Sunday, February 15, 2015

dispatch from Donner Lake

Week three of snow. This morning's storm is bringing the total to around eight feet. Work has been canceled one day a week for each of those three, but because my current project involves working with a company in Oregon, all my conference calls and webexes are still on, meaning I have to make them from the kitchen table with a squirmy almost-ten-month-old on my lap (or a screaming almost-ten-month-old banished to the play pen). Which wouldn't be so bad except that I am expected to make crucial decisions for the entire workplace under those circumstances. It's enough to make you envy those who merely had to decide which neighbor to eat.

And on the days we do work, my normally-half-hour commute takes up to two hours and there's not a hope in hell of finding parking once I get there. Possibly not as comparable to starvation and cannibalism as I make it out to be, but it sucks and I would like it to stop. And I'm not even the one digging us out: Berowne averages eight hours of shoveling per day for two straight days every time we get a storm. Yesterday he had to shovel all day just to move snow so he'd have a place to put today's snow. It's a good thing he's excessively manly.

What I've read lately:

The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women, by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels. I wish books of this sort didn't get dated so fast, because the dated information created jarring notes in what was otherwise a very good discussion of a topic in which I'm currently very invested. Still it was a funny and interesting (and, of course, infuriating) read.

The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder, by Charles Graeber. It's always "a true story of [something], madness, and [something which is often murder]", isn't it? In any case, this is about Charles Cullen, possibly the most prolific serial murderer in American history, who just killed people all the damn time in his work as a nurse. An ugly and disturbing story.

From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairy Tales, by Sara Maitland. Maitland talks about the relationship of Northern European folklore to the natural environments in which that folklore developed, and though the result is some occasionally very overwrought writing (and the reworked fairy tales that she inserts throughout aren't always successful), I found this fascinating and informative.

Demon Camp: A Soldier's Exorcism, by Jennifer Percy. Percy follows a soldier who has returned home from Iraq and fallen in with a truly wild cult who claims to exorcise demons. She gets - I think - really inappropriately close to both the soldier and the cult, undergoing an exorcism herself and dropping major hints that she might have slept with her subject. The subject matter is hard to read, and the book's writing very overwrought on all occasions, but when it ended (abruptly) I wanted to know more.

The Curse of the Pharaohs, by Elizabeth Peters. Adorable period mystery, which I needed badly after all this grim non-fiction.

Radio On: A Listener's Diary, by Sarah Vowell. Her first book, in which she listens to the radio for a year and details what she hears. Of course any such premise will be largely driven by the year in which one does it, and she did it in 1995, but even in 1995 I could not give the tiniest crap about Nirvana, and so Vowell's endless extolling of them was really, really boring to me. Especially since everything else she heard on the radio that year she apparently loathed, with a grudging exception made for Ira Glass. But she was twenty-six when she wrote this, and hyperbolic dislike is a pretty standard way to define yourself at that age. She's probably embarrassed by this book now, so I forgive it. It had its good moments despite itself.

Well, I have been informed by a small creature with big lungs that my blogging time has expired. May you all, as a Donner survivor said, never take no cut-offs (which is what I tell my GPS when it tries to convince me that an unplowed, untreated side street will get me to work faster) and hurry along as fast as you can.
 Barring the necessity for cut-offs, may you have good hot chocolate and warm socks.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

quiet snowy days

And another couple weeks fly by, full of things that are only interesting and/or amusing to other parents. My Facebook is exhibiting total Perdita-fatigue: pictures of her get about a fourth of the likes they used to, and I know everyone's bored with Beatrice-the-mother, but I used to post about my dogs just as constantly and obsessively; it's just easier to roll one's eyes about it when it's a baby. It's not like I turned my professional landscape photography studio into a nursery and my thousand art-school followers were blindsided by the onslaught of baby candids. This is not a sea change in my personality here.

Anyway. She's standing on her own for up to seven seconds at a time, though she has no interest in assisted walking yet. Lots of signing for food. Lots of food in general - she's growing like a weed, including her hair, and it shows you how long I've had a pixie cut that the idea of letting my little girl's hair grow out honestly never crossed my mind. As soon as her hair started getting shaggy over the ears I complained that she needed a haircut, and couldn't figure out why people kept looking at me like I was insane, and finally I remembered that girls are supposed to have long hair. Fortunately Berowne, like a good sailor, knows how to braid, so that will be his responsibility. (And as soon as she's old enough to make her own decisions about her hair, she at least won't need to worry that her mother objects to cutting it off.)

We've had, as you've heard, some weather around here. The drifts are three feet high in the yard and there's another foot predicted for tomorrow. A lot of work and stress goes into dealing with this, but it's also good reading weather.

The latest books:

In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America, by Laurie Edwards. Not as interesting as I wanted it to be. There's too little exploration of the history of "imaginary" (and usually feminine) ailments, and too much personal-interview defensiveness. I just kept feeling that there was probably a more historical-context-centered, more scholarly, way for Edwards to handle each topic she brought up, and that was what I wanted to be reading.

The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes. This was a fascinating and wonderful book. It started a little slowly, but Holmes is great at a clear narrative which transmits enormous amounts of historical and scientific information in a completely accessible way, and I genuinely didn't want this book to end with the Romantic era: I wanted him to keep going well into the twentieth century. Great stuff.

Cold Cruel Winter, by Chris Nickson. The second in a mystery series set in eighteenth-century Leeds. I like them very much, and this one was especially fun to be reading on bitter cold nights with the wind howling outside. Fun because I am not in the eighteenth century in Leeds.

Calico Captive, by Elizabeth George Speare. I'd thought that I didn't read this one as a young 'un, but as soon as I opened it I realized that in fact I had. A quick re-read, with some astonishment at how incredibly and deliberately unlikable our heroine is - the other main characters are constantly appalled by her bigotry and shallowness - but general enjoyment.

And now we are home from a delightful morning expedition which included our favorite breakfast place, our favorite museum, the chocolate shop, and a knitting store so that Berowne could obtain equipment and instructions to repair a favorite sweater of his. He's working on said project now, with Perdita pulling herself up on his knees and making her happy Balrog noises, and I'm going to make another cup of tea and read some more. Whether it will be the folksy eloquence of "I Can Share" or the heart-stopping thriller that is "Peekaboo Forest" remains to be seen. 

May you all have a warm shelter against the season, and tea whenever you wish it.