Conversational styles

Maybe I belonged to the Society of Friends in a past life. I like to have some spaces in conversation.

At the same time, I want some back-and-forth. One of my brothers doesn’t really converse; he monologues. He’s happy to take turns: once he’s told his story, he’ll listen to someone else’s. But by the time he has finished, I’ve checked out and am just murmuring “Hum” and “Go to,” without feeling the slightest impulse to contribute.* I have a friend** from another walk of life who is prone to unloading for an hour or so, which I find exhausting, maybe because I don’t check out and feel a need to provide proper responses.

My idea of a proper conversation goes something like this: someone makes an observation about the weather or other neutral topic, such as “Nice to have some sun” or “Sure looks wet out there.” All present agree that the weather is weathering and contemplate the weather for a bit. Anyone not up for talking now closes eyes and falls asleep in the sun, or goes to take a nap, or declares a need to run errands and offers to bring back anything desired from wherever they’re going.

Anyone remaining has tacitly declared that they are up for conversation. Someone asks a question like “How’s it going with X?” or maybe “I was thinking about what you said [last time/ in e-mail/ to someone else] and I wondered [if you would elaborate / how that might apply to Other Thing / if you had thought about Approach].” The topic might be personal, with friends like Queen Joan or Lady Maud, or it might be a more general topic like kitchen renovation, books, or gardening.

The addressee is allowed time to think about an answer, to develop it a bit, but does not monologue. A few sentences, maybe, perhaps finishing with a question about the original questioner’s experience with contractors, or at book group, or with invasive species. Or maybe all present contemplate this answer and the sun / rain / snow / wind before someone relates the answer back to her house hunt and refusal even to contemplate a house with a kitchen that someone else had already renovated.

This model works best for long, lazy, in-person visits, as it were house parties with Queen Joan and Lady Maud. I’m willing to speed things up and allow for more wit and repartee at, say, a dinner party, where there are more people and probably less time. OTOH, when you have more people, there can be performers and audience; there is space for some people to sit out and contemplate the main conversation. I do think the performers need to shut up sometimes and let the quiet ones have a chance to get a word in edgewise.

I know families where the model is “everyone talks constantly at full volume about whatever is on their minds and no one listens to anything said by anyone else.” They make me homesick for my monologuing brother.

*I think this brother thinks I am naturally the quiet type and love to listen to him, or maybe that I am just boring and have no stories to relate. “No stories” is probably true. I don’t organize my life in anecdotes.

**At this point maybe I am more a friend to her than she to me, but (a) I think she does need someone to unload to, and (b) some time ago her willingness to listen to me unloading saved my sanity during a particularly awful family visit, so yes, a friend even if sometimes a tiring one.

O hai

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

Nothing awful has happened in my life, though it does seem like the world is trying hard to go faster and more steeply than usual to hell in a handbasket, and in the circumstances I’ve not made blogging a priority. But today I logged in to leave a comment on Jon Jarrett’s cat pictures, which appeared in my honor, so while I’m here, hello and happy Western Easter if you celebrate it.

Garden update: It looks like spring here, with daffodils in bloom and the magnolia just breaking into flower, but it’s pretty cold still. For now. We might hit 80 at the end of the week, which would probably be the end of the bulb flowers.

Cat update: Basement Cat and Reina have mostly settled down again, except for a bad week after she got out and hid under the deck for 36 hours and didn’t smell right when we got her back inside. We still miss Glendower, especially every time we open a door and there’s no need to keep him from getting out, or to admire his perseverance in fitting himself into the linen closet.

Work update: the end of the semester is in sight. Or else it’s an oncoming train. I traveled to give a conference paper. Discussions at the conference prompted the sabbatical proposal I’m about to turn in. (how many years have I been saying that?)

Family update: everyone still present and accounted for.

We’ll see if I can make a blogging comeback, even if it’s all pictures of the garden and cats.

Hope Mirrlees

You know how when you learn a new word, suddenly you see it everywhere? Miss Mirrlees seems to be having a moment. I had notice of this translation in my inbox yesterday: Paris. And one of my students is doing a project on the Hogarth Press, so perhaps the original dust cover will soon swim into my ken.

Vocabulary lessons

I learn the most interesting words from watching the Tour de France. For example:

*Pandemonious. “This is a pandemonious stage!” (Bob Roll)
*Incredulation. “Look at the incredulation on his face!” (Phil Liggett)
*Dareness. “Does he have the, the dareness to go for it?” (Phil)
*Misery loves comfort. (Christian Vande Velde)—as Sir John said, “That’s not the expression, but it’s certainly true.”

There will undoubtedly be more of these over the next ten days or so. Perhaps I will remember to share.

In which I regret my love of sticky notes

Many of my readers will wonder how I could possibly reach this pass. Even if I have a lifetime supply, office supplies are a joy forever.

This regret has to do with my note-taking habits. Well, that and my tea-drinking habits.

I have finally got round to working with a book I’ve had checked out for, um, let’s just say awhile, and discovered that I did at one time start reading it. The first 90 pages or so had multiple blue sticky-notes stuck into them, with actual notes written on them (yay! not only did I start reading, I took notes, so I don’t have to try to figure out why in the world I marked that page).

So far, so good. However, through a combination of carelessness and clumsiness, yesterday I overturned a cup of tea on my desk, and this book was in the way. Since it’s a library book, I rescued it first, before any books, notebooks, or clothes belonging to me.* Interleaving it with lots of toilet paper and weighting the book means that today the pages are dry and flat, no warping.

Unfortunately, a number of the pages are also stained blue at the edges, even though I hastily removed all my sticky notes (which are now adorning my desk). Why couldn’t this have happened to a book I own? (Sod’s Law, duh.) I could tell, yesterday, that the sticky notes were sucking up tea much faster than the book’s pages, and there was only so fast I could work, particularly as I didn’t want to tear softened, wet pages.

I think at this point I should leave well enough alone. A quarter-inch blue edging is probably not the worst thing that could happen to a book, while trying to remove the color could cause further damage. We will not even consider trying to apply blue dye to the entire leading edge of the volume.

But I regret the bright blue notes.

More happily, perhaps this gives me license to procure more sticky notes, in paler colors! Any excuse . . . .

The corollary, however, would no doubt be that I ought to divest myself of brightly-colored notes: not sure I can bring myself to it.

Or stop drinking tea while working.

Definitely unlikely to bring myself to that.

*All of these also came in for contact with tea, but since none of them had bright blue sticky notes attached, all have cleaned up nicely.

More fairy gardens

I found a new one on this morning’s walk, a whole fairy village of at least half a dozen houses, complete with central square, fairy picnic, fairy farm, and a decidedly mundane model moving truck (with a Bekins label) parked outside one fairy house. I couldn’t tell if fairies were moving in or out. But why do they need a moving truck? What happened to waving a magic wand to make the hard stuff just happen?

Or are non-magical critters like Borrowers moving in?

There goes the neighborhood.

Fairy Gardens

They’ve popped up all over Our Quaint Village, with variations. There’s a Dinosaur Garden that I often pass on my walks; it is popular with toddling boys and their fathers. Not far away, my eye was caught by an enchanting miniature chalet, standing among tree roots, behind a little courtyard paved with shiny glass cabochons; then I noticed the old 1930’s style model car partially sunk into the mud a foot or so away . . . and then a dinosaur looming behind the tree.

What sort of fairy would move into this Jurassic Swiss Appalachian Park? Someone out of an urban fantasy? Emma Bull’s Finder? I’m still pondering this.

Groundhog day again?

The apple tree outside my study window is in full bloom. When I came in the room, for a moment I thought it had snowed overnight, but it’s just the lovely white floof of the tree, and the pink tinge is the flowers themselves, not the rays of sunrise.

Betsy Ray was right: apple blossom is rosy.

Brain . . . going . . . numb

I have two papers left, and they should both be good ones, so I took a break to look at posts on the Chron’s fora.

“I’d just give her the makeup” read the beginning of a post.

“Makeup exam” failed to cross my mind. I was thinking Sephora, MAC, etc., wondering why a prof would give a student makeup.

Never mind.