Category Archives: Ramblings

A dollop of reality in my cup of fiction

It’s funny. I have never been good at keeping a journal, and so this blog has been something of a stand-in for me. Now I can look back and be reminded of where I have been, and how little I have learned. I still need reminding of these things.

“Sir Arthur St. Clare, as I have already said, was a man who read his Bible. That was what was the matter with him. When will people understand that it is useless for a man to read his Bible …

Source: A dollop of reality in my cup of fiction


Easter Cathedral

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new ever morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’

…For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to to the children of men.”

Lamentations 3: 19-24, 31-33

I wanted to share images of the stunning cathedral where two friends and I held our Easter service. I have few words, for I am overwhelmed with joy, life and freedom! May my heart forever sing prai…

Source: Easter Cathedral


Echo in my soul

Another reflection from my early blogging. A little more flowery than my usual stuff, but no less true for that.

 

I never know when my soul will sing, nor always why it does. The feeling is one of contradiction. It calls for weeping and laughter mingled. Bittersweet is not the right word, as there is no bitter…

Source: Echo in my soul


Thanks

Today I reblog a prayer, as relevant to me today as it was the first day I wrote it.

Thanks once again, Lord, for the reminder of where my eyes should be.

Amen.

 

Thank You, Lord, for the rough country; for the times when my path is a struggle. Thank You for the blisters, bruised heel, and scrapes from my falls. Thank You for the travelers, of all kinds, aro…

Source: Thanks

independance rock chasm small


A Brief Political Rant

Of the kind those who know me (and only them) will expect.

I grew up on a dividing line. It used to be one where conversations were held. The conversations were usually civil. They rarely came to shouts or blows.

That doesn’t happen much anymore.

I know it can get worse. In the U.S. we’re not killing each other in large numbers. Yet. But from where I’m standing in No Man’s Land, it’s not hard to imagine the current insanity leading to slaughter. It’s happening in other places in the world, and our history is pock-marked with brutal conflict.

And here’s the thing that terrifies me: With all the Us vs. Them jargon being tossed about in the U.S. right now, almost no one seems to realize that we’re all in this together.

People are treating “them,” as absolute enemies. If they aren’t spewing hate and making threats then they’re jeering, mocking, belittling.

But countries are a unit, like a family. All families, like all countries, are a little dysfunctional. You don’t necessarily like your family members all the time, and you will not always agree with them, but if you start viewing each other as actual enemies, the dysfunction tears the family apart. In short, you cease to have a family.

It’s a pity we don’t have a national version of family counseling.

My point is that we really have two options.

Nationally, the U.S. is headed for a cliff. Not like lemmings (because lemmings are, despite popular belief, far too smart to follow each other off cliffs), but like humans who are so engrossed in fighting each other that they won’t step away from the edge, even though everybody knows we’re in trouble.

Education, poverty, healthcare, national debt, environmental issues, the list goes on… We have serious problems that need solving. And we’re far too busy fighting each other to even converse about how to solve anything.

So, speaking to my fellow U.S. citizens. Forget, for a moment, all political affiliation. Stop trying to figure out who’s side I’m on and ask yourself this:

Do you want the United States of America to continue to exist, or do you want us to go down in history as one more failed social experiment? Do you want us to be pointed at as proof that different people cannot live peaceably together? That ordinary folks can’t be trusted with the right to vote because it all goes to hell eventually? Do you want to be the scorn of the world?

Because that is where we are headed unless we can look “across the aisle” and see fellow citizens. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to agree with what they believe or what they say, but we do have to figure out how to converse with them again, and work with them, because the only other option is to lose our country.

Someone may read this who doesn’t care if the nation breaks apart. They may feel that “their” part of the country will be better off without the hated “them.” I have a hard time sympathizing with that kind of thought, because it’s reductive and naive. This country’s strength and health comes, and has always come, from the differences, the tension, the fact that we are forced to converse with and work with people who don’t share our views. Take that away, and homogeneity will emphasize the weaknesses in each position until we collapse. Those people you hate, also happen to be the people you need the most.

I can already hear the clamor of excuses. The “he started it!” “No I didn’t! She did!” juvenile accusations. Let me get one thing straight: I DON’T CARE. I don’t care who did what, I don’t care what horrible things will happen if “they” get their way. I’ve already heard it, and it is all beside the point.

What I want is people to put themselves in time-out until they calm down. Then I want them to get over themselves and start holding conversations in which they don’t simply talk, but also listen. I want this nation to become functional again.

…And yes, I know it’s highly unlikely that I will get what I want. But we did survive the Civil War mostly intact. I’ve touched artillery-pocked stone that proves it. Maybe, just maybe we can get through this bout of screaming insanity without so much destruction and bloodshed.

And a side-note to friends and readers in other countries. Yes, humanity is like a family, too… even more screwed up than my nation is right now. What happens to some of us, affects all of us. I’m sorry if the dysfunction in my country is affecting you right now.

 

P.S. On a lighter note (and a complete non sequitur) Tracy J. Butler of Lackadaisy created some hilariously disturbing valentines this year. Go forth and enjoy them.


Time is Scarce

She liiiiives!
Update on Jubilare: I have, for a month now, been working only one job. I am financially poorer, but richer in pretty much every other way now. It’s great!
I have been absent here because, after over a year of working 2 jobs, I was worn out. Since then it’s been because I am playing catch-up on things, and my MonsterMuse has been ferociously active. Spring is here, I have crocus and my favorite variety of daffodils. I have planted sweet-peas, radishes and turnips. I am in good health, and so, thank God, is the rest of my family.

The fly in my ointment is that I miss this blog, and everyone who reads it, and all the blogs I read. I need to ease back in slowly, though, so that I don’t over exert myself. So, for a while, I will be re-blogging old posts from when I first started rambling here. It does me good to backtrack, sometimes, and reconsider things I’ve said in the past. And I hope you all will enjoy the wandering, too.

jubilare

But I will offer a quote which I have been mulling over from G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy as well as some of my mullings.

“No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on. Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a pagan to die for the world and enough of a Christian to die to it?”

Simultaneous fanatical pessimism and fanatical optimism… the words do not, in…

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And the heart of the Earth a star

Merry Christmas to all my readers who, by virtue of my utter strangeness, are also wonderfully strange (otherwise you’d just shake your head and move on). I love you! ^_^

A Child of the Snows

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

-by G. K. Chesterton

And here is my reading of it.


Obligatory Star Wars: The Force Awakens post

Spoilers! Do not read this until you’ve seen the film or don’t care about being spoiled.
That said, thank you, Josh, for writing such a great review! Josh’s view is very close to mine (he is a bit kinder to ep VII than I would be), so I will be lazy and instead of posting my own thoughts, I will give you all his. ^_^

Res Praeclarae

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_Poster

Warning! Danger! Clicking below the fold will result in the new Star Wars being spoiled for you! Oh no! Avert your eyes! Whatever you do, don’t click!

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Christmas Carols and Mental Illness

How is that for a clickbate title?

No, I am not suggesting a correlation. It’s more like I am combining things.

Today I happened upon this: No, I’m Fine

It won’t take long to read it, so go read it! If it doesn’t ring a bell with you, it may still help you understand what some other people face.

I’ve overloaded before. I can’t say if my overloads are like his because I’m not in Mr. Tayler’s head, but what he says is hauntingly familiar. When the stress ratchets up to a level that flips a particular switch in my brain, a kind of pressure-valve, I change. It’s usually caused either by sensory overload (there is a reason I avoid noisy concerts and large masses of people…) or from having too much to do. Being single means that, apart from the kindness of family and occasionally friends, I have to do All The Things myself. And there are a Lot of Things. I tremble when I try to imagine what it’s like for single parents!

This is different from my depression, but not unrelated. The stress can either tip me into overload (more violent, but shorter lived), or depression. That is, the machine either executes an emergency release of pressure, or it simply shuts down. As a friend and I recently said over e-mail, depression sucks. She, dear heart, is grieving. That is a monster of a trigger.

Side Note: if you’re wondering why I refer to my brain as if it’s made of gears and pipes and switches, it’s because it helps me give context to the things that happen in it over which I have no control. And if you don’t buy the idea that I have no control over some processes in that particular fleshy mass, then you really need to educate yourself on how mental illness works. If you can “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” or “cheer yourself up,” then you are dealing with the more unpleasant aspects of normal human emotion. Real depression, or anxiety, or other mental afflictions are not in that range. They are what happens when something goes wrong with the machinery. If you haven’t experienced what that’s like, then the best thing you can do is listen to those who have and believe them.

For my friend who is grieving, this is a hard time. It’s a hard time for a lot of people. I know of a family who recently and unexpectedly lost a child around the same age as my nephew. My heart broke when I heard about it, and it’s been breaking off and on ever since. I can’t imagine what that must be like. How hollow the season of comfort and joy must feel for them right now. How they might want it to go away, to leave them alone. Please remember them in your prayers.

Cheery stuff for around Christmas, I know. As it turns out, I’m stressed right now, but otherwise pretty even-keeled. I’ve had a few small overloads, but no depression. I am extremely blessed to be able to say that, and I am on-my-knees grateful.

Still, this does not look like it will be a lighthearted season for me this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (though I do like to have a lighthearted Christmas, when I can). Sure, this is a time for rejoicing that Our Lord came and took human form for our sakes, but isn’t part of that rejoicing a recognition of why He came? Why we needed Him so very badly, and why His coming was not only Good News, but the only possible Good News a world like ours can receive? That the Perfect Creator would take up weakness, vulnerability, grief, pain, and not only death, but seeming-abandonment by God Himself. For if ever we feel so abandoned or forgotten, we can still look to Him and realize that He, too, cried out “why have You forsaken Me?”

And then He overcame. He rose even from that darkness and death. God had not truly abandoned God, as He has not truly abandoned us. And He is still bringing us up along with Him. He came down to our level in order to lift us up from that mire. I think that is very Good News. And seeing the mire around me only highlights just how Good.

Hope is born in human flesh, in a cave filled with animals, and that is our comfort and our joy.

And now, yet again, my Carol Countdown from 2013.

December 1: O Magnum Mysterium – Nothing says Christmas like 16th Century Latin

December 3: Away in a Manger – probably not the version you know…

December 6: Hearth and Fire – more winter than Christmas, but lovely

December 8: Balulalow – A joyful song from Scotland

December 10: Don Oiche ud ImBethil – Softer, more meditative fare. It gives me chills.

December 13: Cantique de Noel – You may know this as “O Holy Night” but I dare say that it is far more beautiful in French, especially with Joan Baez’s voice

December 15: Beautiful Star of Bethlehem – Twangy country Christmas music, and a fine example

December 17: Brugundian Carol – a softer, more mellow folk carol

December 20: Third Carol for Christmas Day – hauntingly beautiful song from the 1700’s

December 22: Veni, Veni Emmanuel – I love “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in any language, but there is something of crystal-beauty to the words in Latin.

December 24: Go, Tell it on the Mountain – The incomparable Odetta, what more can I say?

December 25: Christmas in the Trenches – And finally, the Christmas offering. It’s pretty self-explanatory

Love and blessings to you all! And Peace, and Joy, and every good thing.


Fallen Writer

~*GASP!*~

What is this? An original post? It can’t be!

Well… to some extent, it isn’t. The first part of this post was written a year and a half ago. The quoted text is not how I currently feel, so no prayers or sympathies are needed for depression as I am not presently in a depression (prayers and sympathy for stress, however, will be much appreciated!). The insights I apparently had during that grim time, though, are still relevant to my mind, and as I did not post it back when, I have decided to post it now and tie it in with my present thoughts.

And, uh, Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday-of-your-persuasion! It doesn’t look like I will be doing much Christmas-posting, but I will, again, re-post my carol countdown for any who are interested. :)

I am going through some stuff right now. Nothing is “wrong,” but then my brain chemistry doesn’t really care. It never has.

It’s moods like this that make me want to burn down the world. Luckily for me, and everyone else, global immolation is not in my power. Besides, I would probably remember who and what I love in time to stop me, even if it was.

Depression will pass. It always does. I have learned the hard way that the dimness of the world I see right now is no more real than if I were staring at it through rose glass.

If only knowing were feeling.

Different established aspects of the characters I write become more or less real to me depending on my mood, at least in the abstract.

I have found that I do not need to understand a character for them to reveal themselves in my writing, but the insights I get when I am not writing can help me see the “big picture,” what the characters themselves do not see. You know how we, as people, are often too “close” to our own lives to see ourselves objectively? It seems characters are usually like that, too.

Anyway, I’ve known for a long while that I am dealing with two protagonists who have a (mostly unconscious) deathwish. They have forgotten how to love themselves in the way that allows a person to really love their neighbors. In contrast, I have a protagonist who “loves his life” (John 12:25) so much that he is willing to do nearly anything to survive. Right now I can clearly see the irony of the fact that all three are, despite their differences, self-destructive.

If they change, it will be painful, but then processes that create lasting change are ALWAYS painful. Break the twisted bone so that it can heal straight. Even my dull-dark mood is not enough to hide from me the beauty and joy inherent in redemption.

Cheery stuff, no? Though I do touch on eucatastrophe at the end. It relates, in an acute-angle kind of way to what I will say next.

My stories, all of them, are rife with questions of redemption: what it is, what it means, how it works, if it works, what happens when it doesn’t come into play, etc. Being part of a Fallen race, the question is of deep importance to me.

What I’ve been pondering lately, in a more balanced frame of mind, is how to deal with the concept of Fallen Humanity in-story.

Stories are funny things, aren’t they? So many varieties, and yet so many common notes.

My genre is, I guess, Fantasy Fiction (or speculative fiction, if you want a bigger umbrella). Not particularly High or Low, Heroic or Dark. In fact, running down the list of sub-genres, I’m not sure where it falls. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, by the way. Some of the best (and worst) fantasy fiction out there plays to type.

The reason is that each type has its aim and the formulas work. If you want a peanut-butter milkshake, you use ice-cream, milk, peanut-butter, and maybe some chocolate syrup. You don’t add chicken soup, or gravel.

So, I am not writing dark, cynical fantasy because my aim isn’t deconstruction. But most of the alternatives have heroes that, while flawed, are still… well… heroic. And their villains are villainous. And I look at them and wonder: how much difference is there, really?

In one sense, of course, there is a vast difference. I am not attempting to diminish the importance of choice and freewill. But the Fall cuts through everyone. In a sense, it brings us all close together, even if we’re together in bondage. I may cheat, or lie, and another person may commit mass murder, but without salvation, we’ve both walked through the gates: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.”* If we both find salvation, we both find salvation, regardless of what we’ve done. In this sense, at least, there are no levels.

We’re all sinners. But the world, as a whole, rarely seems to agree. There’s a persistent feeling (one that I have to fight in myself) that some things just aren’t forgivable. That some marks, once made, are indelible.

So what does this mean for my writing? I guess it means that I’m walking a fine line. On one hand, I want my reader to like and sympathize with the “good guys,” to be horrified by the destruction wrought by their antagonists, and for the two sides to be quite clear (well, most of the time, anyway). But without ever being able to forget that the degree of separation is not as wide as it seems. I’m not necessarily talking about anti-heroes or anti-villains. I’m not exactly dealing in gray and gray morality.

I guess, maybe, I’m asking how we approach the Fall. How, if we believe in true Good and Evil (as I do,) and know that we’re Not Good (yeah, that too), do we view those whose Not-Goodness horrifies us?

I know that, for a lot of people who share my faith, this may sound stupidly obvious, but I’ve always believed that the obvious needs saying sometimes: I feel like this is Important. Not just on an intellectual level, but on an emotional one.

How do we love our enemies? How do we face mass murder, exploitation, corruption, and cruelty? We must condemn these things because we know them to be evil. To excuse or ignore them in a story, as in real life, would be a sin. But in real life we’re forbidden to judge the perpetrators. Part of that may be because of our human limitations. We can’t really understand our fellows. But maybe it’s also because, when we come right down to it, “we” are not as far from “them” as we would like to think.

To an ant the size of a pin-head, an ant the size of  a bean seems huge. To a human they’re both very small, nearly the same size, even.

The Fall makes us all ants.

And so, dear possible-future-reader, if you ever think it strange that I touch on a monster with sympathy, or deal harshly with a protagonist for a comparatively “small” fault, remember that it isn’t because I’m a relativist.

It’s because I’m not.

 


 

*Dante’s Inferno – “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.”


 


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