grammar check in Word

Posted September 21, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations

Tags: ,

Over the weekend I tried running the grammar checker in Word against Obelus. It did not go well.

First, you need to know that I consider strictly following the “rules” of grammar to be optional for creative writers. I think narrative voice is far more important in fiction that proper grammar (as long as the reader can follow what’s going on, more or less). In fact, my casual attitude toward grammar is one of the reasons I quit teaching composition at the local community college. Further, one of my stylistic tendencies is the sentence fragment, which I think adds punch and mimics closely the workings inside a character’s or narrator’s mind. My fiction is filled with intentional grammar violations (and even spelling creativity), and never once has an editor asked me to correct these when accepting a story. Nor do I find “perfect” grammar is most of the fiction I read by others.

I consider myself more than adequately adept with the language and the standards of grammar. I used to know most of it by rote, and I’ve absorbed a lot of it by simply reading widely and deeply. But I don’t anguish about formal structuring or correctness. (The grammar checker would have cited that last sentence.) Thus I rarely see the need to use the grammar checker in Word, but over the weekend I gave it a go just to see what I might see.

I could only get through about a tenth of the novel before I gave it up. The narrator of Obelus is a playful scamp, and his (his?) voice matches this. The program was finding dozens of “violations” that needed my attention. In most cases, it had to do with the “improper” use of conjunctions, and I dismissed those readily. It did point out one subject/verb agreement problem that I fixed, but it identified an incorrect use of “it’s” saying it should be “its”, but in fact my use was not possessive but a contraction. So the grammar checker was legit wrong there.

I don’t foresee applying this tool to the rest of the novel. Maybe on some shorter works it might prove an occasional use, but with 101,000+ words to parse, I don’t intend to spend my time using it on Obelus.

private libraries and me

Posted September 16, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags: ,

I saw a meme recently that said something like, “if public libraries didn’t exist, and someone proposed creating them, it would be decried as a socialist plot!” Well, public libraries, like fire departments and interstate highways and snowplows are socialism. But public libraries are apparently a relatively new phenomenon. Before Andrew Carnegie in the 1880s, according to one account I read, nearly all libraries were private, membership only institutions. This was also in the days when books were expensive and generally the wealthy were the only ones who could afford them.

Today, the reverse is the case. Membership libraries are rare and public libraries are ubiquitous. (A private, membership library plays a large role in my novel Obelus.) When I was growing up in St. Louis I knew of a private library there, but I had never visited it of course (being the unwashed prole that I was). I checked on its status recently and learned that the physical location had closed and that the collection was transferred to the university I had attended back in those days. I don’t know if the books were added to the university’s general collection or are segregated for member use only.

We are in the tentative, early stages of downsizing in our household, and one of the things taking up a lot of space is our accumulation of books. A good many of these have found their way to the used bookstore, and we might exchange twenty for two new purchases and consider it a win. However, I had put some effort (and money) into collecting some less common books about Missouri, and I didn’t want to think what might happen to them if my taste didn’t match the bookstore procurer’s the day I brought them in. (They literally said that any books a person provides that they don’t think they can use will be thrown in the dumpster!)

Among these rarities of mine were three works by Ward Allison Dorrance, a literati and professor at one of Missouri’s state universities: Three Missouri Streams, We’re from Missouri, and a copy of his Ph.D. thesis about the persistence of French is some early settlement towns in the state. I couldn’t see those going into the dumpster. But I knew I would not read them again (or in the case of the thesis, ever), so they were part of what must go. I checked the Kansas City Public Library, which does house older books from the state, but they already had two of them. I wasn’t sure what I could do to find them a home.

And then I remember a private library I knew of that might be right.

The town near my Ozark cabin is also the county seat, but even so its population is under 1,000 hearty souls. And yet the town is home to a private library. The library is housed in a rambling home overlooking the river (now the headwaters of a Corps of Engineers lake). Among the 35,000 books in its collection are some printed in the 16th Century. And it occurred to me that this might be a good home for my Dorrance works. (I checked, and they were not listed in the library’s collection.)

I wrote to the curator there, explaining what I had to offer, and he wrote back quickly, welcoming my suggested donation. And so my three books are now part of the collection there.

Someday, when we’re all free to mingle again, I really want to take a tour of this library, such an incongruity in the middle of a small town in Missouri.

Obelus, in the free world

Posted September 14, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ouroboros

Tags: ,

On Saturday morning I spent nearly four hours sending the query for Obelus to fifteen potential agents. (And a couple more on Sunday for another eight. I’ve even received my first two rejection declines!) It was exhausting, mentally and emotionally. (I also got the oil changed in my truck.)

I had completed my read through of the 101,000+ words and worked and worked on the wording of the query, and I think I have it in pretty good shape. Of course, it was only when I was preparing the fourteenth query letter that I noticed the typo in it.

It turns out there are very few agents who specify that they are seeking metafiction. Adjectives like experimental, surreal, quirky, and slipstream come up, but I think they’re not quite right. Regardless, I’m pretty sure success at this thing is a numbers game. Send out a hundred queries, and somewhere in there will be the one or two who are receptive to whatever I have to offer.

Anyway, big step achieved.

Also, how do you identify a dogwood tree? By its bark!

at dawn, we ride ~ Skywatch Friday

Posted September 11, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags:

I like to do my long rides very early in the morning, in large part because there are fewer people on the trail and I can zip along without hazard. This has meant in the summer months, starting before dawn and relying on a light to show me the trail ahead of me. But after an hour, the sun begins creeping over the horizon and I get to see images like the one above.

Visit Skywatch Friday.

bits and pieces

Posted September 9, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Uncategorized

My quarantine hair is now long enuf to pull together into a sad little pony tail about a half inch long. I haven’t tried to do it — beyond what I can do with my fingers — since it seems kind of pathetic. But I have no plans for getting my hair cut through the end of the year, so maybe I can sport a dandy pony tail by then and grace this humble blog with a photo of it.

__________

I’m doing a comprehensive read through yet again of Obelus (comprised of Ouroboros and Omphalos, but no longer including the latter two sections I had written). I’m trying to write a general query letter for the novel, and I’m freezing up since it has to be right. So I thought I’d read through the story once again and see what points or tone or whatever I can key off of for the query (and synopsis).

As I read it, I find a word here or there to change, and I’ve seen a couple of sentences I think I can delete. As it stands now, the word count is ~101,650, and I don’t expect that to change significantly. I should have the read through done by the weekend, and then I must face that query letter.

One substantive change I’ve just made is to replace nearly every instance of the world “enough” with “enuf.” There were 71 replacements. It’s been my ambition to evolve the language by making “enuf” no longer eccentric but commonplace in usage. (I even snuck it into One-Match Fire.) I think I can get away with it since Obelus is metafiction. I even have a character commenting on “enuf” being in the novel.

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I recounted my ride on the Mill Creek Streamway recently. On Monday morning, I also did my 26-mile ride on the Indian Creek Trail. I wondered if a big ride only two days after a moderately big ride would be a drudge, but it wasn’t. I felt no exhaustion or sore muscles on the 26 miles (though I was getting tired of sitting on that unpadded bike seat). With only a few miles left in the ride, I came across the roadblock you see in the photo above. Given how green the fallen leaves are, I suspect it happened in the night. (’twas windy the day before.) Nonetheless, there was already a worn path through the scrub beside to get around it.

Also, that new lamp I got worked very well. It was easy to install and pops off for recharging. Unfortunately, it’s designed for a USB plug that Apple does not use, so I need to figure a work around for that.

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We went back to Roundrock over the weekend. We had no agenda for the visit, though I had vague notions about maybe whipping some weeds on the dam and even having a campfire. Good sense prevailed. I decided — as I was sitting in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake — that weed whipping on an open dam is best done on cloudy days not forecasted to reach 91 degrees. And it was too windy for a fire, at least a prudent one that I’d want to stay contained in the ring. Despite this disappointment, we managed to have a fine, relaxing visit while social distancing in the middle of 80 wooded acres — a true tonic for the madness of the world.

__________

This seems to be a year when the cypress tree in my back yard will not produce a crop of cones. Cypress cones are spherical, about the size of a shooter marble, and can hurt if they fall on your head. On the ground they eventually open and fall into pointy parts. The poor dogs get these stuck between the pads of their feet and limp around until we can wrestle them down and probe for the bit of offending cone. So it’s a good year when we don’t have a yard full of them. (I’ll take any bonus in 2020.)

__________

I recently watched the mini-series Lonesome Dove on DVD. (I know. I should be streaming these days.) It was well done with good characters and a number of plots. But I could tell that much of the story was left out, so now I want to read the novel (Westerns aren’t really my thing) to see all of the stuff that wasn’t in the movie. I happened to own a copy of the novel. It was given to me by a friend, and it even has an inscription from him in it. I’ve had it at my cabin for years, thinking that I would read snatches of it on my visits and make my way through it, but that didn’t happen. There’s too much happening out in that forest of mine for me to concentrate on reading (or writing, alas). I brought it home recently, and after watching the movie, I thought I would read the novel finally. I picked it up and and flipped to the last page. The thing is 955 pages long! I may get a haircut before I finish it.

Right now I’m about a third of the way through Richard Russo’s novel Bridge of Sighs, and it’s 500+ pages. I consider Russo to be a rescue read. The kind of novelist you can turn to after you’ve suffered through a piece of bad writing to remember there is good writing in the world. I didn’t happen to need rescuing this time — I had just read an Iris Murdoch novel — but Russo’s prose is so clean and yet so deep that I’m always glad to be in this place.

Mill Creek Streamway

Posted September 7, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Running

Tags: ,

For a couple of months I’ve been wondering about another longish trail in my neighborhood and whether it would be a worthy alternative to my typical weekend marathon distance on the Indian Creek Trail.

The Mill Creek Streamway (also known as the Gary Haller Trail in some sections) runs north/south, and if you follow it north, it ends on an island in the Kansas River. I’d run on parts of this trail back in those days, but I didn’t know much else about it, including what the sections were like that I’d never seen.

So last Saturday morning I decided to find out. I’d looked at maps of the trail online and I thought I knew where it began. (Turns out I was off by a few miles, but I had run those miles in the past, so I didn’t miss anything there.) From what I could tell, the trail was 17 miles long, which is a good distance though short of my usual weekend route.

But an hour before dawn I was at the trailhead (actually an access point I thought was the trailhead), just as the park ranger had opened the gate. When I ride the ICT I often cover the first few miles in the dark, and I have an old head lamp that I rig on my handlebars to throw some light on the trail before me. It’s not a very good arrangement. Every bump jostles the light, and then it’s no longer showing the pavement in front of me and generally shining in my eyes. Such was the case on this new, unfamiliar trail in the pre-dawn miles.

That turned out to be a problem. I often couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead, which meant that two hills came along that found me in the wrong gear and without sufficient momentum. Sadly, I walked my bike up those hills when I realized I couldn’t downshift quickly enuf to crank my way to the top.

As a courtesy to later runners and riders, I did clear away all of the spider webs spanning the trail. I am also pretty sure I reduced the gnat population by several thousand as they struck my face that early morning. At one point, something big and shadowy lumbered across the trail in front of me. I hope it was a raccoon. A little later I heard something very big approaching me from behind. It got louder as it got closer, and then I realized it was a train on the track the trail was paralleling.

From what I could see of the trail by my inadequate light, it looked like a nice stretch through neighborhoods and past a good number of parks with playgrounds. There seemed to be more little rises and drops and blind turns than on the ICT, though that may only be due to my familiarity with that other trail. (To give a fair assessment the Mill Creek Streamway I really need to ride it during the daylight.)

By the time it was light enuf to read the mile markers, which descend as they approach the river, I understood that my ride on the trail was not going to go for 17 miles. I was already at mile 13 after about 15 minutes of riding. Where I got on was not the start of the trail, and that other part that I knew from my running days should have been included.

But I was on my way, and I began seeing riders and runners, some with lights and some without. In recent years, lane stripes have been painted down the center of the trail. This is for safety, of course, but it also helped me feel confident that I was still on the trail. When I studied the map of the trail, I saw a number of places where I could likely have taken a wrong turn, ending up at some parking lot or playground. What I found was the that painted stripes were only done on the main trail, and at the turns I could rely on them to show me which way to go. I was also soon able to read the signs at these intersections, pointing to the main trail.

For a long way I was in unfamiliar territory, and since the trail mostly follows Mill Creek, it is in open bottom land without houses nearby. I trusted the stripes and my jumbled memory of the map, but at about two-thirds of the way along, I entered one of the really big parks in my area, and I had run on this part of the trail in the past. It was good to see familiar pavement again and know I was still on course.

Since my distance was shorter than I had expected, I stopped in this park and sent a text to my support team (my wife and the dogs) saying I expected to reach the end earlier than expected. Then a pedaled on, and when I left the park I was in unfamiliar territory again.

And it was along here that I faced what could have been an early end to my adventure. There were sawhorses and tape across the trail saying it was closed for construction. Back in my running days, this would not have deterred me since you can usually run (or walk) through or around anything. But I wasn’t so sure when it came to being on a bike. I’ve noticed that they put these barriers up at access points so you’re not stopped in the middle of mile of forest. That’s a nice courtesy, and I could have pulled off there and waited for my support team to track my phone and fetch me.

But I decided to venture forth and see how impassable the construction was. I steered around the first barrier and had a look. Several drains under the trail were being replaced, or rather, had been replaced, and the ground above them wasn’t repaved yet. These were easy enuf to go around or even across in some rough cases, and as I continued, I had to skirt a few more barriers. I could tell by the condition of the dirt in these places that I was not the only cyclist who had ignored the signs (though I was probably the first that morning). There were probably a half dozen of these barriers before I came to the last one at a huge baseball complex. Around there the marker said I had two miles left to go.

We had scouted out the access point where my support team would meet me, but that was not the end of the trail. There was still about a half mile of trail, including a loop on the island, beyond that access point, so I had to ride past my take out and then return to it, which always feels wrong in some way.

When I got to there, I saw my bright red truck in the parking lot, and though I rang my bell vigorously, my wife did not see or hear me as I zipped by. She was busy getting leashes on the dogs and getting them out of the truck. So on I went. I crossed the bridge that led to the island and made the loop. The island is forested, so there’s really only one place, deliberately cleared, where you can see the river. Apparently, in season, you can see bald eagles here for there was a sign about how to identify them. Otherwise, I was underwhelmed by the island. It’s nice enuf, and it is a fitting end to the trail, but by then I was ready to be done with this adventure.

I turned my bike around and rode the half mile or so back to the access point where the support team waited. Then it was time to pack up and go home for a hot shower and pancakes.

My curiosity is satisfied. I don’t see myself riding this trail again, though there is one optional stretch in that large park that goes up and down Ogg Hill, which is a monster that I could never run up successfully back in those days. I think cycling it would be even harder, but it might be a good challenge for some future me.

After my shower and breakfast and a nap, I went to the bike shop and bought myself a proper light for the front of my bike. You can’t do these things cheaply, I guess. I spent a chunk of change of a light that I think can illuminate a stadium, so it ought to do fine on a trail.

back to Roundrock

Posted September 2, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Roundrock, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

I received a call from the man working on my washing-out spillway that he and his crew were down there last week getting some of the work done. My goal has been to refill the washed out area and then lay a concrete slab over the same to prevent it from ever eroding again.

He said he got about half of the work done and that maybe I didn’t want the other have done.

I’m no concrete expert. Nor can I read a forest to understand how water flows across it. I don’t have years of experience doing the kind of thing I asked this man to do. He suggested we meet at the cabin so he could show me in situ what needed to be done. I said I would be out there on Saturday and would stay until 5:00 p.m. to wait for his visit. (His son had PeeWee football that day, and I suggested the boy’s game had priority over my spillway.)

Rain was falling when we left the house in faraway suburbia Saturday morning, and it rained nearly the entire drive down. When we got to the turn off from the paved road, we had outrun the rain, but while we could still get a signal on our phones, my wife checked the weather map and saw that another huge system was approaching. By the time we drove two miles over the rutted, axle-snapping gravel road to my humble cabin, the rain had caught up with us.

This was fine. It meant I didn’t have to do any of my usual chores, like cutting firewood, cleaning up fallen limbs around the cabin, go looking for snatched marbles, or sling gravel. I could just sit on the porch and watch the rain, which I did. I updated my visit journal. I wrote a letter to a friend. We ate our pieces of fruit for lunch. We watch four ducks (gadwalls?) on the lake, oblivious to the torrents. We talked about this and that. And we waited for the dam man to arrive.

Eventually I decided there was one chore I could undertake. You may recall from my last post that something has chewed a few holes in the ceiling insulation just above the table. Here is a picture of the scene of the crime that I took on Saturday:

I had only noticed this because there were tiny silver shavings on the rug below. That was on the prior visit, and I brought a step ladder on this visit so I could do the repairs.

There were a few more shavings on the rug this time, but nothing substantial. I sprayed the holes with an insecticide, wiped the area clean, then applied a five-inch length of metallic tape over the holes:

I don’t know who the culprits are or if the insecticide will matter to them. I suspect they’ll not chew through this tape, but if they’re still up there, they may chew through another area.

And so I got one chore done. When the rain lessened a bit, I crept through the trees (for what protection they could give me from the rain) down toward the spillway. The repairs were done as the dam man told me, including a bit of on-the-spot engineering. His thought is that the erosion is really being caused, not by lake water rising high enuf to go into the spillway, but by water coming down my road from the ridge to the north and coming into the spillway at a right angle. He said it was likely that this right-angle water would undermine any slab that was there and cause an even bigger (and more expensive) mess.

We do have huge volumes of water come down the road. There is a ditch beside it that can handle the normal flows, but there are often great wads of leaves in the road beside the ditch that have washed out of it because the water went over its banks. The ditch turns away from the lake when it gets nearer to the cabin, but if the volume is great enuf, it ignores that turn, washes over the road, and heads down to the spillway. I’ve dug out the ditch at this turn a couple of times, but it fills with sediment and rocks quickly. I think raising the road at this point might help, but even that won’t always be enuf.

So the on-the-spot engineering the dam man did was to build a berm in the spillway just where the road water would enter it, steering the water into the rocky part of the spillway (rather than across the part with soil that may some day have a protective carpet of grass on it).

Although it rained the entire time we were at the cabin, the flow in that ditch was never more than a trickle because the ground was so dry from a few weeks of drought. The ground was absorbing most of the rain. Had it been otherwise, we might have been able to see the torrent coming down the road ditch (we’ve only seen the evidence of it) and what would happen when it reached the berm in the spillway. But that much water would be scary. The cabin is snug and dry, but getting through the two miles of gravel road to the pavement involves crossing three wet-weather creeks. So if there were enuf rain to overwhelm the roadside ditch by the cabin, we probably would not want to be at the cabin anyway.

The hours passed. The ducks passed on the lake below. We waited. I imagined that the rain would have cancelled the football game and that the dam man would be out earlier, but that didn’t happen. In fact, by 4:45 when we were packing up to go, he still hadn’t arrived.

As we were driving out, the rain stopped. The clouds parted. The sun came out. And the dam man never showed.

Oeuvre becomes Obelus

Posted August 31, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Omphalos, Ouroboros

Tags:

I did some radical surgery on Oeuvre over the weekend. I cut about 21,000 words from the 122,000-word document.

That was a bulk cut, not a judicious paring of extraneous words here and there throughout the manuscript. Oeuvre has four parts. The first two are the substance of the story; the second two are more like commentaries on it, alternative histories and interpretations. I had originally wanted to include them because four novellas figure in the story, and I thought it would be magically meta to have four parts to my novel as well.

But those latter two parts had their weaknesses. Much of it felt forced and didn’t really add to the story. I’d been feeling uncertain about them for about a month, especially when I wrote a synopsis for the two sections and felt underwhelmed with what I had, so I thought I would try cutting them and seeing how I feel with the result. I’m now in the process of seeing how I feel with the result.

I did retain one bit of the excised text, having an appropriate place to slip it into the surviving story. I liked the bit and would have been sorry to lose it since it was a nice scene for a nice character.

Honestly, I don’t think the work suffers from the severe editing. I’ll watch how I feel in the days ahead.

I was also never in love with the overall title Oeuvre. I thought it was otiose. The title of the third section was Obelus, which is, among many other meanings for the word, a typographer’s symbol to indicate that a passage is spurious or doubtful, and that ties in nicely with the theme of the story. So Oeuvre has become Obelus.

And I think I that at least three of the pieces from the deleted fourth section, Olios, can stand alone as short stories. Once I feel fully confident that my change is good and permanent, I’ll probably begin shopping those around. (Actually, one of them began as a short story, and it was what inspired me to write the novel, so it has a nice pedigree and evolution.) My other novel, One-Match Fire, which is in circulation and getting periodic rejections, has twenty-four chapters, and I managed to get ten of them published as stand-alone stories. Then I began to hear dire judgments that I had forfeited the first publishing rights to them and could never get the novel published as a whole. I did a little research, and even asked a few agents and editors if this was true, and I was assured it was not. (There is so much contradictory conventional wisdom in this world of writing that I am convinced I must just keep my own counsel.) Anyway, I’m still a little cautious about trying to get those three pieces from Olios published until I am certain they will not be part of Obelus any longer.

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Any WordPress experts out there? I am getting messages saying that the autosave function will not work and that I do not have permission to save my own blog posts. I poked around in my settings, and even changed my password, and I seem to have found a workaround. But if anyone knows what is wrong or how to fix it, I’d be glad to hear.

woodland battles

Posted August 24, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Roundrock, Uncategorized

Tags:

Not sure why I’ve let a few weeks pass without a fresh post to this humble blog. Nothing compelling to say, I suppose. I’ll try talking about my most recent visit to the cabin in my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks.

Although it’s been dry for a couple of weeks here in faraway suburbia, Roundrock apparently got some rain shortly before our visit two weekends ago. Various kinds of mushrooms were popping up in the forest and in the gravel around the cabin.

Our agenda for this visit should have been to cut more encroaching limbs from the road leading to the cabin. But the will wasn’t there, and instead we sat in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake and just enjoyed the solitude.

I did manage to push myself up from that comfy chair eventually, long enuf to shovel several wheelbarrow loads of gravel to another area around the cabin. I had laid the old tarp over the area a couple of months ago to kill the grass and weeds that had been growing there. I removed the tarp last visit (and moved it to another green spot that needs to be gray). I raked the dead plant matter from the uncovered spot and then laid down landscaping fabric (as a weed barrier — not sure how well this actually works). After that I began shoveling gravel into the wheelbarrow to pour it on the landscaping fabric. It took seven loads to cover the area about two inches deep, which I think is probably the minimum needed to thwart seeds from finding the soil and sprouting. (I have something living in the drain pipe I have buried in the gravel behind the cabin, and this beastie chews through the plastic pipe and then pushes aside the gravel above it to make entry/exit holes. I’ve tried a few things to dissuade the beastie, but I suppose my presence a couple of times a month mean little to a full-time resident. Still, when it comes time to spread gravel over these holes, I may have problems with the underground tenants.)

After getting this task done and the tools put away, I returned to the comfy chair to reflect on my work. I watched the hummingbirds at the feeder (a recent and nice addition to our weekends there). I watched the turtles in the lake. The turkey vultures in the sky above. The little gray birds flitting in the trees. And the wasps trying to reconquer the cabin porch. (So far I’m ahead in that battle, having added chemistry to my arsenal, but, again, they’re full-time residents and I am not.)

There are other battles as well.

I found this debris on the rug inside the cabin. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but those bits are metallic. It took me only a few seconds to turn my eyes from the floor to the ceiling, where I saw this:

What you see is the apex of the ceiling above the litter on the floor. The metallic material is an insulating sheathing that the builder wrapped the cabin in before putting on the metal roof and the “log” siding. Something has chewed a hole in the sheathing for whatever buggy purpose it has. My guess is that the insect was trying to get into the cabin from above. The metal roof is ridged every foot or so, I think to add strength to the structure of it as well as ventilation. But the ridges are open to the world at the eaves, and tiny critters can easily enter there to build nests or winter over. (A dark green, metal roof is not a bad solar collector in the winter.) And that’s what I think has happened. Something matured in that ridged area and then for whatever reason chose to tunnel out rather than follow the ridge to the light.

Even standing on a chair, I could not reach the apex of the ceiling, so on my next visit I intend to bring a ladder to get my old self up there. I’ll apply chemistry to the hole and then cover it with a metallic tape. Then we will see.

But there’s another battle being waged outside the cabin too.

You may recall that these marbles stand in for my grands until they can come visit the cabin. (Grand #8 is still in production in St. Louis, but in a couple of weeks that should change.) On recent visits we’ve often found one or two of these marbles missing. Just gone. Not moved a few inches away but vanished. These marbles are easily two inches in diameter, so impossible for a bird and not necessarily easy for a critter to carry off. On our last visit, one was missing again. (The pale one near the top left.) I was mystified. But I think I’ve figured it out. I had walked over to the huge old log down the hill from the cabin to set peanuts on it for the birds and the wood rat who lives in it. As I was walking back to the cabin I saw the pale marble in the leaf litter. This would be about thirty feet from where it had been placed in the gravel. Then I understood. Wood rats are also known as pack rats. In the spring, when the wood rat would clean out its nest, we’d find hundreds of peanut shells outside the back entrance. Among this is often bits of aluminum foil that we sometimes use to cook with over the fire. The wood rat clearly likes shiny things, and the fact that the missing marble was nine-tenths of the way to the wood rat’s lair suggests to me that it is the culprit. And my wife speculated that the lair is probably packed with other, smaller marbles harvested from the gravel. (Except how can the rat appreciate the shiny things in the dark of the log?)

It was a satisfying visit. A little bit of relaxing. A little bit of working. A little bit of puzzle solving. I’m hoping to get back there this coming weekend (if the hurricanes don’t send too much water to the Midwest as they’re forecasted to) because the contractor I’ve hired to repair the spillway has told me this time he’ll really get it done.

Olios

Posted August 3, 2020 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ouroboros

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I “finished” Olios over the weekend. It is the shortest of the four sections of the work I’m probably going to call Oeuvre at 11,500 words. Aside from topping 10,000 words so the section could be defined as a novella, though, the length was never important or targeted.

The whole collection comes in at 119,541 words right now, which I guess is large by current novel standards, but the latter two sections comprise 25,000 of those words, and they are more a collection of vignettes than a continuous narrative, so they’re in bite sizes.

There are a few points I need to adjust in the first two parts — bits of character development I’ve reconsidered — that will reduce the word count by a fraction, and I will need to commence my comprehensive read through soon, but I think I need to step away from it for a while. (Plus I’m waiting on the response from a respected reader for one of the parts.)

But soon I think I will have a final document, and then I will have to try to do something with it. It’s been a wild seven writing months!