Inquiry Letter

(Sent to WSSM)

I know what you're thinking- "Birmingham, Alabama? Isn't that darn near as close to land-locked as you can get in this country?" and you're right: the closest decent break is a good six hours from here. Nevertheless, Ruli (my 8'10" mini longboard) is leaned up against a wall in the bedroom I share with my (very tolerant) husband. Why? Because even tho' I'm landlocked, I'm still a surfer. And I have the stories to prove it.

Oh, they're not impressive stories, by any means. I've never surfed anything larger than said husband (who is six foot) and even that was with more spirit than style. But they're stories that I feel speak to any woman who got bitten by the surf-bug in her mid-twenties, set about teaching herself, and didn't let a little thing like living (at the time) two hours from the cold coastal waters of Oregon stand in her way. They're stories that speak to anyone who can remember that first, burning love affair with their board, and all the little triumphs that came with it.

I'd love to share some of my stories with your readers, if you think they'd like to hear them. Please let me know your submission requirements, and I'll be happy to comply.

Thanks for the consideration!

Jenny O

PS I also happen to be a visual artist, which means I can supply (or at least submit for your perusal) illustrations to go along with said stories. Just let me know!



The church bells called me out into the twilight.

I'm not certain how long they'd been ringing when they first pierced my consciousness.  I'd been immersed in writing, only vaguely aware of the pleasing notes repeating in the dying light.  Then came the thought-

Funny, I can't usually hear church bells from my apartment, soon followed by, My, those are going on awfully long for the chiming of the hour, and almost as quickly by, Wait a moment- it's 5:18.  That's not church-bell time.

I sat up and listened harder.  Am I imagining this?  No, there they were, ever-so-faintly.

What is going on?

So out I went into the twilight to follow them to the source.  At first I thought they might be coming from the park two blocks away- they often hold concerts there, although usually in the summer.  But no- the closer I got to the park the more I lost the sound.  Has it ended?  But when I walked back up towards my apartment I caught it again- so slippery, just barely there.  To the point where maybe I was making it up.

There is a Greek Orthodox church only about three blocks away (in the other direction): in retrospect I realize that I don't know enough about Greek Orthodox to know whether or not they even engage in bell-ringing, but in that moment all I could think was, maybe it's coming from the church.

But it wasn't.  Or, at least, if it had been it ceased to.  The bells faded, replaced by the lonely whistle of a train and the rushing hum of rush hour traffic on University.  Nothing, nothing left to tell me whether or not I'd imagined the whole thing.



It was an honest mistake- one anyone could have made.  I mean after all, when you steal an egg from underneath a snake, you kind of expect that it will hatch into a baby snake, right?  I mean, wasn't that a logical expectation to have?  Filch a corn snake's egg, get a little corn snake to raise!  How was I to know I would end up with... this?

Obviously that mama snake was having some kinky cross-species sex, that's all I'm saying.  I mean, just look at this thing: long and scaly, sure, but tell me that's not a damn chicken head on top!  Or maybe rooster- I'm not all that up on my domesticated fowl.  Although I guess I am pretty sure they don't have teeth... but this little monster sure as hell does.  Not that he's bitten me, mind you, but you should see what he can do to a baby mouse.

And see these little ridges back here?  They keep getting bigger, and the skin looks thinner and thinner, and damned if I don't think he's going to sprout wings in a day or two.  So what does that make this little guy, huh?  Some sort of dragon?  Mighty puny dragon if you ask me.  But... not so bad, really.  I mean, look at  how pretty the patterns in his scales are.  And see this?  This little affectionate curling thing he's doing right now?  You have to admit, that's pretty sweet.  So maybe he was a mistake... but maybe I don't mind so much.  After all, how many snakes do you know that can paralyze with a glance?



I have always felt most at home in winter- bundled up in layers, muffled in the quiet that falls across the landscape with the snow.  Last year at this time I became a layer myself- wrapped around you as you grew in my womb.  I felt you slowly spinning, like a snowflake, and I knew you would share my love of this season.

Your father wouldn't let me take you out for the first snow of your life- said it was too cold for you, too cold for your skin like sweet summer roses.  We kept you inside, kept you by the fire, through that first month of your existence- but this year he has finally relented, and here we are, your face tilted up to the soft silver-gray of the sky.  And I watch the crystals gather on the perfect copper sweeps of your eyelashes and I know that I was right to bring you out here.

I lay you down on an old blanket, beneath the twisting limbs of the old cherry tree, just as I did last spring.  On that day the white petals fell on you with every passing breeze, and you waved them away with your baby laugh.  I thought they must have tickled you, the way that the snowflakes tickle me.  But you do not wave away this shower of white.

I sit and watch it gather on your body, becoming a pale coverlet atop the dark wool of your blankets.  Soon you are a just another small hill in the silent woods, the many soft curves of your body smoothed until they are one gentle mound of snow.

That's the power of snow- it covers everything, making even the most terrible things beautiful- or at least bearable.  I know I should have buried you in the earth, but I how could I have stood to look at that ugly scar, day after day?  Every day reminded by the torn up soil, the lack of growing things...  It is better this way- you will become part of winter, and when spring comes again you will melt away... and so will my grief.


Many Happy Returns

There is a site that I frequent called Offbeat Mama: it is a fabulous site, and I love it (although technically my status is Offbeat Auntie).  Recently I was reading an article about supporting your friends who are sub-fertile, and it included a list (several lists, actually) of things you just shouldn't say to people who are grieving.  Some of those things I agree with, some of them I do not (speaking solely as a person-who-has-grieved, not in a everyone-should-deal-like-I-deal capacity), but what particularly stood out to me was the violence with which some women reacted to the idea that everything happens for a reason.  That whole concept just really seems to piss some women off, which is both fascinating and bewildering to me, because (again, speaking only for myself here) to me the idea that everything happens for a reason is the only thing that keeps me sane, sometimes.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned on here before that I'm a fatalist- that is to say, I believe that things happen the way they do because they must.  Some people feel this is a bleak outlook- but I find it comforting.  Horrible things happen, and to imagine that there is no reason behind them- that they just happen- is too horrible for me to contemplate.  I choose to believe that as much as I may suffer over an event, it is part of a larger pattern that I cannot yet recognize- but that I will.  And I must say that events (in my life, anyway) tend to support this.  Bad things- truly awful things- have in time led to good.  Which in no way diminishes the awful- but makes it easier to bear.

For instance- if my father hadn't died when he did, I don't think that my mom and brother and I would be so close.  That's not to say I don't think we wouldn't be close at all- but not like this.  We're survivors of major life trauma, and the relationship the three of us have is not something I see very often in other families.  And yeah, it was a shitty way to go about getting it, but I'm so grateful that we have it.  If my father hadn't died when he did, I would not appreciate the family I have left like I do.  I certainly would not have as good a marriage as I do.  So many things in my life would be different...  and while I would give a great many things to have my father back again... there are things I simply would not give.  And, in discussing it with my mother, I discovered she agrees with me.

We talked about it and decided that it's sort of like... diminishing returns.  Right after he died, if there had been some way for us to undo what was done, we'd have done it in a heartbeat.  But time passes, and that one ugly thread becomes woven deeper and deeper into the pattern, until to pull it out would be to unravel so much good that... it wouldn't be worth it.  And we're at peace with that.

And I think he would be, too.


An Exercise in Dialogue

"They're gone!  It's time to play!"
"Geeze, Rem.  You're acting like this doesn't happen every day."
"But it's happening now, Nico!  It's happening now!"
"That it is.  And it will still be happening an hour from now.  In fact, it will be happening for the next, oh, sixteen hours.  So I am going back to sleep, and you can wake me when the sun goes down.  In two hours."
"Fifteen hours, until the teacher comes back.  She comes in before the kids, remember remember?"
"I am glad to see that you've finally managed to master the basics of fourth grade math.  Now please let me go back to sleep."
"Okay.  I guess I'll just go run on the wheel."
"Really?  Really?  I ask you to let me sleep, and you're going to go run on the wheel?"
"What's wrong with the wheel?"
"What's wrong wi- for the love of cheese, Rem!  It squeaks!  It's squeaks more than you do, and that's saying something!"
"I guess I could take a bath instead..."
"Yes, do that.  Excellent idea.  When in doubt, groom.  Quietly."
"I am asleep."
"Yes, I know, but... my paw is stuck."
"How on earth did you- Rem, why is your paw stuck in the latch of the cage?"
"I, um... thought I might go out?  So that I could play without bothering you?"
"I thought you were going to groom!"
"I was!  Just... under a desk.  Sometimes they leaves snacks, you know!"
"Quit squirming.  How did you wedge it so far in?  I swear... And yes, I know they leave snacks sometimes- who showed you how to get out in the first place?  But aren't you forgetting something?"
"Ow! Thanks.  Forgetting something like what?"
"Like, oh, him?"
"The janitor?"
"Yes the janitor- just how do you think he'd react to a pair of rats running around loose in the classroom?"
"But he likes us!  Look, he's coming over to say hello!"
"Hey there, little guys!  Say, what's wrong with your paw there, little Remmy?  You hurt it or somethin'?  Nicodemus, you need to take better care of your little brother!  Well here, I brought you guys a treat.  But shhh, don't tell Mizz Rupert, okay?  She told me I'm makin' you fat with all these after-hour snacks.  But I say, how can fruit make you fat?  It's healthy!  So you just eat up... and I'll get back to work.  I'll leave a note for Mizz Rupert that somethin's wrong with your paw, okay Remmy?  Be good now, little rats."
"See?  He's nice!  And I love apples!"
"You love everything."
"I do!"
"...I guess I may as well stay awake now, to keep you out of trouble."
"You're so nice, Nico... can we go out and play now?"
"No.  Not until the building is empty.  You know that."
"Oh right... what will we do once we're out?"
"The same thing we do every night, Rem."
"Try to take over the-"
"No!  Quit saying that!  It was barely funny the first time!"
"I wish the teacher had never shown the class that show, I swear.  We're just lucky we'd already been named... I'm sure I'd have ended up Pinky, with my luck."
"I like that show!"
"Of course you do."
"...so what are we going to do?"
"We're going to go look for mates."
"Why do we want mates?"
"You'll understand when we find them."


The Other Side of Writing

So I'm back to working on Crow King again, although not so much in the typing sense.  It's been about a month since I last let myself look at it, so yesterday I printed it up and started to read.  I'm trying to resist too much editing and instead just focus on the experience of the story- and, of course, making notes of where I need to expand, and where I need to clarify, and where I have used the exact same turn of phrase I used twenty pages ago.  I am quite guilty of that last thing- apparently when I like the way something sounds,  I want to share it.  A lot.  ::wry grin::

What's especially neat to me is that it's actually taking me time to get through the darn thing.  As in, more than one day.  That's a lot of words!  So there's a certain warm glow to that little experience.  And I can really tell where I hit my stride, because the writing gets, like, exponentially better.  Which is both good and bad- good that I have chunks of really solid writing, and bad in that there are chunks that just plain and simple need to be re-written now that I am more familiar with the characters.  ::sigh::  Ah well...

I've also done, as part of my daily-doodle business, some costume design.  Oh so much fun.  And Nathan has even made noises of approval, so that's nice.

And now?  Now on to hoop dance class!  ^_^


That Was the Fattest Holiday Ever

...blergh. Back up in Birmingham, with the return to Real Life that implies. Which includes no longer overindulging in billions of delicious treats. Normally I'm pretty good about keeping things in check, but for some reason this time around I basically gave a little mental shrug and thought, "Evs," as I tucked into my twentieth piece of peanut brittle.

The result of which is that, as I was shaking up the oj this morning, I felt my newly acquired love-handles shaking along with it. ::shudder:: Sooo... two weeks of overindulgence pretty much means a full month (or two) of hard work at the gym to get back in fighting trim. ::sigh::

(It was worth it!)

We turned in notice to our landlord today, thus cementing yet another brick into the "We are totally leaving for really-real" road. Was it a yellow brick? It may have been, gentle readers. It may have been...



The day before I began this 365 project, I posted a kind of Prelude- I think it's only appropriate that I should wrap things up with a coda.

(...a word which, incidently, I love as much as if not more than prelude...)

In a way it's difficult to believe that it's finished. Not so much that I did it- I definitely put in enough effort to believe that I friggin' did it- but that now... I don't have to. I don't have to post this if I don't want to. I don't have to post anything if I don't want to. I don't even have to write if I'm not in the mood, not even a sentence stating that I'm not in the mood. And in a way that's a liberating feeling- but in another way it's sort of... bewildering. When you've done something every single day for a year it (as I've mentioned before) ceases to be a "project" and is just "what I do". It would be like telling me I don't have to brush my teeth any more. Ish.

Of course, I do have something to fill the gap. I start my new 365 project today (and Nathan thinks I'm a wee bit insane to be starting today- he says he will probably wait until March to kick start his next one). I probably will not be as regular about updating, because let's face it- scanners are not as portable as net books. But sketch books are, so I will be drawing (or what have you) every day, and I'll just post them in chunks when I can. I hope you'll stick around to see how that turns out for me... and, of course, I'll still be writing, because let's face it- you can't quit a habit like this. The only difference being, you'll only be subjected to the stuff I feel is actually worth reading. So that's a win-win situation, right? Sure it is.

It's raining outside right now, quite violently, and I can't help but think it's a sign for this coming year- the raining down of blessings on my bewildered little head.

(PS- I went to tag this post and my fingers automatically started to type out 365, as they ahve done for... well, three-hundred and sixty-five entries... and I just had to laugh at myself.)