Saturday, February 28, 2009

Another climbing party

Fun morning on fake rock; several of us women managed to meet for a good session. There were enough people that we could split into smaller groups which suited some people better.
Remainder of the day passed into dark and cold; beloved spouse had a fine day out kayaking, and we had a nice couple of appetizers to round out the evening.

Friday, February 27, 2009

fleeting sun

We chased it, as best we could; a bit of breeze translates as cold to our nonegenarian's delicate skin. The cards keep arriving, which delights her anew.
Errands, chores, and the day is over. Little evening walk for a break.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fleeting drifts

Somehow or other we wound up with a couple of inches of snow overnight, and a sunny but cold day for the nonegenarian's ninety-first. She seems unable to believe it is true, and I do empathize when she muses that she never thought she'd live this long. It is hard when you start having that jarring sense of being older than you feel. A big chocolate cupcake will set her right. The White House tribute to Stevie Wonder went over well, too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


A quorem of climbers this morning, giving the two who felt not so motivated a chance to recover; one with back issues, the other a bug. I figure it's worth trying to flush the germs out via exercise, if possible. Our usual getting lost on the wall for a bit, with the occasional report from an ice climbing trip in Wyoming, or someone guiding up in B.C. That aspect of the sport, i.e., the part that takes place in snowy and icy destinations, leaves me cold. I'll appreciate it vicariously through photos and tales.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dark, drear, and dank

Slipping back down into the doldrums of winter; a bit of sushi for dinner provides its usual mood elevation.
Evidently the nation is being swept by flu. We'd like to avoid that. We trust to our years of exposure and a build up of valuable immunity.
Forward into Wilde's ruminations on Literature; this ought to be good.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Into a week

Running around town, fortunately in the car, for the distances I had to cover; it darkened and started pouring, and all I had were sunglasses. I felt as if I were driving in perpetual night. No umbrella, either, for the walking I had to do; none of my few essentials about me. Lack of sleep will unwind the best of preparations.
Wilde would have adored watching the Oscars, if anything is to be deduced from his lecture titled "The American Invasion", all about the endless charms of young American women taking London by storm back in the late 1800's, and their male counterparts' thorough dullness. Of course, all his words may be utterly drenched in irony and outright sarcasm...
"...and unlike the men, they never bore us with Bunker's [sic] Hill. They take their dresses from Paris, and their manners from Piccadilly, and wear both charmingly. They have a quaint pertness, a delightful conceit, a naive self-assertion." ...and..."There is something fascinating in their funny, exaggerated gestures, and their petulant way of tossing the head. Their eyes have no magic nor mystery in them, but they challenge us for combat; and when we engage, we are always worsted." Etc. Faint praise...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday afternoon

Lovely uneventful day, at least for us; some nice chats on the walking rounds, and we managed to squeeze out the last bit of sunshine.
We're not Academy Awards afficianados, since we rarely waste - er, spend - money on going to the movies. A brief glimpse or so at the spectacle was unrewarding. One actress was wearing a gown created sixty years ago, and it looked like all the others we saw go by on the red carpet. An endless loop of women in spangled material and men in penguin outfits, decade upon decade.
The last of Wilde's poems, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", which I've heard of but never read before, was intriguing despite its gallumphing meter. Famous last words:
And all men kill the thing they love,
By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Wilde spent some time in Reading Gaol as part of his sentence for "immoral behavior" - i.e., being gay.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Unto pumpiness

Fortunate enough to connect with one of my friends for a gym session; we did what we could, although several of the new 11's proved hideously difficult. We couldn't believe we'd gotten so weak that we can't solve anything fairly hard. Gotta be the problems.
Another over the top story by Wilde, titled "The Fisherman and His Soul"; think a reversal of "The Little Mermaid", with a dash of Peter Pan and all kinds of other wild tales thrown in. Unfortunately the stories have ended, and the poetry isn't thrilling me.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Clinging to therapeutic methods

Climbing partners were rare as honest men this week, so it became necessary to take matters into my own hands yesterday. Managed a stiff hour and a half of bouldering and self-belay routes, and it felt relieving and soul satisfying.
More stories by Oscar Wilde; they have struck me as neofabulist, particularly one titled "The Birthday of the Infanta", which brought to mind the famous Velazquez painting called "The Handmaidens." Wilde's description of the 12 year old Infanta, right down to the details of her gown, are right out of that portrait. The dwarf in the story, however, is not female, but a young male who leaps right out of Wilde's imagination, to tragic ends. The first few tales in this collection are rich with fairytale-like descriptions and darkness of mood. I am very pleased and surprised at their quality.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

In unlooked for places

In a long story by Oscar Wilde titled "The Portrait of Mr. W.H.", which appeared in an English magazine in 1889, I came upon this passage:
"Art, even the art of fullest scope and widest vision, can never really show us the external world. All that it shows us is our own soul, the one world of which we have any real cognizance. And the soul itself, the soul of each one of us, is to each one of us a mystery. It hides in the dark and broods, and consciousness cannot tell us of its workings. Consciousness, indeed, is quite inadequate to explain the contents of personality. It is Art, and Art only, that reveals us to ourselves."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sunshine on our shoulders

A bit of warmer air improves our outlook somewhat. A refreshed hairdo for the nonegenarian is de rigeur, and seems to have been a good workout.
Dipping into a collection of Oscar Wilde's writing; the most recent story of his I've read is "The Canterville Ghost", a very humorous bit of haunting. Passed the John Muir collection to the nonegenarian member of the team.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where are we?

Adrift today, in some kind of sea change; maybe it's the horse latitudes of the season, a sargasso weedy patch. Minds aren't breeding tiny monsters, or really much of anything. Onward, through the white north.
Interesting bit from another Le Guin essay:
"Above the level of the merely commercial, in the realm of art, whether it's called mainstream or genre fiction, we can fulfill our expectations only by learning which authors disappoint and which authors offer the true nourishment for the soul. We find out who the good writers are, and then we look or wait for their next book. Such writers - living or dead, whatever genre they write in, critically fashionable or not, academically approved or not - are those who not only meet our expectations but surpass them. That is the gift the great storytellers have. They tell the same stories over and over (how many stories are there?), but when they tell them they are new, they are news, they renew us, they show us the world made new."

Monday, February 16, 2009


On the topic of written material; an essay by Le Guin titled "Fact and/or/plus Fiction" addresses things a bit differently. She was musing about how people are less credulous about "real life" reporting and writing, having been burned so often by trumped-up stories, and seem to want to garner more "truth" from fiction. This is a nightmarish scenario to me. She is adamant about objectivity in work that claims to be nonfiction, with which I agree, but she also allows as how that may be impossible to guarantee any more.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


For an elixir to spruce up the brain; I can think of more than a few that need juicing, my own included. One of those odd, off kind of days, in which memories seem to be leaking out as we amble along the sidewalks; I wish there were a way to repair this, but there isn't. Maintaining a sense of humor is paramount.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


There was a little box of delectable caramels on my computer table, and a gift card to the hot chocolate joint stuck in the keyboard when I came downstairs to get ready for a climbing session. Three of us women headed over to the Other gym, as one woman's kid was attending a birthday party there for one of his school chums. Great fun, pleasant ensuing weariness.
Homemade pasta noodles and a marinara for dinner, and the day was a wrap; it was a sweet day for lovers.

Friday, February 13, 2009


No black cats or ladders in our paths, no loose mirrors liable to shatter, and I didn't spill any salt. Things hold steady for a bit.
In one of her essays, Le Guin takes on Tolstoy's "famous first sentence", the one which opens Anna Karenina. She thinks he just said it because it sounded good, not because it's true. I agree, and I don't think people should head into works of fiction expecting to learn anything absolutely factually true. Le Guin did go on to say that she thought people do indeed read works of fiction to find out about other people in different places without having to travel, but I disagree rather vehemently about the value of that. Read personal accounts, autobiographies, travel narratives, they may contain a few grains of fact, but as a friend is prone to remark,"It's ALL fiction!" Sometimes some kinds of truths do appear in fiction, but I don't think people should run their life on stories. I think fiction is ruined by the need for "true-to-life" material so popular now; this is bizarre. Why the hell would you want to read all about people like you? What's the fun in that? The best fiction, I think, is inventive, playing around with the stories that have come down the line from Gilgamesh; full of lies, exaggeration, delight. Not plodding, heavily researched pablum that's just like "real life."
So, give me a calm life, but wildy wonderful novels and short stories. With any luck, this work will keep appearing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In the pink

Finally managed to line up a climbing partner this week; it's been cancellations right and left, and I needed to get vertical. Different indoor joint, lots of routes created by dear offspring; nothing like spending a couple of hours figuring them out and feeling pleasantly worked over.
Delving into a book of essays by Ursula Le Guin; a very harmonious chord sounded in one of her personal pieces, in which she described her high school time spent in a nearby library. She was reading for a French class, and wrote that only a fifteen-year-old can truly appreciate Charles Baudelaire's poems, "The Flowers of Evil." (Les Fleurs du Mal) I remember finding this book in the big county library in the city near my little town, and finding I could read and think in another language. Interesting shared experience, up to a point. She cried over the poems, I felt excited by something different than my small potato high school life. I'm appreciating her non-fiction work a good deal.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


More sleep, more sun, and even a routine day can be all right. Hairdoin' for the nonegenarian, plus a bit of a Valentine offering in a little stuffed monkey doll. Corny as hell, but much appreciated by her. Peeps has a line of dangerously sugary-looking bright pink hearts out, and the in house afficianado received a package for some early taste-testing.
Local scandal here about the state's L & I department "accidentally" double paying something like 10-15 million bucks annually for the past fifteen years, due to a "double coding" error. Sounds like an inside job to me, especially since the biggest recipients were local builders. I wouldn't put it past the BIAW to hack into L & I's sytem. How the bloody hell can something like that go undetected for fifteen years? They'll never get it all back. Breathtaking.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More miserableness

Mixed snow and rain all day long, and temperatures just above freezing; not conducive to outdoor ramblings. Guilt forced me out in late afternoon to a weights workout, but it was hard to stay warm and dry en route.
One more little Le Guin novel to hand; kind of an old one, circa 1978, and perhaps written to include younger readers, but it's still very good. Also found a collection of her essays, so we shall see what lurks in her mind.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Calling an audible

About a half an inch or so of snow fell overnight, delaying school starts. My friend with a school age child needed to bail on our climbing session, so the day had no high spot until evening. In a miserably cold mixed rain and snow event, we hoisted our bumbershoots and hiked out for sushi. The company was the best, the place was warm and cozy, good music playing, good things to eat.
The summit of Annapurna was attained by two of the ten climbers in the book I have been reading, and the mountain claimed two others' lives. Debatable as far as recreation is concerned, but then so is ice fishing on Lake Erie.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Of a Sunday, we ponder mortality. We test it by putting one foot in front of the other, chilled but not walking a knife edge of ice through a vertical field of crevasses. Later we catch up with friends across the country, and hope that the one in mourning is at least distracted.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Perk up

Out of touch this week with my dear friends with whom I climb; one is still helping her mother recover from her husband's sudden demise, as well as recuperating from her own recent knee surgery. She sounds cheerful, and we hope to regroup next weekend. Reconnected with another one via a good little gym session, during which we concurred that not now nor possibly ever in our lives would we have wanted to endure an expedition like a summit attempt on an extremely high mountain peak. Vigorous physical exercise is fine, up to a point, beyond which lies a kind of madness. Sharing an evening beer with our young'un, to my surprise he more or less agreed, and his emphasis was on the impact on the local inhabitants of such areas. It's the old double-edged sword for the people who make more money schlepping for rich Westerners than they do subsistence farming. There has been a terrible environmental toll on the landscape as well.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Let down

The weather was as sad as we at the departure of our family member; we hang around, having a low-key sort of afternoon.
Onward into the account of the first all-female ascent of Annapurna in the Himalayas, entitled
Annapurna: A Woman's Place. They made a lot of money selling tee shirts which read,"A woman's place is on top." That was racy back in 1978, probably. It sounded like the kind of huge logistical event which makes me tired to contemplate. On part of their slog to the base camp, there was a soggy field covered with leeches, heat-seeking leeches...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

And an unexpected bit more

Due to a cancelled flight, our family member/visitor stayed another twelve hours with us. More conversation, more walking, and a pleasant farewell; good that he managed to get out here, since it had been a while and much water has been flowing under the bridge. We got down to the University Bookstore, where we found some promising tomes. One was about three pounds too tomey for him, so we passed on it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

And yet more

We all went out for seafood last night, and had a good meal, everything from oysters to crabcakes. Today was a pleasant hanging around kind of time span, which our visitor normally doesn't have the luxury to do. We had to go over and try out the organic ice cream joint, which was much appreciated.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And more fun

Shed our coats as we walked along, looking for the first blooms of late winter; we found crocuses, snowdrops, forsythia and daffodils. Someone had given the Fremont Troll a makeover, from pink manicured troll claws to very fancy eye treatment. It appeared to be just plain old kiddie sidewalk chalk, so no real damage was done. He looked MAH-velous.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Family fun

A sibling's in town, and we are busy entertaining. The weather is almost perfect for this visit.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Game day

Friends had a party with many televisions tuned to the Super Bowl. Half time was pretty good, with some songs from Bruce Springsteen and band. The man of the house over there makes a mean chili, which he features every year. Another neighbor arrived with a plate of very warm brownies, and that was better than any pro sports in my book.
Reading along in Rikki Ducornet's novel Gazelle. I like her style, although she sometimes strikes me as a bit of a drama queen, but it's fiction, so anything goes.