Friday, February 24, 2017

Week in Seven Words #332

borne
Walking the length of a massive bridge on foot. Car fumes, heat, and over-the-shoulder glances to check for bikers bearing down. A pause now and then to stare at the river spreading undisturbed in a blue haze.

fitting
Some of the steps are even. Others are ragged stone stitched together with grass.

irregular
A trail threading through tall grass. It wears a patchy coat of sunlight.

marrow
Shortening a conversation with someone who likes to pour fear into my bones.

offset
Planning and leading the hike takes a new kind of confidence, and I like that I can pull it off. I tend to brood about everything that can go wrong in any situation. To some extent, it's useful, but not when the thoughts become paralyzing.

serene
By the river, there's music from decades ago and greasy food and cooler air. Shade on overhung paths and peace for the soul.

synopsis
She asks me what the book I'm reading is about. How do I explain it to a kid? (Or to anyone, in a few seconds.) It's about people making bad decisions and receiving bad advice. Plus, someone doesn't know who his real parents are. And another person doesn't much like a man she's encouraged to marry. And...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Week in Seven Words #331

cleanup
Dominos and Pictionary cards scattered on a dusty floor.

euphony
She has a knack for finding a frayed nerve ending and plucking at it. But this is one of the moments when she's reassuring, and I feel grateful for that.

examine
The doctor has a quirky sense of humor, sometimes hard to read, which I like except for the occasional moment when I need to know if he means his advice seriously. Other points in his favor - he keeps his kids' drawings in a stack on his desk, and he can find a vein in my arm to draw blood from.

intention
A wedding party takes photos in front of a towering mausoleum where a husband and wife are entombed.

introduction
The dog smashes the puddle, then waits for the reflected trees and buildings to re-form around him.

standpoint
A statue of Joan of Arc on horseback. From behind, it looks like she's marching forward unopposed. At another angle, she's preparing to go down with a fight. A third angle shows her watchful and issuing a warning.

tender
He looks a little hurt, when I joke that his mom needs an hour of solitary quiet.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The letdown in "The Dream" by Winston Churchill

When I chose “The Dream” for Deal Me In 2017, I assumed from the title that Winston Churchill would be discussing some vision of the future. Instead, he describes an incident in November 1947, where he was painting in a cottage and imagined a visit from his dead father.

They have a conversation. Much of it is Winston filling his father in on some of the developments in politics and world affairs since the late 1800s. And war - with more said of the Boer War than either World War I or II, until Churchill offers a brief, blunt assessment of the costs of both wars towards the end of “The Dream.”

What does this piece say of Churchill? In some ways, it comes across as impersonal. The conversation might as well not take place between a father and son; the father is a prop. At various points Churchill seems to elbow his readers in the ribs or shooting them a meaningful glance, intending that they note his opinions on various political figures and subjects.

But there are also moments where the father-son connection (or the absence of one) comes into focus. The distance between them, the fact that his father may not have thought much of him. And at the end, Churchill’s disappointment in himself and what he’s perhaps failed to achieve or live up to. Turbulent personal feelings emerge now and then, sometimes shadowing the casual, more amiable parts of the conversation. Mostly, they’re held in restraint.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Week in Seven Words #330

clarification
What at first sounds like the wind crying resolves into choir music broadcast on a radio in a waiting room down the hall.

hamming
She makes short videos of evil twins leaping out of mirrors and people finding an intruder in the closet as they tour their new home. I'm cast in several roles. My favorite is the one where I get stabbed with a plastic pineapple and deliver a monologue for the ages.

meaty
All of the commuters packed, flesh to flesh, turn the subway car into a sausage link.

median
He continues to be fanatic about how normal he is. His way is the one true way of normality.

reactiveness
Waiting for the elevator, stone-faced as a Buckingham Palace guard, while a neighbor and her child scream at each other a few feet away.

spud
Pleasure from a potato's crinkly gold skin.

sway
In her marriage, she's a courtier. Dressed in elegant fabrics that pool on the floor as she bows and scrapes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Agnes Grey - Revenge of the Governess!

I didn't know anything about Anne Bronte before reading Agnes Grey, except that she's the overlooked Bronte sister. But by the end of the book I figured she'd worked as a governess and that it had not gone well. This book might have given her a little power. On paper, she could enjoy some mastery - trotting them out, all the wealthy vulgar fools who spoil their children and mistreat their governess (a governess who, in the book at least, earns a happy ending to make up for all the unappreciated labor and neglect).

Agnes is a clergyman's younger daughter, and when her family falls into financial straits, she offers to work as a governess. Her older sister and parents doubt her and try to discourage her. She's the baby of the family and has led a sheltered life. She romanticizes the job, imagining that it involves a lot of gentle teaching and chiding and comforting.

In the first family she works for, she gets a bunch of unmanageable brats dumped on her. The parents offer her no support and blame her for the children's faults, so she's helpless in dealing with them. The second family that hires her gives her teenaged daughters to work with. There's little she can do to teach them. Outside the schoolroom, they sometimes spend time with her when they're out of other options. Otherwise, they ignore her. Neglect, loneliness, invisibility - Bronte writes these feelings confidently. The only upside to Agnes being ignored is that she enjoys a few opportunities to spend time with a local curate. She falls in love with him, and he's actually a decent man. (No Heathcliff here.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Week in Seven Words #329

apiary
I don't know about the beekeeping on the premises until suddenly there are clouds of them around box hives on each side of the path. The part of my brain that isn't screaming reminds me that conserving bees is important, so isn't this wonderful? So wonderful.

cames
Petals lit up like stained glass in the low-slanting afternoon light.

ossicones
A man and child dressed as giraffes are reading by a pond. They could be characters from the picture book spread out between them.

parried
The ambulance circles through the cemetery's front drive, to where an old woman sits with her head in her hands on a bench. The EMTs kneel beside her for awhile. Eventually, she waves them off and leaves under her own power.

picking
On a search for a subway platform that isn't blocked by construction, I walk through a part of the city new to me. The buildings are indistinct in afternoon haze. A man on a stoop toys with a guitar.

rooted
Leaves and blossoms draped over weathered stone. Small American flags on a bright yellow lawn.

vexation
He's at my elbow, telling me I'm taking photos of the wrong things. "What's so interesting about that? Take a picture of this! See?"