Camp Nanowrimo

Been busy! A trip up to Taupo (loong road trip with a two-year-old) and more personal organizing. Been reviving my index cards/zettelkasten (of which I plan to write more in the near future), and also more work through How To Think Sideways. Lesson eight (the pre-plan worksheets) is taking me an age to go through. I think it’s because as I start to ask questions I suddenly want to go back and tweak other things, or something will start to become clear which means I need to organise it in other places as well. But so good to be having this internal conversation at this stage, rather than after I have written the thing.

I’m thinking of doing Camp Nanowrimo this year. It’s been a long time since I touched a toe into Wrimo-waters, but I think I’m ready for a kick-start to my project. I think all up I’ve completed five Nanowrimo months, and have, as a result, five franken-novels sitting in my virtual desk-drawer. I have no idea what to do with them. Last month I hauled one out (my gothic western) and went through it, making index cards, doing a reverse outline, planning what I would do with the thing. And then when it was time to write it – I stopped dead. Couldn’t convince myself to start on it. Strange? I think it just feels too old, even though there is some great stuff in there. (Well, stuff that made me happy, anyway.)

Generally, I find revising a really strange experience. Your mind has to make weird leap from writer to… well, not reader, exactly. A sort of “I’m pretending I’ve never read this before” mindset crossed with an English teacher. The cold, calculating part is hard for me. I suppose at heart I’m a feeler. An impressionist. Although, in fairness the scalpel isn’t hard to keep out when I’m reading other people’s writing! So strange.

It is wet and rainy here today. I’m on my revived macbook (seven years old and I just replaced the hard disk with a new SSD, and it is running like an old thing with new legs!) – finally getting around to ripping old CDs to iTunes (even though I hate iTunes) and generally organising my digital life. Still feels productive. I love weekends.

Mornings

Been getting a lot out of early mornings, music and going through the “How to Think Sideways” course. Lots of mind-mapping, lateral thinking, and even the early starts feel good for my brain.

Feels like a breakthrough of some kind. Carving out time and space. Listening to what I need for myself and trying to follow through with that.

Loving my commitments but also realising I need to be happy, challenged and stimulated.

Feeling happy!

You are in a motel room…

(From 11 Jan 2015)

You are in a motel room and it’s the middle of the night. You’re lying on a huge hard bed, sheets smelling faintly of industrial cleaner. They are both luxurious and industrial, and you’re not quite sure how that works. You lie there, thinking about the rows and rows of other rooms, other people lying straight in other beds. Other rooms – are they all identical? – stretching out in all directions from the elevator hub.

Out of all the people lying in those beds, in those rooms, how many are awake as you are? Are their curtains open or closed? Do their rooms smell of the room-service dinner they had delivered, or did they go out to eat? What do their sheets smell like?

Why are they there? Are they in town for work, or to visit someone? Or did they just need a good break by themselves for a while? Are they there for a tryst, or even to hire a prostitute? Is the prostitute still there, right now? Are they doing it, right now?

It’s hard to imagine something like that happening while you are lying there on your hard bed with your indurious sheets, looking out the window at the building across the street. There is a light on in one of the floors. You think it might be an office building over there, and you can’t help but think of all those rows and rows of unoccupied desks, with computers and phones and stacks of papers on them, and photos of loved ones thumbtacked to the cubicle walls. Is someone working late? Did they just forget to turn the lights off when they were the last to leave the floor? Is a cleaner up there, at two in the morning? Vacuuming and looking at the papers and photos and wondering similar thoughts to you, right now? Or are they just tired and wanting to get it over with so they can go home to their husbands and wives and children, tucked up in bed?
There is something about how children sleep, you think. You wish you slept like a child: taking over the bed, using every inch of it, surrounded with stuffed animals. They should make cribs for adults, you think. White wooden slats to keep you in place. Then you could roam around the bed while you sleep, in complete safety. We’ve all fallen out of bed a few too many times as adults to really let ourselves go in sleep now. But imagine it! To really let yourself go.

You’d really like it if someone would come round and check on you while you sleep, just like your parents no doubt did. That’s the other thing about how children sleep. They know, somehow, that no matter what happens, what trouble they get into in their cots, with their blankets and stuffed animals, that someone will be coming soon to look in on them. To make sure their heads aren’t jammed too hard into the corner of the cot, or worse still, shoved through the bars. Someone will come to see if you are unwell, or if you just need a cuddle or some help to fall back asleep if you’ve had a nightmare.

That would be a good hotel service, you think. Of course you’d need to make sure that these nighttime guardians would be well vetted. No criminal records, that sort of thing. No, what you’d really want is a troupe of grandmothers, the ones that wake up really early and turn on the radio. The ones who knit afghans and doll clothes even though their eyes are failing. The ones who think about their now-grown children and wish they had someone who they could stroke hair from their brow while they slept. Those sorts of people. If a hotel hired an army of brow-stroking grandmothers to come and check in on you as you slept, well, imagine how you could really let yourself go!

Prompts

I’ve been writing a lot lately – just not here in this blog. For a few weeks lately I’ve been waking up at 5:30 in the morning and coming down to the study to write. I start most days with a prompt from Judy Reeves’ book A Writer’s Book of Days. It’s been great.  I might post a couple of them here, unedited. At least just as a little ‘hi’.

Big, long weekend

It was a long weekend that turned into a week after a trip up to Taupo became a trip to the hospital in Taupo. Then I was rushed to Rotorua hospital in the ambulance. It was a freezing night and the Super Moon chased us through the cold countryside, dancing behind the bare trees. The nurse fiddled with tangled IVs leading to the blood and saline bags, and they swung together as the ambulance bumped and jolted along.

The trip back home was so much better. Snow closed the Desert Road, and we took the road to National Park from Turangi instead. Played in the snow at the Ohakune playground and drank hot coffee while watching people in ski suits walk up and down the street.

My little love was amazing throughout. She has become such a big girl now.

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Morning of Beethoven

I’m listening to this as I write. Isn’t the driving left hand wonderful? I love Beethoven. Can play some of his Sonatas on the piano but this is truly inspiring. Plus it looks like a lot of fun to play!

Autumn has really set in now, with rain and chilly nights. Times like this I am so happy we have moved to be near to the sea. I love driving round the Eastbourne bays and seeing all the debris washed up on the road. When we drove Steve to the ferry this morning there was sand and rocks thick on the road in some places. Other times there are shells and bits of stuff left by the seagulls, foraging for food.

We have a new dining table – well, sort of. It’s a 100 kg beast of a thing, that once I’d assembled I found had been dropped somewhere on transit and now has a dented corner:

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dent!

We’ve been on the phone to “customer care” to try and get it sorted – hopefully they will just take this one away and bring us an un-dented, un-splintered table top. I was pretty stressed out about it on the day (I think it was the prospect of taking the table apart again) but the issue has sort of passed on in my mind now.

Apart from this, er, small dent in things life in the new house and new neighbourhood has been going really well. I think I’ve found a babysitter (haven’t met yet, but spoke on the phone and she sounds really nice; she babysits / nannies a lot around the area), maybe a piano teacher (still need to ring him; I’ve been contemplating taking lessons again), and even a Wednesday mothers & babies yoga class that sounds really cool!

Overall, it just has a wonderful feeling. This is a photo I took on one of our walks last week:

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On our walk

Nice, no? I do dearly love rugged beaches when the weather is stormy. Sunny white-beach vistas don’t do it for me at all.

Rain. Hopefully this rain will clear up a little before lunchtime – we are going into town to meet my friend Katherine for lunch.

And – just to finish off this very rambling, non-post sort of post (hey, I’m out of practice), here are some of Moo’s latest photos:

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Foggy day in town

We’ve been in the new house for about a week now. In the mornings, we’ve entertained ourselves looking across the harbour towards the city. Usually the hills above town are banked in fog (poor old Karori), but today we can’t even see across the bay! Wellington, where have you gone?

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While she’s sleeping

…at least I think she’s asleep. Been a tough week with the wee one. She’s got a cold and doesn’t much like lying down when she can’t breathe through her nose. Poor bubba. All snotty.  Steve got sick too but I think I have dodged the worst of it.

It feels weird not to be getting stuff ready for the house now. Feels like we’re in a state of limbo, waiting for next Wednesday, when the “caravan” of real estate agents will all come through the house. (What does the “real” part of “real estate” refer to, anyway?)

One nice part about it all is that my study is the tidiest it has ever been. I can hardly believe it. I can stretch out at the desk and there’s room for everything. The problem is, I removed SO MUCH STUFF from here that I don’t know if I could ever realistically have it like this. Unless I just threw all that stuff away… but it’s all papers, notebooks, etc. that stretch back years. What do people do with it all? I think (I guess) we are afraid to throw it out, even though looking back on early writing attempts is often hugely painful. So we box it up and carry it around with us. Maybe I should junk it all. Aargh.

And in a ridiculous effort to generate yet more stationery-related mass in the study here, I’ve also recently decided to have a go at adopting Hawk Sugano’s (what a great name!) “Pile of Index Cardssystem. Apparently it only becomes really useful once you reach 1,000 cards, so I have a way to go:

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But I love, love, love, the concept of ending up with an analogue database with which I can then create all sorts of weird relationships between data: shuffle cards, sort them, make different piles, put two random cards side-by-side and see if anything sparks in my brain. I’ve always wanted to write more personal-style essays, but for the most part my thinking is so disorganised (c.f. this blog) that I find it difficult to even find a place to start. So far it’s been a really interesting experience writing down most of my thoughts during the day – in this form, I mean.

Oh, and this has nothing to do with anything, but it was sad and beautiful.

Thoughts on the house

I didn’t mean to let my blog posts here lapse for so long; it seems as though the last part of 2013 raced by too quickly to stop and take a breath, and it’s looking like the first part of this year is going to be similar.

We got married, recovered from that, had a month of normality, and then one weekend day, as we were driving around the city, we started talking about what our future plans might be.  Discussion turned from the general to the specific: our house.

We have a cute house. It’s known as a “State house“, which in New Zealand is a type of house that was originally built by the State, to provide housing for those who needed it – often those who are on lower incomes, etc. A whole load of these were sold off at various points in time, and so they are pretty commonly available these days. The one we’re living in is from the 1940s, built with beautiful native hardwood (rimu and matai), and solid, solid, solid! It’s got three bedrooms, a kitchen, a lounge, toilet and bathroom, and huge basement workshop / storage area. We’re still on a good-sized section (many others in Karori have subdivided over the years) and it’s been a great place to live.

But there are a few things that don’t really work that well for us at the moment:

  • since having Leila I’ve really been wanting a better area for ‘dining’. I want her to grow up having dinner all together around the table; I want to have a dedicated place where we can eat and appreciate the food and each other’s company. Since we’ve moved here we’ve eaten maybe ten times in the kitchen (there’s no real dining room, just a bit of extra space in the kitchen to cram in your table), and most of the time Steve and I wind up eating in the lounge. And invariably the TV winds up on. (If I start in on this – the TV – we’ll be here all day; but suffice it to say it’s not how I’d like our dinners to be.)
  • Steve wants a garage. He’s not happy with his motorbike being left outside just with a cover over it.
  • We don’t really have a spare room. Technically, there are three bedrooms here, but one I have taken over with all of my books, papers, cameras and hobby stuff. There isn’t room to put in a fold out couch or anything like that and while we could pack all of my things up, we don’t have people staying over often enough to justify me foregoing a bit of space (a room of my own) on the off chance someone might want to stay. But at the same time, when, for example, my parents come to stay, they wind up sleeping on the fold-out bed in Leila’s room, but then we have to move her into the portacot in the study. It works, but it’s kind of awkward, and although my Dad likes the fold-out futon (it’s really hard) a lot of others don’t like it.
  • Karori is nice, and I have met some great people here, especially through my antenatal classes. But:
    • it often gets really misty, on account of being up in the hills
    • our place loses the sun really early in winter and we don’t get to enjoy the outdoor area as much as we’d like
    • it is a huge suburb and doesn’t really have much of a village feel, the way Raumati South (where Steve used to live) does
    • Although it’s only 15 minutes over the hill to Makara, it’s not a very child-friendly beach. Beautiful, rugged and remote (some of my favourite things in a beach!) – but not particularly good for little ones to swim in.
    • With Leila getting so mobile, it’s hard just wandering into town for coffee with friends. I’m spending all my time in Karori these days and while that’s fine (there is a huge park nearby), nearness to town isn’t quite the factor it used to be. Plus all my friends drive / are mobile / live spread all over the city anyway.

So – we’ve decided to put our house up for sale, though this action was inspired more by our finding an incredible place over in Eastbourne, which technically is in Lower Hutt (you have to travel through Petone to get there), but there is a lovely ferry that takes you right to town, and takes about twenty minutes. We’ve made a conditional offer (subject to our selling our house), and the vendors have accepted.

So working backwards, we’ve been getting everything done around here to get it ship-shape and looking good for any prospective buyers. I think it will do well; we have taken it from its ‘as-is’ original shape, to a lovely house that has:

  • wall and ceiling insulation (wool); we re-gibbed and insulated the rooms while we did that
  • totally re-wired electrics
  • gas heating, hot water and cooking
  • a heat-transfer system
  • a freshly-painted exterior (and interior!)
  • cleaned and sealed roof tiles
  • dipped / stripped native timber doors with brass finishings (plus all the locks still have their keys!)
  • windows that have been re-hinged
  • a deck
  • great views and privacy (we only have one neighbour)
  • a good-sized section

So fingers crossed someone expresses some interest.

But with all of the packing up and getting things ready for the listing, the mooster has been making great leaps in her development as well. She’s gone from crawling to practically galloping! She stands up all the time now, and is getting really close to walking. (She’s taken a few steps already, but I don’t think she is quite happy doing it permanently just yet.) We celebrated her first birthday a few days ago, and Steve and I have had a few moments where we’ve looked at each other and asked if we can really believe it’s been a year.

(A year of changing nappies!)

I feel like I’m permanently exhausted as a result though. I’m trying to eat really well, though I don’t have time for much exercise these days. Bubs has become more and more demanding (and vocal) and often my only outlet for the stress is to have a lie down when she’s having her naps (leaving all the stuff I have to get done to when she is awake – which ramps up the stress levels again).

But she is a cutie… and it’s hard to complain about things being tough when I get to hang out with her all day.

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Married

Gees!

So Steve and I have officially tied the knot! It happened last weekend, at Government House in Wellington. It was a pretty overcast day, but the sun came out when we were reading our vows to each other. Two tuis soared overhead, and everything was fantastic.

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Countdown to the wedding!

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Totally unrelated to the baby photo, which is here on merit of its cuteness alone…

Less than two weeks to go for the wedding! Food is sorted, as well as the photographer, band, clothes, flowers, nanny, celebrant, order of service, vows, favours, presents for groomsmen & bridesmaids, seating… It’s actually quite insane to think of all you need to pull together for one of these things. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m nervous. Funnily, I’m not! There are butterflies, but I’m just excited.

It’s just going to be so fun! Seeing family, old friends, having a laugh and a dance together, etc.

And wearing this has been really special:

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(Ignore the pjs! Am watching the America’s Cup on telly.)

But that is my grandmother’s engagement ring, and I’ll be wearing her wedding band too. The story behind it goes that my grandpa snuck into his mother’s room and, ahem, “borrowed” some money she had stashed away. He snuck off to Stuart Dawson’s in Wellington and bought Nana her ring. He was always so cheeky, hehe.

The only thing I still have to do is make Moo her dress. I know which pattern I like, but just need some time to get stuck in. I’m going to try to start it this weekend.

But for now, it’s a funny grey day, and NZ is behind in the race again – but only just! I’m going to go watch the last leg…

Tarot for the Mummies

I’m not sure if this is a bit of a cross-post (but hey, who keeps their lives compartmentalised?) but I thought I’d come up for air and write a little bit about what I’ve been doing lately.

I belong to this great (private) Facebook group called Mummies for Life! (including the exclamation mark). While I’m not really all that keen on the title, the group is excellent, in that it’s a mostly Wellington-based, good, open-minded, practical and kind forum for new mums to ask questions and help each other out. Photos of nappy rash are posted, queries about teething, sleeping, feeding, poo – you name it. Needless to say it probably is something that would only interest a new mother, but as I am one myself, it fits the bill.

Lately people have been posting “pay it forward”s – offers of some sort as gestures of goodwill. Usually freebies – anything from frozen food to homemade dolls, etc. I took the plunge and offered some free tarot readings. It was really well-received! So I’ve been busy with those, fitting them in between naps, and I’ve even got a couple of “face-to-face” readings booked, including one for this morning! The woman I’m reading for just lives down the road (I don’t know her), and she’s a new mum just like me. I’m still nervous a bit, but not that horrible “I’m in over my head” sort of nerves. They are good nerves, I think.

I never really thought of myself as a “tarot reader” type. I’m quite practical, really, and though I do have fantastical leanings, the whole tarot thing felt like a bit of a dirty secret. I was terrified people would think I was one of those people who can’t leave the house without asking the cards whether they should turn left or right when they stepped out the door. But you know what? I really enjoy shuffling the cards, laying them out, and even that heart-stopping moment where you look at what’s lying face up and you draw a complete blank. It’s seat-of-your-pants sort of stuff, and it’s actually rather thrilling.

So even though, for the most part I keep my tarot ponderings quite firmly sequestered over in the other blog, this “coming out” (I hate that phrase) sort of feels appropriate here.

I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with it. Keep offering free readings? Open a stall at the saturday market? Set up a Facebook page? Add readings to my etsy store? … I’m not sure yet. But in the meantime I’m going to finish these readings for the ‘Mummies’, and see what comes from it.

As Dan Pelletier quotes Zig Ziglar in “The Process”:

If you give enough people what they want, you will get what you want…

10 year blog anniversary

It’s hard to believe really. Ten years? How on earth did that happen?

Ten years ago I was 26. What did that look like?

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Hehe, yikes! I think that was going to be a visa photo. I look young. Awww.

I’d just returned to New Zealand after spending three fantastic but ultimately turbulent years in Dublin. My grandpa was still alive. My sister was about to get married. I was footloose and fancy free; a bit stuck, work-wise, but happy to be back near family after so long away.

I think I was planning on becoming an English teacher, to speakers of other languages. I’d finished my RELSA cert in Dublin and I wanted to keep traveling!

I got a temp job in Wellington, after spending the summer waiting tables and being a tour guide in Taupo. I’d spent a lot of time with my grandparents, which I’m still really happy about. That was just before everyone’s health started to go downhill.

The temp job became permanent, and I rebelled by enrolling to do my honours degree part-time. I studied Old Norse. Italian. American Gothic literature. I wrote 10,000 words on virtuality.

I met Steve. Moved into my own place. Started writing reviews for NZGamer.com.

My grandpa died.

Steve moved in. We got a bigger place. Went to Vietnam. Got a cat.

Got a new job, testing websites. Bought a house. Got another cat. Went to the States, back home after twenty years away.

My grandma died.

Quit my job, tried to write. Went back to work again, but this time as a contractor. Inherited another cat. One Christmas, after much egging from my sister, Steve announced we were getting married.

We went to Germany. Denmark. Sweden. Ireland. Morocco. Hong Kong.

I went to E3, as a writer for NZGamer.com.

Found out I was pregnant when I couldn’t stop being sick on the plane from LA to NZ.

Had a baby, Leila, who I adore.

I didn’t really mean to launch into that list. It was just interesting to look back on all the major bits. I think (hope) I hit them all.

I’m trying to think of what I can do to celebrate this blog being ten years old. If it was a little girl it would go off and celebrate by getting its ears pierced. But I can’t do that for you, dear readers. I’d bake and send you a cake, if I could, but New Zealand is so far away from you (I look at the stats!) that it would be in terrible shape by the time it arrived.

I could write you something, but it would have to be short, something I could fit in while Leila is napping. A haiku.

I could do a tarot card reading for you.

I could send you a favourite recipe!

I could send you a favourite photograph that I’ve taken.

…if you’re interested, that is.

So, in honour of my 10 year anniversary of being discombobulated, if you’d like one of the above (a haiku, tarot card reading, recipe or photograph) contact me via my contact form and let me know which one you’d like. The offer’s open from now ’till the end of September. Enjoy!

Lotsa news

I’ve been sick. Again. This time it was a relatively mild cold followed by fluid trapped behind the eardrum (blocked Eustachian tubes) resulting in REALLY awful pain for two or three days. I went to the doctor on Friday, hoping it wasn’t an infection (I went through all those bouts of cold-ear infection cycles when I was little, and wound up getting tubes/grommets, which was a pain in the bum. In addition I took so many antibiotics in those days I’m a bit hesitant to take more now unless it’s really necessary) – and luckily it wasn’t. But the doctor pretty much said all you can do is ride it out, and take painkillers. The Panadol wasn’t cutting it (I was having to spread it out to six-hourly doses, as you can only take eight tablets in a twenty-four hour period), so after talking to the doc I also interspersed that with Nurofen (which I was relieved to discover you can take while breastfeeding) and that made a big difference.

My ear’s still blocked though, and it is a huge pain having to sleep on my right side, instead of the left, which I’m used to… and yes, the whole thing has been blown up well out of proportion because it’s all I can think about lately.

After a horrible Saturday morning of pain I dosed myself up to the point where I could get out of the house, and I went and met my friend Megumi down at the Frank Kitts market. I’m getting my wedding dress (and bridesmaid dresses) made by one of the stallholders there, Kate of Bobbysoxer. I didn’t want a traditional white pouffy dress, and I really, really, wanted the bridesmaids to get dresses that they would actually want to wear again. So a month or so ago we went round to Kate’s place and tried on dresses… and these are what we’re going with:

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(Sorry it’s a bit blur-tastic; I was doing a bit of quick breastfeeding at the time and I think someone else took the photo.) But isn’t the material gorgeous? Steve is getting bow ties made from the red material for his groomsmen, and he’s going to get one for himself made from the white. Plus we’ve got enough of the white material to (I think) whip up a dress for bubba, so she can be the baby bride! (Hehehe.)

OK, next topic: food.

We have been so slack and lazy with cooking lately (the lack of sleep may have something to do with it), that we’ve just been making a few “old reliables” rather than anything particularly exciting. Curries, spag bog, even omelettes, etc. Takeaways most Fridays (usually from the very excellent Legend Thai, Yummy Curry, or Ming Du). But yesterday was something of an exception, with a lovely walk in the Botanic Gardens (alas I took no photos on my digital camera, even though I actually brought it with me, instead taking pics on the Pentax, still with my first roll of Kodak Portra that I’m dead keen to see developed), and then lunch at the Picnic cafe. I had a gorgeous potato and feta hash, but again, no photos, as moo was extremely unhappy and we had to take turns taking her for little wanders around the rose garden while the other person ate as quickly as possible.

When we got home Steve went out again to do our weekly grocery shop (that man is amazing), and when he got home I had somehow got myself all homesick for the apple fritters that my grandmother used to always bring over to us when she came to visit. Now, if you live in the States, you might be thinking “what’s the big deal?” – well, here in New Zealand, this is what an apple fritter is. To which I must respond: no, no, no, no, NO! (OK, maybe just one ‘no’ would have been enough there.) In my tastebud memories, the apple fritter reminds me of Washington, my grandmother, another life, an earlier time (which, as a side note, is why I think I’m getting so homesick for Washington and Oregon these days; now that Leila is here I’m thinking all the time about my own childhood).

Fritters like these.

Only I had no apple juice at home, so I had to keep looking. In the end, I made these, and while the fritters of my memories closely resemble the other link, these were absolutely, positively, without a doubt, bloody excellent, and I will definitely make them again.

Here’s what they look like:

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Oh, oops! I seem to have eaten that one. You need me to get another out so you can see how they turned out? Well, if it’s for the good of the blog…

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(Poor light as I’ve just taken this on the fly at my desk. Yes, I’m a bad blogger!)

They are great with coffee.

Next topic (I told you I had lots of news!): education.

Say what?

Hear me out here. Just because I’m a stay at home mom (I like to pronounce it “mahm” in my strongest American accent) now, it doesn’t mean I really want to sit around reading bodice rippers while the little one snoozes. (Hm, although…) I always feel a bit refreshed when I’m reading something that challenges my brain. And though my university career was a bit meandering (meaning I did cover quite a few interesting subjects), I’ve always felt some regret that I never really took in what I studied and tried to understand it at a more fundamental level. (Apart from a few life-changers, including Heart of Darkness, Doctor Faustus, The Wasteland, and pretty much everything I read during my Old Norse class.)

So – the other day I bought a copy of Susan Wise Brown’s The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had for my kindle, and man, it is great! (Yes, that is one of those Amazon Associate links. I live in perpetual hope.) Her approach to reading is that it is a serious enterprise (obviously not for your average bodice-ripper, but for THOSE BOOKS, the tough ones. The ones you want desperately to get through but often can’t), and as such it requires a bit of structure. Enter the trivium, comprising the grammar, logic and rhetoric stages.

The Grammar stage is all about the “what” of your reading. Understanding what you have read, and summarising things as you go through. But Brown’s approach is to not dwell too much on the things you don’t understand yet. That’s for later stages.

Logic is about piecing everything together once you’ve read the book. It’s about asking specific questions (and answering them!) to cement your understanding of the book, and the author’s intent (and whether or not they were successful). The logic stage looks at everything from structure to your own reaction to the text – and always asking “why?”

The Rhetoric stage is focused on debate, on an exchange of ideas between like-minds, and on composition. It’s about taking the ideas from the book and making them your own.

I confess I think I’m going to have a little trouble working through the last stage. The book suggests finding a friend or partner who you can pair up with, who will read at roughly the same pace as you, and who you can either talk with, or write to, about your subject in a formal sort of way. I would LOVE to find someone who’d be keen to try this out.

In any case, I quickly wrapped up what I was currently reading (the very awesome The Drowned World) and have started on Don Quixote. So far, it’s great (though I have a little difficulty laughing at poor old Don Quixote; I feel so sorry for him). And bonus points for being able to start my Well-Educated Mind experiment with a book I already own and wish I had read.

I think what I’m going to do, regarding the whole W-EM thing, is to come back and post my chapter summaries once I’ve finished the book, and perhaps put some of my musings up here. I’m still not one hundred percent sure about how I’ll approach the Rhetoric stage, but I have a bit of time to think about that.