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!