From Earworm to Mad Science

I woke up with R. B. Greaves’s Take a Letter, Maria playing inside my head. If it means anything, I’m in the dark about precisely what. The Princess would have helped me analyse it along with my dreams, but she says she’s never heard the song. Which I know is inaccurate, since I listen to it in the car whenever it comes on for whatever reason–the lure of familiarity, I suppose. This probably just means I need to listen to it a couple times today to get the song out of my head.

Go figure.

It’s a nice cloudy Monday. I have a new keyboard and took a few days almost-off social media. We call Twitter “hellsite” and it’s beginning to sound less like a tongue-in cheek observation than plain unadorned truth, or even understatement. Still, it has its uses, and I spend most of my time on my Mastodon instance anyway.

The dogs are quiet, for once. They’re probably still exhausted from yesterday, since they had to supervise housecleaning, window washing, and the making of bruschetta. The Princess has a recipe for mimicking the Trader Joe’s tomatoes-garlic-basil-oil-vinegar spread, which is our very favorite over tangy sourdough and fresh mozzarella. (The secret? Citric acid! You can find it in the canning aisle of the supermarket, or King Arthur Flour has some I personally prefer.) I’ve been experimenting with chana masala and cocoanut curries, and she’s been on a real Italian appetizers kick.

In short, there’s been some good eating around here lately. Since we’re mostly still quarantined (for when we’re not, there are plenty of masks, since my writing partner’s way of coping with the first boomerang of the pandemic was to get out her sewing machine) it’s pretty much taking the place of all socializing or field trips.

The Prince (sadly, I cannot call him the Little Prince anymore, both my children are taller than me) has been on a homebrew science kick. I let him take apart my old, battered keyboard to find out how it’s constructed and how it works, and he was thrilled with the idea of repurposing bits of it for “experiments.” I don’t ask questions, I just order the supplies and enthuse over what he tells me of the results.

I feel sort of like a mad scientist’s corporate backer, but I’m sure there are worse fates.

Living in historical times is exhausting, physically and mentally. I want to retract like a salted slug. I know not seeing the disaster is a privilege, I know the disaster is continuing whether I look at it or not, I know if I don’t find some way of settling back into work we’ll be in even worse shape in a few months. Plus, there’s a part of me that sniffs you wrote a whole fucking book about this and they didn’t listen, let them sit in it. I know it’s not fair of me to think it; there were other people far smarter and more famous sounding the alarm who were ignored as well.

I just can’t help myself.

So now it’s finishing coffee, taking the dogs on their ritual ramble, getting a run in, and keeping social media shut off for the day while I go back to work. I don’t want to look at the schedule and see how far behind I am; I just want to put my head down and lose myself in a world where anthropomorphized gods are visiting parties, or a court where the politicking continues while the state’s ship goes down (it occurs to me my main difficulty with the last Hostage book is probably that it feels so familiar), or the Robin Hood IN SPACE story where everything is heating up for the final half of the final season. At least with the new keyboard I’m not in a state of high irritation while typing; I hadn’t realized how much the missing stair behavior of the old one was affecting me.

I have a bunch of Cowboy Junkies and Cocteau Twins queued up, though I’ve listened to Take a Letter, Maria about five times so far today, attempting to scratch whatever earworm itch is in my head. We’ll see if it works. What the Muse wants, the Muse gets, although I’m not sure she’s the one in charge of the sound system this morning. It seems suspiciously like there’s gremlins lurking in my cranial folds.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Might as well just let them play.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. I hope your weekend was calm, and I hope for a sudden volte-face in the state of the world. The latter might not be very likely, but at least I can hope. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

Cake, Terror, Love

Apparently the bees are following me even into the kitchen. The Princess brought this home from work for us last night, along with a completely fabulous Dunder Mifflin pillow that was on sale. There was much hilarity.

Since she works at a grocer’s and the general public seems to think the worst is over, I’m terrified she’ll catch the current plague. Of course she’s young and not in the most at-risk group, her store has started providing masks, and my writing partner also sewed us cloth masks, so at least there’s that. And the Princess knows she can quit if she decides to, but she’s determined to stay the course for now. If it was up to me she’d be home and safe, but she’s well over twenty now and… yeah.

I thought I knew what terror was. Then I went and had children. Love rests cheek-by-jowl with fear; after years of listening for their breathing in the middle of the night, constantly focused on the safety of small dependent beings, it’s hard to loosen one’s grip. The habit of constant vigilance, care, and correction is difficult to alter, especially when it was ground in over years of sleep deprivation bordering on psychosis.

Toddlers are not for the weak, my friends. And the thing about children is… they grow up.

Now there are bee cakes and pillows, laughter and hugs, dogs to pet and a cat to cuddle. There’s seeing my babies grow into fabulous human adults, and learning to leave them space to breathe while still holding the last line so they have somewhere to retreat if needed.

And if I get frosting in my hair from perching a plastic bee decoration in it, if I am so excited over a pillow I act like a complete dork, if my pride is still stung by the need to say “You know what, I’m absolutely wrong. Let’s try that again,” daily, it’s an infinitely small price to pay for the love that fills every corner of whatever house we live in and slops out into every other part of my life.

The world is a dangerous place. But we have each other. Love is unutterably precious in all its forms, and the cracks of heartbreak make that organ bigger. The gold of grief hammered into those fissures can grant us grace and strength.

Gods help me never to forget that. And let me always, always be grateful for bee cakes.

Never Completely

I’ve taken to sprinkling a little rooibos chai powder into my morning coffee. The spice helps me feel a little more awake; the only problem is there’s no added caffeine.

Ah well. Nothing is ever completely perfect.

We’re having lovely weather. Sometimes in spring we’ll get a spate of 70F days, with pollen drifting golden in the air, and it’s so beautiful one almost manages to overlook the fact that it’s treegasms floating everywhere. As a result, people are taking walks up and down the street all day, which sends Boxnoggin into a frenzy of “DON’T COME INTO MY YARD, HOW DARE YOU WALK ON MY STREET, HOW DARE” several times a day.

He’s very protective, this box-headed van der Sploot.

I haven’t fully recovered from last month’s bug, whatever it was. If it was the current plague, we’re likely immune, but there’s no way to know without tests and there are no tests to be had. So I guess I just… wait, and worry. And try to get rid of some of the mucus.

There are good things about quarantine, though. I’ve found some new writing music; today I’m trying out this recipe. It’s hard to work unless I shut off the wireless entirely; the temptation to look at what’s happening in the world and feel that sick thump of worry and pain in my midsection is overwhelming.

It’s not that I want to slow down and Lookie-Lou at the car wreck. It’s that I want to help, and my inability to immediately fix this for everyone I love–or indeed, anyone at all–is a torment. Everything I see on the news makes me long to do something, anything to help.

I know I help most by staying home, by being careful, by loving the people I’m close to and taking care of my neighbors. But still… I wish I could do more.

Anyway, there’s subscription fiction drops to get out the door today and the open thread over on Haggard Feathers to attend to. Plus I should brush the detritus of shipping off my new African violets. (They were on clearance; I’ve got to get my scrawny, overlooked plants somehow.) I gave them yesterday to settle in their new homes and get a drink, now we clean them up a bit so they can breathe more easily. Growing medium tends to shift a little during transit.

But first there’s the dogs to walk–without having to take care of them, I don’t think I’d be able to get up in the morning and face all this–and my rooibos-chai-laced coffee to finish swilling. I’ve managed two days’ worth of productivity, but I’m not feeling quite back in the saddle yet. I’m feeling, in fact, like I’m on the back of some raging beast who very much wants to shake me off, and is doing its level best.

I had more to say, but I suppose it’s probably a mercy every subject has fled my head.

It’s getting hard to hold on, over here, and a little more difficult to get out of bed each day. How are you managing it, dear Reader?

Delicate Skin

Nabokov has a passage in Lolita about the skin atop real hot chocolate, and every time the cream in my coffee cools in this particular fashion, I think of it. I also put off stirring for as long as possible, studying the thin wall as it ripples and responds to heat. It never fails to fascinate me.

Such a delicate thing, skin… and yet it’s the largest organ, our first line of defense.

I know hand washing is a big thing now (justifiably! it should always be!) so our own skin might be feeling a little dry and cracked. Lotion up to keep that barrier strong, my friends. Hydrate, and take as much care as you can.

We can’t afford to lose you. Yes, you, the person reading this, whoever you are. Treat your skin–and your self–as gently as you can, please.

Ferment or Roast

A lovely daikon, sliced and placed in brine, then left to think about things. It ends up looking very pink, because I didn’t want to bother with peeling.

And it tastes marvelous. It took me a long time to start fermenting things, but now I can’t stop. I look at all sorts of vegetables and think “hrm, can I pickle that bitch? Or… maybe I can roast it?”

Ferment or roast. Either I drown the vegetable and encourage beneficial rot, or I toss it with oil and engage in controlled burning. And let’s not even talk about what I have planned for summer fruits, since I have all these canning supplies.

Food is weird. And with that thought, my darlings, I leave you to embark upon your weekend. Hopefully you have something tasty to snack on while doing so.

Sweet Pie, Friday the 13th

I made my first sweet potato pie this past week, my dears, and I think I’m hooked. I’ll need to play with the recipe some more–I think I want condensed milk for the custard bit instead of whole, and there wasn’t nearly enough cinnamon to suit me–but that’s no hardship. Canned pumpkin is fine, home-roasted better, home-roasted butternut squash better yet though there is always a hint of stringiness. But for smoothness, delicacy, and richness, I think I’m going to have to go with sweet potato pie.

It’s always nice to find out new things. The kids aren’t quite fans, but still, they haven’t met a homemade pie they won’t make a dent in for my sake at least.

Happy Friday the 13th. May Freya and her cat-drawn chariot bring you joy today.

Begin the Leftovers

I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one, my friends. Mine spawned a crop of leftovers we’ll be eating from all weekend, including this marvelous bread pudding from yesterday’s leftover plain bread.

“Didn’t you use the challah?” the Princess asked, and I explained it was silly to use the leftover challah because we needed that for ham-and-stuffing sandwiches later in the day. And lo, her eyes lit up.

Age and experience triumphed again. Leftovers are Serious Business.

Have a good weekend, my dears.