Catching Up, Ha Ha

This blog post is included in:

No Time to Spare
Thinking About What Matters

by Ursula K. Le Guin
Introduction by Karen Joy Fowler

December 5, 2017
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ursula K. Le Guin, photo by Marian Wood KolischCatching Up, Ha Ha

by Ursula K. Le Guin

It’s been two months since I blogged. Considering that it’s the eve of my 85th birthday, and that anyone over 75 who isn’t continuously and conspicuously active is liable to be considered dead, I thought I should make some signs of life. Wave from the grave, as it were. Hello, out there! How are things in the Land of Youth? Here in the Land of Age they are rather weird.

The weirdness includes being called a liar by Hugh Woolly, the famous self-publisher of How, because I was rude to amazondotcom, the famous philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting publishers, encouraging writers, and greasing the skids of the American Dream. Various other weirdnesses have arisen in my life as a writer, some quite enjoyable. But the important and dominant weirdness of life this autumn consists of not having a car — a condition that to a lot of people is the American Nightmare.

We do have our nice Subaru, but we can’t drive it. I never could. I learned to drive in 1947 but didn’t get a license, for which I and all who know me are grateful. I’m one of those pedestrians who start to cross the street, scuttle back to the curb for no reason, then suddenly leap out in front of your car just as you get into the intersection. I am the cause of several near accidents and a great deal of terrible swearing. It’s awful to think what I might have done armed with an automobile. In any case, I don’t drive. And since August, sciatic pain from stenosis keeps Charles from driving, and from walking much at all. I can walk (I have the same thing he has, fortunately much less severely), but after a few blocks I go lame on the left hind. We’re ten steep blocks from our Co-Op market. So we’ve lost the liberty our legs or the car gave us to pop out and get what we needed when we needed it.

It’s a wonderful freedom, much missed. I’ve had to go back to the routine of my childhood, when we did the shopping once a week. No running down to see what looks fresh and good for dinner or to pick up a quart of milk — everything has to be planned ahead and written down. If you don’t get the cat litter on Tuesday, well, you don’t have any cat litter till next Tuesday, and the cat may have some questions for you.

There’s no hardship about shopping this way, in fact I look forward to it, since my friend Moe takes me, and is a really good, intense shopper who notices bargains and things. But still it’s tiresome always having to think about it, instead of just doing it.

Just do it! — the motto for those who run twenty miles every morning in swoosh-covered shoes, the mantra of undelayed gratification. Yeah, well. Charles and I do better with Sí, se puede. Or, with Gallic philosophy, On y arrive.

As for doctors’ appointments, one of the finest paradoxes of senility is that the oftener you have to go to the doctor the harder it is to get there. And haircuts! Now I know how the world looks to those little dogs with the bangs all over their eyes. It looks hairy.

All in all, the main effect of being inordinately old and carless is that there’s even less time to do things other than what has to be done than there was before. Keeping up with answering letters, and writing blog posts, and getting the books in the basement organized, and a whole slew of things like that all get put on the back burner — which may or may not be functioning, as we have had the stove since 1960.

But you know, they don’t make stoves like that any more.

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Catching Up, Ha Ha — 39 Comments

  1. Happy birthday, Ursula–Hippo Birdie Two Ewes! And Meerkat more!

    Write on, be easy with your loved ones, and may the grocery offerings look enticing. You inspire us, and I hope each day is worthwhile.

  2. Happy Birthday!

    I wanted to say that we opted out of getting a car for as long as we possibly could, and although walking, biking and taking the bus required more planning, there is also a certain freedom to NOT driving everywhere. A little like the freedom of being offline.

    But that would not be fair. We were young: Walking and biking anywhere was an option to us, and doing it was a choice. We finally caved in and bought a car when our second child was born, and today we own two, as a necessity of our job situation. Even so, once you subscribe to the freedom of owning a car, it becomes hard to do without it.

    You turned 85 now. That is an accomplishment in itself, but much more so for all the experience and wisdom you accumulated on your way and which you share so generously. I wish you find an equally generous supply of voluntary drivers whenever you feel like going anywhere – if you were in my family, my close circles (or on my continent) I would consider it a privilege! I am sure many of those close to you would.

    (And I would absolutely NOT ruin your birthday cheer by being rude and mentioning that you could have your shopping brought out to you by amaz— NO! Wouldn’t even be funny!)
    (Sorry. Could not resist. Happy Birthday!)

  3. A friend just alerted me to your blog. Happy birthday! And what a joy to read your writing again. I’ve always loved your prose style. I still believe the Earthsea Trilogy and all its following books are the best discussion of mortality in the literature.

  4. Dear Ursula,

    In all sincerity, you appeared in my dream last night. Things were characteristically chaotic, but I remember recognizing you and feeling moved to hug you and tell you that you are my favourite writer, and I meant it; the statement and the hug.

    Then some other stuff happened with a new kind of scuba mask and some hula hoops; the kind for spinning; though I don’t think you were involved with those.

    Semicolons aside, Happy Birthday! Thank you for all that you do. 😉

    Best wishes
    David

  5. Dearest Ursula,
    Happy Birthday! I woke up to day thinking of you. May tomorrow and everyday be filled with things that make your heart sing and reflect the appreciation so many of us have for you. I have more unfinished unsent letters to you than I care to admit… all of them have one thing in common, and that is my desire to thank you. Thank you for doing your work. Your wonderful books have always shown up in my life at just the right moments and have inspired, sustained, comforted, and sometimes just delighted me more than I can express. Most of my writing is metaphysical self help – articles, one book, 2 in progress. My creative writing (no books yet completed and published one in process) will have an acknowledgment for the huge role your work has played in inspiring me to write. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope to see you in person and hold your hand and say that to you. (On my bucket list). I teach workshops and have clients in Portland (though live in NY) and I hope to sync with one of your book signings or lectures. From my heart… thank you and I love you! May today find you unfolding gracefully in the hand of Life,
    Love, Jule ? ¨*•.¸?

  6. I hope your birthday is as full of joy and interest and intrigue and enjoyment as all of those you have given me every time I re-read one of your books. They have sustained me through lots and given me more joy and wisdom than I can say. Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns. (And if I hear of any magical grocery delivering devices, I’ll let you know.)

  7. Dear Ursula Le Guin,
    I simply wanted to add my voice to those who are sending you best wishes on your birthday. I have no words, other than these, to express my gratitude and appreciation for you and your work. Merci bien!
    Namaste,
    Barbara

  8. Happy Birthday! I wish I could give you a magic teleportation device for the shopping, but in the absence of that, good wishes for a lovely day and many more to come will have to suffice.

  9. Dear Ms Le Guin,

    thank you for writing this blog post which made me smile and laugh.

    A most wonderful talent you have been gifted with.

    And I would like to chime in: Happy Birthday!

    No, they don’t do stoves like that anymore.

  10. Since no one ever asks, I’ll tell you this:
    I often recommend three story’s that, in some Venn diagram, intersect within me:

    Poe’s Descent into the Maelstrom
    Pynchon’s Secret Integration
    and Omelas

    Thank You, & I hope your birthday was a fine one.

  11. Dear Ursula,
    may I just say “Vill Gléck fir däin Gebuertsdag!” and in my own native tongue and any and all since learned and adopted others (fail to) express that, like presumably so many, many more people in this world, I would gladly bake you a cake today and/or in any other way available from this here continent like to symbolically acknowledge and contribute to the celebration of your being in the world, and it being so much the richer for it.
    Thank you for all those words! And through them, all those thoughts, tales, insights and questions, in so many shapes and guises and forms.
    I may only have been an avid reader of yours for a decade, but please accept my sincere gratitude and veneration for, among so many others: Shevek telling me to free my mind* from the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, in ‘The Dispossessed’ (*still a work in progress), for Tenar musing on reaching some ever-changing, moving balance like in the practice of that remarkable art walking in ‘Tehanu’, for ‘Direction of the Road’, for ‘Paradises Lost’, for ‘About Feet’ and ‘The Operating Instructions’, and oh, thank you so much for ‘The Other Wind’! And for ‘Lavinia’ – I have yet to find another kindred soul to share that precious gem with, but treasure it all the more, in hopeful anticipation. Thank you for all that, and so much more!

    Alles Gudds!

  12. Happy Birthday, dear Ms Le Guin!

    Thank you for the most satisfying food for thought in everything you published(anytime!). Your phrases are unforgettable, I am most happy I finally became able to read your works in the original.

    Warmest wishes from Poland,
    Ewa

  13. Happy birthday to one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) writers. I discovered you with Left Hand of Darkness and have stayed with you ever since. Your books always speak to my soul. May your years to come be filled with joy, and relatively pain free, although being a fellow suffer of stenosis I “get it”.

  14. Happy belated birthday. I only found this blog today.
    I love your writing. It brings me joy, insight, and happiness. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  15. Found this blog today because I thought I saw you at my local coffee shop. I think I spooked the sweet lady who turned out to only be your look alike. I did try not to stare, but she caught me looking a few times. Needless to say, I’m your fan and so grateful for your gorgeous work that continues to inspire and challenge readers and authors. This past weekend, I attended a conference on women in fantasy literature (Sirensconference.org) and your name was brought up continuously and with great reverence. I’m glad to know that you are embracing old age with grace and humor (and I’m not the least bit surprised). I hope your birthday was joyous, that your year is generous, and that you know how very much you are appreciated and loved, whether or not you’re a bit shaggy.

  16. Dear Mrs. Le Guin,
    Thank you so much for your work. In my twenties I was in an abusive relationship, fortunately I had the fortitude to escape with my life, but just barely.
    The one thing he forced on me was SciFi, which included your book The Left Hand of Darkness, I feel reading your work helped save me. Thank you for writing, for sharing your self with us and for still being alive to receive this note of gratitude. My mother lives with me, she will be 83 in February, your accounting of your days is wonderful, wish my mother still had the ability to take care of herself.
    Happy Birthday
    Thank You
    Joann

  17. Dear Mrs LeGuin, Happy Birthday!

    Not only are you a great writer, you’re also a fine blogger. The Earthsea series and The Lathe of Heaven are among my favorite books. I also enjoy your blog posts, but I do understand about not having time or not feeling up to blogging at times.

    I hope you’ll be able to spend a wonderful birthday with your loved ones and that your cat did get its litter on Tuesday (and hopefully cat food as well).

    My family and I are similarly carless (my sister and I have never got licences and mom has a persistent eye problem), so we have been forced to do without a car and have to get by on foot or riding a bus. It takes some getting used to.

  18. Well said Ms LeGuin! A beautifully taut, direct and yet poignant description of life as it is lived by many Women of Age. Being carless is not such a crime of circumstance in UK as it is in the US but many of my patients share the inequity of access and the sudden lengthening of time-consuming chores without transport as you describe and it frustrates and often angers them. Which latter turns inwards into an existential depression.Depriving them of their driving licence is one of my worst clinical acts. Men have cried and fumed in my Clinic, non driving wives have connived and tried to bribe me. A car is Liberty. Without it, there is little Equality. That leaves Fraternité: I am so glad you have that in Moe.
    Best wishes to you and good health to the back-burning stove. Every marriage and household should have one!

  19. Happy Birthday!
    I too have been entertained and inspired by your writing.
    Might I send you one of my books, as a meager way of thanking you?
    You probably get a lot of complimentary book offers, so I’ll understand if you say, “No thanks”.
    But I think you may enjoy it. The title is, “The First ISM: Seeking the Origins of Racism, Sexism & Terrorism”, Non-fiction, Innerpeace Books, 2005.

  20. Happy Birthday Ursula! Pleasure to read and an even greater pleasure to think about your writing afterwards.

  21. Dear Ursula,
    I will be writing you a letter but this is to wish you a very very happy birthday. I saw a fridge magnet with the inscription “The heart never wrinkles” and that seems to be you. You’re one of my very favourite authors and a role model, and a living embodiment of the philosophy that we should be fully engaged in life while we’re alive–take risks, explore strange new worlds, push the boundaries, don’t let the inner critic hamper your creativity. Thank you!

  22. Dear Ursula Le Guin,

    Well, hoorah! I am so glad to read your most recent posts.
    I wonder how Ged & Tenar are doing, these days? They’re somehow in their 60’s, maybe? Or their 80’s. They’ve always had little time to do things other than what has to be done . A thing you’re mastering, a good thing for me to aspire to (and to keep an open mind about – do I HAVE to write this? maybe yes. definitely yes. why not?)

    Have you read Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog? I was really surprised by how much I liked it. Usually, I refuse to read /watch /consume murdered-women-as-entertainment. It just doesn’t seem healthy. But Atkinson kind of reclaims crime novel territory in subtle ways. Anyway – I think you might enjoy the ways she’s dealt with the anger & grief of violence against women in these books (it’s a series).
    OK – enough. I send best wishes. May what is, be kind. Thank you for your writing.
    Julie

  23. Happy Birthday, Ursula! You have been an inspiration to me for more than forty years – thank you,
    Helen

  24. Hello Ursula,

    My book group is reading The Left Hand of Darkness this month. What a joy. We are meeting this Thursday at my house here in SW Portland. Would you like to join us? I know that invitation is cheeky, but it is sincere. We could pick you up and take you home. What a wonderful discussion we could have with the author in our midst. This book group also eats dinner at the host’s house (Thursday). We try to pick a theme from the book we are reading. I am about 1/3 of the way through The Left Hand of Darkness and have only found one reference to food: soup and bread apple. Soup I know; bread apple I do not. Are there going to be further references to food as I continue reading? I want to give my fellow book group friends a little warning to think about their contribution to dinner which is why I am asking you now rather than just waiting until I finish the book in a few days. I would appreciate a hint about food.

    Thank you for many hours of reading enjoyment.

    Betty McArdle
    [email protected]

  25. A belated but heart-felt “Happy Birthday” to you, Ms. Le Guin.

    In navigating life, one must find one’s own way, but it helps to have some stars by which to steer. Your works have been part of a constellation of stars I’ve used to plot my course through over forty years of sailing these wild seas we call “reality.” Some of those “stars”–i.e., the works of Camus, Lem, Atwood, Vonnegut, Jeffers, and Orwell, to name a few–shine more brightly than others. But yours have been among the shiniest, the ones I could count on no matter how dark or murky the night sky may have seemed. They’ve pulled me through many a time, and no doubt will do so again as my journey continues to its inevitable conclusion.

    Thank you for sharing your works, thoughts, and dreams with us. You’ve enriched our lives, and the world.

  26. I fantasize of one day holding in my trembling hands a novel about the last of the Shing, pursued by two specially trained women of the Ekumen, along with the teenage son of one of those women, who track their prey to Earthsea, seeking the aid of an aging, once Archmage and his partner Tenar.

  27. My dear Me. LeGuin
    How lucky to read your blog on the eve of my own 60th birthday. I have been reading your Earthsea stories for 28 years now..I found the trilogy at an American bookstore when I lived in France. In many ways, as great art does in pivotal episodes of our lives, it reeled me in and set me to flying. I saw myself in Ged, in his story of the shadow, in his natural devotion to his delight, his magic. I found and continue to find peace in your story. My own life..mirrored by so much by your wizards-I wish I could write more stories of other adventures in the archipelago. I wish you would tell us about more of his adventures. But that is long ago now..that impetus.
    I hope I am not out of line.. the Harry Potter thing.. so much simply lifted from Earthsea.. the abused child taken to the wizard school. The details of the lessons, even the fountain where the archmage, the head of the school sits.
    The fact that their nemesis were blond classmates and that ultimately the enemy they both pursue is themselves…it was offensive to me that so many details come from your book She must have liked it very much. I wanted to tell you though that Your work is of a depth because it is inspired creation, not creative imitation, with that a depth that can touch people souls. And this makes it timeless.
    I am a musician Ursula. And while I wish you happy birthday up there in rainy Vancover (my family is from Olympia) I want you to know I am thrilled that you might read this while hothouse still walk this particular earth, time, light. Thank you. ps. You should get more help going to the store.

  28. Sorry that was supposed to say while hothouse us still walk this earth, time and light. Thank you .

  29. My dear Me. LeGuin
    How lucky to read your blog on the eve of my own 60th birthday. I have been reading your Earthsea stories for 28 years now..I found the trilogy at an American bookstore when I lived in France. In many ways, as great art does in pivotal episodes of our lives, it reeled me in and set me to flying. I saw myself in Ged, in his story of the shadow, in his natural devotion to his delight, his magic. I found and continue to find peace in your story. My own life..mirrored by so much by your wizards-I wish I could write more stories of other adventures in the archipelago. I wish you would tell us about more of his adventures. But that is long ago now..that impetus.
    I hope I am not out of line.. the Harry Potter thing.. so much simply lifted from Earthsea.. the abused child taken to the wizard school. The details of the lessons, even the fountain where the archmage, the head of the school sits.
    The fact that their nemesis were blond classmates and that ultimately the enemy they both pursue is themselves…it was offensive to me that so many details come from your book She must have liked it very much. I wanted to tell you though that Your work is of a depth because it is inspired creation, not creative imitation, with that a depth that can touch people souls. And this makes it timeless.
    I am a musician Ursula. And while I wish you happy birthday up there in rainy Vancover (my family is from Olympia) I want you to know I am thrilled that you might read this while Both of us
    still walk this particular earth, time, light. Thank you. ps. You should get more help going to the store.

  30. Sorry. The correction was wrong. I’m writing on the kindle which some times does its own editing. Both of us. Not hothouse.

  31. Happy birthday (I’m a bit late). Thank you for so many years of pleasure with so many wonderful characters, and for teaching me not to be afraid of death.

  32. Dear Mrs. Le Guin,

    For more than 20 years since I’ve discovereed you, you have been my hero, my guide and my favorite author of all times. About the lack of car accesss situation, did you think of getting a segway/electric scooter? Just an idea.

    With my best regards and love,