Moss, Rust, Poetry

Obsessed with moss lately.

I’ve been obsessed with the #Mosstodon hashtag lately. It helps that I live in the PNW, where moss is…well, let’s just call it a given. It’s everywhere, what with all the rain. Trees wear it, rocks wear it, bare earth and concrete wear it, even houses can develop a green coat if left to themselves long enough. In summer it’s dry loofah, in winter it’s juicy velvet.

This particular photo even provoked a poem. Most of my poetry is kept for home consumption, but every once in a while I commit an act out in the open. It’s good to sometimes show one’s colors, send your ghost ship into battle with all pennants flying.

It’s been a long week, full of strange things. I finished reading Nin’s Cities of the Interior in bed this morning, with Boxnoggin snoring into my armpit. He really likes morning read/snuggle sessions, and was only rousted from the warm nest with some difficulty. Half of me is still living in Nin’s words, thinking about the different selves contained in each of us and how we chase–blindly, often–after the ones stunted by neglect.

Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea is next. I haven’t read it in easily a decade, so I’m looking forward to the rediscovery. If I’m not careful it will lead to a Jane Eyre reread, but then again, what doesn’t? I return to Jane more often than I go back to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, or Sajer’s Forgotten Soldier. My moss is not rust but words.

We’ve survived another week of 2023, my beloveds. Good for us, gold star, grand effort. It feels like even keeping one’s head above water these days is an achievement deserving of parade and pension. We’ve all done very well; let’s hope the weekend provides a little rest.

Soundtrack Monday: Your Protector

Occasionally a song will end up on not one but two soundtracks. It’s rare, but it does happen; rarer still is the piece with lyrics that does so. Most tend to be instrumental-only, for obvious reasons.

Fleet Foxes’s Your Protector ended up on the Romances of Arquitaine soundtrack partly because of the change between soft, plaintive courtly love and driving danger. It’s very much a song Tristan d’Arcenne might abstractly hum while setting up some bit of intrigue, his mind mostly on how the situation will play out and that corner of him thinking upon Vianne, as it always does. The Queen’s Guard might sing it during their famous ride from Arcenne to keep their spirits up, and while Vianne might know it, it’s probably not one of her favorites.

She’s much fonder of Jesse Cook.

I haven’t put the Romances soundtrack up yet because some of the tracks have been lost while shifting from one music platform to another. I have them written down, of course, but it’s slow work resurrecting when I’ve so much else to do.

The other soundtrack Your Protector appears on is the Gallow & Ragged one, which is up and public. I didn’t even realize that particular track was on both until I was writing Roadside Magic, which has a fair bit of both Robin and Jeremy “running from the devil”, so to speak. It is very much the sort of music the Good Folk love, as is a lot of Fleet Floxes (and Linda Ronstadt, strangely enough). Mostly it’s Jeremy Gallow trying to come to terms with the fact that he loved in Daisy merely the dead-leaf echo of Robin Ragged–as Nabokov would put it, a dead russet echo in a ravine.

Robin is too preoccupied with survival and mistrust to really do more than simply take notice of a line or two, and think for a longing moment how it might be to sing without destroying everything in her voice’s path. So often, an abused child is told they are at once helpless–because the big people keep hurting them without consequence–and inordinately, maliciously powerful, because if they dared to openly tell what they’re suffering the abuser’s entire house of cards will come tumbling down. The mixed messages can really fuck a kid up, and when a talent such as the Ragged’s voice gets added to the mix…well.

I may have wrought better than I knew in that series, but what else can one do when writing of the Folk?

Tristan and Vianne had a somewhat-happy ending; the Ragged and the Gallow not so much, though Crenn would beg to differ on that last account. (Only if his pride would let him, of course.) On the other hand, I know what happens to the Hedgewitch Queen and her Left Hand years afterward, and I know whether or not the Ragged ever goes back to Summer…

…but that’s another story, or two.

Fire and Gnomes

Oh I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen gnomes…

(Apologies to James Taylor.) The portable firepit has rendered signal service; we’ve roasted marshmallows over bits of the downed cedar and spent a lot of time gazing into the flames. Well, the kids have done more of the former and I’ve done more of the latter, thinking about plot tangles and considering which things to cut out of my life. it’s been exhausting, even with friends-who-have-chainsaws helping to get the bulk of the fallen cedar dealt with.

My health is not what it used to be. But the less said about that the better.

Phil and Willard liked the display too; you can see them basking. Willard tends to moan a bit and rock back and forth when the flames get high; Phil says his friend’s not upset but very cautious of fire, as zombies tend to be. When it gets too much, Phil pops a pebble into Willard’s mouth and takes him back to Miranda, who does a bit of comfort-singing. (She’s very fond of Carole King.) Phil, of course, is just fine with backyard bonfires; he and Emphysema Joe sit around with their green and trade rather recondite philosophical arguments.

The entire backyard gets in on it, except for the squirrels. They are quite put out at the falling of the cedar and the attendant damage to the highway–i.e., the back fence. They’re not even taunting Boxnoggin during his loo breaks, which is highly unusual. I suppose they’ll figure out alternative routes, poor things.

Anyway, it’s Friday the 13th and raining too hard for us to drag out the firepit again. So we’ll have to wait until it dries for another marshmallow roast. Maybe Emphysema Joe will even get his guitar out, though he and Phil are too busy arguing over tuning for anything to actually get played. (Everyone’s a critic, and everyone’s got to have a hobby.)

I hope your weekend holds similar delights, my beloveds. Have a good one.

A (Not So) Restful New Year

Welcome to the new year, everyone. I took (gasp!) some time off, though it was more to catch up than to rest. Because of course it was not restful at all. What with the ice storm over Christmas (we celebrate Yule around the solstice, using the 25th more as an excuse to sleep in and have a nice dinner) and the 50mph winds knocking over one of the cedars along the back fence to ring in the New Year, it was the very opposite of relaxing. Then there’s the CEs hanging fire and the epic fantasy nearly killed by editorial neglect and the worry over a short story and and and…

Yeah. What is this “restful” people speak of? I’m glad to be back at work; maybe now I’ll get a ding-dang chance to breathe.

…lest I sound like I’m complaining, there was a lot of good food and the kids had a great time. And the big cedar coming down missed the house by a whisker; some friends came over with chainsaws and got it chopped into firewood chunks too, so we’re lucky on both counts. Also, Boxnoggin has a whole box of plush toys to dismember at leisure, so he is thrilled to the gills–when he’s not being nervy because things have chaaaaanged, and all change is baaaaaad, Mum! Pretty soon he’ll see all this as the new normal, just in time for things to shift again. Poor fellow, at least he’s got walkies to look forward to.

Speaking of things to look forward to, one of my publishers is running a Goodreads giveaway! One hundred lucky readers will win a paper ARC of Spring’s Arcana, the first in the upcoming Dead God’s Heart duology, which releases in May 2023. Just click on the graphic to the right and you’ll be whisked right to it, thanks to the magic of the internet.

This is the first time I’ve been able to announce a giveaway like this. I think a YA publisher did one for Strange Angels back in the day, but I didn’t know about that until it was over. My, how time flies.

I spent all of yesterday tending the firepit and burning non-firewood-shaped bits of the cedar that came down. Despite washing off the instant I got back inside, I can still smell smoke; it gets everywhere. Nevertheless, the fire was extremely therapeutic. I could even toss a few other things in, saying goodbye to them and cutting ties in the most dramatic way possible. Laughing and muttering “fire, fire,” in my best Beavis voice was also intensely fun. I mean, I was always more of a Daria, but sometimes one just has to do a good Beavis voice.

…and now we all know exactly how Gen X I am, which is very.

With that, I should get myself together and get some breakfast forced down. There’s a biography of Robespierre to read while I consume it, then it’s time for Boxnoggin’s holy walkies. The wind is up again today, though nowhere near as badly as it was the night the cedar came down, so he’ll spend the entire walk being very put out at cold, invisible fingers touching his fur. And he’ll keep giving me filthy looks; since I am the goddess who rules his days, I am therefore responsible for everything including the weather. I wish I had even a fraction of the power this dog attributes to me.

On the other hand, maybe I don’t. It sounds a hideous burden, frankly. I’m glad to just be a struggling hack.

Happy Monday, my beloveds, and happy new year. We’ve survived into another one, which is cause for celebration. (Or something…) May it bring us peace, joy, and plenty of snacks.

Cookie Snow

Let it snow…cookies!

The ice storm has settled over us like a broody hen. If I take Boxnoggin out through the back garage door we don’t have to negotiate the deck stairs. That means going past the Mad Tortie’s kingdom, so he has to be harnessed and snubbed. The Mad Tortie is a bit taken aback by this turn of events, since we all know Boxnoggin likes to play rough and the Tortie has no desire for any such shenanigans, so the sooner this weather eases up the better for everyone. Still, it’s nice to have options–and not to be dragged off the bloody deck at the end of a leash, ending in a bone-snapping heap.

If the power holds there will be more holiday baking today. In the past week, there has been a positive cyclone of cookie-making and the like; you can see some delicious results above. I’m quite enamored of the new snowflake cookie-cutters, they’re my absolute favorite. The Princess has promised more in that direction, and also some challah. All we need now is for the electricity to keep going as it has been.

If the grid tanks under the weight, well, we’ll hunker for the duration. We’re as prepared as it’s possible to be.

I wish you a pleasant holiday, my beloveds, with as much excitement or peace as you prefer. I’ll be back on the blog sometime after Boxing Day, and of course I’m over on Mastodon and CounterSocial near-daily.

Be safe out there.

Atlas Break

The longest night is over. There’s a band of grey in the east, and the cedars are dancing on a frigid wind. The weather folk say snow today, with an additional helping of freezing rain. The moisture shouldn’t move in until afternoon, but already things are frozen solid–I had to move the birdbath’s dish so it can drain when the polar stuff is done.

We don’t often get snow here (or we never used to, thanks, climate change!) so people are losing their minds with preparations on top of the usual holiday ruckus. I’m sure kids are thrilled at the prospect of a Christmas looking like a Currier-Ives tin. I heard Fred Meyer’s (Kroger’s, for my nonlocals) was out of deicer and rock salt. Even though I got out of the house early yesterday, there were still too many people out and about, and all in various stages of deep stress.

I didn’t put out a vigil candle this year. Just didn’t have the spoons, and I figured others could do the observances to bring the sun back. Intellectually I know that flaming ball of nuclear hydrogen will handily outlast our species, but spiritually it’s a different matter. Ah well, I’ve carried the world on my shoulders long enough. Even Atlas needed a break every now and again.

The revisions are finally gathering steam–4k in new text added yesterday, even with significant deletions in the mix. I have a few bad-tempered things to say at this point in the process, but professionalism means keeping those under wraps, downing another quad-shot (or cuppa) and simply getting back to work. Illness and holiday scramble have put me even further behind schedule, but that was only to be expected. I knew that jury duty nonsense would cost me serious time and annoyance; there should be some sort of recourse for being forced to sit near maskless mouthbreathers.

You can tell I’m in a bright, cheery mood. Relief is just as exhausting as tension, after a certain point.

Boxnoggin wants his morning walkies, but he does not want the cold wind. Our ramble will be severely truncated since I don’t want either of us freezing to death; naturally, he will blame me for the weather since I am In Charge, and clearly the immortal creature he lives with–who produces light with a flick of her fingers and food at will–is capable of dealing with little things like rain and ice. He seems to think I have ineffable reasons for such misery, and bears with it patiently, grumbling only the minimum amount.

For all that, he took forever to find a place suitable for peeing this morning. I can perhaps be forgiven for wondering aloud, “I got out of a warm bed for this?”

He gave me a look of hearty agreement, yet could not unload until he found the precise perfect spot. This doesn’t bode well for our midmorning constitutional, but maybe the idea that a certain amount of prudent haste is advisable will work its way through his thick skull. A subzero wind chill does tend to concentrate the mind wonderfully, at least in the initial stages.

Ah, yes. One more thing I wanted to say. Some of you have reached out with kind words; thank you very much, they are appreciated. I cannot respond to every single email in detail, but please know your missives are attentively read, and cherished.

I suppose I’d best get some toast, find my gloves, and prepare for a polar trek. It will make returning home even nicer than usual, which is saying something. We’ve gone through one more wicket; only a few remain until the new year.

Stay warm, my beloveds.

Ceasefire Bell

One of my childhood abusers is dead.

Not from Covid. It doesn’t matter how. What matters is the finality: Deceased. Buried. Gone. Expired. Muerte. Mort. Finis.

The other half of their tag-team (enabler, co-abuser, folie à deux, whatever) is of course attempting to use this to wedge a fingernail under the defenses I painstakingly built to keep not just them but other stalkers and harassers out. I can even feel a little pity for the remaining abuser; I know they must be spinning, deprived of the narcissistic supply and pathological push-pull that gave their life meaning for decades. It must be terrifying. No wonder they’re trying like hell to find me, find my address, find my phone number, find anything so they can attempt to hurt me like they used to.

Should I feel grief? I did, in therapy a long while ago. I grieved the non-abusive relationship I wish I would’ve had with both/either of them. There’s nothing left in that well. I peer over the stone lip and whisper hello, but the only response is a dry echo. Should I feel the pain someone who had a different childhood would? Should I now pretend some kind of grief because it’s socially desirable? Why? What good would that do?

What do I feel? Relief, I suppose–even a stray dog has the sense to be happy when someone’s not kicking her. Liberation? Yes, perhaps. That person will never hurt me again. I outlasted them; I won. I am living in a safe place, with pets and people who love me. I have a career I like. I went to therapy, I worked hard, I fought and scratched and bit my way out of an abyss of self-hatred and shame in order to feel (most days) like the things they did to me when I was young and helpless and dependent are not entirely my fault. I have ways of answering their persistent voices inside my head, healthier methods of responding to events. I have (mostly) stopped hurting myself, as I was trained to since birth, for the benefit of toxic vampires.

I got away. I haven’t spoken to either abuser in over a decade. I was lucky to have support, lucky for the chance to physically remove myself from danger. It took repeated efforts (it always does), because both of them–singly or in tandem–wanted me back under the thumb, so they could have their usual victim and also because the secrets I still hold could destroy them legally or socially. They had to make sure I wouldn’t talk, and the best way of doing that was to terrify me. Or so they thought–yes, I held to my silence, but not for them.

Never for them.

You’re not supposed to wish ill on anyone. You’re not supposed to feel a great wash of relief and crazy laughter when you get the news of final karma coming home to roost. You’re not supposed to admit that you were waiting, on some level, for this to happen. You aren’t supposed to admit that when someone who hurt you over and over again, deliberately and with great vicious enjoyment, is finally in the Great Hereafter facing whatever comes next, that you hope they suffer some consequences for what they did. What they chose to do. What they knew was wrong, because you cried and told them over and over again, no, stop, you’re hurting me, please don’t do that.

The news tolls inside me like a bell. A big brass church bell, survivor of many centuries and battles, rung to ward off lightning, to celebrate miraculous rescues. Te Deum, te Deum, te Deum laudamus. Ding-dong, the jerk is dead. The shelling has stopped, a ceasefire is announced. Maybe someday soon I can go to the store without looking over my shoulder. Maybe there will come a time when I will check the mail without the persistent shadow of fear. Maybe, on some blessed day, I will know that I have outlasted not just one but both of my tormentors.

They seemed eternal when I was small and helpless. It seemed that I would never escape, never breathe free air. I endured without hope for so long. When I grow up, I would think, but without any real expectation it could happen; I knew I was trapped. I knew very well that they could easily go too far one day and kill me or worse, leave me permanently scar-twisted. The knowledge lived in my bones, tainted every breath. Even after I was physically removed, the damage was done. I jumped at shadows, I flinched before anyone could land a punch, I left before I could be hurt, I pushed everyone away before they had a chance to strike. I still do not know what it is to sleep without some part of me scanning restlessly for danger.

But one of my childhood abusers is dead.

I can work in my garden, turning over fresh black dirt. I can hug my children, who never suffered anything I did–I protected them, as I wish someone would have protected me. I can snuggle my dog. I can tell my friends I’m hurting and get a hug. I can write books, I can sing, I can dance. I can run in the mornings and my heart, over and over, will pound the two-beat tattoo I am, I am, I am. I am grown up, I got away. I can set books on my kitchen counter without fearing they will be ripped up, mutilated, thrown away. I survived. The cost was high; I paid it.

Many abused children do not survive. Many are trapped all their lives. Many find other abusers out in the world because we are trained so thoroughly to take the punch, take the blame, and who are we if we’re not being hurt? Many continue the cycle because they have been deformed out of all recognition, or because they know no better. Some figure it’s better to be the abuser than abused, and grow to like hurting others. The world teems with broken people. Should I feel guilty for that too, for my great good luck in escaping?

I don’t know. I can’t tell. All I know is this: One of my childhood abusers is dead.

And I? I am still alive.