I meant to take Labor Day Weekend off. I’d worked frantically and frenetically to finish my experimental young adult novel by the 31st of August. Pretty much accomplished my goal. Over 70k words, and some good editing / revising. I needed a break after that intense month of writing. Not to mention the horrifying realization that all I’d done was give myself three novels in revision instead of two.

But then it got hot. We’ve had such a gloriously cool summer so far, with too much snow remaining in the mountains for my son’s backpacking endeavors. I know many will say I’m complaining irrationally. Ninety degree days in September are not so bad compared to ninety degree days in July / August. The temperature goes up and down quickly — a spike rather than a long curve on a graph. And our nights almost always fall into the 50s. But I am very heat intolerant, and even with air conditioning it enervates me.

Thus my break became, so far, twelve days. I’ve stopped reading so many blogs and articles, read a few good books instead of (hopefully)  writing them, and didn’t post on either blog or on twitter. Which, by the way: I find I am using twitter more and more for posting interesting articles I find, and finding interesting articles to read. So less posting here.

Not a break from thinking, of course. As always, when I take time away from writing I find ideas rise.  In this case, too, I’ve been dreaming.

I’m not one for ‘interpreting’ dreams, but it is also quite obvious that sometimes dreams are telling you things.  Funnily enough, the last five nights I have had astonishingly clear dreams. No bizarre symbols or abstruse analogies. My dreams have been acting out, clearly and precisely, the issues I am grappling with. And, as a bonus, leading me into that marvelous light-wakefulness where ideas are born like Aphrodite from Zeus — whole and complete. I now know what my next project will be, how to work out a complicated emotional issue in the main novel under edit, and how to shape my time wisely to achieve (hopefully) my goals.

I am still pursuing little goals in the hopes of training myself for the larger ones. It seems to be working. I am making myself do things I am afraid of, reaching out to people I would previously been hesitant to approach, and remembering to do little things that make a big difference in mood. I am hiking (walking, if you’re a serious hiker) and have discovered a new and beautiful lake (not hard to do in this part of the world), and am finding out how very many wonderful hikes/ walks there are within a few minutes of town.

Last night we went for a walk under a salmon-pink full moon. A ten minute drive from home, up a path through an oak and fir forest to emerge in a hilltop meadow. The lights of town below, the Coastal Mountains silhouetted against the dying sunset, a strong, cold breeze blowing away the last heat of the day. Then back into the shadowy forest, leaves rustling, crickets and frogs chirping, and that wonderful full moon apparently dancing about in the clear sky as the trail twisted its way down the hillside.

This walk will, of course, be found in a story eventually. If only I had the right words to evoke how it actually was….

Taking this unexpectedly long break has also allowed me to reaffirm my plans for my life. The hardest parts of any life-change are patience and consequences. Patience to go slowly, and to work through setbacks with steadfast resolve.  And consequences, or the fear of, are debilitating. One must be constantly assessing and reassessing what one is doing, what one is working toward, to minimize harm to others and to self, but also to be ready to answer if opportunity knocks.

I wish I had a better sense of balance for such teeter-tottery living. However, my dreams seem to be convinced that I’m clear on what’s important to me. I hold fast to that in the midst of all the uncertainties.

/ This is amazing /. “Mother” trees sharing nutrients and water with daughter trees.

For young trees, “increased survival was associated with belowground transfer of carbon, nitrogen and water from the old trees.”

Yet another reason never to clearcut. We shouldn’t need reasons for avoiding such an obviously destructive act, but unfortunately, logging companies want money. Clear cutting is fast and easy compared to judicious pruning, and then replanting a natural forest in the gaps rather than a one-species orchard.

Interesting: a healthy forest, like a healthy society, depends on both age and youth, diversity in its population, sharing resources, and those with experience and skill helping those who lack either or both.

What we keep learning about our world, about  life of all sorts, including ourselves, never ceases to astound me. And yet there is so much left to learn.

I appreciate the importance of this post from / Cosmic Variance / on our real knowledge of the basic laws of physics. We need to remember how much we already know. That knowledge gives us the tools to learn more. I include / this link / to Sean Carroll’s follow-up article because of this sentence: “Today we think of ourselves and the stuff we see around us as made of electrons, protons, and neutrons, interacting through gravity, electromagnetism, and the nuclear forces. A thousand years from now, we will still think precisely that.”

The joy of discovering and understanding something that was not just a mystery, but completely unexpected yesterday — that is one of the greatest joys we can experience.

A few gleanings from the intertubes:

/ Meditation by a natural /

Cat-friendly bookshelves. I want  / these ! /

And / this / is pretty sweet, too.

Fun with Physics:

nuclear fission chain reaction /  with mousetraps /. Way cool.

/ How to tell / if that miraculous invention just might be fraud.

However, physicists often have problems dealing with the ‘real’ world:  


and again, from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:  http://www.smbc-comics.com/comics/20110326.gif

Problems in the political world.

First, ignorance is rife. / Go north to reason / Until we gain / Cascadia /, and for the rest of the country, maybe we should only let Canadians vote in US politics?

And while I’m sort of on the topic of religion,  / this / refutes a common claim on power of prayer. Social networks provide comfort and security, and a religious organization is  a common place to acquire one. But that doesn’t make the religion any more powerful than any other social support group.

And these. In “The Last Continent”, Terry Pratchett mentions throwing political leaders in jail as soon as they’re elected. Sounds more and more like a truly wise idea. For serious research on the topic, go  / here / and  / here /.

And last, lots of fun with statistics and dating:



I kept on reading when I should have been writing. Found several really intriguing articles.

One very depressing one on health care myths in the US, that everyone should know about: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=demand-better-health-care-book

A book review about the inability of experts to predict the future:  http://www.quillandquire.com/reviews/review.cfm?review_id=6973

And one that depresses me even while I’m saying  / “This is truly cool!” /.  When writing speculative fiction it is so hard to stay just one step ahead. Science Fiction has more freedom to make up technologies that have no clear connections to current possibilities. The more I read, the more excited I am about the incredible amazing discoveries and inventions humans make and create.

I have an character’s entire career pattern based on a ‘just barely’ future technology, and a few weeks ago found that much of what I’d envisioned,  / others were already at work on /. And /  in medicine /, for example Exciting? Absolutely. But now I have to find a new step-beyond for her to work on.

I often wonder how much of climate change denial is due to the incredibly protected lives we lead in ‘developed’ nations. We get food from around the world; no need to consider growing seasons. All that’s required is a slightly higher cost to purchase. We have, and most tellingly, expect to have an abundance of choice in foods and products, and even more critically, an abundance of water. I was talking with my sister in California about future water wars. California has had water rationing before, and their government struggled to find ways to get people to cooperate. But if chronic shortages develop, what will the urbanized drylands of California do?  Steal our water, of course.

California has, in the past, plotted to siphon off water from Oregon. Not content with destroying their aquifers and indulging a water-rich lifestyle in an arid land, they assume the right to take water from other places rather than alter their behavior. They are big enough and powerful enough that they’d probably be allowed to do so. (Where’s Cascadia? Independence and climate-wise living!)

/ This article / on Uganda clarified a few things. People who actually live with the land are the ones who see what’s happening. They don’t need the facts and figures; they won’t argue for political gain; they know their survival depends upon understanding what’s actually happening.

Our survival depends upon understanding what’s actually happening. The longer we allow power-plays to control government policy, the deeper in trouble we’re going to get.

I’m fully confident that mega-corporations have all sorts of research strategies in place to deal with the observable and predicted changes. They want to keep the reins of financial and political power. Greedy and corrupt they are, but not stupid.

It is the responsibility of a government for the people and by the people to protect the people from greed and corruption, to force and fund open research for the benefit of all.

Oh wait. Did I say government for the people and by the people? Silly me.  I forgot. I live in the US, not Cascadia.

“But I actually think the GOP is doing us a favor. Instead of posturing and sending mixed message about caring for the people while passing laws that say otherwise, they are coming right out and wearing the fucking t-shirt. If you’re poor, female, care about your health or that of the land, or are in any way uninterested in making rich white dudes more rich, you can go to hell.”


I Love Rain, But….

January 17, 2011

It’s hard to type when your lap is full of anxious cat. No, he didn’t go to the vet today, but one of the others did. This cat hides when the carriers appear, and, after holing up for several hours, has apparently decided he’s safe for the day. But he needs reassurance that the Awful Doom will not befall him.

We are having an ‘atmospheric river’ event. Rain and rain and rain and rain. But being Oregon, all this non-stop rain adds up to about an inch a day in the valley, up to 3 a day in the Coastal Mountains.

Now I am, as I’ve mentioned before, a bred and born Oregonian. I love the rain. I love all the seasons of Oregon. One of the great delights of the valley is that we have four perfect 3-month seasons.

Spring comes with wave after wave of flowering trees, bulbs, and blossoms highlighted against emerald-green grass and trees’ delicate lace of fragile green.

Summer creeps in gradually; usually by mid July the rain has stopped.  Trees are masses of greens in all possible gradations of hue, accenting the deep evergreens. I hate summer, to be honest. I am not fond of heat. No – I am heat-intolerant. I loathe the long hot spells where we get into the upper 80s and 90s. I wither. I suffer. The grass turns gold, then brown, the trees go limp and tired-looking. Like them, I am longing for the return of the coolness and the rain.

Finally, not a moment too soon, the misery of summer passes, the trees are brushed with the first intimations of their glorious autumn colors, the clouds return, life breathes a sigh of relief (except all them import-folks. Why live here if you hate the rain?). Geese smudge the sky in skein after skein, mournfully honking as they pass overhead.

By November there’s usually a week or so of brittle frost, freezing fog in the morning followed by sparkling blue skies. We slide into winter – cool but not freezing, grey day after grey day, rain, rain, and more rain. Snow is a rare and eagerly anticipated event. Sheep are brought to the valley to take advantage of the winter’s lush grass. Huge flocks dot the green fields like giant cotton balls. Lately they often have a llama or two in the herd as guardians.

I love rain. I did mention that, right? But I have to confess this atmospheric river has gotten to me. Not for the grey skies and non-stop misting, dripping rain, but for the humidity. Over the last few days, the temperature has hovered in the 50s F  with a range spread of less than ten degrees day and night. And the humidity is around 97-98% all day, plummeting to 85% at night. Everything feels soggy. This is why mold is a problem here. And we have astonishingly huge slugs, too!

Where would we be without weather? It give us conversation openers, even tossed off comments to strangers. It defines the seasons, but it also influences our emotions. A rare blue sky in winter lifts the heart where the endless blues of summer are oppressive.

I am unhappily curious about how our weather will change as the climates shift. More rain? Less? Hotter summers? I hope not.

I notice that while the Petroleum Society (which owns the US government) insists there is no incipient climate change, the electric companies, the insurance companies are laying plans against the already apparent changes. I imagine the oil companies are, too – they just don’t want to admit it, so they can squeeze every last penny out of higher oil prices before they reveal a miracle “Oh, look what we have – an alternative fuel source! And since we prevented the government from subsidizing research, we are the only place you can get this alternative energy! Pay up now, suckers”  (Oops. Waxed cynical – no – realistic again. Sorry)

The rain, by the by, is what makes Cascadia so beautiful. Between the oceans, the broad and fertile valley, the magnificent volcanoes of the Cascades, the stark purity of the high desert – all banded within a couple hundred miles, and stretching north into Canada – it is incredibly beautiful. But please don’t move here. Visit, yes, but don’t move here – especially if you’re going to complain about the rain, or insist that bigger cities = better life. You’re destroying Cascadia, and it’s worth preserving. So – fit in. Be green.

An aside: both my children were in New Orleans for a Maths conference recently. They were appalled to find no recycle bins anywhere. How can this be?

This is dedicated to my children, who are incredulous that I don’t swear (and are teaching me how) and yet appalled that I would write a sex scene. The joys of the human temperament!

I have found that I am succeeding in using the more common Anglo-Saxon expletives in my mind, at least, but I wish we had something that was equal to the growling ‘Perkele’ or the lengthy satisfaction of ‘Jumalauta!”

The story will be updated occasionally. And I apologize for the formatting – am not having any success playing with options. Will keep trying.

The Wood Nymph  (working title)

Elinor looked up from the monitor. “Do you always put hot springs into your stories?”
“I like hot springs,” replied Meggie serenely.
“But every story of yours I’ve read has a scene in one. And I can never be sure if they’re, uh, you know.”
“In their all-togethers?  Sans attire? Jay-bird nekkid?”
“Knock it off. Are they?”
“Hot springs culture encourages a lack of formality, yes.”
“But what if someone else wants to use the springs. I mean, they’d see them.”
“Everyone would see plenty of everyone, certainly.”
“But – ew. They’d all be naked. In public.”
“What they’d see is entirely beside the point,” said Meggie with a broad grin.
Elinor was perplexed by this comment. “Beside the point?”
“What they’d see.” As Elinor still looked puzzled, Meggie explained. “In Elizabethan times, men attached their hose to their doublets with points. A little clip. On their thighs.” Elinor blushed as she caught the innuendo. Meggie laughed. “You really are too much.”
“See, this is why no one will ever read your stories. You’re too off the wall. I mean, how many people would get a pun about points?”
“Well, maybe you’re right, Elinor. But it’s so much fun putting those little jokes in.” Meggie sighed. “At least give me credit for some sex.”
“Obscure references don’t count. People want rip-roaring hot-blooded sex.”
“Do they? All of them? And yet most all of the novels I truly enjoy have discreet sex, if any at all. It’s the people, who they are, what they think and feel that I read for. And who I write for. Not for sensationalists.” Meggie glanced back at Elinor, mischief alight in her eyes. “You’re rather inconsistent, you know. You berate me for nakedness in hot springs, yet you want hot-blooded sex.”
“Consistency,” began Elinor pompously, “is the hobgoblin -”
“Of small minds. I know. But why should I take your criticisms seriously if you can’t be clear even about your own preferences?”
“All right. I’ll let it go. But you really need to loosen up. I mean, come on, who writes ‘drat’ instead of ‘damn’?”
“I do.”
Elinor sighed. Trying to edit Meggie’s writing was a struggle. It wasn’t bad writing, but Elinor, obviously, liked stories that hit her over the head with intense scenes and emotions. Meggie liked thoughtful, introspective characters. Reading a few more paragraphs, Elinor exclaimed, “I knew it! Now you’ve gone and thrown fantasy in, too. Why why why can’t you learn, Meggie? If you want to write, you have to stick to a genre. You can’t have a Women’s Fiction story and then throw in a fantasy character. I’ll bet there’s cats, too.”
“There will be cats. And chocolate. As for the wood nymph: I like her. She stays.” Meggie avoided Elinor’s critical gaze. The wood nymph had to stay. However fantastic it seemed, this story wasn’t fiction.

Why can’t we be wise?

December 30, 2010


So small… tiny. A speck of dust. And it’s all we have. This picture never fails to rouse poignant emotions in me. If only we could stop trying to boss each other around, could rejoice in the myriad ideas, images, creations of humanity and not be so damned bigoted.

Stop trying to tell other people how to live, you cretins. Not one of you knows what’s best for anyone, and probably not for yourselves, either. Your actions certainly don’t show insight.  If there is a god, then shut up and accept what god sends. It’s not your place to act on any gods’ behalf. Since there’s absolutely no evidence for deities other than wishful thinking, why not be a human being? Identify yourself with your species, and promote its well being. No one has the right to tell you how to think – so stop assigning yourself that right over others. I don’t tell you to stop your religion, and your blind idolatry of a political party organized and run by, and for the benefit of mega-rich corporate bosses. But I wish you would. Every time you vote that party line, you vote against the survival of our species. Pollution, destruction, war, economic collapse: these are the legacies of our current governments.

Cascadia, and what it represents, might save a corner of this nation.

There I go, being as wishful as any religious nutter. But at least what I wish for humanity is a future, not its destruction.

Unrestrained growth

December 20, 2010

There is no merit in constant growth. There is actual harm. A town, a university, like any other organism, has an optimal size. If you insist on pushing past that, you create its own destruction. So why do administrators, political or academic, keep pushing for expansion? The only thing I can conclude is ego and power. They want to control more: more people, more money, more space. And apparently they don’t care what is lost in their blind, egotistic greed.

I love writing. You start out with an idea, however nebulous, and you write and write and write and you suddenly realize it has gone off in wondrous new directions. And then you have to sit down and reason with the characters.

“Why did you do this?”  you wail.  “You said this, and now I have to make it fit!”

And they look at you, smiling, and you groan and rework everything yet again.

Knowing that they are all facets of my own mind is a curious feeling – but their  optimism and kindness  is comforting to me when I feel out of sorts with life. I not only dislike literary obsession with evil, malignant characters and ugly, painful, cruel situations; I think it destructive.  I am no advocate for illusion in either direction, but just as making yourself smile actually does make you feel better, so thinking kind, reasonable thoughts will help you make yourself and our world better. Darkness in novels should be the foil that illuminates the ways to conquer it. And no one is happier for obsessing on their unhappiness, despite current bestsellers.  It is true that as a species we are prone to schadenfreude; let us use it to find empathy and not entertainment.

If we can empathize with others, through novels, movies, news; we are more likely to actually do something about alleviating their hardships. Who knows, maybe we’ll conserve water, or recycle more, perhaps even start thinking about the long term consequences of the way we vote.

We all have dreams. One of mine is the survival of humanity on this incredible, beautiful planet. Does my feel-good writing serve that dream? I hope so. I truly believe that we have to triumph over our personal beliefs and prejudices, learn to see ourselves as ‘all in this together’ if we are going to be here much longer.

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