A small sampling of what my Monkey Mind was trying to bring to my attention whilst I was trying to meditate this morning:

I am feeling extra foxy today.
I wonder if meditation is making me look better.
Is meditation as good for your body as it is for your brain?
Maybe if I give my brain two things to focus on it will stop jumping.
(starts slow, meditative thumb twiddle in addition to slow, meditative breathing)
Nope, looks like I am totally capable of thinking of three things at once.
It's probably defeating the whole mindfulness thing to be twiddling my thumbs, anyway.
Hey, I should make a list of all the random thoughts I have while I'm meditating!
Oh no, now I can't stop thinking back to what I've already thought!
I really miss hoop dancing.
I should google classes in the area.
I wonder how much I could still do?
Maybe I'll give it try this afternoon.
Ugh how much longer.
Oh good, I've started to think how much longer- that usually means the timer will go off soon.

Yeah.  Meditation, man.  It takes practice.


My Savage Valentine

Hey hey hey!  It's my Second Favorite Holiday!  And, as we do every year, Nathan and I exchanged hand-made Valentines.  Of course, Nathan promptly took the one he made for me back, so he could continue to noodle on it, but I really liked what I saw (hopefully I'll get it back sometime today, and then get to share it with you guys, too.)

Anyway, here's some process on the one I made from him, which took it's inspiration from the fact that he tends to call me a Savage for my various uncivilized habits:
Some pencils and the beginning of ink.  I wish I'd taken one of just the rough pencils.  OH WELL!

Inks more-or-less finished, although I did go back after I colored and smoothed a few places out.

Originally I thought I was only going to do the red for the blood.  Sometimes I think silly things.

Ta da!  Final colors and inks....
...and the inside!

All told it probably took me somewhere between two and three hours, from concept sketch to finished product.  It was a really enjoyable indulgence, because I feel like I haven't been drawing nearly enough, lately.  Too many interests, not enough time...

And now?  Now Nathan and I are going to get on with the rest of our holiday, which is going to include some backpacking and photography and maybe even checking out the new whiskey bar in town (all part of warming up for Scotland, naturally).

Happy Valentine's Day, you guys!  I hope it is awesome.


The Return of LittleWing

Look, it's been entirely too much Real Life around here lately, and not nearly enough Fiction.  So I aim to remedy that, by revisiting a story seed from a couple years back.  I've been poking and prodding at it, trying to draw a plot out from the concept, and in the meantime I wrote about the Aftermath to that other scene- and this time around I actually gave out some names!


At last LittleWing was sated.  She let out a final triumphant shriek as she wheeled above the smoking ruins of the village, then came at last to settle on the charred remains of the temple.  Ketsia could not help but notice that her heartbeast's orange-edged scales blended perfectly with the glowing embers.  The dragon gave one satisfied glance around at the wreckage, then curled herself into a ball and closed her golden eyes.
There was no one left to scream.
Grandmother Ona worked silently on Eolyn’s wounds, face white and strained, but jaw set in a way that Ketsia recognized.  If the old woman had been born with a heartbeast, Ketsia thought numbly, it would have been a creature made of stone.  Eolyn herself had long since fainted, from pain or shock or both, and part of Ketsia envied her sister the escape.
Ketsia looked down at her hands, streaked with soot and covered in burn marks from the tiny sparks that continued to dance in the air like sadistic fairies.  Her hands were so... small, compared to LittleWing’s talons.  So powerless.  She looked back up at her dragon, who had draped her spiked tail across her long snout in her sleep, much as Grandmother Ona’s cats did.
Does she do that because I watched the cats all those years, or does she just… do that?  Ketsia was no longer sure how much LittleWing was an extension of her Self, and how much LittleWing was simply her own creature.  Would she return now, if Ketsia tried to call her?  She was afraid to try.
Instead Ketsia  turned her eyes to the devastation that spread out from her dragon, trying to feel remorse- but she couldn’t.  She was glad they were dead.  She only wished she could bring them back to life so they could die again.
The corner of her lip began to twitch up into a smile, and LittleWing let out a noise like a purr.
Ketsia’s head snapped back as Grandmother Ona grabbed her by the arm and jerked her around to face her.
“You,” the old woman hissed, and slapped her across the face with more force than Ketsia had ever had applied to her person.  “Don’t you dare take joy in this.  Don’t you dare!  Don’t you give that dragon any more evil to feed on!”
“Evil?” Ketsia cried, too stunned to do more than hold her burning face in shock.  LittleWing’s head came up in confusion.  “They were the evil ones!  They-”
“They?  Which they?”  Spat Grandmother Ona.  “Them men that did this to Eolyn, I won’t deny that maybe they had evil in ‘em.  But the others?”
Ketsia’s anger flared, and LittleWing snarled from her smoldering nest.  “Well they should have protected her!  Da always said evil flourishes when men stand aside and do nothing-”
“Even the children?  The babies?”  Grandmother Ona grabbed Ketsia by the arms and shook her.  “Them that couldn’t even roll over to run away?  And what about the animals, eh?  All those cats and geese and horses.  What did they do to Eolyn?”
This brought Ketsia to a halt, the seething lump of rage in her chest turning suddenly to ice.  “I… the… the babies…” she felt sick as she remembered little Aylin’s bright blue eyes and laughing, gummy grin.  “I… I…”
Grandmother Ona’s gray eyes were cold as the winter sky.  “Is this the part where you tell me that they’d have grown up to be just as evil, that you had to destroy them before they had the chance?  Is that what you believe, child?”
For a moment- one dark, horrible moment, something deep inside Ketsia nodded, whispering, It’s only logical... and LittleWing began to unfurl, hissing.  But then-
“No!” she said, tearing herself away from her grandmother.  “No, I… I never meant to hurt the babies!  Or the animals!  Or, or...  I didn’t…  I didn’t mean...”  Ketsia’s chest felt ripped open with grief, and the pain of it caused her to stumble.  “I am evil, I am,” she started sobbing, clutching helplessly at her own arms.  More than anything she wanted to turn to her grandmother for comfort, as she always had before.  But she knew she didn’t deserve comfort, didn’t deserve anything but to die like Aylin had died: helpless, suffering.  LittleWing let out a long, heart-rending shriek of anguish, and in that moment Ketsia thought the only answer was for her to let the dragon consume her, and end both of their agony...
But then Grandmother Ona was kneeling next to Ketsia, strong hands gathering her close and pressing Ketsia tightly to her breast.  “No, child.  No,” she  murmured, stroking Ketsia’s hair and rocking back and forth.  “You’re not evil.  You… you’ve helped an evil thing to happen, it’s true, but maybe that’s as much my fault as yours.  When I knew what you were… when I knew how powerful your heartbeast was… I should have sent you away, long ago.  It was selfishness that made me keep you close, and we’re all paying for that selfishness now.  All of us."  Ketsia felt her grandmother glance at Eolyn.


Dark Joy and Other Ways We Mourn

First things first, for those of you not interested in my tendency to dwell on The Depressing Things In Life, I present the two books I've most recently finished:

10% Happier by Dan Harris-  The subtitle on this one was, "How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduce Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works- A True Story", which is quite a mouthful, but also satisfyingly specific in its description.  I came across it on NPR (dangerous, dangerous site), and liked the author's writing style enough to give it a try.  One of my nascent sort of New Year's Resolution-y Thoughts was to maybe pick my meditation practice back up, and this seemed a good way to kick-start it.  For that purpose the book really only needs it's Appendix, which is what contains the "instructions".  Not that I don't remember how to meditate- I do- but I was looking to try a new (to me) method.  Or maybe just reassure myself that I was remembering correctly- who knows the inner workings of Anal Retentive Mind?  Anyway, that means that only about 1/30th of the book was what I was specifically looking for, but the truth is that the rest of the book- a newscaster's memoir of looking for a way to chill the fuck out- was a really enjoyable read, especially in the way that his Inner Skeptic sounded a hell of a lot like my own.  So yeah- I'd recommend it, especially if you're looking to get into (/back into) meditation.  I even tried my hand at metta today, the thought of which has always filled me with a sort of scoffing horror, but let's face it- I could stand to be a more compassionate person, so why not give it a shot?

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss- Rothfuss is one of my all-time favorite authors, primarily because his word craft is so exquisite.  As such, I was fully expecting to love this novella, and my expectations were right on: it was an absolute lovely gem of a thing, perfectly cut and polished, full of bright flash and deep glimmer. If you haven't read the first two novels in the Kingkiller Chronicles, you'll want to start there (specifically with The Name of the Wind), because Slow Regard was merely the beautiful fleshing out of a side character, and probably confusing as hell if you're not already familiar with the world.  The story is, as Rothfuss mentions in his afterwords, a story for broken people.  Needless to say, I was immensely fond of it, and I felt that, odd and fey-like as it was, it actually revealed a great deal about a character who cannot help but play her cards close to the chest.  Three thumbs up!

Speaking of broken people (/things) here is where we turn to the more macabre.  Feel free to exit now, if you're not feeling up to it.

I had an excellent moment the other morning, when I finally, finally paid off the first miscarriage.  Hooray!  No, that's not sarcasm.  I was genuinely pretty fucking stoked about it.  And only about six more months to pay off the second miscarriage, so really I was feeling quite jolly all around.  Normally I post about my happy moments on the FaceSpace, but for some reason I felt like me cheering for paying of a depressing medical debt would be... well, more depressing than cheerful.  For other people.  But I am happy about it, so again- hooray!

In less cheerful (but perhaps darker) news, a friend of mine committed suicide last week.  Which, you know, more or less sucks.  I'm pretty pissed at him, actually.  Anger-as-default, and all that.  But it's got me thinking a lot about suicide, lately, and what it takes to actually push someone over the edge. (as it were)

(Nothing is better than black humor!  Nothing!)

Now, I hesitate to say that I was ever suicidal- but I did have my suicide planned out.  In retrospect, however, I feel the details of the plan itself were a pretty good indicator that I wasn't going to do it, because I was still taking other people's feelings into account.  I wanted to make my death as convenient and easy to clean up as possible for those who were left behind.

Obviously things never got that far.

I used to have so much rage- so much towering, fiery, fuck-you rage- for people who committed suicide (aaaaand in general, but that's beside the point).  Because I knew how much it hurt when my dad died (against his will) and the idea that someone would knowingly inflict that pain on someone they cared about, on children... well, it just took my breath away with the sheer ass-holeryness of it all.  I could not imagine anything more selfish, more hateful, more horrible and weak and stupid, than killing yourself*.  To the point where I got a bit, "Well good riddance then, you fucking jerk," about it.

My rage has been tempered a bit in recent years by me coming to terms with the fact that, generally speaking, people who actually kill themselves aren't making a choice at all.  They're ill.  They're fucked up in the brain just like you can be fucked up in your joints or stomach or lungs.  And it makes them do stupid, horrible things, but it's not actually their fault.  So yeah- I'm still pissed at my friend.  But I don't hate him.  And I don't think less of him.  I'll get over it, eventually.  The anger, I mean.  Mostly.

In the meantime, this is the point where I say, if you find yourself planning out the best, least-inconvenient ways to kill yourself, maybe bring it up to someone you trust.  Because chances are, they're probably thinking more clearly than you are.

*(I'm not talking about terminally ill people choosing a death with dignity- that's something else entirely, something that I am 100% on board with)


Pictures, Words, and Both

I've managed to tuck three more books under my belt since the last time I wrote about what I've been reading.  One for class, one for pleasure, and one on the recommendation of my Regional Leader.

The one for class was Wilderness Medicine, by Tod Schimelpfenig, and while it's not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, for me it was near 300 pages of sheer fascination.  I was skeptical about my abilities to absorb all those words and diagrams in just 10 days, but I absorbed enough to pass my test, so there you go.  I'm pleased to have it in my library for reference, and refreshers.

The one I read for pleasure (and here is where I decided that I would count the graphic novels I read this year) was called Here, by Richard McGuire.  I came across a review on NPR, and the concept intrigued me, so on to the list it went!  It was a beautiful little book, even if the art wasn't my exact aesthetic.  I liked the way it made me contemplate the passage of time and they cyclical nature of life, and how stirred up both joy and sadness.  It probably deserved a closer read than I gave it, but I was in the middle of trying to Learn Things.

The recommendation was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  My RL recommended it to me after a conversation in which I told him, "I'm an introvert who expresses as an extrovert."

"Huh," he replied.  "That's complex.  There's a book you should read."  And since I admire and respect him, I decided to give it a shot.  The funny thing is, not one but two different people in my WFR class saw me toting it around on the last day (to keep me occupied between the written and practical exams) and said, "Oh I'm reading that, too!" which led me to think that probably most of us were, in fact, introverts.  Makes sense, when you think about it- there's a whole lot of solitude to be found in the wild, and a whole lot of soul-restoration.

I liked the book a great deal, although it wasn't really me learning a bunch of new stuff so much as it was me nodding my head going, "Yup, knew that.  Nice to have it validated by studies."  But then again, I tend to read up on things that interest me, and as soon as I discovered the actual meanings of extrovert/introvert (and that I was not, in fact, an extrovert, no matter how well I socialize) I started paying more attention to articles that touched on it.  Still, I would definitely recommend the books to others, especially if you a) are interested in how our inherent personality-type shapes us (or not), b) suspect you might actually be an introvert in spite of not having a shy bone in your body, or c) are an extrovert who deals with introverts in your personal and/or professional life, and need some tips on how to make the most of those interactions.

Next up on the reading list?  Well, I have one more library book to get through (another non-fiction), plus I need to finish up Fiery Cross (which was put entirely aside during WFR).  Then there are several short stories and a novella, plus the rest of the Outlander series, and a sci-fi book recommended by a friend.  Plus the still-teetering stack of magazines by my bed.  So that ought to keep me good and occupied through March or even April!  Not to mention, I think I'm going to start a little self-study on  anatomy and search and rescue basics.  Because why the hell not?

2015 Book Count: 4