Monday, August 11, 2014

In Which I Am a Pop Philosopher

I, being positively drunk on alone time on this the first day of Molly's school year, have been babbling happily to Finn. I talk pretty much constantly, even when I have no puppy to justify this. But today I do (and I swear he seems as thrilled about Back to School Day as I am). 

So I was chattering away and suffering a post-nap grogginess and I mentioned to Finn, "I am slow thinky. I don't have good thinks. I usually don't—well—sometimes do. I have good thinks. I have Story Thinks. Best kind... If you're going to have good thinks, they should be Story Thinks or Science Thinks. Ooh! And at this point I decided I had created A Great Philosophy of the Two Kinds of Thinks: There are only two sorts of Thinks: Story Thinks and Science Thinks. Everything fits into one category.

I laughed at myself, and observed, this time without verbalizing it—and, yeah, I should be lying about that to preserve my narrative flow (such as it is what with the insane jumps my spastic stream-of-consciousness makes) but I'm not—that this is an amusing oversimplification. Then the epiphane (Gods damn you, spell check, let a girl spell it the Greek way if she prefers) dawned that this is why philosophy doesn't appeal to me as much as it seems like it should. It's oversimplifying pretty ideas and making extrapolations and applications when actual reality is infinitely complex and ultimately, according to my world view as realized only just then, resists quantification. 

So yeah, I was yammering to my puppy in a sleepy haze and cemented my personal ideology. It's vaguely Chaos Theory.

(Pausing for you to roll your eyes at the obviousness.)

But It's not so surprising I woke with abstraction in my brain. Whilst napping I dreamt that some dude—name on tip of my tongue but gone—had written a book containing an equation that predicted Everything. It was practically mystical in its universality. Specifically I remember it could be used to predict stock market trends and something about lumber that could save the ecology of the entire planet. The equation was accurate exactly 87% of the time. It basically ensured a Utopia. So of course, it was incredibly obscure and had a tiny cult following. I want to say the guy was called Neal Stephenson. I know that's not it but let's just go with that anyway because I'm fairly sure Neal Stephenson the fiction writer actually does know the source code of reality. Neal Stephenson is a source-erer. 

I win at language. TheEnd.

No, wait—A Post-Script:

Regarding authors named /niːl/, Bird and I were holding our thrice-weekly discussion, Concerning Neil Gaiman Who Is the Great Literary Genius of Our Time and zOMG How Amazeballz is Coraline, Jointly Our Most Favorite of Books that Are Not Harry Potter. She suddenly sparked with inspiration: "MOM," she announced, "I know why you love him so much!" Here, she assumes the posture of a power-mad Asgardian supervillain, holding aloft Loki's scepter, and yells,

"KNEEEEEEEEEL!!!!!!! gaiman," then falls apart in hysterics at her own horrific, adorable pun. I bowed (knelt) to her and dubbed her Tiny Queen of Word Play.

And now that is all. I'm off to try to drug & ice my right sciatic nerve into submission and begin this free online writing course. Join me if you will. 

Hail Eris. All Hail Discordia.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Off-Key & Perfect

Molly's been falling asleep to music as long as she's been alive. Some time after she started preschool and I got an iPhone, we switched from my warbling Beatles songs at her to making playlists on my phone.

Lately, she's been really, really into singing, and I've been listening as she sings herself to sleep. It's the sweetest sound I've heard since she said 'Mama' for the first time, rolling around in the floor at JK's house while I checked out her husband's Sandman comics. 
Molly at Lake Stephen, Summer 2014

Hearing Molly sing reminds me of my mom. She told me once that she loved that I sang while I did housework. I used to shriek Tori Amos songs out over sinks full of dirty dishes. It was my daily chore. 

When she cooked roast, I'd refuse to wash the pan with its nasty fat and meat drippings. She'd bend to my new vegetarian aversion to icky beef clean-up and let me off the hook. She was an incredible mom. When I moved home from Pittsburgh with a shaved head and piercings and refusing to eat meat, she'd cook two dinners every night. I remember her baking two huge lasagnas— one traditional with beef and one with Alfredo sauce and spinach and mushrooms and gods why didn't I learn to cook from that woman? 

I laughed when she told me how much she loved my singing: My utter, devastating lack of pitch is a thing of legend. She said I only sing when I'm happy, and that makes it the best sound. 

Mamas: They are the best. 

I remember  tears springing to my eyes when she said that. I was touched by Mama's sweetness, but also by the sudden realization that I was happy. In those days, my feeling joyous was a shocking and novel thing. I'd brought something else from Pittsburgh: a broken, sad little heart. My boyfriend and I had split up, and I was shattered for a while. It was an ugly, soul-deep depression. So having happiness sneak up on me when I was cleaning dirty dishes and singing about them (I'm thinking of two Tori lyrics referencing them) was a lovely little bit of magic. 

So I healed, and then I broke harder and much more completely when Mom died.

Eventually I healed again, singing to my baby girl the same songs Mom and Dad had played and sang to their babies. 

And she's so big now. She's much too big, truth to tell. She forms opinions and asks for pop songs and then sings them so sweetly I forget to be annoyed at them. She sings quite a bit better than I do, but still a bit off-key and adorably so.

Wowza: Tonight we'll go to meet her third grade teacher. Third grade. When-Did-This-Happen?-They-Grow-Up-So-Fast-And-Other-Parent-Clichés. 

I'm away to fight the wildling into a bath to sluice away a couple of days' worth of dirt and cookie crumbs and a Kool-Aid-stained skin, then to attack her tangled hair with a comb.

Have a wonderful Thursday, and may all your 'throw backs' be warm, fond memories.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gods and Pages

Tentative writing is happening! I have been tiptoeing into my story. I realized I had several scenes in mind but hadn't quite got the whole of the plot mapped out. (Still don't, but I trust it'll come. Probably.) I finally decided to just start getting those scenes out, almost stream-of-consciousness style.

Did you know that is my favorite phrase in the English language?

stream of consciousness

When I started to jot these little vignettes down they led to others, and even a beginning. I still have sheer mortal terror of how to write an ending, though. I struggle to end a blog post, much less a structured story. But the slow, bite-size writing has been good: Fiction is a little less overwhelming now. 

Part of the impetus to write came from reading American Gods again. I liked it best this time of all the readings. I feel like I understood it differently in some subtle way, and I can't remember if I've read it since Molly was born. That would explain the perspective shift.

I took it with us when we camped at Lake Stephen, and it rained a biblical purge all over us. The tent leaked, and when I woke up the first night, I discovered my book had fallen into the floor of the tent. It wasn't completely ruined, and I actually approved. I told the paperback, Now you look like a Neil Gaiman book. I think it's my third copy. The hardcover is in my studio somewhere, maybe. Which is to say, lost hopelessly.

While I was in the woods, finishing my warped and wrinkly book and listening to the then-gentle rain and Molly and Shane playing with Finn I was in a fuzzy haze of perfect contentment. I felt very much then that I need to create a story that honors the human need for tales. And because my story is set in Appalachia, camping under the towering oaks and ashes by the lake made me feel really close to the mood of the story. 

When I finished the novel, I read through the acknowledgements and that pushed me to write, too. There are so many people involved to help a book be born. My story isn't nearly as complex as Gods but it was reassuring anyway to look at all the names of people and start to dream about all the resources I can find to help build mine.

I'm starting an online creative writing class next week that includes a lot of specific exercises I need help with, and I have a lovely writer friend to work through it with me. I'm going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I don't know yet if this story will be novel length or if I'll work on something new in November. I'm looking forward to it. And I'm looking forward to school starting for Molly. And I'm looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy. And to Halloween because why not throw that in, too. 

(I am, of course, ALWAYS looking forward to Halloween.)

Be well, and may your books be so well-loved they almost die.