Fir-Sprig Doormat

11 November 2002

Happy Veterans' Day!

I had a good afternoon yesterday, working at the Prolific Oven in Palo Alto. Goooood coffee. Almost as good as M. Coffee down in Half Moon Bay. I coveted the éclairs but didn't order one, so I can't testify to the bakery skills. Anyway, I sat and read the Kalevala and worked. And some parts of the Kalevala were just hysterical to me. There's this bit where Väinämöinen was trying to figure out where to get charms to make his ship sail well:
"He ponders, reflects where he might get magic words,
find precious charms: 'Would it be from the pates of swallows,
from the line of flight of a flock of swans or from the shoulders of a skein of geese?'"
Awww. Isn't that nice? The pretty birdies.
"He set out to get the magic words. He destroyed a flock of swans,
killed off a skein of geese, swallows in countless numbers.
He did not get a charm at all, not a charm, not half a charm.
He ponders, reflects --" Well, I should think he would, after he killed off all those birds for nothing! "--'There might be a hundred charms
under the tongue of a reindeer in its summer vigor, in the mouth of a white squirrel.'
He sets out to get charms, to get magic words.
He cut open a whole pastureful of reindeer, a big branchful of squirrels;
from this he got a lot of charms, all of no help."
Errrrr. I just have this great (and gruesome) mental image of Väinämöinen sitting around with a couple of piles of reindeer tongues and squirrel tongues, turning things into stone and making them turn blue and sing yoik and performing other boat-useless magics, growing more and more frustrated with each tongue.

Does that make me a sick person? Oh, possibly. The rest of them aren't nearly so yucky. There's the advice to a young woman getting married, that's pretty good:
"At home you were like a flower, a delight in your father's farmyard;
your father called you 'Moonlight,' your mother 'Sunbeam,'
your brother 'Gleam of Water,' your sister 'Blue Broadcloth.'
You are going to another farm, to be under a strange mother,
the strange mother unlike your mother, the other woman unlike the one who bore you.
Seldom did the strange one reprimand nicely, seldom give instruction properly;
The father-in-law will call you 'Fir-sprig Doormat,' the mother-in-law call you 'Clumsy Lappish Reindeer Sled,'
the brother-in-law 'Threshold of the Outer Stairs,' the sister-in-law will call you 'Worst of Women.'"
Now, I'm telling you, my daddy called me "Sunshine" and "Moonshine" all the time when I was little, but never once has Dan or Matt called me "Threshold of the Outer Stairs." Maybe they've just been waiting for the right moment.

Clumsy Lappish Reindeer Sled! I'm sorry, I just don't care how mad you get at someone, there's just no call for that kind of insult.

There's also a lovely bit about how you have to pick the baby up and put it out of the way before you dump the wash water down to wash the floor, even if it's your sister-in-law's baby. But my favorite is about how self-sufficient Kullervo's mother was:
"In days gone by my mother did not seek advice from neighbors,
know-how from another farm; she got her milk from hell."
No, that's not a mistranslation. The rest of the passage is about how the woman went to hell to get her milk every single night rather than asking her neighbors how to milk.

Well, she wouldn't want them to think she was a chatterbox, I suppose.

Anyway, I found many things that were more directly useful for this book, the NTMB, The Long Night maybe? It seems kind of bland, but Timprov's suggestion, The Long Night of the Vacuum Tubes, is not working for me in ways I'm having a hard time identifying. Seems too horror-movie-ish, I think. But I've been provisionally calling the sequel Midnight Sun Rising, which I actually kind of like. So I maybe do want to do something with the Long Night for this one. Anyway, I also found some good stuff for the sequel and the prequel as well. (If it counts as a prequel when it shares none of the characters and doesn't have much to do with the plot arc.) And for another new short story. (Because that's what I need! More stories!) And I wrote several scenes, and it was good. Oh, and I read the comics page, because they didn't deliver our replacement copy until this morning. Ah well.

I also read Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (not the Avi in my writing group, the Avi who writes children's books under only "Avi"). I was disappointed in it. It could have been so much better than it was. But it seemed instead to be a textbook example of being dishonest to children in a book. Yarg. I also read some of the cheerful volume Smuggled Chinese: Clandestine Immigration to the United States. Hurrah, what a chipper book. I get more of it today, and more of the over-the-top melodrama that is Jenn Crowell's Necessary Madness. Someone recommended a different Jenn Crowell book (I have who and what written down on my library list), but it wasn't on the shelf and this one was. Hmm. Not sure the substitution was worthwhile. Anyway, lots of death and pathos here.

I really wish my brain would grow up enough not to go, "Hee hee! The musketeer!" every time I wrote the word "pathos." Hear that, brain? Grow up!

I'm in that weird state where I want to see people but don't want to see people. No, not California, silly people. (Silly brain.) A state of mind. And it's not even that I want to see people in general but not in specific, or vice versa. I want to see people in general, but I don't. I think of people who are out here and think, "Oh, yes, I should write to _____ and see when [pronoun] is free!" And then I think, "Oh, no I shouldn't." Part of it is that I'm a lot more concerned with Mark's schedule than I have been -- he's spending a lot of time not just working but at work, so I want to be home when he's home. But that's not most of it, because he is spending a lot of time at work, and I could try to schedule around it. Some of it is just social ambivalence right now. And some of it is that I'm pretty overwhelmed by books just now, and I feel like I should be working on them all the time. So. I don't know. If someone e-mailed me and said, hey, let's get together, are you free at such-and-such a time, I'd be a lot more likely to say sure. But the combination of above factors means that I haven't been e-mailing people myself.

Well, it'll work itself out, I suppose, or it won't.

The house still needs most of the cleaning stuff. Most of the books I've borrowed from one source or another still need to be read. I have books that need writing, too. Clothes need to be sorted and washed and dried and folded and sorted again. Some days I wake up seeing the world as a to do list. Makes it less satisfying when I remove some items from the list, because there are, always and automatically, more. Because I've thought of more in the time it takes to write this paragraph. So I need to slow down, take a breath, and do it a bit at a time. One thing at a time, or a few things. Yes. Right. Well, then.

Back to Morphism.

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Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.