Monday, January 31, 2011

Ten Thousand Read! Dollivers take a bow..

Ten Thousand? Dog, that's great!

This just in: as of a few minutes ago, our blog has reached the 10,000th pageview! so if you are reading this, you have started the next ten thousand.

The Ds. of course claim that they are the main attraction and it's their followers causing this intense international interest and concern, and I've pointed out that comments relating to them are not always so flattering, but they all chorused we can't hear you we can't hear you, we're made of yarn, neener.

Anyway, thank you whoever checked in on Field and Fen and put us over the top! A while ago we passed the one thousandth comment mark, which is a very healthy ratio, one comment to ten pageviews.

Usually we used to be advised in the broadcast industry, that if one person called or wrote, you should Pay Attention, because they often represented as many as 25 other people who agreed but never got around to actually saying so. For better or worse. Evidently some clever polling people established this.

All I know is that when a member of the public came into our station one time to look at the public records of programming and times, etc., the program manager called me in great excitement: come down and see! see who's in my office! I have a Member of the Public looking at my records! Exercising his rights! All these years of keeping the records required and finally someone wants to see them!!

So this is why pageviews, and particularly comments that arise, excite me hugely. Please keep on!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

Snow scene seen on the way out from home yesterday. Taken as an act of faith that the snows will stop coming at us.

Soon Chinese New Year will be upon us, and the local library was invaded yesterday by wild and fierce young dragons, dancing about and mixing and mingling with the crowds, along with the music, food, arts and crafts that were happening all over the place, and a huge and wonderful drum that was beating all the time, sounded like the building was reverbing.

The annual greeting of the librarians by the friendly dragon

Dragon mixing with the groups, blending in...

Dragon in search of new adventures

Which he finds in the kids' department, where he was grilled by a little guy wanting to get to the bottom of this vision that suddenly appeared. "Are those your feet? wait, there's PEOPLE in there! how did you get in? how can you get out?" and so on.

Dragon looms up for a closeup after escaping the probing questioning of the small reporter.

Bracketing the post with the snow scene caught coming home again.

Friday, January 28, 2011

When in doubt, make stuff!

So today is another day, and aside from the day-after feeling from digging snow in all the spare time of yesterday, not to mention the various alarms and excursions the previous night, I'm feeling pretty good. Especially since I got back into the studio yesterday, on top of everything else, because that's as good as a get-well clinic for me.

And made a couple of transformations. One used the backs and lovely brass fittings from another book, which I painted freely and very happily, with gold and silver and my trusty sponge brush, then cut and punched out pages to fit in, and thereby made a nice new artist book, which will be in the mail quite soon.

Some of the pages are high quality rough watercolor paper, some are thinner paper for writing or maybe drawing.

The other is just a paint job. During the massive Paper Clearout and File Fixing up, still ongoing, I found this little fully loaded, empty notebook, which was a boring old blue. Now it's gold and silver with blue showing through, much more cheerful.

If it doesn't move, paint it. And this madeover notebook got a severely useful function in its new life: my grocery lists!

Big plan: I will date the lists I make so that I can tell how long stuff lasts around here, currently a bit of a mystery, largely because most of my shopping expeditions are mad rushes to the local Asian store or even madder rushes to the further away supermarket, for just a few items, all I have time for, given that HP can't be alone for more than a very short while. This tends to militate (or as a pretentious but not very well read friend used to say, mitigate) against organization. Flylady would be horrified.

Years ago, when we first combined our households, -- that's another discovery I made, that it was seven years ago in June, time flies when you're running to keep up with what life doles out -- anyway, starting back then,I made notes for a few months on what housecleaning I did by date, in order to find out how often I actually did this rotten stuff, and was happy to find that it wasn't as often as it seemed. So maybe food items last longer than I realize too. We'll see.

This is my Inner Bookkeeper at work. My Total Artist makes allowance for my IB now and then.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Scary times at the OK Corral

We had an eventful 15 hours: two major snowfalls, one ice storm, one thunderstorm with exciting lightning, high winds, and the scary bit was a total power outage during the night.

Now this was important, because HP has an ap mattress, dependent on an electric pump to operate without deflating, which is dangerous for a person with pressure ulcer situations, and considered a medical emergency by the supply people. Unfortunately, the roads were impassable, so they couldn't have come out with a replacement anyway, and ambulances could not have got through if the house went too cold to be safe. And so on. And attempting to transfer him from bed to chair in the pitch dark too dangerous even to consider. Hard enough in the light!

I was up stumbling about in the dark looking for extra blankets to throw over him, and cautiously coming downstairs, finding a flashlight by feel, and generally trying to plan for whatever might happen. If it were only me, no problem, but it's different in this situation.

The power came back on after an hour, one of the longest outages we've ever had since we have a terrific utility company, great infrastructure. Ours are the techs. who are asked to go to other states to help them get wired up again after ice storms, so that will tell you it was surprising. But what with the alternating snow and ice storms and lightning strikes, not so surprising.

So we lived through it, but not knowing how long the power would be out was a very long wait, and HP is now peacefully eating his boiled egg and homebaked toast.

So I thought a few snowscenes wouldn't be out of place at this juncture.

Nature takes a hand with the wallhanging on the patio

Out front, snow slopes

Somewhere under there are cars, I guess

The wild cherry is completely lying down on the table now. Can't tell yet if it's broken, but it's a tough guy, and I'm hoping not

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bryson and other fun reading

Time for a couple of book reviews.

Bill Bryson has done it again. He writes a hybrid of journalism and cultural history, and it's not only easy reading, it's really well researched. He comes up with the most riveting bits of useless info, and you can just see him giggling as he points out that, for instance, the original design drawings (which are reproduced in this book) of the mousetrap are still the model for use. Nobody has ever improved on it. So much for building a better mousetrap. And how Capability Brown reshaped the English countryside so that what we think is nature's work, actually isn't, but it's flowing and natural looking.

Anyway, this latest, "At Home" is a rambling series of essays triggered by wandering about his own house, a Victorian or earlier rectory in a flat part of England, views for miles. He considers each room, which then triggers all kinds of happy tangents taking in the China tea trade, the search for spices, how Bell fought off Edison and mighty opponents who were trying to infringe on his telephone patents, and so on. Great reading, and funny a lot of the time, too.

I give him five hatstands on this one!

Then there's a nice detective writer, Sue Ann Jaffarian, a new discovery for me, whose accidental detective is a very large lady, a paralegal, partnered with a wheelchair-using man who runs a graphic arts agency, and their adventures, she stumbling into murders at every turn and he trying desperately to restrain her.

She's a funny writer, and a very good deviser of plots, if a bit rambling now and then. But what I love is her choice of main characters, without underlining her agenda at all. She simply presents a heavy woman and a wheelchair using man as actual vital highly active and interesting people. It's great, and I think it works all the better because she mentions these things where they matter to the plot, but otherwise just moves on. Corpse on the Cob is a great cross country adventure.

The other is a different series by the same writer, haven't embarked on it yet, but I plan to, since we have yet ANOTHER snowstorm, and there's no sign of plows or path diggers or anything, and even HP's doughty physio cancelled his visit today.

Both the mention of the wheelchair and of the physio remind me of a large pet peeve of mine in real life, that of referring to people by their disability or illness.

A person in a wheelchair is not a paraplegic, even if he has paraplegia. Someone with seizure disorder is not an epileptic, even if he has epilepsy. A person with asthma is not an asthmatic. And so on. The point I'm making is that reducing people to a one word description confined to their illness is disrespectful, and shows the speaker's inabiity to grasp that this is a whole person coping with a situation but living a life quite apart from those struggles.

And while I'm at it, let's ditch for all time the phrase "confined to a wheelchair". The wheelchair user in our family points out that far from being confined, he is freed by his chair to be anywhere other than in bed. He can be at the table, across the room, out on the patio, and even that small world is a whole lot bigger than being in a few square feet in a bed!

And, okay, why not go for broke, let's all quit describing someone who got cancer as a cancer victim. That's a patient, not a victim, for pity's sake. And eventually, we trust, a survivor. But never a victim.

Now I'll breathe again, and notice that the picture I took today seems not have the dreaded black line that appeared on my camera a couple of days ago. I was afraid it would make it inoperable, since it's right in the middle of the viewfinder. So I've got another of the same model and make on its way. Hm. Now I may have two working cameras! but it's as well to have the backup, in case the dreaded Pixel Failure spreads.

But if it does, don't say my camera's a pixel victim!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The recital of the grievances revisited

Remember George Costanza's father with his official Recital of the Grievances as the family holds the aluminum Festivus pole? I was listening to the Car Guys this morning, one of them recalling a terrible injustice done him by a college teacher, and the other brother says I'm glad you're really over that, and it was only what? forty years ago?

Struck me as hilarious, how in the recesses of our psyches, we cling to rotten things people said decades ago, and still get indignant. The kid who pushed us down in kindergarten! the boy who shoved our elbow and RUINED our drawing in third grade! some of us are so old that the culprits have probably gone to their reward and they're in heaven pushing people down and shoving their elbows.

However, I always like to think things from the opposite, too, just makes it interesting. And I notice the things people have said decades ago that were so helpful and terrific and probably the speakers never knew how much they helped.

Like the boss who, nearly forty years ago, when I was desperately giving up smoking, having discovered it was doing a job on my son's sinuses, poor little kid, bad mom, and after six weeks of frantic trying not to smoke, my smoker boss commented one lunchhour as she lit up, you never went back to it, did you? With that moment, I realized I was considered an ex-smoker. And it made it a whole lot easier to be one.

So, a belated thanks, Jean!

Or the patient sharing a hospital room, as I was recovering from major surgery in my forties, struggling to get back some strength, feeling about ninety, and waiting for tests to tell me if my condition was malignant. Viola, aged nearly ninety in real life, not just feeling like it, commented, oh you're doing better every day! but then you're just a little girl, aren't you? how wonderful to have someone think I was just a kid. It set me up for a terrific recovery.

Thanks, Viola. I know you've been gathered in, but I have never forgotten you.

I doubt if they knew their impact any more than the bee in our picture, going about the daily round, doing their best, knows his impact on his surroundings.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ophiuchus? whazzat?

It seems that while we weren't looking, the planets have been shifting around, to the point where our signs of the zodiac are way wrong. We've been reading the wrong section of the daily horoscope, horrors.

Us Sags are for the most part now under the sign of Ophiuchus or something. The snake holder. Hm. Not sure if I like that, now they've taken away my horse. But then the Scorpio people have been shrunk down to a few days, to make it all fit right or something, so they may have a bigger issue.

HP is no longer a Cancer, now he's a Gemini. And so on. I wonder if all our lives will take a sudden swerve to fit the new zodiac?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

Today, just time for a couple of views of the park under snow, but with cheering skies, better light, nearer the end of winter.

And then I was off to the Honda dealership to get them to do the State inspection, a biannual affair, which you can get done for free at the official inspection stations, gah, they hate their jobs. And if the car fails inspection, you have to go to the garage, get it fixed, and then do the whole thing at the horrible inspection station over again. Simpler to pay a fee to a licensed dealer, have them inspect, fix up and be done with it.

And they have friendly people, and a waiting room with excellent choices of coffee and if you're there in the morning, good bagels with cream cheese. All in all, not bad. And now they have installed free wireless.

Red dress, snazzy hat (call me Michele, my dress designer is American) Dolliver came along, and realized that cars come from car shops! we were going to bring a new one home? maybe? what, just fix that old banger again? it's from the last century, that 99 Civic. It's not even in the blue books any more. It's got 118K miles on it! which to me, I explained, still ranks as a new car.

I have been organizing and tossing paperwork recently, and found the papers from when I traded in the previous car for the current one. Previous Dodge had 135K on it. And before that the lovely old Plymouth Horizon, which I still mourn, had 138K miles on it before I turned it in. That was in the days when they expected cars to conk out at about 90K.

Once the Horizon needed a quart of oil and a pint of tranny fluid at every gas fillup, its days were numbered. Also airbags were the new thing and people were driving as if they were immortal because of them, so I didn't fancy being crushed in my bagless Horizon, much as I loved it. I like my cars, and keep them to a fine old age. Anything less than 10 years old and it's a failure as a vehicle in this household.

Meanwhile, D was getting a bit impatient at these ruminations and dragged me over to the balcony above the sales floor, where the waiting area is.

Listen, let's look at these new ones. See those people down there, all buying new cars?

and then, look, let's take this one home

It smells lovely. The seats still have the wrappers on. What? you never buy new? what a downer you are...I pointed out that if she and the other Ds could come up with the 18K required for that nice red car, and the extra insurance, and the special assistant I would need to get out of it, it being low and sporty, which I am no longer, we could talk again. Meanwhile, we took her picture in pleading pose.

She pointed out on the way home, actually in a continuous accompaniment, that the new car had just little booklets inside and paper mats to cover up the lovely floor. Unlike the vehicle we were traveling in, which has firewood in the trunk, empty laundry baskets on the back seat to receive bags of groceries without letting them roll about, library books, a bag of waste paper, spare shoes and all the accoutrements of normal life around here.

For my part, being somewhat defensive on this score, I pointed out that in all its 118K miles, this car has never, in any weather, from zero to 100 F. failed to start and keep running in all conditions, and that sort of loyalty is to be prized.

Once home, she was heard to explain the whole thing to the other Ds, showing them her portrait, like a model on the hood of the car, that it wasn't cheapitude, it was loyalty that kept us all in this car. And I ignored all the snickers and muttered, yeah, right, heard from various Ds. But I did come back firmly with suggesting that they get an engine installed in their clubhouse, not just talk about it, and they could drive wherever they wanted...

So they all studiously turned to their library books and bridge columns and weekly Will Shortz puzzler entries, and I settled down with a knitting book, looking up darkly now and then and wondering if I could create some new, kinder, gentler Ds. But then I'm used to the grittier models we currently have. They have my cars to thank for that.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Easy knitting that looks hard, Dollivers claim it

I'm trying out a new knitting thing, having swiped the idea from a knitting book, which I will credit if I can possibly remember the title and author (!) and which I undertook to celebrate the abatement of pain in my hands.

Wonderful Emil, HP's physio, was very concerned because my hands are so necessary to the everyday life around here, and showed me some wrist exercises using handweights, which have proved very helpful, and yesterday showed me specific thumb ones using a rubber band as a resistance band.

So, all in all, much more cheerful around here! and celebrating with another knitting experiment. Yet another scarf, and this one I'm not sure yet of the destination, but it will end up around some friend's neck, at least that's the plan.

Anyway, here's the thing: the Dollivers claim to have invented this, they did not, and that it's very hard to do, it is not, but what you do is take a laceweight yarn, this happens to be lambswool, harvested from a beautiful thrift store sweater, of course, and do in this case plain knitting.

All garter stitch. But the trick about making the pattern look airy and interesting is that you use two different sized needles, so in this case one row size 15, one row size 7. This gives you an internal stripy effect, and it feels very good in your hand. I expect you can fancy this up even further with yarnovers and things, but I hesitate to make it too fussy and knitty.

So that's where we are on the knitting front! the days are getting longer and brighter, the houseplants are perking up, and it's starting to look like a new year, yay.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Urgent pharm runs and Dolliver winter sports

After the big snowfall, and the subsequent Digging of the Car, the helpful neighbors being away this time, and I was bloated with pride at being able to do this without being worn out, I found that we were dangerously low in HP's heart medicine.

There are quite a few meds going on in this house, largely his, and I don't know how I didn't realize we were close to the end of this dose. Anyway, since there may be ice tomorrow, and the roads were basically just wet after the plows did a much better job, they get better with each snowfall, getting into practice, I had to do a fast pharm run.

And a Nurse Dolliver insisted on coming along to supervise the procedure, which a good natured and incidentally model-beautiful pharmacist allowed for, after she'd protested she was not looking good today, her hair, oh dear. If I could look like her, I'd never whine again! but we all hate our own pix, I know.

Then there was a terrific midwinter display of flowers, labeled REAL, which Nurse Dolliver, being as REAL as they come, decided to pose among and maybe get some to bring home.

Meanwhile, I was checking the meds just to be sure, putting away the camera and then hastening home with the goods.

Only to realize when I went to return D. to her clubhouse that, gah, there she wasn't! so another run to the supermarket pharm, and there she was, grumbling about being left AGAIN, was I trying to get rid of her, maybe she should find a new family...

Meanwhile back at home, the more frivolous Ds were strapping on skis and getting their poles organized because little Swiss, naturally a crack skier, had offered to show a D. how it's done. On the black diamond slopes.

Easy for her to do.

But a bit harder than D. had thought ahead of time.

So they swooped and swerved and D fell, and finally it was apres ski time with hot chocolate in front of a warm stove, uh, microwave.

And D was last heard bragging about her great runs and how she would be glad to teach the other Ds if they dare go on the Really Steep Slopes.

More different snowflakes..

Another big snowfall over night and I don't know about how snowflakes are all supposed to be different. They're starting to look exactly the same from here...

The Jack Russell and the Westie across the street are considering whether or not a small dog can get lost in this stuff.

And whether those are little dogs under there.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, as I put the kettle on for breakfast, carefully putting it on the back burner, it occurred to me how many habits have become as near as they can to hardwired, such as putting the kettle on the back burner. Moms will instantly recognize the sign of someone always being careful to keep boiling water and other hot stuff out of the reach of the baby.

In my case, Handsome Son is now in his forties, a great cook himself, scorns my kitchen equipment, brings his own when he cooks a special meal for my birthday, has not lived under our roof for decades, I mean, he's a grownup! but I still put the kettle on the back burner, just in case...

Likewise putting the sewing needle into a scrap of fabric and back in the sewing box between uses, even when I will need it again in three seconds. Or leaving appliances unplugged no matter how often I use them.

Admittedly, some of these habits work well for pets, too, since I have met cats who knew how to turn on appliances if they got tired of waiting for the humans to feed them. And love to play with dangerous needles. But they're unlikely to pull the kettle over as it boils.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Ching and the Staff of Life

So I threw the I Ching for seven days, to see how it would go. The part about throwing the coins was fun. And the part about figuring out whether the throw meant one solid line or a broken line. And the part about looking through all 64 of them to identify the hexagram I'd thrown with my six throws. All nice visual exercises, like what is wrong with this picture stuff.

However, the leading I got was pretty minimal, being somewhat identical, as far as I could tell for every one I threw. Maybe it's so Chinese that it's inscrutable to me. At any rate, more often than not it resisted my scrutiny. So I have gently retired it and returned to yoga practice and breadbaking. I have actually been baking bread regularly since last August, haven't bought a bit of it since then. Different recipe every time, and not a one has failed to come out well.

All these deals are ways of focusing on the immediate, and in the case of the bread doing something good, very elemental. Like that lovely day last year when I went out to shop, and on the list was: wine, wood, boots! very medieval. All I needed was a pargeting tool or a new donkey or something, to complete the picture.

And until the labyrinth is weather free again, yoga practice and breadbaking are not the worst way to practice meditation. That and the weights, which are starting to yield some modest reduction in hand pain. It's like the US gov's budget cuts: not really cuts, just reduction in the rate of worsening...but for the moment I'll take it.

Good thing I never ran up an I Ching Throwing Gown, as Lucia no doubt would have, as Ari astutely pointed out. Of course if I had, it could have been an About To Do Yoga Practice after I Get Out of This Thing Gown...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tat and Tattoos

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to unearth stuff, you open the closet door and there comes a tide in the affairs of stuff that requires that you either move out or organize it.

What happened was a concatenation of events. Started with tendonitis in both thumbs, pain of Biblical proportions, but no way to rest said thumbs, since hundreds of times a day, nursing care requires pressure on them -- hooking up the lift, braking and unbraking the chair, moving, exercising, dressing, cleaning, etc. the patient. And that's just the patient care. There's also laundry and cooking, and even putting on a winter coat which has become quite acrobatic. No matter how you adapt your movements, some things can't change.

Sooooooo I was whining about this to HP's physio on his home visit the other day, after consulting with my doctor, who had given various bits of advice including continue with weight work, and physio asked me about my weight work. He observed that none of my weight training actually involves strengthening the wrists. Apparently this is vital to protect the thumb tendons, to spread the load as it were. Like getting your legs in trim to protect your knee joints.

Sooooooo he had me show him my weights to demo some wrist actions for me. And nearly fainted dead away when he found I routinely use 8 pounds per hand. I think he'd pegged me as a two pound tops person. Anyway, he said that is too heavy for wrist exercises, though fine for arms and shoulders.

So I sighed and after he showed me on a one pound weight what to do, that weight being far too small in circumference for my big mitts, and usually used as a doorstop around here, I realized I would have to excavate the closet where I thought the smaller weights, like two and three pounds, were.

Which was true, but they were under a ton of supplies and walkers and transport wheelchairs and clothes HP can't use now and various miscellaneous bags of stuff. All had to come out on the floor, and this was not fun for the thumbs but it was in a good cause.

And I ended up with two giant bags of men's small clothes to Freecycle, including some great stuff, which already have takers.

And a molecular model kit, which was immediately requested by a Chinese mom for her bright child! And best of all some nice stuff of mine that I don't know how it got in there.

Such as books of temp tattoos, which I love, and a gold neck chain, and a pair of silver cufflinks from some exotic place, and a lovely Cuban cigar box, and a couple of pix of me from long ago, all dark haired and not wrinkly, and a bunch of Canadian dollar and two dollar bills. And a complete watercolor set in a metal box. And a manicure set HP gave me fifty years ago (!), made in Australia, lovely fine leather. I have the scissors elsewhere, use them all the time, but had lost track of the rest of the set, which is quite posh. No, nothing in this picture is going to be Freecycled. It's mine, all mine.

Oh, and under all this I found the smaller hand weights and have faithfully started doing the exercises in the fervent hope that working with HP will evoke fewer screams of pain and bad temper. From me, that is. But I'm all cheered up by finding the tattoos.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year, new books

Current reading, the I Ching not counting as reading, though it is going on daily, interesting stuff to think about, is light and heavy.

Light is the MacNeil book, a really inspired Christmas gift, which is chicklit at its best, very funny, very technically knowledgeable, fantasy, wishes coming true, all at once. Like Bridget Jones, expert knitter, meets Evanovich's heroine with the funny relatives! perfect reading for a snowed-in day, which was when I enjoyed it.

And I instantly looked for another novel by the same writer, which I'm about to embark on. Great fun, totally nonserious, but respectful of the world of knitting and knowledgeable about the world of commercial tv, too, all in all, good reading.

The other is a biography of his family by Alan Bennett, serious this time, with a different touch from his marvelous Uncommon Reader and The Clothes They Stood Up In, which I hugely recommend anyway, just read them! more like long short stories than novels, but very sturdy even though short, great stuff.

This one is more introspective, about the family he came from and stuck with through all kinds of tragedy. From the north of England, west Yorkshire, to be exact, it rings a lot of familiar tones to people from the north, even if a different part of the north. Things like settling down to a good book with a quarter of Quality Street! i.e. a quarter pound of lovely mixed candies all wrapped in cellophane, very luxurious, came in a cardboard container with a cello window, if I remember correctly. And the fashions his aunts were so proud of, not unlike my older sisters at that era. And their affectations, which he understands so well that it illuminated a lot that was not clear to me before I read this, about my own relatives.

But he admits when he's clueless, as when he could not understand why the family kept secrets. He only realized much later that revealing them (I won't spoil your reading by saying what here) would very much affect the lives of the other family members, for the worse, maybe get them shunned or feared. In middle age he didn't grasp this, but as of the writing of this book at the age of sixty, he grasped what it was about, when he found himself doing the same thing.

But in some ways he goes on being clueless! as when he notices that his father, coping with his mother's severe recurring mental illness, with many hospital visits, exhausting and worrying dealing with doctors and hospitals as a working class man out of his depth, when he notices, that is, that his father tended to set up the next meal dishes as soon as the last one was finished, or prepared food ahead of time to make the actual meal getting easier.

Bennett assumes, since he has seen this in other retired people's houses, too, that it's because they have nothing in their lives, no other distractions or obligations, lives, I quote "emptied of occupation and proper activity" -- breathtakingly insulting and obtuse at the same time!

But this was written when he was only sixty, and maybe at this point, in his late seventies, he will see that the advance preparation is not only a way of doing tasks when you have the energy for them, but is also a kind of faith that you will still be needing that next meal, that you will still be living this life, that you are managing. It fends off the feeling of helplessness and depression that can fall on older people when they start to lose the ability to keep up with the daily round.

And perhaps he will come to see that the daily round itself has dignity and importance, and that domestic concerns, keeping other people fed and clean and comfortable is in fact an occupation and a proper activity. He speaks harshly of men who disparage women and their lives, yet he seems to be doing something very similar here, where, in that society, the tasks he refers to are mostly those assigned to women.

His own life partner is half his age, though, and maybe that relieves him of ever having to turn to and organize the dishes!

This is in fact a wonderful book, full of amazing insights and references to the life of the WW2 and later era in northern England, and astute observations of social rules, the ones that exist and the ones people insert into their own lives.

Not being an aficionado of theater, I can't help wishing he'd written more novels and bios, and fewer plays!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Ching and the New Year

Happy New Year to all of us! and I hope this year will be full of whatever good stuff we're hoping for. HP and I are happy to have survived the last one, and looking forward to more time together. Quiet New Year's Eve, since HP fell asleep even before I'd got the fire stoked up and burning merrily, so I sat by it, reading E.F.Benson, and eating cheese and crackers with a nice little glass of wine. Both of us safe and well, what more could you ask?

The thing that's missing for me at the moment is a spiritual practice, since the labyrinth, which I get to occasionally, is under several feet of snow and will be for some time. So I've reverted to throwing the I Ching.

I found a nice unused notebook, one of my libe booksale acquisitions, and I'm throwing each day, recording the throw, and studying the results in my I Ching book. I did a practice throw yesterday, and came out with the very first hexagram of the lot, what are the odds.

But today's throw yielded number 52, kan

and the text from the guide tells me:

When one's resting is like that of the back, and he loses all consciousness of self, when he walks in his courtyard, and does not see any of the persons in it, there will be no error.

It goes on to analyze each line of the hexagram which I won't bother you with, but it's amazingly good to think about, the hexagram meaning being very much like yoga in the sense of relaxation of parts of the body while the mind is very alert.

Next I'll think on this a while and see what application and advice it might contain, because it changes as you think about it. The I Ching is the Book of Changes, and is endlessly interesting to think about. It certainly rings true to me to fail to notice people when I'm walking and thinking.

I took one piece of advice already: it's about simplicity and directness of action, so I tore apart the book, which I've had, and struggled with, for years and years, originally published in the mid 1880s and very verbose, badly organized, and really hard to find what you need to study.

So I got brave and I just took out the bits that reminded me how to actually do it and how to translate the three coins into the hexagrams, and then where to find the interpretation. The rest of it is no doubt of interest to people deep into the Chinese language and the history of philosophy, but not exactly to my immediate needs.

And in any case, shoving all the extra thoughts, and random walks, and footnotes in before actually getting to the hexagrams is somewhat like the practice of computer system writers who compose a two hundred page manual on their system, how to adapt and fit it to your needs, and get to page 57 before telling you where the on switch is.

First time I ever broke up a book, which is some sort of first, I guess. But this one was getting between me and my practice, so I guess I had a special leading to tear it out of the way. Slashing through the briars with my trusty metaphorical Chinese fighting sword.

Anyway, I plan on doing this daily for a month, not unlike the year I cut out my newspaper horoscope every day for a month, and made notes the next day on how much of it, if any, corresponded to my life that day! that was great fun, and constituted a short term journal. But the I Ching is a bit more serious.

Except that when I do the throwing and setting up of my page for the day, I'm cracking up laughing because I feel exactly like a character in E.F.Benson. I can just see Lucia instantly starting to lecture everyone, cribbing from the section of the book I discarded, and Georgie getting all excited and waving his bibelots about in search of a nice little notebook, with an embroidered cover, and Diva wondering if it's about gambling and if so can she afford to throw, and Miss Mapp saying, oh, I've been doing that for YEARS....and the Wyses instructing Figgis not to admit anyone to the house while the Daily Throwing is happening..

Comic relief insists on breaking in. There's an order of religious in the Catholic church one of whose first requirements of the initiated is: First be Joyful! that would suit me just fine.