Tag Archives: Summer

Errant Star

An short for BeKindRewrite’s InMon challenge. One of my darker characters decided to philosophize a bit. I should probably preface this with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer, so here it goes: The views and opinions in this snippet are those of the character and do not necessarily represent those of the author.

Personally, I know very little of astrology and so far as I am aware, there is no star of Melinoe, much less an errant star (planet). Melinoe is, however, a minor figure in Greek mythology, a nymph of the underworld associated with ghosts, nightmares, the moon, and madness. Cheery stuff.

 

I was born under an errant star. So are many great men, their restlessness driving them to fame. But it is said that men born under the ascendancy of Melinoe’s star are destined for great madness, or for the bringing of death, or both together

I have heard it said that there is no fate, that we make ourselves. It may be so, for as I look back, every step I have taken was a choice made freely. Every time I took a life I had clear reason, a purpose. If I knew nothing of star-wheels and prophecies I would never think twice. And yet, I was born beneath the influence of Melinoe’s wandering light.

Which begs the question: Am I an unwitting slave to cosmic patterns? If so, the blood on my hands is blood on the stars. They are the murderers and I am but their tool. Is that why some stars are tinged with red?

If not, if I have done these things of my own will, have the stars, since before my birth, been following me?


An Exercise in Eccentricity

In my last post, I asked some questions and promised to give my own answers in my next post. This is that post.

The questions remain open to be answered, though. I really do need some outside input to help break me out of my usual creative patterns.

So, if you intend to answer these questions, please do so BEFORE READING THIS POST! I don’t want to influence your answers.

That said, here goes nothin:

1. Make up a constellation and a brief story for it.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… there was a great wolf spirit and a great serpent spirit roaming over a primordial world, and they were brother and sister. They were sent to shape the world for creatures who would come after them. 

Now, the wolf was an orderly creature who liked patterns and measures, while his sister serpent loved all things unpredictable and chaotic. For a time, they worked harmoniously, each one seeing the beauty in the other’s plans, but after a while their ideas came more and more into conflict. Unwilling to compromise, they parted ways, each one traveling over the surface of the world and shaping it according to their own desires.

When the siblings had covered the world, they began to run across and change eachother’s designs. As time went on, it seemed as if they would completely undo their own work and leave the world as formless as when they had begun. And so the Great Spirit reached down and scooped them up to release them in the sky where they would have more space to shape and form and would not interfere with the creatures that were to come.

The eye of the wolf is the fixed polar star, ever reliable. The serpent runs through the chaotic band of many stars, and her eye is red and inconstant.

2. What is your favorite holiday (excluding Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter) and  why?

 4th of July.  I absolutely love fireworks, and New Years is too insane. The 4th is, at least around here, a laid-back holiday filled with grilled food, family, and explosions. Sparklers, and elaborate fireworks displays never fail to fascinate and awe me. Thank you, Chinese inventors! I am also fond of my home nation and like to have a set time to celebrate its existence.

3. Name an object you would like to see featured in a story

 I want to read a story that involves a magical lint brush. Why? Because the non-magical kind don’t work nearly well enough to solve my cat-hair issues.

4. make up a name for a spell and tell me what it does

Brightsnap: brightsnap is an alchemical transmutation creating silvery beads that explode on sharp impact, exuding a blinding light for as long as a minute. Because honest uses of brightsnap are rare, it has been outlawed and knowledge of the ingredients and process have been suppressed. On the black market, the beads now fetch a high price. 

5. Choose a plant and make up a symbolic meaning for it

I’ve been doing this one for a while, so I will pick one I haven’t yet added to my list. 

Trillium: a meeting of ways/convergence

6. What is your favorite ghost/folk/scary story (can be humorous or not)

This is a tough one for me. You already have my favorite ghost poem, so I must think of something else. I am very fond of several E. A. Poe stories and of some of the folk-tales I have come across. Poe’s work is pretty well-known, though, so perhaps I should highlight the latter. I have little tangible reason as to which folktales and ghost stories speak to me, and which don’t. Here are two very different ghost-stories, both with roots reaching far back into human history.  The first one is a vengeful ghost tale, and the second is a sad one.


A Ramble in Which I Ask for Help

I am not sure where I am going with this post, but then I figure this blog is mostly here for me, so I am allowed to let my mind wander sometimes.

As usual, I am thinking about the craft of writing, the thread of stories, of characters and places and worlds (Earth, and the worlds of imagination).  My WIP takes up a lot of thought and a lot of time, but I am making more progress on it than I ever have before. Not only the actual writing and editing process, but the world-building questions that underpin everything.

Astronomy and calendars have been one focus lately. Did you know that the Mayans (and some other Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures) had two to three calendars in order to map time? All the hoopla about 2012 being the end of the world seems to have evolved from the fact that the “Long Count” cycle ticked over to the same length of time believed, by the Mayans, to have preceded the creation of mankind (a more in-depth scholar of these things than I may correct me, but that is how I understood it).

Anyway, I am fascinated by the different ways humanity has found to keep track of the passage of time. Did you know that the Romans changed the length of an hour throughout the year in order to account for what we call “daylight savings?”

In order to stoke my creative furnace, I have some questions I would like you to answer, if you are willing. I won’t steal your ideas (unless you want me to), I just want to get my sluggish brain thinking about these things again. Consider it an idea-bouncing contest. I will answer them, myself, in my next post.

1. Make up a constellation and a brief story for it.

2. What is your favorite holiday (excluding Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter) and  why?

3. Name an object you would like to see featured in a story

4. make up a name for a spell and tell me what it does

5. Choose a plant and make up a symbolic meaning for it

6. What is your favorite ghost/folk/scary story (can be humorous or not)

 

Characters are rummy. So are people outside written stories, though, so I suppose that is as it should be. I like my protagonists and antagonists all to be people I can empathize, and even sympathize with. In that sense, I suppose, I don’t write fairy-tales. There are behaviors that bring destruction or redemption, choices made that could have been different, but the paths are those of people, not symbols. I speak no word against fairy-tales or allegory. I love both, they just serve a different purpose.

One of my favorite characters from Tolkien’s mythos is Smeagol/Gollum. He ain’t pretty, and he’s rarely nice, but he feels very real. He could go either way at his crossroads, and the paths he chooses are understandable, if disastrous for him. His is a very human story, one that is easily recognizable in others, but hard to see in ourselves. I hope readers will see characters in my work that they do not want to emulate, but to whom they can relate nonetheless.

Aaand it is probably time to bring this ramble to a close. I need to go see if the little inch worms that have camouflaged themselves in yarrow petals are still about. My garden sorely needs some care, but at least it is alive, aye?

 


The Old Guard

Well, I know it took longer than I expected, but I am back now!

Two days ago, I experienced the craziest day of my life. For one thing, I went into surgery to remove what remained of my cancer. That would have been a big day by itself.

However, I woke up after my surgery to learn that I had become an aunt. I won’t go into great detail, but my sister-in-law had to have an emergency c-section. She and baby are fine, though the latter will be in intensive care for a while.  Wonderful, bizarre, crazy day.

And now, I promised you all masks when I returned to this blog. I will keep my promise with two whole posts. Here I will give you the rest (some are in my first mask post) of the original set of fourteen I made in college. In the next post, I will display my more recent creations.

Enjoy!

The first mask I ever made. It was so fun, I couldn't stop.

The first mask I ever made. It was so fun, I couldn’t stop.

The second mask I ever made, and the most time-consuming.

The second mask I ever made, and the most time-consuming.

I was never quite satisfied with this one, but it is interesting.

I was never quite satisfied with this one, but it is interesting.

My father's favorite of the original set.

My father’s favorite of the original set.

A detail shot of my father's favorite.

A detail shot of my father’s favorite.

Pine bark and needles. My poor sister-in-law got poison ivy while helping me collect the bark.

Pine bark and needles. My poor sister-in-law got poison ivy while helping me collect the bark.

This one was made by taking an impression of cherry-tree bark.

This one was made by taking an impression of cherry-tree bark.

A detail shot of the cherry tree mask.

A detail shot of the cherry tree mask.

The Muri Kai

The Muri Kai

The skull-mask above comes with a story. I made it as a release for anger, and as a statement. Shortly before creating the Muri Kai, I learned that cosmetics companies had been (and presumably still are) going into impoverished places all over the world and convincing people to buy their products. Forget having enough money for shoes, you need lipstick!

This one is made from pinecones, grass, pollen, lily-leaves and maple-tree whirlygigs.

This one is made from pine cones, grass, pollen, lily-leaves and maple-tree whirlygigs.

My brother's favorite, made from terracotta.

My brother’s favorite, made from terracotta.

My favorite of the bunch.

My favorite of the bunch.

A detail shot of my favorite catching the light.

A detail shot of my favorite catching the light.

Last but not least, the bur oak mask, made from an impression of oak bark and newly fallen leaves.

Last but not least, the bur oak mask, made from an impression of oak bark and newly fallen leaves.

And there you have the old guard. Tomorrow, I hope, I will post pictures of my more recent creations.

Glad to be back! I look forward to catching up on your blogs!


A Song for the day

I apologize in advance for this disconnected ramble, but I need to get it out.

It’s too easy to forget, with the swirl of contention and alienation in this world that, ultimately, we have more in common with each other than we have differences.

This morning, someone nearly caused a wreck with me. I think I was in his blind spot and he didn’t look. For a brief instant, right after my fear and the hard breaking, I was angry. Then I recalled that, two days ago, I nearly did the same thing. The only difference was that I checked my blind spot in time to correct myself.

I remember the look of the woman in the other car. She looked angry, and that hurt. I had made a mistake and I wanted to tell her that I knew it. I wanted her forgiveness.

Maybe the man who nearly hit me felt the same. Maybe he didn’t.

By the will of my Lord, I am not a slave to guilt anymore unless I take up the shackles myself. But I do desire forgiveness from my fellows, and I am constantly learning and relearning what it is to forgive them and myself.

Somehow, taking a quiet, still moment to remember how much I must share with the person in the world most different from myself helps put it all in perspective. I value differences, but when they polarize us, when they make it easy to judge and hard to forgive, it helps me to consider our common ground.


Ballooning Attempt #1

Not long before my trip to Canada, which I will expound on later, a friend asked me if I was afraid of heights. It seemed a strange question. I replied something along the lines of “Yes, but why do you ask?”

I was completely unprepared for her reply. She recently had a birthday, and apparently she has long wanted to fly in a hot air balloon. Yes, one of these:

What a dilemma! On one hand, great fear of heights. On the other hand… Hot Air Balloon.

I took a deep breath, explained to my fears that I wasn’t about to regret, for the rest of my life, saying “no” to a hot air balloon flight, and told my friend to count me in. It turns out that the flight was scheduled for the evening before my trip to Canada. This and a misplaced passport was the reason I had between 2 and 3 hours of sleep as I set out on my trip, but more on that anon.

The time arrived, and I drove my friend and two of her friends to the place where we would take off. Two more friends met us there, and we watched a few other balloons take off and our own prepare for flight. Ours was the largest balloon on the field that day.

That is ours in the bottom corner. The inflation of the balloon was beautiful, but as it began to rise up, some high wind blew in. For a while, we were afraid that the flight would be cancelled for safety.

But soon enough the balloon was up, and we were all told to get in! We rushed into the basket and held on. Briefly, we were about two feet off the ground.

And that was it. The pilot made his final checks and found that the high wind had bent an important piece of equipment. I guess we were special, as the pilot told us that he had only had that particular problem once before, when he was flying in Africa. The flight was cancelled.

We all got out, and watched as the balloon deflated.

Our pilot was more dejected than any of us, as shown in the photo below. He is the one lying on the folded balloon. Not to say that we were not disappointed, but we enjoyed seeing all the balloons and having some entertaining conversations. We made plans, then and there, to try again in early September, which fast approaches. Hopefully I will ride in a hot air balloon yet, and to heck with my acrophobia! Anyway, I enjoyed getting to meet some new people, and my friend and another of her friends and I went for dinner at a local restaurant. All was well. Until I got home and couldn’t find my passport.

Photo by Jubilare


Suggestions, please…

Three posts so close together! Apologies! I know I said that I would come back slowly, and despite appearances, I am. I cannot help what is on my brain, though, and this is the only forum I have, at present, in which to express myself. The posts on Canada and ballooning will come this weekend, but for now, I am calling for your assistance.

I cannot seem to find the right voice for the stories I am currently writing, and I have come to the conclusion that I need help. Help from friends and family, or even kindly strangers.

I need reading material. Muse food. Specifically, I need good ghost-stories.

No horror genre, please. It’s the chill along a lonely road that I want, not sickening terror or shocking violence. I cannot put my finger on exactly what I am looking for, so variety is best, but I know what I don’t want.

It’s good story “voice” that I am seeking. Nothing I have used before is working, and I need input to develop something that will work. I know, in my bones, the feel that I want, but how to convey it? How do I immerse my reader in the mood of a good ghost-story and use that backdrop to accentuate life?

So have you any suggestions for material? Pointers? Ideas for me to mull?


Ann Voskamp Quote

At the suggestion of friends I have started reading One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. I find her style rather purple, yet emotionally resonant. By the beginning of chapter 2, this much is clear to me: This woman understands pain and knows death in many of its forms. I will share the quote that, this morning, resonated with me as something I have long known and am yet trying to understand.

It’s the in between that drives us mad.

It’s the life in between, the days of walking lifeless, the years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self-distracting, the body never waking, that’s lost all capacity to fully feel – this is the life in between that makes us the wild walking dead.


Poison

During my hiatus, someone poisoned my house.

The termite-letter for my home was through Ace Exterminating and so when it was time for me to have my place inspected for termites, I went to them. It seems I should have read the fine print.

Apparently this company thinks it is a good idea to give a “complimentary” spray to the exterior of houses when they do a termite inspection.  This possibility never even occurred to me. I imagine many people see a free “pest-control” treatment as a good thing. I most certainly DO NOT.

I called them to vent my feelings. The poor woman who received my call seemed to think I was worried about hypothetical children or my pets and immediately assured me that the insecticide was “safe.”

“It’s not my pets I worry about. It’s my spiders and bees,” I replied.  I could have said much more, explaining the thriving community of living things that I cultivate on my property, but I doubt it would have helped.

A brief silence followed, after which she offered to put a “do not spray” note on my record. Despite this, I will not use their company again. They may refrain from spraying my house, but their policy of “complementary insecticide treatments” is not one I am willing to forgive. I have sympathy for the woman who took my call and for the technician who was just following orders, but the company will not have my business.

I am not wholly against the use of insecticides. I will put down borax to end the ant-plague in my kitchen and I will use what means I must to keep moths out of my woolen clothing. These things have a minor impact on the arthropod population and are taking place in a fundamentally unnatural environment: the interior of my house. As I am relatively ignorant about the use of pesticides in agriculture, I will refrain from opening that debate here. This is merely representative of my feelings on the unnecessary use of pesticides around our homes.

What possible good could spraying the outside of my house do? No good at all, and the ill effects spread out before me like a miniature nuclear holocaust, with my brick walls as ground zero. This impacts everything living in my yard be it insect, arachnid, reptile, bird or plant. The  predators, be they spider, or lizard, or ladybug take longer to recover than their prey making everything worse, in the long term, for me as well! If this careless company has indirectly killed my garter snake or my blue-tailed skinks, I will weep as well as rage.

It is the thoughtlessness that deeply troubles me. One must assume that most people never consider the impact of using insecticides around their homes. Presumably all they consider is a reduction in the number of creepy-crawlies around their abode and their thoughts on the matter end there. No one has taught them better. If this were the attitude of a few people, the problem would not be great, but when I consider the number of buildings and yards this effects, I am horrified.

The health of any ecosystem rests largely on its tiny members. I wonder how much healthier my entire nation would be, ecologically, mentally and medically, if we confined our use of home insecticides and pesticides to “necessary only”  and cut out the use of such compounds for “convenience.”  No doubt we would even have fewer “pest problems” if we did this, considering that these populations manage themselves more effectively than we can when they are left intact.  Even if we only confined the use of insecticides to the interiors of houses there would be a large positive impact. Our indiscriminate spraying  harms the insects that most people love, like fireflies and butterflies, and can indirectly harm larger wildlife. Hummingbirds eat insects and spiders, as do robins and the above-mentioned blue-tailed skinks. These are beautiful creatures whom even the most insect-phobic person would not wish to harm.

We are shooting ourselves, repeatedly, in both feet and it frustrates me all the more because it ought to be an easy thing for us to change. There are more pressing issues for my nation to grapple with, but those problems are, for the most part, more complex and more difficult to face. This one ought to be a no-brainer. With a little bit of education and a tiny bit of self-control we could simultaneously save ourselves time and money and make a huge positive impact in our communities. I have little hope that we will, but to be silent about it would only make me part of the problem.

And so I urge you, as I will urge others, to Just Say No to the Unnecessary Use of Pesticides and to urge your friends and families to do the same!


“The Hobbit” Read-Along Schedule

Obviously, I am back from my hiatus. I am still not going to be on here as much as before, as there is just so much around me that needs doing, but I am back to posting, commenting and e-mailing.

I also have many things to relate, this read-along of The Hobbit being first. My following posts will concern, among other things, hot-air ballooning, Canada, and an exterminating company’s bone-headed customer policies.

I was already preparing to read The Hobbit again, and now I get to read it along-side others and read interesting thoughts about the chapters! I also get to write about Mirkwood, which makes me want to jump up and down gleefully. Not that I wouldn’t have written about it anyway, even without this read-along.
I am looking forward to this!

The Warden's Walk

Hail, lo, and behold! We have a preliminary schedule for The Hobbit Read-Along! In addition to myself, we have nine participants to split among nineteen chapters. As the host, I have taken the responsibility of the first chapter for myself—unless someone else greatly desires it for themselves, in which case I will happily exchange it for another—and given everyone else two. Postings will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

If anyone wants to write on a chapter other than what has been assigned, speak up now so that the schedule can be adjusted before postings begin! As you can see, the first post will appear on Tuesday,September 25th. I thought it fitting to start just after September 22, which is the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. The final post will come at the end of November, thus giving us a little bit of time before…

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