Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

On Being Hobbitish   Leave a comment

My wife and I just spent another desert spring morning digging up garden soil, getting seriously dirty and sweaty in the process. Birds were singing as we worked. The local covey of Gambel’s quail lurked in the bushes looking for the bird seed we set out, and really wished we would go back indoors and out of sight. Flowers elsewhere in the garden bloomed bright and fragrant, attracting a variety of butterflies and bees. A gentle, fitful breeze cooled us, and white clouds drifted through a high blue sky. Our project involved restoring a long-neglected garden bed that had lost its raised-bed frame and become seriously weed-infested. Hard work, but gratifying in the end. The soil from it needs to be lifted and sifted to remove Bermuda grass roots – a seriously invasive weed – and piled nearby. In due time a new raised-bed frame will be set in place, the soil returned and properly amended, and tomatoes will grow there. Growing plants being the point of a garden, of course. We can buy tomatoes suitable for our cooking needs, but those we grow always taste better, and in any case, watching plants grow and thrive under your care does wonderful things for stress reduction and the improvement of general morale.

There’s a moment early in the expanded film version of The Fellowship of the Ring that shows the look on the face of a certain hobbit gardener as he works with a flowering potted plant. As the narration extols the hobbitish love of things that grow, you see the face of someone following his bliss. I know that feeling well, and it’s a good one. Gardening really can do that for you, if you let it. And don’t mind sometimes getting seriously dirty and sweaty.

I would have no trouble living a hobbitish lifestyle. Some would say I’m doing so now, and I wouldn’t argue. Gardening and cooking (and eating) are among the things that serve to keep me thoroughly grounded while I spin flights of fancy and set them down in words. That process of writing, by its nature, keeps me pretty close to home, and to be honest I’m perfectly fine with that. Well, within reason. The occasional adventure can be beneficial, especially if one manages to avoid interactions with dragons. But for all that there are some trips I’d like to take – more than a few actually – true wanderlust is a thing I rarely feel, and it’s easily satisfied without any need to travel to the ends of the Earth. A need to see mountains again? I have some practically next door, so no problem there. I just go outside and look either north or east.

I can honestly say that if, as life unfolds, I find myself spending the majority of my time in this house writing, and out in the yard around it working a garden and watching things grow, I’ll be okay. I’m enough like a hobbit that such a fate would feel like the right way to live, and not like a set of constraints. The value of home is a thing you never need to explain to a hobbit, and I can certainly relate.

A few more nights out under dark and star-filled skies would be nice, but such a need for starlight is also quite in keeping with being hobbitish. After all, some well-known members of the halfling race were rather fond of night walks with folk of an elvish nature. I suppose such would be considered adventures of a quiet sort, and certainly free of dragons, unless you count a certain arrangement of stars in the northern sky.

Of course, no matter how I live, I’m a little tall to pass for a hobbit. But then, growing up, I had a fondness for forests and trees. Growing up in Illinois, I spent much of my childhood wandering the nearby woodland. Perhaps an Ent crossed my path one day and shared a bit of Ent draught. My parents did seem, for a time, taken aback by how quickly I grew.

Flights of fancy, indeed. You just never know.

Musings   6 comments


Perhaps it has to do with their alleged mythic origins. All through the ages, the Muses have been described as elusive beings, evocative of grace and inspiration, who must be coddled and protected, even nurtured. The fear of abandonment by one of these ephemeral creatures is often expressed by poets, artists, composers, and others suffering from related disorders. Even writers, the most afflicted of creative personalities (in my humble opinion) tend more often than not to speak of a Muse in hushed tones, as if concerned she might be frightened off by a careless word or a typographical error. I find all these fears – for all that they have ancient roots in the depths of myth and legend – quite baffling. My experience with a Muse has been – otherwise.

The Muse who was assigned to me by the Powers That Be is neither graceful nor shy, and is most unlikely to wander off and leave me in a creative muddle for any reason at all. Far from being a gentle, soulful mythic being, the Muse looking over my shoulder (and smirking) as I write these words is… Well, let’s just say she can be a bit insistent. Merely offering inspiration isn’t her favorite technique, although she has proven capable of such subtlety from time to time. This Muse has a work ethic, and she doesn’t take her work lightly. Other writers describe their assigned Muses in terms that make them sound like a cross between a fairy godmother and Tinkerbell.

Mine has more in common with Mae West and Lara Croft.

This Muse is a hard ass, plain and simple, a bundle of attitude that accepts no excuses when I find things to do other that write. She’s aware of all the potential stories and characters rolling around in my head, and of the pressure to escape they exert. As with all writers of fiction, the risk of cranial detonation exists, but this Muse will have none of it. “Not on my watch!” she likes to say. “How could I stand among the other Muses and hold my head up if I allowed yours to explode?” She has a good point, there, so on that level at least we do understand each other.

My Muse is not one of the originals, those nine daughters of Zeus and the unforgettable Mnemosyne. I don’t hold this against her, of course. She is a product of the Expansion Draft held at the dawn of the Renaissance, when the rapid increase in the number of artists and scientists stretched the original nine beyond the limits of even immortal beings. (As an aside, I once pointed out that it was curious that Tolkien also chose the number nine for the enumeration of the evil Nazgul. My Muse threatened to “inspire” me to write erotic sci-fi horror novels involving dinosaurs. I dropped the subject.) That Expansion Draft was designed not only to increase the number of available Muses to accommodate the great awakening of the Human Spirit, but to provide gainful employment for a host of mythic beings who were being forgotten, and therefore disenfranchised, by story tellers. There were many, many positions to be filled and, frankly, the Powers That Be may have been less selective than might otherwise have been the case. (And yes, I’ll pay for that one later.) Hippocampi, Panes, Sirens (for song writers mostly), Harpies, Kobaloi, and Furies (among many others – and yes, it’s possible Edgar Allen Poe’s Muse was, in her youth, a Gorgon) were all invited to try out. Some went in the first round and headed straight to the major leagues, of course. Sirens mostly, which explains many aspects of Renaissance music, come to think of it. Others, among them Furies and Kobaloi, spent some time in the minors, where they encouraged those who refined such inventions as the printing press and the other technological marvels of the age. As a result, they developed a rather different approach to the idea of inspiring the creative impulse, and my Muse apparently was part of this Next Generation wave of Muses that was finally brought up to the major leagues just in time for the First World War. I’m reasonably sure that was a coincidence.

When it became apparent to the Powers That Be that I’d need a Muse (and to be fair, the Powers did their level best to spare me such a fate – but I refused to listen), the first choice was Urania, the Muse of Astronomers. Unfortunately, she was still in therapy at the time. That episode with Percival Lowell and his imaginary canals on Mars apparently took a toll. This Muse who ended up assigned to me may have been a Harpy, once upon a time, but it’s hard to be sure, since among Next Generation Muses there is a strict “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Whatever her origin, she doesn’t so much inspire me to write, as goad me into it. She is relentless. If Muses were allowed to own firearms (they aren’t American citizens, so the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply), I fear she’d be standing behind me when I’m at the computer, pointing a weapon at the back of my head. “No surfing for you!” All kidding aside, anything I do that doesn’t involve stringing words together into more or less meaningful sentences is bound to arouse her ire, sooner or later. Cooking dinner, for example, is a process that prompts reminders that there are fast food options out there that would get the job done in a fraction of the time. Reading a book when I could be writing a book? For shame! Hobbies? Maybe when I’m rich and famous. Maybe. Fortunately, I often get ideas or resolve plot quandaries while in the shower, so that gets a pass. And the day job? Don’t go there. Please.

You might wonder how it works, having a wife and a Muse in the same residence. My wife and I have never really discussed the matter, but so far I get the impression they basically ignore each other. Or that my wife thinks I’m mad as a hatter. Either way, I have no intention of encouraging any change to the status quo. Just sayin’…

Posted January 18, 2014 by underdesertstars in Books and Writing, Humor

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