Thursday, January 22, 2015

Regrets and Sorrows

Dear Mercutio,

Semantic precision is a curse that was laid upon me at the moment of my nativity: most likely by some sort of troublesome elf: "let her be cursed with categorizing every idea with a unique phrase."

The difference between a regret and a sorrow is very important to me. The former is a subset of the latter. I am very much aware that this importance is generally irrelevant to the rest of the world, but I do not let that stop me. A sorrow is a past occurrence that one wishes hadn't happened. The causes of sorrow are as manifold as the world.

Within the greater realm of sorrows one often has regrets, and in this special case, they are occurrences wherein I simply knew better. You will note there is no modal modifying the verb "to know." I could have known better? I should have known better? I ought to have known better? When I dig deeply into my memories, specifically the emotional flavors that constitute the body of a particularly heavy and unforgettable sorrow, I often find that knowing better was impossible.

A regret is a revealing memory. I have spoken to you of them before. When I have plumbed all of the conditions that led to my decision (or lack thereof) I find no mitigating circumstances. Perhaps I was in love, but I knew he was a liar, and I chose to believe him. I should have gotten on that boat, I knew where it was going, I knew it was safe, but I was merely afraid of something different.

Quite often the phrase "there was no reason" comes into my mind, and perhaps that is the simplest way to detect the presence of a regret.

Regrets can sometimes be quite small and simple, but in their simplicity, I find my categories justified. Doubtless the world will produce and you will hold forth exceptions that confound me, but let me give you an example of a regret.

Today I regretted giving my dachshund a pork chop last night. It was a month old, but it had been cured and smoked. There was other dog food I could have given to Bertolt, although I know that he prefers garbage to anything I carefully prepare for him for he is ever the contrarian. Once again, he looked mournful, and I knew it was an act, for he had eaten a good sized meal earlier in the day. My weaker side prevailed and I smelled the pork chop. It did not smell sour, but still I suspected it simply because of its age. But I gave it to him and he ate it with his usual Trimalchian gusto.

Today I paid for my choice by having to clean up what can only be described as a liquefied attack on his bowels. The collateral damage done unto his bedding, his person, the floor, and my nose was nauseating, and all the while I was spraying and dabbing, lighting matches and opening windows unto the cold weather, I regretted my decision. I had known better.

Bertolt lives in a Present that any zen monk would envy and so he has no regrets whatsoever. After a requisite period of feeling poorly and indignant from his bath, he was back to his usually protean self: affectionate, demanding of (more) food and a walk, and vociferously vigilant against the squirrels who dare invade his domain.

Later, watching him sleep the sleep of the innocent (which he is certainly not), I could have resolved to be more like him and live in the present.

But I cannot know better because as a writer, memory is a constant font of delight and torture. I love. I learn. I think. I write. While the world's complexity escapes my feeble attempts at categorization, at least my memory and language are flexible enough to cope and that I do not regret.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bertolt

Ada and Bertolt
Dear Mercutio,

Since you have inquired about Bertolt in you last message, I should answer for him since he  is of course, indisposed to write you back himself.

Bertolt remains undaunted, beautiful, oblivious and obnoxious. 

You mentioned giving him your regards. I have done so, and he takes these regards with a  sang froid detachment that is, as far as I can tell, part of his sense of entitlement, and which is therefore a smaller part of the largesse that is his personality.

Ever since Kanute "gave" him to me, I have suspected that Bertolt's conception of his own magnificence and living in the moment as he does combine to render unto a lowly houseape such as myself,  a nearly perfect example of Epicurean Philosophy.

And yet below his cosmopolitan appearance and fashion, the heart of a blood thirsty pirate remains. Do not mistake me, Mercutio. I am not speaking of some romanticized hero of the Spanish Main, but rather an opportunistic mountebank whose ridiculous physique and strident bark only serve to distract his victims. They think he is a silly, stupid little dog. Which he often is, but this underestimating can have its price as a hapless woman I met in a café discovered.

She had been nibbling on a scone and reading something on her computer when she noticed Bertolt. He had flung himself on my coat on the banquette seat next to me and was sleeping away in Neronian disregard.
"What is your dachshund's name?" She asked me.
"Bertolt. Please, let us let this sleeping dog lie."
"Why is he lying like that on his back with his thing in the air?"
"He is a shameless little thing. Do not indulge him. Look away. He may simply turn to wakeful meditation on his sins. Which are many."
"But he is so cute! Look, he must be dreaming. What do you think he is dreaming about?"
"Pizza, like most dreaming dogs."
"He woke up. He’s looking at me."
"Again, do not look at him, I beg you. He is always hungry, and will try to convince you that I starve him. He  ingratiates himself to whomever is at hand. He has no conception of his own size and gets me in all manner of troubles. There was a bear he “fetched” once…
"A bear?"
"It was a trained bear, but one that got angry with his provocative attitude, his hubris, his high opinion of himself—"
"—and his good looks. He's a handsome little dude," she said. His eye opened. "Oh, he's awake."
"I have a feeling he's been so throughout this whole conversation. Be careful, if he senses you have an interest in him he will be on you in seconds, trying to taste your tonsils. Restraint is beyond him. If he knows that…"

But it was too late. With a crack, Bertolt leapt upon his new admirer and her table! There was crash of pens and paper, and I saw his little leg kicking against her MacBook. In a moment Bertolt would be sending it to the floor.

It was a choice between catching her computer or Bertolt; his gambit was cunning and thoroughly successful, for I saved her property while his searching tongue ran up her nose. She shrieked like a banshee.

Such was his devilish plan all along. Bertolt’s initial assault was to cause confusion and disruption so that he could swiftly move in and claim the prize he truly wanted: the woman’s scone, which he ate with a gulp and a swallow. He then wriggled out of my hands and ran out the door barking.

His mission complete, he no doubt steeled himself against my ineffectual remonstrations. I know that he had utterly forgotten the scone and the act itself, for living in the present, what did it matter anymore? He took on a martyred look, which was another performance designed to make me look bad in front of the people on the street; I became an outré monster in yoga pants and high heels punishing him for no good reason. (It was a Sunday, and my sense of what to wear was a confused mixture of vanity and utilitarianism.)

At the close of the episode, I had to reflect that unlike other troublesome males in my life, he is unabashed in his roguery. There is no pretense. He lives well and on his own terms, and he loves me. And as much as I hate him some times, I love him as well.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Nightingale's News: Path to Publication

Seattle's own Maven of Publishing (like me she works across several different genres) Waverly Fitzgerald has an interview on her blog with my illustrator and editor, David Mecklenburg.

There is a brief recounting of how David and I met at Hugo House, along with our collaboration on The Nightingale's Stone where he finally admits that I wrote most of the book: he just happened to type it all out.

The Nightingale's Stone is a book about love, and the genesis of the book certainly occurred in a realm of romantic disappointment (as so many books do.) But, as one reviewer describes it: "...the concept of love has gone from being overly-idealized to being a suspicious concept, this book unabashedly explores its power as a catalyst to simultaneously make and unmake us."

If there is any philosophical or aesthetic relish in the melancholia of love (although a frequently traveled geography, the novelty of it for each of us ensures its enduring allure) it is because of this scuplting, formative power.

David and I are nearly finished compiling a collection of poetry that I wrote, much of it during my travels, but collected once I returned to Hagen. It is called Small Events, and some of it has graced this Webtraption, but as I look at it now, as with the novel itself, and the interview, I think neither David nor I are quite the same people we were.

The Whoom-Baroom-Giddle-Tebebbuck of Love has not lost its luster. A handsome man smiled at me today in the coffee house, and it was a small event of beauty. I keep my eye out for them now, but they are not the occasions for illumination they once were. There is so much else in the world to see, and perhaps that is the greatest gift of love.

This may seem an obvious truth, but how many of us walk through life oblivious to it?

Again, if you are interested in the process of how The Nightingale's Stone came to be, or if you are interested in the widely varied world of independent publishing and writing, please stop by Waverly's Site, and don't forget to bring a tidbit for the chihuahua. (I have my own canine burden of whom I will speak later.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Indigo Man



"Anton" Courtesy Troy's Work Table Publishing
“This Indigo Man—I have not forgotten him, unlike you, so bound up in suspicion and your own love-madness for this man of yours. Do you expect me to believe an unlettered man, beaten and twisted by the hands of his father, said these things to you?”
 

“You know the hearts and blood of man, Anton. You can smell his memory on my skin, I am sure. Know that exactly what he said was unimportant; those were the words I heard.”

Anton asks me this during our protracted conversation. You may read about it in The Nightingale’s Stone. His inquiry concerned someone I met in the course of the narrative, and so in a way, Anton met him as well. I will not delve too deeply into the character of the Indigo Man. I never learned his first or even family names. I remember of what he said, and how he said it. How he cried.

Know that exactitudes, the so called true facts, the ontics that make up our world mattered. They mattered in that they were matter, they were light. Many who chose to look at the world in only light will tell you that Shadows do not exist. That they are nothing.

This is true for their world. How dreary and dull it must be. How suitable.

The Indigo man saw shadows. He was a shadow, and flesh. I learned perhaps my greatest lesson from him during the journey that makes up The Nightingale’s Stone.

I know another man who sees shadows. Who is shadows, flesh and words. Fittingly, he is named for the City of Ilium, that greatest Metropolis of Shadows: the shadows of home, of death and fire. Of retribution, madness, and patriotism for terrible reasons. The light to which we run and run away from, searching for home in the broad light of the Sun and the Wine-Dark Sea.

He knows the Mother sleeps in the sea, cradles the vastness of Leviathan. He has seen this. Ink is the ichor of his eyes. He knows what horses pull the Chariot of Elijah.

Troy is my colleague and a father and he is also quite perceptive. He speaks of the Indigo Man as I had seen him, and forgot. Forgot that is, until he described the man I saw. Yet were those my words upon the page? The craftswoman I am grew livid that she had missed a point of fact. But Troy turned, with ephemera and chalk upon his fingers. As an artist he asked:

“Does it matter, Ada? You and I are both liars in the service of truth.”

I encourage you to explore Troy’s Work Table. See what is wrought there. Our work has appeared together in the issues of Les Sardines, and hopefully in other venues for some time to come.

"The Indigo Man" Courtesy Troy's Worktable Publishing

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

La Gripe of La Grippe

Many writers take up the hobby of hypochondria and it is of no surprise to me. It allows for speculation, plots, and exegesis along with carefully nurtured symptoms, or should I say "character traits." Where exactly did I catch this illness? Was there some (usually moral) reason for it? Even if there isn't, what can this illness teach me?

That illness is also a fairly good source of attention (for a while, at any rate) is perhaps another predicate that makes hypochondria a favored disease amongst writers, which is a sad commentary that coughing will get you more looks than a well-written broadside.

I, however, do not suffer from this affliction. I am a busy woman and hypochondria, to really do it properly and allow for full somatic resonance, requires more time than I usually have.

But in visiting my illustrator in Seattle-Towne, I succumbed to some sort of illness.

What is it? A cold or some form of influenza? Bad air? 

I need neither leeches nor physic. I simply need a blanket and someone to record the fever dreams and help me change my clothes when I sweat them out. I require lots and lots of tea.

As usually occurs when I am sick, the amplitudes of the world change. Some things, which were delicious, are no longer: a piece of ham with a poached egg on rye toast suddenly become rubbery and tasteless, as though I were chewing on the nasty little green rectangle that my illustrator washes the dishes with.

The sounds of the workers outside armor plating the surface streets of Seattle, and the arhythmic kerlunking of motor cars passing over it? It is now like a roaring cannon barrage.

My mind drifts off in all manner of directions. There is a book that needs marketing, but I am too tired to think of that, and so non-sequiturs fall off trees along side apples and pomegranates. There are towering vaults of wet stone, and sometimes parching thirst in a desert. The hair of a bactrian camel tickles my nose and when I sneeze, I am returned to the bed (or couch) upon which I am imprisoned.

I remember other illnesses, and realize that I often start off new years in a state of physical dilapidation. One year I was frozen with an influenza that allowed me to travel outside of my body to realm of the Waterpeoples. Sometimes it is just as it is this year: A Regal Cold that leaves my head feeling as though it is stuffed full of cat-litter and wadded-up rejection letters.

The absolute worst occurred in Hagen once when I ate a bad oyster at a New Year's Party. The next day was spent in a groveling position in the bathroom while enduring a comprehensive assault on the vessel of my person: bow to stern, as it were.

A beautiful man delivered sizzling rice soup to me later, and it was the best thing I had ever eaten. Even then, I remembered thinking:

"At least the rest of the year won't be like this."

It is fitting that with my usual gloomy outlook that the inverse situation of illness actually reveals a stubborn streak of optimism. I will hold onto that. And the tissue box.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nightingale's News: Eagle Harbor Books

After wrenching David away from something called the "Mythbusters Marathon" I persuaded him to drive us to nearby Bainbridge Island. No visit to Bainbridge Island and the town of Winslow would be complete without stopping into Eagle Harbor Books.

Being an independent, local bookstore, you won't only find books there; more importantly you will find knowledgeable staff who can help you find and/or order just that right title (or ten of them) that you are looking for. While it has been said many times before, it is always worth repeating:

There is no algorithm that can match up with the skill, knowledge and love that a human bookseller has. Of course your purchase is helping keep a local business in operation, and best of all for all, you may find something you weren't even looking for. Serendipity and a good read waits on every shelf.

Upstairs, at Eagle Harbor, you will find a wide range of new books, including many by Pacific Northwest local authors. Downstairs is a wide range of used books to choose from as well. And, if you want a print version of The Nightingale's Stone, they carry that title as well.

So again, whether you live on Bainbridge, or stop by off the Washington State Ferry, drop into Eagle Harbor Books and help keep it "a place where ideas and ingenuity flourish."

Eagle Harbor Books is located at:

157 Winslow Way East
Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Good Yule 2014

It is a time of year for giving thanks, for thinking on the year that has passed and the one that is just beginning. I like to think of this interstitial time as out of this world. A common phrase, out of this world; one could even say it is an dead metaphorical exclamation.

Being of philological predilections, I cannot help but take the old phrase in from the elements and scrape the mud off of it. Perhaps polish it up a bit, but not too much. I like scattered remnants of connotations, the patinas of usage, to cling to the artifact.

It should be a time out of this world, when you can gather with friends and family (perhaps some of them are even loved ones) and forget about the daily details that mire our relationships. Eat the sort of food that you are forbidden, which makes it holy. Pledge a troth to yourself: do not worry about betterment, but rather understanding; the betterment will follow as a matter of course. Remember those who have passed on, whether they set out on the greatest journey, or, through inscrutable mutability, are no longer regular visitors in the care of your heart.

It should be a time when you do not dwell on subjunctive desires, failed achievements, life paths not taken. Those all exist in other worlds. But this time is out of this world.

Yet gratitude may always find its place in any world.

I would like to thank everyone who supported myself, and yes, even my beloved illustrator and editor. I often chide David, but he knows it is out of the deep sororal affection I have for him.

But without your encouragement and patronage, this Gemini pair would live in a grey world made of windows through which only the flashes of beauty occasionally shone through. With your love, you knock down walls. With your interest, we see the oaks and buildings outside. With your enthusiasm, we can feel the wind and listen to the ocean in its iterative mysteries.

The Nightingale's Stone is now out in the world. But there is more to come in 2015. Hopefully, there will be another novel, an illustrated chapbook, and other ornaments of words that I may be allowed to hang on the tree.

So wherever you are, know that David and I are grateful beyond the scope of my words. Since our time is short in the ordinary world, I would like to offer this old Hagen proverb: "do not pass up the Yule Pork, for the Fenris Wolf is ever circling."* A dour thought, but one that is actually literal in some cases...

Fenris Wolf & Hagener Rippchens
 *Vegetarians may substitute a pig made out of marzipan. One advantage is that four-legged thieves like this one usually aren't as interested in them.