Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I just checked the sunrise/sunset times for Edinburgh, and tomorrow they get a whopping 6 hours and 58 minutes of daylight (8.42am-3.40pm), by midwinter it will be 5 minutes less than that. It's cloudy too, so it won't really feel like daylight until at least 9.30, and by 2.30 the sun will be so low in the sky it will already feel well into twilight. I remember days where it felt as though the sun had never risen, going to school in the dark, coming home in the dark.

My mental image of November in Edinburgh is walking down the Cowgate (a street in the Old Town) in the dark at 4 in the afternoon, hunched against the rain blowing around me and trying not to slip on the wet flagstones, or step on one that will tilt and cause a puddle underneath it to jet cold water up my ankles. Christmas shopping is always in the dark, the light provided by the advent calendar style panels lining Princes Street, the huge city Christmas tree, the shopfronts full of cashmere sweaters and sparkling things of various descriptions.

I don't know why, but I still miss my home town at this time of year, even though when asked what I remember most is being cold and wet, longing for a sunny day without the necessity for a thermal undershirt under my school uniform. In the winter, warmth came from the atmosphere of the city: the pre-Christmas bustle, the preparations for the huge street party on New Year's Eve, the ubiquitous bagpipers on the street corner, only with the addition of a Santa hat and a few variations of carols in their repertoire to keep them up to date with the season. The cold air felt good on my face with the rest of me bundled up, I walked fast to keep warm, winter forced a spring into my step.

Now I come to think of it, it's the walking I miss, winter or summer. It's easier to feel energetic when every day contains at least 20-30 minutes of brisk walking to get where you're going, especially when that walk isn't following 30-45 minutes sitting in traffic in your car. Sometimes I think fondly of lazing around the garden on a warm summer's day, but most often when I think of Edinburgh it's walking: up hill and down alley, from Old Town to New, beside vendors stalls and street performers in festival time, weaving in and out of laden shoppers in December. This time last year that's exactly what I was doing. Walking around Edinburgh, frequently arbitrarily. I even planned my schedule so that I would zig-zag across the centre of town horrendously inefficiently, just so I could walk across Waverly Bridge and North Bridge, go up Cockburn Street then down The Mound, circling around by a long route for the hell of it because all I had to do was wander about town all day and buy souvenirs for my friends.

I probably won't be there again until close to this time next year, I think that will be a record length of absence for me, though the prospect of it doesn't scare me the way it did a couple of years ago. I miss the city and the people there, I get to see my parents here, but I don't get to see my friends or the cats. The difference is that now I'm much more established here, San Diego feels a lot more like home, my home feels a lot more like home because I have Matt sharing it with me, and cats of our own to hog the bed and sprinkle cat litter on the bathroom rug. I have a job I enjoy, a couple of hole in the wall places where I love to go eat, I have favorite places to go...I'm starting to feel I have a place in the general scheme of things.

It's still a pity I can't walk between most place, it takes more work to be active here.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The Dreaded Lurgie has caught me. Or, rather, I've caught it. The cold/flu that's been going around my work, and has already hit Matt, had until now passed me by. Until Last night that is. My throat started feeling oddly scratchy, and Matt's foot jiggling on the bed made me feel positively dizzy, even for a few minutes after he stopped jiggling.

This morning I woke up with a rasping gurgly windpipe, achey all over, but strangely not feverish, I've still got most of my mental capacity. I'm waiting for that to depart also. A few minutes ago I laughed at a joke made by a coworker, and the laugh turned into a raspy wheeze, I sounded like a dirty old man who's been smoking cigars for 40 years. Oh boy am I glad I'm not still a smoker, I'm certain I'd be a whole lot more sick already if I were.

Right now I'm feeling the urge to go home early and curl up with the cats, who will hopefully have figured out how to bring me soup without getting their mucky little paws in it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

RE: Handfasting

I have a lovely two-page list of things to consider for the ceremony, everything from mechanics of the ritual (who stands where, how we're going to cast the circle, the order in which to have the exchange of rings and binding of hands) right down to the color of the altar cloth, what goes on the altar (and where) and if we're wearing shoes or not. John also sent us three sample ceremonies, which is exactly what I needed, a bunch of random specifics to ponder, and a few examples of how other people have done it.

The nice thing was that none of his questions completely threw me, I knew what he was referring to and why it was important, and we already had answers for quite a few of them. Oddly enough we both know exactly what we're wearing, and have had many ideas for the material aspects of the ceremony, but not so many ideas on the substance of the wording. John made a very good point: we have complete control of what the ceremony says, which means we control the symbolism, and the form of bond it describes. We can skip the parts indicating that two people become joined into one big squishy entity in favor of emphasis on partnership and retained individuality. We will make the point that neither of us is being "given away" by anyone, but that we enter the circle already joined, as equals, and leave the circle having strengthened the bond.

One of the ceremonies I read over also gave me ideas for the wedding ceremony, which will be toned down on the pagan aspects, but still be very personalized. I'll get to that bit in a moment.

So far we have some basic points established. The handfasting cord will be white ribbon, embroidered by yours truly in a design we have yet to figure out. John will be the only one inside the circle with us, the audience will either be inside a larger, loose-cast circle, or none at all. There will be a broom-jumping at the end (too fun not to include it, and it's a Scottish tradition besides). We've got to decide on candles and colors for the altar, and find a chalice. There' is a lot to think about and do, but now we know what we're supposed to be deciding on, rather than "we've got lots to think about...but we don't know where to start".

The most important thing is that I bought a pair of silk slippers to wear, they greatly resemble shoes I've seen from the 16th and 17th century, only more foot-shaped. Gold silk with green and pink floral embroidery. I never thought I'd squee over something that fits that description.

RE: Wedding

As mentioned above, in one of the handfasting ceremonies I read I found something I definitely want to include in the ceremony involving the families (and less Pagan Claptrap [TM]).

It's an alternative to the traditional "giving away". Rather than walking me up the aisle and consenting to hand me over to Matt as one would a sack of potatoes (albeit a sack of potatoes in a dazzling white gown), this involves my father, and Matt's mother, representing the respective families. Giving blessing to our marriage and welcoming their child's partner into their own family. So my Dad gets to walk down the aisle with me, Marilyn gets to walk down the aisle with Matt, and instead of a handover of bride-as-property, we have a mutual welcome-to-the-family.

It sounds like my Dad's side of the family are up for the trek from Europe to California to be present, I love the idea of having a big party with my US and European family all present, I'd like to see a conversation between Aunt Pat and Aunt Julia, my two most outspoken aunties, the idea amuses me. Two women who have both influenced my development, and yet have never met. I hope Matt's family also surprises him by making more effort than he suspects they're willing to and all showing up.

RE: Stuff

Clearly, things are falling into place rather well, both ceremonies are beginning to take a more solid form. I'm getting a nice picture of both, and the differences between the two. I'm more sure that, for us, this is the right way around to do it, the slight separation of an "us" ceremony and a "them" ceremony.
And Now, We Get To Practice Normality

Whatever that is.

Even though we've lived together for six months, (and been in our new place a whole month) I don't think Matt and I have developed a true routine of living together. The only real routine seems to have been one of transition. Moving the furniture around, re-organizing, getting stuff in the orientation we want and completely failing to ever truly tidy up, him going to Japan, getting back, getting laid off...getting 60 days notice to quit...no point settling in further, getting cats, selling off extra furniture, re-organizing, moving (the move that never seemed to end), Matt starting new work, rearranging furniture, re-organizing, buying shelves, re-organizing, taking excess furniture up to LA, re-organizing.

It needs to stop.

We need to relax. Before we forget who we both are in the continued re-organizing and "improving", before we wear ourselves out further by unnecessary efforts to be superhuman streamlined and efficient beings.

Since mid-September we've both been afraid of losing forward momentum. If I stopped moving I might have been hit by the full force of how screwed we'd be if Matt didn't find new work, of how unfair it was that we had to leave our first home together after only 5 months, if I stopped moving I might not have been able to keep up being supportive, I might have turned into a selfish gibbering heap begging Matt for reasurrance that he wouldn't end up chronically unemployed, depressed and angry at the world.

If he stopped moving he might have stopped filling out online applications, going to job fairs, tweaking and polishing his resume, if he stopped moving he might have had the full force of the feeling of rejection hit him in the face, he might have started to wonder more and more at his own worth and abilities. If either of us stopped moving we might not have made it through the rough patch. It's the rule with rough terrain: don't stop moving, if you stop moving you lose traction and start to slide, to skid and get stuck in the mud.

The determined maintenence of momentum was good. It got us through, but now we're back on a smoother path momentum is not nearly so desperate an issue. We can hit cruise control, even take a little break and wander about looking at the scenery. Enjoy our new home and the deranged animals we share it with. Enjoy each other again, rather than "being supportive" through a difficult time.

Oddly enough the first thing I'm going to do to achieve improved relaxation is join a gym. Extraordinarily I've come to view exercise as rather a treat, since it serves no purpose other than to make me feel good. It's ultimately purely for me that I would climb on to a rowing machine, because I'm the one who benefits from the good quality sleep that follows exercise, and the increased energy levels that come from sticking with it. I surprise myself, it's not too long ago that it was a chore, something I was supposed to do if I wanted to be a virtuous bunny, karate helped fix that, then my work schedule made karate feel like a chore again.

My Christmas vacation time is on its way, hopefully before that I won't feel quite so in need of a holiday, then I'll be able to enjoy it more.

Monday, December 01, 2003

This time I shall attempt to post more than a sparse paragraph about the sleep deprivation torture the cats are trying to inflict upon us. Which is still periodically in effect, Talli brought me his toy carrot at some point last night, and then meowed from the bedroom windowsill to announce the arrival of dawn. It was a pretty spectacular view, so I don't blame him for wanting to share, a very bright scarlet morning sky to my sleepy eyes. I'm almost sorry our patio doesn't have an Eastern view too, every once in a while it's nice to watch the dawn.

*warning* Christmas Shopping Linkfest Approaching.

I spent $100 on my face last month. In true Californian me-me-me fashion I started my Christmas shopping by buying something for myself from Clinique [>]. It seems rather silly since I rarely wear makeup, but I got a different foundation, a fancy oil-control cream that is working wonders (no more daily oil slick on my forehead), and two gift sets: one containing a collection of eyeshadows, the other a set of makeup brushes with a travel case. I always love the little compact makeup palettes you can get, but I only really use eyeshadow, not blush or lip stuff, so they're not something I can justify getting, this one is practically custom-made for me, shades of brown: cream through golden brown ending in a coffee-ish almost black. And brushes! Soft brushes! In a bright red patent leather vanity case just big enough to hold a basic essentials kit of makeup. Hooray. It's shiny, and it makes me happy.

After breaking the seal on the Christmas spending thing, I proceeded to check off a few singificant people from the list on the day before Thanksgiving. Online shopping is a wonderful thing, I found onyx pillar holders for Mum at Illuminations [>] for 30% off the store price, and free shipping (yay for free shipping). A custom-made boutonniere that looks like a little sprig of flowers from Tradewind Tiaras [>] for Granny, and pewter candle cups (again from Illuminations) for Evie. Yesterday Matt and I went up to the Witch Creek Winery [>] in Julian and stocked up on port, and some wine. Dad's getting port again for Christmas, since it was a big hit last year. I hope nobody points out the slight illogic of presenting my Mother with chunky onyx Christmas presents when she's got to lug them home again, I did skip the decorative onyx fruit-bowl because of potential impracticality of transport.

The cats are still...cats. Marble is getting more noodlesome, spending most of the time scampering about the apartment looking like she just got a static shock on her rear. She seems a little less affectionate these days, more concerned with being off on her own little feline missions. But that could be due to her figuring out that the feather wand lives in the arm of the futon, she spends all her non-scampering time trying to figure out how to open the lid and get to her favourite toy. Well, when she's not sleeping curled up with her brother in the large cat bed I bought them, they've still got that bookend image to maintain after all. Gah! They're so cute and fuzzy, so silly and crafty at the same time, and so FUZZY...I can't keep from waffling about them. Be warned: I bet it's going to be even worse when I get around to having children.