Thursday, September 30, 2010

Preludes and Nocturnes: The Sound of Her Wings

I am blogging my reread of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Here's the first post, which explains some things.

Dream has collected all of his things, and is celebrating by engaging in a world-class brood. And feeding the pigeons. He is interrupted by a cry of "Hey! Mister!" and a soccer ball which nearly brains him. It's an excellent visual metaphor for Dream's situation: something is coming right at him, and he's not paying attention. This time, he puts up a hand, catches the ball, averts the injury. He won't always be able to.

He is joined by his older sister, Death, who explains the film Mary Poppins, and the meaning of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" to him. The brightness of Death's personality, the ease of her speech is in direct contrast to the black hole of Dream's mood. She tells him moping isn't like him, and he almost agrees that "perhaps" it isn't. It's a hint that Dream has changed. How much is a question that will be answered over the course of the run.

Death asks him what is wrong, and Dream tells her, relating the events of the previous issues in a manner as empty as he currently feels. The moment when he finishes is the moment I fell in love with this comic. Death, who loves her little brother very much, tells him he is "utterly the stupidest, most self-centered, appallingest excuse for an anthropomorphic personification on this or any other plane!" and bounces half a baguette off his head. It is the concerned, big-sisterly equivalent of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and the moment the comic found its heart.

It's also the moment it found one of its main themes, and sources of conflict: family.

Dream spends the day going on rounds with Death. As she fills the role of her office, he hears the sound of wings, and the sound recalls him to himself. He remembers his responsibilities (and that he must be reminded shows us how much Dream has changed over the course of his imprisonment), and as he as, she has given him much to think about. That is what family does, she tells him. But not everyone in Dream's family would agree.

On the last page, Dream conjures a handful of sand, and throws it, saturating the page with yellow and gold, and hears the sound of wings. It's a scnen that has, every time I've read this, conjured the last line of "God's Grandeur," by Gerard Manley Hopkins, in my head. A beautiful image, and one that, on its surface, seems joyful.

But every other instance of the sound of wings has been a harbinger of death.

(There are a couple of great visual moments: a panel where Dream and Death stand in front of a graffitied wall that reads "No one here gets out alive!" which no one does, and another scrawl that tells us "Dreams make no promises" but he does, and that becomes his undoing.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Werewolves of New Hampshire

There is a lot of fencing in my novel Linger (New title at request of someone I'm not mentioning here yet). A lot. Aislinn, my pov character, is a fencer, and she uses her sword as a weapon. For the most part, I was confident writing the scenes - I've been a fencer for lo, many years, competed at the collegiate and national level, coached the sport. I knew my blocking was good, and my coach actually did a tech read of a draft, and ran through all the scenes with me in real life, so I know what I wrote holds up.

Well, almost all the scenes.

There's one where Aislinn is fighting something best described as a werewolf. It's hugely outsize, and, because of the location, it's a close-quarter fight, so not at all the sort of thing I'm used to. 

I'm a tall woman, but my brother Doug, well, he's really tall. So when we were both home over the holidays, I had him help me block the scene: to shove me in a corner, dangle me by one arm, while I tried to get a foil between us to disembowel him. (NB: No brothers were actually harmed during the course of this slightly insane exercise.) Which is sort of awesome. But better still was my Mom's reaction, as she walked past this: "Kat, if you're going to disembowel your brother, don't do it on the white carpet please."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

He is Ironman

I come from a pretty seriously athletic family. My cousin has a gold medal from the Athens Games. My sister trained with Károlyi. Yesterday, my brother Joe competed in an Ironman.

Here is what an Ironman is: a triathlon, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and then a marathon (26.2 mile run.) In a row. Without a break for a nap, or some snacks, or a two week period of recovery between those stages, which I'm guessing would be the minimum for a mere mortal to complete this race. Just one right after the other, as fast as possible.

I remember watching the Hawaii Ironman on television when I was younger, and wondering how people could do something like that. When I was 11 or 12, my swim team had a swim-a-thon, and I swam 2.4 miles, just to see what it was like. Even at a leisurely pace, in the comfortable, controlled environment of a pool, I was exhausted after. 

When I write, and I need to put myself in the mind of a character who is fierce, who is determined, who gets up long after she should have fallen down, I think about my brother Joe. He is officially an Ironman, and I am so proud it is ridiculous.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Running the Red Queen's Race

As of about 11 pm yesterday, I finally felt caught up from last weekend's trip to see my family. In other words, a slightly less than four day trip had a slightly more than four day recovery time. Not that I regret the visit. It was my Mom's birthday, and this has been the first year since I was in high school that I was actually close enough geographically to make going home for a family birthday a possibility. My sister, who lives in Texas, flew out to New Hampshire as well. Between distance and work obligations, this was the first time in years I'd seen my sister. Liz is my best friend.

John Scalzi recently posted a great piece on finding the time for writing. Find the time to write, or don't. Don't say you're a writer, and then when asked about your progress say "yes, but," and follow that with some excuse about how you have a really hard job, or family obligations, or, you know, a life, man. Most - probably the vast majority - of writers have day jobs (sometimes called "cash jobs." The job that allows us to pay our rent and feed ourselves and, if we're lucky, give us some form of health insurance.) I know writers with multiple published series and writers who have been on the NYT best seller list who still have day jobs. I feel incredibly lucky that my day job allows me to do most of my work from home, on a flexible schedule, and dovetails well with my writing job.

And writers, we have lives, too. We get sick, or have to take care of sick family members. Our relationships end, or we fall in love. We move to new places. We have bad days. We have friends we want to hang out with, concerts we want to hear, events we want to attend. I'm pretty good at knowing when I can't do fun because I need to write. I'm grateful, perhaps more than I can articulate, to my friends who have put up with me canceling plans because either I didn't make word count that day, or because the writing was going so well I couldn't set it aside.

The place where I am not good at protecting my work is when I am home with family. This isn't because my family doesn't support my decision to write, or my goal of someday being able to write full time. It's because I haven't yet figured out how to say no to them while I'm there. And I need to, because writing is a job, and it's not one that comes with built in vacation days.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Preludes and Nocturnes: Passengers/ 24 Hours/ Sound and Fury

I am blogging my reread of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Here's the first post, which explains some things.

The one object Dream still needs to reclaim is his ruby, which has been stolen by John Dee. These three issues tell that story. "Passengers" opens at Arkham Asylum, where the good doctor is imprisoned, on account of being murderously insane. Dee announces his plan to go get the ruby in order to rule the world, or destroy. Either way, he says, he's not coming back. I think maybe that's how all quests begin, with the knowledge that you're not coming back. 

Because of the power of the ruby, Dee functions as a slantwise Dream in these issues, a dark mirror to the Dreamlord. Dream, too, is on a quest which raises the question: when does he know he's not coming back?

The naked Dee escapes, and carjacks Rosemary (and manages to misquote Shakespeare in the introduction process. "Rosemary... that's for remembering.") Dee, he tells her is for lots of things, Death, with which he begins his list, is as we will discover, also one of the Endless, all of whom have names beginning with D. D is for lots of things, indeed. He also tells her what dreams are made of: "viewpoints, of image, of memories and puns and lost hopes..." In the course of Sandman's  run, we discover that he is right, that dreams are made of all these things, but that he is only partially correct. Dreams are also made of much more.

Dee's elucidation of the contents of dreams also raises one of the ongoing questions of the story: What is Dream made of? What are his contents?

Then, in a sequence done in saturated reds and purples, ruby colors, Dream finds the ruby, and is overwhelmed by it. It is no longer his. Dee finds it as well, and things are about to get very bad.

"24 Hours" opens at an all-nite diner, with a waitress named Bette, who knows she is secretly a writer. She quite happily rewrites the stories of everyone in the diner in her head as she works.

One of the things I wonder, every time I read Sandman (and it's a question I don't actually want to know the answer to because 1. I like some things to remain secret, and 2. I suspect the answer may cause me to drop dead of jealousy) is when Neil knew how the story had to end. I wonder if it's this issue, as the narration tells us "All Bette's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop. She's realized the real problem with stories -- if you keep them going long enough, they always end in death."

In Hour 2, Dee begins to use the power of the ruby to not only rewrite the stories of everyone in the diner, but to rewrite reality and dream in increasingly horrific ways. In a fabulous series of panels on page 16, the three women in the diner appear in a set pattern that echoes the Three-in-One, the Fates, and he asks them for prophecy. They offer three oracles, the first, with its mention of dust, echoing both the words of funerals, and the Ash Wednesday service "Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return" and Eliot's "The Waste Land": "I will show you fear in a hand full of dust," the quotation used on the early advertising for the comic.

In Hour 19, captioned "He lies to them," Dee tells his assembled captive a fairy tale, that of Snow White. It's another perversion of Dream's aegis, his role as Prince of Stories.

Finally, in Hour 24, Dream shows up.

"Sound and Fury" has a Shakespearean reference as its title, of course. The Triple Goddess shows up again, on page 9, once Dee has followed Dream into the realm of dreams. Dee appears as Caesar, and the three women interpret his dream for him. On page 10, one of them quotes the full line from Macbeth and Dream shows up to warn "Caesar" to "Beware the ideas of March!" (The Shakespearean references are perhaps not surprising, considering Dream's relationship with Will of Stratford.)

Eventually, in an attempt to kill Dream, Dee crushes the ruby, releasing Dream's power, and returning Dream to himself. Instead of punishing Dee, Dream takes him home to the asylum, and gifts him, and all its residents, with a night of peaceful sleep.

I leave the question of whether brain fever is the true curse of academia as an exercise for the reader.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Only connect

I am busy like a busy thing right now, with no time for being interesting except on paper. (Dear God, please let me actually be interesting there.)

But the lovely and generous Cat Valente made me a present, and I really want to use it, so this blog post is an excuse to do that. 

The thing that I love about social media is the social aspect - crowdsourcing my novel research on twitter, or just seeing what a bunch of interesting people are getting up to, and being able to talk about it. My favorite part about blogging is the comments. (Yes, I know that it is sometimes difficult to post a comment here. Sometimes this blog does not let me post comments.) So to make it easier for me to connect with people, here or on their blogs, I am going to begin cross-posting on LiveJournal. I am kat_with_sword there, much like on twitter. And it will be straight-up cross-posting, as trying to come up with ideas enough and time for independent posting will drive me bonkers sooner rather than later.

But stop by if you like, if only to see the lovely thing Cat made me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Because poetry makes nothing happen"

It was the fall of 1996, and I was in Book People in Austin, TX. The year before, an Irish poet named Seamus Heaney had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. A new collection of his had just come out. The Spirit Level, it was called. I wanted to read it not because I made a point of reading Nobel winners (for better or worse, I don't) but because he was Irish. I am too, and I take being so very seriously.

I opened the book, and I started reading. Then I sat down, cross-legged, on the floor in front of the poetry section, flipped back to the front page, and read the entire thing. Then I plucked every book of Heaney's poetry off the shelf, and spent my grocery money on books. And didn't care. Because I had never read anything like that before: stark, beautiful, and utterly precise. No word wrong, no word other than exact. Reading his poems was like having someone peel back the layers of my skin and speak directly to my soul.

North encapsulates what it means to be Irish, what it has always meant, in all of the terrible beauty of the place. His Beowulf translation spent over two months on the New York Times bestseller list for fiction. Just imagine that - a translation of an epic poem, that becomes a bestseller in 2000.

In 2001, I sent him an article I had written on his play, The Cure at Troy. It was a law and literature piece using the play as the lens through which to view the Good Friday accords. And he wrote back, critiqued the article, thanked me for writing it, and praised my writing. I could have died happy that day. So yes, I kind of love the man.

Which is a long way of saying, go now, and read everything he has ever written. And also, and especially, read Human Chain, which was just released this week, and is extraordinary. There are new Sweeney poems in it, and a Virgilian visit to the Underworld. There is the plain language of beauty.

Go raith math agat, Seamus. Go raith math agat.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Preludes and Nocturnes: Dream a Little Dream of Me/ Hope in Hell

For those of you new to this, I am blogging my reread of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I explain why/ how I am doing this in the first half of this post.

The thing about a plot coupon fantasy, is that it is also a quest. And a quest, if done right, results in the searcher finding more than simply the object or objects of his desires. In "Dream a Little Dream of Me," Dream begins his quest to reclaim his objects of power. 

The issue itself begins with counting. A count marks time, like the beat of a heart. It also ends. The repetition of the numbers reminds us of fate, and the Fates, and the idea that all stories have endings. The other contribution to the idea of the inexorable fate of events is the quotation of song lyrics that permeate the issue, beginning with the title. "Dream a Little Dream" is the first song heard in the issue, and its opening line "Say nighty-night and kiss me" is misquoted as "Count ninety-nine and kiss me," picking up the count to one hundred from the previous page, continuing to build the air of fate that hangs over the issue.

John Constantine wonders idly if we've ever had one of those days where somebody seems to be trying to tell us something, and, as the continued musical references to the Sandman and dreams show, someone is certainly trying to get a message to him. (This harkens back to the idea of the universe trying to order itself in Morpheus' absence, and again raises the question: is it the role or the player who is important?)

In the end, the Sandman reclaims the dream sand. And in the next issue, makes his way to Hell.

Dave McKean's cover for "A Hope in Hell" is one of my favorites in the run. The horns growing from the curls in the Morningstar's hair, and the burnt pages from Dante's Purgatorio that line the sides. And it's the choice of the Purgatorio, rather than the Inferno that really makes it perfect. In Purgatory, there is still the hope of Heaven. Here, Dream commits the sin of bringing hope to Hell.

It is the first issue where he mentions being one of the Endless, and then gives some perspective on what that means, as he relates watching Lucifer Morningstar fall from Heaven: "his face undefeated, his eyes still proud." This is also the issue that first truly raises what will become one of the largest and most important themes of Sandman, that of change. Dream notes that Hell itself is changing, the demons that are in it are changing, and the Etrigan asks him "If I've changed, O King, then what of you?" 

There is then one of the best set pieces of the run, the challenge between Dream and the demon Chronozon for the return of Dream's precious helm. The epithets exchanged between the two thump with the pattern and rhythm of Anglo-Saxon poetry - none would jar in a Beowulf translation. But then, at the end, unadorned and true, Dream asserts: "I am hope."

Which is what our dreams are. So he wins, and now has two of his symbols of office again.

When the Morningstar asks what power dreams have in Hell, Dream shows the knife-edge of his cruelty, even more so than he does to the imprisoned Nada. He asks - and asks the Morningstar, who was once the best beloved of God - in particular, "What power would Hell have is those here imprisoned were not able to dream of Heaven?"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Preludes and Nocturnes: Imperfect Hosts

For those of you new to this, I am blogging my reread of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I explain why/ how I am doing this in the first half of this post.

Honestly, I thought I would be combining the rest of Preludes and Nocturnes (except for "The Sound of Her Wings") into one post. It's a plot coupon fantasy, after all - Dream goes and gets the Magic Things, and then he's all Dreamy again. There were a few things I wanted to mention - John Dee, the nature of stories, the idea of endings - but really, I could do it all in one post.

Except, "Imperfect Hosts" is all about the nature, the power of stories. It opens with Cain and Abel, and Dream - the Prince of Stories, as Abel stutteringly informs us - being dropped unceremoniously on their doorstep.

The theme of dream and waking is picked up in the top panel on the fourth page, as Dream "awake[s] in the darkness." It's a good description of his current state, so powerless, he doesn't even know where the symbols of his power are, so powerless, he relies on symbols, rather than on story.

It's Abel who introduces another of Sandman's major themes as he introduces himself: "From the, hm, first story. The, er, victim." The existence of Cain and Abel (and Abel's continuous resurrection) is testament to the power of story. Stories, true ones, are for always. Their characters live.

And really, are any of us surprised that living stories wind up in the Dreaming? Or that Dream is the Prince of Stories?

Then there is the character we meet on page 8. The lay out of this page is so well done, because even though we don't see Dream, we read his unmistakable dialogue: "I have been imprisoned." But we scan down, and realize we are looking at the outside of Arkham Asylum, and the person imprisoned is the mad John Dee.

John Dee.

Who is, of course, Doctor Destiny.

But who is also a sixteenth century mathematician, astrologer, occultist, advisor to Queen Elizabeth. And, oh, commonly said to be one of the models for the character of Prospero in The Tempest. So yes, I'll be paying attention to him.

"I have been imprisoned," Morpheus says. But what is the nature of his prison? Is it his powerlessness, or his power? We all have roles in our stories, but are those roles prisons as well?

Dream needs to find his missing objects of power, so he decides to consult the Three-in-One, the Triple Goddess, who is herselves an ongoing theme in Sandman. She's brilliantly introduced here, never appearing by the same name, and the names used come from stories everywhere. It is the role in the story that is important, not the person playing the character.

And because there are laws that the Three must follow, just as there are laws in Dream's realm, he gets answers to his questions (and there, of course, is the beginning of the crack across my heart, because of course there are laws, and in the end, Dream is as bound by them as everyone else is. Perhaps more so. And oh, sweetie, you don't ever thank the Fates.)

The issue closes with Abel telling a secret story, about a family. He weeps, and it's not tears, "only blood, little brother. Only blood."

Families, and blood. Isn't that always the story?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Preludes and Nocturnes: Sleep of the Just

I have a ritual I perform every year in the fall. I reread Neil Gaiman's Sandman in its entirety. It's a very autumnal sort of story, and, well, there's another reason, too, that I'll get to soon.

This year, I've decided to blog my rereading. The ACLS fellowship that I hold right now is a research fellowship, which means it would be good if I had a book length project at the end of it. That book is going to be a study of Shakespeare and Sandman and dreams, and is tentatively titled Kings of Infinite Space. Writing down my thoughts here is a way to begin the thinking out loud process that will eventually turn into the book.

Because this is a scholarly project, and I am reading for certain things, I may not blog every issue, and I will highlight the details that are important to my project, perhaps to the exclusion of things you think are interesting. (If you want to read someone who is doing that, I highly recommend Matthew Cheney's elegant "Sandman Meditations" over at Gestalt Mash.) I may sometimes talk about themes, or characters, or how the project is being shaped (oh, Lord Shaper, watch over me as I write) rather than what happened. Because I have read this, lo, many, many times, I may will talk about things that happen at the end even at the beginning. (Guys, Sandman first came out over 20 years ago. I'm not so much worried about spoiling things right now. And if you haven't read it, for the love of God, why are you reading this right now instead of that?)

I'll be reading in the order they were published in the trades, because that is the order I first read them in, and ritual ought to count for something. And this is a reread, not a review. Do you want to know my review of Sandman? Here it is: It is a complete and utter masterpiece, and it would be my desert island book. My love for it, however, does not mean I am not going to read critically. 

Okay? Okay. 

"Sleep of the Just"

For all that I feel that Sandman as a work doesn't really find its voice until "The Sound of Her Wings," "Sleep of the Just" is a pretty fabulous open. Beginnings matter (see the opening line of Hamlet: "Who's there?" two words that ask one of the largest questions of the play) and in the opening panel of Sandman, we get a date, June 6th, 1916, and an opening line: "Wake up, sir. We're here." Dream's story, which concludes with "And then they woke up" begins with a command to do exactly that. 

One of the things I love about Sandman, is that it's sort of the literary equivalent of an Easter egg hunt. The first named character is Hathaway. William Shakespeare was married to a woman named Anne Hathaway, and while her father was Richard, not John, it's one of those moments in the text that lets me wonder. 

Events begin to unfold. The ritual is performed, Dream is imprisoned, and the sleepy sickness begins. Dates continue to show up in the panels, marking the passage of time. Time, and the manner and direction of its unfolding is something else I am very interested in here.

We see Roderick Burgess' headstone, another marker of time's passage, but also important for its epitaph: "Not dead, only sleeping." There is, of course, a relationship between sleep, and dreams, and death - "To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub" - and this is one of the first places that triangle is made explicit in the text. There is also a relationship between Dream and Death.

And then there is one more date, on a newspaper, the day Dream escapes from his prison: September 14, 1988. Seventy-two years in prison. Or was his prison just shaped differently, then? 

The other reason I always reread Sandman in the fall: 14 September is my birthday. I asked Neil if the date had significance, and he said it was probably the publication date of the issue.

Dream steals sand from the dreams of one of his guards and escapes. The victims of the sleepy sickness begin to awake, and the universe begins to set itself right. Dream ponders his confinement, and in his hesitation - "I was... I am.. the Lord of this Realm of Dream and Nightmare" - we see the beginning of his wrestling with his own role, and what it means to be His Darkness, Dream of the Endless.

In talking with the son of one of his captors, Dream quotes Puck, from A Midsummer Night's Dream: "Lord, what fools these mortals be." (And my scholar's heart does a little dance.)

The issue closes with a plea: "Please wake up. Please?" But the dreaming has just begun.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Gulf of Araby between

In theory, if my house were to catch fire, and all of my books burn, the burning of my Bible would break my heart no more than many and less than some of the books on my shelf. My Bible is precious to me, because I received it my junior year of high school, when I went on a religious retreat (Junior Encounter) and the girls who were staff signed it, and wrote prayers or notes of encouragement, or marked their favorite passages for me, including Matthew 6:26-34 on the fall of the sparrow, which I read and read and read that horrible year. I would grieve the loss of that book in the way I would grieve the volume of Sybil's Garage that has my friend Keffy's story, "Machine Washable" in, which he signed for me, or the books my Clarion instructors signed, or my copy of The Magicians, because when I asked Lev to write something nice when he signed it, what he wrote was so lovely I cried, just a bit. I would miss the books for the memories.

My heart would break in an entirely different way, of course, if someone took the Bible from my shelf and burned it because I am Catholic.

I went to law school. I taught the first amendment. I am aware that free speech - the Constitutional value I hold dearest - means letting the Nazis march through Skokie, and letting a man with the temerity to call himself Reverend stage a burning of holy texts.

But Terry Jones (I'm sorry, I cannot call him Pastor. It disgraces those men and women of God who truly fill that roll) should know that what he is planning is an act of grandstanding politics, not of religion. It is an act of hatred, and separatism, and is not, in any way, Christian. 

Islam, of course, has a term: "The People of the Book." This term comes from the Qu'ran, that very text Terry Jones wants to destroy, and it requires that tolerance be given to other religions - including Christianity - which recognize the God of Abraham as God, and have a book of prayer. If Jones were to read the Qu'ran, perhaps God would move him to extend that same tolerance. Miracles are always possible.

Monday, September 6, 2010

And now for something completely different...

I think I'm writing a horror story. Honestly, I don't know, because I'm not really sure what is and isn't horror any more, when it comes to fiction.

There used to be a horror section in the bookstore. I was allowed to go there the year I turned 13, after the summer in which I tore through every serial killer book in the library (Ted Bundy, the Manson family, Saucy Jack, I read everything I could get my hands on) and suffered no apparent ill effects. I bought my first Stephen King (The Eyes of the Dragon, what was not horror, I'm pretty sure [and is now lost, as with so many of my other Stephen King books - some of which were first editions, dammit! - thanks to Evil Movers]) and then my second, It, which definitely was. 

If you ever meet my sister, ask her about the time I nearly killed her with the fireplace poker while I was reading Pet Sematary. Of course, she reads horror, too.

Somewhere along the line, though, there stopped being a horror section, and I had to wander around to find King, or Straub, or Kiernan. I read something the other day (I cannot remember where) that described The Graveyard Book as "the horror novel that won the Hugo." I wouldn't call The Graveyard Book horror, except for maybe the opening chapter, but I found it in the "Young Readers" section when I bought my copy. The one book that's ever scared me so badly I couldn't finish it (Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box, for those keeping track at home) was in the Literature section.

My point is, I don't know what horror looks like any more. Vampires sparkle, werewolves have six pack abs, and Eliza Bennet slays zombies. None of this is necessarily a problem, except when you're writing something, and you want to know if you're doing it right. (Or, you know, what markets to send it to, in hopes of actually selling it.)

Writing it scares me. Maybe that's enough.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Goodbye, Earl

It was the summer of 1994. We had just moved to Pensacola, FL, from Puyallup, WA. I don't remember the day, exactly, but I know that I was one of the few people not glued to my television as the LAPD chased a former football star in a white Bronco. I was too busy watching my Dad and our new neighbors swim out into the Bay after the end of their dock, which had broken off in Tropical Storm Alberto. All things considered, the storm was a small one. I remember standing outside, watching the frenzy of the waves, feeling a savage joy as the wind wove my hair into elf locks.

The first time I saw a hurricane warning flag was on the University of Miami campus, where I was part of the Band of the Hour. (Fun fact: I am on the game tape for the Orange Bowl Parade and half-time show for 1995. For whatever reason, the camera operator decided it was time for my close-up.)

The next summer, there was Hurricane Allison, which I remember because I was wearing my Hurricanes sweatshirt when I drove to the grocery to pick up bottled water, and a guy asked if my name was Allison . "You look like a hurricane," he said. There was also Hurricane Erin, who, the day before my parents were supposed to close on our new house, put a 200 year old pine tree through the roof of that new house like a toothpick through a marshmallow. She looked like a hurricane, too.

Earl came through today. Yesterday I watched them move the boats in the marina, and I brought all the furniture and plants off my deck. Today, there was rain, but not much. The sky burned red this morning, and bruised purple just now as the sun set, but we were lucky.

When I got my acceptance letter for the University of Miami, the place I wanted so badly to go (I thought, you see, I was going to be a marine biologist), it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I remember that evening, seeing my AP US History teacher at a basketball game, and telling her, "Mrs. Gould, I'm a Hurricane."

"You always were, my dear."

I hope I still am.