Nov 30, 2022

Poetry Form of Trolaan



Trolaan is an interesting form created by Valerie Peterson Brown. It consists of four quatrains (a stanza of four lines), each line having a similar number of syllables. Each line of the quatrain begins with the same letter and the rhyme scheme is abab.

Starting with the second stanza you use the second letter of the first line of the first stanza to start each line of the second stanza.

On the third stanza you will use the second letter on the first line of the second stanza to begin each line of the third stanza.

On the fourth stanza you will use the second letter on the first line of the third stanza to begin each line of the fourth stanza.

I tried to do a schematic, but it’s pretty much impossible without the first word of each stanza. Hopefully you can follow along with my example – it’s not really as bad as it looks!

My example turned out a little darker than I’d intended, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.


Fallen Angel

Cold wind snaking through the night
Cutting the air with a wicked knife;
Capering snowflakes, like a blight
Cover a world devoid of life.

Obsequious spirits dance and sway,
Oft cast shadows looming near,
Ousting warmth they seek to stay,
Oblivious to the dangers here.

Balefire moon shines high o’er head
Bewitching in its awesome light.
Beguiling ice is swiftly spread
Banishing dreams in a blaze of white.

Abandoned hopes lay scattered ‘round
Adorning landscapes bleak and sere;
Angel lost and gone to ground
Alone, betrayed by life and fear.

Nov 28, 2022

Dentists and Kittens



My curse upon thy venom'd stang,
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang;
And thro' my lugs gies mony a twang,
Wi' gnawing vengeance;
Tearing my nerves wi' bitter pang,
Like racking engines!

— Robert Burns, "Address to the Tooth-ache," 1789

Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you.
— Soupy Sales

"I think," said the dentist, stepping outside again, "I'd better give you gas." Then he moved aside and hummed an air from a light opera, while he mixed up cement.
I sat up in my shroud. "Gas!" I said. "Yes," he repeated, "gas or else ether or a sulphuric anæsthetic or else beat you into insensibility with a club or give you three thousand volts of electricity."
These may not have been his exact words. But they convey the feeling of them very nicely.

— Stephen Leacock

Well, it took longer than I expected, but the offending tooth is gone.

Gone, but not forgotten, as it left behind a hole in my jaw bone, a couple of stitches in my gum, and swelling in my jaw and neck. And medication that makes me alternate between sleepy and queasy.

I saw the dental surgeon who decided because the root of the tooth had grown into my jawbone, was really brittle, and was sandwiched between two nerves, he couldn’t go in with a local anesthetic. And because the regular anesthetic had to be administered on an empty stomach, he couldn’t do it that day. And in fact, he didn’t have another open appointment until January 7th.

Yikes!

Fortunately, they had another dental surgeon at that office, and with a little finagling, they got me in the following week. It meant another week of escalating pain, but it was better than January 7th.

Now all that’s left is for the gum to heal and the swelling to go down.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The kittens have pretty much taken over the house. They’re still not allowed in the basement, but they seem to be okay with that because they’d really rather be where the people are anyway. And they’re still getting locked up at night because we can’t really trust them not to get into trouble while we’re sleeping. They don’t seem to mind that either.

Maybe after Christmas we’ll give it a try, you know, after the Christmas tree has been put away for another year. Or what’s left of the tree. I’m not looking forward to that, let me tell you. They both like to climb. Good thing our decorations are kitten friendly.

Dinsdale is over the sniffles he had, thanks to a week’s worth of antibiotics from the vet. And apparently he made up for lost time as far as gaining weight. When we got them, Dinsdale weighed 2.8 pounds and Khaos weighed 2.1 pounds.

At their first vet’s appointment Dinsdale weighed 2.14 pounds and Khaos weighed 3 pounds even. When they went for their booster shots last week, Dinsdale weighed 5 pounds, and Khaos weighed 4.4! No wonder we’re going through the kitten chow so fast!

They seem to get into equal amounts of trouble, but Dinsdale is the more affectionate of the two, and Khaos is more feisty. He’s more cuddly, and she purrs louder. They’re getting better at respecting the laptop, but when the zoomies hit, all bets are off!

Nov 13, 2022

Blogging Break



Due to the extreme pain from an impacted wisdom tooth that has a cavity in it, I will be taking a blogging break this week. Unless I find something to make the pain less extreme.

The tooth is affecting the whole lower right side of my jaw. Yes, I’ve been to the dentist and the only real solution is to have it removed by a dental surgeon. Unfortunately, I can’t get in to see him until the 19th.

I’ve been taking Advil for the pain, but it’s not doing much. At most I get an hour, maybe two, where its bearable. It was bad enough on Saturday that I went back to the dentist, but I don’t think I impressed upon him how much it hurt, because he told me to keep up the Advil every 6 hours. *sigh*

I’ve pretty much doubled the dose, and it still hurts a lot. Clove oil does not help, nor does Orajel, because the pain is due to the pressure the impacted tooth is putting on the other teeth.

In any case, the pain is a little too distracting to me to focus on getting any writing done. I’m about 3,000 words behind in my NaNo, and I’m sure it’s only going to get worse as the week progresses.

I’m going to phone the dentist’s office tomorrow, and with any luck I can get him to prescribe something. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long week indeed.

Nov 9, 2022

Katauta Poetry Form



Don’t you just love the Japanese with their tiny little poems and their combinations of five and seven syllables? I know I do! And it’s because of them you’re getting a new form this week instead of a recycled one. :-)

Today’s form is the Katauta, which dates back to 8th century Japan. It consists of 19 onji, or as we call them, syllables. There is a break after the fifth and twelfth onji, giving us a structure of 5, 7, 7.

The first line is a question, and the following two should reflect back on it with an answer. Traditionally, the Katauta is an emotional statement, usually addressed to a lover. Multiple Katautas act as a question and answer conversation between lovers.

I gotta admit, I found this form a little harder to do than I expected. Short poem, short syllable count – what could be easier, right? I think it was the whole question and answer thing that tripped me up. So I took a look at some other examples of the Katauta, and surprise, surprise. I only found one in a question/answer format, and it was actually just one long question.

If you ignore the content format, the Katauta is as addictive as the Haiku or Senryu. It’s a little more challenging with the question/answer format. And as you’ll see by my examples, the whole emotional statement and/or conversation between lovers didn’t happen. Although I did kind of link a question driven Katauta with a non-question one.


Is winter coming?
Yes, says the shortening days
and the frost crisp morning grass.

Cold and crisply bright
the autumn days turn into
translucent autumnal nights.


Where is the moonlight?
The brightness becomes hidden
under a red shadow haze.

A sliver of light
gives us hope of the return
of the red sun hidden moon.

Nov 7, 2022

That Time of Year



You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight saving time.
— Dave Barry

I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the daylight saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves.
— Robertson Davies

An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.
— Winston Churchill

It’s that time of year again, when I complain about the time change.

Less than 40% of the world changes to DST in the spring and back to standard time in the fall. In 2020, Scientific American published an article about how governments are considering abolishing it and sticking to just one time, but I’m still waiting to see this being implemented.

“Spring forward, fall back.” The fall time change isn’t so bad because we gain an hour, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who enjoys the spring, when we lose an hour.

Did you know your risk of a stroke or heart attack increases soon after a time shift? And it’s already been proven there’s an increase of traffic fatalities and other accidents due to the spring time change.

This is because it’s not just a change of an hour, it’s a misalignment of your circadian rhythm. Whenever we disrupt our circadian rhythm it increases our stress response, which in turn takes a toll on the heart and brain.

When you’re in standard time, the sun at noon (in most places) is right above your head. When you’re in daylight saving time for eight months of the year, you’re an hour off. You’re getting not enough light in the morning, and too much light in the evening. And it only gets worse when summer approaches because the days are getting longer and you’re getting light well into the evening when you should be getting less light so your body can get ready for bed.

If we do get rid of the transition, the best option is to stay on standard time, getting rid of daylight savings time. This is because light is important for our well being, our mood, and our sleep. Ask anyone whose mood is affected by too many dark days.

Getting enough light, especially in the winter, is critical. With permanent standard time we have our light in the morning, when we need it, and you have dark in the summer, when we need it. With permanent daylight saving time we get too much light too late in the evening and we have trouble falling asleep because we need the dark to create enough natural melatonin.

Unfortunately, if we do get a permanent time, daylight savings will most likely be our new standard. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter as long as we stay consistent. If I can make the adjustment twice a year, I’m sure I can adjust when it’s the rest of my life.

In 2020, legislation was passed by the Ford government to do away with the time change. However, it can’t be enacted until the province of Quebec and the state of New York are ready to follow suit. And it appears the wheels of government drag very slowly.

In March of this year, the Sunshine Protection Act, a bill that “makes daylight saving time the new, permanent standard time, effective November 5, 2023,” was passed by the U.S. Senate. But it still has to make it through congress, and then the president before it can be made a law.

So cross your fingers, maybe 2023 will the last time we see the time change.

Nov 2, 2022

Bev-A-Lyn Rhyme



This is one of the obscure forms I found last week when I was researching the Sextilla. It was invented by Chazz Combs, and when I tried to do some research on him, I found two more forms he invented.

This is a 12-line poem that is both syllabic and rhyming, but with varying line lengths. The syllable count is 5,7,9,2,14,14,11,2,9,7,5,2 and the rhyme scheme is a a a b c c c d e e e f. The 2-syllable lines don’t rhyme and usually have their own message. Maybe it would be a little easier to understand with a schematic:

xxxxa
xxxxxxa
xxxxxxxxa
xb
xxxxxxxxxxxxxc
xxxxxxxxxxxxxc
xxxxxxxxxxc
xd
xxxxxxxxe
xxxxxxe
xxxxe
xf


Technically, this falls under the category of a shape poem because you’re supposed to center it when you’re done. I’ve done other shape poems before, but I think this is the first one I’ve done that has a rhyme to it. I hate to admit it, but it was kind of fun, although the 14-syllable lines were a little tricky.


Autumn

Leaves are turning gold,
the weather is turning cold
Autumn is here, a sight to behold.
Changing
A hunter’s moon is riding high in the chill sky tonight,
bathing the sleeping world below in its magical light,
setting the stage for winter’s sharp bite.
Turning
White frost enshrouds the trees and the grass
turning the world into glass,
leaves falling en masse.
Ending

Oct 31, 2022

Kittens Is Krazy

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.
— Terry Pratchett

As anyone who has ever been around a cat for any length of time well knows, cats have enormous patience with the limitations of the humankind.
— Cleveland Amory

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.
— Albert Schweitzer

How we behave toward cats here below determines our status in heaven.
— Robert A. Heinlein



Yes, another kitten post. What can I say? They’re pretty much the most exciting thing going on around here.

They had their first check up with the vet which included a set of shots. Dinsdale was definitely the larger of the two when we first got them, but his sister has caught up in size and weighs a whole ounce more than him.

But he was off his feed for a little while. First, he has the kitty version of a cold – slightly runny nose and eyes and the occasional sneeze, which we need to keep an eye on – and then he seemed to have a sensitive spot in his mouth. I noticed that night he seemed to have a little trouble eating, so I switched them from the chunky canned food to a pate and he seemed to do better.

We think he probably hurt his mouth chewing on the wicker baskets they took over. So I reclaimed the smaller one that is actually the one I use for bread and rolls. Then we went to a big pet supply and got them a proper cat bed (which I forgot to take a picture of) and made the big, white basket disappear. And finally, when they were napping this afternoon – Dinsdale in the cat bed and Khaos in the scratch pad – I took away the medium sized basket.

While Khaos has surpassed her brother in weight, Dinsdale has definitely surpassed her in getting into mischief. He’s learned how to turn on the touch lamp in their room:



He’s taken up a musical instrument, the windchimes:



And as soon as he figures out how to open Daddy’s laptop he’ll be ready for some online shopping:


He has learned to stay off the dining room table, but now he tries to get up on the kitchen counter when it’s time for canned food (which they only get twice a day). He figured out if he jumps up on the garbage can he can reach the counter from there, but the “no” he learned from the dining room table has come in handy because now he doesn’t go any further than the top of the garbage can.

However, he’s latest trick is jumping up on the recycling bins. He’s pretty proud of himself, and this being the end of the week they’re full so he doesn’t sink down very far. But he’s in for a shock the next time he tries because tomorrow is garbage day, so the recycle bins will be empty.

Although he’s able to balance on the narrow edge, so maybe he won’t fall in. And what does he do when he balances on the edge? He goes after my plants.



Notice the lack of plants in my plant stand now. I’m either going to have to find a sturdier plant stand, or find a new home for my plants.

One thing for sure, life is no longer boring!

Oct 26, 2022

Sextilla Poetry Form



I’m back to both a syllable count and a rhyme scheme, but at least the stanza itself is short. There wasn’t as much information about this form as I would have liked, but there was more than the one line I had in my forms list. And in searching for more information, I stumbled across several more obscure forms to add to my list.

The Sextilla first appeared around the 14th century in Spain and Portugal. It’s a six-line stanza, with eight syllables per line. You can have as many or as few stanzas as you wish, but they should be in one of the two following rhyme schemes: aabccb or ababcc.

Schematic:

xxxxxxxa
xxxxxxxa
xxxxxxxb
xxxxxxxc
xxxxxxxc
xxxxxxxb

xxxxxxxa
xxxxxxxb
xxxxxxxa
xxxxxxxb
xxxxxxxc
xxxxxxxc

I gotta admit, I really like working in eight syllable lines. They just seem to have a nice flow to them. I used the first rhyme scheme for the first verse, and the second for the remaining two.


The Battle

My heart beats with a quiet drum,
the dark night of the soul has come.
An eon since, the curse was cast –
another age, another life,
another hand to wield the knife
to fight the evil spirits massed.

The battle is as old as time.
The gods decreed that it be so
when wickedness was on the climb;
benevolence no longer flowed.
The balance must be kept you see,
The task has fallen, now, to me.

I stand between the life and death
of mankind in his many realms,
and battle with my very breath
evil seeking to overwhelm.
The battle, it is glorious
and I remain victorious.

Oct 24, 2022

Bitter Harvest

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
— Robert Louis Stevenson

Our deep respect for the land and its harvest is the legacy of generations of farmers who put food on our tables, preserved our landscape, and inspired us with a powerful work ethic.
— James H. Douglas, Jr.

It feels good at the end of the day to know you made a product that other people are going to enjoy.
— Jericho Sanchez

Well, the verdict is in. My vegetable garden was pretty much a bust this year. I’d like to blame the asparagus – I know some plants do well away from others – but asparagus gets along well with pretty much everyone.



We did have a decent crop of green beans. It wasn’t spectacular, but we had enough for our own use, and they were really good, even the oversized ones which are usually a little on the woody or stringy side.

And I certainly have no complaints about the lettuce. This was the first time I’ve grown it and I cheated and used the seeds on the tape. We enjoyed that lettuce all summer long.



The peppers were kind of mediocre, we got a few but they were on the small side. The tomatoes were pretty much a wash, and the spinach went to seed before I could even pick some.

As for the beets . . . *sigh*. The beets got off to a bad start in the first place. I caught a squirrel who appeared to have a taste for beet seeds. He ate about half of them before I was able to chase him out of my garden and have him stay out.

Then there was the attack of the bunnies. I can’t say for certain, because I never caught him in action, but I know there was a bunny in the back yard. And something ate the tops of all my beets. But I think they were already a lost cause.



Yes, that's my entire beet harvest. And in case you’re fooled by the close-up, they ranged in size from pea-sized to cherry tomato sized.

Now if I were to blame the asparagus, it would be because they grew so out of control and blocked the sun from the rest of the garden. So next year, I’ve request that the hubby build my third garden plot. The location doesn’t get as much sun as the others do, but I’m sure it’ll be fine for things like asparagus and rhubarb. I’ll save the other two garden plots for my green beans, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, and spinach.

So. . .did you have a vegetable garden? How did your garden grow?

Oct 19, 2022

Kouta Poetry Form



I have a list I made a few years ago of several poetry forms I was saving for a later date. It wasn’t that they were extra hard or complicated, it’s just I didn’t have a whole lot of information about them, just the name and a single line of description at best.

Much to my surprise, and pleasure, when I researched some of these forms on the weekend, there was all kinds of information about many of them. In some cases, a little too much information. ;-)

The Kouta is one of those wonderfully short Japanese verses. It was popular in the 14th to 16th centuries, and was originally meant to be sung. Though it was also tied to geishas and love songs, it does not need to be romantic in nature.

A very humble form, the Kouta is traditionally about relatable, everyday topics. It usually celebrates the everyday life of the average person and is meant to appeal to a wide audience.

Like most Japanese poetry, this four-line verse is made of lines with either 5 or 7 syllables. There are two main variants – 7/5/7/5 or 7/7/7/5. Rarely you’ll find one with an extra line, with a syllable count of 5/5/7/7/5.

You can have multiple verses, but each Kouta should also be able to stand on its own. However, it’s permissible to use a common theme throughout. My example uses a common theme, but each Kouta is a different format.


The image in the mirror
comes as a surprise.
A stranger is reflected,
surely it’s not me.


Another birthday over,
the candle's puddles of wax
cooling on leftover cake –
the party’s over.


Age – just a number,
the years accruing
like coins in a piggy bank.
It’s too bad they can’t be saved
for a rainy day.

Oct 17, 2022

Be Careful What You Wish For

Cats do not have to be shown how to have a good time, for they are unfailingly ingenious in that respect.
— James Mason, Actor

I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It’s not. Mine had me trained in two days.
— Bill Dana

Cats never listen. They’re dependable that way; when Rome burned, the emperor’s cats still expected to be fed on time.
— Seanan McGuire, Writer

For about the last five years I have been wishing for a cat that would like the occasional cuddle. Well, my wish has come true, in spades!





Like I said last week, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a kitten in the house. I’d like to say there was an adjustment period while they got used to us and their new living situation, but I’d be lying. They pretty much made themselves at home and took over from the moment we opened the door to their crate.

It’s one thing to have a cuddle, it’s another altogether to be pinned down in place for hours on end by these furry little dictators. Even the hubby, who pretends to be indifferent to them, stayed in his chair for a good three hours Saturday night because Dinsdale decided to curl up on his shoulder.

What’s that you say? Just move them? How can you resist those furry little faces!



Actually, I’m getting better at doing just that. If I wait until they fall asleep, I can move them into my chair and they’ll just go back to sleep. Yes, I lose my chair, but it’s a small price to pay for being able to get stuff done.

They sleep more than I expected. I know cats normally sleep a lot, but these guys will play full tilt for an hour, two tops, and then crash for about four. Of course it’s not as much of a problem now as it was in the beginning when they wouldn’t sleep unless cuddled up to me.

When they’re awake they’re looking for trouble. I think I mentioned how they have no respect for my laptop, and they like to chew on cords.



We’ve learned to have our meals at the dining room table (which is still problematic unless we feed them at the same time) and I have to keep an eye on any beverage I might want to have while sitting in my recliner.



Yes, that’s my water bottle about to take a header.

Despite her name, Khaos is actually the more well behaved of the two. She’s still more adventuresome, she was the first to venture upstairs when we removed the gate, and she’ll often play by herself up there.



Dinsdale, on the other hand, is a stubborn little guy. He discovered he can jump from our dropleaf table we use as a room divider over to the pub height dining room table. Seeing as the dining room table is about our only refuge from them, we’ve been trying to discourage this behavior. But no matter how often he’s told “no” or “bad kitty” as we pick him up and put him back on the floor, he keeps going back. Khaos appears to have learned the lesson just by watching her brother get scolded so often and doesn’t even try for the table.



So far Dinsdale has managed to tangle himself up in a leather bag in the front hall, squeezed between the rails on the upstairs landing to jump down onto the stairs, got his paw caught under a door, and figured out that if he jumps down onto a chair from the table, he can jump from chair seat to chair seat to the back where we can’t get him. He also likes to chew on my hair.

Life sure got interesting in a hurry!

Oct 12, 2022

The Cow is Mad! Part Two



As I said last week, I’m not talking about mad cow disease, I’m talking about the Mad Cow and Mad Calf poetry forms, invented by Sebastian “Duke” Delorange. I tried to look him up online, but all I could find out about him is that he’s American.

Last week I shared the Mad Calf, which is clearly the easier of the two. So this week I had no choice but to make good on my promise to Share the Mad Cow form. Clearly, I need to watch what I promise. There was a reason I’ve put this form off so long.

This poem is a whopping 35 lines long, written as a series of 7 cinquains (five-line verses). These lines are 12 syllables long, which make it a hefty poem indeed. The rhyme scheme is: ababc cdede fgfgh hijij klklm mnono eieio. And just to make it more fun, it should have a pastoral setting.

The EIEIO is what gives the Mad Cow its name. It’s referring back to the children’s song, “Old MacDonald’s Farm” where the farmer had a cow (among other farm animals).

I’m going to be up front here, I hate 12 syllable lines. They make my teeth itch. And you will notice I did not use a pastoral setting for my example.


Living Forever

If you were given the chance to live forever
Would you take the offer given or turn away?
Think upon on this peculiar endeavor
This is not an offer that is made every day.
It would be unwise to dismiss it out of hand

Because this is an offer straight out of dreamland.
Before accepting I would consider the source,
Is it beatific, malefic, or between?
Is this really something you can fully endorse –
Will it stain your soul black or can you keep it clean?

But think what it would be like to live forever
To never have the fear of death, or of dying
To live the history that makes you so clever
Living such a life could be so gratifying
It has a certain appeal, wouldn’t you agree?

I wonder if such a life would make one carefree.
Would the passing of time have any meaning still;
Would the minutes and hours seem to go slow or fast?
Or would one day bleed into another until
All of the days are gone and eternity’s passed?

Imagine, if you will, the things that you would see
If forever you lived, until the end of days –
The magic and wonder of all the things to be,
Or maybe you’d be witness to the world ablaze
And observe mankind’s inevitable downfall.

In the weighing of the good and bad, overall,
All the pros and cons don’t really matter as much
As what is in your heart and how you really feel.
To watch your loved ones die, never feeling their touch
Would, to me, be somewhat of an achilles’ heel.

I would live forever, but only in dreamland.
But a dream is not something that someone can force.
It does not conform, bow to the dreamer’s command,
But in your dreams you can live forever, of course,
And perhaps that’s all anyone needs to be real.

Oct 10, 2022

Introducing . . .

As most of you know, our senior cat Dante, the last of the Terrible Trio, crossed the Rainbow Bridge in August. Though he wasn’t sociable, and at 20 years old had a few health and behavioral issues, he still left a void in our lives.

Still, we weren’t ready to just turn around and adopt a new feline friend right away. For one thing, the room he liked to hang out in needed to be thoroughly cleaned out. And for another, I had my Writersfest in Kingston coming up and was going to be away from home for several days.

We worked in the room both before and after my trip, and once it was clean we started thinking of a new addition to the family. I have to confess, after having to care for senior cats the last several years, I was ready for kittens.

Who knew adopting a kitten would involve so much paperwork? The application for adoption from the rescue place we decided on had a multi-page form that had to be filled out online, and you had to make sure to answer every question and provide no less than three references. Even the Humane Society had a multi-page form you to fill out, and this one included signing a release to allow them to access your veterinary records. And by the way, I'm not really complaining about it, I actually applaud them for not letting just anyone adopt one of their animals.

Fortunately, our application was approved by the rescue and Friday we went to meet some kittens. Welcome home, Khaos and Dinsdale:



They’re 11 week old brother and sister, already spayed and neutered and microchipped. We had their room all ready for them, with food and water, a kitty litter pan, and toys. We gave them a little time to get used to their room and then we gated off the stairs to the upper floor and basement to reduce the amount of new space they had to get used to and let them out to roam.

We didn’t need to worry. They adjusted really quickly. I was surprised at how affectionate they are, especially Dinsdale.



Did you notice the size of his feet? He’s going to be a big boy. He’s the more affectionate of the two, and his favorite place to cat nap is on a human. Usually me. :-)

His sister has been living up to her name so far. The first evening, when we let them out of their room for a while, she made it her mission to collect all the dust bunnies I missed in the living room. Dinsdale went behind/under furniture as well, but Khaos was always first.



They both like to chew on cords – computer, electrical, you name it, and this is something we’ll have to discourage. And Khaos has complete disrespect for the lap top. I was trying to work on a blog post Saturday night and she turned up the volume and put my lap top into airplane mode. I don’t even know how to do that and it took me a while to get it out again. She’s also done some weird things with the TV remote, like pausing the show we were watching and calling up menus we didn’t know we had.

Though they get shut in their room for the night – they’re so little they really shouldn’t be left out on their own – and we still restrict them to the main floor, they’ve definitely taken over. I had some baskets stacked in the dining room and they unstacked them to take them over:



And of course they play musical baskets – there’s actually three baskets and they hop from one to another, sometimes wrestling for possession. I finally broke down and put blankets in the two bigger ones and they like to nap in them (when I’m not available).



They’ve already learned to jump up on the couches, and from there Khaos discovered one of my plants was now within reach. Of course not to be outdone by his sister, Dinsdale had to chew on it too.



But who can resist those sweet little faces, even if they do steal my chair?



One thing for certain, it’s definitely not going to be boring around here any more.

Oct 5, 2022

The Cow is Mad!



No, I’m not talking about mad cow disease, I’m talking about the Mad Cow and Mad Calf poetry forms, invented by Sebastian “Duke” Delorange. I tried to look him up online, but all I could find out about him is that he’s American.

Because I spent so much time on the research, I ran short of time so I’m going to start with the Mad Calf because it’s the shorter and simpler of the two forms. :-)

The Mad Calf is a 20 line poem made up of 4 cinquains (5 line verses). Each line has 6 syllables. The Mad Calf has fewer lines and fewer syllables than the Mad Cow, and it doesn’t really rhyme until the last stanza. The rhyme scheme is: abcde fghij klmno eieio.

EIEIO, like in the kid’s song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” get it? Okay, okay, on to my example. But first, I have a confession to make.

When I write poems that are strict in their syllable count, I often use an online syllable counter. There is one line in the following poem that two different syllable counters insisted was seven syllables long, but it’s not. Which only goes to show you that syllable counters, like grammar checkers, are not infallible. Also, one of the lines is only five syllables, but it just didn’t sound right with six so I’m leaving it.


Fae Bells

A full moon rides the sky
above the fairy glen,
limns the trees with silver
and lights the unseen path
for the Fae caravan.

Magic in the nightfall
and in the music too,
magic in the dancing,
celebrating summer
as only the Fae can.

Crystal flutes play sweetly,
bodhrans keep the beat;
silks and satins swirling
as dancers turn and spin.
Joyous voices singing.

Beyond the fields of man,
you can hear the drummer –
that’s how the dance began.
You know it’s midsummer
when Fae bells are ringing.

Oct 3, 2022

Authors and Readings and Ghosts, Oh My!

No quotes today because I’m too tired to look them up. And I don’t exactly know what quotes would be appropriate for this post anyway.

Starting last Thursday, I was in Kingston for their annual Writersfest. When I was there in 2019 I only went for two days, but this year I sprung for the four day festival pass. Unfortunately I didn’t call about my hotel reservation in time so not only did I not get the discounted rate, I had to stay in a different hotel. But this was the view from my window:



That big building directly across the docks is the hotel I stayed in last time. :-D

Kingston is a beautiful city, and one of Canada’s oldest. And it’s full of history . . . and ghosts. So when I saw an advertisement for a ghost trolley ride, I couldn’t resist. I ducked out early from one of my masterclasses to take the tour.



The driver was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of Kingston. He also knew the stories behind a lot of the ghosts and, of course, where the bodies were buried. We were well entertained for two hour trip.

It got dark pretty quickly so I didn’t get a whole lot of pictures. I think the highlight was the “big three” – the Kingston Penitentiary, the Women’s Penitentiary, and the Rockwood Asylum For the Criminally Insane, all abandoned now. The stories he told about these places were horrific, none more so than the ones that took place in Rockwood.



We spent considerable time parked there while Jack, our driver, regaled us with gruesome facts and haunting stories. And I swear to God, as he was talking, I could feel my throat constricting. There was a pressure building up in my chest. I was actually on the verge of asking if we could move along when he started up the engine and started off to the next landmark. The pressure in my chest eased up immediately.

The next morning, I was awakened by the sound of a fog horn. And honestly, I didn’t think anything about it until I was sitting down for breakfast in the hotel dining room and saw this:



Talk about a missed photo opportunity! If had had known the fog was out there, I’d have been down on the dock instead of in the dining room. And it was so bright and sunny out, the pictures would have been amazing. I bet the sunrise was too.

So the next morning I went down to the dock before breakfast and waited for the sun to rise. Unfortunately, this time it was somewhat overcast and the sun stayed behind the clouds. This was the result:



The following morning I decided not to waste my time, and of course it was a brighter sunrise than the day before. Clearly I was not meant to get that picture.

One of the things I really like about Kingston is the path along the waterfront. This is an 8 km public trail, perfect for walking or biking. Or running, as evidenced by the number of runners that passed me whenever I was on the trail.

The hotel I was staying at overhangs this trail on three sides, and what I really enjoyed were the murals along it.



To be honest, I didn’t really get to see much of the city, other than the waterfront early in the morning. As I said, I was there for the Writersfest, so I was in masterclasses from 9 in the morning to 6:30 in the evening with only an hour or so in between each class. And one evening it was actually 8 before I was done because I went to one of the author readings and interviews:



That’s Guy Gavriel Kay, who was kind enough to let me take his picture while he was signing books. For those who are unfamiliar with him, he’s a famous Canadian fantasy author. Look him up. :-D

I had a great time at the festival, and I’m already looking forward to next year. But it’s also nice to be home again.

Sep 28, 2022

Jisei or Death Poem



When death was imminent, it was the custom of the ancient Chinese and Japanese to write a poem. If the person was unable to write on their own, Zen monks would write the poem for them. The earliest record of the Jisei was from 686, by Prince Otsu, son of Emperor Temmu. He wrote his when he was forced to commit sepaku (ritual suicide).

The Jisei is not so much a form in itself as a category for the subject. It was usually written in either the classic Chinese Kanshi form: four lines with a 5-7-5-7 syllable count; the Waka form: five lines with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count; or the Haiku: three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable count.

Death is never mentioned explicitly in a Jisei, so that the poet is able to think more about their life. Early poems used symbolism and imagery, later poems added images from nature. A Jisei can be dark or it can be hopeful but above all it’s meant to be an expression of the acceptance of death, and how the poet has spent their life.

I’m not sure if my examples can be considered true Jisei, as (to my knowledge) I’m not on the verge of death. And I can only hope that by writing them I’m not tempting fate.


Kanshi

Behind me is the
long road that life has taken –
ups and downs and turns,
I look back with no regrets


Waka Form

Life’s no longer mine
and I come to the trail’s end
I hope it’s autumn
my favorite time of year
would be a good time to leave


Haiku

Like the autumn leaves
my concerns fall and scatter
wind take me away

Sep 26, 2022

Long Road to Satisfaction

Crafts make us feel rooted, give us a sense of belonging and connect us with our history. Our ancestors used to create these crafts out of necessity, and now we do them for fun, to make money and to express ourselves.
– Phyllis George

When people ask me ‘How did you get to be so creative?’ I tell them it’s because I ate paste as a child.
– Unknown

‘Heirloom’ is knitting code for “This pattern is so difficult that you would consider death a relief.”
– Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

At the beginning of the summer I bought a couple of sundresses from Old Navy. One was an off white with tiny multicoloured pastel flowers embroidered on it and all I needed to do was take it up a bit in the shoulders to make it work for me. The other one was a kind of washed out medium blue colour with cream and grey roses on it. I wasn’t keen on the ruffles on the straps, and I hated the way the straps were constructed because it was impossible to keep them up. Here’s the dress:



Yes, it was as shapeless as it looks in the picture. I tried to adjust the straps, but they still didn’t work. I tried adding elastic at the waist to give it some shape and that didn’t really work either. I could have just abandoned it altogether, but I really, really liked the material it was made of. So I did the next best thing – I cut it off to make a skirt out of it.

And then I got the brilliant idea to make a sleeveless blouse out of unbleached cotton to wear with it. And just to make it look like it was supposed to go with it, I decided to embroider it with roses to go with the pattern in the skirt. But where the skirt was blue with cream/grey roses, I decided to do my roses in blue:



I was going to do the leaves in grey, like on the skirt, but one of the ladies from the stitchery guild talk me out of it, saying I should use green instead. I must have gone through half a dozen different greens before I found the right shade. And I must have picked out the embroidery for them at least three times.

The embroidery alone took me the entire summer. It’s not that it was especially hard to do, it’s just that I had a lot of other things going on and I wasn’t able to work on it as much as I’d like to.

I was about halfway through it when it occurred to me that I had the roses going the wrong way. The pattern was in an L shape, and I probably should have had the long edge of the L in the middle with the short edge facing away from the center. But I had the short edge facing the middle and the long edge on the outside. So then I thought I should fill in the gap with something fancy.

I found a couple of lace collars online, and then spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide which one to go with, the grey:



Or the blue:



In the end I decided on neither, I’d just leave it plain. On to constructing the blouse itself. And once again I started running into problems. The first lining I tried was from a stash of material I came into, and I think in its former life it was the lining for curtains. At any rate, when I had to re-sew one of the seams it tore like tissue paper. Obviously this wasn’t going to work.

So next I tried the material I’d originally bought to go under the blue lace I did not use for the granddaugher’s ball gown. It was synthetic, and slightly stretchy, and my sewing machine hated it and started acting up. So that got abandoned too.

Getting fed up with the trouble the blouse was giving me, I turned my attention to the skirt. It was a pretty simple matter to put a casing on the top and threading elastic through it. And the skirt was done.

Finally I went back to the stash and found some more unbleached cotton, this time a little heavier than I would have liked, and it was a little discoloured in places, but it worked. I got the lining made and sewed the blouse together, and . . . it didn’t fit. It needed to be taken up at the shoulders and let out in the sides.

Fortunately, the way I added the lining I didn’t have to rip the whole thing apart. I made my adjustments and put it back together again. I did the hand stitching and very carefully made the buttonholes. After sewing the buttons on, I was finally done. And it even fits properly.



I have never taken so long to finish a single garment in my life.

But that’s not going to stop me from another embroidered, sleeveless blouse down the road.

Sep 21, 2022

Virelai Poetry Form



This poem comes to us from medieval France, and was often set to music. It’s one of the three fixed French forms, the other two being the ballade and the rondeau. It’s a kind of complicated form, with alternating rhymes and syllable counts.

The Virelai can have any number of nonets (9-line stanzas), but usually has at least three. It is syllabic with the syllable count being 5-5-2-5-5-2-5-5-2. It also rhymes, with the five syllable lines rhyming with each other, and the two syllable lines rhyming with each other.

Here’s the schematic:

xxxxa
xxxxa
xb
xxxxa
xxxxa
xb
xxxxa
xxxxa
xb

Now, in the second stanza, the first line picks up the rhyme from the last line of the first stanza and this continues as the rhyme for the five syllable lines of this verse. The two syllable lines get a new rhyme of their own. This pattern continues in the following verses. In other words, the end rhyme for the second verse would be bbcbbcbbc, the third verse would be ccdccdccd, and so forth.

I told you it was a little complicated. Honestly, after struggling with my example I want to go back to an unstructured form! The five syllable lines were bad enough, but the two syllable ones were a killer. Yikes!


Creativity

vaguely, in my mind
stray thoughts left behind
amass
some thoughts are unkind
some are less defined
like glass
all are unconfined
stories in my mind
en masse

deep in the morass
dreams may come to pass
tonight
such dreams oft surpass
the mind’s deep crevasse
of sight
and reason is bypassed
here at this impasse
tonight

flash, like a floodlight
pierce the brain, ignite
regret
for the things I write
under the moonlight
abet
thoughts, I cannot fight
this is my birthright
. . . forget

Sep 19, 2022

Let’s Go to the Fair!

From food trucks to hot dog stands to county fair favorites, 'street food' has enjoyed a rich and storied history in American cuisine. However, street food has been around for thousands of years. In fact, street food is believed to have originated as far back as Ancient Rome.
— Homaro Cantu

If you've ever noticed, beauty pageants are a lot like county fairs. The farmers show the cows the same way. They walk their prized Jersey cow across a stage in front of an audience with judges, and maybe the cow even twirls around a couple of times. Then the winning cow gets a satin ribbon draped over it, which has the title and the year on it.
— Sherry Argov

The seasons don't matter to most of us anymore except as spectacles. In my county and in many places around this part of the nation, the fair that once marked the harvest now takes place in late August, while tourist dollars are still in heavy circulation. Why celebrate the harvest when you harvest every week with a shopping cart?
— Bill McKibben

I did something on the weekend I’ve never done before. I went to the Port Hope Fall Fair.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to fairs. The daughter and I used to go to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), Canada’s largest agricultural fair, at the end of every summer. And I even made some entries in the Roseneath Fair (brought home a few blue ribbons too). But I’ve never been to the Port Hope Fair, which is just the next town over.

And I’ll be perfectly honest and admit that I probably wouldn’t have gone this year except the stitchery guild I belong to was invited to put up a display. So a few of us went Friday night to set the display up, and then I volunteered to man the table from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday.



The empty chair is where I was sitting. :-) The lady who was supposed to relieve me was also a rug hooker, but her relief never showed up so I stayed later so there could be two people at their display.



Fortunately, the next volunteer arrived early and I was sprung to enjoy the fair. I wandered around a bit and looked at some of the exhibits – jams and jellies and preserves – and there was a surprising number of entries by children, including this display of art:



And this was an agricultural fair, so let’s not forget the produce such as prize-winning pumpkins:



and corn (among many others):



There were even flowers to be judged:



Because there was a lot of construction around the buildings at the fairgrounds, they had the animals across the laneway in a different field. By the time I figured out where they were it was too late to see them. But I did hook up with my daughter and her family and we enjoyed a stroll around the midway:



The granddaughter didn’t want to go on the rides badly enough to stand in one of the insanely long lines, but she did play a couple of the games and was quite thrilled with the prizes she won.

All in all, it was a great way to mark the end of the summer.