Writing Retreat 2022: Thursday

Star Trails from the deck of the cabin

I got up ear­li­er than I would have liked. The cab­in got chilly overnight—the out­side tem­per­a­ture dropped to some­where around 8°C last night—and so I opened up the cur­tains any­where the sun would shine in. Then I made cof­fee and had a banana, and sat down to process last night’s pho­tos and charge up the cam­era batteries.

I wrote about 1,000 words in the morn­ing and then read some more of my nice light beach read, Catch-22. (I’ve always men­tal­ly paired Catch-22 with Slaugh­ter­house-Five, since both are anti-war satires and both have titles of the form word dash num­ber. There’s anoth­er way they’re linked, I’ve decid­ed, because both of them unstick the read­er in time. In Slaugh­ter­house-Five it’s explic­it; one of the first lines is “Bil­ly Pil­grim has come unstuck in time”. In Catch-22, it’s implic­it; Yos­sar­i­an’s sto­ry bounces around in the time­line, with flash­backs, rem­i­nis­cences, and fore­shad­ow­ing leav­ing the read­er unsure just when in the sto­ry we might be. Are they fly­ing 30 mis­sions or 55? Has Snow­den per­ished yet or is he still alive?)

I biked down across the dam to the cof­fee shop to post yes­ter­day’s update (which I’m sure you’ve read) and mut­ter to myself about the 503 Service Unavailable error my site is still inter­mit­tent­ly throw­ing. (I’ve got an open tech sup­port tick­et reach­ing back to, I dun­no, July or so; appar­ent­ly it’s a hard prob­lem to solve[1]As the old joke goes, there are only two hard prob­lems in com­put­er sci­ence: nam­ing vari­ables, cache inval­i­da­tion, and off-by-one errors..)

Back at the cab­in, I had a brief chat with my friend Ed, who was trim­ming the grass at his daugh­ter’s cab­in across the street. He invit­ed me up the hill for a vis­it later.

I took the kayak out—finally, a day warm enough to go out on the water!—and pad­dled about 3½ km, up the lake and back again. If this isn’t nice, what is?

I had some supper—it’s becom­ing appar­ent I BBQed enough smok­ies on Mon­day for lunch that I’ll be eat­ing smok­ies till the day after doomsday—and then sat down to write my evening’s 1,000 words, which end­ed up being a weird lit­tle acros­tic snip­pet that’ll need a lot of edit­ing. But as Sir Ter­ry Pratch­ett said, The first draft is just you telling your­self the sto­ry. It’s not gonna make sense, yet, to most any­one else. That les­son is both nec­es­sary and a hard one to learn; I think I re-learn it every time I sit down to write.

After writ­ing I went up to Karen and Ed’s cab­in, high atop the hill, and we sat on their deck and chat­ted for about two hours. They say hi, everyone.

The skies were clear when I got back to my bor­rowed cab­in, and I was sore tempt­ed to load up my cam­era gear and go snap some more pho­tos in the dark. But I was also still tired from the night before, so I com­pro­mised: I set up the cam­era on the deck and col­lect­ed an hour’s worth of star trails right here. Even in a light-pol­lut­ed spot like this—there’s a bright white lamp that shines down on the deck that’s eas­i­ly as bright as the full moon—you can see the stars. You can tell—the pho­to’s up above.


She made her cir­cuit again, in reverse this time: the small-win­dowed orig­i­nal build­ing, with its muse­um pieces, the green chair from The Rt. Hon. Alan T. Kim­pole, with­out whom per­haps there would be no library here, the dusty arti­facts with their small, neat­ly-typed plac­ards; then the First Annex, stodgy with dark wood (again, here, she found it dif­fi­cult to not imag­ine the place smelling of brandy and the com­bined smoke of gen­er­a­tions’ worth of cig­ars); the West Wing with its offices; the North Stacks with its prime min­is­ters flank­ing the very dat­ed por­trait of the Queen; and final­ly the O’Neir room, sur­pris­ing her not at all with its insis­tence on being last.

The last shall be first. Who said that? She should know. It used to be one of Nathan’s favourite quotes.

She hes­i­tat­ed before open­ing the door, her hand trem­bling a lit­tle. Please God, she thought, don’t let it be the funer­al home. Because she’d come to sus­pect why there was a pho­to of their wed­ding next to the rose­wood urn, and she did­n’t like the implications.


There was a lake in the room now.

Series: Writing Retreat 2022

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2022: Goals; Writ­ing Retreat 2022: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2022: Tues­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2022: Wednes­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2022: Thurs­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2022: Fri­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2022: Wrap-up.

Inter­est­ed in prints of my pho­tos? Let me know, and we can work some­thing out.


1 As the old joke goes, there are only two hard prob­lems in com­put­er sci­ence: nam­ing vari­ables, cache inval­i­da­tion, and off-by-one errors.