Worlds of Wanwood Leafmeal Lie

October 2, 2009

So, it’s October now. Isn’t it supposed to be… at least cool, rather than warm, outside? Ah well. I suppose this is Texas.

The title of this post is from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins called “Spring and Fall.” It runs as follows:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

A beautifully written poem, though not terribly complex in its meaning. It comes to mind for two reasons, both of which are interesting but unrelated: it is now fall, and so (in theory) I should still be seeing “worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie”; also, I’m doing Gerard Manley Hopkins for my Junior Poet project.

Regarding JPo; it seems fitting to reference Hopkins this month, of all months, since my annotated bibliography is due November 2nd and thus I will this month finish Paul Mariani’s biography of Hopkins (I have about 70 pages left), read three books of literary criticism (I have two done, and need five), and read sixteen articles (I have four done, need twenty). That is a lot of reading to do over just thirty days; it comes out to about thirty pages a day, actually. So that’s what my life for the next month will be about, for the most part.

And regarding the fact that it is now fall; I find fascinating the question of seasonal preferences. Hopkins’ poem seems implicitly to say that fall is depressing, it being the dying of the natural world, and spring being its rebirth. But I actually prefer fall, as a season; that was the main reason I went to Rome Fall ’08 rather than Spring ’09. I’ve already explored the question of what it means for me to prefer winter to summer; it means I think of myself as being in combat with the world, rather than allied with it. What does it mean to prefer fall to spring?

It’s not that I like the fall holidays better than the spring. I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving, Christmas (technically winter, but a lot of the buildup is in fall) is just OK, and I love Easter. Nor, I think, is it just that I dislike summer so much I want to be as far from it as possible – if that were the case, fall would be my favorite, since it leaves nine whole months until summer comes again, but I prefer winter to fall. But I don’t want to say it is because I hate nature, either, even though that seems a reasonable answer (my favorite season is when nature is dead, my second favorite is when it is dying)…

I think the answer, in the end, is that I prefer mourning to rejoicing. It’s not that I have a problem with nature being reborn, but I am more fascinated with its going away. It has a bittersweet feeling to it; spring is more triumphant, and a triumphant attitude seems out of place in this so fallen world.

Moving In (September)

September 2, 2009

So I’ve spent the last four days moving into my new apartment, buying books for the next semester, etc. The week before that I spent procuring furniture for said apartment. Hence my recent lack of postage. (It seems like a lot of the bloggers I subscribe to have been moving in the last few weeks – makes reading my RSS feed much less fun. Guess I’m doing the same to however few people subscribe to me.)

Anyway, this new semester has another interesting feature, aside from what I’ve talked about several times before, with it being the third year I’ve been at the same school, something that hasn’t happened since 5th grade. Namely, for the last year the class of 2011 has been divided in three – the Fall Romers, the Spring Romers, and the people who didn’t go. Now basically everyone is back. It will be fascinating to see how the different social circles meld and break up. If I make any good observations about social behavior I’ll post about it.

And for those interested, my list of classes: Junior Poet (I’m doing Gerard Manley Hopkins), Medieval Literature, Linear Algebra, Analysis I, Intermediate German I. I’ll also probably sign up to audit The Russian Novel.

Church and School (August)

August 3, 2009

Firstly: I have spent the last week working on a LEGO cathedral. Pictures can be found here. An explanation of sorts:

So when I was a kid I had a decent number of LEGOs and liked castles. So I built towers; at first just stacks of bricks with people on top, then with staircases and somewhat reasonable dimensions, then with multiple floors and a large wall attached, two feet wide and maybe a foot and a half tall all told. I always wanted to make an entire castle, with four walls and four towers in the corners, but I always figured I didn’t have enough pieces to build anything that large.

Then last summer I realized I could just buy $100 worth of LEGOs and that, combined with the by now quite large number of LEGOs I already had, would be enough to build such a castle. So I built it. How big is it? If a LEGO minifig were 6ft tall, the walls would be 35ft tall, the towers 45ft tall. By way of comparison, the Tower of London is 90ft tall.

So I had this castle. The problem was, it was a blue-and-white themed castle, meaning it used up most of my blue and white pieces but not many of other colors. So I had an overabundance of reds, blacks, and yellows. Thus, I decided last week to build a red-and-black cathedral. I finished today. It takes up less ground area than the castle, but is considerably taller; if a LEGO minifig were 6 ft tall, the ceiling would be 55ft tall, the belltower 105ft tall. In comparison, the towers of Notre-Dame de Reims are 267ft tall.

Two comments:
1) I was tempted to build a Baroque church rather than a Gothic one, but… the peak of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is 452ft tall. A LEGO-scale model of St. Peter’s Basilica would by about 8 feet high and take up almost my entire bedroom. I’m not that ambitious.

2) I might try to build something huge out of yellow bricks next summer, but probably not. There’s really nothing that looks good in yellow.

Secondly: It is now August. I’m just wrapping up my Summer II course (Calculus III), have three weeks of free time afterwards, and then school starts. My goals, for the next month, are essentially:

  • Finish reading William Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy. I started on this back in June and still haven’t gotten through the second book, which is the slowest I’ve gone through a book in a while. I need to finish it!
  • Read at least one more article, and perhaps one more book, about Gerard Manley Hopkins in preparation for Junior Poet (the big English major project for fall of junior year).
  • Get at least some other reading done – I have two Gene Wolfe books and the poems of T. S. Eliot checked out from the library, but haven’t gotten anywhere with them, and am twenty pages into a book about the public domain.
  • Finish the rough draft of chapter one of at least one of my two secret book-length projects. (I have chapter one of Project1 planned out but not written, and chapter zero of Project2 is written, I just need to start on chapter one. Writing two books at once perhaps isn’t wise, but they’re both pretty fleshed-out ideas, and after I’ve thought about one for a few days my mind goes back to the other, so I figure it’s best to work on both at the same time. Or at least, it can’t hurt.)

So that’s what this month looks like for me. I think that since I have consciously pulled myself away from the Wesnoth project – I no longer actively develop either Wesnoth or Orbivm – I’m going to discontinue theming each month around a Wesnothian character. From now on, just a boring explanation of what’s to come in the month ahead, with a fictional character (not specifically Wesnothian) listed only if one comes to mind immediately. None do right now, except for the main character of William Golding’s The Spire, which I never actually finished reading, insofar as that book’s about building a cathedral.

First Drafts and Calculus (July)

July 5, 2009

So the month of June has ended, and I haven’t posted in over two weeks. There’s a reason for that; I’ve been on vacation since June 22nd, but forgot to mention it here.

In any case, it’s now July, which I plan to spend doing two things. Waking up at 5:30AM every M-Th in order to take Calculus III, and finishing the first draft for Chapter 0 of (one of) the books I’ve wanted to write for a long time. After all, if I’m going to be a speculative fiction writer, I have to start writing eventually. (And incidentally, I got honorable mention in the WotF contest, so I might as well actually keep submitting short stories until I manage to achieve something or it turns out I can’t get any higher than that.)

What’s strange about this is that, as I said, it’s a first draft. I have very little prior experience with writing “first drafts”. I almost always edit as I write and so go from nothing-written to everything-written, with no first-draft stage. But with something as vast as a book, it seems somehow pointless to make minute edits to a section that might end up on the trash heap. So I’m trying to do a quick write-through, getting everything on paper, then I can go through and tidy up, so to speak. We’ll see how that goes.

Oh, I also have other plans for this month, including reading Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy and a bunch of Gerard Manley Hopkins criticism (I’m going to spend the next several months thinking about his poetry). One thing you might notice missing from this list is “working on Orbivm”. I’m semi-retired from crafting the Orbis Terrarvm; I’ve written the last campaign I have planned (though have frustratingly been unable to publish it online due to technical difficulties) and no longer do pixel art. Since those were the two main things I did, I’m pretty much done. Perhaps that’s a mistake; I might come back to it eventually. But I think I’ve done everything with the Wesnoth campaign format that I can do, and there’s no point in continuing to churn out campaigns just to fill out the rest of the Orbivm universe.

Oh, the last thing I plan on doing this month is, get a cell phone! Unfortunately, it seems it has come to this; I’ve avoided getting one for longer than I thought possible, but I really do need one. They’re basically mandatory in my social circles; people often get irritated at me for not having one.

Which brings me to the Orbivm character I will resemble. A cell phone is a way of instantly communicating with those far away. In Orbivm, none have that capability save the Cavernei Monitors. They use runic magic to transmit information across vast distances. So if I get a cell phone, I’ll be rather similar to Trondar, the Cavernei Monitor who assists Gali in “Gali’s Contract”.

The Swing of Things (June)

June 2, 2009

So, May was what might be called a bad month. Not because anything bad happened – nothing did, and in fact several good things happened – but because for the entire month I found it difficult to concentrate or get anything done. I finished the required schoolwork on time, but haven’t really gotten any further in my various writing pursuits, and since summer started I’ve basically been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer several hours a day (not that that’s a bad thing) and read a bunch of Tim Powers books (not that that’s a bad thing either).

It seems to be going away though. Over the last few days I’ve gotten “back into the swing of things”; I’ve actually gotten some work done on the cave-orcs campaign, and started on The Sound and the Fury – for fun, yes, but Faulkner can never be considered light reading. And I’m about to finish season 7 of Buffy, at which point I’ll have no excuse for not actually doing something with myself.

But anyway, I currently feel like someone who took a break when they shouldn’t have and is just now getting back into it. Who does this remind me of? None other than Thursagan – the Runecrafter. Guy who forged the Scepter of Fire. His backstory is, essentially: He quarreled with Durstorn, the lord of his clan, and went into self-imposed exile in the far north, not really accomplishing anything there. Many years later (how many, exactly, is unspecified), Rugnur dragged him back and got him to forge for them the Scepter of Fire – a task taking ten years.

So, if this analogy holds up, I’m going to create something awesome this summer. Of course, it also means I’m going to die – creating the Scepter cost all of the dwarves their lives (though Alanin and Krawg the gryphon escaped). Oh well.

Halfway Done (May)

May 3, 2009

It rained more today than any day so far this semester. Not that I’m complaining; I love rain. I just find it amusing that I couldn’t wear long sleeves for the last week or so of April and then had to wear my long black trenchcoat today because it was so wet and cold outside.

Anyway, now it’s May. We have one week of classes left, then a week of final exams, then we’re done for the semester and I will have been at college for two years. (I’ll be a junior and almost a senior by credit-hours, but I’m still going to take four years to graduate, so it’s not like that matters.)

This feels really weird, because it means I’ve been at UD for as long as I’ve been at any school since 5th grade. I went to one school for K-5, but then went to four different schools over six years (one for 6th, one for 7th-8th, one for 9th, one for 11th-12th). And for the most part I was forced into a completely new group of people each time. When I go back to school in the fall it’ll be the longest I’ve spent at one school, with the same group of people basically, since I was ten years old.

But it doesn’t feel like I’ve been here that long; I still look at UD as the new place, with Cistercian as the old place that I went to for longer, even though I went there only two years.

It’s kind of like Rugnur, from the Scepter of Fire. He starts out assigned to a post at one of the dwarven gates, but after the campaign starts and he has to go to the dwarven council, he never returns, has adventures for fifteen years, and then dies. He didn’t spend fifteen years at his original post, or anywhere close, and did spend several years trapped in the land of the Shorbear clan, but I suspect he always looked at his original post as “his”, and felt like a traveler just passing through for the entire fifteen years of his adventures.

Is it a kind of self-deception, or is there something to it – are you more attached to where you spent time when you were younger, even if you spend more time elsewhere later on in life? I’m not sure.



April Fools

April 1, 2009

Today is April first, traditionally April Fools Day. But I’m not going to pull a prank on you. Probably.

But April is the month of fools because of this Biblical quotation:

The land of a certain rich man brought forth abundant crops. And he began to take thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, for I have no room to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast many good things laid up for many years; take thy ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Thou fool, this night do they demand thy soul of thee; and the things that thou hast provided, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich as regards God.

I find all of the New Testament references to fools fascinating  – foolishness  of God versus wisdom of  man, etc. But this one is relevant because this month, I have to do a lot of planning. I’m going to have to “pull down my barns and build larger ones”, because registration for next semester is next week, I need to figure out where I’m going to live next year (hopefully an apartment, but I have to actually get one and sign the lease), I have to make sure I’ll actually have money for next year… oh, and I also have a lot more schoolwork this month than last, which I have to do if I want to pass my classes. So I’m having to focus a lot on providing for the material future. Not so much on providing for my spiritual or social futures… ah well.

What Orbivm character does this remind me of? One who doesn’t actually have a campaign, but perhaps should – Primus Maximus, first emperor of Lavinia. He spent his entire life running around conquering other nations, expanding Lavinia’s territory, “building larger barns” – and then he died on the battlefield against the Sidhe and never had years of peace to enjoy his conquests. He was probably happier conquering than ruling anyway, though. Historically he’s somewhat similar to Julius Caesar; he’s a famous painting of the Gauls surrendering to him.

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