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Chop wood, carry water, pray

"Chop wood, carry water, pray" is a descriptor of practical religious practice that appeals to me quite strongly.

"O fire-feeding corpse of fallen tree,
Which now my granite-sharpened axe doth hew
(And may it cut like Justice, straight and true):
I praise thy Maker as I'm chopping thee."
"O swiftly-flowing water, bright and clear,
Containéd in my pot like Grace once poured
Into a human soul by our dear Lord:
May thou be twice as sweet, though half as dear."
The bell for Vespers rings. I calmly kneel,
Not praying, really, just inventing praise.
But then the silence comes, and phrase by phrase
Reclaims my wasted words, and makes them real.
And thus the evening justifies the day:
I learn to chop wood, carry water, pray.

I posted this a while ago on Making Light, but somehow missed it in my mass transfer of sonnets to LJ. Found myself looking for it the other day, so here it is in my archive.

First Frost

The first frost, whitening the grass today,
Surprised the summer's final cloverheads
And scattered them with diamonds as they lay
Like amethysts beside the cattail beds.
The mist moves like the Lord upon the face
Of silver waters ruffled by the wake
That trails an onyx grebe. The pearly lace
Of clouds drops sunbeams on the waiting lake.
But still the rows of indecisive trees
Stand dithering between the green and gold,
As if they've months to go before the freeze.
So, muddy-leafed, they watch the fall unfold
And wear this day the way that little girls
Play dress-up in their mother's finest pearls.

(Originally posted on Making Light)


Setting Pastiche 2

Red these deserts - and free at last we roam;
But we are exiles from our fathers' home.

Listen to me, as when you heard your father
Sing long ago the song of other sands -
Listen to me, and then in chorus gather
On this frequency, as we cross these lands.

From lone oases hid in sandy canyons
Atmospheres divide us, and cold of space -
Yet still the blood is strong, my dear companions,
And we in dreams ride at a camel's pace.

We shall not tread again the wide and sandy plain
Where naught but night protects us from the sun
Nor gather in the souk to bargain once again
Returning to our tents when trading's done.

When last from great Damascus we had banish'd
The infidels crusading through our lands
We did not know our peaceful time had vanish'd
Corrupted by the oil beneath the sands.

And so we fled, and insha'Allah have found
A desert world where we may roam at last.
But still we turn, when calls to prayer sound
To Mecca, to the homeland of our past.

(Originally posted on Making Light)

Setting Pastiches

  1. Come live with me and be my love,
    And we will all the pleasures prove
    That we in dark and deeply mined
    Chasms of black Moria find.

    And we will sit beneath the ridge
    And watch the Balrog keep the bridge
    Above the fiery pit whose smoke
    Makes even orcish fighters choke.

  2. The watchmaker
    Who rigged for me
    The warp drive flange
    Out of space debris
    Has given my crew
    A working ship
    So we'll make it through
    From this scouting trip.

  3. We've tried each spinning space mote
    And reckoned its true worth:
    Take us back again to the homes of men
    On the cool, green hills of Earth.

    Rocannon has windbeasts
    And hilfs who act like lords.
    But you just might, if you have to fight,
    Be spitted on their swords.

    To ice-encrusted Gethen
    Our coming was foretold.
    But who'd have known we'd sleep alone
    And wake up twice as cold?

    The dusty moon Anarres
    Is home to anarchists
    Who can only live because they give
    And by gifts their world exists.

    While rich and fertile Urras
    Is plagued with poverty.
    The poor all cry looking at the sky
    That the moon's the place to be.

    On peaceful settled O
    The Night and Day are wed
    Sedoretu build on the vows fulfilled
    Both in and out of bed.

    The Hainish sent out ships
    For many a planetfall.
    But changeling breeds in time have needs
    To be Ekumenical.

    We pray for one last landing
    On the globe that gave us birth;
    Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
    And the cool, green hills of Earth.

(Originally posted on Making Light)

Because I really am a geek

A sonnet on Google Wave.

The sea has depths in which no net is cast,
With trackless kelpine forests where great squid,
Like Sasquatch in his mountains safely hid,
Dance dreaming with the fishes swimming past.
And human interaction is the same.
Beneath an email surface lies the deep:
Unmodeled work and social patterns creep
And spread in ways existing tools don't frame.
If all that data made a single stream
(Instead of tossing users to and fro
Among their applications), it could flow
To ever-mounting heights: Hokusai's dream.
It sounds like fun. I must confess I crave
To grab a board and surf the Google wave.

Originally posted on Making Light.

Byron and Hubble

So we'll go no more a-scrying
So deep into the night
Though the comets still are flying
And the stars are still as bright.

For the software troubles grow
And the hardware fails on test
And the current halts its flow
And gyros come to rest.

Though the sky was made for flying
And the night has more to show
Still we'll go no more a-scrying
And fall once more below.

Originally posted on Making Light


The sonnet muse is back from her vacation

In reply to a recent sonnet by fledgist:

To make a thing, to bring it into being
Is intimate, like making love. The verb's
The join, for making either one disturbs
A universe where knowing comes from seeing.
I dream a thing that doesn't yet have form
Is risky as I love you. Both require
A trust that one's interior desire
Is strong enough to make the world transform.
But reformations of the universe
Alarm a fair few folk. My age is cause
To say I mustn't meddle with what was.
And thus they have a reason to reverse
That instant when I took the world apart
And re-assembled it to match my heart.

Originally posted on Making Light


Five Things

kouredios tagged me with five things she thinks of when she thinks of me. Here's a brief explanation of how each of them looks from the inside.

1. bookmaking
I started binding books in December of 2001. I bind mostly in leather, using both traditional and modern methods. I am a member of the British Society of Bookbinders (though I kind of weird them out because I'm self-taught).

Now, I grew up around printing (my father has two printing presses in his basement), and I married into a printing family (my in-laws own a company that manufactures and sells printing chemicals). So, naturally, I started binding books so that I could have blank ones to write in. I learned mostly from books, and documented what I learned on my (hopelessly out of date) binding blog, http://bookweb.sunpig.com

I rebind published books as well as making blank ones. Most of my bindings are given away, or find their way onto my shelves. I sell blank books on occasion, for fairly small sums; this pays my materials bills and not much more. I am content with that, though one day I would love to be the science fiction bookbinder. (Accept no substitutes)

Binding books, for me, is about craftsmanship. But because it competes with the rest of my life, sometimes it's about being good enough rather than being perfect. The perpetual tension among all of the pressures is difficult to balance, but, in the end, good for me.

2. Dutch
Dutch is the fifth language I have studied (English, Spanish, Latin and Greek being the others). I've never managed true fluency in any language but English; my Spanish was good for a while, but not completely there.

Secretly, I am not convinced I can really become fluent in a second language. This is, of course, nonsense, but it's very powerful nonsense.

I have to overcome this mental block. We moved to the Netherlands with the intention of raising bilingual, multicultural children. But, of course, this move requires me to become bilingual and (even more) multicultural as well. (Martin is already fluent in Dutch, having grown up in the south of the Netherlands.)

It helps that I love the language, which is quirky and cranky in many of the same ways that English is. The word order is completely bats. And I love the sound of it, because I heard it when I was falling in love. (I am particularly fond of Martin's accent.)

3. poetry
I never think of myself as a poet.

I wrote sonnets during high school--dreadful ones--and decided that my muse sang only in doggerel. When I joined Making Light, it gave me someplace to post my doggerel, but I never took it seriously.

It wasn't until John M (Mike) Ford, a regular on Making Light, died that I started writing them again. He was always the master sonnetrist; poetry slams then were races for the silver. (I wonder now if that bothered him.) I was just scrambling to fill the aching hole that I could see in the community. Then, of course, the other poets came out of the woodwork, many of them much better at the craft than I am.

Sonnets, really, are a habit of language taken to formal extremes. When I was in practice I could write them in as few as sixteen minutes (good ones took longer). But at the moment, I can't seem to write any at all. I think that Dutch has taken over those parts of my brain. I miss them, and I regret that everyone but fledgist has stopped with them as well. I feel it's my fault, somehow.

I have written one poem in Dutch, a "Sinterklaasliedje" (St Nicholas' Day song) for a colleague. I enjoyed it; maybe next year I'll write more.

4. pastiche
I do a lot of pastiches on Making Light, particularly for parlour games.

But my favorite pastiche exchange is actually a tiny one with just a couple of people at the tail-end of another thread entirely, as we wrote and rewrote the same passage of "On the Death of WB Yeats" to relate to space, time and science fiction. It's only about six comments long, but I found it stretching and amusing.

My problem is that I'm flying blind whenever I try to do pastiches of writers. What ear I have for tone is unreliable with my own prose. I can sometimes hear when I strike a false note, but more often, I can't really tell when I'm on-voice or not.

I'm also appallingly ill-read. I'd never run across the plums poem until I came to Making Light and saw it adapted by all and sundry. The literary game threads are as much recommended reading lists for me as they are puzzles ("Oh! I wonder how that sounds in non-LOLcats!")

But, you know, the only real requirement for pastiches (and for poetry, for that matter) is that both I and the reader have fun. On that basis, I'll probably continue to do them.

5. motherhood
I've been a mother figure for longer than I've been a mother. I have a brother 12 years younger than me, and a sister 2 years his junior, and I spent much of my childhood and young adulthood "playing on the grownups' team".

But now I'm a reallyo trulyo mother, and it's strange to me. I'm always bemused and baffled that my children love me with such devotion and affection. I don't see myself as deserving it, really. I don't manage the transcendent elements of parenthood that well; I just bumble along.

I do try to tell my children that I love them often, frequently in detail. I'm a great believer in the value of physical contact, and make sure that we spend some time each day cuddling. And every night, when they're asleep in their rooms, I creep in and kiss them one more time, and whisper good things in their ears.

I don't know if this makes any difference to their dreams, but I can hope.

- o0o -

So that's me. If you want tagging, say so in the comments and I'll tell you five things that I think about when I think about you.
When the method that we use to determine the norms of a community is conflict, then only that subset of the members who can effectively survive the process end up deciding the rules.  The mechanisms that emerge frequently require one to be able to spend enormous amounts of time and undivided attention picking through complex, nuanced and angry arguments, at speed and under fire.  After all, everyone who lasted long enough to agree them has that skillset in common.  That's how they got there.

This is why I like web moderation.  The point is to build a conversation where a thick skin and infinite free time are not required to participate, where...

Aw, nuts, the five year old just barfed all over her bed.

(Text posted unchanged, appropriate title added; I had not expected life to make my point for me so dramatically!)
In the spirit of this, a few lines that may be familiar.

Capt: A dozen years have pass'd since this took place,
And all that time hath Parliament kept hid
The secret of this world, till River here
Unearth'd it from their minds.  They feared she knew.
And right they were to dread, since many more
Among the spinning worlds would know it too.
And someone has to speak for those now dead.
For divers reasons did you join my crew
But all have come together to this place.
I've in the past demanded much of you.
Today I ask yet more; perhaps for all.
For this I know, as I know anything:
That they will try again.  Another world
Will be the lab for this experiment.
Or maybe they will sweep this landscape clean
And in a year or ten attempt again.
They'll swing back like the needle to the north
To the belief that they can better men.
And I hold not to that.  Here from this grave
I will not run. I aim to misbehave.

- o0o -

There's more to flight than buttons, albatross,
More to the pilot's role than charts and maps.
You know the foremost rule of flying?  Aye,
I know you do, since you know what I'll say
Before I part my lips.
Riv:                         I do, but yet
I like to hear you say it nonetheless.
Capt:  'Tis love.  Though you know all the math the 'verse
Contains, if in the sky you take a ship unloved
She'll shake you off as sure as worlds turn.
Love keeps her in the air when she should fall
And tells you that she hurts before she keens.
It makes her home.
Riv:                         The storm is getting worse.
Capt: We will endure a while, till it disperse.



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