The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

08 March 2019

Of straight lines and scalping

I nearly scalped my husband Wednesday night, and it's all because I can't sew.

He's a story teller, this man of mine. From our earliest days of dating he would tell me I could alter his long-sleeve shirts or could easily sew up my own this or that. Listening to him talk, I'm positive he was imagining me at a spinning wheel, perhaps even carding my own wool. Whether I was also raising the sheep that wool came from is not clear, but for sure the scene was lit by lanterns.

No amount of protestation ever swayed his certainty I would be the sort of wife who knew how to cut and taper a sleeve. I could demonstrate my extreme ineptitude for straight lines on paper to no effect. He showed no concern after my story about the time I tried to make a blouse but sewed pins right into the hem and made one side of the collar a full two inches taller than the other. His belief in me would be almost touching... if it wasn't also frustrating.

Alongside the stories about me tailoring his clothes were the ones about me cutting his hair. Dear Reader, he has beautiful curly silvery white hair (he silvered young, but has kept his hair, huzzah!) which he would get barbered twice a year. And by barbered I mean buzzed down to a military length. (I had feared he would do so for our wedding, but the dear old gent who has been barbering him since he was a lad knew there was a bride who would cry that day, so he tamed rather than removed those curls. I bless him daily.)

"It's easy," my beloved would assure me. "If a ninety-year old man can do it, you can do it."

"I can't do straight lines!" I'd protest. "It will look horrible." Which is no way to convince him because his response is always, always, always: I don't care.

"I'll buy clippers," he'd say. "You just run it all over my head. How hard can it be?"

That scene from that movie with Demi Moore would go through my head. You know the one I mean? She's training to be a Navy Seal and her miles of long hair are getting in her way so she grabs some clippers and has at it. Piles of hair drop to the floor as she mows uneven paths over her scalp until she's as bald as the men in her class.  There's equality for you: no woman should have to carry a life boat full of water across the beach with hairpins stuck in her head!

Anyway. It started to appeal to me, this idea of the clippers. I started to think that maybe that blouse was a blip and maybe I could handle cutting and sewing afterall. So Wednesday night, between coming home from work and leaving home for Mass we sat him down on a chair in the dining room with an old sheet meant to contain the carnage under it all. I'd read the instructions and watched the tutorials so helpfully posted online so I was confident when I picked up the shears.

I do believe I was lied to. It wasn't easy or straightforward.  Hair flew everywhere. The dining room quickly looked like barnyard animals were fighting, and my poor husband had got caught in the middle of it. Though I by no means used the smallest of guards, he was being shorn down to the scalp. It was too late to switch to a different length though, because a great wide swath of hair had been cut away. There was nothing for it but to see it through to the bitter, bald end. I was also up against the clock as I tried to figure out what to do with his ears as we had to be at church by seven. I didn't have time to even out the sideburns, so they're just gone.

Even now, days later, he has remnants of longer feathers that catch in a breeze, but when I point them out to him, he tells me he doesn't care. He loves it, and he tells everyone his wife cut his hair, which is really touching... and a little humbling, too.

16 February 2019

It is finished

Six weeks later, my brain is now stuffed to its maximum capacity with information about metadata and linked data. 

I've learned about syntax and semantics and crosswalks. I've studied RDF triples, FOAF, and SKOS and explored how to transform a standard MARC 21 description into a BIBFRAME serialization. 

I've read hundreds of pages dealing with the evolution of data in cultural heritage institutions and our goal to integrate with Web 2.0.

I'm afraid to move my head too quickly for fear that a random acronym will fall out leaving a hole where an essential bit of information ought to be, and I'd be left wondering if OWL is the same as MODS and what an aquifer has to do with DLF. (Answers: no, and nothing)

The course has been interesting, and I'm keen to implement what I've learned in my work, but mostly I'm glad to get my brain back.

It is finished.

10 February 2019

There is a man in the house

I knew that being married meant having to share my space. For an introvert... no, not even introvert, really. Rather, someone who likes - nay, needs - her personal space... for that person, having another person around all the time is not a situation to be entered into lightly.

And now there is a man in my house. He's almost always here. He has definite man-like ideas about where laundry goes and whether shoes need to be put away and how many acceptable places there are to store one's treasures at any one time (and by treasure I mean wallet, keys, flashlight etc.)

It's awfully fun having him around, if only for the opportunity for anthropological study.  People who don't believe in gender differences need only to observe a man and a woman both tackle the same household tasks.

Several weeks ago I showed him a list of chores I wanted to get done, and said we could go out afterwards. "It'll be too dark by then," he said, "this is going to take hours!" I laughed, because I don't dilly dally over chores. I get 'er done and then move on. There is too much to do to linger over the toilets! But sure enough, it wasn't until 5 hours later that we were putting furniture back in its place after sweeping, vacuuming, then mopping the main floor. Turns out he is very thorough.

A detail I remembered again this morning when I watched him tackle the downstairs loo. When I do the job it entails wiping down the outside of the toilet, scrubbing the inside thereof, mirror, sink, faucet, tub all get a wipe down, and I go over the floor with a disposable wipe or two. My husband, on the other hand, removed everything from the room not bolted down, and went after every nook, cranny, and crevice. He even took apart the extractor fan thingy to complain how dirty it was, then dismantled, cleaned, and reassembled the wall-mounted soap dispenser left by the previous owner which I didn't like because it looked gross. NOW it sparkles and is the most convenient contraption.

I think I'll keep him.

29 January 2019

No one can know... almost

12 short stories in 12 months.
Completed in 2017. Not even attempted in 2018, what with a new job, moving, and oh yes, getting married I knew there was no way I'd get any real writing done.
2019 begins with not only good intentions but a real itch to tackle some writing projects. Wouldn't you know 2019 also begins with a course for work complete with weekly assignments and roughly one billion pages of reading?
The result is this: a fun prompt: No one can know. I knew instantly what the 'knowing' would be about. 
If only I'd managed to get'er done.  It's meant to be 1500 words, but his is all there is of it so far, 200 words short and a whole lot of killing of darlings still to be done:

It happened quite by accident. We weren’t looking to cause trouble for anyone. We didn’t want to draw attention to anyone who wanted to keep an aspect or two of their lives private, but sometimes people behave so oddly they draw attention to themselves anyway. Or at least the attention of someone with a proclivity for nosiness and a steady habit of people watching.

That’s what we were doing: people watching. There is a picturesque water fountain - the kind that used to water cattle in the olden days - near one end of a charming cobblestone street. It’s more of a lane, really, populated with small but arty offices of architects alongside cafes, book shops, and sellers of collectables and flats above with charming boxes of geraniums at the windows. Everywhere were parked bicycles with wicker baskets on the front, and people walking or sitting in groups of various numbers. One could hardly resist the lure of an hour or two spent observing all that activity perched on a step of that water fountain. We couldn’t, at any rate, and whether you would or not isn’t relevant to this story.

We noticed because there were six of them, you see. We might not have paid any mind to that lacquered blue door if it had been only one or even three of them passing through the door within minutes of each other and emerge again three quarters of an hour later. There was an almost furtive air about them though nothing specifically we could put words to. There also didn’t seem to be anything in their appearance to link them together and yet somehow we could tell they belonged together in some way. Perhaps it was that they didn’t want to be seen that drew our notice.

We were intrigued enough to return the next day to see if the same activity occurred again but to our disappointment not one person used the blue door a few minutes past noon. Still, it was a beautifully soft blue sky day so we didn’t feel the loss of intrigue too keenly. There were pretty girls and boisterous children enough to engage our attention.

We would have thought no more about it except there we were, back at what was becoming our usual spot - a stone bench around the fountain - a week later and by chance saw the young woman. Was there something familiar about her that caught our notice? Or was it the fact that with a hand on the shiny handle of the blue door she quickly looked back from the direction she had come before slipping inside?

Now that we were watching for it we saw four more people behave in the same fashion: slipping out of the flow of people strolling along, a furtive look up and down the lane, a quick disappearance through the blue door. No one seemed to notice the mysterious behaviour; it was as though  people were willing invisibility upon themselves.

What happened behind that blue door? Why was it such a secret? Another week passed in which the questions would not rest. We pondered and puzzled over the problem of answering the riddle for five complete days. On the sixth we had an answer, and on the seventh we set out putting our plan in place. We were going to enter through the door ourselves and hide inside to observe from within.

Several hours were devoted to learning how to pick a lock. (It really is remarkable what knowledge can be found online) Our own door served admirably well for practice. It was while bending over to better see the mechanism when it proved especially difficult we realized we had never seen any of the mysterious ones in the same position. None of them had ever used a key to open the door, but rather had walked right through. The door must be already unlocked!

It is a very difficult thing to sleep a night through when the mind is occupied with the anticipation of promised treat. True, this was not a dinner of chocolate or an outing to the seaside but
[next day... something something something... we're hidden inside and observe: ]

Far enough away the sound was muffled, a heavy door creaked open, hesitated, then creaked its way closed to a rusty catching of the latch. Click clacking heels made their way toward the room where six people sat in a circle of chairs.

“Again!” cried the wearer of the heals as she entered the room, “I was nearly spotted coming in just now. Why must we meet right next to a bookshop?”

Either no one in the room heard her, or they were so familiar with this question nobody bothered to answer her. We suspect it was the latter, because Heals went immediately to a mirror hung just inside the door to reassure herself her impeccably styled hair hadn’t been harmed by her adventure. Just as she’d expected, not a hair had strayed from its assigned place. It would take a substance stronger than hair to go against her will.

Meanwhile, some others in the group were exchanging banalities with each other, details of life since they had last met. Some spoke of children’s progress at school, one shared a new shortbread recipe, and another commented on the rather daring tie of the gentleman sitting beside her. This pleased the gentleman to no end, as he had just the evening before made the purchase of it with the hope it would catch her eye should she be at the meeting today.

“It’s a little too dashing,” said Tie, hand smoothing down the length of the object. He was hoping to hear assurances to the contrary, which the woman with glorious red hair was more than happy to provide.  “Oh, just dashing enough! Do y’know, it really brings out your eyes.” Red smiled at him, despite the pointed snort of ‘enough already’ from Heals. “And very fine eyes they are too,” said Red, patting his hand.

Tie laid his other hand over Red’s, preparing to look deeply and meaningfully into her eyes with some profound yet intimate comment but was foiled by the insistence of a person dressed in severe blue that they keep to the schedule and begin at once without wasting time with chit chat for once. The Boss was a firm believer in schedules.

“If we could all just take our seats, please,” a pause fraught with the expectation of immediate obedience, “In future I’d very much appreciate if we could keep the chatter to a minimum. We are making every effort to be discrete and it will be remarked on if we are late back to our desks every Tuesday.”

“I agree,” chimed in Red, “we’re already four minutes late starting.”

“Does she realize we’re all waiting for her every time?” asked one of the moms of the other with a sniff.

Her friend peeped over the brightly coloured cover of the paperback in her hands. “Don’t let her get to you, hon. She’s always been wound tighter than a clock with a too-short spring.” (As we have the advantage of being outside this story, we would have to agree with this mom’s assessment of Red. Not three minutes before click clacking her way into this room, she shared a piece of her mind with a young boy who swerved too closely into her path in his skateboarding exuberance.)

The room settled into silence. Six [Seven?] people sat in a circle facing inward, each had a paperback novel in hand. Some were held sheepishly. Most books were face down. Only two were brazenly showing their [insubstantial? lurid?...] covers. These two were obviously well on their way to not caring what others thought about their reading material.

Five [six?] pairs of eyes - and one pair of glasses - looked to The Boss. (This seems a suitable time to tell you that The Boss was not and has never been officially declared the boss of that group. Some people come by that sobriquet by virtue of being bossy in all situations. Our group here had simply....

that's all there is.

31 December 2018

Of corduroy hats and anniversaries

Ten years ago today I wrote here at the Lighthouse about my dad's death. The fluidity of time is such that it stretches long  and distant, then with startling unpredictability it contracts tightly into itself so that events seem near enough to touch them as though they just happened.
There are memories from within the months leading up to and immediately after that are a presence just over my shoulder. I can hear them and feel them clearly because time hasn't yet worn away the details of them. The month I spent with mom right after, for example, and the week we had the two littlest of the Peanuts with us. The months and months I slept with a candle burning on my bedside table. The sight of one of the boys climbing into the back of the hearse and hearing his pleas for Opa to come back. Unexpected conversations about him with people who'd known him. Standing in the grocery store with a can of tomato soup in my hand while other shoppers mercifully pretended it was perfectly normal for me to be crying.
The days immediately leading up to my wedding carried with them a lot of emotions about my dad, which, I think, is natural. I didn't dream of being walked down the aisle by my daddy, but I did - and still do - wish the two men had known each other. They would have got on so well, I'm sure of it. (In fact, I'm quite certain my dad had a hand in R and I being together)
Aside from wedding boohoos, it's been a while since I've been surprised to tears by stealth memories. Missing him has taken on a physical presence in my body like it's one of my organs and maybe because of that I've learned to let it do its thing while I carry on.
Which is why I was unprepared when a memory of his corduroy hat popped into my head a few days ago and had me weeping in the hallway at home. It's been ten years and I can picture it so clearly, still feel it in my hands.

03 December 2018

Floorboard collision

There is a writing prompt site called, where after clicking on 'go' you're taken to a new page with one word at the top, and below that, an empty text box. You have one minute - 60 seconds - to write anything, whether you're inspired by the prompt or not. At the end of time, a delicate chime sounds to signal it's all over, your fevered brain can rest, your fingers can still, and your heart rate can slow.

Today the prompt was floorboards, which caused my brain to fracture, because right away my thoughts headed to the state of my actual floorboards, which, if I were to have unexpected company, would bring shame on my Dutch ancestors, after all the hours they had spent daily scrubbing the sidewalk outside their front door as a precursor of the cleanliness within the home. But at the same time my mind went to a picture I saw in an issue of Outdoor Photographer today, of Arctic Hares leaping through tall grasses. (Dusty bunny to hare, get it?) The sight of a rabbit in mid jump is surely one of the most joyous images, so you can't help but smile in delight at the freedom and joy that comes from very nearly being able to fly. (Just think of yourself as a child on a pogo stick or a trampoline... without the broken bones, of course. See what I mean? Joy.)

The two thoughts collided causing inspirational paralysis. I typed and deleted about 75 words in those sixty seconds, mostly in an attempt to find a way to describe the highest jumping rabbit with words that didn't include 'leaping with abandon'. Mental thesaurus meltdown.

Even now, hours later, I still haven't swept my floors, but I HAVE spent some time online looking at more pictures of rabbits leaping with abandon, which has made me feel much, much happier, despite the appalling state of my housekeeping.

30 November 2018

The joy of paper goods

I bravely braved the hordes of mad shoppers today (entering a store will be an act of bravery between now and February 7th, because Black Friday Week sales will morph into Boxing Month sales which will linger just until it's time to overspend for Valentine's Day) and entered our national We Used To Sell Books But Now We Sell Coffee Mugs And Pashminas store to buy an agenda for the coming year.

Once home I spent a cozy hour with a cup of tea and coloured pens marking in birthdays and anniversaries and other days of note, such as the day a boy gave me a ring and asked me to marry him, and the day our offer for our first home was accepted. 2018 has been a very, very good year and I want to always remember to be grateful for all I've been given.

Aside from the gratitude, though, and the satisfaction in the organizational qualities of  a good calendar (which are not to be dismissed as insignificant), I take complete delight in stationery. Not only did I buy a pretty calendar (which was on sale, so: hoorah!) but also a pen to go with it (because there is a rule in stationery: every new notebook, journal, or agenda, must needs have a new pen to match it) and (because they were on sale too) a set of three magnetic bookmarks.

In the pages of this lovely book is plenty of time marked out for writing, which I'm really itching to do.  I'm keen to find a good prompt-a-day or even prompt-a-week type site or tool.  I'm also looking into options other than Blogger for posting online. In the meantime, I've got my trusty notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils, and I'm good to go. Come on, 2019... I'm ready!