Tag Archives: October

Silent Photograph

Consider this proof of life! I have my wits and my fingers, still. I will return more consistently, and soon, I hope. I miss my friends here.

I offer a snippet for BeKindRewrite’s InMon, for the prompt Silent Photograph. It is very short.

Enjoy!

 

On every world where creatures have both sight and sapience, the technology follows: translating light into matter.
Lens, mirror, silver nitrate, ammonium thiosulfate… It’s easy to take it for granted once it becomes commonplace. But I think when people see it for the first time, they know the truth of it.
Photography is witchcraft.
I smirk, but I mean it.
Go on, roll your eyes. I know you want to.
Then stop and think for a moment. You take a camera, point it towards some map of light and take your exposure. What have you done? You have frozen a moment of light that will never come again and trapped it in static silence.
Think of all the photographs taken. How many outlive those who know what they are, or why? They lose context, they lose names, they become nothing but a static, silent record of light.
Yet you laugh at the thought that a camera captures essence and soul.
Take your shot.
The camera will be more honest than your eyes, if less sensitive. It will record exactly what it sees.
There. You have the record, my essence trapped in silence. I don’t envy you, in that darkroom, when you finally see what you have caught.
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Fullmetal Alchemist: Backtracking

2 things about me that will explain this geektastic post.

Thing 1: I have a casual appreciation for Japanese manga and anime. I have zero expertise and a limited field of knowledge.

I think the graphic-novel medium walks a fascinating line between visual art and writing. I was moaning to my father, just recently, that certain transitions are only possible in picture form. One powerful moment in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga shows characters talking about seeing a friend again, unaware (unlike the reader) that said friend has just been murdered, and the next image on the page-turn shows pallbearers shouldering the casket. Ouch.

No matter how well I write, that kind of visceral immediacy is out of reach. There are things words do that images cannot, but sometimes a picture beats a sea of words.

But like any medium, the quality of manga and anime ranges from what I consider crap, to great storytelling and highly skilled and artistic creations. There’s a lot that I enjoy that I wouldn’t go so far as to praise.

Thing 2: I backtrack. I return to things, I re-read, I re-watch, and I am endlessly fascinated by how works strike me differently over the course of time.


If you don’t want to slog through this whole post, or if you already know the difference between the 2003-04 “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,” then you can skip down past the picture of Roy burning things to find my geeky gushing. But don’t worry, I have avoided spoilers.


Having not watched any anime or read any manga for a while, I decided to backtrack and re-watch some of the things I had seen in the past. It’s been fun and enlightening. But while I was muddling about, I discovered that there was a new (newer than the one I had seen, anyhow,) “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime, with the word “Brotherhood” tacked onto the end of the title to differentiate it from the first one.

For those unfamiliar with the title, Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) was originally a manga created by Arakawa Hiromu and published in serial form in “Monthly Shōnen Gangan” magazine. Attempting to describe it is challenging, but I would say it is an alternate-earth, steam-punk, science-based-magic, conspiracy adventure involving a large cast of characters. It also has a huge emotional range, but more on that anon.

I had mixed feelings about the 2003-2004 anime, and at the time the manga was still incomplete. I was drawn to the characters, interested in the world, and for a while, excited to see where the story was heading. I was ultimately disappointed. Perhaps my expectations don’t mesh well with Japanese storytelling patterns, but I often am disappointed in the conclusion of Japanese anime series.  I still growl when anyone mentions “Neon Genesis Evangelion” to me. My loathing of that series is only increased by the elements in it that I liked.

So, the original “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime left a bad taste in my mouth, but I liked it enough to be curious about this new installment.

Something that often seems to happen with a popular manga is that in order to ride the hype, an anime-adaptation is created before the series is complete. This either results in wheel-spinning, original (non-manga) side-stories, or, in the case of “Fullmetal Alchemist(FMA),” a divergence of the anime from the manga. Since Arakawa was still working on the manga when the first anime emerged, the series took her beginning and proceeded to a different conclusion.

This made me more curious. Was my dissatisfaction related to the loss of the original creator’s vision? Further investigation was required. I re-watched the original series in order to refresh my memory, then I began simultaneously reading the manga and watching “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood(FMAB).”

Holy handgrenade.

This is where the gushing begins. For starters, Colonel Roy Mustang (fun fact: Arakawa named most of the soldiers after military weapons and vehicles) gets to Kill it with Fire so much more in FMAB than in FMA, and I do love fire. Behold this awesome fan-art of Roy by astridv on deviant art.

Roy Mustang Color Sketch, by astridv: http://astridv.deviantart.com/art/Roy-Mustang-color-sketch-164882535

Used with permission: Roy Mustang Color Sketch, by astridv: http://astridv.deviantart.com/art/Roy-Mustang-color-sketch-164882535

Muahaha!

Anyhow, it turns out that Arakawa has a gift for weaving together emotional depth and humor, frequently making me laugh and tear up within the span of just a few pages. It’s mood-whiplash, but she does it so well that I wouldn’t think of suing over my injuries. FMAB has the same wild balance and it is extremely addictive. I am trying not to be jealous of this gift for tone-shift. It is one I would love to have, but alas!

Then, of course, there are the characters. I was initially drawn to the characters in the FMA anime, too, but some of my favorites were underdeveloped.  In fact, I’d say that most of the characters in that anime are underdeveloped, though a few of them (hello, Envy) take some interesting turns. In FMAB and the manga, that is not the case. Oh man, is it not the case. And there are even more fantastic characters introduced who are also well-developed. Characters that were dismissed or killed in FMA are shown to have more to them, even, believe it or not, Yoki.

We are given a wide variety of interconnected relationships and a level of complexity that I find fulfilling. Yes, the story still centers around the sibling bond of Edward and Alphonse Elric (as well it should), but it is ultimately an ensemble piece with numerous interlocking storylines.

Arakawa is a writer after my own heart for this simple fact: She takes characters that other writers might shove to the sidelines and makes them important. I feel as if every one of them is the protagonist of their own story and that, if she had focused on them instead of the Brothers Elric, she would still have had a complete and fulfilling tale (though some of them would, of course, be tragedies).

I can’t often say that. And that is how I want to write. That is also the kind of story I most enjoy reading.

Her antagonists have depth and her protagonists are complex and dynamic to the point where, at the end of the story, I hate to close the book (or turn off the screen) and miss out on the rest of their lives.

Arakawa’s plot is no mean feat, either. The FMA anime had a plot that made some sense, but that felt rather empty. The manga and FMAB, though, pull together something that feels natural for the setting and that grows up out of the history and the characters like an oak from an acorn. It’s solid. And the point made, at the end, is the story itself.

Brava.

My love for this bit of fan-art defies words. “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in a Nutshell,” by Inknose on DeviantArt: http://inknose.deviantart.com/art/FMA-brohood-in-a-nutshell-196091887


Creative Blogger Award!

I have received an award nomination from Medieval Otaku! My thanks, sirrah. I am honored.

Creative. It’s a loaded word. I’ve often wondered what, exactly, it means. The dictionary definitions are, in this case, unhelpful. When I am called creative, it usually seems to be because I’ve synthesized things that I have absorbed into something related, but a little different. That’s pretty much all this blog is. There is nothing new here, really, just combinations of words expressing things that have come from my pondering of the external information to which I’ve been exposed. …Try to say that five times fast.

I think Tolkien’s idea of Sub-creation is fitting. I am a subcreative blogger and as such I am happy to accept this award! There are some rules involved:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • Share 5 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers and add their links.
  • Notify the bloggers you included.
  • Keep the rules in your post to make it easy for everyone to know what to do!

Oh boy. Five facts. MedievalOtaku chose to focus his facts, concentrating on his alcohol preferences. I will follow suit and focus on my own drug of choice: writing. Read on, if you can pass the gatekeeper.

A visualization of my muse. Watch your fingers.

A visualization of my muse. Watch your fingers.

Factoid 1: Universal

Everything I write arises from the same universe. That universe has been in my head since early childhood and over that time it has expanded and clarified itself, but it is otherwise largely unchanged. If I am capable of writing in another universe (I’m not sure that I am,) I am not interested in doing so. This may be why I don’t write fanfiction despite the fact that I love geeking out over various fandoms.

Also, the universe is so vast that I am capable of finding something to draw on in order to tell almost any kind of story.

Factoid 2: Guardian

My relationship to my internal universe, and therefore to my writing, is not and has never been one of creator or owner. For, while there are certain creator-like privileges I have, such as being outside the timeline, my role is fairly passive. A dear cousin of mine recently told me that I had “disassociated,” and perhaps she is right. I still consider myself responsible for what I write (I know that, on some level, it all comes from me) but the process is distanced from my conscious self.

I am the one who decides what stories to tell, how to frame them, and how to communicate them as effectively as possible. The stories themselves, though, seem to well up and spill over. They are not consciously constructed. …if you think this is getting weird, just wait.

Factoid 3: Characters

They’re, by and large, a rowdy bunch. Like the universe they come from, any control I have over them and their creation is largely subconscious. I can nudge them this way and that, but as often as not they will simply laugh in my face and do whatever they please.

Since I started writing seriously, around the age of 12, I do not recall ever constructing a character, not even a bit-parter. They either walk into my head and start introducing themselves, or else they show up on paper and I learn about them as I go along. Their existences are linked to how I process information. I can sometimes see what train of thought formed the roots of a character, or what external influence shaped them, but I never set out to build them.

Sometimes these characters even react to things going on in my real life (I have one that loves to snark at movies, and all of them are very reactive to music). I’ve said this before, but please don’t call the folks in white coats. I’m really not delusional. My characters will vouch for me. ;)

Having such independent characters means being frequently surprised. I have had a character display signs of a genetic disorder I didn’t (consciously) know existed until I began to research some of her symptoms, and another character recently displayed a form of PTSD that I didn’t know about until, again, I began to research what was happening to her. Fun times.

Factoid 4: Plot? What plot?

Yeah. This goes hand-in-hand with the character thing. Because, you see, it is difficult to plot a story when the characters are apt to do whatever the heck they want to at any time. I generally have a basic arc in mind (that the characters have shown me) but that’s it.

Instead, I let things flow then come back and figure out how to frame them in a way that makes a functional story. It’s about as hard as it sounds, but I am getting better at it. In other words, I don’t set out to tell a certain story, or to communicate something particular. I wind up discovering what the story is and discovering what it is communicating to me as I go along. It’s fun and addictive and I am not at all joking when I call writing my drug of choice!

Now, I know that I do have agendas as a writer. I will not deny that. I feel that non-sexual relationships and love are too-little explored in popular fiction. I feel that stereotyping is a huge problem in literature as in life. And most of all, I want to write the sorts of stories I would enjoy reading! I am sure all of these things feed into my inspiration. But it is not nearly as deliberate as some people think.

Here let me state that I am not trying to shirk responsibility for what I write. I am responsible for every word I let loose on the world (God have mercy!). But this is how I relate to my writing; what the process feels like to me.

Factoid 5: Process

Every writer has a process, and from what I can tell, no two are alike. Mine is heavily geared towards free-form followed by intensive and repeated editing. It doesn’t work for everybody.

At minimum, everything gets edited ten or fifteen times. My record for numbers of edits may come close to 100, but I stopped keeping count.

I have heard some people complain that editing deadens their writing. For me, the opposite is true. I think that my muse feeds on the editing process as much as on anything else because, when a piece is simply not coming together, repeated editing will bring about wonderful lightning-strikes of inspiration. Sometimes the edits are slight, tweaking a word here, or cutting something to tighten a paragraph. Sometimes they result in multiple-chapter-rewrites. It’s all good.

I love editing.

Now onto the awards!

BeKindRewrite – Yep, this one always seems to make it to my list. I love her writing and I love her thoughts on the process. Plus, she makes catchy songs about formatting manuscripts.

Bluewhimsywriting has been quiet for some time. It’s sad, but at least there is a backlog.

Dreaming of Other Realms – Has recently returned to her blog with renewed determination to continue writing fiction! I love the way her mind works.

Grimmella – A fascinating smattering of speculative-fiction things. She has a great aesthetic eye, and is delightfully opinionated.

Love the Badguy – because villains need love too.

Origamijoel – tessellation masks. I am in awe.

A Pilgrim in Narnia – This man’s discipline and range of communication are inspiring.

Res Studiorum et Ludorum – Has, I think, already received one of these, but it doesn’t matter. He shall have another. So say we all.

Technicolorlilypond – There are some people who have a completely unfair range of talents. This blogger is one of those people.

The Warden’s Walk – He has returned! Go forth to his blog and peruse his fiction, his reviews (I absolutely love his short-video reviews!) and other mysterious wanderings.

And that’s it, folks!


Raised by Dragons, and Other News

The Mythgard Institute’s Writing Contest, mentioned before, is still going strong. This week, Twitter Fiction! My muse growled at me last week, and it doesn’t seem to like 140 character limit of this week, but we will see if I can goad it into being poetic without losing fingers (or a limb). It has been voracious and unruly. It had me writing snippets from what will probably be book 4 or 5 of my W.I.P. when I’ve yet to complete books 1 and 2, though I should also blame one of the characters involved in that little detour. I’m looking at you, Kee, and shaking my fist. No, you cannot pacify me with cookies!

In the Mythgard contest I am thrilled to say that I won 1st runner up in week 1, and 2nd in week two! (Yeah, so much for keeping my name away from this blog, but hopefully I can bury this post, or at least edit it later). This means I get to be published in their special-edition e-book!  My 2nd entry for week 2 also made an honorable mention, and I will post it below for your reading enjoyment.

Is it weird that, in the face of all of this, my brain is trying to tell me that I can’t write anything worth printing? Because it is. Somehow, I think that brutal voice will follow me all of the days of my life no matter what comes of my scribbling.

Brenton Dickieson has also won the privilege of publication twice! You can read his devastating and humorous tales in the linked pdfs above, as well as the other fantastic winners. Enjoy the honorable mention: Mud, by my good friend, David. Hopefully a wonderful dragon story of his will be published to his blog soon, too. Other honorable mentions are being posted at the Oddest Inkling: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4. I don’t know the author of this one (though after reading this, I want to!) but it is brilliant: There is Not a Unicorn in the Bookstore. If any of y’all post a story for this contest to your blog, let me know because I want to link it here!

And now, for my own honorable mention. Sørina Higgins said that it made her cry, which is an overwhelming encouragement to me! Brandi, and anyone else who reads this who knows a certain dragon-connected wizard from my canon, here’s his origin story. I bet you didn’t know that fudge pie and E. A. Poe played such important roles in his wizardy history.

Raised by Dragons

At eighteen, my world popped like a bubble. I was standing in a cavern where I thought there was an ordinary basement laundry-room. That is what it had been the day before.

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In my hands I held my first grimoire, my birthday present, heavy and bound in old leather and brass filigree. In my ears echoed the revelation: “You have wizard’s blood in you. You have to choose. Leave this world, and follow your blood, or stay and ignore it forever.”

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But what held me rooted was the sight of my foster parents. Until yesterday, they were nothing if not ordinary. A middle-aged husband and wife, counselors for “at-risk youth.”

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“At risk” would be a mild description of me when I came to them. Before that, my life was a succession of strangers, some nice, some cruel, most in between. I ruined every good situation. There was too much anger and far too much fear to control.

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But they were different, strict, but also dauntless. After a while, when nothing I did seemed to rattle them, I settled in.

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Then the blackmail began. I hated reading. Books were boring. “Fairytale” meant “Disney,” and dragons were only tattoo designs.

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He handed me a book of short-stories and pointed one out. “We can discuss it over dessert.”

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What he meant was “if you can’t discuss this with us, there’ll be no dessert.”

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After months of similar extortion, he handed me Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” My foster-father smiled and said “we can discuss it over dessert. I’m thinking hot fudge pie and ice cream.”

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I wanted to punch his smug face, but I wanted that pie more, so I sat down to suffer through another story. I was bored, at first. Archaic language, weird names, references I didn’t get, and this mysterious “armadillo,” but, by the end, I was caught. No spoilers, but the gothic darkness of it all, the tension, the subtext, left me chilled and hungry for more. He had dog-eared several other stories, the beast. I read the next one. And another.

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After that, I looked forward to dessert discussions.

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As I approached eighteen, I feared I would have to make way for the next “at risk” kid.

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The night of my birthday, I came home to find my foster-mother waiting by the door. Without a word, she took my hand and led me to the basement stairs. I figured they had a surprise waiting. I wasn’t wrong.

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And then they stood before me in their true forms. Dragons are like living cathedrals, with wings of stained glass, Byzantine mosaics for flanks, smoking-censer mouths and eyes that glow with soft, prayer-candle light. I knew I could not go back.

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“I’ll follow my blood. Tell me how.”

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My foster-dragon-mother nosed the nearest cavern wall. It opened on a grassy field at night.

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A Mistake to Run

Happy Halloween, folks!
This is a snippet that came to me a while back as I considered part-one of my WIP. Whether or not it will appear in the finished work, who knows! I changed the names because, well, I’m not sure, yet, whether or not I want this blog linked to the work itself. I am rather of a mind to finish my work, try and get it published, then be hands-off. But that is just how I feel now. Who knows how I will feel when, and if, the time comes?
Anyway, here it is!

Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

The crickets were singing. Aubry lay awake, enjoying their rise and fall as if he would not hear it again for months. So late in the season, there was no telling when the first frost would cut them short.

One trilled in the corner of the cabin. A “thump” below told Aubry that ma or pa had thrown something at it. The inside-cricket was silent for a short time, then he started up again.

Aubry sighed. It was cozy under the thick quilt with his newly-adopted brother, Egan, curled up like a squirrel at his back. The small loft window stood open, letting a trickle of cool air move over his face.

Since the death of his last sister, years  back, he had forgotten what it was like to have a bedfellow. The extra warmth, the sound of soft breathing, and the occasional elbow or cold foot jabbed into his side were, at least for now, welcome things.

Sleep came smoothly, and dreaming too, like changes in the sky where gray becomes salmon and gold, then purple, then a luminous dark blue, and blue-black, swift yet gradual.

A chill crept into Aubry’s back, near his shoulder. He shifted, and felt something round and hard against him, cold, like a stoneware jug from the springhouse. He rolled away and turned to look.

What lay on the pallet beside him, where Egan should have been, was a gray, greasy-looking skeleton, still bound with shriveled strands of flesh. With a nearly silent, strangled cry, Aubry shuffled backwards until he was against the wall, next to the ladder. As he started to climb down, the corpse moved, rubbing at the remains of its face as if to wipe away sleep. It made a dull sound of bone on bone.

Aubry froze as it sat up, empty sockets turned to him. Moonlight from the window outlined the angles of its wagging jaw. He slid down the ladder and pulled it away from the loft before the thing could try and follow. His parents’ bed was empty.

At the door, he glanced back to the loft and saw the skeleton kneeling at the edge.

How lonesome.

The thought stung him unexpectedly, like the time he found Lily crying and realized that his teasing, along with the others, was the cause. But little Lily was pretty, when you really looked at her, and alive. The skeleton was cold and filthy, something that should be buried deep, or burned.

There had been a price to pay, learning to see Lily. He had gained a friend and a heartache, and found himself distanced from several of his oldest companions.

The skeleton clacked its jaws.

What’s the cost of this? To let it kill me?

     It had no tongue, or throat, or eyes for expression. Just a blank grin. Only the tilt of its skull and it’s shriveled hands gripping the edge of the loft gave it character. Was it saying “I want to get down and kill you” or “Are you going to leave me here alone?”

“What d’you want!” Aubry squeaked.

The corpse dropped down onto its creaking ribcage and reached out the remains of its hands.

Aubry stared at it, then fumbled for the door behind him and, opening it, ran out into the night.

The fort was as silent as a picture, full of gray and nothing. No wind, no crickets.

“Bear!” He called his dog, but nothing shuffled under the porch. Behind the closed door came a creaking, scraping sound.

With a groan, Aubry leaped off the porch and ran down the common.  Even his footfalls were swallowed into silence as he ran, but the scraping at his cabin door echoed out behind him.  He was scarce strong enough to open the main gate, even with the winch, so he made for the eastern one.

When he reached it, he paused to listen. There was nothing, no creak or clatter, just thick, congealed quiet.

In the dark, he fumbled for the latch and found it locked. He wrestled with it, fighting like a raccoon in a cage. The lock gave way and he burst through the gate into gray, silent fields.

He ran, and ran, past the pine grove, past Dorwich farm, down to the ford at High-bend creek.  There, at last, was sound, but it murmured defeat. The creek was up, too high to cross.

For the first and last time, he turned to look back.

There was nothing in sight.

Trees swayed, but did not rustle, grass moved in soft waves, but he could not hear the wind.

He realized, as he watched the empty fields, that running had been a mistake. The thing could now be anywhere, doing anything. He might live his whole life looking over his shoulder, wondering.

“Where’re you?! Come on out!”

Nothing. He backed away from the nearest tree, sat as close to the creek-bank as he dared, and tried to watch in all directions.

Then something grabbed and shook him. He lashed out, and someone caught his arm and smacked him across the face.

He startled awake. The waning moon was up and the shutters of the loft window were still open. He could see Egan kneeling beside him, holding his arm.

Aubry sat up, shivering, and rubbed his hands over his face. He looked over to see Egan’s crooked little smile.

“I get nightmares, too. Mostly that I’m still dyin in the shack and yall’re jus a dream.” He leaned towards the window and closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath. “If that happens t’ be so, I’d rather die dreamin.”

“I…” the fright was too near for Aubry to put it into words. He managed only “I dreamed you’as dead.”  That’s right, ain’t it? It was Egan. It was Egan, and I ran from ‘im ‘stead of tryin to help. Some brother that makes me.

Egan blinked at him.

“Boys?” Pa rumbled from down below. “Hush and get sleepin.”

“Yessir,” said Aubry. He patted Egan’s bony shoulder and lay down. Egan curled up and rested his shaved head against Aubry’s back. It was round and solid, but warm.

As Aubry drifted off to sleep, a chill moved over him, and brought him full awake. It was just a passing feeling, perhaps a  final shred of that horrible dream.



If you want more, or something different, here is my favorite spooky poem: https://jubilare.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/the-listeners/
and a spooky poem that I actually wrote: https://jubilare.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/gothic-galatea/

And, for fun, this is “Lily,” once she’s all grown up and sich: https://jubilare.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/voice-week-day-3/
One of the characters involved in this story eventually picks up a nightstick: https://jubilare.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/mystifying/
And this story is neither mine, nor is it related to any of the above, but I think it is awesome and everyone ought to read it: http://bekindrewrite.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/flash-fiction-the-mysterious-case-of-the-marshmallow-mushroom-forest/
Enjoy!

Vanitas

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Gysbrechts_Still_life_with_a_skull.jpg

Vanitas/Still Life with a Skull, one of several by Franciscus Gysbrechts, mid-to-late 1600’s.
Image from Wikimedia Commons: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Gysbrechts_Still_life_with_a_skull.jpg

I haven’t many of my own words, right now, which is why I haven’t been posting. What few words I do have are being channeled into fiction and a few friends and loved ones who are facing trouble and pain.

Three friends of a close friend of mine, all from the same family, were killed in a wreck. Serious illness and death have touched several people I love. There is death, illness, strain, pain, separation, abuse, stress, and frustration close at hand, and horrible violence, famine, illness, war and death not far distant.

In other words, everything is normal for the world.


It is easy to think, in relatively peaceful and prosperous countries, that we are safe, and in many ways, we are. It’s also easy to feel ashamed of that peace and safety, knowing so many do not have it. I keep asking myself what that shame means. Is it helpful or harmful, a tool or an attack? It shouldn’t mean that I want what little peace and prosperity there is, in the world, to vanish (or should it?) but that I do not want such things to be so isolated, so rare. Perhaps, so long as it makes me want to use what I have to help, then it is good, but if it paralyzes me with shame, it is evil.

But there is something to be learned about both peace and prosperity, for those who are in it: It is, in the end, no real protection. Pain and death will find us. If we delude ourselves into thinking otherwise, or in distracting ourselves until we forget, then we are in for a shock.

Different faiths have different perspectives on how this reality should be faced. In my own, Christianity, there are many different angles from which it is approached. There is no single answer, though some folks pretend that there is. There are no pat sayings that cover all angles, though some people like to pretend there are. There is, instead, a mosaic, with space between the tesserae.


Be careful what you say to pain. I have to remind myself of this. It’s too easy to forget, we are so desperate to say something, to help somehow, that we do damage. Better to be silent. After all, in silence the Spirit may have a chance to speak without all of our clutter. My mind is very cluttered… and I am certainly not silent, here. But then, what is this blog if not a place for me to vent? Maybe venting, here, will keep me from saying stupid things to someone anon.


The painting, above, is a vanitas, a reminder of mortality and of the ephemeral nature of earthly wealth, power, pleasure and wisdom. In this particular painting, the skull is wreathed in dried grass, a symbol of the brevity of life, and the hope of resurrection, as the grass dies every year, but returns every Spring. It is the only thing in the painting that is treated so. I think C. S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory points out one reason why.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

Growing up, especially while studying history and biology, I got a very different impression of the world. What is the life of a human, so brief and fragile, to the life of a nation, or the world, or the universe?

This is no answer to the question of pain and death, or at least, it is not a complete answer. But it does shift the perspective. If I believe that human’s are, in essence, immortal, then how I treat them becomes much more serious. The responsibility is immense. When we turn our backs on human suffering, we are turning our backs on the suffering of an eternal someone. In Weight of Glory, Lewis catches at a possible risk. A turnabout.

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

How this post rambles! I’m not sure there is a point, or at least not a clear or singular one. I keep coming back to the vanitas. Almost all is vanity, born from dust and to dust returning, but if there is something eternal in that dust, which I believe, then the one thing that is not vanity is the immortal. The pain in my fellows, the suffering, may be finite, but I do not think it is trivial.


The Listeners

For the Halloween season, have one of my favorite poems. I do not like to be scared, but there is something in mystery and a chilling thrill that I have always loved. This piece walks that line as well as anything I have ever read. Enjoy!

Picture by Patrick Garrington on Public Domain Pictures http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=34018&picture=church-door

Picture by Patrick Garrington on Public Domain Pictures

The Listeners
by Walter de la Mare (1873–1956)

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
   By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
   That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.
.
Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

P.S. This is my 100th blog post! Blue Blistering Barnacles!


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