And the optical gnomes have not yet returned my lost glasses. Damn gnomes. Just call me Squinty J. Kiernan.
Someone, I can't recall who, asked last week if the reason for the trip to Alafrellingbama was too personal to talk about. At the time, I sort of felt it was and didn't answer. But now I will, but with a proviso. I do not make a habit of discussing my health problems here. It's just not something I feel comfortable doing. However, the reason I went to Alafrellingbama has a lot to do with why I have not made any sort of public appearance since Fiddler's Green (Minneapolis, November '04), so I have decided it is not out of place here. I likely will not mention this again, though.
Anyway, I have always had difficult feet. For my height, they are much too small, too short, with uncommonly high arches. My doctor says to blame my Japanese heritage (she says that sort of thing all the goddamn time). In the winter of '03-'04, I began to have peculiar sensations in both my feet, and soon thereafter severe shooting, stabbing pains radiating out from the balls of my feet along my big toe and my second toe. This went on through the summer of '04, and in October '04, the pain was replaced by numbness and tingling, swelling, then more pain, and so forth. By the winter of '04-'05, the condition worsened dramatically and for several months it was difficult to walk without a cane. Since then, my feet have been very, very gradually improving. But I have weeks that are so bad I want to just give up and buy a goddamn wheelchair. Always have I been a moderately to very active person, and I often prided myself on moving with a certian grace borne of years of dancing and rock climbing. However, this condition has made me clumsy and inactive. I have spent the last couple of years trying to treat it myself, with mixed results. My doctor believes, as do Spooky and I, that is tarsal tunnel syndrome, though I have so far declined the somewhat invasive (and expensive) tests that would determine if this is, indeed, the correct diagnosis. Very few people were told of this problem — my mom, my lit agent, Neil, Poppy, Sonya, Byron, Jim and "Hannah," Spooky's parents. That's about it. So, that is why I had to go to Birmingham, and why I have made no public appearances since 2004 (I have sometimes offered other excuses), and why I talk so often about taking walks (as the walks are part of my physical therapy, though more for the rest of my body than my feet). Now, having said all this, I would ask that readers please, please, please refrain from offering their own diagnoses and/or suggested treatments. Though I know you'd mean well, I would only find such things very annoying and ignore them. I am in more than capable hands, and slowly it would seem I am getting better.
I thought I'd post some photographs from Wednesday, tornado day. Late in the afternoon, I became fidgety, having been cooped up in my Mom's house all day waiting for twisters to descend upon us, and finally I talked Spooky into a drive through Leeds, the town where I spent most of my childhood. We drove by the high school (one of two I attended), but it had been evacuated because of the tornadic threat. I looked around, even opened a door and peered inside. There was that intensely eerie feeling of backwards time-travel I get when visiting places where I once spent so much of my life, but have not seen in many years. I was last at Leeds High School in May or June of 1980, I believe. So, this was really my first time back — discounting a couple of drive-bys — in twenty seven years! I was only sixteen the last time I set foot in that school. And yet it has changed in no way that I could discern, which only added to the eeriness. Had the place not been all but deserted, I might have summoned the courage to visit a couple of teachers, and wouldn't that have been surreal? Anyway, photos behind the cut, eleven of them, most by me. There's also an old cemetery I took Spooky to see, and a couple of our storage unit in Birmingham.
The guest room at my mom's house. She is a fanatical and talented quilter. A bit out of focus (the photo, not my mom).
This bathroom terrifies me, but before she retired, my mother was an editor at Southern Living, and this is her house, not mine.
Leeds High School, Home of the Green Wave.
I'm back! Front doors of the main school building, me peering inside. The notice taped to the doors explains that the school is closed on account of imminent tornadoes.
View through the front door, looking east. I swear, that's even the same potted plant from 1980.
Behind main school building, looking south. Stadium on the left. Note the ominous clouds.
Rear entrance, looking west. The wooden doors at the far end of the hallway are the same ones I was looking through in the fourth and fifth photos above.
In the Shiloh-Cumberland Cemetery (established about 1820) behind the old (and now abandoned) Shiloh Presbyterian Church. This view is northeast, towards the Little Cahaba River.
The Shiloh-Cumberland Cemetery, looking east. Spooky loved this place. For Alabama, this is an old cemetery.
Yesterday afternoon, inside the warehouse where I have a storage unit. This is quite literally "The Long Hall on the Top Floor." If you've read that story (in Tales of Pain and Wonder), this is the building and the hallway that inspired it. Looking east.
All the stuff I have no room for at home. Mostly fossils, paleo' equipment, books, eBay stock, files, and suchlike.
All photographs Copyright © 2007 Caitlín R. Kiernan and Kathryn A. Pollnac.
I need to go catch up on my e-mail, but I do want to thank Pat Hawkes-Reed (girfan) for sending me the marvelous UK "Lesser Octopus" stamp (as well as the accompanying postcard set). I just got the package this ayem. I love getting mail from England. Also, I wanted to mention that Cemetery Dance Publications now appears, at long last, to be taking preorders for Thrillers 2, the anthology which includes two longish short stories by me — "The Daughter of the Four of Pentacles" and "Houses Under the Sea." Both these stories were written way back in the spring of 2003, and Sirenia Digest readers should note that the story Sonya (sovay) and I wrote together, "In the Praying Windows," is a sort of sequel to "Houses Under the Sea." "The Daughter of the Four of Pentacles" is a prequel to Daughter of Hounds. Unless I miss my guess, John Myroshnychenko's cover painting for Thrillers 2 is also an illustration from "Houses Under the Sea." Thanks to Robert Morrish for the heads-up. Finally, we still have a copy of The Five of Cups on eBay, and Spooky will be adding more items soon.
Postscript (3:28 p.m. CaST) — Byron just called to say that it wasn't optical gnomes. He stole my glasses. They will be listed on eBay, says he, as the "Magickal Write Like Caitlín Kiernan Spectacles." Only 80 bazillion dollahs. I think he also stole shampoo and toilet paper. So, the gnomes are off the hook. For now...