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Friday, February 10, 2006

from the Forest of Blue Leaves

These magnolia pods made me feel homesick. It’s bright enough outside, and snow and shadows are lovely, but I want to go home and be warm and see flowers and eat my mother’s cooking. If you aren’t bred for this place, it’s hard to survive January and February without falling into the realm of snow-shadows and being covered over by their strange blue leaves.

A penpal of mine from Athens—Georgia—is going to quit the teaching of creative writing and to stop his blog, at least for now. (That’s Phil, who was tagged and wrote his response to the Five Weirdnesses as a "comment" to the previous post.) I’ve always felt that deliberately putting a stop to things is one of the essential acts of life—and especially putting a stop to things that appear very important to other people. I imagine that Phil will write more books and more music and do some carving in alabaster—all sorts of fruitfulness—with the time he gains. Sometimes it’s good to be a hermit and retreat a little, in order to find other satisfactions.

So now I am wondering about my own blog… It’s a strange little missive to the world, or to whatever pieces of it are attracted like filings to a stray magnet. I get occasional letters about it that are pleasing, but often I feel that I’ve simply tossed a bottle (green, with a high punt and lots of bubbles) into the ocean of e-aether. Then I check my stats and wonder who these people are—who you are—someone fell from a great height into the ocean and grazed my green glass bottle and hurtled on through the sea of aether?

I’ll have to think about it. To blog, or not to blog… That does seem in question these days.

Another writer penpal of mine wrote yesterday and confessed the various barbs and hurts she had felt lately, many of them courtesy of the web. It's strange what the aether contains and what it unleashes, good and bad. Every Jack is a reviewer now--and writers need that word-of-mouth reporting when so very few books are "pushed." Yet every Jackass is also anointed and given a cap and bells to shake in the public square. (It's confusing, because the writer in me is curious about them both.) So I wrote back and reported on my own humiliations, just to cheer her up... To be a writer, one must keep a soul that's tender but wrap it in hardness, so that glass hammers strike against a mine of diamonds.

To my astonishment, I just saw a book by a third penpal of mine at The Great American in Cooperstown. Buried in a mass of dreck discount books was the hardcover of Howard’s The Year of Jubilo, shining like an emerald in a trash heap. I picked it up and was going to buy it, then decided that I’d rather someone else find and read it, since I have a copy and a new reader is always desirable. So I left it there for somebody else to pluck up a treasure and took home chocolate, oxydol, and a pair of pink and red Valentine huggy monkeys for my youngest, who is sentimental about cute things and is always setting up zoos and pet stores in the center hall. I wonder who will take home Howard’s book? I’ll have to check and see if it’s there, next time I pass by. If a book makes it to a village of a mere 2000, it’s a signal event. It's about as strange as if a book comes to mooring in a village on the other side of the world.

Credits: The magnolia pods are from Laurelines
a site by Laura, an altogether interesting person
who is pursuing the lovely will o’ the wisp of art
to gain "the silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun."
Creative Commons License.


  1. Of course you should, you silly woman! Writers write just like runners run and sailors sail and fish, well, fish don't fish (unless they are angler fish which seems very self destructive). But the point is to each his essence and writers bring writerliness to every activity. Just be cautious with your time so that your published writing doesn't suffer. Look at that Somebody Somebody Oates Something, (her name escapes me now) who writes tons of stuff! You think a blog would bog her down! Not on your Nana's tattoo! So stick to your guns, Toots, and write us some more.

  2. Anonymous,

    you have a prose style oddly similar to somebody first encountered in the depths of my ye olde college past...

    Speaking of silly, listen to this:
    N, age 8, at dinner:

    "In Italy, cows are holy.

    "They are magic.

    "Oh yeah, India...

    "I think my teacher [a substitute], Mr. M., snuck up on one and ate it."

  3. Hi Marly,

    I for one LOVE the blog. I find it so very interesting, and I learn much about my summer teacher. I don't always post, but I do pop in and read about every other day.

    Are you teaching at NCCAT this summer? A teacher friend of mine is trying to decide which seminar to apply for this summer. I'd highly recommend yours.

    I was intrigued by the 5 weird things in the past column and would like to add mine. One as you know was that I "felt sorry" for acorns without hats and would search amongst the acorns for hats for those without and take them home, glue them on. Then I would keep them because I "knew that they wouldn't fit in" if I took them back. A second one is that I remember very far back in time. I have a memory of about 1 and a half years old. It is not anything anyone could ever have told me, but I asked mama yesterday and she told me that's how old I was when the incident happened. I also remember my father teaching me to draw and paint at age 2. The third is, I had and still ocassionally have upon waking visions and hear voices. I believe people can sometimes be open to other worlds when waking. The fourth and weirdest, I think, I have always hated, and still hate getting my ankles wet with clothes that have soaked up the rain from the ground. It has always made me "mad all over". The fifth is that I rarely ever feel like I "fit in". The NCCAT seminar was an exception. What a wonderful assortment of talent and intriguing souls.


  4. Hey Marly,

    Sorry to come in again in the same day but... I just did it. I now have a home on blogspot. My address is:


  5. Don't apologize for a visit. I just figured out how to get to your livejournal, and now you have a blogspot blog... And it's another Palace!

    I don't know about the summer class as yet. You'd have to ask Carrie or Linda. It's usually in August. Last year's group was wonderful--and, under the circumstances, it meant a great deal more than usual.

    But that particular "subject" is always iffy because it's not as "cut and dried" as most other topics done there. Administrations always tend to be happiest with straightforward students who do straightforward evaluations; instead, writing attracts a certain number of people who, for various reasons, do neither. Is that oblique enough?

    Speaking (obliquely) of weirdness, I like your five weirdnesses. My mother once told me that some memory I had dated back that far, but now I have forgotten what it was! Maybe it'll return. And then I won't remember what it is all over again.

  6. Donna,

    Left a welcome message at the new blog, but the comments told me that "engineers" were laboring on it. So perhaps your Palace is not completely finished...

  7. Marly, yes, yes, yes you have to continue your blog, because I say so. (okay, just thought I'd try that. It has never worked with my children, my lovers, or previously with my parents, but maybe in cyberspace?) (it does work with my dogs, on occassion-another of those words I can't spell...). Your anonymous poster at the top has it right.
    And I laughed out loud at N's comment at dinner.
    Had you not had a blog, and had I not randomly stumbled upon it one late night, I would not have encountered your books, save by other accidental encounter (might have happened, as with your friend's book on the book table). It would have been a grave loss in my life, sadder because I would not have realized what I had missed.
    You don't want to have tragedy on your conscience, do you? Even now someone is perhaps taking a cyber turn toward your work, just about to be amazed and delighted.

  8. Oh, I have been making homemade valentines with N.... My mind is all woebegone puppies and chatty hearts and spunky flowers. I can't think!


    Today is our Winter Carnival (with little snow compared to our usual mountains of the stuff), and I saw a very silly thing, worthy of those magic cows in Italy. It was brilliant this afternoon; coming home with R. from piano lessons, we saw a big-headed Frosty jog over the bridge that jumps the Susquehanna just above its mouth. He looked hot, and his giant top hat kept bobbing about. We laughed and laughed, and he was just about to pop his head off when he caught sight of us, poor fellow. So then he had to wave and walk on. One had to be there to think it so funny--but I was very glad to be there...


    And I think, Jarvenpa, that it is worth a good deal to find a reader like you!

    So I guess I can think after all.

  9. Hi Marly,

    I guess my palace isn't quite finished yet, as you noted. Unfortunately I can't get in on my mac right now to find out what is wrong. Guess I'll post on livejournal until I find out.

    I named it the "The palace in the grove", partly because you gave me the blog queen identity, and partly because we are surrounded by trees. My whole front yeard is trees. Mostly maple trees.I have some side and back yard, but beyond the back yard are my woods.

    It is snowing here in sunny NC by the way, and sleeting, making for a very odd day. First you think you can't go out because it's snowing and I'd never get up my hilly drive, then you think you can because it's just raining, then you can't because it's sleeting ice.

    So, don't be too jealous of us here in the "sunny south". Winter has again stirred.

  10. It's not you; it's "them." Go back in a day and probably the Palace will be neat and tidy and ready.

    Yes, you were due for a Palace after being crowned a queen. You'll have to roust the NCCATers to your new blog.

    I don't have a grove, alas. My 'other' palace is a rambly old cottage. In the rear yard is an immense ash tree that would make a good-sized grove if it could be divided up into normal tree-sized pieces. It has already dropped three major limbs since we moved in. Evidently white ashes are having nervous breakdowns in this zone, thanks to climate change. The tree surgeon is due for an estimate...

  11. Marly, I’ve not visited your blog recently, but I tuned in to read that you’re considering closing the palace. Oh, no! That would be a disappointment for me, but you must be true to Marly. Readers are important, yet you’ll have readers, perhaps under a different cover, for you will write. I, for one, will always be looking for more Marly musings, poetry, short stories, and novels. So if you decide to shelf the blog, please keep your website packed with your writing!! (Is there a difference?) Just listen to your heart and calling . . . Your readers will be there.
    Thanks for the valentine and for the introduction to Laurelines. . .

  12. Hi Connie--

    Lovely to hear from you--I just got a note from one of your seminar-mates. Donna is starting a blog... Have you seen any more of Timmeh or the others?

    I don't know what I'm doing about the blog or anything else. I'm having an utterly whimsical sort of week. It's the sort of week where an electric train is built all over the house, and one accidentally takes one's child to the wrong city for orthodontic work.

    Yes, I like Laura and Laurelines. And I think she must be near you. I meant to ask. But nearer where I used to live, I'll guess. On the other hand, I don't know why I think any of that--perhaps I'm starting to make up a story.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.