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Posts Tagged ‘departure’

When I started this blog I made a pretty conscious decision not to make this a blog about literary criticism or discussion, aside from in a very general sense–see my discussion of books I’ll read my kids from yesterday, and keep an eye for an entry called Things I Must Believe, which is about the things we have to believe are true to keep sane. Mine happen to be mostly literary.

Aside from those, though, I decided not to talk about books too much. I’ve used Young Wizards and Neil Gaiman to talk about my beliefs, but I wanted to get away from the English-major modality in which I’ve been thinking and writing for over four years. If people are going to know me at all (which probably they won’t), I want to be know for more than just talking about books. Even though that’s what I do with my friends and partners and parents, I wanted to spend some time thinking more about gender and sexuality and other interesting things I never had time for because I was busy write-write-writing about books.

But I’m going to make an exception today.

See, the last time I went back to my parent’s house for the day, I pulled half a dozen books from the big bookcase in the spare room. (For those interested, my family has between eight and ten good-sized bookcases in the house; this is the tallest but not the biggest.) Most of the books I’d either read or wanted to read for ages; one I pulled and didn’t recognize, but the cover looked amusing and vaguely trashy-fantasy/sci-fi-ish. It looked like it was probably one of my dad’s books; he’s as into genre fiction as I am.

So I dump all these books on the table, and my father wanders in to flip through them because he’s nosy. He holds up the book I hadn’t recognized and says, Are you borrowing this?

Yeah, I said, rummaging through my bag.

Then I have to get you another one by the same guy. And he runs off to his room to fetch it. In an altogether too gleeful a manner for a fifty-something year old guy. And comes back with a very solemn-looking and sizeable book with the full moon on its cover.

The reason my dad was so excited was because I’d picked up The Cat Who Walked Through Walls by R.A. Heinlein. Remember when I said my dad is a genre-fiction guy too? Well, his genre is Science Fiction, where mine is Fantasy, and Heinlein is (if you have been living under a rock for fifty years) the greatest of the scifi greats.

And I’d never read him. Not once–and I even made a run at Tolkien for my dad’s sake. I thought Heinlein was dusty and dull and boring, dated unpleasant futuristic scholk. Don’t ask me where I came up with this because I don’t know. I’d never touched Heinlein, not a single novel, not one short story. And then just last week I read Uptown Local and Other Interventions by Diane Duane. And found out that Heinlein had loved Ed the shark (who will show again in an entry or two). And I thought, okay, he’s got to have something, maybe I’ll pick up this book I found on the shelf and give him a chance.

I fell in love.

I haven’t been this sucked into a book since I was reading the Tamora Pierce books as an eleven year old or the first time I read American Gods. I can hardly tear myself away. I’ve finished Cat Who… already; the other one is sitting open on my shins right now, fifty pages in already. (The other book is, by the by, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress–considered by some Heinlein’s greatest work. It’s going to be all I can do to not stay up until midnight with it.) I can’t believe I went so long without them. I’m entranced, my breath is taken away. This is what it was like to discover Charles de Lint, to have a whole world open up in front of me, one that will take months or years to get through. I don’t panic, seeing so much left to read–instead I can hardly bear the thought that I can’t spend all my time sunk deep into that world, and yet rejoice that there will be so much time left to spend in it. I am something close to crazy with this. I don’t think most people completely grasp my book mania; I cart a novel almost everywhere and am able to go on about them for insane amounts of time. I like almost everything I read, and have a hell of a time trying to decide on my favorite.

So when I say that these two novels are the best ones I’ve read in the past two or three years?

You have to understand that that really, really means something.

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In Life’s name, and for Life’s sake, I assert that I will use the Art which is its gift in Life’s service alone, rejecting all other usages. I will guard growth and ease pain; I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way, nor will I change any creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, is threatened or threatens another. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will ever put aside fear for courage, and Death for Life, when it is right to do so, looking always towards the Heart of Time, where all our wounded times are one, and all our myriad worlds lie whole, in That from Which they proceeded —

Next to the “I Believe” speech from American Gods, this is the closest I have to a formal religious creed. I was raised Catholic and I’ve identified as a transcendentalist for several years. Some people may notice a certain amount of tension between the two identities — a belief system that focuses on the Mass and a belief system that focuses on the individual finding God in his or her own way — and I’m aware of this. I like it. As someone who tries to embrace the contradictory aspects of her own personality, and not just try to force them all into alignment with each other, I appreciate the sensibility. Big chunks of my personality can be traced back to the ritual and hierarchy of my Mass-attending childhood; equally big parts come from my adolescent discovery of a way to find god in nature and other people.

But Catholicism and Transcendentalism ain’t got nothing on Diane Duane.

The title of this blog comes from “So You Want To Be A Wizard”, a children’s novel published four years before I was born, the first in a series of nine books (the latest was just published this past March).  They’re higher quality and better written than anything by Rowling; the characters are more engaging and the conflict between good and evil more nuanced. Things aren’t simple; there is no one enemy whose defeat will solve everything.

And wound through everything is the Wizard’s Oath — a promise to preserve life and all things living, to slow down the eventual heat-death of the universe, to stop pain if I can.

And that means my own pain too.

When things are bad with me I have to find a way to get through things. I’m accustomed to using structured forms to soothe myself, whether it’s pacing the same path in the kitchen or knitting or keeping the same half-dozen words from whatever scene I’m working on running through my head. The first half of my senior year at college was rough for me, with a broken ankle and a thesis that badly needed attention and a mental state all scrambled by some stupid girl. I was hauling myself through every single day with my teeth gritted and my shoulders stiff. I was tired and I was overwhelmed and I was hurt. I needed something to hold onto, to remind myself that there were people and a world and a whole wide universe outside of my own head.

And so every day I put my fingers to the copy of the Oath above my pillow and I said the words out loud. I said it and sometimes I cried with the ache of how hard it is to put aside fear. I don’t know if I believe in God but I believe in the Heart of Time, where we will be reunited with everyone and everything that we’ve loved and lost. So every morning for weeks, and every evening, I promised that I would look towards that place and away from entropy. I said to the one who stood behind me, Fairest and Fallen, greetings and defiance, and reminded myself that we are all equal in the One.

And it helped. It helped to find strength in something greater than myself, even if it was only something from a children’s novel. I was coping through ritual and creed, the only way I knew how. I wrote the Oath everywhere, including against the darkness behind my eyes. And slowly I came out of it. Slowly, it became easier to know that this was the right when to put aside pain.

This is how I worship. These are the words I say.

For Life. For Life. For Life.

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Chalkey and I are apartment hunting. We’re hoping/planning to move to Boston in the fall, and this means spending a lot of time on Craiglist, HotPad, and the phone – not to mention the street, both through Google Maps and physically. Location-wise, I live about 45 minutes outside the city right now, so I can actually go and look at places.

It also means I can actually PICTURE where we might be living. Now, I love Chalkey, but he does tend to email me suggestions located in, say, Springfield. Or Worcester. And there ARE jobs all over Massachusetts, but I want to be within spitting distance of Boston – preferably on the subway system, but I’d do commuter rail as well (I think Chalkey wants to be within spitting distance of SOME GIRL ;DDD). All the jobs I’m applying for are in and around Boston, and I have a lot of friends there. There are some Wooster grads – both Chalkey and I just graduated – and a big student community, and music, and art… Boston’s just a good place. I think we can both be happy there.

…and I must admit that the opportunity to be close to Jim, who’s going to be living in Norwood, is a major draw for me.

The most frustrating part of this whole search is what the ads don’t include. I require certain knowledge! Here’s what I would, ideally, like to know:

  • Where is it? What street? Is it close to public transportation?
  • How many rooms is it?
  • How much does it cost per month?
  • Is it furnished?
  • Is heat included? How about water? Or electricity?
  • Are pets allowed? What kind of pets?
  • Is there a finder’s fee?
  • Who owns the building? Does the owner/landlord live there too?
  • What’s the move-in date? Is it flexible?
  • What is the neighborhood like? The other tenants?

HOWEVER.

The only thing I really, REALLY get angry about not knowing right up front, every time, is this: are utilities included in the rent?

I have no idea why this is left out so often, and not specified either way! It drives me up the wall. Like, flailing. I am forever asking Chalkey, on the phone and through email, “Why does it never say anything about utilities? Isn’t this supposed to be important?”

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE.

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