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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Since last I wrote

It's been a long time since I made an entry here. Several ideas have drifted by and faded into the collective morass of abandoned possibilities we call yesterday. Much has happened since last I wrote. To begin with, we have a new...


The Pope's nose
My family members have long been followers of all things Papal, beginning (in my experience at least) with Pope Pius XII. My memories of him coincide with my Protestant and highly anti-Catholic grandfather who always referred to the nether regions of a turkey as "the Pope's nose." This epithet  made my parents uncomfortable and did little for my piety during formative years. It may, in part, explain my eventual separation from Holy Mother Church.

Consequent with my own life, a sequence of popes has reminded me that we never really left the Dark Ages.  Jolly John XXIII wrought havoc with the Latin Mass. Dour Paul VI brought us back in line. The abbreviated reign of John Paul I prompted one of my favorite questions from a precocious child: Pope dead again? John Paul II was both flashy and saintly, a tough customer who looked the leader. (J-P I looked like a clerk). Benedict, our new Pope emeritus,  looks guilty, as befits a former member of Hitler Youth. And Pope Francis? Interesting.

I wonder about Francis a lot. Will he miss the land of the tango? The sultry nights full of animal cries, barking dogs and sirens? Almost certainly he will miss his little apartment, anonymous rides on the bus, and perhaps even the Coriolis Effect. I picture him in his new digs, waiting impatiently for everyone to leave at the end of his first day so he could look in the closets and drawers. There he undoubtedly discovered his new papal duds-- all embroidered with the papal seal. Almost like going to parochial school and having to wear a uniform...hmmmm. I know he's conservative, but he is such a Bilbo Baggins type and has already offended fundamentalists that I have decided to like him, for now.


Observant readers will recall that I visited Brazil last year so that my husband and I could attend to the business of his late mother's estate. The cargo ship wended its way through the Panama Canal and arrived in January. Since then I have been spending much of my time finding places for, researching and generally shifting around the contents of 181 boxes and 500 cubic feet of furniture. Now...

I live in a museum!
Display cabinet with portrait miniatures
Pitching a TV series on the life I live now would include the sell line: Antiques Roadshow meets Hoarders. Honestly, I cannot get from the kitchen to the living room without having to side-step stacks of engravings, rolled carpets, Victorian curiosities and even four enormous cupboards circa 1600. Jose comes from a family of diplomats who travelled all over and collected whatever they liked: portrait miniatures (what rich people had before photographs), china (there are no sets with fewer than 20 place-settings), hat pins, books, snuff boxes, figurines, and unidentifiable Hindu gods in bronze.

Yamantaka? Anyone?

This is a delightful burden, but a burden nonetheless. At my best, I am a very bad organizer and very good procrastinator, a perilous combination. My housekeeping has always been "casual" and my tolerance for states of flux admirable. I need help. Help!


So, how do I survive? As ever: avoidance. Summer has brought the summer to-do list in the garden, but when I am avoiding that, I write instead.


High Spirits at Harroweby,
my Regency ghost story
I began this blog to help me overcome writer's block so I could work on my novels. Lately, I've had blogger's block, so I've had to work on my novels.  Ironic, isn't it?

I wrote five romance novels in the 1990s, short Austen-esque comedies of manners set in Regency England. They went out of print, rights reverted,  and I've finally gotten most of them up on Amazon. The interesting thing is that in the last 3 weeks they've sold better than they did in a traditional venue and I am finally earning something from them. Maybe I should abandon the mystery novel I've been working on and go back to the early 19th century. I have the furniture to go with it. 

and Teaching Writing...

I thought I was taking this term off, but about a week ago I got a call asking if I could take over for a staff member diagnosed with cancer. I could and did, and it has been a wild ride taking over with five sessions left before the end of the term and 50 students who had not yet received a paper back from their instructor. She was too sick. I was left with about 300 pages of partially marked work and the assignments were badly at odds with anything I would have done. Different philosophies are necessary in schools, of course, but I wish there had been a closer match. We are all working hard, reaching up to touch the ground. Let's hope we all come out the other end enlightened in some way.

But overshadowing all of this...

I write above about distractions from what has really been going on.

Our darling Irish Wolfhound, Silver, passed away two weeks ago after walking a long declining path. He's been my best friend for eight years--smart, funny, charming and demanding. It broke our hearts to see this big strong boy weaken with pain, stop eating, and finally have to be lifted into the taxi-van (I can't say enough about these good people) that took him to the vet. 
Where is my hero, my heart, my hound?
Where does he prance, my bright pawed darling?
In the fields where rabbits run, and roses are always blooming.

I was prepared for Silver's dying, but not for his being gone.  It's one thing to see the end of his suffering. As a student reminded me, putting a pet down is the final act of love. But Silver started and ended our days. He woke us in the morning, alerted us to strangers, oversaw cooking and eating, and, peeking around corners, grinned at us from doorways when he wanted a treat. 

I look for him everywhere, but all I can see is absence, in the shape of a dog.