October 06, 2004

Traipsed down to Portland last weekend; Grandpa is 83. Dinner came to a sudden end, all of us stampeding for the door when my cousin's husband received a phone call.

The information was inaccurate at best; the mountain wasn't erupting. Ian and I had stopped to see Mount St. Helens on our way south. The mountain seemed smug. . . All these people lining the highway, waiting for it to perform, and it refusing to step on stage. Not even a whisper of steam. The clear spots along the road were populated by lawn chairs, tripods, cameras, telescopes. Small children tearing around, then running to a parent: "Daddy, Daddy, when is the mountain going to blow up?" I'd expect this sort of behavior for an eclipse, not for mountain with indigestion and a poor sense of timing.

St. Helens refused to do anything more than quake while we were nearby. Monday, it vented steam and minor gases. It would wait until we were 150 miles away. The Hawaiian volcanoes weren't showing off when we were local to them, either. I seem to be fated to watch these events at the USGS website.

Not that I wish for destruction, just that an eruption would be cool. Interesting. It's always a good thing to remind the humans that all is not under control, it can never be under control. We are small lives in a system that doesn't need us as much as we need it.

September 30, 2004

This is my first complete deciduous autumn (we arrived in the middle of fall, after the leaves had begun to turn, when we were in Germany). The hawthorn trees in our front yard are whispering secrets, chattering softly to each other as their leaves flutter down, patchwork on the lawn. The berries linger, outlining the limbs in a fierce red. Every few days, an army of small birds moves in, trilling to the dying year.

I have a vague memory of a comic strip: something startles a tree, and it drops all of its leaves at once. My redwoods growing up never did that, being imperturbable evergreens and all. The hawthornes don't seem to be startled, instead letting their leaves drift away like dreams. The cherries haven't even started to turn yet. What would startle a cherry tree? Or will they slip softly into winter's slumber, dragging the last leaves like a child with a favorite blanket?

September 22, 2004

As I told Jay, yes, yes, I know. It's not March anymore. And it's not like nothing's happened in the last six months, either. We've left Kauai, moved to Seattle (yes, moved, as in all our stuff out of storage - finally, all our earthly possessions are in one state, if not the same address), been involved in two weddings, made our first experiments in growing tomatoes, and otherwise returned to a life not on hiatus.

Upheaval does tend to upset whatever vague notions of routine I once had. I'm out of habit, in many things, and struggling to rediscover my rhythm. I've not written anything more than shopping and to-do lists. I'm not doing yoga, somehow unable to find the right time between stuffed and starving to hang upside down. I've even not yet figured out how to get up at the same time every day.

So, maybe if I just start at something, I'll find the pattern for the rest of it.

Of course, the one thing I have not let slide is my compulsive reading. But I've not kept track of the books very well. For anyone who's interested:

  • Cryptonomicron (Wow)

  • War of the Flowers (portable Tad Williams; big themes dressed in fantasy)

  • In the Forests of Serre and Ombria in Shadow (Patricia McKillip is so addictive)

  • Random Family (important - read it if you haven't)

  • See No Evil (what's wrong with the CIA, from the inside)

  • The Coming Global Superstorm (the source for the much-debated science in The Day After Tomorrow)

  • Ammonite (according to the author, written to answer the question "Are women human?")

  • Girlfriend in a Coma (yawn)

  • Under the Banner of Heaven (part of my attempt to understand the religious right, not that they are the focus of this review of Mormon history, fundamentalism, polygamy and murder)

  • Covenants (surprisingly good and refreshingly straightforward; I'm waiting for more from this author)

  • The Mists of Avalon (a gift from my aunt because I'd never read it)

  • Girl with a Pearl Earing and The Virgin Blue (both highly evocative)

It's probably not a terribly complete list, but there it is. I'm working my way through Guns, Germs, and Steel (big picture world history) at the moment. . .

March 14, 2004

Recent happenings...

Just finished re-reading Patrick O'Leary's The Gift, quite possibly my most favorite book...

Still trying to decide what to say about Barbara Kingsolver's latest essay collection, Small Wonder. She says everything I wish I could say, and better than I could hope to...

The pictures from our excursion to the National Botanical Garden are back, and I have lots to upload if only I could find the time...

Finally made it out to Tunnels. I found it less then it's cracked up to be since I spent all my time fighting a current and seeing nothing. Ian, on the other hand, saw a reef shark...

Gave up reading I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down. While excellently written, it's enormously depressing. All of the characters are the down-and-out sort who have never had a break, and the stories seem to find them as they are reaching the end of their ropes...

Have begun the packing and shipping process for our return to the mainland. I find I am blindly optimistic, despite everything I know about life and reality, that this move is exactly what is necessary. That on the other side of it I will find creativity, productivity, stability, balance, good habits, less stress. Sometimes naivete is a blessing...

March 02, 2004

Welcome to March. Our time in Kauai runs thin. . .

Detoured to the beach on the way to meet some of Ian's teammates for dinner last week. We were early, and my Monday had been a Monday and Tuesday all rolled together. Spending time with the ocean is therapy for crazy days. (How do people who live in Kansas manage??) We waded into the surf a short ways before being distracted by a dark shape in the waves breaking on the reef edge. Patience revealed the shape to be two sea turtles swimming close to shore, surfing down the backwash, finding dinner in the sea-salad growing on the reef edge. We watched them through the water, which sometimes became so shallow that shells and flippers broke the surface. The turtles mostly ignored the humans; the humans stared, slackjawed and grinning like idiots. We were late to dinner.

(This turtle was not one of those we saw that evening, or at least this picture was taken a week earlier. Ian found this turtle and trumpet fish pair engaged in synchronized swimming while we were snorkeling at Poipu.)

February 27, 2004

I sat up last night waiting for the thunder. Like the meteorologists' predictions of floods and high winds, it had teased us all day, the sound rolling on and on just on the edge of hearing, but never quite living up to the hype. The night proved to be mostly about the rain coming in waves, like the wind, building, fading, building, fading. Of course, the interesting weather always happens at night. I wish for cat's-eyes, to see in the dark.

Even without them, though, Jupiter is amazingly bright right now, at least on less stormy nights. We went for a little star watching the other night and found the planet the brightest thing in the sky. I know it's large; still I expected the distance would have made it blend in more with the thick spangled stars. Afterward, we walked on the beach, kicking the sand forward. When it landed, it glittered with tiny specks of blue, scattered luminescence fading in our wake, fallen stars flickering and forgotten and gone.

February 23, 2004

When I was a kid, our local paper occasionally ran stories a kid a few years older than myself. He was attending college at 14 because his father believed he was a genius. It seems strange that it was news. We get all excited about teenagers who have stepped outside the cookie cutter conveyor belt of youth culture and public school.

The bookstores are making a big deal right now about a book called Eragon, prominently displaying it in large stacks at the front of the store. The reason for the fuss appears to be that the author is nineteen. And certainly, a several hundred page hardback novel is an accomplishment, at 19 or any other age. But I think I will give this author 10 years to mature before I read anything else of his. Eragon has an ambitious story, if derivative, but the prose is wildly, vividly purple. The action and drama bog down so the scenery can be described. The author relies overmuch on -ly words and his thesaurus, submerging the power of his story in excess verbage.

There is potential here. This young man will be good, given time, experience, and an editor who will do more than correct his use of commas.

February 19, 2004

My name is Christina, and I'm a workaholic.

I have this overwhelming sense of responsibility to my to-do list, and just about everything else seems to suffer because of it. It took two hours of enforced rock-sitting at the beach yesterday afternoon before I could mentally unplug enough to take the evening off. At the risk of stating the obvious, my work/life balance must be off if work things are demanding this much of my mental energy. The Rich Dad author was talking about personal finance, but "Pay yourself first" applies to most other parts of life. The challenge, of course, is determining which parts of a life are the walnuts and which part is the rice.

However, if we hadn't spent the afternoon sitting on rocks at the beach, we would have missed the whales. We saw a few spouting at Poipu late last week, but yesterday was all drama. They were far away, just before the horizon, and we don't have any binoculars, but the display was still impressive. Multiple breachings, vigorous tale slappings, enormous splashes. We can now add whales to our list of sea creatures observed in Hawaii: sea turtles, reef fish, eel, octopus, monk seal, whales.

February 18, 2004

We visited the McBryde Garden of the National Tropical Botanical Garden with Robert and Jo last week. Took lots of pictures; hopefully some of them will find their way to the gallery.

The plants were lovely, naturally, but I found myself somewhat annoyed by the self-guided tour pamphlets' constant reminders of how rare and endangered the garden's plants are. It seems the precious status of the plants in a botanical garden would be a given, since there's probably a reason these specific plants are receiving that degree of care. No one puts dandilions in a botanical garden. Surely, there is more diverse and interesting information one could say about these plants then just, "This plant is endangered. There are four known individuals, and three of them live in botanical gardens."

I find I think a lot about gardens these days, the practical sort with vegetables and herbs and an apple tree. In assembling dinner, I wonder about growing grains and beans and if I could kill a goat for meat if I needed to. I wonder about finding the time to learn to put up summer's bounty for winter. It seems more than a curiosity, almost a mandate, and I wonder what that means.

February 16, 2004

Watched The Order last night. Very disappointing. Convoluted plot changes direction part way through. The movie ends with too many unanswered questions, and they are not the kind that thought or repeated viewings will illuminate. In short, the movie suffers because the writer was the director, and they both forgot they were not the complete audience.

February 14, 2004

Enormously full week; feeling overwhelmed and more than a little behind.

We watched an orange moon rise out of the sea one evening, five days past full, a ship on fire behind the streaming clouds, sailing for Valhalla. We sat on the beach, watching the path of light between us and the moon waver and ripple on the restless ocean. At first, the way was marked only by flashes of darkened gold on the black water, but gradually it became a highway dappled with shadows, wide enough for a tin man, a scarecrow, and a lion to walk with me. Reality kept me on the beach, pinning me down with the details of my to-do list, smothering my desire to walk to the moon with long words about water density and inaccessibility. Still, I want to travel that gently rippling road, all silver light and the heady scent of jasmine. I want to hear "the mermaids singing, each to each," a counterpoint to the crystal soprano of the stars.

In other, more mundane matters, I've recently read Deprivers. Something has shifted in the electrochemical composition of some humans, rendering them unable to touch another person for fear of depriving that person of sight, sound, speech, balance, direction, consciousness. Interesting premise, with fairly obvious social commentary. However, at 350 pages the book feels incomplete; it is the story of the beginning and end of the Depriver phenomenon but skips the middle. I might have found it a stronger book if it had followed a smaller cast of characters more closely through the entire experience.

February 02, 2004

More pictures of fish. Ian has discovered underwater photography, frequently shooting entire rolls in a single snorkeling expedition. He was the last one out of the water yesterday at Queen's Bath; the vacationers we met there wondered why he was taking so long. "He really likes the water, doesn't he?" "Yes, but he won't come out till he's finished shooting his roll of film." "He's got a camera?"

Recently finished reading Rose Daughter, Robin McKinley's second retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The entire book is a celebration of the magic of growing roses, and reading it is much like spending a drowsy afternoon in the lushest rose garden imaginable.

And something completely different: Topic Of Night. I'm always surprised when I find thrillers I enjoy. I've never been terribly fond of the typical mystery novel; I don't like feeling stupid when I can't figure out whodunit (besides, it often seems the sleuths in the story have some last clue that enables them to solve the crime but which is never shared with the reader). But like in The DaVinci Code, its never a mystery who is committing the crimes. It's why he is committing them that creates the puzzle that keeps one reading.

And like The DaVinci Code, Topic Of Night gave me new thoughts to think. Like how little we westerners know of African history and culture. And how the mind and spirit are essentially still well-wrapped unknowns to us despite all our studies. We are such products of rationalism and industrialism. It's not real unless I can replicate it, explain it with long words but without mumbo-jumbo, and give it a complicated name the pharmaceutical companies will love.

I saw a wood fairy once, peaking at me from behind a fern in a forest grove. I could say it was just dust motes shining in a sunbeam, but that version of the story makes my life poorer. I have to believe there's more magic and mystery to life than that.

Speaking of magic and mystery, Happy 80th Birthday to my grandmother today!

January 22, 2004

This morning, the sky gods played Kegel above the house. They took flash pictures of the tournament but did not cheer when the pins fell. I listened to the rumbling of the ball down wooden lanes and the clatter of pins but never knew who was winning.

The rain, which always seems to accompany sky god gatherings, began early, woke me up. Now, the storm is fading, like they always do after sunrise; the rain has slowed to a sprinkling, and the feral chickens have begun crowing in some desperate attempt to catch up on the day's crowing quota.

By the way, there are new images in the photography section.

Recently finished two books that both managed to elude adequate summaries. Eva Moves The Furniture is a kind of ghost story, a description that hardly does it justice. Many thanks to Celeste and Jay for their Abundance Day gift of Girl With A Pearl Earing, something I might not have picked up on my own. Both books are luminous, and they linger in the mind after the reading is done, like the scent of fine chocolate.

January 18, 2004

Enjoyed my best snorkel experience ever yesterday. I may have finally got some of this breathing-while-keeping-my-face-in-the-water thing figured out; I spent more time exploring than panicking. Saw Moorish idols, threadfin and several other types of butterflyfish, a Christmas wrasse (he's green and red), a few humuhumunukunukuapua'a, and a whole number of other fish I don't have names for. Small convict tangs often appeared right underneath me, and I swam through schools of trumpet fresh, quick and silver streaks just under the glittering surface.

I may have discovered why tropical islands are such vacation destinations: They are not real. When you truly experience a tropical island, the soft sand, the warm water so many new shades of blue, the palm trees whispering to each other, the sunsets turning the whole sky purple before a final climactic crescendo, you have stepped into an alternate world. Wherever you came from just slips away without your notice, and when you finally do realize it's gone, you're not even sure what it was.

January 16, 2004

Finished reading The Merlin Conspiracy. A ragtag group of kids out to save a multiverse from a power-mad divorcee and a religious fanatic. Along the way there are many adventures including salamanders, an elephant, alternate earth-histories and an appearance by King Arthur. Light, fun, and thoroughly engaging.

My copy of the book is an advance reader's copy which I acquired when the GM of the bookstore where I used to work cleaned out her office. I remember her saying once that she loved to read young adult books but that she can't stand children. Maybe children are better when they're only fictional?

The backyard is a wreck, completely covered with leaves. One of the banana trees has fallen over, and the satellite dish can't find its signal. Wednesday arrived with an impressive storm: lightning, rain, and wind gusts up to 70 m.p.h. It blew itself out by 9:00 a.m., leaving arched over the mountains the brightest double rainbow I've ever seen.

January 13, 2004

Our first guests! Everyone promised they would come visit while we were island-living, but the prize goes to Otis and Vincent for actually following through. The official reason for the trip is additional editing on their short, "What If In This Life," but there has been more river-walking, waterfall-climbing, snorkeling and cow-pasture hiking than editing. We did an in-depth island-explore on Saturday, starting with snorkeling on the South Shore in the morning and watching the sunset from the North Shore. While snorkeling, we found a sea turtle snoozing next to a rock on the sea floor. Disturbed by the hovering snorkelers, he pushed away from the rock - elegant, beautiful underwater flight, so much more in his element than us floundering humans with our long skinny limbs and our faces smashed into plastic goggles. The turtle waved his flippers over his face like a sleeping child and winged his way to deeper seas.

Finished The Rainbow Singer yesterday. Not exactly thrilled with it. The narrator consistently denies responsibility for his actions, blaming his parents, society, religion and psychology for his hate. And while those certainly contributed, there was still a choice. But maybe I just don't understand what it's like to be a 14 year-old boy. . .

January 08, 2004

At sunset yesterday, the rain began, slightly more determined than a mist. The sun passed a space in the clouds, turning the west briefly to gold before fading to a dull orange. At the beach, facing east, we stood on soft sand in darkening water under solid-seeming clouds. We watched the rain streaking the skies as it fell above the horizon. Then, just as we were leaving, a small gap in the clouds appeared, revealing moonrise. Just a day past full, she reflected the sun's fading rays, appearing almost made of brass. She lit the clouds around her and painted a path of yellow light upon the restless sea.

I have either seen the beginning of the end of the world or have witnessed (and received) a blessing for this new year.

January 07, 2004

I have discovered a severe dislike for cockroaches. Smug creatures. The few I found walking late night sidewalks in L.A. were disconcerting but manageable if I stepped wide around them. Here, when we find one in the house, I am reduced to telling Ian, "Eeeww," and standing a safe distance apart while he catches it with a paper towel and relocates it to the garbage can outside. The reaction is uncomfortably close to that of delicate movie ladies who scream, jump on chairs and hyperventilate when they see a mouse. This parallel may be part of my dislike; it's embarrassing to screech at vermin.

Unrelated to these ramblings:one of my Random Thoughts has been discovered by another online writer and quoted extensively in one of her recent articles. Winged Migration is beautiful and highly recommended. Underworld is amusing if derivative and a poor substitute for Bitten.