I’ve been sitting on my hair accidentally a lot lately. Hair getting longer, or me getting clumsier? Difficult to say.

I have recently discovered that I love driving barefoot! I’m not sure why exactly it’s so thrilling. Part of it may well have had to do with wearing heels every day for work and being able to slip them off and drive with bare toes is quite freeing. That and it feels just slightly illegal enough to be exciting (but it’s not illegal, I checked!).

I found Claire de Lune on my computer today. I didn’t know I had it, and I’m not sure where it came from, but it was the loveliest thing that happened all day.

The other day a lady called the club and asked, “Can you see smoke from where you are?” *hastily looks out the window* “No, ma’am! Where are you that you can see smoke?” I asked, thinking there was a fire somewhere nearby. “Oh, I’m in Raleigh.” “…” “Thanks, I was just wondering if you had all this smog and smoke,” she said, and hung up. I was completely baffled until I read later in the paper that smoke from a forest fire was drifting over the state, obscuring Raleigh’s skies, but I had a good laugh before I found that out.

Ok, now I don’t usually rant in here because that’s what everyone does in their livejournal, and it’s pretty dull. So if you don’t want to hear a bunch of whining and angst, skip on down to where I ramble about books or something instead.

This is the most miserable summer that I can immediately recall. Everyone is bone-weary, stumbling around like zombies with paint brushes in our hands and drywall screws in our pockets. One evening Dad and I were carrying our millionth sheet of drywall from the garage into the house, and I looked up and realized both of us were staggering like drunks with the drywall wobbling all over the place. A full-time job is just that, full-time, and three of the four of us work 40 hours a week (fortunately Mom’s job ended for the summer a week ago). We get up at the crack of dawn to begin the process of driving everyone to work. We work all day at our respective jobs, with Mom working all day at the house, then comes the round of picking everyone up and scrounging for dinner, then going to the house to work. We drive back to our minute, grungy apartment and fall into bed far too late, to get up and do it all over again the next day. One of our vans died the other day (pushing a mini van in heels and a skirt after work, that was an experience, let me tell you), so now we only have one car to get all of us to our jobs. We spend a couple hours a day just driving since our jobs, the house, and the apartment are far apart. Everything is taking longer and costing more than we expected (which is typical, but we’re exceedingly typicality here). The thing is, we can’t let up at all; we have to get it done as fast as humanly possible so we can move in, because we’re spending money on this apartment, the pods we have in storage, the dumpster we rented, etc. etc. We can’t take time off from work to finish it because we desperately need the money that our jobs bring in. On top of that, we’ve lost Beowulf, our last pet. He ran off from the new house weeks ago and we haven’t seen him since. If it weren’t for the Sabbath, I’m pretty sure we would’ve ground ourselves to nothing by now. Friday night at sunset, we all just sleep and sleep and sleep. We’ve been at it only one month so far, but it’s been the longest month of my life. We estimate there’s another month before we can move in – hopefully it’s not more. It better not be. *ominous tone* I’m going to kill something.

Work, while not horrible, doesn’t really help matters. I’m back at the country club for what I am praying is my last summer. It’s not that it’s terrible there; it’s well-air-conditioned (hey, this is a major factor for me!), I get to read when it’s slow, and I don’t have to be on my feet all day. But I hate how I subtly change when I’m there. The snobbery worms its way into your head insidiously. For example, there’s a big to-do this weekend, some wedding hosted by a member. A co-worker came by and told me to make sure everything was all set and there were no mess-ups or clumsiness because “this is a very important person.” So I’m bending over backwards to be exceedingly polite, anticipating this person’s needs, ignoring other people, etc., when in reality they are no more important than anyone else, and I shouldn’t be treating them any differently. Some of my co-workers and most of the members completely ignore, say, the cleaning staff. And some woman who spends more in a month on clothes than the maids make in a year will come in and complain about her housekeeper’s incompetency, and I find myself clucking my tongue and murmuring polite little “oh dear” and “that’s terrible” right along with her, trying to think of just the right thing to say to make her happy and hating the polished, perfectly poised façade I’m supposed to be projecting when all I want to do is shake her hard enough to knock at least a little bit of the selfishness out of her. One of the people there is always talking about “following your heart” and the touchy-feeliest of touch-feely religion, during which she’ll switch tacks in the same breath and gossip and run down other people and criticize every aspect of their lives. Good thing I don’t “follow my heart” when she’s around; physical violence would probably be involved there, too. No one really knows me there. I talk about the topics I’m expected to talk about, the correct number of napkins and florist deliveries and whether it’s too hot for golf and whether it’s nicer to eat on the terrace or the dining room. I can’t talk about anything that actually matters. The usual conversation is the type of thing I would consider completely inane, so it tends to go in one ear and out the other unless I force myself to remember, because these things are essential to my job. I suppose it’s all very character building…two months of it is, anyway. Any more than that and I would be afraid I would find myself being changed more and more by it and losing perspective.

WELL. Enough of all that moaning. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, there are a lot of good things going on too. There’s a guy who calls all the time (not sure why…why would you need to call the club half a dozen times a day?) who, after I say my little spiel, always says “Stephanie.” Then there’s a long pause. Then he finally says who he wants to be transferred to. It threw me at first because you get stuck in the pattern of answering and transferring and it pulls you up short a bit. But now he knows me and he’ll say, “Stephanie. *long pause* Why are you still here? Do you work 12 hour shifts or something?” “I get off in a few minutes, actually.” “Good.” He’s very gruff but I think he’s nice. There are some really sweet coworkers who almost make up for the nastier ones. One lady calls me Rapunzel, and several of them always stop by my desk to say hello. The other day a lady ran by and said, “We’ve lost our nuns! If you see them, direct them this way!” Sure enough, three little old nuns came by a few minutes
later.

It’s amazing, the dichotomy between my internal, mental life and my external, physical life. Inside I’m thinking such thoughts! In that, I almost enjoy the level of reserve I employ at work: I can hug these secret, precious thoughts to myself, and the rest of the world goes by preoccupied with their business deals and housekeepers and don’t know that that girl is anything other than an efficient little secretary. It’s a little like a super hero having an alter ego. 😛 Where are all of these glorious thoughts coming from, you ask? From the tremendous quantities of thought-provoking books I have been reading! I’ll forgive this job a lot for the simple fact that it allows me to read so much.

I’m in the midst of my preliminary research on my honors senior thesis. I started with The Essential Jung, and I must say I’m becoming a fan of good old Carl. I’m glad I read Freud first, as it’s giving me a good background helping me to understand Jung. It’s been beautiful timing, actually – I read (or rather, I read parts of) Peter Brooks’ Reading for the Plot which is also heavily based off of Freud’s writings. I’m taking copious notes on everything, and I’m not quite sure yet what I think of everything, but it’s fascinating. I also read Spiritus Mundi: Essays on Literature, Myth, and Society by Northrop Frye. I LOVE Frye! He is a hoot. Joey recommended him an age ago, and as usual I’m late on the bandwagon, but I definitely enjoy his ideas and his writing style. I’m going to read more literary criticism books by him as soon as I can get my hands on them. I read Language and Myth by Cassirer under the recommendation of Dr. Vaughan and very much enjoyed the ideas expressed therein as well. I read Myth, History, and Religion: The Remythologizing of Christianity by Kelsey but was less impressed. After a refreshing plunge into the intellectualism of Frye and Cassirer, Kelsey’s uber-Christian approach seemed rather cloying. He’s not nearly as succinct of a thinker, either, which made me impatient with his book, even though it was only 100 pages long. Still, good to get all perspectives.

I’ve been finishing a book a day on average, half academic research (which I enjoy ridiculously, to the utter puzzlement of the people around me at work all day) and half purely recreational reading. I read The Dark Is Rising (finally…Luke recommended that one, also an age ago) and am madly in love with it (I’m getting the rest of the series on interlibrary loan asap). The text is incredibly rich in history and mythology (yeah, can’t escape the mythology right now), and I think it likely that the majority of people reading it miss so many of the treasures in it. Clearly, Cooper knows her stuff. I have a feeling the book would not be so popular in Christian circles if they knew what she was drawing from; much of the book stems from very pagan, even anti-Christian sources, which is touched on so very delicately in the book that most people probably didn’t even catch it if they didn’t already know the history. The Old Ones are basically the Druids, and it makes me a tad nervous that they’ve included so many Druidic rituals under different, slight sanitized names: about the only one they’ve left out thus far is the human sacrifice angle. Somehow I don’t think slowly disemboweling a prisoner and telling the future from the way the blood and entrails fall during his death throes is quite the right fare for children’s books. The book kind of feels like some kind of rather dark, snide inside joke on one level, but that the same time it’s quite beautiful.

I read Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier under the recommendation of Dr. Waldron, and quite enjoyed it. In moderation, Maurier can be very entertaining, although sometimes her surprise endings are kind of…unsurprising, perhaps because she’s so known for them that you’re always looking for it. I read Mrs. De Winter by Susan Hill (stumbled across it quite by accident and thought I’d give it a go, since I liked Rebecca immensely), but it was quite bland – sequels to classics usually are, it seems.

I finally read the diary of Anne Frank. I know, that was a shameful gap in my education, I’m not sure why it took me so long. I always meant to read it. I think when I was very young I was going to, and my parents didn’t want me to. Our religion bears a strong resemblance to Judaism and I think they thought it would be too scary when I first found the book (9 or so). Now I wish I’d read it a bit earlier, but it was still historically interesting and fascinating on a personal level.

I read Atonement by Ian McEwan under the recommendation of Dr. Thomas, and at first I hated it so much I almost didn’t finish, which I almost never do with a book because…you just can’t do that. I forged onwards, and while I still don’t like it (it’s not a book one is meant to like, I don’t think), I am very glad I read it. It was good for me. There are moments of tremendous ugliness (which is where I almost gave up in disgust), but by the end you see exactly why they are there and how carefully crafted the novel is. That was one of my strongest impressions: how carefully put together everything was, and how the ugly moments had to be told just as they were to produce the calculated effect. It’s a very powerful book. I can’t say I recommend it, and I’m not exactly sure what I think of it, but it is impressive.

I also read This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart, also per Dr. Waldron’s recommendation (yeah, I get together and talk to my professors about books a lot when I’m at school). It was very good, and I think I’ll investigate more of her books. She has a knack for saying just enough without saying too much when it comes to conveying emotion, and I think I can learn a lot from her in that regard. Plus, the whole book is centered around Shakespeare’s The Tempest, I mean come on, what’s not to love?

I’ve also realized that it’s good for me to read contemporary fiction sometimes, even the crappy stuff…I love reading Tolstoy and Hugo and Faulkner and sometimes I forget what most popular books are like – reading purely for entertainment. Anne Elisabeth showed me the value of that last year when she brought over the most wonderful fantasy novels during paper and exam weeks: it was exactly what I needed at that time to break up the oh-so-heavy Vietnam War books and the Shakespeare, and it really is useful to read what is popular now and then. One of my professors urged me to read some Stephen King, saying “There’s a reason he sells millions of books before a new novel is even in print. You can learn a lot from writers like him.”

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