alexandra alger


Archive for the month “January, 2015”

As I gaze into the empyrean….

It’s been a while since I’ve run across a word that’s made me sit up and take notice. Here’s one: empyrean.

It’s another word for heavenly or celestial. It specifically refers to the highest reaches of the heavens, a sphere composed of pure fire or light, according to ancient and medieval cosmology, so says Merrriam-Webster online.

Empyrean. Em-peer-ee-an. Oxford Dictionaries online provides a list of rhyming words, most of which (oddly but amusingly enough) derive from Greek mythology or geography: Caribbean, Cyclopean, Fijian, Herculean, Sisyphean, Tanzanian…Oxford, how about just any word that ends with the sound “ee-an”?

Wiki tells me I’d know this word if I’d gotten around to reading Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Oh, well. As it happens I found this word in Anthony Doerr’s mesmerizing All the Light We Cannot See. At least I think I did—for the life of me I cannot re-find it, even though I’m sure it was used to describe the 133-carat diamond that is both a wonder in the novel and a wonder of the novel.

Empyrean. It can be used as a noun (the empyrean) or an adjective (and there’s also empyreal). I wonder if I can figure out how I can use it without sounding pretentious. Doerr can get away with it, because he’s a gorgeous writer. He doesn’t use many fancy words; he uses the right words. If you haven’t read this book, try to!

France and its Petty Problems (Joke!)

For anyone who’s interested, I’ve made progress on my resolutions! I’ve thrown out several stacks of old papers and board proceedings. It was easy, and so gratifying…I really have to do it on a more regular basis! I’ve also weeded out my closet, which was even more gratifying. After agonizing on this blog about whether I could really toss items like the skirt I wore on my wedding day and not since, the tossing was surprisingly easy. Something about writing it down—and then Lara wrote in her encouragement (thanks again, Lara!). My desk is still an utter mess, but at least now I can see all those other clothes that I forgot I had.Yes, I realize that if I forgot I had them then I haven’t been wearing them and should be chunking them, too, but I’m choosing to think these are blouses (mostly blouses, oddly) as new additions to my wardrobe. We’ll see how that works out.

It’s a gorgeous Saturday, I’m over the flu that laid me low for a few days, and I’m going to write. If I could just stop reading stories about what’s going on in France. I knew that anti-Semitism was on the rise in France—the odious National Front party, both anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant, gaining support—and I knew French Muslims were living the lives of an underclass, apart from real opportunity. I say “know” about these problems, meaning I’d read about them. Read about them, and forgotten them, as one reads and forgets about news stories all the time. And now the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket have made all these issues painfully real.

As per a new anti-terrorism law, the French are now arresting and incarcerating people who make or post comments supporting terrorism—a guy who yelled support for the Hebdo terrorists getting six months. This is the wrong tack. I’m not against taking measures to criminalize hate speech, but throwing people who are likely just idiot loud-mouths into prison isn’t going to prevent further terrorist attacks. Muslims need improved economic and social mobility in France—that’s the longterm solution. I don’t know how much will there is among other French to give it them, though. The future for Jews in France is grim, too. French authorities say they can protect their Jewish citizens. Can they? Day in and day out? It’s surreal, the idea that they need to be protected at all.

Now I’ve got to get my head back into writing. Oh—first lunch. I worry about the world, but I’m also a master of procrastination.


I’ve read that 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. That’s it? Fewer than half of us? I admit I’m not as formal about resolution-making as I once was. As a kid U made a list of resolutions every year. I have absolutely no recollection of what those resolutions were, year after year, or how actively I set about meeting them, or if I meet any of them. They were probably boringly benign, like “Get better at ballet,” or “Write Grammy more often”—the kind of stuff that would withstand an accidental parental reading. I wouldn’t be fool enough to put in writing anything I desperately hoped for, like “Get a boyfriend,” the one wish that would consume my adolescence.(I was finally able to check that off the mental list when I was seventeen).

But writing something down can be powerful, and I’ve realized that years of not making formal resolutions have left me in a state of severe disorganization. In the interest of clearing my head for the important stuff (like being able to concentrate on becoming a better writer) I have to clear out the clutter that’s taken over every surface in my immediate vicinity. Piles of papers—clippings, financial statements, manuscript pages, old bills that need filing. It’s a morass I have been avoiding for… umm…years? I can hardly bear to acknowledge how long these piles have been accumulating! I have to get rid of them—asap! I can’t possibly take all year, or even all month.

Resolution #1: Read and file papers on chest of drawers. (Yes, it’s gotten so bad I have a pile next to my jewelry box.) Alternatively: Read and throw out papers on bureau.

Resolution #2: Throw away or do something with the stacks of papers, binders and books on the floor of my office. I’m super bored at the idea of going through them—but I’ve got to do it!

And then there’s the issue of the clothes clogging my side of the closet. Button-downs that seemed so useful at first and now look kind of dorky. (I think my shoulders are too rounded, or something). Sleeveless summer blouses that are too…sleeveless. The dress I bought online that is too revealing and I never got around to returning. (Originally I thought it might not be too revealing. Then I realized I couldn’t possibly wear it ANYWHERE unless I went into the escort business.) What’s the rule of thumb: Throw away anything you haven’t worn in two years? I’m paralyzed by the thought I will then have very few clothes—which is irrational, since I wear tend to wear the same jeans and t-shirts over and over again.

But there’s the question of sentimental value. What to do with that dress I wore at my sister’s wedding sixteen years ago but haven’t worn since? Wouldn’t it be a sort of betrayal to give it away? How about the red linen skirt that was part of my going-away outfit after my own marriage, twenty years ago?

The wheels are turning, rational arguments coming to the fore. It’s not like I’m throwing away my wedding dress—my modest New Year’s goals do not hide marital disarray. (Now that’s an interesting premise for a story, isn’t it? Under what circumstances—other than divorce—would a woman toss her wedding dress?)

Resolution #3: Throw out clothes not worn for two years. (Or most of them.)

I feel better already. Tomorrow I’ll get down to it. This month for sure. I mean it. IMG_1680

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