It doesn’t get hot here as often or to the degree that it does in much of the U.S., and as a result comparatively few Vancouverites have air conditioning at home. When it’s hot, we turn on the fans, we run our clothes through the rinse cycle and wear them damp, we open the windows, drink iced drinks, and go outside. We sleep badly and swear we’ll get A/C for next year, and some of us actually do. If things keep heating up, everyone will probably install a chiller.
(My house tends to get five to ten degrees hotter than ambient, which is one of many reasons why I didn’t invite a bunch of people I’m meeting with tomorrow to do it here. Melting one’s friends is so gauche!)
Imagine, now, if you had fur! Rumble spends these days lying beside his friend the toilet. I stuck my foot in Minnow, a.k.a. jumpiest cat alive, the other morning, and she did not twitch a bun. And on the one day a couple weeks ago when it was absolutely scorching, I found many of the neighborhood cats snoozing in the shade, lying on lawns, and otherwise keeping cool by just damnwell getting out out. Here’s one:
So, heat. That particular searing day, maybe two weeks ago, K was wrapping up a project at her office and I spent the day in mine, drinking tons of water and sweating like crazy. I find a good bake, once in awhile, to be very gratifying, even healthy-feeling. It was a good day. And since then, it’s been a temperature many would find perfect: hot, but not too.
As we head into this weekend it looks to be heating up a bit more, back into the less comfy range. I probably won’t go out in search of more toasty felines, though–I have that day-long meeting Saturday, a hike with Barb on Sunday morning, and some work that’s crept up on me like one of those cartoon naturalists with a butterfly net. I dealt with as much of the pile as I possibly could today, but I don’t feel as though I’ve got very much think left in me for this evening.
What I do have in me is blueberries. My favorite local farmers have once again set up a booth in the Commercial Skytrain Station, and are selling cherries and blueberries for $2 a pound, or 3 pounds for $5. I shouldn’t be telling you this. I should be keeping it a carefully hoarded secret. I want all the blueberries, which are damn near as big as my thumb, and bursting with archived sunshine. But hiding this information from all of you, when several tens of thousands of commuters stream past these guys all day throwing money at them, would be silly. Go. Eat. They’re delicious.
Slightly related because it touches on my neighborhood and photography, I am thinking of sending a few pictures to the This Is East Van project. It wouldn’t pay, but as far as I can tell they aren’t one of those “you pay us to publish you!” scams that I’m more familiar with from seeing scammers pounce, hyena-like, on young poets. If anyone knows whether these guys are legit, I’d be interested. I haven’t published any photos since I was in some (electronic) Chicago-based Art magazine a few years back. This is because I don’t throw much effort at it. But if these guys aren’t crooks it would be nice to try. You’ve probably all noticed I’m really into my neighborhood, and if you’re not sure on that score, “The Cage” comes out on TOR.COM next week and should remove all doubt.
I will have the next Journey interview for you all early next week. In the meantime, here’s another cat.
On Monday morning I was closing up the house when I noticed an especially stunning dragonfly on my grapevine:
Most of my day had been set aside for fun with Kelly–fun of the strolling about taking pictures variety, no less!–so this was an especially welcome visitor. Sometimes dragonflies are quite twitchy, and won’t let you get close. This one sat quite still and let me snap it for about twenty minutes, from all angles and just inches away. It was still there when we left the house.
The rest of the day was spent in self-indulgence. Coffee and a panini first; then we went to Maplewood Flats and ambled around for awhile, admiring the everything. We were particularly taken with some immature robins who were having a go at the berries in a big tree overlooking the beach.
From there we went to Lynn Canyon, puttered across the suspension bridge, and joined a seething mass of humanity on the trail. We didn’t stay long: crowds and day camp groups and many many screaming toddlers didn’t make for a relaxing soundscape. It was neat to go from the salt marsh ecosystem to BC cedar forest, real Emily Carr terrain, in fifteen minutes flat. But the jostling and screeching were aversive; solitude was what we both wanted.
So we fled to Au Petit Chavignol, where we were the only people besides the wait staff. We had a little plate of cheese (including goat gouda with nettles!) and charcuterie, an heirloom tomato salad, some white wine (Joie Farm, A Noble Blend) and a decadent little brown sugar and butter cake with cooked cherries. I managed to shoot it before it got devoured; usually it would come with whipped cream too, but I had them leave that off.
I have to tell you that if they’d brought twice as much of this cake, I’d have finished it. If they’d brought ten times as much of this cake, I’d have finished it. Fifty, even. It was that good.
At that point it was time to go home and loaf within easy reach of our book and DVD collection.
I feel unadulterated envy for Barb’s accomplishments in the realm of water droplet photography. She has taken images that are beyond stunning. My current fave is a field of your basic white daisy… in the foreground is one blossom covered in raindrops, and each drop has a prismatic, upside-down reflection of the flowers behind it. You’ll have to take my word for it: I’d link, but she doesn’t index.
Here’s my latest pale imitation, from the deck garden:
Cameras and photography have been a big topic of conversation among my relations this week; I’m going on a cruise to Alaska with all my Nevada-based loved ones, and it sounds at this point like we may have 1.5 cameras per capita. We seem to share a drive to document natural things: trees and rocks and water, as the Arrogant Worms put it. In this case, I’m hoping for seals and whales and ice floes.
Jay Lake ran with my earlier post about internet content that addresses the concerns–both artistic and commercial–of mid-career writers. My note, in turn, started with a germ from Jessica Reisman. What we’re really discussing is how writers talk to each other in these public forums, and what we say to beginners.
You can see what Jay and various respondents said here. Among other things, he points out that there are simply a lot more aspiring writers to talk to.
Me, making the pass..
And Jessica Reisman, kicking it all off.
On a completely unrelated note, if you ever want the Casino security peeps to get really really interested in you, pause in their awning with your great big zoom and photograph what you find there.
Jessica Reisman posted recently about how there’s any amount of advice out here on teh Intrawebs for beginning writers, but not so much of it for those who have been publishing for awhile. I’ve been thinking about this, and about the fact that when I do interviews, one of the questions that tends to come up most frequently is “What’s the best piece of advice you can give a beginning writer?”
This phenomenon seems to me to be one of those things that occurs naturally. If you’ve got to the point where your fiction is selling, you probably have a good grip on what you needed to learn to get to that point. You’re equipped, in other word, to tell someone less experienced a thing or two: how to write in scenes, maybe, or build up conflict, or push through a first draft of a novel.
Writing about what you’re grappling with in the present is more problematic. As we move into the later phases of artistic development–next level skills, they’re sometimes called–we run the risk of either writing about something we haven’t really figured out yet or perhaps just being opaque, inaccessible.
On the commercial side, once we’ve stopped talking about breaking into short fiction markets or chasing agents, what are we going to talk about? Contracts, maybe? But the problems start getting specific. Issues with this agent, clauses in that publisher’s boilerplate… stuff that affects your bank balance and business relationships, not necessarily the things you’re going to want to post at loquacious length about.
So there’s general talk about pushing through difficult stretches and life crises, a little discussion about busting writer’s block, and… what else? I recall an Elizabeth Bear post I really liked, about how she was moving on to learning progressively tougher (for her) stuff. Was that last year? Anyone remember? The Jay Lake link I posted yesterday, about how he’s reining in his draft speed, felt like it was about a next-level issue. Is there a difference in the “just be persistent” encouragement we give to a newcomer and the “soldier on, soldier on” speech we dispense to a writer who’s sold three books but who can’t interest anyone in their fourth? Is there something about character or plotting that’s general enough to make a good post but so advanced it’ll spark growth in someone really seasoned… a Cory Doctorow, say? A Connie Willis?
None of us would probably admit to thinking we have it all down, and I know I have a ton to learn about how to write more gooder. If you’ve seen any useful process or craft posts out there that seem like they’d really hit home for established writers, I’d be interested to hear about them.
In the meantime, and apropos of nothing, here’s a White Crowned Sparrow.