . . . And it is remarkably unremarkable, it is grey and brown, and shapeless. I don’t seem to detect any design in it, but if there is any, it has nothing to do with being pretty, or comfortable, or making the wearer look better. . . . And it is made of cheap and inferior materials – it is all synthetics, synthetic fiber, faux fur, and none too good, either, for the designer’s concept was, apparently, “unfinished”: the hem is not sewn and loose threads hang from it, as if had just been ripped. The whole thing has the appearance of a frightened, mangy rabbit. It will shed hair and will be hot in the stifling Tokyo summers and cold in the freezing Tokyo winters; and it will be hell to take care of in every season. (But that is OK, because it won’t last that long: it will fall apart in two or three seasons).

No matter, that’s the thing she wants.

She clutches onto the jacket like a drowning woman onto a blade of grass.

In the evening, the ladies return to Rome and I am given the benefit of the fashion show: a lustration of the catch. Ariadne, none too good looking to begin with, looks in her new $2000 (or is it 4?) jacket as if she had spent the night under a bridge somewhere. She has paid $2,000 to look shabby and poor and indifferent.

She struts before me in all this misery, beaming with pride. “How do I look?” she asks. She looks at herself in the mirror and asks again: “How do I look?”

And then I realize: she cannot tell. She has no idea how she looks.

Yes, both of these essays are on the long side. But they are well worth your time. Perhaps you might peruse them this weekend, when the blogging world gets slow.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The next Carnival of Beauty: here!

We're doing the Beauty of Autumn, ladies. If you haven't participated before, you can read the guidelines here. You can browse past Carnivals through the same link. Sallie at A Gracious Home is the Carnival's sponsor and creator.

I'm sorry to say that I have been out of the Carnival loop for some time. I kept forgetting to submit pieces. But I look forward to seeing your thoughts on Autumn. The season is, after all, something of a specialty around here. Please email me the links to your blog posts here.

The deadline is Tuesday, October 4, 3 p.m. (EST).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Riddle me this

Last Thursday afternoon, during a brief meeting for honors students, our English professor handed out a riddle. We had five days to think it over. I carried the slip of paper around with me for a while. I fell asleep over it, I brought it to the college group for them to look over, I read it aloud. In class this morning, no one had come up with the answer. Almost none of us, that is. One of the students, who had missed the Thursday meeting, was a little confused when Dr. R. turned our attention to the riddle.

"What riddle?" he wanted to know. We handed him a copy of the verse---a Latin poem written by an Anglo-Saxon scholar named Aldhelm in the 7th century. He scanned it. And told us the answer.

Just. like. that.

Let's just say that some of us are better at riddles than others. Let's also say that I was thinking way too hard.

The riddle follows. Email me if you think you know the answer. (Have fun!)
The shining pelican, whose yawning throat
Gulps down the waters of the sea, long since
Produced me, white as he. Through snowy fields
I keep a straight road, leaving deep-blue tracks
Upon the gleaming way, and darkening
The fair champaign with black and tortuous paths;
Yet one way through the plain suffices not,
For with a thousand bypaths runs the road,
And them who stray not from it, leads to heaven.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Just for me

Way back in June she told me to pick my colors and my pattern. Now, the week before I start school, it's finished. And such a lovely quilt it is.

Thank you, Lavender Girl! I shall keep it "for always".

Thursday, September 21, 2006

From the front

A bulleted post brought to you by the very tired, very penniless, but very happy Autumn Rain.
  • It feels like home. Really. It does. After learning my way around campus over the last several days, I am still thrilled with the sheer of variety of services, and activities that Western has to offer. It's a city of its own, this campus. And as I explored the three floor library on Tuesday, I was already mapping out the most comfortable corners in which to study. There was even one side of the building that promised some sunshine on the afternoons when there is no cloud cover. Which will be very rarely, considering Oregon's past weather record.
  • I know where most of my classrooms are now, which will save me considerable time come Monday and Tuesday morning. I have also met with the concert choir director, and scheduled a placement interview with her for this afternoon. I am ready to sing again; and so, apparently, were several of the folks I've met throughout the week. I saw at least three people whom I already knew at the choir informational meeting on Tuesday. We've been promised the Christmas portion of Handel's Messiah for this term.
  • I have all but one of my textbooks now. Excellent news on all accounts, but news that does break the bank, unfortunately. They all look marvelous, whether they actually are or not remains to be seen.
  • Finally, I bring you this picture because, yes, I drove to school this morning. By myself. Safely. Without a single accident or casualty.

Your prayers and good wishes are coveted as I finish up the rest of this long (but wonderful) week.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Soundtrack for the afternoon

Rainy weekend

What a pleasure it is to have gray skies and raindrops filling the world outside our windows again. I was cold all day yesterday and we turned on the heat (which made us feel a little sheepish; it is, after all, only September). It was a puttering sort of day. I cleaned house, sorted through school papers and filed them neatly away, filled out the required forms for helping with AWANA at church this fall, ordered a parking permit (also for school). And in between the half dozen slight activities, I checked my bloglines and bemoaned the lack of space in my bookshelf.

It's full now, and there is no space for my school books. I have books on the dresser, books on the hatbox in the corner, books beside the bookshelf, and books on the end table that doubles as a "books in progress" shelf. Maybe I need to give some away. But I find that when it comes to my books I am not an over-generous person.

In the evening, after MamaBlogger and Daddy slipped out the door for a few hours to themselves, after the little girls had found a movie, the boys had holed themselves in their room, and Lavender Girl had begun to plug away at advanced biology and some English papers, I put on my shoes and stepped outside for the short walk to a friend's house (where I had been promised a few hours of board games with others from the college group).

I found an umbrella stuffed in the pocket of the car door, and as I scuffed through the raindrops down the street, I watched the play of sunset clouds and gray sky from beneath the plaid umbrella brim. The weather reminded me of other rain walks with cousins or by myself: the time the four of us went out in a heavy drizzle that grew into a storm, how water streamed through our hair and into our eyes and how it soaked our clothes; the time, just before we moved, that I ran to the empty lot next door to watch lightening shatter the sky across our valley.

When at long last our group finished Pictionary, and moved toward the door, D. laughed as I reached for my umbrella. "An umbrella?" he wanted to know. "You're no fun."

"But I walked here in the rain," I said.

"Yes, but a walk in the rain is inspiring."

"Inspiring and wet. I didn't want to sit here shivering all evening."

"There is that," he conceded.

And I took my umbrella firmly in hand. Let it keep on raining.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

End of the summer

My last box of books came in the mail yesterday (I love online ordering), and, save for five more texts (which, I discovered, are outrageously expensive), and maybe a few G2 pens, I am ready to start school next week.

Only it won't really be starting.

New Student Week is mostly workshops and games designed to help students find a place in the campus body. It is something I'm not keen on attending (except for the Honors orientation held on Thursday); I'm ready to start studying. I don't want another week of staying up late and playing games. Really. I've done quite enough of that, thank you.

Maybe I'll enjoy it more than I think I will though. I do like meeting new people, and that is a major part of what this coming week will be about.

Three months ago this all felt a year away. I had never even had a break from school that lasted longer than about six weeks (and now, all of a sudden, I had twice that on my hands). But it has gone faster than I expected. I accomplished a lot, socially speaking. Not very much, educationally speaking. There are still things in my to-do pile. Latin has languished on the hat box in the corner of my room. That summer reading challenge was, um, more like a guideline, actually. I never scrapbooked. Not even once. But I am happy with the way things turned out. It has been an incredible summer, and a much easier one than last year---when I felt as if we were saying goodbye at every event, gathering, and chance meeting with our friends.

I'm not sure what school is going to do to my posting schedule here at The Autumn Rain. It will almost certainly slow the pace. But we shall see.

We shall see.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I thought I might need more

I was prepared to be disappointed when I started rummaging through my drawers and the back of my closet this morning before I left for work. I didn't expect to find so many nice clothes that I was more than happy to wear for another fall and winter. As I sorted through the piles, my list of things to buy (see right in photo) shrunk. And shrunk again. My cousins have also promised a large bag of hand-me-downs in November. (Shrink again, list.) I guess I'll save my money.


. . .at the beach:

"You're bragging. Stop bragging."

"I'm not bragging. I'm just sharing the joy."

. . .in the kitchen:

"You know, toes aren't really necessary. . .they're just kind of useful."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years

Everyone has their own story. I look back on that September 11 five years ago, and I think, "Isn't it strange? Isn't it strange that everyone has their own story about this one tragedy?" It boggles my mind that there can be so many, many facets of a single event. It boggles my mind, and it breaks my heart.

For us, it happened in one of those in between times. We had just moved back to California and were living (all eight of us) in an apartment. We were adjusting to new and changed relationships, finding our places in a strangly familiar world. It was one of the few times in my life that we had an operating television. On September 11 it stayed on all day.

In the evening, as we watched the newsreels---the same ones we had already seen a hundred times---we lit candles and placed them in our windows. I remember sitting outside our front door with my blue journal. I was on the top step of the long flight of cement stairs that led to the sidewalk below our apartment. The door behind me was wide open, and the TV was talking again. I sat there---my journal says it was 7:24 pm---and I wrote. Most of the entry is quotes. Clips from the newsreels, or the newspaper, or the radio. In the pages following this entry are pasted clips from the Sacramento Bee. The transcript of a speech. More quotes. Photos of the towers and people. At the end of my entry I scrawled one sentence (one of the few personal observations I made in that list of events):

"I've heard the words 'infamy', 'hijacked', and 'prayer/pray' more today than ever before."

Today, five years later, we are just emerging from yet another in between time in our lives. We're building a place for ourselves in a new church, developing new relationships, still living in a rental house (a very tangible symbol of our still transitory status). And today, not for the first or last time, we're remembering.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

In the meanwhile

Two nights up past twelve. An evening of games. Two afternoons at the beach. The most beautiful bridge in the world. Work. Family. Friends (oh, yes, friends). Is it any wonder that my cozy space here at The Autumn Rain has been a bit lonely lately?

I'll try to stop by more frequently. But for now: enjoy the last bit of summer, or (for some of us) the beginning of school.

Side note: I found a ballroom in a City Nearby that teaches swing dancing in four week sessions. I'm talking to BrotherBlogger about this. But he's skeptical. Do I have any volunteers?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

On revisiting the Six Jolly Fellowship-Porters

With the possible exception of A Christmas Carol, I don't think that I have ever before read Dickens out loud. But this week, on arriving home from the library with Our Mutual Friend beneath my arm, I decided to take the plunge.

"Lavender Girl," I said, "Let's give this a try, shall we? It's 850 pages long. I have three weeks until I start school. It's not in the least bit do-able. But it's always worth a try."

And so we did.

I didn't know what I was missing---all those years spent reading Dickens to myself in the quiet of my own bedroom. I don't think I even once had a feel for the rhythm that I soon discovered permeates nearly every paragraph of his prose. For here is a man who has no squeamishness about using semicolons, beginning a fresh sentence with a "which", or repeating himself in order to bring home just exactly what he is saying. And when Dickens plays with grammar and syntax, confounding the skeptics and irritating the more conservative grammarians among us, the most wonderful and extraordinary thing happens: it works.

Granted, sometimes the sentences are a little much, even for me. I prefer not to have to paused for breath more than two or three times per sentence. But we are, after all, reading Dickens; we'll just have to make allowances for the length.

Have you tried reading Dickens aloud? If you haven't, quick!, grab one of those dusty tomes off the shelf, open to the first page, find a willing audience (a cat, dog, or goldfish will do in a pinch), and read. Read out loud. Let your voice find its own way through the sentences. It might take a little practice (some breathing exercises may occasionally come in handy). But in the end, I don't think you will be disappointed. I wasn't.

The wheels rolled on, and rolled down by the Monument, and by the tower, and by the Docks; down by Ratcliffe, and by Rotherhithe; down by where accumulated scum of humanity seemed to be washed from higher grounds, like so much moral sewage, and to be pausing until its own weight forced it over the bank and sunk it in the river. In and out among vessels that seemed to have got ashore, and houses that seemed to have got afloat---among bowsprits staring into windows, and windows staring into ships---the wheels rolled on, until they stopped at a dark corner, river-washed and otherwise not washed at all, where the boy alighted and opened the door.
Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens

Friday, September 01, 2006

Book-buying Friday

School starts in exactly twenty-five days. So today I bought my books. Not quite all of them; I don't have the text-book titles for my correlated study of the arts class, or for the anthropology class. But I found ten (ten books that I wanted to read anyway, whether or not I had to read them for a class). Not only that, but I found all ten of them for $98. Oh, yes. This is my kind of spending.

Now I can't wait for the packages to start arriving.

A pictorial list with links follows.

(For Dr. H.'s philosophy class)

(For Dr. R.'s English class)

There are a few other books as well (Euripides' Medea, the Metamorphoses) but this is the bulk of them. Don't they look fun?