Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem- wall whispers February 2, 2014

Listen

to whispers,

stories in the wall.

Poems found,

Titles titillate,

tease, and

tantalize.

Writing on the wall

whispers

through the room.

.

.

.

Last weekend I started wallpapering my dining room with pages from a book.  I was given a copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn last fall.  I already have a copy, and the gift had a broken binding, so I pondered ways to use it for practical purpose.  Today I’m putting the finishing touches on.  Most of the wall layout is fairly straight-forward, but I had 9 extra inches that I centred, and there I’ve been playing.  I’ve included copies of autographs we have in other Diana Gabaldon books (copied onto a blank page of the book to match perfectly).  I’ve cut graphic  bits from Part divisions and used them decoratively.  I’ve taken chapter titles and made them into little poems.  I’m really liking my very unique wall!  

 This is a close up on a ‘poem section’ made with section and chapter titles:

Je t’aime

beaucoup

passionnément

pas de tout.

Blame

Forgiveness

The toss of a coin.

wall-jtaimepoemdry

Here are the dedications (John’s is actually in the copy of The Scottish Prisoner and says “For John- No one looks better than a man in a kilt!”  Mine is in The Exile and says, “To Shawn, Wonderful to meet you in person!”):

wall-dedications

Here’s a step back at the wall.  The diamond medallions spaced across the top were from dividing pages:

wall-fullfinished

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please never die! August 30, 2012

This is purely selfish, I know.

Since October 2011, I’ve been obsessed with author Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series (though I read anything by her I can find: the Lord John series, blog posts, articles, tweets, Facebook postings).  Like millions of rabid fans around the world, I am waiting desperately for the next installment in in the adventures of Claire and Jamie Fraser, et al.  Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (aka MOBY) isn’t due until SEPTEMBER 2013!

>>Insert anguished groan here<<

Recently, Diana went to Scotland to celebrate the wedding of her daughter.  I found myself praying passionately that there would be no plane, train, bus, ferry, or auto accidents.  What if Diana was to expire in some sort of dramatic, Fraser worthy way?  She puts her characters through enough, fate might just mock her with an ironic  twist, and she could be caught in such a scenario up close and personally!  Worse, some ignominious event could fell her, some blip of biology could shut down that brilliant brain and still that witty pen.

😦  NOOOOOOOOO!  The very idea makes my heart pound in dread.

Yesterday, in my audio book of Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn, Jamie fought off a bear with a dirk, bare hands, and sheer determination.  (Claire contributed to his defence by whacking at the combatants with a dead fish).  After this attack, Claire shakily observes,

Anytime. It could happen anytime, and just this fast. I wasn’t sure which seemed most unreal; the bear’s attack, or this, the soft summer night, alive with promise.

I rested mv head on my knees, letting the sickness, the residue of shock, drain away. It didn’t matter, I told myself Not only anytime, but anywhere. Disease, car wreck, random bullet. There was no true refuge for anyone, but like most people, I managed not to think of that most of the time.

I am not a worry-wart.  I have a generally relaxed, laissez-faire attitude about most things.  I believe in doing what you can, and then letting go.  I wait without anxious fear for results of jobs, test results, admissions, reviews, and queries. Impatient curiosity may cause frustration, but not anxiety.  My kids and husband are on their own, provided only with my good wishes and sensible advice.  I never panic over their prospective demises, despite their penchants for death defying recreational activities that would indicate I really should.  Yet, Diana Gabaldon’s books can keep me up all night, fretting about how things are going to turn out for a character who’s stuck in another impossible situation.  Her fictional world stresses me out far more than the real world does.

I love her for it.

So I worry about Herself .*   This is slightly absurd, and definitely selfish.    I know it, and yet I can’t help it.

Please be immortal, Diana.  Or at least, get yourself into a time loop next time you’re in Scotland.  I recommend looking for wild flowers at the base of standing stones around Beltane.

*I also worry,  not infrequently, about Davina Porter, narrator of the Outlander audio books, for much the same reasons.  She HAS to keep narrating this series!  She can’t die or retire!

Imagine my head, cupped in my hands, shaking in embarrassment.  This is quite pathetic, but very real.  Am I alone in this absurdity?  Tell me someone else shares author anxiety?

July/2013 Especially now that MOBY won’t be released until March 2014 now!

 

camstairy coccygodynians August 27, 2012

I think my favorite line from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon might be in Drums of Autumn when Roger observes,

“Coccygodynians are camstairy by nature”

An English teacher, by nature, is thoroughly entertained by word play, and delighted with novel phraseology.  Gabaldon frequently provides such fun, and that quote is an example.  Roger and Bree are playing The Minister’s Cat, a word game where they work through the alphabet, labelling the poor cat with adjectives of increasing complexity.  They called this round a draw.

For your edification: coccygodynia is a pain in the region of the coccyx (tail bone), so Bree’s doctor mother identified the hospital administrators as coccygodynians,  i.e.  “pains in the butt.”  Camstairy is a little more layered.  It’s a Scot’s term that Roger claims means ‘quarrelsome,’ but assorted on-line dictionaries offer definitions of ‘unmanageable,’ ‘unruly,’ and ‘obstinate,’ which add some colourful possibilities!

I trust that your day will be free from camstairy coccygodynians! 😉

 

vocabulary lessons with Diana Gabaldon June 3, 2012

I am an avid reader and an English teacher, so I have a pretty good vocabulary.  However, reading Diana Gabaldon has introduced me to many new words.  This is an ongoing effort to identify words I discovered through her books.  I am noting them as I re-read or as Diana posts Daily Lines of the latest book in progress.  Feel free to add your own additions in the comments!

OUBLIETTE. (Voyager, used metaphorically) a top loading dungeon (a.k.a. a thieves’ hole).  I find it amusing that this word wasn’t used while Claire was actually inside the thieves’ hole in Cranesmuir which is arguably a real oubliette.  Jamie uses the word to refer to being below deck on a ship.  It shows up again in Drums of Autumn, and this time young William is in an ‘oubliette.’  In that instance, it’s particularly funny, because William has, in fact, fallen into the privy.  Note the French root : Oublier (to forget).  As in, they’ll toss you in the dungeon and forget about you…  Luckily, no one forgets William in the privy hole.

 AVUNCULAR. (Drums of Autumn, the postman winks avuncularly) uncle-like. Ian uses the noun form Avunculus when writing to Jamie in Latin. Something like,  “Ian salutas Avunculus Jacobus.”  (I’ll correct that when I come across it during the re-read). s Avunculus Jacobus meaning Uncle James, of course.

ALACRITY (throughout the series).  Claire (and others) frequently do things eagerly or in cheerful readiness, i.e.  ‘with alacrity.’  I suspect this one of DG’s favourite words, actually.  Whenever Davina Porter says it in my audio books, I always grin and repeat solemnly, “with alacrity!” 🙂  When we hosted Diana here at our writers’ conference I gave her a dish towel I’d hand embroidered with “Do it with alacrity!” as a joke.  🙂

SMOOR is always used in Outlander  in the sense of  ‘to smoor the fire.’  It means ‘to smother’ in Scots.  One smothers the fire so it continues to burn slowly throughout the night.   There’s an interesting article about historical usage on the Scots Language Centre website.  Click to listen to it said, the ‘oooo’ is long and the /r/ rolls.  A lovely word spoken!  Smoor can be used to mean killing a person by depriving them of air or to mean snow covering something.  My favorite use is from that link, quoting Robert Louis Stevenson, (Merry Men 1887)  “a mune smoored wi’ mist.”  Isn’t that a romantic image for a moon being smothered by fog!

FRESHET (from Drums of Autumn).  Claire sees  freshets when she gets stranded between the Muellers and Frasers’ Ridge.  It’s a sudden overflowing of a stream due to heavy rains or rapid melting.

BATHYSPHERE.  I kid you not.  This one comes from a daily lines posting (Jun 6, 2012) of book 8 in the series  called Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (aka MOBY).  A bathysphere is a spherical chamber for deep diving.  Claire leaves a tense situation “breathing as if I’d just escaped from a bathysphere.”  This might just be my favourite Gabaldon word yet.

EXCRESCENCE- Claire uses it to describe the mob cap she’s been given by Granny Bacon in The Fiery Cross.  An excrescence is an outgrowth that’s the result of disease or abnormality, or an unattractive or superfluous addition.   I confess, this is a much milder definition than the one I had presumed.

DISQUISITION- This one came from a Facebook posting from Diana, but it’s also a humorous  article on her blog about “Butt-cooties.”  Disquisition is just a long word for ‘essay.’  As an English teacher, I will definitely be able to stick this one into my every day vocabulary!

INIMICAL- From Echo in the Bone.  It means tending to harm.  There was a strange sense of… “something waiting among the trees, not inimical, but not welcoming either.”

Click here to read a blog about CAMSTAIRY COCCYGODYNIANS.  Those are two of my favourite Gabaldon vocabulary words.  They’re from Drums of Autumn.

ABSQUATULATE- 29-01-13 Diana posted a Daily Line from MOBY (aka Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) with the following hashtag: #absquatulatemeansjustwhatyouthinkitdoes  The context is “He and Fraser had absquatulated onto the roof and down a drain-pipe, leaving William, clearly reeling with the shock of revelation, alone in the upstairs hallway.”  This word makes me laugh and shake my head.  It means to leave quickly.  To be honest, I was imagining from the context that it meant climb or clamber.  So, Diana, you were wrong.  It doesn’t mean just what I thought it did!

OLEAGINOUS- 04-04-2014 Diana posted a daily line from MOBY that said the surface of the butter was oleaginous.  i.e. greasy.  I like that this word can also mean obsequious.  I would have thought that was a satisfying enough option, but oleaginous is just so much better.  The butter was literally oleaginous, unlike pandering underlings.  Someday I’m using this word in a story. 🙂

SOUGH 14-07-2016 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “Together they stood listening, trying to still their pounding hearts and gasping breaths long enough to hear anything above the sough of the forest.”  Sough means moaning, rustling, or murmuring sound.  It rhymes with ‘cough.’

BEDIZENED 08-06-2017 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE):“For Angelina, unable or unwilling to bend her bedizened head enough to look down, was about to collide with the little platform on which the sitter’s chair was perched.”  Bedizened means dressed up or decorated gaudily.  Sounds like a lot of grad hair do’s we see this time of year.

FROWARD 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh. “Which means stubborn. Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.”  Dictionary says this is someone who is contrary and difficult to deal with.

CONTUMELIOUS 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh. “Which means stubborn. Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.”  Dictionary says this refers to someone’s behaviour as being insulting and objectionable.

AMBSACE 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): 

“Men don’t like to share a woman. Unless it’s an ambsace.”
“An ambsace?” I was beginning to wonder how I might extricate myself from this conversation with any sort of dignity. I was also beginning to feel rather alarmed.
“That’s just what Madge called it. When two men want to do things to a girl at the same time. It costs more than it would to have two girls, because they often damage her. Mostly just bruises,” she added fairly. “But still.”

By definition, ambsace is the ‘lowest roll in a game of dice: 2 ones’.  See above for the vernacular meaning in the 1700s!

 

 

death and time January 3, 2012

I’ve been pondering time lately.  I once heard a theory that while time is linear to us, that it could also be a circle.  I envision this as a tight coil, circle upon circle, so that everything is really happening simultaneously, in different components of the coil.

This concept works well with my notion of Other Realms, such as exist in Grace Awakening.  This makes the past that Ben is obsessed with and that Grace is dreaming about is all really concurrent with their modern high school experience.  The memories of 3000 years are as close as the present.

This sort of fits with the experience of Jamie and Claire in the time travelling Outlander series.   It changes the concepts of death and love.

18th century Jamie expresses it well to Claire who has crossed through the standing stones in the 1960s to return to him in the past.  She is remembering his grave seen in her own time, and she is afraid for him.  He is not worried:

“But do you not see how verra small a thing is the notion of death, between us two, Claire?” he whispered.

“All the time after ye left me, after Culloden—I was dead then, was I not?…Two hundred years from now, I shall most certainly be dead, Sassenach…  Be it Indians, wild beasts, a plague, the hangman’s rope, or only the blessing of auld age—I will be dead. … And while you were there—in your own time—I was dead, no?… I was dead, my Sassenach—and yet all that time, I loved you. … So long as my body lives, and yours—we are one flesh,” he whispered.  His fingers touched me, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand.  Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of his supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.    “And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be your’s Claire—I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.  … Nothing is lost, Sassenach; only changed.”

“That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” I said, wiping my nose. 

“No,” he said. “That’s faith.” (Drums of Autumn p.321-22)

It makes my heart ache a bit to think of such faith in love.  That’s a good thing too.  I think Ben feels the same way about Grace, so long as she will choose him, and survive the attacks of those meant to destroy her.  There’s that finger of doubt chasing him, though.  Will she stay this time?

Death doesn’t stop the love.  The loss of a person physically doesn’t mean the warmth of feeling disappears.  Scents or memories can drop in and collapse the time between in an instant.   Dreams seem like a very logical way to cross the divide.  Visitations can be close in the territory of Morpheus.  I wonder if he’s worked out some arrangement with Chronos?  Hmmm.

 

practice November 29, 2011

“forgiveness is not a single act, but a matter of constant practice”

Diana Gabaldon in Drums of Autumn

Forgiveness is something that requires practice because it’s not that easy to do.  There are things that get under your skin and you want to hold onto them.  Little injustices.  Petty irritations.  Big betrayals.  Some things are so slight that others don’t know why you’re holding onto them, but we’re stubborn to our own detriment, much of the time.  I’m a bit of an expert in the cutting of a nose to spite a face.

When you can do it though, even for big things, especially for the big things perhaps, it releases a freedom of spirit.  Holding tight to grudges ties a knot in your spirit.  Forgiveness creates the wings to set it free.

 

 

what is vs what could be October 20, 2011

In the acknowledgements at the beginning of Drums of Autumn, Diana Gabaldon observes that her husband says, “I don’t know how you keep getting away with this.  You don’t know anything about men.”  That made me laugh out loud.

Gabaldon might not really know men (though I think she captures them very well, myself), but she definitely understands what women WANT their men to be!  Strong and tender, proud and humble, wounded and capable, physically arresting and self-effacing, full of  desire and faithfully devoted, a gentleman and a serf.  Her main character, Jamie Fraser, may not actually exist, but he is the complex bundle of contradictions that women desire.

This should be a consolation to the men: Jamie’s weaknesses are at the root of his strengths, and he is adored for them.

 

 
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