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10 Jun Style

Alexander Pope, by Michael Dahl

True ease in writing
comes from art, not chance,

As those move easiest
who have learned to dance.

’Tis not enough
no harshness gives offence;

The sound must seem
an echo to the sense.

—Alexander Pope
“An Essay on Criticism”

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03 Jun The Stars of June

Stars, stars, stars of June

June’s a morning kind of month this year—if you’re not an early riser you’ll miss most of the stargazing fun. If you like to stay up late, well, you could always just stay up till dawn.

  • June 6th. One evening treat. The Moon, one day off full, will rise in the heart of Scorpius, the Scorpion. In many parts of the United States, the Moon will actually occlude Antares, the spectacular orange star that usually marks the Scorpion’s heart.
  • June 7th. The full Moon of June. Will post more about the lore of the June Moon (to which we croon a tune) on the seventh itself.
  • June 19th. Look to the east at dawn (which for some reason makes me think of Luke Havergal, although he was supposed to go to the western gate at twilight) and you will see the crescent Moon with Venus and Mars.
  • June 20th. At first light, the Moon, the Pleiades, and the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury will form an arch in the east. Unusual and beautiful. I’d like to try to get a picture of this.
  • June 21st. The Summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.
  • June 27th. Back to the evening. Saturn, which will look like a golden star, is to the upper right of the Moon. Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, is to the lower right.
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03 May The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

My beloved Pre-Raphs are usually referred to as “The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,” even though there were women peripherally associated with the group—the poet Christina Rossetti; the model, poet and artist Elizabeth Siddal; the model Jane Morris, the artist Marie Spartali Stillman; the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron come to mind. Here, however, is a way-cool website that turns the whole concept around:

The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

…and focuses primarily on the women involved in, and inspired by, the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The site is full of tidbits (a “Lady of Shalott” film!) and dozens and dozens of gorgeous images. I often call myself a Post-Pre-Raphaelite, and this site is definitely going on my must-read list. When I “see” scenes from my writing, I almost always see them as intricately detailed, color-saturated, intensely romantic Pre-Raph-style images.

I suppose you could say (as Alec Baldwin does in those funny Hulu commercials) it’s just the way I roll.

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07 Apr No Cucumbers Yet, But…

We have lilies:

Backyard lilies on a cool, overcast morning

And we have Peace roses:

A full-blown Peace rose

My beloved Robert Browning’s Pippa knew of what she sang:

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!

Although here along the Elm Fork of the Trinity, it would most likely be a mockingbird instead of a lark.

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06 Apr The Prince of Castaways

I love Edwin Arlington Robinson’s work so much, and I think my favorite (although it’s hard to choose) piece is “Flammonde,” from The Man Against the Sky. In fact, I suspect reading “Flammonde” for the first time when I was probably ten or twelve made such an indelible impression on me that my favorite sort of male main character, both to read about and to write, is a Flammonde-like mystery:

He never told us what he was,
Or what mischance, or other cause,
Had banished him from better days
To play the Prince of Castaways.
Meanwhile he played surpassing well
A part, for most, unplayable;
In fine, one pauses, half afraid
To say for certain that he played.

Like another of my great favorites, dear Mr. Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” “Flammonde” tells us a story about an enigmatic man, both attractive and repellent. However, unlike Browning’s Duke of Ferrara, who speaks to his mysterious listener and thus reveals himself (however one might interpret that revelation—see The Second Duchess), Flammonde says nothing: we see him only through the eyes of a puzzled observer:

Why was it that his charm revealed
Somehow the surface of a shield?
What was it that we never caught?
What was he, and what was he not?

There is a story behind “Flammonde,” and what a lovely novel it would make. Just looking at that picture of Caroline Swan’s house makes me curious, so curious, to know what went on behind those precisely balanced, shuttered windows. Whatever it was, it did not end well:

Rarely at once will nature give
The power to be Flammonde and live.

Yes, I’m a romantic. I admit it. Absolutely incurable.

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14 Jan Six Things That Make Me Happy

Tagged again! This time, it’s Bryn Greenwood’s doing. I really have to learn to run faster. Heh.

All right. Six things that make me happy.

  1. My first cup of coffee in the morning. Strong strong coffee with milk. It’s not really lattè because the milk isn’t steamed or foamed, but I call it lattè anyway. So report me to the lattè police.
  2. Taking a siesta after lunch. Piling into bed with both doggies and the Broadcasting Legend™ if he’s not on the road and drowsing deliciously through Everyday Italian and Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network.
  3. Hugs from little children.
  4. Going to church. Singing For All the Saints or one of the other great processionals as the scrubbed acolytes (more little children) and the choir stream into the sanctuary, and almost crying as the sopranos launch into the high, soaring descant on the last verse of the hymn.
  5. Flower scents. Real flowers, not perfumes or oils. Lilies of the valley, lilacs, old-fashioned clove pinks. Our English roses—Jude the Obscure, Eglantyne, Winchester Cathedral.
  6. Standing in the back yard and looking up at the sky. Picking out the constellations I learned when I was a little girl at the lake. Trying to work my mind around the inconceivable distances.
  7. Opening a thick, tantalizing new book to the first page.
  8. Reading Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Oh wait. That’s eight. And I haven’t even gotten to chocolate.

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05 Jan A Real Monday at Last

After two holiday weeks (and I do love the holidays, but still) of not knowing for certain what day it was at any given moment, I am now firmly anchored again. It’s Monday. As Pippa sings in Mr. Browning’s famous poem/play Pippa Passes, “God’s in his heaven—all’s right with the world.”

I think I need to put together a fantasy writers group of men, too. Robert Browning, of course. Algernon Charles Swinburne (swoon). E.F. Benson, author of the glorious Lucia books. Who else?