Sunday, December 07, 2008

We're already a week in the final month of a strange year. Strange is the best adjective I can come up with. Peculiar isn't quite right. Outstanding doesn't cut it. So strange it is. And strange rhymes with change, so hey, it's perfect.

Speaking of perfect, a strange and wonderful gift showed up at the post office last week. One of the many upsides of going to the Saskatchewan Writers/Artists Colonies is the weekly readings and studio visits, during which many of the writers and artists share a bit of what they've been working on. Over the past few years I've been sharing work from my current manuscript, so when I opened the package I smiled in wonder at the sender's memory and generosity.

The spider, with its copper legs and body of glass marbles, makes me wonder if the sender somehow knew before I did just where my manuscript was heading.

Also in the mail was a package from Brick Books containing Cypress by Barbara Klar, Noble Gas, Penny Black by David O'Meara and Breaker by Sue Sinclair.

And on Friday both novels by Joseph Boyden arrived: Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce. I ordered these books after reading Steven W. Beattie's reviews of the Giller shortlist over on That Shakespeherian Rag.

It's -17 right now. Another beautiful winter day. We saw nine ptarmigan yesterday and 43 on Friday, which certainly added a magical element to the beauty. You can actually hear them snapping the tips off willow. It's amazing how loud and sharp it is when you hear one ptarmigan snapping twigs in the middle of nowhere. A flock of them is otherworldly. A marching band of percussionists breaking willow into music. Strange, haunting music.


tracy said...

-17 and all that great reading, and long walks with the ptarmigans sounds like perfect hot-bath weather!

Brenda Schmidt said...

Ha! You and your hot baths! There will be NO steamy thumbprints in these books! Like my cat, I think bathing is for the birds. The day they invent a dry cleaning process for human beings will be a happy day for me.

tracy said...

Bah! Bathing is the best! Dry cleaning for the body--I can imagine half my skin stripped away along with the dirt.

Brenda Schmidt said...

Bathing is dreadful. And showering is only marginally better. There has to be a less wet way of staying clean.

Ian LeTourneau said...

Hey, I just started reading O'Meara's book and quite like it so far. And I just mailed an application to the Sask Writers Colony this past week, too. I hear it's a great place! And I have had ptarmigans scare the bejeesus out of me more than once. At least I think it was a ptarmigan. A passerby catching my reaction would think a bomb had gone off! I swear sometimes I belong in an early 19th-century novel!

Brenda Schmidt said...

Ya, I just started reading it, too, and I'm impressed.

You'll love the colony! I started going to the colony at St. Peter's in 2001 and have gone once or twice a year ever since. I get so much reading and writing done there. And I've met so many people. It's been great. I didn't apply this time though. I suspect this post is just a precursor to the poor me, what was I thinking posts that you'll find here in February. :)

Ha! I find gray partridge the worst for heart-stopping explosions. Sharp-tailed grouse are a fairly close second. Ptarmigan are pretty tame in comparison. They generally just waddle off.

SMSteele said...

please tell me what the ptarmigans are doing with the willow snaps? how curious and how lovely.

I have Black Spruce and am into it a few chapters. there is so much to pause about in the book.

just finished Helen Humphreys, the Lost Garden... she too has much worth pausing over, esp. on writing... it is a fine book and if you are at all interested in WWII, the Land Girls Army, or English gardens (think Sissinghurst), then you will like the Lost Garden

Brenda Schmidt said...

Willow snaps! I like that! These are willow ptarmigan and they were eating willow buds and tender willow twigs. They eat other things as well, such as birch and mountain ash berries, etc, but they had a hankering for willow that day.

Thanks! I'll definitely check out The Lost Garden. My new year's resolution is to kick back and spend lots of time just reading. Like I do now, I guess. :)

Anonymous said...

I looooooooooooooved Three Day Road. By far one of the best novels I've ever read. It's so well constructed: smooth temporal transitions, clear narration, fiery action, creepy spirituality, and WWI snipers. It's also a very touching story.

Don't know much about Black Spruce though, can anyone fill me in?

I bought Patrick Lane's "Red Dog, Red Dog" the other day. Looking forward to reading that soon as well. I'll keep you posted :)

Brenda Schmidt said...

Good to hear! I look forward to getting into it. I haven't read Through Black Spruce yet either, but Beattie's assessment of it and Suzanne's comments leave me curious. It's fun to compare my take on a book to reviews.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Lane's book. I find him really inspiring. He published poetry for years and then a memoir and now his first novel. And he was born in 1939. It makes me think if I'm lucky there's time for me to get this novel written yet! :)