Ruli Wakes

I got up semi-early this morning and began the pre-surf ritual. The main component of said ritual is stripping down, pinning my hair up, and slathering myself with waterproof, sweat-proof SPF 30. Then, of course, there is the bagel eating portion of the ritual, followed by the strapping-Ruli-to-her-rack part.

You may not understand when I tell you that the drive over there was filled less with anticipation and more with dread. In a way all I wanted to do was turn around and go back to bed: I felt downright sick to my stomach. I thought about it then and I’ve thought about it since then, and I’ve decided that what it came down to was fear; fear that I wouldn’t remember how to do it, that I would be once more reduced to an utter kook making a fool of herself- but worse than that, the fear that it just wouldn’t be the same. That the joy and passion I once felt was only a wishful-dream of a memory, not and just as intangible.

When I arrived at the beach is was pretty empty- only a handful of joggers and walkers, and two guys with a short board learning how to use it. I smiled with nostalgia and thought to myself- please don’t let me fall down more than they do. As many times is fine, but just not more…

I’ll be honest- it was not good surf. But it wasn’t flat, either, which means that the waves were a hell of a lot better than they would have been in Birmingham, so I’m not complaining. In fact, I felt downright grateful for those teensy little swells that I knew would help ease me back in to the feel of things without threatening to drown me.

I unzipped Ruli (she travels in a pretty sturdy board bag, since I tend to have to take her ridiculous distances) and put on a fresh coat of wax- I was a little nervous about that, since I only had cold water wax with me and the last time I surfed in Jacksonville the water was warm as blood. It turned out, however, that the water was plenty cool enough to keep the wax in place (and me from wanting to die from lack of refreshment).

We eased into the water cautiously- although the calm meant I didn’t have to worry about losing my balance while I stood on one foot and strapped my leash to the opposite ankle. Then I walked her out a little deeper, keeping my fingers lightly on her back until it was deep enough for me to slip on and start paddling.

As soon as I was on I realized that I was in the wrong spot on the board- so I shimmied backwards until I felt the proper balance my body remembered. Then it was one clean stroke after another as I drew myself out to where I could see the little waves peaking. I have to say that a part of me didn’t mind one bit that I didn’t have to battle frigid white water to get out. It was definitely not a bad thing to not be exhausted before I even attempted the first wave.

I picked my spot and sat up, automatically shifting my weight to swing Ruli’s nose back toward the shore. I only had to sit maybe thirty seconds before I saw the tell-tale wrinkle that told me I’d be able to ride it in. Theoretically.

Down on my stomach I went, falling back into the familiar rhythm of paddle-paddle-paddle- then I felt the wave reach me and I felt the tiny drop that means Ruli is well and truly set and then…

I wish I could say that I triumphantly sprang to my feet and rode in on a blaze of glory, all my former hard-won skill undiminished by the passing of years. But the truth is that I lay there on my stomach and let myself be carried in while I re-familiarized myself with the movement of a wave. Time enough for standing on the next one.

And I did stand on the next one, for a whole split second, although it was the most awkward damn pop-up the world has ever seen. My body remembers a lot about how it should move while surfing, but not, apparently, how to properly place my damn feet. Nor how to keep my ass out of the air. A pop-up should be one fluid movement from prone position to crouched- mine was more like a pop-and-lock gone horribly wrong.

And yet.

And yet, even though the faulty pop-up was repeated several times (and yes, even the belly-ride to shore got repeated) I did manage to nail it once- and then again. And I remembered what it was to surf again.

I will admit that the joy was neither as deep nor as fierce as what I have felt in the past- but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the Atlantic and I are Just Friends- whereas the Pacific and I have something of a Passionate Love Affair going on. Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy hanging out with the Atlantic, she’s a cool anthropomorphized body of water and all- but there’s just something about the Pacific that really stirs my blood and makes my heart sing.

It’s possible that it’s the raw power of the Pacific. I go in there and I know damn good and well that I could die- in a very serious way she could crush my body and fling it lifeless to the shore, or hold it down until the air has disappeared from my lungs. I step into her and I surrender to her- she lets me ride her- or she doesn’t. Whereas the Atlantic tends to be so mellow that I can wear my sunglasses in without fear of losing them.

But whatever. It’s a start.


On The Road Again

My alarm went off at 0500 this morning, and I was out of bed without the slightest bit of protest- such are the miraculous feats I’m capable of when there’s surfing involved. We were on the road before 0630, our bellies full of bread and cheese and our luggage stowed carefully in the back seat. Girly road trip, activate!

I’d checked out three different audio books from the library, but as it turned out we didn’t listen to any of them on the way down- just a cd mix on repeat (thanks Anna!) and a non-stop flow of words. We both missed my brother’s presence in the car- it was odd to make the trip without him. One of the topics we touched on was the Someday Home that Nathan and I like to design. The Someday Home has many fine amenities- including music and art studios, heated floors, an herb and vegetable garden, and a separate Mother-In-Law cottage for my mom to come stay in whenever she wants.

It took us about seven hours to get here- not bad, all things considered. Lunch with the girls and then shopping for a new rash guard (possibly there will be pictures… possibly) before we headed over to see my grandmother at her swank new assisted-living place. It’s not so bad, as far as these things go, but as we were kidnapping her for dinner we heard someone yelling, over and over, “Oh God, please help me! Oh God, please help me!” so I went into the room to investigate. It was a little old woman who calmed down when she saw me. I introduced myself, but she said she didn’t know her name. I asked if she wanted me to get someone for her, and she said she did- she wanted help, and clutched at her chest. I went back down to the front desk and told them, then returned to sit with her while she waited. I rubbed her arm for comfort, and as we talked I found her name written on her chair- Alma. The subject of family came up and I told her how many cousins my husband has, which made her laugh. Finally someone arrived to check on her, and I left. On my way out the orderly told me that she didn’t need any help, “That’s just her. She wants someone to be there with her all the time, and we just can’t do that.” I didn’t like her dismissive tone.

Later in the car I related the story to my mother, and she put her hand on my knee and said, “I can still come to stay in the mother-in-law cottage, right?”




I’ll be spending the next few days in Florida with my Mom, visiting my dad’s side of the family. I’m not really sure what my internet-availability will be like, but rest assured I’ll write every day and post it all when I get back. That’s right, cats and kittens: a return to the Travelogue…

I’m pretty stoked about this trip, for a number of reasons. For starters I’m looking forward to seeing that part of my family. I haven’t seen them since December, which is a pretty short interval as my family measures these things, but still… once Nathan and I move back up to the PNW, who knows how often I’ll get this opportunity.

Reason number two is that I’ve never been on a road trip with just my mom and myself before. Well, not in within the bounds of my memory, at any rate. I’m sure my mom could rattle off some trip she took with me when I was two, but that doesn’t count. The drive to Jacksonville will be seven or eight hours (depending on who does the majority of the driving ::cough::) which means plenty of time for us to get into all sorts of topics without fear of interruption. This is a good thing: I enjoy long conversations with my mother.

But the reason that (perhaps shamefully) eclipses all the rest is this: I’m bringing Ruli, and she and I are going to dance again.

It suddenly occurs to me that you may not know who (or, rather, what) Ruli is. She’s my 8’6” mini long board, the great love of my life (after Nathan, of course). And she’s been propped up against my wall, hibernating, since my lonely road-trip to Charleston in March of ’08. That’s right- I haven’t been surfing in almost two and a half years. That is a long damn time. A long, long time.

But rather than let myself wander into the grey and gloomy region of my brain that counts how many days it’s been since I’ve been immersed in salt water, I shall instead focus on the fact that tomorrow- tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow- I can reset that counter.



Thinking Too Much

You probably already know my story- most people do. They've even gone so far as to take my youthful, idealistic mantra for their own:

I think I can, I think I can!

Well let me tell you what happens when you think too much. Once the Powers That Be realize they can get that kind of work out of you they'll never settle for less. Never mind that you're not built for it- never mind that it's not your job and moreover that there are those whose job it is. Never mind that it was supposed to be a miraculous, once-in-a-lifetime achievement, and to force someone to repeat it over and over again robs it of its specialness.

No, never mind all of that. Instead, day after day I would hear, "C'mon kid! We think you can do it! More importantly, we know you think you can do it! Ha hah!" and no one caring what the strain was doing to my body, to my mind. Never any thanks for the extra effort, because after all, that's what I did: overcame impossible odds.

Is it any wonder I broke down long before my time?

(All Aboard)


Yo! Movie Producers!

Okay, so, there's a story behind this atrocious story. A friend of mine is building up her design portfolio, and she asked me for "five assignments"; I got so excited I gave her fifteen. They run the gamut from serious to seriously silly, and the absolutely most ridiculous one was this:

"A poster for the romantic comedy teen flick, "What Do Teens Like, Anyway?" about a woman who is mysteriously transported into her nephew's body and must up his social status before she can return to her normal life. The catch? She falls in love mentally and emotionally with his hot male psychology professor, but her nephew's body is totally in love with the prom queen! (Oh gods I want to slap myself for coming up with this, because you just know someone will make this shit into a movie. And it will do well. ::shudder::)"

Anyway we got to texting about it today, and I said maybe I'd just flesh out that plot for tonight's entry, and so I did. Please don't judge me. If you refrain from judging me, I promise to let you come visit me in the house I buy in Hawaii using the royalties this is sure to net me...


Seventeen-year-old Michael’s favorite cousin (actually his 29-year-old second-cousin on his dad’s side) (29 so that she can crack jokes about being only one year away from untrustworthiness) Joanie is coming for a visit and Michael couldn’t be more stoked. Joanie is a world-traveling artist and totally cool: something Michael is totally not. He’s hoping that during her extended stay she’ll give him some pointers.

Joanie arrives and Michael helps her unpack in the guest bedroom. As they do so she gives him a present she’s brought him from Japan: a daruma. She explains that it’s a wishing doll; Michael must make a wish and color in one eye. When the wish comes true he will color in the other eye. Joanie pulls out a handful of Sharpies and asks Michael what color he wants to make the eyes- she suggests brown like his own eyes, but he tells her green like hers, and colors in the eye wishing he could be as cool as Joanie. She tells him she thinks he’s pretty cool already, but she’ll do anything she can to help his wish come true.

That night Joanie has a dream in which she encounters a funny little old man who looks suspiciously like the daruma she gave Michael. The old man informs her that he’s taking her at her word to help fulfill Michael’s wish, and in the meantime he (daruma) will be taking a little holiday. Then the little old man hands her the daruma and tells her to take good care of it, reminding her to fill the other eye in once Michael’s wish becomes reality.

Green eyes flutter open and we hear Joanie thinking about her weird dream and wondering why she’s sleeping in Michael’s bedroom… She thinks she must have left a Maglite in the bed and reaches down to pull it out only to freak the hell out when she realizes what it is- and that it’s attached to her (morning wood hilarity!) Her awareness is in Michael’s body, and much jumping around and further freaking out ensues. She rushes into her room only to discover that her body is nowhere to be found, and that “she” has left a note saying something has come up and “she” will be back in a month or two. More freaking out, until she decides to find the daruma, which now has an eye the exact shade of brown as Michael’s. She tries to fill in the other eye, but it’s no use- the pigment just disappears almost as fast as she can lay it down.

Finally she accepts what must be done and goes to school, where she begins to plot Michael’s rise to popularity. The only trouble is that it turns out Joanie was never cool in high school, anyway. She didn’t really come into her own until college, and to this day doesn’t understand how the teenage mind works. Furthermore, Michael’s high school is in the suburbs, a culture she’s not really familiar with. As she struggles to adjust two people ping her radar: the first is Michael’s hot psychology teacher, Mr. Evans. The second is the beautiful but aloof prom-queen-apparent Daphne, to whom Michael’s body as a strong and undeniable attraction (erections are hilarious!).

After a couple of failed attempts at being “cool” by high school standards (including the requisite sports humiliation) Joanie decides her best bet is to win over Daphne- she figures that dating the most popular girl in school necessarily confers upon it a significant social rank. The only problem? Daphne never sees any guy more than once. Joanie at first attempts to woo Daphne “like a guy” but when that (hilariously) fails she decides to woo Daphne like she herself would like to be wooed- and is successful (during this entire time Joanie marvels at her extreme physical attraction to a girl when she has never felt any such stirrings before- contrasting it with her extreme mental/emotional attraction to Mr. Evans, whom her body is entirely indifferent toward). The courtship culminates in a sexual encounter- after which Daphne breaks down into tears and admits that she was afraid she’d never like a boy- that she’d thought she was a lesbian and that’s why she’s always been so aloof- she was afraid that people would be able to tell. But after her experience with Michael and his amazing tongue she thinks maybe she doesn’t mind sex with boys after all- although she says she feels her attraction to him is more of a mental thing. Joanie (who knows that her own attraction is based entirely in the hetero male body she’s possessing) has a long talk with her about “So what if you’re a lesbian? Screw the haters!” and the two end up agreeing to be (non-sexual) best friends.

Soon after Joanie starts noticing more and more girls giving him The Eye, and more and more guys wanting to “talk strategy”. She can’t figure out why until Daphne admits she started a rumor that Michael is the best lover she’s ever had- sort of a way to say “thanks” for helping her be comfortable with her own sexuality. It all comes to a head at prom, where Joanie winds “All-Around Best Guy”- she looks up to notice that her body is there, holding the daruma. Her body winks at her and suddenly she is staring up at dazed-looking Michael on stage, and the doll in her hands has two filled-in green eyes.

Joanie glances over and sees Mr. Evans is there chaperoning as well, and makes a move. Yay happy endings for all!


...now, about those royalties...


Jack Gets a Break

They say that the passage of time is nothing to an immortal- but I'm here to tell you they're wrong. Oh, perhaps time is nothing to an immortal who isn't tied to the seasons- but when you are then mister, time is pretty effin' evident. Your existence becomes broken down into two parts: the time of year when you're doing your job, and the other nine months. And maybe that sounds pretty great to non-immortals- only having to work a quarter of the time- but then I want you to remember that I don't get to quit. Ever. Literally ever. Can your brain even begin to process that concept? No retirement, no death. Just on and on forever. And I've got to tell you- there are only so many possible frost patterns to be made: the work gets damn repetitive after a couple of millennia. Every winter I more and more seriously considered shoving icicles through my eye sockets to alleviate the boredom.

But then I met Arachne.

She's an immortal, too- but she started out human. Most people might consider immortality a blessing from the gods, but just ask Arachne- she knows better. She royally pissed of some goddess or another back in the day, and in retaliation she got a (frankly pretty ugly) new form and an eternity to 'think about what [she'd] done'. Anyway I met her one summer as I was kicking around the Mediterranean (it's just prejudice to assume we winter creatures only like cold- we don't.) and we got to talking. Turns out she's an artisan, too, although she leans to weaving rather than etching. I asked if I could see some of her stuff and she showed me, and damned if I wasn't impressed (hard to do when you've been around as long as I have).

She waved off my praise, saying that honestly, she was getting a little bored with the whole thing. When you're immortal you have plenty of time to hone your craft- and she had long ago run out of new or challenging ideas. To her everything she'd created lately was static, boring.

I told her I knew exactly how she felt.

So we sat in that bar, sharing a couple pitchers of daiquiri and bemoaning our fates, and round about glass number four (or possibly five- I lost count) inspiration struck. I couldn't tell you now which of us had the great idea, but the next thing I knew we were at my summer place and I was teaching her the fundamentals of etching.

The upcoming winter was suddenly looking a lot more exciting.

(The Rare Arctic Spider)



I started watching Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles today. Many of my friends had recommended it to me, and since it's now available on demand on Netflix I decided to give it a shot. I've seen Terminator, and have enough of a grasp of T2 and T3 that I figured I'd be able to follow along without too many difficulties (plus I have the advantage of being able to poke Nathan for explanations). Turns out I was right- I'm about eight episodes in (don't judge me too harshly- I was doing other things like embroidering and eating while watching) and I am just absolutely loving the heck out of it.

What fascinates me about the show is that it's a fine example of our modern mythology. You know what I'm talking about- epic stories that were told by one person, but then were initially told by others, and still others, all in different media- stories that eventually take on lives of their own. Superman. X-Men. Even (dare I say it?) The Chronicles of Narnia (my brother-in-law has argued this point with me, but that's another post entirely). Sure, there is the Original Version, but that's almost beside the point now, because these stories have been retold and become so internalized by recent generations that we each have our own personal mythology surrounding them. I'm pretty sure that Harry Potter will soon follow suit.

It's wonderful tho, isn't it? Someone has an idea for a story- they tell that story. And if it has that magical spark, if it somehow manages to resonate with enough people, a whole different universe grows out of it. A more complex and beautiful creation than any author could possibly envision... shared creation. Lovely.


...Unto Dust Shalt Thou Return...

You know, there's a certain amount of very beautiful poetry to be found in the Christian bible, much of which expresses profound truths applicable even to those of us who do not consider it a Primary Text. For instance, the passage found in Genesis 3:19 (given here in the lovely King James language):

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Now, I may not agree that we have to work for our food because of an original sin, but I can get on board with the thought that we rose from the earth, and to the earth we shall return. I mean, there is evidence of this all around us- take, for instance, today's photo:


That bird most likely ate insects: now the insects eat it, and they in turn shall feed more birds. Whatever bits of bird the insects don't take will go into the soil, from which plants will draw nutrients... plants that feed other creatures, birds and insects among them. And so on, and so on. It is, as Disney so aptly put it, the Circle of Life... (although to be frank I'm okay with them not showing the part where Mustafa's body went on to nourish other creatures. Definitely okay with that...)

But the point I'm trying to make here is that there are truths and beauty and value in all kinds of texts, even ones we disagree with on basic principal. It's important to keep that in mind, and not shut down at the mention of something we don't think is "right". Because not a one of us is so wise that we've nothing left to learn, if only something so simple as how to express a truth we already know in a different manner.



If he had heard it once, he had heard it a thousand times:

If you keep making that face, it will freeze that way!

His mother told him, his father told him, his aunts, uncles, and grandparents all told him, time after time. It was something he lived in constant terror of:

His face freezing in a pleasant expression.

Who would want a gargoyle with a smile? Or even a grin, for that matter? Unless he could somehow manage a hideous grin. That might not be so bad. They said his second-cousin Charlie had managed that one, and he did alright for himself. But the truth of the matter was that Reginald's grin wasn't hideous- it was rather nice. And for the life of him, he could not keep it off his face. Everything made him smile! Or worse- laugh! Stories, jokes, sometimes just thinking would put a smile on his face. And then someone would nudge him and say, "If you keep making that face..."

It hadn't been such a big deal when he was just a kid, but now that he was approaching Fossilesence (the change that marked a young gargoyle's passage into adulthood) Reginald knew he absolutely had to do something about the way pleasure inevitably showed up on his face.

He tried everything- thinking horrifying thoughts; trying to hold a grimace for extended bouts; taping his face into hideous expressions; he even resorted to paying his little sister to pinch him at random intervals so he could at least look pained- but nothing worked! It seemed he was doomed to be the world's worst gargoyle...



My Thumb is Sore

In the past, had I started out an entry with the above phrase, you could pretty much guarantee it would be an entry about gaming. But not tonight, Josephine. No, tonight my thumb is sore because I've been piercing many tiny holes in card-stock, using a correspondingly tiny needle.

You may wonder (and rightly so) what would possess me to do such a thing- and the answer, my friends, is Embroidery. Yes, embroidery- I decided it would be excellent fun to embroider a card (specifically one of my left-over wedding invitations) and then send it along to a friend of mine with whom I exchange that sort of hand-crafted thing. What I didn't realize when I made the decision to attempt this craft was that not only would it be excellent fun, but I would absolutely love it. Yep, I just about don't even want to bother embroidering on fabric anymore, because embroidering on paper is just so much more awesome. I'd already been toying with embroidering canvas (specifically canvas that I've painted/drawn on), and while I still think I'll experiment with that, I get the feeling I will remained enamored of this paper method. And do you know, it's not even the way it looks so much (although it does look pretty awesome) as the way it feels. I really enjoy having added a subtle, textural element to Nathan's drawing. I like that I can close my eyes and still get a feel for the art. But then I guess that makes sense- I'm the girl in the art galleries with her hands firmly shoved in her pockets, to keep from feeling the brush-strokes on the paintings.

(I apologize for the lack of photo with this post- for starters the card isn't finished yet, and for seconders the intended recipient reads this blog [I think], and I don't want her to see it before she... well, sees it. I'll post a photo it once it gets where it's going, promise!)


On the Reading of Parenting Magazines

There is more than one pregnant lady in my life right now, which means that I've been doing more baby-related reading than one might consider normal for... me. I was hanging out over at my pregnant sister-in-law's tonight, flipping through a magazine while my laundry dried (in all fairness I'd just helped put another coat of paint on her nursery- we barter), and I found myself becoming more and more appalled.

Do you know how many things can go wrong with babies? No you don't! Because however many things you think you know of, I guarantee you that one perusal of a parenting magazine later, you will be aware of approximately fifty new horrible things that could afflict your child. Or you. Did you know that getting pregnant can friggin' give you cancer?! Well I wish that I didn't know that, thank you very much, but apparently it's true. I also could have done without the full-page scare-ads regarding giving my child whooping cough or what have you just by holding them. And there was a blurb which very seriously lectured me on the fact that eight whole children have died since 2003 by strangling themselves on a blinds' cord! That's barely even one child per frickin' year- why do nascent mothers need to be terrorized by this so-called probability? Why not say, "Oh, by the way- when you're child-proofing your home, you might want to loop any dangling cords up out of reach," and leave it at that? Sheesh.

"But Jenny O, you were the one choosing to read the magazine," you might say. And that's true... but man, I think if I ever turn up pregnant I will put out a restraining order on those things, because I'd imagine that you're plenty stressed out enough without articles screaming at you that walking underneath a ladder while pregnant gives your child a(n infintisimal) chance of being born without knees. Or rhythm. Or whatever.


The Unicorn's Mate

I was five the first time I saw the unicorn.

I was playing in the basement of our split-level home when a flash of silver at the window made me look up. I didn't see anything right away, but being a child who was attracted to shiny things in general, I clambered up on the back of the couch to get a better view. The windows were set flush with the ground, so when I managed to peep my little nose over the windowsill, I found myself with a worms-eye view of... something.

Gradually I realized I was looking at an animal- a small, blindingly white animal. This in and of itself was not a big surprise- living as we did in the woods I was very used to seeing all manner of creatures go creeping about our property- and I knew that rabbits and foxes both could go white in the winter.

Except it wasn't winter; it was spring.

The animal cocked its head at me and I suddenly realized what I was seeing.

"Ohhh!" I breathed, for there could be no doubt about it- stubby as it was, the single horn spiraling out of the creature's forehead marked it unicorn. And a baby unicorn, at that! For three whole heartbeats I was frozen with delight- then I jumped down off the couch and went racing up the stairs to our front door.

It was gone by the time I got around to the side of the house, of course. And even as I searched through the surrounding trees I began to doubt what I had seen. I wanted very badly to believe in magic, in unicorns- but the truth was I had a bit too wide of a practical streak in me. By the time I turned back to the house I'd already chalked the sighting up to wishful thinking.


I was twelve when the unicorn appeared again, nearing the end of a girl's natural unicorn-obsession-cycle. I had not yet given up the posters and figurines that decorated my room, however, and I still had a battered old stuffy that I slept with- when I wasn't at a sleepover, anyway.

I would have remembered that day even if I hadn't had an encounter with a unicorn, because that was the day the long-anticipated Period arrived. Contary to popular-teen-magazine predictions, there had been nothing mortifying about the experience; I'd gone to the bathroom, looked down, and had a split second of irritation that my favorite underpants were ruined. Then the full force of what said ruination implied hit me, and I'd started grinning like an idiot.

My mother and father made just the right amount of Deal about the occasion- pride was expressed, a garnet ring bestowed, and a special meal prepared. But now I needed some time to myself, so as violet twilight settled on the woods I found myself walking alone and ruminating on my new role as A Certifiable Woman.

And then I wasn't alone. The back of my neck prickled and I knew someone was watching me. Not something (for I was long accustomed to the wary eyes of animals marking my passage): someone. I turned slowly, and found to my surprise that I'd been mistaken: it was an animal, some sort of- albino deer? I took in the graceful limbs, the liquid eyes- and then my gaze hit the spiraling horn, and it was as though I was five years old again.


The creature tossed its head in what I would have sworn was a laugh, and then danced closer to me- but not close enough to touch. I remained unmoving, hardly daring to breathe. As of this morning I was officially no longer a child, and I knew that what I was seeing absolutely was not a figment of my imagination.

It took another dancing step towards me, and then another- until it was at last close enough for me to reach out and stroke- but still I did not move. I noticed a faint floral scent strangely reminiscent of curry and coconut milk... and then with a silver flash the unicorn was gone.


When I was sixteen I fell in love. His name was Dougie, and I had decided he was The One. Oh, he had his flaws- he was prone to secrecy and depression- but these traits just made me love him all the more, because I knew I was the only one who could keep his darkness at bay. He needed me- and I of course needed him. We'd told our parents we were going on a hiking picnic, and we were- but we were also planning much more than that.

We left the trail and found a secluded clearing to spread our blanket in. We didn't bother unpacking our lunch- that could wait until afterward. Dougie leaned over and began kissing my neck, and I closed my eyes in nervous excitement. Just then an errant breeze brought sweet and exotic smell to my nose.

"I like your new shampoo," I murmured. "It smells delicious."

"I don't have a new shampoo," he said into my hair. "Same as it's always been." I inhaled again as his hand crept under my shirt- there was definitely a new smell. But it was also vaguely familiar.

"Is it your cologne?"

"Mmm-mmm," came the negative reply. I couldn't keep my eyes closed anymore- the scent was too distracting, and to tell the truth his groping hands were suddenly annoying.

"Hold on a second-" I said, halting his progress.

"Are you okay? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to go too fast- I thought you wanted-"

"No, no it's fine. Just be quiet a second. I'm trying to remember." Dougie looked vaguely scandalized, as though I'd just thrown a bucket of ice water on him.

"Oookay," he sat back and ran his hands through his hair. I stood up, ignoring him, and inhaled deeply.

"Coconut milk," I muttered- and then a movement behind Dougie caught my eye. I turned towards it, and there was the unicorn, standing deep in the trees and looking at me with such sorrow I thought my heart would break. I could see now that the last time I'd seen him he hadn't been fully mature: he'd been slender and almost gangly then, but now he looked sleek and dangerous. It was like the difference between a boy's muscles and a man's. An echo of an academic voice came unbidden to my mind:

The unicorn will only allow virgins to approach it.

And in that moment, I knew Dougie was not The One. Because if he had been, he would have been worth losing the unicorn. But the sick feeling in my stomach told me he absolutely was not.


Neither were the next couple of boyfriends, as it turned out. Any time we'd start to go beyond kissing, I'd think of the unicorn and I'd realize that not a one of them was worth never seeing it again.

I know, I know- it made no sense. I'd only seen the thing three times, never even had a real interaction with it. It was probably some twisted manifestation of the patriarchy that was subconsciously convincing me that I had to remain "pure" to be of any value in society. I didn't care: I wanted that unicorn more than anything I'd ever encountered, patriarchal manipulation be damned.

Finally I gave up on dating. There didn't seem to be much point, since most of the boys I dated eventually wanted to have sex, and the ones who didn't struck me as... not good matches for me in the long run. It might have been easier if I myself hadn't been interested in sex- but I was, in theory. Just... not with any of them.

I'd taken to spending all of my free time wandering the woods in solitude. It was on one such hike that I was faced with the most important decision of my life. In the three years since I'd last seen the unicorn I'd decided to become a zoologist (with a minor in mythology) and I was returning to university in a few weeks. I wondered if I'd ever see the unicorn again, if they were a species found across the world, or if they were indigenous to the forests of Alaska (a scenario which seemed highly unlikely to me).

A silver flash in the corner of my eye made me smile. I didn't whirl to look this time, didn't freeze up. I twined my fingers together in front of me and turned my gaze to the pale blue sky.

"I was just thinking of you," I said.

"I know," came the reply, and I tripped in shock. The unicorn moved over to where I lay sprawled and lowered his head until his nose was by my own. Because as soon as I heard that voice, I had no doubt that the unicorn was male.

"You can talk," I choked.

"I know that, too," and I thought I saw a smile in his eyes.

"Wow," I pushed myself up into a seated position and tried to really appreciate what I was seeing. He looked exactly the same as he had when I was sixteen- well, maybe there was something a little wiser about the eyes.

"Kaitlyn, the time has come for you to choose."

"To- to choose?" I felt like an idiot, stumbling over my words, but the truth was that my brain was doing the best it could to deal with the impossible situation.

"To choose what you will be."

"I've already chosen what I'll be," I said. "I'm majoring in-"

"No, not what you'll do, Beloved. What you'll be." I didn't have a response for that- the unicorn had called me 'Beloved'. And it felt right.

"You have remained a virgin," he continued, and I blinked.

"Wait wait wait- is it true that's the only reason you'll get close to me? Because my stupid hymen is intact?" Again the look in his eyes that I felt was a smile, albeit an embarrassed one.

"That's not... strictly accurate," he said. "If you had given yourself to a mortal man, I could still approach you. There just wouldn't be much point."

"Excuse me?" The dazzle of talking to a real-life unicorn was wearing off, and mostly what I was feeling was irritated. The unicorn took a step back from my glare.

"I should explain better," he said.

"I'll say."

"Kaitlyn, every unicorn that is ever born is a male."

"That's ridiculous and impossible," I snapped, ignoring how ludicrous it was to make such a statement to a unicorn. "Unless you're like those amphibians that can change gender."

"No, we cannot change gender. But we must have mates, and so we seek them out. If we hope to reproduce we must find a female creature willing to give up her form for that of a unicorn's. But she cannot do that if she's given herself to a male of her own species. We believe in mating for life, you see."

"Well that's inconvenient," I said, suddenly feeling a bit fluttery in my stomach.

"It's not so bad," he said. "We never have to worry about inbreeding, for one thing," I couldn't help but laugh at that. I reached out a hand and touched his gleaming cheek- it was like cold silk beneath my fingertips, and he closed his eyes in response.

"What- what does that have to do with me?" I asked, although I already knew the answer. The liquid eyes opened again, and he pressed his head into my touch.

"I've chosen you, Kaitlyn. I chose you years ago, when we were both children. But now we are adults, and you must choose me in return."


Here and Now, There and Then

There are two kinds of readers in the world: those who re-read books, and those who don't. As you may have gathered by this point, I'm in the former category. I have such a voracious appetite for stories that I tend to get my books from the library, because to purchase them all would a)bankrupts me and b)leave me without room to move about the apartment. Some books, however, are worth investing in for the long-term. And I'm not just talking about money- no, shelf space (and the willingness to shlep the weight back and forth across the country) is worth far more than money (which is why most of the books I do bother to buy end up given to someone else). So if I'm going to not just purchase a book but also keep on the shelf, it's going to be a book that I'll want to re-read. Multiple times. (Or, you know, a reference book- but that's another entry entirely).

Most of these books that I invest shelf-space in are books that I find comforting to read. Something that, if I'm sick or just having a bad day, I can pick up and will feel better by reading. That's not to say they're all happy books (they're not), but they're all populated by characters with whom I feel I've established a relationship. I've become emotionally invested in their adventures, and re-visiting them is like re-visiting old friends. Which, as I've mentioned, is comforting. Furthermore, there's something so nice about the fact that even if a beloved character dies, I can always go back to the beginning, where they are still (and always shall be) alive. It was Heinlein who made me think about that as it applies to the real world- he has a novel in which time-travel allows certain characters to travel back before a blast that killed someone they loved. As they watch her moving about in their past, one of them comments how strange and comforting to know that this time (in which she is alive and happy) always exists, whether or not they're in it.

Ironically enough, it's a time-travel novel that I'm re-reading at the moment: Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. There are currently seven novels in the series, but it's this first one that I return to time and again (and therefore the only one I've devoted shelf-space to). The love story between the protagonists is so real (warts and all), and so poignant, that it makes me smile and get all squinchy every time I revisit them. It doesn't hurt that Nathan's on the road again, which always makes me nostalgic in general...


True Family

It was a good weekend for family.

Friday night Katie came up to spend the evening with us, which turned into spending the night. Saturday morning I woke up before her or Nathan, and as I baked them banana muffins in the early-morning stillness, I could not help but feel amazingly serene at having my best-beloveds sleeping quietly in such proximity to me. True family is not blood, but peace.

Later that day Nathan and I went over to Jeff and Elizabeth's, to join in the massive family effort to Paint the Nursery. Giddy off fumes, hands looking like I'd smeared them with guacamole and sour cream, I picked on Ben mercilessly and laughed at his riposte. True family is not blood, but joy.

Nathan left for Georgia this afternoon, so when I drove down to Prattville for Ben's ordination this evening it was all by my lonesome. But then I sat in a pew with my niece on my lap and my father-in-law's arm resting lightly around my shoulders, and I didn't feel lonesome at all. True family is not blood, but comfort.

And then as I was leaving the church, I got a text- my mother had made it back to town. So I went over to her house and she fed me and gave me books and best of all long mommy-hugs. True family is not blood- but that doesn't mean blood can't be true family.


By Any Other Word

"Thou didst learn at last,"

I'd won free of my nurse, and had come to stand before a small tomb, paying no mind to the rain as it seeped through the thin fabric of my dress. It had seemed wrong to inter them separately, after all events had been laid out, and so this sepulcher had been erected as the first tangible symbol of the newborn amity between our families.

Our families.

She was my cousin, daughter of my father's brother, and although we had not been close, we had passed more than one pleasant afternoon together. In truth I'd liked her: her vibrancy, her passion- she was always so much more unrestrained than I, who was often called indifferent. In public view it was her passing alone that I mourned, as was expected of me- but in the private chambers of my heart it was him. Always him. And there too, of course, did I also mourn the passing of what might have been.

I had been so young, when first our eyes had met- and I felt so ancient now, standing in this unrelenting drizzle, hand pressed firm to the cold marble carving of his face- although less than a year had passed. Less than a year since I had felt my heart rise up in my chest, felt my blooding singing out in response to the fire in his eyes.

Why did I rebuff his advances? Why did I tell him that I was sworn to live chaste? It was sin that brought such lies to my lips, a sin so much greater than mere lust-

It was pride. Pride because, young as I was, I knew he did not love me. Not truly. His eyes burned, as well as other parts, I'm sure- but not his heart. He was in love with the idea of love- and I wanted true love, or none at all.

And God had rewarded my sin by giving me what I wanted: none at all.

I had hoped that if I held him at arm's length he would in time learn to love in truth and not just in form. And truly he did learn true love- but not with me.

A movement behind me caused me to snatch away my hand, and I turned to face the intruder with the icy stare that has withered so many. The gaze that met my own was bereaved, and belonged to one whose name was known to me.

"Benvolio," I breathed, embarrassed that his kinsman should find me in such a state.

"My lady," his voice was stiff. "I meant no intrusion upon your private grief- I shall go."

"Stay! Stay, Benvolio; let us mourn our cousins together, for thou loved as well as I, and grief is often softened by the presence of a sympathetic heart."

"If you say you so, my lady, I shall stay." Still his voice was stiff, and I wondered at it- were not our families now reconciled? Had not Benvolio always been last amongst us to hold a grudge? Whence such bitterness?

"Have I wronged thee, sir Benvolio?"

"Not I, my lady, no."

"If not thee then who?"

"Lady it is unseemly to quarrel before the dead."

"Sir I have no quarrel- I merely seek to understand the loathing in thy tone."

"My tone cannot help but resonate to yours, my lady."

"My tone, good sir?"

"That false tone which presses gentle Romeo's face and weeps. You must admit, you never had such care for him in life!"

Rather he had stabbed me with his dagger than uttered such poisoned accusation!


Dirty South

Do you know what I'm sick and tired of? I'm sick and tired of people ripping on the South.

I'm not talking about people who live here, or have lived here- by all means, those people have earned the right to talk all the smack they choose (I myself have done so on numerous occasions). What I'm talking about are the people who not only have never lived here, but have never even been here. I am sick and tired of the superiority complex, the snide remarks, the snickering. Because you know what? Yeah, down here we have some racist people, and we have some ignorant people, but guess what! There are racist, ignorant people all over the friggin' country, including the corner you live in. Yeah, that's right, I said it- jerks are everywhere. But guess what else the South has! We have thunderstorms, and lightning bugs, and both Southern Hospitality and Gentlemen. We have not just damn fine regional cooking, but also cuisine from all over the world and did I mention mint juleps? We have art museums and theaters and tiny indie venues and micro-brewing. We have cutting edge medicine and proud sports traditions (I may not be on board with said traditions, but it's my understanding that they're appreciated across the country). We have intelligent, articulate, talented people, in many different fields. So I'm pretty sure the cultural snobs need to shut the hell up.

Now if you'll pardon me I'm going to go cling to my air-conditioner.


"Everything That Matters Ends"

I was puttering around on NPR today, and came across an article about the potential of eradicating death. In the article, the author posed the question, "If a pill were developed that cured aging and allowed you to live indefinitely, would you take it?" which, of course, I took it upon myself to answer:

"I've tried to answer this four times, and each time I just get more and more knotted up in my answers. I guess what it comes down to is that, on a personal level, I think I wouldn't mind an extra century or so of youth (so long as I had a companion or two with a similar span)- but true immortality? Not so much. Furthermore, I think it's a very bad idea when applied to our entire race (or even just the affluent part of our race)- the repercussions would be, in my opinion, hideous (who's read a lot of scifi and fantasy addressing such issues? THIS GIRL...) Which means I could not, in good conscience, accept such a pill for myself. Now, maybe if they invented a pill that would keep my mind sharp and my limbs supple until the end of my natural life span... THAT I would be down with."

Anyway, then Nathan came and took me out to lunch, and I brought the question up to him. His answer came without hesitation, and I must say it was not the one I was expecting:

"Of course."


"Sure. I like life," and our conversation went from there. As it progressed, it turned out that his views were actually more in line with mine- we both feel that eventually you would just get tired, just ready for the end. And of course, neither of us would be keen to unnaturally extend our lives unless the other was doing it, too. Or so he claims, anyway...

Later on in the day (specifically evening-times) I was flipping through the recent journal posts of Neil Gaiman and stumbled across this one, which contains a video interview of him from 1993 (which was only a year or two before I was first clued in to him, thank you Katie...). In the video, the interviewer mentions that The Sandman is an unusual comic in that it was allowed to have an ending. He then asks Neil about why having an ending to the series is important to him, and Neil answers,

"Because stories that matter have ends. Everything that matters ends; it's the end that gives it meaning."

And I just felt that I'd stumbled across a rather lovely piece of synchronicity that does a damn good job of summing up why I wouldn't actually want to be immortal. Death gives life shape- it literally gives it meaning. You cannot understand or appreciate a thing without being aware of its potential absence.

My brain is full of these Gigantic Subjects, lately. Love and Death, that sort of thing. Not a bad mental state for an artist to be in, I suppose... it makes me a little melancholy, but it also makes me reach out to hold my husband's hand more often, and that's surely a good thing.

(In less serious musings: Rat Baby!)


Saving Stitch

They don't talk about me much. Or at all. I'm pretty sure the old poets never once mentioned me in their epics. No, it's my brother who has always received the attention, and really- who can blame them? He's beautiful, my brother. Beautiful and terrible, with wings that block out the sunlight, but you don't even notice because you're being blinded by the radiance of his face. His passage leaves people wounded, broken and bleeding, and still they cry out for him to return to them. Oh, please don't think I'm harboring any bitterness! I'm not, honestly- it's not my way. He can't help what he is any more than I can help what I am. He lets fly his poisoned arrows not just because it's what he does- it's what he is: Love. Love, Love: terrible and beautiful and inevitable. People have tried to resist him- but they all fall, in the end.

And after he has abandoned them I come along, and they resist me as well. I come with my needles sharp as arrows, with my thread soft as feathers; I come to sew up the holes punched in their hearts, but most of them don't want what I'm offering. That's the poison, I guess, affecting their minds. But just as my brother is a relentless hunter, I too am patient: an unparalleled stalker. Sometimes it takes me years, one tiny stitch at a time, but in the end very few can resist me forever. But they hate me for what I do- the one who cleans up the mess Love has left behind. And maybe that's why no one ever sang any songs about me. They'd rather have the glory of Love than the quiet soothing of my healing fingertips. They don't understand that without me, without the strength I stitch into their hearts, they will never be able to survive my brother's arrows. They think that what I do devalues what they've felt, and never stop to think that what I do makes it possible for them to feel it again- to feel it forever, without the anguish. No, when that final arrow pierces them, and stays, they give all the credit to him, and none to me.

But that's alright, because I don't do it for my own glory. I do it for theirs.



(A word about the relevance of today's photo- it made me think about the drilling force of love, which gave me the funny mental image of a modern Cupid using a drill to make multiple, neat holes into people's hearts. And I thought about all the holes that have been drilled into my heart over the years, and how much it sucked at the time, but that I always managed to heal up [more or less] eventually. Which made me wonder about who was doing the patching up...)

(A word about the illustration- this is actually a variation on a sketch that I did in my one of my sketchbooks a couple of years back... which in turn was part of a series of stitching women that I did. I popped out tonight's entry and it reminded me of the sketch, so I thought I'd revisit it. This new version was done pretty quickly in pencil, but I'm pleased with it nonetheless...)


A Lady of Exquisite Sensitivity, Epilogue

I didn’t bother trying to contradict the queen. It was obvious to me that however prosperous this kingdom might be, however advantageously positioned for trade, its monarchs were… well, let us say eccentric. I took the coin she offered me, thanked her as graciously as I could (it would have been a considerable sum to a peasant, certainly enough to buy me a decent horse, and just because I had been thwarted in my plans was no need to forgo common courtesy), and made my exit.

I will not detail my journey home- suffice to say I discovered that one can travel a great deal more swiftly when one is not bogged down by courtiers (or skirts, for that matter, but please don’t mention that observation to my mother). When I did finally arrive I found the palace in deepest mourning- apparently a few of the party members had managed to escape and carry the tale of what they thought had been my fate to my parents. Needless to say, Mother and Father were delighted to find me alive, and my father was positively thrilled when I let it be known that I had managed to make my way to the foreign court, after all.

Once I had related my tale in full, however, I watched his expression become torn between fury at the great insult done me, and mirth at the absurdity of it all. I laid my hand on his arm and attempted to soothe the fury.

“Father, I may not have returned with a marriage contract, but I have learned how best to gain us one.”

“As though I would marry my precious daughter into such a pack of… of… of gibbering idiots!” (Father, alas, was not raised to Mother’s standards of etiquette.)

“But think, Father- with her intelligence and training, she would be well placed to be the true power behind these people. And that’s no small advantage to our trade routes.” Father chewed on his lip for a moment, then sighed.

“You’re right, Aggie. Damn your charming eyes!” I grinned at him and patted his shoulder comfortingly.

“It’s your own fault, Father: everyone knows I get them from you. Shall I have Aurie summoned?”

“No, no. It’s probably best that you go talk to her yourself. Make her see the advantages. You’re good at that sort of thing.”

I sought out my next younger sister (Auriella Anderia Arianna Adriona Amienna Christensen, for those keeping track) the one we had hoped to marry off to the foreign prince. It was not idle flattery when I had mentioned her intelligence- she was perhaps the cleverest of my father’s seven daughters, and moreover she had a keen interest in politics. I was fairly certain that, rather than being distressed by the eccentricities of her potential husband’s family, she would welcome them as a challenge to her wit.

When at last I had her alone, I sat her down and said,

“Aurie, if you're still interested in making this alliance, you're going to have to forget everything Mother has ever taught you about being a gracious guest…”


A Lady of Exquisite Sensitivity, Pt III

Their Majesties condescended to see me over a private breakfast, which I found to be something of a relief- regal bearing or not, I truly was not properly attired for an appearance before the full court, and I worried that I might give offense to their nobles should I appear too informal- nobles who would then argue against my proposals in my absence.

When I approached their table I dropped into a curtsy of the proper respectful depth, which I almost fell right out of when I recognized the king as the simple-faced gentleman who had opened the door the evening prior. He gave me a tiny, sheepish wave, and I smiled to cover my confusion. Apparently this kingdom had far more quirks than our scholars had bothered to note! The queen beside him was a coldly beautiful woman, with exquisite posture- but her stance bordered on rigid, and the look in her eye was hard.

“Your Majesties,” I began, “I bring greetings from my father, His Most August Majesty-“

“Yes, your father,” interrupted the Queen. I clamped my mouth shut and swallowed my next words. One does not interrupt a queen- even if she had interrupted one first. “Your father the king, correct?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Which means that you are, in fact, a princess?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. I am Princess Arabella Gabr-“

“Mmm, so you claim.” I clamped my mouth shut again, and ground my teeth together beneath another smile. I could not fault this woman for doubting me- after all, I had arrived in the middle of the night, with nothing to prove my rank or fortune. And not everyone had been raised to my mother’s standards of etiquette.

“How did you sleep?” she snapped, and I blinked at the sudden change of subject.

“Oh, quite well, Your Majesty,” I lied. Although my royal mother does not approve of lying, per se, even she will admit that diplomacy often requires it. And as I have mentioned- a lady never complains: especially when a lady has imposed upon someone in the middle of the night in the first place.

“Really?” the queen asked, her eyes narrowing. “You found the bed… comfortable?”

“It was the most well-padded bed I’ve ever encountered,” I said, striving for something less blatantly deceitful. “Soft as a cloud.” And about as stable, my aching back added.

“Hmm,” she said, and gave her husband a knowing look. “And why was it your father sent you to us in the middle of the night?”

“He did not intend for me to arrive in the middle of the night, Your Majesty, nor did he intend for me to arrive unaccompanied. My retinue was set upon by bandits, and I was lucky to escape with my life.”

“Terribly thrilling story,” the king piped up, giving his wife a foolish grin. The queen glared at him, then turned back to me.

“Yes, but why did he send you in the first place?”

“Surely Your Majesty remembers that we were to discuss the potentials of alliance through a royal marriage? My father has been in correspondence with Your Majesties for many months now.”

“A royal marriage? With our son, I suppose you mean.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” I had noticed his absence from the table, but thought it rude to question them on it.

“Your father wants us to marry our son to his daughter?”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” It was getting more and more difficult to keep my temper in check, good manners or no, “We feel it would be beneficial to both nations if-”

“I see a problem with that, child.” I actually bit my tongue until it bled at that little impertinence, but I forced another smile to my face. A cold smile with a locked jaw, but a smile, nonetheless.

“And why is that, Your Majesty?”

“Because our son is a prince, and will marry none but a true princess!”

“I apologize for my obtuseness, Your Majesty, but I fail to see the problem. My father is a king- any daughter of his is necessarily a princess.”

“And yet!”

“And yet, Your Majesty?”

“And yet you did not feel the pea!”

“The pea, Your Majesty?” Never had I been so confused by a political interaction. Were legumes an important part of their culture? Really I was going to have to have some scholars flogged when I got home.

The pea!” Her voice was triumphant, and her husband regained his sheepish expression. “The pea that I had placed beneath your bedding! Everyone knows that true princesses are extraordinarily sensitive: as such, any true princess would have spent the night tossing and turning, unable to sleep, and in the morning she would be black and blue!”

I admit that for the first time in my well-trained life, I did not know how to respond. It was all I could do not to gape like a fish. I was appalled on multiple levels- not only that these people had such ridiculous ideas of what made a princess (or what was important to a political alliance), but that, holding those ideas to be truth, they would cheerfully subject a guest to a night of torture! The queen, apparently untroubled by my silence, continued in a gleeful tone, “Long have we been searching for a true princess to marry our son- he is currently combing the countryside for one. I must admit, there is a shocking dearth of them in the surrounding area. Not a one of them has met all the requirements.”

“The requirements?” I choked out.

“Oh you know,” she waved her hand dismissively. “Beauty, grace, that sort of thing. But most of all, sensitivity.”

“So, you don’t care about making a strong alliance for your kingdom?”

“What good is an alliance with any but the most royal blood? Now my dear, I can’t blame you for trying to better your station in life, but really it’s quite obvious that you’re not a true princess, and that there’s no hope of you marrying our son.”

“Marry your-“

“We are not without feeling, and obviously you have been through some ordeal, even if it wasn’t the one you told us,”

“Thrilling tale,” muttered the king. “Hounds and fish…” The queen glared at him again, and he hunched his shoulders up around his ears.

As I was saying, we are not without feeling, so you may keep the gown, and we will even give you a little money to take home to your poor father. But really, my dear, you should know better than to claim to be a princess. You just don’t show the proper sensitivity!”


A Lady of Exquisite Sensitivity, Pt II

The man who opened the door was back-lit, so of course I could not make out his features at once. Nonetheless, I gave him my most winsome smile and apologized for calling so late, then explained that I was a foreign princess in need of shelter for the evening.

“When morning comes,” I said, “I shall need to meet with the king and queen to discuss private matters. But it would not do to disturb them at this hour and in such a state, and so in the meantime I require a place to rest and refresh myself.”

For a moment I doubted that the man would let me in, but eventually he gave a little half-shrug, and stepped aside with an inviting gesture. Once in the entryway I saw that he was near the end of his prime, fairly good-looking but with something of a simpleton air to him. At least he appeared well dressed and cared-for.

“You’re a true princess?” he asked, puzzled.

“I truly am,” I replied.

“You don’t look like a princess,” he said, slowly, and reached to stroke the head of a nearby dog as though for comfort. “You’re all wet. And your feet are muddy.” I stifled an urge to sigh impatiently- a lady is always gracious, no matter how ungraciously she herself is treated.

“I know I’m all wet and muddy,” I explained gently, “But that has nothing to do with me being a princess. You wouldn’t say your hound had become a fish just because it swam across a river, would you?” This was apparently too much for him, for instead of replying he led me to the kitchens, where he left me to stand dripping by the fire. I did my best to wring out my slip and hair while I waited for whoever was going to come for me.

I was kept waiting rather longer than I felt appropriate, but someone did eventually come. An old serving woman led me to a bed chamber which held the most extraordinary bed I’d ever seen. What I mean to say, rather, was that while the bed frame itself was normal enough, it had piled on top of it what appeared to be about twenty each of mattresses, quilts, and feather-beds. Some thoughtful soul had leaned a ladder up against this mountain of fluff so that I might actually climb atop it. The woman looked at me expectantly.

“Oh my, that certainly looks… quite comfortable,” I said, wracking my brains for local sleeping customs. I didn’t recall having read anything about an obsession with padding, but it just goes to show that scholars don’t always know everything. Or if they do, they fail to write it all down.

There was a large tub of steaming water by the fire, and a plain but clean gown draped over a chair. I allowed the servant to assist me into the water and to scrub my back, and then dismissed her. I certainly didn’t want anyone to witness what was sure to be an awkward scene as I tried to get into- or, rather, on to- bed.

I did manage it, in the end, although I accidently knocked the ladder over in the process. I allowed myself a full thirty seconds of wondering how I was expected to get down in the morning, before rolling over and doing my best to sleep.

It was a long night. Not literally, of course- the sun was up not even five hours later- but I did not manage even an hour of uninterrupted rest. For starters, the pile of mattresses kept swaying in the most alarming fashion, which led to me jerking awake convinced I was about to tumble to my death- or at the very least to my broken bones. Secondly, for all that it should have been impossible for me to feel anything other than downy softness in such a bed, it seemed to me that some cruel person had sewn a jagged stone into the upper-most feather-bed, right where my spine was. Roll about as I might, there was no escaping the hard little lump, and it made true sleep impossible.

When the cocks began their morning revelry I abandoned any attempt at slumber and instead turned my attention to a safe descent. I had just decided that the best method would be to carefully roll one mattress off the pile at a time, thus slowly but surely decreasing the mound to a reasonable heap, (as well as providing a soft place for me to land on, should I grow impatient and choose to jump) when the door opened and the servant from the previous night popped her head in. Seeing my predicament, she hastened to reset the ladder, and held it steady as I gingerly made my way back to the blessedly firm floor. She then helped me dress my body and my hair, and although I was in plain garb and without any marks of rank (and had indigo smudges beneath my eyes) I felt a great deal more regal than I had when I’d arrived. Thus renewed in spirit (if not body), I straightened my spine and asked to be taken to Their Majesties.


A Lady of Exquisite Sensitivity, Pt I

I was not having my best day ever.

I had awoken with a raging headache, and had it been any other day (or had I been any other person) I’d have spent the entirety in my bed, hiding beneath the covers. But it was not any other day- it was thirty-fifth day into the diplomatic mission I was making on behalf of my father to a foreign kingdom in the hopes of arranging a highly advantageous political marriage- and we were expected to arrive that evening. And I was not any other person- I was Princess Arabella Gabriella Grisadella Isabella Emanuella Christiansen (known more practically as “Aggie” to my family), and not only had I been raised on my mother’s rigorous etiquette standards and thoroughly educated on the history and mores of the surrounding areas, I also was in possession of a rather large amount of Natural Charm, which meant that any diplomatic endeavor I was a part of tended to go better than those I was not. And Father really needed this alliance. And so I had gritted my teeth, gotten out of bed, and climbed back into the carriage I was coming to loathe. Just one more day, I had told myself.

I had not mentioned my discomfort as we embarked- a lady never complains, after all- but I had made it a point to shut all the curtains, greatly reducing the amount of light and noise that infiltrated. Thus I had been able to drift into a sort of half-sleep, which unfortunately meant I had not been entirely coherent when the bandits struck.

I will say this for them- they didn’t kill me. I’m not sure if this is because they knew who I was, or because they didn’t. Either way, while they’d taken everything else of value- servants, goods, even my clothing- they’d left me my under garments and- more importantly- my life. This fact, as far as I’d been concerned, had meant that I still had a chance to negotiate the alliance I’d promised Father. And so I’d squared my shoulders and started walking, comforting myself with the thought that at least it was summer: although I’d been robbed, and my head was aching and my bare feet protesting, at least I wouldn’t be cold. And as I’d slowly covered the remaining miles I had been warm…

Until the storm him.

And so there I was, standing in my undergarments, soaked to the skin, spattered up to my knees in mud and road filth, teeth chattering like a rabid squirrel as I knocked on the door of a stranger’s castle gate at midnight, about to make perhaps the worst first impression I could conceive of. As I've mentioned: not my best day ever.


She Dreams in Ink and Flashing Needles

My infatuation with needlework is a relatively recent development (it was kindled back in December of '08; one of Nathan's Commercialmas was a lovingly cross-stitched towel that says "NARDDOG") but I am fairly certain it's going to turn into a life-long love affair. I've had a recent resurgence in my interest, which means that not only have I been doing it, I've also been reading about it (as I am wont to do with my various obsessions). I came across something Jenny Hart said in an interview that really struck a chord with me: "I like that embroidery serves no function. It's unlike knitting, crochet or sewing in that regard. Embroidery is pure embellishment. It's the frosting of needle arts, but it's almost always secondary to a functional object. It decorates something useful like a jacket, a tea-cozy, a pillowcase."

Or, as I paraphrased it to my mother during the conversation that made up part of the inspiration for this post, "Embroidery is purely ornamental- it serves no purpose other than to beautify."

This whole concept is kind of a big Thing with me. Form versus function, I mean. I am very much a Divided Person on that topic- on the one hand, I have this very pragmatic side that is very much concerned with useful things, and so long as a thing does what it is intended to do, who cares what it looks like? On the other hand, I'm a friggin' visual artist- you're damn right I care what things look like. Well, things that I make, at any rate. But at the same time the pragmatic part of me (which has a voice mush like my grandmother's, come to think of it) can't help but be slightly scandalized that I would "waste" time creating things no one "needs", rather than putting time and energy into something "useful". Because let's face it- we don't need beauty to survive. We need water, food, and shelter. Beauty is a luxury. It feeds the soul, sure- but we don't need it to propagate the species.

And yet.

Every culture that I'm familiar with finds some way to to create art- or at the very least find it in the world around them. Food for thought.

But back to the conversation with my mom. I also mentioned that I feel there's a real kinship between embroidery and tattooing- the needle goes in and out, leaving behind beautiful marks. She made what can only be called a noise of distaste at this observation, but the more I think about it the more I'm convinced it's a valid comparison- what is tattooing, if not embroidering the skin with ink rather than thread? It serves no survival purpose... but we do it, anyway. We embellish ourselves, have been embellishing ourselves for far longer than we've been embellishing pillow cases (...as far as I know. If an anthropologist in the crowd would like to give me an academic bitch-slap, by all means please do- I like learning stuff...)

Anyway my point is that it makes sense that I should be drawn to the decorative art of embroidery, since I'm so utterly besotted by the decorative art of tattoo (someday, someday I shall wield a needle of a buzzing sort...). And of course my brain is just exploding with art projects right now... ways to tie together my drawings, my tattoos, and my embroidery. Ink, thread, and needles...

(I honestly think this recent surge in creativity is directly tied to my recent bout of depression. Muses are joy-vampires I swear it...)



Whenever you read about psychics, or see a movie about them or whatever, they have really cool powers. Useful powers. Things like Seeing the future, or the past, or even the present- but the present hundreds of miles away. They can read minds, or move objects, or even light stuff on fire. Sometimes they can do all these things.

...but I am not that kind of psychic.

Sure, I have the third eye- apparently it's genetic, thanks Mom- but do you think it lets me See anything particularly awesome? No it does not. Do you know what it lets me See? It lets me see Light and Dark.

Now, I will admit it's slightly more cool that normal eyes, which only see light and dark. Notice the lack of capitals. Yeah, my third eye taps into Light and Dark, proper nouns- specifically the amount of each that you have in your soul- or whatever it is you want to call the thing that differentiates you from a corpse. What I'm saying is, I can tell whether or not you're good or evil just by looking at you.

And yeah, that sounds pretty good- maybe even useful, if one is prone to attracting the Wrong Sorts of People- but the truth of the matter is that most people? Neither good nor evil. Nope, just a nice balance of Light and Dark, maybe shading to one direction or the other, but not really enough to make them demons or angels (the existence of which, by the way, I choose to reserve judgment on). Even at my school, the kids are mostly in the middle. Yeah yeah, I know, I know- if I didn't have this Sight I, too, would swear that the vast majority of adolescents are pure evil- but they're not. They're just... hell, I don't know what they are. That's the other problem with this little "gift" of mine. It just shows me what is, not why it is. Which means I don't have any insights into the whole Nature vs Nurture thing, which is too bad, because I'm actually kind of fascinated by psychology.

But I digress.



When Exactly Did I Develop Problems With Authority?


So I actually have a plethora of topics to pick from for this evening's post. In fact I had already begun crafting an excellent one inspired by my friend Tavish (he of the endless ideas). But in light of this afternoon's Events, I think I'll table that one for another day and instead talk about Me Bobbling My Temper. Not losing it entirely, mind you- but not having the best grip in the world, either.

The long and short of it is that I told off a doctor today. Yes, you read that correctly. Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes gave a medical professional a tongue lashing. Let's not get into how or why (or even the specific words used)... I'd rather address the fact that it happened it all, and the subsequent emotional fallout.

The worst part about it is that I don't feel better. I'm not proud of what I did, and I really want to be. It ought to make an awesome story- "That doctor thought she could just keep steamrolling me, but I gave her what-for!". And while yes, that is what happened... I'm not proud. I'm ashamed. Ashamed that I seem to be back-sliding in my spiritual development. Yes, the doctor needed to be told that her demeanor/words/actions were unacceptable- but I probably could have found a better way to do it. In fact, I shouldn't even have let it escalate to the point that it did- I should have stopped seeing her after my initial confrontation with her. I knew nine months ago that I did not like her- but for some reason I didn't feel I could change doctors. I will admit that the civilian medical world makes me feel timid- it's very confusing after you've grown up on military bases. But that's no excuse- I'm a big girl, and I should have just sucked it up and found a different specialist, rather than letting it get out of hand.

Again I say, ::sigh::

And like I said- I don't feel better. And if you don't feel better after telling someone off, then what's the point? If I thought my words might have had an impact- that she would suddenly realize she can't treat people that way- then maybe I could feel righteous. But the fact of the matter is that I don't think that. I think that she is the sort of arrogant person to whom the opinion of others (let alone their feelings) makes no difference.

So once again I'm feeling lost and disillusioned with the world. Growing up we're taught to respect the men and women in fields like law enforcement and medicine- that they are good and just people who will use their power, knowledge, and authority to take care of us. But that's not true... at least, it's not universally true. Many of them are bullies, and I don't know why it continues to break my heart, but it does. I feel so frustrated, so helpless, when confronted by people who abuse their power. I don't know what to do about it. They say you have to stand up to bullies, and I do, but in the end... what difference does it make? I have no power, I have no influence. That doctor doesn't care what I think about her- she didn't even care enough about medicine to do her job properly. So I stood up to her, told her off- but so what? It doesn't change anything, except making me sick to my stomach for sinking to her level.

That being said, the best part of my day became coming home to Nathan, and having him be 100% on my side. Being able to let everything come tumbling out- all the rage, and the shame, and the frustration, and the despair... and having it be okay. Having him think I'm a worthwhile human being, anyway. I put the entire rotten experience out there (and here) and now I'm going to let it go- and he's helping me do that. So yeah, there are shitty people in the world- but there are also good people. And for that I'm grateful.

(PS I guess the answer to the subject of this post is- "When people started abusing it.")


What, ANOTHER Post?

Truth be told, I'm starting to feel a little anemic, creativity-wise. I've been at this over half a year, now, and the muses' spring... well, it's not dry, exactly, but the water level has definitely dropped. Plus I feel like I possibly used up today's Artistic Allotment on thumb-nailing out ideas for the painting Nathan requested I do for our bedroom. It's going to be a diptych- the first I've ever done (which is insane since I really love that format... also triptychs, which is even more fun to say...). My subject matter is Cupid and Psyche (my favorite of the Roman myths and a particularly appropriate image for the bedroom, I think) and I'm definitely capitalizing on the fact that a diptych is incredibly evocative of the double-page spread staple of comic-books. Plus I put in some time on the Firefly pencils (I'm at that awful stage where I'm so close to being ready for inks that it just irritates the hell out of me that I'm not done already, which in turn makes me sulky and not want to work on them...). Sometimes I think it's gotta' be drawing or writing- but not both in the same day. ::sigh::

And then I was ruminating on the fact that part of the theory behind this little project was that I'd finally manage to finish something... but halfway in, not so much. Sure, I've done a few short-shorts, but those hardly count. I seem to have written myself into a corner on the few longer serials I've stumbled into ("Blue Menagerie" I'm looking at you) and all in all I'm wondering if I even have it in me to be a writer. Let me clarify- I do believe I have the talent to write well. My concern is that I don't have the follow-through. ::sigh:: How am I ever to live a life of artistic leisure if I never publish? (There was some sarcasm in that- I'm not so naive as to believe that publishing = instant wealth) (although of course that would be nice...)

But then I remind myself that another part of theory behind this little project was to force myself to write every day whether I feel like it or not. And I have stuck to that, so may hap there's hope for me yet...

(In spite of the tone of this post, I've actually been in a pretty brilliant mood today- a great relief after last week's depressed, listless husk of a woman...) (Hell, maybe that's the problem... good moods and epic creation rarely go hand-in-hand...)



As I've mentioned several times before, my mother and I have a little Mother-Daughter (re)Reading Club. We're currently making our way through the Harry Potter series, and our most recent conversation was regarding Order of the Phoenix. This was a particularly enjoyable discussion for us, because this is the point in the series where we both agree that things really get meaty.

One of the most interesting topics for us was Dolores Umbridge. I posit that this character is the most vile villain in all of Harry Potter- yes, worse than Lord Voldemort. I take this position because out of all the villains in those books, Umbridge is the most realistic. That is to say, she is a real-world villain. I've encountered her flesh-and-blood versions in my lifetime, and I'm sure you have, too. And the raw, helpless fury that such bureaucrats awakens in me... it just makes me sick that there are actual people like that in the world. Not a lot of snake-faced super-wizards, but plenty of people who abuse their positions and make sadistic use of their powers- especially against children.

We also talked about how we both like the way Rowling slowly peels back the layers of Neville. Really she does this with all her characters, but Neville was the one we were most excited to rehash (we're both big fans of Neville, my mother and I). The moment where he tucks the gum-wrapper in his pocket still brings tears to my eyes...

Which just goes to show what a wonderfully evocative writer Rowling is. On the one hand she writes villains that I don't just dislike- I loathe with physical discomfort. But on the other she crafts these wonderful little supporting characters whom I care about as much as I do the main protagonists. Characterization, my friends... very important no matter what you're writing.


Rare Sight

For the first few years after my accident, I avoided crowds. I found them to be just too overwhelming for me to deal with. Bad enough to be subject to the awkward complications of one-on-one interactions- the idea of having to deal with hundreds, even thousands of impressions at once... well, it was exhausting. And I didn't feel up to it.

But eventually my older brother decided he'd had enough, and he put his foot down.

"Jackie, I am taking you out to an event, and you are going to like it," he said. I tried to argue, but he threatened to hide all my books if I didn't cooperate (he's always fought dirty, even when we were little).

"Fine," I gave in with a sigh, but the burst of pleasure I felt radiating from him almost made up for the ordeal I knew was coming.

I could feel the whispers as we walked toward the stadium- kids, mostly, but the occasional adult, too. "Did you see her?" "Was that a cane?" "Why would a blind person go to a fireworks show?"

I'd asked Steve that, myself.

"Right," he had said dryly. "Because fireworks are a silent art, completely undetectable if you just close your eyes." And then he had pulled me out of my chair and steered me toward the door. Jerk.

He found us a spot in what he assured me was the center of the field, and we sat side by side on the itchy old blanket he'd stolen from Mom's house. It smelled of mothballs, and I told him so.

"Well duh. You don't have to have blind girl super-powers for that one, little sis." I stuck out my tongue in his general direction. "Missed me," he laughed.

"No I didn't." He laughed harder and I couldn't help but grin back.

The crowd actually wasn't as bad as I'd feared- by and large the emotions surging through it were positive, and for the most part not really strong enough to affect me, anyway. There was the occasional child about to burst with excitement, but that wasn't an unpleasant feeling, at all. In fact, I consciously let it feed my own mounting anticipation.

We had to put up with a live band and choir that weren't of the highest quality- and I could tell I wasn't the only one to think so. Most amusing was the dissatisfaction I could feel radiating off a few of the band members, obviously thinking back to bygone days of college marching. But there was a certain sweetness to the unadulterated joy coming from one off-key singer, so happy to be part of something, and it made me grateful for my strange "blind girl super-power" that made me privy to such a moment.

After that there was a speech or three I tuned out, until Steven poked my arm and told me to wake up.

"They've turned out the lights," he said. I wondered if he was going to narrate the entire show to me. I hoped not. A hush came over the crowd, and then-

I thought I would hear the crack boom first of all, but that's not what happened. No, light moves faster than sound, and thought faster still, and so my first impression was... like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I was caught in multicolored sea of wonder, spiked with the occasional flash of fear- every person in that stadium saw that first explosion differently, and I saw every one of their reactions all at once. It was staggering, it was overwhelming, it was drowning me...

It was beautiful.

By the time the sound hit, tears were streaming down my face- but good tears. This was better than seeing it with human eyes- this was... transcendent. And then it happened again... and it kept on happening.

"Are you okay?" asked Steven, and I suddenly knew he must have been watching my face instead of the fireworks, wanting to see if he'd done wrong or right by me.

"Yes," I whispered, and leaned my head against his shoulder. "I'm wonderful. And so are you."