Archive for the ‘Life in general’ Category

Till-ing Time

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Figuratively Speaking

Today, a long-overdue look at an Old English word written in many ways and having many meanings.

Yet it’s a simple word of four letters, sometimes three.

Till allows us to dig in the ground, since it means to prepare and cultivate land for planting crops. My grandparents would till their land each spring to raise food crops for the summer.

This form of “till” comes from the Old English “tilian,” which means to strive for, or obtain by effort, from German, zielen.

Till also reflects our interest in money — a word I learned working in restaurants (along with “chit,”referring to money owed and in the restaurant business, the money totals for each wait staff. It comes from the Hindi word for note).

The till is the cash drawer in a store, bank or restaurant. We know the expression to have one’s fingers in the till — meaning to steal from the place where one works.

This form of till comes from Middle English in a general sense of a drawer for valuables.

Interestingly, till also refers to boulder clay or unstratified sediments, from a Scots word for shale.

Last, I’d like to mention till as a short form of until, which is often shortened to ’till or written as ’till.

I never know how to write this shortened form. I always vacillate between ’til and ’till, feeling that ’til is just to short. The dictionary says till is a short, informal variation of until, and that until usually appears in writing.

Until is a composite of till, which came from the Old English til, related to Norse til. Until came about when we tacked on und, meaning “as far as” from the Old Norse.

By the way, this sense of until — “up to (the point in time or event mentioned)” comes from the combination of und, as far as + till, cultivating the land for crops.

Back to till and til, ’till and ’til — a look at the AP Stylebook cleared things up. Till, but never ’til.

Too bad I waited until today to figure that one out.

Miracle on 40-Second Street

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Launching into the routine this morning of warming the kettle, dishing the coffee and the fairly tedious act of filling the coffee maker without spilling water all over the counter and myself, I waited for the reassuring sound of coffee brewing.

Hildegarde the cat was meowing (and it’s quite a lot of racket). I’m scooping food into three tiny cat bowls, pouring oats into another one for me, and I peer up at the counter, listening for the popping, steaming and dripping, the coffee miracle.

That sound did not come. I don’t know what would be worse, going without coffee, or driving in Christmas traffic to a retail store to buy a new one. The blank shelves, stripped of their contents, the half-opened boxes and shelf models all that remain. The sheer panic of seeing all the strangers that emerge from their hiding places at Christmas, that remind me the South is still a bizarre and Gothic place.

Fortunately, we have a press pot on hand for times like these that needs no filter or electricity. In the end, it’s the fail-safe option for coffee.

Never one to give up, I unplugged the coffeemaker for a few minutes, then tried again — after I’d had coffee from the press pot — and waited, my hand on the hotplate, for warmth. And got it! Yes, the coffeemaker seemed to come back to life.

Of all the Christmas wonders, this one may top the list this year. A working coffeemaker!

Santa, you’re too good.

A Book, Two Dogs & Thee…

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

In Which the Writer Takes a Vacation

Greetings from the top secret vacation spot of yours truly. I had no idea how great it would be to get away with the dogs … and spend a few days looking out a window at the ocean.

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Yesterday I purchased a fresh new First Edition of Thomas Pynchon’s just-released novel, “Inherent Vice.” What a dreamy read, so far. This reclusive writer knows how to craft a sentence.

Here’s an example

Doc took the freeway out. The eastbound lanes teemed with VW buses in jittering paisleys, primer-coated street hemis, woodies of authentic Dearborn pine, TV-star-piloted Porches, Cadillacs carrying dentists to extramarital trysts, windowless vans with lurid teen dramas in progress inside, pickups with mattresses full of country cousins from the San Joaquin, all wheeling along together down into these great horizonless fields of housing, under the power transmission lines, everybody’s radios lasing on the same couple of AM stations, under a sky like watered milk, and the whilte bombardment of a sun smogged into only a smear of probability, out in whose light you began to wonder if anything you’d call psychedelic could ever happen, or if — bummer! — all this time it had really been going on up north.

He sparingly drops in those sentences — perfectly wrapped creations — so they stand out in eye-popping wonder. Other, shorter, sentences ring sonorous with far more melody than they hold in meaning or plot.

Will keep you posted in Fiction Dailyland … and wishing all a Happy Labor Day.

PS
… My step dad, Sim Wilde, retired academic dean, essayist and fiction writer, has begun a blog. You can check it out here. Expect his personal flavor of salt-of-the-earth stories, poems and reflections.

Mayberry Monday

Monday, August 17th, 2009

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Just a happy photo of Mayberry Walker Hound for Monday. Photo by Greg Eans

Mayberry: The True Story

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

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I’ve had Mayberry for a few months now, and he is showing himself to be a wonderful dog, and a truly worthy successor to Annie. I couldn’t have imagined I’d luck up twice now, but it seems I have.

Readers of this blog know how I first met Mayberry, coming across his listing on Petfinder.com one weekend. I arranged a rendezvous with his foster mom, who had also rescued Annie nearly 10 years ago. Though he appeared a wreck of a dog — lumbering, scarred, with an uneven gait — he placed his big whiskery head in my lap, and I fell for him.

I brought him home about a week later. Since then, I have marveled at his stature and his stubbornness. This dog will stop in the middle of the road on our walks and refuse to budge, forcing me to either pull him by the neck or push him from behind. Treats thrown down the street will work, but not always.

Last weekend, however, I learned more of the big guy’s story when I ran into his foster mom and other animal volunteers at PetsMart.

One person told me Mayberry was at PetsMart every weekend for a year, hoping for adoption. People passed him by, week after week, as he looked out at them from the big pen.

She also told me how kind and patient he was, never growling or fussing with the other dogs. How he tried to sit in her lap every time she rested beside him in the pen.

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A year waiting for adoption! Rejected time and again!! The thought just broke my heart.

The heroic lady who rescued him also told me how when she took him from his previous owner, in addition to having nearly starved to death, he was in a filthy pen and covered with “everything,” she said.

He has tested positive for Lyme antibodies, and I think he must have been exposed during his previous life. She agreed that since he has not shown symptoms of the disease in the 1 1/2 years she had him, I can feel pretty good that he was exposed to the disease, but with any luck will not contract it.

When I got home I couldn’t wait to give him a big hug. It’s pretty certain this guy has won the lottery.

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And he’s earned it too. Not just with his previous years of suffering, but also with his behavior these days. As I write, he is sharing his big bed with our cat Garbo, who is hogging the lion’s share of it, so to speak.

Over the weekend, I was visited by one of my favorite neighbors, a 10-year-old girl who comes over to visit the animals from time to time. She sat on the floor with Mayberry, petting him, ruffling his fur, patting his head and doing everything short of pulling on his tail. I kept a close watch to see if he was getting annoyed, but to the contrary, he curled up beside her as close as he could get.

So while no one can ever replace dear Annie, the great Bodhisattva and Zen dog, I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have found Mayberry.

And, he might say, the feeling’s mutual.

ON THAT NOTE, if you haven’t seen it yet, this article describes new research showing dogs are at least as smart as human 2-year olds. As I’ve always said, any animal that I have to spell words around has got to be pretty smart.

News Flash: Kerouac Estate Ruling

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

JACK KEROUAC’S WILL RULED A FORGERY

It’s been quite some time since I posted, but I wanted to share this news with Fiction Dailyland:


Fla. judge rules will on Kerouac’s estate is fake

by the Associated Press

13 mins ago

CLEARWATER, Fla. – A lengthy dispute over the estate of Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac has ended with a Florida judge ruling that his mother’s will was fraudulent.

Gabrielle Kerouac left all of her son’s assets to his third wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, when she died in 1973. Ever since, the Sampas family has had control of Jack Kerouac’s manuscripts, letters and personal belongings.

But Jack Kerouac’s daughter and nephew believed the will was fake. They filed a lawsuit that has dragged on in Pinellas County for the last 15 years. On Friday, a judge finally ruled that the will was a forgery.

Bill Wagner, an attorney for Kerouac’s nephew, says its unclear what action his client will take next.

Previous reports have placed the estate’s value at $20 million.

I always suspected something was fishy about the way his estate seemed to be settled so strangely, since he was at odds with his third wife during most of their tragic marriage.

I’ll keep you posted.

Walker Hound News!

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

We have our priorities straight here at Fiction Daily.

So while the world watches the hopeful protesters in Iran, mourns the loss of two pop icons in Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, the Fiction Daily world is abuzz with news of a different kind.

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After the loss of our beloved Annie Karenina Walker Hound, I took it upon myself to scour Petfinder.com last week while the husb was away … to search for a dog here in our community.

I went to PetsMart in his absence and, well, silly me! What was I thinking? That I would leave without wanting another dog?

After milling around for some time, I remembered seeing this Walker Hound, Sport. I asked if he was still available, and the young volunteer said, Yes, as a matter of fact, he was still available. And he’s a big couch potato.

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Come to find out, Sport was saved by the same wonderful animal cruelty officer who rescued our Annie. And Sport was at her home! I went to see him, and he was something of a train wreck of a dog. The volunteer foster mom said, “No one will ever adopt this dog.”

Well, those were fighting words, and over the next few days, I found myself thinking about that poor old guy more and more.

Yesterday, Greg and I went to see him. I was hedging, unsure, and Greg said, let’s take him home.

And we did!

So today, we’ve bathed a nearly 100-pound Walker Hound, taken a couple of walks, and had a few stern reprimands about not “treeing” the cats.

He seems to be fitting in very well. What’s best of all, he’s house trained!!

We wondered what to name him, and this morning, Greg comes out with “Mayberry.”

And so it is.

Mayberry.

May … Berry … RFD!!!

PLEASE PARDON THE IRREGULAR ENTRIES WHILE I AM CAMPAIGNING FOR GREENVILLE N.C. CITY COUNCIL. FD RETURNS IN NOVEMBER.

Mid-June News

Monday, June 15th, 2009

A brief hello from Fiction Dailyland, where I am putting together a large article, working on a Web site and managing to get by in these uncertain economic times.

The article I worked on for many months, describing the earliest discovered European settlement in the Southeast (spoiler alert: it was Spanish!) has appeared in Archaeology Magazine. My hat is tipped to the fine editor I worked with, whose drive for a better article pushed me to a new level. My husband took the photos during our site visit last year.

You can find part of the article here, and the full article in the July/August issue of the magazine.

Meanwhile my campaign for Greenville City Council is chugging along. Met with my treasurer yesterday and she has taken the ball and is running with it. That’s one of the most important volunteer needs for a campaign, so it is a gift to have her on board.

Filing opens July 6 at 8 a.m. and Yours Truly will be there. Bright and early.

Meanwhile, in really really big news, I bought a new bird feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited. It’s awesome! Made from 37 recycled milk jugs, it has a lifetime warranty. It’s quite sturdy and the birds love it. If they can ever get away from the squirrels, that is. Yep, one squirrel just parked himself on the feeder last week until he emptied out all the seed. That must have been a half pound or more. (Must buy a baffle.)

The feeder was an investment, as it cost more than your average feeder. I purchased it during a moment of clarity when I reminded myself that
— I wanted to support local businesses, and Wild Birds Unlimited is a locally-owned franchise. Thanks Debbie!
— I needed more than “lip service” about recycling. Buying recycled items is as important as tossing plastic in the bin
— I believe in “Made in the USA.” The feeder components are all U.S. made, though I’m not sure where the feeder was assembled.

Meanwhile, I hear Mr. Blue singing a lot lately, so I imagine he must be ready to raise more babies with his wife. I’ll keep you posted. Happy week from all of us here at Fiction Daily!

News: Happy, Sad

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

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Big news in Fiction Dailyland today.

Since fall 2007, Fiction Daily has been a great love of mine and I’m sure that won’t change in the long term.

In the short term, however, a change ahead will probably curb my posts, though they certainly won’t end.

Yes, dearly beloved, Yours Truly is launching a campaign for the office of city council for the great City of Greenville, N.C.

Last week, I announced to the Daily Reflector, our newspaper, and reporter Kathryn Kennedy did a nice article that genuinely captured the early character of my campaign.

So while my great love is writing … books … and things literary, I am entering a new area, where I hope to learn all I can, put my principles to use, and serve the public and the community. It’s a proud moment to take part in that big, abstract, lumbering animal, democracy.

Election Day 2009 is Nov. 3 … so between now and then, expect erratic posts. It’s likely that my new campaign Web site will be located at www.marionblackburn.com. I may start a campaign blog … I will open a Facebook page (Elect Marion Blackburn for Greenville N.C. City Council) and yes, I will be Twittering.

Meanwhile … at night when the meetings have ended … and I’m wrapped up for the day … expect to find me with a big fat novel.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, I’m reading Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. They are incredible, real mind candy that’s also nutritious. Excellent writing.

AND THIS SOMBER NEWS: Our beloved Walker hound, Annie, passed away on Sunday night after a sudden, serious illness.

We were holding her sweet head in our hands when she passed, sparing us the decision to have her put to sleep. She was a marvelous dog to the end.

Attic Days

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The landscape of the home

Greetings from Fiction Dailyland, and my apologies for not posting yesterday. A peaceful Memorial Day brought a lot of focus and concentration … due not in a little way to the great clearing out of the past two weeks.

Yes, the roulette wheel spun and it came up ATTIC. So for that past two weekends I have gone through everything in the attic, from one end to the next, every box, every book, Christmas decoration, old cookie sheet and file.

To begin, I dragged out box after box and starting to pull everything out of them. It’s remarkable how, with time, I am better able to see what has meaning, for me, today. I tend to hold on to things because I want to remember times of my life, people and ideas I’ve read.

Yet years pass, and I no longer need to remember those times — either they are solidly a part of me, or I no longer care to cling to them, for whatever reason.

As I pulled items, papers and books out of those boxes, it became easier and easier to let go. Oddly enough, I felt my values and character emerge with each decision … I let go of all those old magazines I once held on to, worried that I’d not have enough strong clips of my work; I let go all those books I hoped to read one day (I’ll surely find them again if they are still worth reading) (though I did hold on to War and Peace) (some day!)

I decided that if a book was going to be worth reading, I needed to get it out of the attic. Because many times, I’ll store a book away, only to rediscover it, later. Such is the case with the book I can’t put down these days: Seven novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason. His narrative is lock-tight. This book I’ve held on to for years and years, and once considered getting rid of it.

So how to make these decisions?

In one case, I saved a receipt for a power cord bought in Prague — but got rid of the cord itself.

I have limited days left, and want to read the best writing in the time that’s left. Pulitzer Prize winners in general get a reprieve, while lesser books — especially the experimental fiction I once loved to dip my toes in — is out.

Award certificates (OK, not many of them) were removed from their frames and will be kept with my papers. Bye-bye clunky frames.

Two boxes of MS drafts … gone. I once thought someone might care about my short-story drafts, but I’ll be happy if anyone cares about the stories themselves one day!!

As I sorted and let go, I felt inner peace. All those created items are returning to the world, to others, or to dust. As they do, I am freed.

As the Buddha said before his transfiguration, “Every created thing will pass, even the Buddha.”

After emptying the boxes, I recombined what remained of the books, my Grandmother’s china, my French materials and teaching papers, in an orderly way into plastic bins from Kmart. (Plastic, yuck, but sometimes it is useful.)

As I look over that marvelously neat and airy attic now, I realize that until I know who I am, I can’t decide what to save and what to keep. At 48 years old, I’m finally getting that figured out.

BLUEBIRD UPDATE: I hear the bluebird fledglings and parents from time to time in the yard as they call to each other. I’ve seen Mrs. Blue feeding two juveniles, but so far, have only seen the pair. Greg assures me that the other three are not lost, and that they must have already learned how to take care of themselves.

DUCK UPDATE: My neighbor’s female ducks have nested in our yard, where they are sitting on eggs. Not sure if they will hatch, but they sure enjoy chasing the dogs.