It digs holes for posts

“Kinda spooky, ain’t it? Hell of a lot of coincidences. Like we say back home, when you find a turtle settin’ on top of a fencepost, you can be pretty damn sure he didn’t get there on his own.”

–D.W. in The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell (p. 121-2).

Today I went in to talk with Ian about possible dissertation topics for my MLitt. As we talked about my various angles of interest that brought me to medieval religious literature, we determined that my main interest is the exchange between the institution of religion and those participating in that religion, how they mutually influence each other, with particular interest on lay folk and medieval drama. In the back of my mind I was observing how much of a New Historicist I am, how minoring in anthropology and being a writer influenced me to be interested in culture and society as wholes, when Ian said, “If this is what you’re really interested in— This is the cutting edge of the field! There’s a lot of work to be done in this.”

I walked out of the meeting thinking I just saw a turtle on a fencepost; one of many that I’ve seen on the journey that has brought me to Scotland and has kept me in Academia. It makes me wonder, and my curiosity leads me on…

I also walked out of the meeting with a substantial reading list, and have now got quite a bit of work to do. May the journey continue.

Use the Force

I don’t have any profound thoughts because I’ve spent the last two days watching all seven Star Wars movies—we even watched the cartoon Clone Wars. It wasn’t half bad, worth seeing once. Note of interest: it’s quite illuminating to watch them in chronological order. We’ve been wanting to have a Star Wars marathon for months, so it was about time we went ahead and did it. You’d think Star Wars would be one of the fandoms I grew up in, but somehow it wasn’t. Some of the Episodes I had only seen once (!) and I know I want to watch them again. It’s one of those fictional realities that I want to pay attention to the things on the periphery, the things that give authenticity to the world, and ‘study’ in a sense to see how it has left a legacy in the sci-fi genre.

Wow, I really am a nerd.

Tomorrow it’s back to work. I realised this morning that I only have a week and a half left before school starts again, so hopefully I’ll start feeling motivated. (And after two days of doing nothing, feeling better.) Maybe if I meditate upon the Force…

Poor Cave Troll

Well, my prediction was wrong. It did not take me another 4 or 5 games, just the next one, to beat Kelly. But, she’s been sick so she wasn’t at the top of her game. Still, I have to brag: 27 January 2009, “Damar.” The next game is in Persephone, and looks to be a mighty fine shindig.

I woke up feeling under the weather today, so I ditched my to-do list and have been watching Star Wars with Felicity. Hopefully my sinuses will feel less explosive tomorrow.

Over the course of the last two days, while watching Fellowship of the Ring and Star Wars, I have felt sorry for the cave troll (he was kept captive! he probably didn’t really want to attack those mean old men in the room), wondered about the goblin economy and culture (what do they do all day when they’re not chasing trespassers?), and thought about droid rights (blown up or deactivated without a second thought!). I think I’m close to being able to anthropomorphize just about anything…

Accountability

Today President Obama and the White House delivered his first weekly address. The White House has a channel on YouTube and a blog that you can subscribe to. The BBC also has an ‘Obama Diary’ that will track his first 100 days in office, and you can subscribe to the BBC’s RSS feed for news from the Obama presidency. I’m posting this week’s video here and I hope that you will join me in keeping updated on future videos. President Obama claims that he wants his administration to be held accountable by the public, something that makes my political philosopher’s heart glad. I know not all of my readers are as idealistic as I am or care as much about politics, but I plead with you to remember that accountability is a mutual arrangement. He can wish for accountability as much as he can but never get it if we don’t do our part. So please, take advantage of these avenues to stay informed.

Sleepy sleepy

I’m glad I have two weeks to build up momentum before term starts again! I’ve been taking baby steps, trying to figure out what I do really have to do. Not that much, it seems. The biggest things are two Latin translations and an Old English translation. I read through my Latin notes today and was going to do one of the hymns today*… but then I took a study break to watch a bit more of a PBS Frontline special on Jesus and promptly fell asleep. Maybe because it’s been gray and raining all day. Maybe because everything the show said I learned in my New Testament class. Maybe their voices and background singers were just too soothing. Maybe I was just sleepy.

But, I hope I can stay awake! Felicity, Ginger, and I are walking out to DRA tonight to have pizza and a movie with Katherine. (DRA has a movie room with a projector and everything!) And, we’re going to start Lord of the Rings, so, must stay awake…

* The hymn, of interest to those who have read The Sparrow, is “Ave Maris Stella.”

Interlude

I’ve tried to write this post four times already and keep deleting it. Basically: I’m lonely. I miss Kelly, and Kali, and Sarah. I miss the clear blue skies of New Mexico and coming back to the Williamses’ house to watch a movie. I miss a green couch and red walls and watching old Star Trek episodes curled under a brown and blue blanket with Kali. Or knitting while watching Firefly with Kelly. I miss the trees and the benches in the library quad. I miss going to Raley nearly every day to watch the sunset. Wearing skirts and walking on the sloping stone walls barefoot in spring and summer. The changing seasons. I miss sitting across the table drinking tea, eating dinner, playing Scrabble or Three-Person Spades or Sequence. I took a walk today along West Sands and thought about the friends I have made here, and the difficulty trying to find time to be with them when my study habits don’t match theirs, when I pour my time and energy into my work and reap the rewards of a scholar.

I used to write more like yesterday’s post. My journal used to be filled with pages of such prose. Partly, I think, because I used to take walks more often—walking along the beach is nice, but I do also miss trees and some creature other than seagulls—but mostly, I think, because I lack companionship. Which takes time. But. No worries—I’m back to the library tomorrow, and I, like a good scholar, shall immerse myself in work. Life tends to be pleasanter when I have something to work on. (Yes, I prefer escapism.)

I remembered my camera this time, and the clouds had the audacity to rain on me.

Children of God

Children of GodAfter finishing Children of God, I went down to Castle Sands. The North Sea shines silver, reflecting a pearl sky, the moon, bright even when the clouds overhead are dark with rain. As the waves broke over the bones of the earth, it was not difficult to imagine Poseidon’s chariots, stretching the fingers of his dominion farther up the shore. I put my hand on the surface and asked, “Do you breathe?” and was answered with a rise, a reach, water around my feet. The tide was coming in. The pool was still, opal, stirred only by the tips of angels’ wings and the stones I skipped once, twice, three times across. Or by the stones that fell. I walked across the rocks, beautiful when wet, and promised them descendants like Abraham’s. “The earth exists because you are here.” A little ways away is a hollow in another ridge where I placed stones for the fictional dead. The sea will take them, and then with the resolution of Children of God I might be released from the awful debt of love.

There were times when Children of God felt like Russell was trying to do too much: at least 18 points of view instead of 12, three timelines instead of two, the narrative of change and misunderstanding and victory and loss instead of a soul searching for God, but with the resolution came the unity of voices best described as God’s music. The horrors of The Sparrow were not undone, and the dead did not come back to life. Faith is staring into the terrible and still finding beauty. The sparrow still falls, but with faith comes hope. And if faith is only poetry and song, it remains poetry to live for. When I finished Children of God, I was left quiet and still as I was with The Sparrow, but not empty, for it ended with hope and a promise, and that is how I know Children of God to be a comedy and not a tragedy. Perhaps the greatest gift God has given man is the power to forgive.

I relate most to John Candotti. And if they sent him out, well, then maybe there is hope for me after all. 🙂

Now, it’s time to watch the Inauguration ceremony online. Sipaj, Obama, someone wishes you the best.

Edit: Kelly’s review for The Sparrow can be found here.

Sleeping In

5I decided that once all my guests had left Scotland, I would take a page out of Gawain’s book and have three days all to myself, mostly sleeping, before getting back to work. I would also read Children of God, since my experience with Mary Doria Russell dictates that her books be read without interruption. So last night, after cleaning my room spotless, I crawled into bed early and read, and slept in late this morning. I just looked out the window and it’s snowing. I think I’ve chosen a good couple days not to go outside.

A Dawn of Paradoxes

Edinburgh Castle at Dawn

This morning I put Laura in a cab and walked away, down the predawn Princes Street in Edinburgh watching the sun cast its early light on the castle, and later down the still-sleepy streets of Town listening as the bells rang out over it. My head was filled with the first forty pages of Children of God, the sequel to The Sparrow that I had delayed reading out of cowardice. Something I could not have hoped for has happened, and yet it fills me with dread, apprehension. This is love—this is faith, I think as I dare to read on: to encounter the impossible and tremble at its terrible beauty.

I never wrote a review of The Sparrow, as I said I would. It is too personal. As I take this journey into the dark, back to Rakhat, I leave you with what I wrote in my journal while reading The Sparrow:

Who am I? That my plain, human heart would faint to love God, to commune with the Divine? I, who am both agnostic and mystic, believer and skeptic, lover and beloved? God is as constant as my changeable heart; God is faithful, alleluia, amen.

Last night, a Catholic-leaning Protestant said to a Protestant-leaning Catholic, both drawn to Judaism: “I see no reason why we cannot celebrate both Catholic tradition and Jewish tradition.” Her response was, “Now that is ecumenical reform.”

A slow start

I slept for 13 hours last night. My frontal lobe still feels a little tight but otherwise feeling once more like a functional human being. My dear Lolita arrived Thursday evening, and she with patience dealt with me staying up until the wee hours to finish my essay, waking up equally early to put on the finishing touches, print, and get over to the English building before noon. Jesse, Bronnie, and Scott were in Sandra’s office when we arrived, so we went with them to celebrate being done with a fudge doughnut. I’m glad Laura got to meet them, though I in my sleep-deprived state was a poor conversation partner. As we were leaving, Scott said something that I suspect was a continuation of the usual banter, but nothing registered. I only looked at him, and turned away. I’m sure they were much amused.

We walked around town, mostly along the sea, skipping rocks and providing commentary for a very energetic dog, until exhaustion beckoned my back to Gannochy. I napped, and after dinner and a movie, went to bed at 8:30 PM. And woke up 13 hours later. So, it’s a slow start for today too, but there’s more of town to see, and a possible trip to Anstruthers later. I like that Laura and I are both reading books by Le Guin. She’s reading The Left Hand of Darkness, which is a good introduction to the Ekumen cycle.