WRAPPING UP

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The year is not over, but with Hanukkah already past, five days to the beginning of winter, and just over two weeks till 2019, “the season” is closing in. The day before yesterday I wrapped gifts for twenty people. Yes, I am amazed too. We sent out fewer holiday cards, but we did get them out.

It was been an interesting year, and by “interesting” I mean in the sense of the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. I mean both marvelous and traumatic for me personally. A man who pursued me on the beach, screaming obscenities, pretty much ruined summer, and then the Kavanaugh hearings brought up old stuff I could have lived without reliving. The determination of people to deny a bad word about the dead, the continuing horror that is the current national administration . . . I did not sew a dress. I did not bellydance for an hour a day. I recklessly ordered a custom desk, but when it arrived it was nothing like what I asked for and it took a month to get the brute out of my office space.

I might not be blamed for feeling a little down.

Instead, we feel cheered to have paid off our mortgage this year. We are not yet accustomed to having disposable income. There is a large open space in the middle of my office space that I quite like. I read several dozen books and gave away books, and there will be more about that later. Reading aloud to my husband is something we have enjoyed in the past. Just now we are beginning the fourth book of Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume series. It’s my third time through and it’s better each time.

We replaced our skylights, repaired some plumbing, and I painted the entire upstairs myself, including floors. We have been seriously divesting lovely things we do not need, have no room for, and our family doesn’t want either. The attic contains only a cardboard box and plastic tubs to catch the leaks, and no rodents. It’s never permanent, of course, but Gary got the job done. (Next year, the roof itself needs replacing, obviously, and the deck now has holes large enough for both my feet to step through.)

We went on vacation, several times, and not merely 6-hour daytrips to Portland that we have counted as “vacation” in the past 16 years. We went to Canada for two nights, Seattle, Forest Grove, Nye Beach, and Decatur Island. Nine days away. Imagine!

I sold a story and an essay—yes, actual money changed hands. I did not find an agent for my newest novel, but that is the result of my determination to indulge in an unpalatable structure. I am working on something else now. Plus, during NaNoWriMo, I wrote a lot of new material, and in the new year, I will work on that too.

On the visual arts front: I knit hats and sweaters; wove blankets, scarves, and shawls; and pieced one completed quilt. This was not all I had planned and a baby blanket is still waiting for me to complete a warp on the loom so that I can put on a blue-gray warp. Still.

Gary and I picked up half a ton of trash off the beach, and gathered an assortment of seaglass, shells, and pebbles that I have only half-sorted.

I taught Writing 121 and 122 last school year, and I have begun teaching that series again this month with a large class of willing and capable students (hooray!). This Thursday, a half dozen former students will be speaking to my college class about their college experiences. I will have made at least three batches of “the chocolate thing” from a Canadian recipe. (That making will happen after I get home late from school on Wednesday.) It is cream, good chocolate, egg yolks, and a tablespoon of orange liquor for nuance.

51mVnm2RrDL._SCLZZZZZZZ__SY500_SX500_Confirmation of my order of The Speed of Darkness by Muriel Rukeyser revealed the cover image, which I immediately recognized. I thought: I have that book already, downstairs in Ian’s old bedroom on one of the poetry bookcases. I have not yet looked to be certain it’s there. If this book was inherited from my aunt or mother, and I have possessed it all this time without reading it, well, that would be both bad news and good, wouldn’t it?

My husband is most pleased that I am regularly using my grandmother’s desk. It is tiny, a ladylike drop-front desk of satinwood, and unsuited to spreading out. I must confine my mess to a narrow surface and that might be a part of the appeal. I generally sit on the sofa with my laptop, or in bed as I am now, typing this post, but I open that drop-front desk each morning and sit at it for a time, and then in the evening, I plug my laptop in on a chest to my left and close my grandmother’s desk. Gary finds all of this precious.

IMG_0015aThe tree downstairs has a thousand LED lights and is decorated with glass birds and tiny stuffed, winged animals made by Margaret Swanson-Vance of SewWing Studios. Some are more than 30 years old. This flying tiger has painted embellishment by her husband, who has passed (marked T  W  MS ’94 ‘Nar Bachcha’). The silver-winged pig at top is brand new. Upstairs is a little white paper tree in the front window. It has only a few lights and white ornaments, some of which are also from Margaret. A unicorn is on its way.

I have learned to bake panettone this fall. The sourdough start has not died but provided waffle batter, sweetrolls, and crumpets throughout the year. I did not make jam or jelly, but there are packets of fire-roasted peppers in the freezer, and we picked up tamale-ground organic masa from Three Sisters Nixtamal. For our Christmas there will be tamales! I plan to bake panettone, rugelach, and pecan cookies for the holidays, too, though it’s tight between the beginning of Winter Break (this Friday) and Christmas Day (next Tuesday).

We’ll manage in joy.

 

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