Tea and a Tome

Kestrel bookmark fragment © Carl James Freeman, 1989.
Used with kind permission of the artist.

Today’s tea: organic jasmine green, with a shot of honey generously provided by one of our gracious hosts during last week’s Crescent Beach conference of writerly types. Evokes good memories.

Today’s book: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Botanist Kimmerer is a scientist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This doubled authority charges her writing with confidence and passion. The beauty of her words comes from the well that poets frequent. Laced through with her personal experience and study, Braiding Sweetgrass gives us the interweaving of three sources of knowledge: science, tradition, and soul.

I’m reading more slowly these days, but I really don’t mind with a book this rich in content and language. I find I’m being educated in multiple fields at once, with joy along the way. Highly recommended so far.

Dorian Update

How High’s the Water, Mama?

The wind has been rattling our storm shutters and our spirits. But my household is safe, and I’m thankful. Gratitude sits side by side with concern for our northerly neighbors, and grief for the islands.

I’ve been in floods, seen the water rising. I was a child, and the memory is haunting. And we were able to flee. I can’t imagine being a parent in this situation.

A neighbor is mobilizing, and I’m grateful for that too. We’re sending water, food, blankets, funds. It’s not enough. How can it ever be enough? But it’s something.

I hope this post find you safe and well. Love to you all.

Maintaining Me

(I had a tan the year this was taken. I think it was 1986.)

I’m getting myself in order, physically and mentally. There’s a certain amount of “housekeeping” that comes along with maturity. I dislike the barrage of annual appointments required for modern medicine, but I try to remain grateful that I’m in a position to receive healthcare, where so many in our world aren’t.

Had a visit with a new-to-me dermatologist, a cheerful man with a head of curly gray hair who looked me up and down and said wonderingly, “You haven’t been in the sun much at all, have you? You are r​eally pale! Where did you grow up?” I was tempted to tell him Rivendell, which is true in its way, but perhaps a bit esoteric, so I went with the physical truth instead. Which led to a discussion of how Charles Manson is also from WV originally, which led to a discussion of serial killers, which is, honestly, NOT the conversation one expects to have while naked with a stranger. 

Wanted to take a spur-of-the moment road trip to DragonCon, but putting myself into that kind of physical stress while switching meds around is not a good choice. And I’m feeling a bit impulsive lately, but not so impulsive that I’d consider collapsing in an airport a fun option. (Ask me how I know!) I have a bit of environmental guilt about even considering it, but considering it I am: WorldCon is in New Zealand next year. Hmmmmm… certainly time to plan.

A year. That’s a good intermediate goal, right? If I scrape my fragmented energy together, and point it at one thing, I’m pretty decent at accomplishing Stuff. Now I’m going to break down the Intermediate goal into step-by-step goals, and see where I can go.

First, though, short term goals. Only six more medical appointments for me this month. I can do it!

Life After Life

I’ve spent entirely too much of my life listening to and believing Authorities who told me, for whatever reason, that I couldn’t/shouldn’t be myself, tell my stories, be ME in this world. One of the benefits of collecting all this gray hair is my growing accumulation of perspective. I can see better now where these Authorities (in reality, humans every bit as flawed as I was/am!) got these perspectives. And that these are reflections of their own fears, opinions, preferences, jealousies, understandings or misunderstandings, and don’t necessarily apply to me.

Another benefit is the ability to look back at my own life more objectively, seeing how obeying Authority was a survival mechanism. And I realize, again and again, that I can forgive myself for not being a stronger person … I SURVIVED! I missed some chances, but this is okay. Repeat: this is okay.

I’ve begun my own life after life. I’m going to talk to some cool people and get their experiences about beginning in the middle: following a new path in middle age. And I’d love to hear about your story, especially if this is a path you’re walking too.


Monkeys and Such

Your Inner Critic, Like A Pet Marmoset, is Waiting to Throw Poo on You

I’ve been feeling a Great Urgency (yes, capitals are required) to get the next book done as soon as possible. The reason is personal, and not the subject of this post. I’m actually just venting a little bit about my Inner Critic, that internal voice I was trained intothat tells me I’m inadequate to the task.

Danny Gregory, on his blog today, gives ample evidence of his own inner critic in evidence. (He’s trained a lot of us to call it The Monkey. The name works. Particularly if, unlike me, you can avoid imagining Mickey Dolenz.)

Point is, Danny has helped SO MANY people reclaim their creative selves, or make it through the hardest times of their lives, or … like yours truly … believe that we deserve to say yes instead of no to opportunities. If he’d listened to his monkey, fed it and wallowed in the monkey’s “but it’s not perfect!” excrement, instead of working on anyway, so many lives would be bleaker for it.

Which reminds me that someone, somewhere, may need my creation too.

So while my own personal Inner Critic has, with the help if Danny and my other creative tribemembers, been downsized from Gorilla (I know, not a monkey) to marmoset, I’m still going to leave the Marmoset Chow in the shelf and keep working.

Feminist Futures Storybundle!

Cat Rambo has been busy. Writing, teaching, and most relevant here: curating the 2019 Feminist Futures Storybundle. Oh yeah! You can check out Cat’s collection by clicking this link.

Since Albatross is part of this bundle, I got a sneak peek at the contents. And I’ve been READING! Storybundles are a great way to sample some writers you may not already know, or revisit some of your favs to see some of their other work. (How excited was I to see an N.K. Jemisin story in Sunspot Jungle? Very Excited, dear Reader. Very Excited!! Excited enough to hurl around misplaced capital letters and multiple exclamation points. Yes! That Excited!)

If you’re new to the Storybundle concept, it’s basically the chance to get your hands on several books/story collections/poetry assemblages, what have you, for a price that you choose. There’s also an opportunity to designate a portion of your price to go to charity. So you can support writers, get a bundle of new reading material, and do some good at the same time. Word of warning: refill your tea or other favorite beverage before you start reading. Because you may not want to put the story down… and there’s a lot of book in this bundle.

The Telling Detail

Image (13)
We have new family members.

Some of my new works contain mice. Mice are Essential. I don’t have much real-world experience with mice, and it seemed wrong to draw them and write about them (or their analogs) without knowing them. So I adopted a pair of sisters who are, at this moment, sleeping in a nest they built themselves. Did you know that a Playstation 4 comes with cardboard in the packaging that converts to fabulous mouse housing? You do now.

See? Research rocks! Just this second-hand exposure to mice has taught you something, too. While I won’t advocate immersion learning for everything you may write about, there’s something to be said for deep and immediate understanding. But it comes with a cost. I’ve cared for many other small animals in my time so I had some idea of what I’m in for. I did my mouse-specific research, and was prepared to make up to a three year commitment before I adopted these mice. I’m buying their food, bedding, and (because I want them to live their best lives) three cages of increasingly large size. Right now, they’re in a 40 gallon long glass breeder aquarium with a screened top. And I decided beforehand how much *smell* I could deal with, and figured out how to keep them safe from my cat. But you don’t have to go this far in your research.

Second-hand info can be fantastic! People are generally thrilled to be talking about what they love, so don’t be afraid to ask politely. Your genuine interest will show. And if you ask deep questions, they may share the telling detail: something that conveys a depth of understanding or immediate experience. Then you can convert their knowledge into your character’s knowledge, using that detail to create a believable reality for your reader.

Back to mice: such joyful little creatures. They love to explore, and are curious about any new thing in their habitat. Bonus: I’ve learned that a mouse’s tiny forepaws feel like eyelashes flickering across your hand. Such a lovely thing.

Want a writing exercise?
Susan has moved to a new city. She enjoys gaming. She is lonely, so she adopts some mice. Use the info I’ve given you about mice and create a quick scene of Susan unpacking and giving the mice the carton inserts. Note for new writers: you don’t have to say she enjoys gaming. Just show her unpacking the PS4 and some games. Feel free to post in the comments if you feel like sharing. Posts in which Susan also has a pet snake, featuring an unfortunate outcome for the mice, will be deleted. 😉

A World in Itself

I wrote this as a comment in a metafilter thread. If you don’t know metafilter, you should. The topic was trees and plants we love.

 

I love the song we are singing today, the long slow tale of trees.

My first and best friend was an oak, and I grieve her still today. As a child, my fingers fit into the grooves of her bark. I spent hours discovering the lives hidden, making their home in her. Ants on their invisible highways. Caterpillars wondrous in their strangeness, moths well camouflaged discovered as hidden treasure, and once the glorious green of a luna stunning my eyes, a gift of beauty not meant for me but that I shared in nonetheless.

But that tree’s hours were long ago, in the way we humans measure time.

So today I celebrate the bloodberry, native here in this hot wet place. It flowers and fruits long, often at the same time. It grows fast, wild, abundant. Small leaves, small flowers, small fruit. Bees of many kinds crowd its blossoms. The tiny glowing red berries are just the size to feed baby birds, so many species will attend at once. The hawks are not much of a bother here, because the thin branches will not hold their weight, and the small leaves obscure birds who might otherwise be prey. After watching the wild mockingbirds harvest and feed their young, I gathered those same berries for orphans in my care, that they could know their native foods and have a better chance of surviving. I have seen ducks standing beneath it, gobbling every berry that can reach, and I have fallen into quiet laughter watching these ducks hop – hop! – to reach the brilliant sunstruck globes above them, and sometimes succeed.

It is not a tree. It is itself, a wiry and wild shrub, but I always feel there is a knowing in it. And when its children have escaped the flying ones and sprung up around their parent’s feet, I  have lovingly rehomed them, to spread this wonder. I have moved to a new home myself, and the scion of the bloodberry grows here alongside me. And I think we will be good friends.