Sunday, October 17, 2010

Carpe Diem Before It's the Last

I'm not an 8-5, live in the office, punch a time clock type of person.

I can work -- I'm not allergic to it -- but I just don't like to do it according to someone else's schedule.

Yes, I understand the necessity of clocks and calendars and deadlines. But I don't function at my best when my life is governed by them.

Guess I'm like my dad in that way. (Yes, Mother, I said it.) He hates answering to a boss, though, and I don't have a problem with having a boss, as long as I'm not being micro-managed. Give me a task, tell me what the end result needs to be, and give me a deadline. Then leave me alone.

As foolish as this might seem, especially in the current economy, I'm considering asking the executive director if I can work part-time out of my home office, and only report to the Club(s) when it's time to conduct programs for the kids. I've worked a lot of other places, and I've learned how I function best. All the good ideas don't come on a schedule -- I can be working out games or educational activities while I'm driving my truck or mowing the lawn -- and I can be most alert and creative at midnight.

Meantime, there's writing to be done, photographs to be taken, life to be lived. Dreams to be captured.

While still making those tortoise-paced updates to my house so I can sell it, I know I'm kinda stuck with this job. But I keep hearing lately some variation of this:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Wow. What if this is the last day? What have I accomplished?

Thirteen years. It's time for a change.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When Hairy Met Daisy

I meant to post this about a month ago, but kept forgetting -- must be the horticultural romance in the air.

On Labor Day this year, Mom and I celebrated her birthday a few days early by heading to Mount Magazine here in Arkansas. I was in the middle of the crud a/k/a "walking pneumonia", but I was tired of staying in the house, and the weather was perfect, so I packed up some lunch, charged the camera battery, and was ready to go at the appointed time.

At the nature center, we wandered the room, enjoyed the nice view, and read about the various trees and plants that grow on the mountain. And, as is our wont, we saw things in a sideways fashion, making goofy comments but stifling our laughter due to the rest of the crowd present who might not appreciate our absurdity.

So, as we're lifting the little wood and Plexiglass doors and reading the plant trivia written below, this is what I find:
Eastern Daisy Fleabane

daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) -- "grows in areas heavily disturbed by man"

Hairy Hawkweed

hairy hawkweed (Hieracium gronovii) -- "fares well in poor, infertile soil...wild turkeys eat its fruit"

Poor Harry. He gets no love, and what he does have is stolen. As for Daisy, unfortunate girl, she's always being bothered by those disturbed men.

Yeah, it's lame, but when I said, "Hairy, meet Daisy. Daisy, meet Harry," Mom laughed, I snorted, and we beat a quick exit.

Out on the rear balcony, overlooking a pond where some frogs were sitting around the edges, there were more laughs and insane commentary -- I can't recall exactly what we said, but there was the expected twisted remark or two about frogs kissing princesses, and I laughed so much that I almost coughed up a lung (which, if I did, might have sped my recovery).

Then Mom became a bit serious. "I knew we'd have a good time."

And we did.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


In a recent blog post concerning some names in the new young adult fantasy novel, Venom and Song, I mentioned an ancient literary device: kenning, an Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon technique whereby an image was created to replace a single word (noun), and could range from the rather simple two-word hyphenate to a more complex phrase.

Toadeater,  brown-noser, bloodsucker, babe magnet, man-eater, ankle-biter -- politically correct or not, those are all kennings, because they use two words (both nouns) to describe one word (also a noun):
toadeater = toady, sycophant
brown-noser = flatterer (one who ingratiates)
bloodsucker = leech, parasite (one who sponges or preys on another)
babe magnet = car (or anything that is deemed by men to be appealing to women)
man-eater = cannibal, predator, woman (specifically, a woman who preys on men for money or advantage, etc.)
ankle-biter = toddler
That list makes it seem as if all kennings are negative; they are not. So, then, what are some of those ancient kennings that make reading old literature so much fun? You may find a short list on Wikipedia, which includes different forms of kenning. You can also read the poetry and stories, such as Beowulf, the most obvious, or go exploring in modern translations of old Scandinavian and English literature.

Here are examples of kenning from three Anglo-Saxon pieces:
Beowulf (trans. Charles W. Kennedy)
swan-road = water, sea
war-net = mail (armor)
Victor-Scyldings = Danes (perhaps not a true kenning, but cool nonetheless)
Sea-Geat = Beowulf
the shepherd of sins = Grendel
hell-thane = Grendel (at this time, a thane was similar to the later rank of baron)
monster-brood = Grendel's mother
heather-stepper = deer
sea-troll = Grendel's mother

"The Wanderer" (poetic lament from the Exeter Book; trans. Charles W. Kennedy)
gold-lord = king, protector, leader
hallmen = warriors (or companions) who serve the same lord
the Warden of men = God

"The Seafarer" (poetic dialogue from the Exeter Book; trans. LaMotte Iddings)
sea-eagle = gull? (I'm guessing here)
ice-chains = cold, numbness (again, I'm guessing based on the context)
pathway of tides = sea
home of the whale = sea
whale-path = sea
gold-givers = lords, kings
This week, I attempted an activity with the kids in the Creative Writing Club, but their young minds had a difficult time wrapping around the concept of kenning, and I didn't quite know how to teach it. However, here are a few instances when they "got it" -- and the results are pretty good:
bully-defeater = fighter
numbers-enjoyer = student (specifically, a good math student)
crayon-wielder = artist, colorer
joy-bringer = daughter
brain-stretcher = teacher
carp-catcher = fisherman
So, what about you? Think you "ken" do it?

(Ignore my mad laughter -- and I offer no apologies for the bad pun.)