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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, December 26, 2005

inconclusive questing

The day is wet and mild. Naked black trees were silhouetted against the bright strip of light over the south horizon as Kimmie and I walked in the Wall Street neighborhood of Vancouver this afternoon. On Triumph Street people had set up lavish displays of Christmas decorations in an effort to win a lighting contest: life-sized nativity scenes, flocks of log-and-stick reindeer, whole plantations of stylized white Christmas trees on lawns covered with white foam to simulate a snowed-in look.

"I have to come back here at night!" Kimmie said, ever a decoration enthusiast.

We made our way in a criss-cross pattern through the streets, mainly looking at the old houses, of which there are many fine specimens in the neighborhood. Sidewalks were poured there in 1930 and 1931, so the oldest houses are a few years older than that Craftsman bungalows and the tall clapboard houses called "builder's boxes" from the World War One era. A few bare oak-trees were alive with the liquid twittering song of starlings. Overhead gulls squealed hoarsely, floating low over the lanes.

It's been a good Christmas. Over the years we have been able to pare down the event so that it is not a manic rush of shopping and visiting, just a couple of small family gatherings and gifts exchanged only within our household. Kimmie gave me jeans and navy-blue moccasins and a blue-gray fleece (among other things); I gave her a gray skirt with black floral needlework and a black coat with a fake-fur collar. Robin gave me a bottle of Glenmorangie single-malt scotch--much appreciated (and not yet tasted--but soon, soon).

Feeling that I'm on to an important thread, I have been digging into the question of identity and selfhood, reading the material I've got and buying a few more books that I think might help me. It feels partly like a sidetrack, since it has nothing directly to do with the ancient world, and yet I also feel the question is central to my story, so it counts as thematic research. I'm not sure what I expect to find; all my deepest research, my philosophical questing in life, has been inconclusive. I dig and I search, I read and I think and I write; but there is no feeling of "click" for me--the sense that I've arrived somewhere.

Nonetheless, that is where my passion is taking me. I feel like one riding a dogsled. The dogs are out of control, pulling the sled where they want to go. The idea of steering or control is out of the question; I have to hang on or be left behind.


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