Showing posts from July, 2010

Puppy's Prayer

"First I caught my tail in the door and had to have an inch and a half of it amputated so that I wouldn't get gangrene. Now it looks like I'm getting mange around my eyes thanks to the stress of having my tail cut short. What's a puppy to do?"

True Love

Would you love me if I were stupid? Would you love me if I were plain? Would you love me if I were fat(ter than I am now)? Would you love me if I were skinny? Would you love me if I were buff? Would you love me if I were flabby? Would you love me if I were slutty? Would you love me if I were chaste? Would you love me if I didn't read? Would you love me if I didn't write? Would you love me if I were famous? Would you love me if I were unemployed? Would you love me if I were modest? Would you love me if I were boastful? Would you love me if I were old? Would you love me if I were young? Would you love me if I were(n't) gray? Would you love me if I embarrassed you? Would you love me if I cried? Would you love me if I beat you? Would you love me if I lost? Would you love me if I teased? Would you love me if I clung? Would you love me if I never realized my talent? Would you love me if I prayed? Would you love me if I weren't any of the things that you say you like about me?

How to Write in the Service of Our Lady

Write not for fame or personal recognition or for my "field" or to prove myself clever. Write without concern of what others might think. Write not what I think the world wants to hear, but what the Virgin guides me to say. Write to show God's love for the world. As Henry Adams put it in his autobiography , "All the steam in the world could not, like the Virgin, build Chartres." I will be the Virgin's fool , clowning before her in devotion.

Audience of One

My husband says it is quite simple, really: the one for whom I should be writing is the Virgin Mary. She is not, he insists, served as well in the modern scholarship as I have claimed she is, and she wants me to write the history of her devotion. Indeed, she insists. Moreover, she--and God--want me to write history, not theology or some other form of criticism. "God means you to be an historian," my husband said last night after reading my blog posts from yesterday. So, there you go. I need to start writing history in service to the Mother of God.


I'm sitting in the garden with the dog, feeling the heat and thinking about how I really need a shower before going to our counseling session tonight, wishing that this morning's blog post had given me the answer to my question about what to write, and reading Thirty-three Teeth , the second of Colin Cotterill's delightful mystery series set in the 1970s People's Democratic Republic (a.k.a. communist state) of Laos. If you haven't read them yet, you should. The main character is Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old former revolutionary reluctantly-turned coroner and even more reluctantly-identified shaman, who spends a good deal of his time, when he is not doing autopsies and receiving dreams from the spirit world, drinking with his old friends and (as in Thirty-three Teeth ) sometimes his (former) enemies and coming to terms with the fact that the new government for which they fought so long is well on its way to becoming just as corrupt at the old. (In Thirty-three

How to Write Like Elizabeth Gilbert

I'm thinking too hard about this post already. Steady! Breathe! Okay. What does it mean when I say that I want to write like Elizabeth Gilbert ? As a caveat, I should perhaps note that this is hardly the first time that I have taken another writer as my model. Indeed, one could easily chart my life as a writer as a series of efforts at awestruck imitation: Anne Frank, whom I took as my model when I was 12 or 13 and had just started keeping my diary; Anaïs Nin, another diarist, whom I idolized in my early years in graduate school, at least until I got to Henry and June ; my graduate advisor, Caroline Walker Bynum, whom it is hardly a secret I worshiped and so desperately wanted to be ( I wasn't alone ); A.S. Byatt, whose descriptive prose is possibly the most exquisite thing ever written in English, even if I do find her characters somewhat depressing; Elaine Scarry, who somehow manages to write the most complicated philosophical arguments using extraordinarily plain vocabula

Keep Calm and Corgi On

Make your own calming poster here !

Looking Along the Beam

Thanks to Luo , I am now feeling much more hopeful about "Fencing Bear at Prayer" as a project. Indeed, Luo has given me a wonderful way to conceptualize it: "What you're doing in this blog is more like what a 'real' medieval/monastic writer would do, perhaps? Writing is like wandering in a dark forest of words and thoughts. We dabble, linger, constantly get lost, but also run into the marvelous. I assumed that this blog, with its monologue and contemplation, was part of your academic project, in which the aesthetic and personal experience is an important subject?" To which I can only reply: "Yes! Yes! Yes! But..." But how much does the aesthetic and, even more to the point, personal experience belong in an academic project, if at all? This--I realized as I walked into campus with Joy this morning to mail in my passport application , pick up the gadgets that I ordered to go with my new toy , sort my emails and update my homepage --i

If I were a real writer...

I wouldn't be sitting here blogging, right? My husband is concerned that one of the things that is making it difficult for me to get back into my academic writing is the distraction (my word, not his) of keeping this blog. It's not "real" (again, my word) writing, he insists, by which (I think) he means, not publishable; it is too easy, not critical enough, more to the point, not criticized enough. I write what I want when I want, to no deadline but my own. Nor am I subject to either editorial or (that mixed blessing of academic writing) peer review. Each blog post is short, ephemeral, as on- or off-topic as I please. While I may take risks personally, if not professionally, in writing about some of the things that I do, I risk nothing in the way of formal criticism. To be sure, I had fantasies the first year I was keeping this blog of (heaven forbid) "being discovered," but I have long since laid those to rest. No " Stuff White People Like "

Testing, testing

So I have a new toy. No, I mean tool. Really, I need this for work. To read all those PDFs that seem to come my way. But, hey, you can type on it, too. Although I miss being able to feel the keys. But I like the little clicky noise that the "keys" make, even if you can't feel them. Can you guess what my new toy -- ahem, tool -- is? Expect updates as I get used to being able to access the interwebs in a whole new way. Plus read books. As if I need more books to read! Doodle, doodle. It's the best thing for writer's block, don't you know? Rearrange your office, get new writing tools and spend at least a day making color-coded folders (aka bookmarks) for everything. Did you notice I can post to my blog from here?

What Matters to Me and Why

My sister says that what matters to me is to win. In her words: "I have an older sister who is by nature super competitive, always needs to 'win' (you can imagine how frustrated she is).... She's in a zero-sum game in her head--she either wins or loses.... And dammit, she's going to win." In fencing. In my career. In love. My sister hates this. Again, in her words: "She's happy now that she thinks she won, but I guess that's what's bugging me. This living business is not a zero-sum game. You win and the goal post changes." Which is something I told her I'd thought about (the goal posts moving), but never mind. In her view, winning itself is a distraction from "real" life; the point is the process, not the goal. Which, again, I can totally get around. But, dammit, there needs to be a goal, a vision, something worth fighting for, right? Something that actually matters so that you get up willing to face the day. No

On Strip

Or, "What My Husband Taught Me to Think About During the Bout after Watching Me Fence at Summer Nationals" 1. There's no rush. 2. Try to figure them out. 3. Do to them what they most like to do to you. 4. Learn something from each bout. 5. Breathe! 6. Come home in one piece. Thanks, love! I couldn't have done it without you.

Woohoo! I got a medal!

Veteran Women's 40-49 Foil, USFA Summer Nationals, Atlanta. Spot the bear! You have no idea how good this feels. Really . Thank you to everyone who has hung in there with me. It's been a long road, but boy! do I feel good this evening. Maybe I'll even tell you about it when my feet touch the ground...sometime next week!

Labor of Love

One of the more intriguing effects of being in right relationship now with husband (or, at least, working on it!) is how easy it is to do certain things that hitherto had felt like chores, for example, making the bed. All my life I have had a thing about making the bed. Growing up, I was a real terror to my friends when they would come over to play with me. Heaven forbid that they rumple the coverlet by even sitting on the bed, never mind leave the bed in the sort of disarray that ten-year-olds can (think jumping on the bed here). There I would be, anxiously smoothing out every wrinkle, begging them not to touch. I calmed down a bit as I got older, but I still remember worrying over the state of my comforter well into college. But once I started living with someone (boyfriend, husband #1, husband-for-life), things only got more fraught yet again. If there were two of us sleeping in the bed, surely (or so I reasoned) we should take turns having to make it, right? Except that the m

Making Prayer

Pure prayer--that is, prayer at its most essential--is preparing the soul to be ravished by God knowing that God loves you and desires to give you nothing but the greatest pleasure. O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! For your love is better than wine. It is making the bed, smoothing the coverlet and positioning the pillows carefully, so as to prepare a place where you may come together in love. Our couch is green ; the beams of our house are cedar, our rafters are pine. It is lighting candles and incense to give the room warmth and scent. What is that coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of the merchant? Behold, it is the litter of Solomon ! It is cleaning your teeth and brushing your hair, so that you may appear as fresh and clean as possible for your lover. Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that h