Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene a video by nickelshrink on Flickr.

Apologies for the oversized screen - I cannot seem to change it manually.

One minute of the storm, August 26th at about 4:30 PM.

The marsh (yes, this is the marsh, not the ocean!) is submerged by the storm surge! Seabirds are screeching there in the sound portion - there were lots of them swooping and diving as though they were having a great time.

And to think - we got off easy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Craving Christmas

Our tree 2002

It's August and the Christmas catalogs are starting to pour in. Most years, they irritate the bejesus outta me. Tacky, ridiculous stuff and besides, it's still summer, etc. etc.

This year, for the first time probably ever, I keep feasting my eyes on them, not so much on the giftable goods as the Christmas cards, with their images and their messages.

This craving has a bunch of reasons, one being the relentless heat and mosquitoes. I crave fall and winter. I'm even sick of thunderstorms, which I usually love. Our recent lightning strike shook my storm enjoyment. By the way, it fried every smoke detector in the house, necessitating a full set of replacements.

My grandmother's childhood ornament string, circa 1910

Another is that it's been so long since I really experienced Christmas that I miss it. Last year was something to get through, and actually, the year before wasn't much better. Dad's only brother died and we took a difficult trip in an ice storm to the funeral on December 17th 2009, with my very frail mom, so the next week was recovery and grieving. Christmas 2010 happened and happened well but it didn't happen in my heart, just in cars, shops and rooms. I'm feeling more ready to love Christmas as a way of sharing something with people in my past as well as my present. I need renewal. I feel like I'm running on empty, just over halfway through the year.

The cards in the National Wildlife catalog are a mental vacation. Quiet idealized woods and cottages in snow, little birds puffed against the cold, sparkling lights spattering out of windows at dusk, peace on earth, wishing you peace, let there be peace....

The pre-written lines on the cards ... Well, let's just say that they're exercising my brain. I have the leisure at this time of year to think about what they say and how I feel about it.

"Season's Greetings" is the one I hate. The only one. It's a venerable meaningless sentiment, having been around for business-networking-decades before the culture wars bled over into Christmas.

I'm OK with "Happy Holidays." To deny that there are other holidays is silly. The statistics as to how many more people celebrate "this" one over "that" one mean zilch. It's not a majority-win-all issue, and I fail to see how anyone could embrace the loving spirit of Christmas without liking the idea of wishing happiness for others who aren't interested in Christmas happiness.

"Happy Holidays" is a good thing to offer. "Season's Greetings" is emotionless, soulless, so robotic you can smell the machine oil of the "Don't really care if you're happy" thought that lubricates its dead gears.

But I do Christmas because I believe in it, and that means that the reason I send cards is Christmas. And the reason I'm glad others find something joyful in the turn of the year is that it, I certainly hope, gives them not just happy holidays, but renewal for the year. Strength for a full-year's journey.

So, I guess the next category of card-sentiments that I don't like are the ones that say only "I wish you a wonderful season." Just the season?

Honestly, just me, but I'd get a better holiday that provides a little soul-sustenance year-round.

I need to like both the art and the message. This one (below) has a good sentiment (which you need to click it, to read).

If only the art didn't look like somebody found a distant planet on which all life had been scorched off by a gamma-ray burst, and inexplicably planted a church there.

Last but maybe best is rediscovering a gift I got long ago.

Beyond Sing the Woods was given to me by my writer-grandmother, when I was about 16. I couldn't get into it then. I picked it up again a couple weeks ago and have been Wowed. Some gifts wait till the right time and this was the right time, most certainly.

Beyond Sing the Woods has rich, glorious Christmas scenes. The novel takes place in a vague era that's probably the late 1700's or early 1800's, and the goods and food are varied and opulent, but the power in the festival comes from something more nebulous than that opulence, and gift-giving is practically an afterthought. The feast renews an awareness of something higher, especially in the poorer residents too careworn most of the year to think long about the beliefs that they do hold.

The book is filled with visions of the new added to, or built onto, the old; the new 18th century house, attached to the older hall with its heavy leaded glass windows and its multiple generations of weapons and ironware piled back in the shadows, and, opening off of another room and still older, the house from antiquity with its hearth in the middle of the floor and smokehole in the roof. The past isn't gone, it's encompassed in the new. The rituals have tied past to present since memory began.

I'm craving cool weather and time outside, and the short days that ease into night. And gifts are good, I like gifts when they're in proportion to the purpose of the festival. There has to be a way to give, without gift-giving becoming the disproportionate thing it can become, like a bowling ball balancing on a straight pin. I want Christmas for the connection with people in my past, and connection with people who will remember our Christmases when we're gone.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our power company is teh awesome!

At about 7:30 PM yesterday, a lightning bolt cooked our end of the neighborhood. It sounded like it hit our chimney -- the roof sounded like it was splitting, things sparked -- but there's no sign of a hit, and the bolt seems to have struck only outside, a few yards away.

It took out the transformer on our corner, and the absolutely awesome crew from Santee Cooper was out there replacing it by 10 PM. A slightly more cynical friend reminded me that they were probably loving the overtime, and I'm sure that's true, but it was a l-o-o-ong hard day for those guys, storms and similar strikes all over the place. It took 3 huge trucks, two with cherry-pickers. I took the picture at close to 11PM, from the front porch, where we stood and watched, having read with booklights for 3 hours and not wanting to run down any more batteries.

By the way, it made me decide to get more booklights that take ordinary AA batteries from now on. I have a charger for rechargeable batteries. Most booklights that they sell now use those expensive, non-rechargeable, little specialty disc batteries. I've got one light that's out of commission because I carefully opened it, got the battery number, bought one, got it home, and found that the little %@$-d needs TWO of the bleeping things.

We still had a fried modem and no cable, which took another day to fix. I spent the day reading and -- I amaze myself! -- sewing. I loathe needles and thread but it was an undeniable shoutout from God/The Universe/Opportunity, to do several annoying clothes-mending jobs that have sitting for years.

It could have been a lot worse.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I could dust something off...

I have a bunch of drafted posts waiting to be rewritten into publishable states. But I'm not going to work that hard. Instead, I'll ramble.

My novel is also stalled. All it "needs" is proofreading that I've realized I'm incapable of doing because I'm too familiar with it and my brain just slides past goofs. I put "needs" in quotes because my opinion of the basic story, characters and execution is merely that of the author and not sufficiently objective, so my belief that it needs only proofreading could be total brain-goo. I'll be hiring a real editor when I can afford it, but not before.

My review of The Dry Grass of August (which I wrote about on this blog awhile back) is now up, on the book blog.

So is an overlong (but I cut a fourth of it!) treatise on women in the 1920's, as depicted in a few popular fiction books I know of.

I haven't been announcing book blog posts. A new one appears on occasion.

I'm finding Real Life hard to write about lately. Mostly because its uneventful, and that's very very good. Enough with Events. It's not a terribly happy time, but actually, a good part of life in some ways. This year+ since Mom got sick has been, and keeps being, an Opportunity For Growth.

I'm fed up with Facebook. I post only selectively, and post links to articles or fun things only if I really think they're interesting to a wide swath of my "friends" but get practically no indication that they were seen. And I've realized what most people -- really, I do think it's most -- use Facebook for. Their egos. They amass 200+ friends and immediately click each one and choose "Hide all posts by soandso." Then they themselves post, and bask in the "likes" and attention and discussions they spark, but care not a bloodyblue screw what you have to say if they are not the center of attention. A website that used to tell you who had your posts blocked has been taken down. Man, them facebook moguls sure have got some kind of far reach. So FB has become the ideal way to

A. promote yourself, I guess. Unless everybody's blocked you.
B. claim your friend list is terribly diverse, while you make sure you never hear anything you disagree with.

Facebook is a major player in the complete divide that's happening in the U.S. No information sources for the general public, just a batch of resources each dedicated to their own viewpoint, and to making sure their members preach only to the choir and act as good choir-members to others they already agree with. Facebook has brilliantly managed to become a way to be a source for all sides while letting each member silence all diversity and stew only in his/her own pot. You can hear only liberals, or only conservatives, or new-agers, or atheists, or fundamentalists, only whatever you're into. No wonder it's taking over the planet.

Plenty of other topics coming, when I get them ready.