Sunday, March 25, 2018

What does a dragon mean?

I just got an email from a friend in my writing group who recommended reading a New Yorker review of a book by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have not read anything by that writer, let alone the book being reviewed (The Buried Giant). She mentioned layers of meaning within a dragon allegory. She thought of me because I am working on a fantasy that among other things has dragons in it. There was a quote from Ishiguro where he talked about the concept of genre (The Buried Giant is considered 'fantasy'), which he thought was essentially a marketing thing having very little to do with what he wrote or why he wrote it.

I guess I would agree with that, although I am not thinking in terms of allegory or genre. My dragons are characters in my story and I don't really have a particular idea that I am trying to convey with them, allegorically or otherwise. It's just a story. I sort of know where it is going, in the broad strokes, but the details constantly elude me. That's not entirely accurate. I have no problem writing the details, I am just not sure how they relate to what I hope the general trajectory of the story is going to be. When I sit down to write it is as if I am entering a different world, writing as fast as I can to record what I see and hear there. Sometimes I think I should write particular things or somehow massage the narrative in a particular direction. That trips me up, I soon find myself dealing with contradictions I'm not sure how to resolve.

I read somewhere else that the 'meaning' of art is in the eye of the beholder. When you look at a painting (or read a poem, or whatever) you are free to interpret it however you like, the meaning of that piece of art is up to you. The artist may very well have a point they wish to convey, their art may have a particular meaning to them. But you are not required to see it that way.

I'm on the third draft now, or maybe iteration 3.5, as at one point the story forked and then there were two separate stories. In an effort to rein in the complexity I am trying to ignore one of those forks and continue on in only one direction. I wanted to eliminate some of the characters (again, reining in complexity) but I have so far failed. It turns out that either a character up for elimination makes a very good argument for importance to the plot, or else some of the things I have previously written about that character are just too good to dump. One of the members of my writing group has started a genealogical diagram to keep track of my characters; I keep promising to provide a definitive dramatis personae, but so far it is just in my head. Too many characters, too many points of view.

A few years ago I participated in a writing retreat with a couple dozen other people. It was very productive for me, I got a lot of writing done. One of the other participants was also working on a fantasy novel, she already had one published. She said that finding a publisher for fantasy in Canada is very hard, there is certainly nothing available in the Maritimes. I doubt that I will ever publish, unless I self-publish, but I don't really care about that now. Not being concerned about publishing takes a bit of pressure off, I don't have to think about whether my story is publishable or whether there is a market for it. I also have no deadlines. I listen to the other writers in my group discuss these kinds of things and am kind of glad I don't have to take any of those concerns into consideration when I sit down to write. I can just enter that world and try to record what is going on there. It is enough.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What to do after late-season snowstorm

I do love my new bathroom. Every time I walk into it I feel great, I love a bath in the soaker tub and I even love brushing my teeth at the new sink.

Yesterday I was going to vacuum the basement floor, in preparation for replacing rugs on said floor. I started up the vac and then thought it was rather full of dust and I should clean out the vac first. I took it into the utility room to empty the canister into a garbage bag, only I missed; half the dust ended up on the floor.

OK, I thought, I'll just get the shop vac to clean up the spilt dust.

I hooked up the shop vac hose to the wrong outlet and instead of sucking it blew. Not only all over the utility room but also all over the entire basement, since all the doors were open. So much for vacuuming, now I have to wait for the dust fog to settle.

Big snowstorm on Friday into Saturday morning. After a month of pseudo-Spring we're now into Real Winter. But since it is March, Real Winter means heavy wet snow that one can hardly move with a shovel.

Hapi and I went to the Reservoir for a walk in the afternoon (after half a morning spent moving heavy wet Real Winter snow). Lots of trees down from the Real Winter snow in their branches, every one of those trees was rotten. The ponds looked like they were covered in ice again (they had been clear of ice for over a week), but it was actually snow floating on the water.

Waterdog tracks in the snow
In the evening I went to a friend's place for Carcassonne and pizza. I usually win but this time my friend trounced me in the first game and narrowly beat me in the second. She refused to play a third game. As a consolation she gave me a huge chunk of apple-ginger cake that she had made for the occasion, to take home with me.

I can live with that.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Hot and Cold

You're kidding, right?
On Wednesday afternoon the guys left, they had completed the job and left the place if not spotless at least tidy. I was so glad to see the last of them. Not that I found them unpleasant, just that I was glad to finally emerge from over six weeks of renovation and all that that entails. Bobby and I had a long conversation about single life, grandchildren, and retirement plans (he says he's going to get himself a motorcycle and tour Newfoundland). I had pizza and beer for supper. I laid Hapi's bed on the nice clean and reasonably empty basement floor and invited her to try it out.

She said, Are you kidding me? You want me to go down there?

She wouldn't go down, she slept outside that night. Thursday was delightful, I was so happy to finally have the place to myself. I decided not to tackle cleaning up the basement right away, instead I bought a few things for the bathroom, baked some bread, took Hapi for a long leisurely walk, and did some laundry. Just a nice boring day.

Late in the afternoon I ran a bath for myself in the brand new soaker tub. Earlier in the day I had turned up the hot water heater thermostat because the new tub is twice as big as the old one, so the water that comes out of the faucet is much hotter now. There was no cold water. Went down to the basement and opened the cold water shutoff valve that the guys had forgotten to turn back on. Now there was a little cold water, but only just a little. Not nearly enough to cool the now scalding hot water from the hot water tank. I ran as much cold water as I could but still the tub water was only just bearable. I learned that a very large tub of hot water takes a really long time to cool off and my body can adjust to a small tub of hot water but not to a very large tub of hot water. It was not a pleasant experience.

So after getting out of the tub (after a quick bath rather than a long leisurely soak) I called Bobby. He said the shutoff valve must be corroded and he'd come by on Friday to replace it. I had my writing group meeting on Friday morning so I hung around the house just long enough to let the guys in and then went off to the three-hour (usually) meeting. When I got home afterwards they were still there.

Uh-oh, I thought.

Bobby told me a long saga about trying to obtain a new shutoff valve, they had only just finished installing it.

He said, If you don't like swearing you better leave now.

After they installed the valve they tried the bathtub faucet. Still no cold water. Must be the cartridge he said.

So off they went in search of a new cartridge. I puttered around tidying things in the basement until they returned with the cartridge. Bobby installed it and turned on the faucet. Still no cold water. Now he was mad. He went down into the basement and peered into the closet where he could see the pipes under the bathtub, muttering to himself all the while. Not sure what he was saying, but apparently the next step was to tear out the ceiling below the tub and search for a kinked tube, something he really did not want to do. I was almost beside myself. Thursday had been so wonderful and Friday was turning into a nightmare.

Bobby decided it was time for a coffee and I seconded the motion. So the guys left for the local Timmy's and I made a quick lunch for myself and took Hapi for a walk. We were out for almost two hours. I was thoroughly stressed out about the guys being back in the basement and poor Hapi got a forced march as far out on the dykes as I could manage. Not too cold but very windy. She found some nice mud and waded into it up to her chest. Oh boy. Dyke mud is very stinky.

By the time we got home we were both exhausted and Bobby's truck was not in the driveway. There were small signs that they had been there (a screwdriver that had been in the bathroom was now in the kitchen) so I went straight to the bathroom and turned on the faucet. Lots of cold water! But no hot water!!

You have got to be kidding!!! I thought to myself.

I phoned Bobby and told him. He said he'd be back on Saturday to fix it. An easy fix he said.

Which is what he said when I called him on Thursday about the lack of cold water.