Like much of the country, we are having a very mild winter, with magically little snow, and with temperatures that might be shockingly cold in Florida (a sign of the End of Civilization down there), but it’s far warmer than normal. Yesterday with a friend I went walking in the countryside. With a little bundling up, a scarf, some gloves, it was a fine sunny day for a walk.
The area where we live I think is as beautiful as anywhere I’ve seen in the United States, even in the bareness of winter: the hills take on different colors from the sun, depending on the time of day; the valleys run with streams that curve back and forth, back and forth, as they flow toward the bigger water; farmhouses with their barns and buildings alternate with horses and cows grazing in stubble fields. The road we walked was narrow and at times winding, requiring that we keep a devoted attention to the idea of cars coming along.
Our route was a giant circle, down one side of the valley and back up the other. As we crossed the creek, called Cedar Run, we stopped on the bridge a while to study the plants in the water. Watercress, I was assured. A little farther on, we found an old cemetary by a tiny church. Many of the tombstones named how long the person had lived in years, months, and days. One miniature stone said the deceased had lived for six days. Beyond the graveyard we came to a village of perhaps 10 houses (or less), some of them painted in fairyland combinations, such as a house of pumpkin, cream, purple, and lavender. The walk was glorious, but it took a while, perhaps an hour and a half. Afterward, we drove back around that route to learn that it was exactly five miles.
This evening I went to the bookstore hoping to find a book that would tell me all about adding security to a website (but in an easy way, so that I could do it). In particular I wanted to know more about how to use the “.htaccess” settings to add a password to documents for downloading. I poured through the titles of the computer books they had, and surprisingly found nothing at all on security. So I pulled off possible books and looked in the indexes and still nothing. At last I took a book called something like Professional Websites and carried it to the cafe to read.
Given my level of knowledge, I probably had no business reading a book with a title like that. But I had it, I was reading it, and I got quickly swirled up in the compelling information it contained. When it talked about adding a <div> to the code, I knew just what that is, and patted myself on the back. Of course I know that. Of course.
Some of the book enthused me, making me want to do more, making me wish I could take classes in this, spend more time just working on websites. And I picked up some ideas from the book that I will probably use. At the same time, in the short hour I read, the author referred to the need to have a serious understanding of CSS code, of design principles, of dealing with clients, of color theory—holy moly, I’m still just a kid, I don’t know all that! I alternated between thinking “this is so cool!” to thinking “I’ll never know this stuff!”
For the last week I seem to have been stuck writing the same chapter of the novel with Benedict and Miramar. Maybe I’ve actually moved from one chapter to another, but it ain’t going fast, no sir. Not that it needs to, but still… One does wish to see a bit more forward motion. I can think of several reasons for going so slowly. One—I’m just a lazy schmuck, and I don’t work very hard. That’s not my favorite reason. Two—I’ve been distracted by other concerns that draw their own water from the emotional well. Three—I’m stumbling around on plot details.
I had Benedict and Miramar in the small town of Vandalia, Illinois, where they stopped for a couple of nights to see the building that was once the state capitol, where Lincoln first became a legislator, and then to hear a talk from a man who had known Lincoln. Then I put them back on the train, headed for Indianapolis, and on the train they have met a man who is pretending to be Polish nobility. He is inviting them to spend the night in Indianapolis, as he wants to make use of Benedict’s ability with card playing. So I have that, but then I started thinking, “What time will they get there? Where are they going to play cards? What happens after the game?” And so on and so on. And I got stuck looking at maps, trying to find train schedules, looking for old photographs of Indianapolis, at lists of Polish names.
So they’re still on the train, and Jaromir is telling fake stories about growing up in Poland. How do I move this ahead? Maybe my next sentence could be: “And suddenly they realized they had arrived in Indianapolis.”