Friday, March 31, 2006

Compare and Contrast

Here's the text of the Fay Inchfawn poem, if you'd like to compare it to the Nagys one:

Early Spring

Quick through the gates of Fairyland
The South Wind forced his way.
'Twas his to make the Earth forget
Her grief of yesterday.
"'Tis mine," cried he, "to bring her joy!"
And on his lightsome feet
In haste he slung the snowdrop bells,
Pushed past the Fairy sentinels,
And out with laughter sweet.

Clear flames of Crocus glimmered on
The shining way he went.
He whispered to the trees strange tales
Of wondrous sweet intent,
When, suddenly, his witching voice
With timbre rich and rare,
Rang through the woodlands till it cleft
Earth's silent solitudes, and left
A Dream of Roses there!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

More Springtime Poetry

As part of a cross-training "job enrichment" program, I spend a couple hours a week at another library's reference desk. I've been working my way through their training modules. Each module ends with a quiz. I'm finally to the ones that deal more with the library's collections, as opposed to proper reference desk etiquette and our libraries' policies in general. I zoomed through those earlier ones (having had most of those things drummed into my head years ago), but these later modules take longer to do. The questions are getting tougher.

The first question on this week's quiz sent me on a 2-hour snipe hunt before I finally gave up in disgust. Either I'm missing something, or the point of the exercise is that you can't find everything all the time. If it's the latter, the librarian in charge of instruction is a sadist.

I was trying to find a poem by Henrikas Nagys. Mr. Nagys was from Lithuania, and partway through his career he pulled up stakes and moved to Montreal. I couldn't find anything on Lithuanian poets, and the book I found on Canadian ones mentioned him but didn't say much more than I just did. The question I was working on gave the poem's title or first line in English and was supposed to have been written "sometime in the 80s or 90s." Our library doesn't own anything by him, and when I went looking in other libraries' catalogs, the only writings I could find by him were in Lithuanian, which I can't speak or read. Welcome to my world.

Later, on my own time, I Googled him (the quiz discouraged the use of Google. I was supposed to use only library resources) and found some more information and a few of his poems (translated, thank goodness), though not the one I was looking for.

One in particular has been rolling round in my head all day. Reading it, I kept thinking of the poem I made reference to last time by Fay Inchfawn. Nagys' arrival of spring is much wilder:

Restless forests keep muttering in sleep.
Hot heavy breathing makes the windmill wings tremble.
The eyes of a blue moon shine in the gloom.

At night, a shrill savage laughter resounds throughout the woods.
Clouds bend and sway the pinetops.
Then the wakened waters pounce and are swallowed in gorges.

Rivers embracing the shattered ice carry it off to sea.
Stifling reverberations of thunder echo along the horizon.
A long lightning flare lifts the sky open.

The muddy fields are covered in a morning rain.
People stand bareheaded on the waking earth.
Far off, with night outdistanced, the forests heave an easy sigh.

Translated by Vyt Bakaitis
Same topic, completely different mood.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Footprints of the South Wind

A friend of mine reads for Librivox. Ever heard of it? I hadn't until recently. Volunteers take literature from the public domain, read it aloud, record those readings as mp3 files and ogg's (I think that's the iPod version), and put them on the Internet for anyone to listen to and/or download. Like books on tape, only...not on tape, and not just books.

My friend's been taking part in weekly short poetry readings, and the last one was of a poem called "Early Spring." The South Wind, personified, is doing his best to cheer and warm the Earth. There's a line in it that dovetails nicely with a photo I got yesterday on my way to the bus top:

"Clear flames of Crocus glimmered on
The shining way he went."

Ah, yes. The crocuses are blooming. Maybe now the daffodils will loosen up a little. There are plenty of them about, but not one one them has opened.

Please do go visit Librivox. There's lots of good stuff there.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

How Dancing Is Going, Among Other Things

My belly dance class doesn't meet this week--our instructor is off being taught, herself. She's at a workshop in D.C. for a few days. We also have Easter Sunday off. That's a relief. Pretty sure I'd be in the dog house if I skipped Easter weekend with the parents for a lesson in butt-shaking. I'll probably spend the time I'd normally be at class today by practicing what we've been taught so far: the stance, cross-step touch, pelvic lock, and steps on the down -- affectionately renamed by me "that butt-clench thing."

This last one involves moving your hip down when you take a step, which is against what your body wants to do. In order to do it, you have to clench the opposite side of your buttocks -- this moves the hip up on that side and forces down the hip of the walking leg. So it's step right/clench left, step left/clench right. You waddle. We have been assured that the waddling thing doesn't matter, because when you're in costume no one will see it. The skirt covers your knees and feet. The image of me in costume filled me with mingled terror and amusement, set me giggling, and made it that much harder to concentrate on what my body was doing. I swear, I have spent more time thinking about my hips and bottom the past few weeks than I have ever done the whole rest of my life.

I think I've decided it's time to go buy a coin scarf. I've only had two lessons, but I'm pretty sure this activity is a keeper. I also think I need to join a gym again. I need better muscle control than I have. I also need more exercise. Once a week isn't nearly enough.

In other news, I got an email this week from one of my old college roommates. She's going to be in town the first week of April, and wants to know if I want to get together. Well, yeah! I haven't seen her since before she had kids. She has three now. At least, the last time I heard from her there were three. There may be more by now. We haven't corresponded for a while. Last time I tried, my email message bounced. Apparently she switched providers and forgot to tell me.

My sister and her hubby are busily packing their possessions into boxes, prepatory to moving into their new house. They've gone in on a large one with his parents. There are in-law quarters, so the households don't have to worry about tripping over each other. And my sister and her mother-in-law get along very well. Though the cynical voice in the back of my head wonders how long that will last with everyone under the same roof.

I should probably think of a name for my sister instead of calling her "my sister" all the time, shouldn't I? Gets a little tedious otherwise. How's this: When my mom and my aunt were growing up, my aunt (who was 7 years younger than Mom) used to call Mom "ditter" instead of "sister." It's become family slang. So my sister's name in this blog is now officially "Ditter." There.

While I'm thinking of it, here's another couple of pieces of family slang: napkins (serviettes, to some Europeans) are called "nakips," because that's what my cousin Doug used to call them. And that high-pitched noise you hear in one ear when there's a pressure change occurring? "Tuning in Mars." No ideas about that origin.

So anyway. Ditter said when she called our parents and told them the bid was accepted on the house, Dad broke down and cried. He was in the background shouting "I'm happy!" while Mom was telling Ditter what was going on. The big softie. It took years for us to figure out that when we gave him presents or Valentine's Day cards or things like that, he got all gruff and grumpy because he didn't want to cry. Now he might as well do it. We're onto him.

A note to anyone who was here earlier--I thought better of what I'd written ahead of the belly dance report. It made me a little too identifiable, and certain opinions were hinted at that are probably best kept to myself. Paranoid? Youbetcha.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Flickr Toys

Had a meeting this afternoon that just sucked the life out of me. For an hour and a quarter we had the conversational version of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Sigh. If I hear the word "dialogue" used as a verb one more time, someone's going to get hurt.

To cheer myself up, I decided to take up the challenge that Anna posted over at Self-Winding. I made this magazine cover using a picture of my parents' dog and fd's Flickr Toys. You can make movie posters, calendars, mosaics, all sorts of neat stuff. Go play with 'em. They're fun.

Monday, March 20, 2006


The New Chinatown Restaurant has closed. I found this out this evening when I went down there for dinner after work. There was a sign on the door thanking everyone for their business, and saying that a place called "College Hots" would be opening up soon in that space.

I'm not sure when it happened. I suspect they closed the Saturday before the university's Spring Break (a little over 2 weeks ago) and then just never opened up again.

I wonder why they closed. I hope it's not due to an illness. I'm pretty sure it was family-run, and if someone got sick it might throw everything into turmoil. Perhaps business just fell off? Dine-in traffic was sparse for the dinner hour, but they did a brisk take-out trade. The phone was always ringing, and a lot of people would pop in to make or pick up orders to go. And the few times I went there for lunch with a friend from work (whose New Chinatown name was "Walnut Chicken," just like mine was "Chicken Broccoli"), the place was busy and full. Often we'd have to wait for a table.

Here's a thought: maybe they'll be running "College Hots" when it opens. Perhaps they noticed (like I did) that we have an awful lot of Chinese restaurants, and decided to try something else.

I guess I'll have to wait and see. In any event, I'll have to find somewhere else to conduct my not-chicken-and-broccoli experiments. I could probably go to the restaurant the next block over. Or to the one in the block after that. Or the one after that...

Friday, March 17, 2006

How on Earth?

I walked around and around this today, looking for signs of a rod or bar or something that keeps this thing standing upright. I can't for the life of me see how it was done. It's part art, part engineering.

Also, since I seem to be in a photographic mood, I wanted to pass this along. I stumbled upon this yesterday as I was hitting the "next blog" button on the Blogger toolbar. It's called Dreaming in Metaphors, and whoever this is behind the camera has a wonderful eye. I've put it on my sidebar under "Photos," but thought I'd point it out as well. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Me Again

Just read this over at defective yeti. Had me laughing 'til I wheezed. I'm never going to be able to look at Michael Corleone the same way again.


I decided to go to bed early last night and read until I couldn't see straight. I got myself all settled, rearranged pillows and blankets a few times until I had them just so. Managed to come to an understanding with the cat about not sitting between me and my book (The Shipping News, in case you're wondering). I was just getting into the story when my cell phone went off. Delilah gave me a dirty look that said, "Are you gonna get that, or what?" Sigh.

By the time I found my bag and fished out the phone, it had stopped ringing. I had a voice mail. It was the paint-your-own pottery place, saying that my project was ready to be picked up. Yippee!

I went and collected it this morning.

I spent most of Saturday afternoon painting a flower pot and its little saucer. I have a bunch of kalanchoe plants in my cubicle, and the littlest one (named "Junior") has grown too big for his pot. I thought perhaps it was time Junior stopped wearing hand-me-downs, so I painted him a new one. Here's what it looks like:

I know the lines are a little on the shaky side, but that's how you tell it's been hand-painted, right? When I go back to work on Monday (*sob*), probably during my lunch break, I'll get Junior set up in his new pot. He's just a wee little thing right now, this will give him plenty of room to move around.

Maybe I'll go back and paint some other ones for the other plants. Don't want them getting jealous. There's a h-u-g-e coffee cup in this store, maybe 2 feet across, it'd be great as a planter for the Mamaplant. As the name suggests, she's the plant from which all my other kalanchoes came. It took a while, but I finally found something I couldn't kill. Now if they would just flower for me once in a while....

Tonight I'm going to embroider and listen to a book on tape of The Return of the Native, as read by Alan Rickman.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Signs of Spring in a College Town

The past few days have been "unseasonably warm," to quote the weather man. Yesterday in particular was absolutely gorgeous--at least 60 degrees (Fahrenheit), sunny, good-smelling, full of birdsong, the whole ball of wax. I spent most of the day outdoors with a book, with a brief interruption for the good-bye lunch of a (now former) co-worker who's moved to another library on campus.

Today it was back to reality. The high temperature for the day was in the forties, and we'd already reached that by 7:30 this morning. It was spitting snow by 3 pm. Ugh.

I'm not depressed, though. I know Spring is almost upon us. The signs of it are everywhere. Yes, there are robins about and the daffodils are threatening to bloom at any moment, but that's not what I mean. There are three very specific things that occur here that I consider harbingers of Spring, and the first one made an appearance today:

  • Dancing Through: We must have an ISKCON temple nearby, but I'm not sure where. Every year at about this time a local group of Hare Krishnas take their drums, cymbals, and flyers and wend their way through the downtown area, singing and dancing all the while. The flyers are invitations to dinner. I should take one sometime, just to find out where they live.
  • Social Unrest: Each Fall, the student body's attention is caught by some sort of social/political issue. Sometimes it's global in flavor (when I went to school here, we were all hot about Apartheid and the fact that the university had investments in companies that did business with South Africa. A few years back it had to do with homelessness and famine), but lately it's been more about the atmosphere on campus: race relations, religious intolerance, free speech, things of that nature. An incident early on in the school year will get everyone talking. The campus newspaper will run articles and editorials about this incident. These are followed by angry letters to the editor. Momentum builds slowly throughout the year. Sometimes (like this year) there are two issues, and you won't know until the very end which one is going to win out. Usually right around the middle of April whatever-it-is finally erupts, and there is a protest on the lawn outside university president's office. Then, in a show of support for whom- or whatever, a large group of students set up a sort of vigil/camp, either on the lawn or in the student union building. They live there until they feel they've gotten their point across. Or until finals week is over and they must all go home. Sometimes on my way from one end of campus to the other I find myself having to thread my way through this impromptu village, and I always get the same warm, affectionate, protective feeling for its inhabitants. Nostalgic for my twenties, I guess, or maybe just for the innocent belief that a symbolic gesture could accomplish something.
  • Improvisational Drum (Semi)Circle: Campus and town are divided by a low wall that runs the length of the main drag. One of the class gifts many, many years ago was a semicircular section of seating (try saying that out loud) built into this wall. In the evenings, just as soon as the weather starts to turn (and stay) pleasant, a group of townspeople shows up here. Each one brings a percussion instrument -- hand drums and bongos, mainly, though sometimes there is the odd tambourine or cow bell. They set up there in that half-circle and play for hours. As the spring drifts on into summer, they are joined by a dancer or two -- different dancers each year, sometimes different each day. As far as I can tell it's just people who get carried away by the rhythm, take off their shoes and start dancing in the grass.
It's things like this that make me love living in a college town. I don't much care for the way everyone goes football-crazy in the Fall, but I do enjoy this part. Heard a shopkeeper say to a customer today as the drums and cymbals faded into the distance, "Geese are flying north, and the Hare Krishnas are out. Spring's on its way."

Monday, March 13, 2006

First Belly Dance Class

When I was talking to the Chief Loon about this dance class, I joked about someone teaching me how to shake my behind. Well, it turns out that "belly dance" is a misnomer. The abdominal area stabilizes you. It's everything else that's in motion, particularly the hips. And the hips are controlled by the "glutes."

Yep. I'm learning how to shake my behind. I'm not going to go into too much detail, except to ask this: can you clench and release one half of your bottom independently from the other? My teacher can. Me? Not so much.

The stance is odd. Knees are always bent slightly, feet are together, lower abdominals are held in tight -- head up, arms up over your head (or out to the sides, depending upon the step), shoulders back, chest out, fingers arched (as if you're holding a coin between your thumb and middle finger)...and now try to do all this and walk. Roll through the foot, don't stomp. Heel to toe. You're a walking S-curve.

This is definitely going to take some independent practice. I was talking to some of my fellow classmates afterwards. One woman who's been coming for a year was very encouraging. She said at some point, your body has an aha! moment, where suddenly it understands what you've been asking it to do and the movements you've been struggling with start to happen naturally.

Great! In the meantime, I'll work on my stance and that (ahem) other thing with the glutes.

And I found out what a coin scarf looks like. A couple of the women in the class were wearing them. All the little coins jingle when you move. If I decide to stay past the current session, I think I'll be getting one of those.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Wahoo! Vacation!

I have slipped my collar. Hopped the fence. Kicked over the traces. I am gone, Daddy, gone.

Well, at least until the 20th.

Ironically, I'll probably post more this week than I've done in the past few. I'll have the time, I'll be in a good mood, and I might even have something interesting to say. Stranger things have happened.

If I manage to tear myself away from this desk, that is. I'm still at work as I write this. Technically my vacation started 8 minutes ago, but it looks like someone just emptied a paper-recycling bin in my cubicle and I can't make myself leave. I really should try to find the pale pink pebbly surface underneath this pile of crap. All I need is a little teeny square of it to suggest the idea of some sort of order. I should probably clear a larger space for people to put problems and questions for me while I'm away.

Nah. Let 'em fend for themselves. I'm taking myself to dinner (and no, it won't be chicken and broccoli. I'm thinking Indian, maybe), then I'm going to either take in a movie or paint pottery at a local arts-and-crafts studio until closing time.

Buh-bye for now.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Shake, Shake, Shake...

Every person I tell I've signed up for belly dancing lessons has the same reaction:

"Belly dancing?" (Stifling a giggle.) "Really?"

Yes, really. What's so funny?

It's probably the mental image of me, dressed like Barbara Eden from "I Dream of Jeannie," gyrating and undulating and making all sorts of movements that would just not be proper for a nice, quiet, bookish, middle-class, repressed, thirty(mumble) white girl. Apparently I come across as a bit prim. Ha! That's because no one heard me swear like a sailor this past December when I stepped barefoot on a piece of broken china in my kitchen and almost took off the back of my heel. I even shocked the cat, and she's pretty unflappable. But I digress.

These classes are offered by a place downtown that's not quite a dance studio and not quite a gym. They teach yoga, belly dance, African dance, pilates, (which I have a hard time remembering is pronounced pill-ah-tays. I always want to say "pilots.") and something called Jin Shin Jyutsu, which I've never heard of before. I've been thinking about joining a class for a long time, but my timing's been bad. Usually I decide to pursue it when the current session is half over, and they don't put out the next schedule until the current sessions are through, so then I'm out of luck. Unless I remember to check the schedule again later, which doesn't happen often.

Also, I do drag my feet quite a bit before I take on something new. I have a tendency to talk about doing something for a while, then to stop talking about it for a while, and then to shock everyone by plunging headfirst into whatever-it-is long after it's been assumed that I gave up the idea. Example? You're looking at it. It took about 6 months of "Could I? Will I? Oh, I dunno..." before I finally decided to try blogging. Two posts and one positive comment later, and I was hooked.

I need exercise. I used to walk at lunch time with a friend who worked in my building, but that fell apart last summer. She had foot problems. Then when those cleared up, she decided she'd rather spend her lunchtime surfing the 'net and catching up on her email, so she begged off. Having someone depending on me to show up at a certain time really was important. I just can't seem to get out of my chair to go walk by myself most days. I also joined a gym a while ago, though I haven't been there in a few months. I like working with the weights, I like that I'm only competing with myself and how well I did the last time I lifted. There are no permanent lockers in the place, though, so I had to schlep my workout clothes with me to the office, and then down to the gym, then back on the bus home, and it got tiresome. The membership contract runs out this month, and I don't think I'll be renewing.

I like to dance. Most of my gym classes in college were dance classes, and that's not just because I gravitate towards things that aren't very competitive. I have no one to dance with, though, so I need a style of dancing that doesn't require a partner, and doesn't expect you to have been dancing nonstop since your first ballet class at the age of three.

Belly dancing seems like it would be good exercise. Kind of like an aerobics class, without the annoying, chirpy leader shouting, "And four more! Three more! Two more! One more! Aaaaand one more set!" It's supposed to be really good for toning the abdominal muscles, and I sure could use that. I like the music from the Middle East. I find myself moving along to the rhythms of it when I hear it somewhere, so dancing to it should be fun. It's an exotic enough style of dance that no one expects you to have much experience when you start in a class, so I have that going for me. And there's the social component (getting out and meeting people with whom I don't work), which I'm hoping will be a good experience.

When I went to the studio last week I saw that the current session would be over on the 26th, but there was no information about the next start date. There was, however, a flyer listing the instructor's email address, so I wrote that down and contacted her about when the next session started (Sunday the 12th of March), to see if I could pre-register (yes, and I did), and ask some questions, the main one being: How am I to dress for this? Here's the answer I got:

"Dancers should wear comfortable, close-fitting clothing that permits viewing of body movements. It is also recommended that dancers wear something around the hips to make hip movements visible. A shawl, short beach sarong, coin scarf, or fringed scarf works well for this purpose. Dancers may take the class in bare feet, socks, or ballet slippers."

Comfortable and close-fitting clothes? Isn't that a contradiction in terms? I don't own any of the things she mentioned to put around my hips, either. What exactly is a coin scarf, anyway? I guess V has to do some shopping before next Sunday.

I'm wondering if there are going to be a bunch of women in there like me (see description above), or whether the room is going to be full of what my friend the Chief Loon calls "The Garlic and Tofu Set"--new-age women, I mean: vegetarian, wearing clothes made of hemp, practicing alternative medicine and really into crystals, things like that. Not that I'm against any of that. I find it all very interesting, on an intellectual level, and if I wasn't so lazy I might try some of it. Thing is, if you get enough new-age women in a room chances are at least one of them will be wearing patchouli oil, and that sometimes triggers my asthma. I should make sure I have my inhaler with me just in case.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tug of War

Sorry if it seems like I haven't had much to say recently. There's been some weird crap going down at work, and it's hard to be entertaining when you want to hit someone.

For the past week or so now, I've been coming home from work feeling somewhere between depressed and disgusted. I don't know how much I should say, because I haven't forgotten that even though sometimes it feels like I'm talking to myself, this is a very public space I'm in, and I don't know who's reading what I write. Let me just say this: Kissinger hit the nail on the head when he said, "University politics is so nasty precisely because the stakes are so small." All the upheaval is occurring well above me on the chain of command. I have no stake in the outcome--my job won't change very much when this is all over. It's just distracting, disturbing, and disheartening to see people that I work with and usually admire squabble like children over who gets the last cookie on the plate. Or, more accurately, over who will not get that cookie.

I'm going on vacation soon. Perhaps I will regain my equanimity then. If I can last that long without biting someone.