Smoke Angel

This cherub hangs out in a local park; I took this shot the day before the smoke really rolled in. That evening there was only a faint tinge of burning and the wind was warm and nasty, tossing tree branches and kicking discarded paper along paved walks.

For some reason, this little wingéd one caught my eye particularly, mostly because the light was so strange. It wasn’t the directionless, somehow wrong glow of the days that followed, but an odd saturated yellow ambiance. And you can see how dry the grass was; there was a tightening at my nape every time the tinge of smoke intensified.

The animal in me knew something awful was coming, and wanted to run.

This morning, of course, it’s chilly and crisp, and preliminary rains have removed all burning. I should go back and visit the cherub; winter will probably bring moss in its crevices.

But for the moment it remains frozen in this photo for me, an eerie snapshot. I think I’m instinctively avoiding that patch of park for a while, until the too-tight strings inside me relax a fraction. Sometimes one doesn’t need to go back and poke at the scar, even when it’s healed.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. Be gentle with yourselves.

Head Contents

Another lovely grey foggy morning, and the fog is not bearing a tinge of smoke. I did wake up with a cold wet nose in my armpit, which explains some of the dreams.

It was Boxnoggin, of course. I was amazed he could breathe, but he seemed perfectly fine. In fact, when I moved, the damn dog slithered closer and settled his nose as close to my armpit as possible once more.

I can’t think it was pleasant for him, but he seemed determined.

I have coffee, and am looking over yesterday’s work. Stopping for a weekend day, even though it no doubt bolstered my sanity and will give me long-haul endurance, was upsetting in the extreme because I knew it would also give me a Monday of just-barely-enough wordcount instead of the type I need.

Ah well. The barbarians have reached the capital and now the general to the north has gained word of a few things. This sets up the endgame; today I think I write the new emperor going violently bonkers, not to mention more of the siege. I should also do the ride of the southern army, and there’s a lady in waiting with a single blade versus several heavily armed guards to write as well.

I can barely stand to look at social media, let alone the news. I suppose I’m close to despair; even when it’s so manifestly obvious that hatred is a losing game, so many people are still determined to stay until the bitter end. They could walk away–all of them could simply find something else to do that isn’t mass murder, suicide by virus, and hatefulness. It lies well within their power to just… stop.

And yet they won’t.

Of all the difficult-to-swallow things lately, the number of people absolutely determined to keep propping up a death cult with their own bodies and health because it once paid them a bit more than the average serf is perhaps the most personally shocking. I fully admit I did not grasp the extent to which white supremacists not only wish death on others but also seek it in the most painful and degrading way possible for themselves. Dying of choking on your own sputum while a cytokine storm rages through your body is deeply unpleasant, but I suppose they think whiteness and ill-gotten gains will save them.

The money might make misery slightly more comfortable, but in the end you’re choking to death on your own snot anyway, not to mention carrying the burden of all the people your selfishness infected. It boggles the mind that these people worship death and white supremacy so much they actively pursue such an undignified end.

…these are the contents of my head this morning, and they’re not pleasant or comfortable. I’m already tired and waiting for the caffeine to kick in, hoping beyond hope I can finish this damn zero draft this week and maybe, maybe find a little hope somewhere in the world.

At least finishing the zero is something I have a small amount of control over. Hope seems beyond me at this point. I wrote a whole goddamn book warning people about the risks of putting Corona Caligula and his criminal cabal in charge, I’ve been telling people for decades that regressives (those people who call themselves “conservatives”) are dangerous, murderous, racist asshats, and nobody listened. Even now a significant proportion of people aren’t listening, or are minimizing the depths of the emergency in which we find ourselves.

I’m tired. I’m so tired. Even the coffee isn’t helping, and dragging myself through the end of a zero today seems insurmountable.

So it’s time to take the dogs for their morning constitutional, force myself to run, and do all the things I know I should. There is no happiness for me today, merely habit to carry me through until I can perhaps find some tomorrow. Or the day after. It’s endurance now, and while I am quite good at sheer stubborn enduring it’s also exhausting.

Be gentle with yourselves today, beloveds. And if you have a little hope, good. I have none today; keep and burnish it for me.

Over and out.

A JoCo Day, Calloo, Callay

A half-pony, half-monkey monster would be a distinct improvement over a lot of what’s happening right now.

…maybe I should back up. I’m listening to Skullcrusher Mountain this morning, since I woke up with Code Monkey playing inside my head. (Long story.) Pretty sure the day’s going to be all right, especially with that soundtrack.

It’d getting more and more difficult to crawl out of bed in the morning. The dogs need brekkie and loo breaks, of course, and that’s pretty much the only thing that dragged me forth this morn. It just doesn’t seem worth it to resurrect on my own account; suffocating myself with my pillows has rarely seemed so enticing.

Life goes on, of course. It could hardly do otherwise. There are books to write and a box of author copies arrived yesterday; I should open it today and see what lurks within. The dogs have had breakfast and a loo break, but they need their walkies like I need a daily run. The children need their mother, no matter that they’re adults now–and isn’t that strange?

I thought motherhood as a job–not an emotional state, which is constant–would be over once the kids reached a certain age. It’s somewhat of a relief to find out they still need their mum, albeit in different ways, as they embark upon adulthood. More relief springs from the fact that they actually seem to like their mother, and are not frantically attempting to escape me by chewing their own limbs off as I did at my son’s age.

Finding out I’ve raised a brace of adults who actually like their parental figure and actively want to spend time with me is a deep gift, one I’m absolutely grateful for. I suppose there really are things to get out of bed in the morning for.

Go figure.

Maybe it’s time for a rousing rendition of Re: Your Brains to get the day truly started. Boxnoggin has interrupted the typing of this post at least four times now, excitedly informing me of such things as a leaf blowing down the street or someone walking a trio of dogs near our mailbox. Both events send poor ol’ Lord van der Sploot right over the damn edge.

He needs a walk; I suppose one wouldn’t do me any harm either. At least the smoke has cleared out again, and we’re looking at enough rain to extinguish the local forest fires. Small mercies; eventually, the rain always comes.

Exeunt, humming Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write goddamn login page himself“, pursued by politics…

Small Signs

After a morning spent chasing the sound of squirrels on the roof and attempting to break down the sliding glass door because one of the little fuzzy bastards was on the deck, the dogs demanded walkies. I was forced to comply, with the hope that said walkies would wear them the fuck out and halt the sonic assault, not to mention the bowling-me-over thing.

There are small signs the smoke is thinning–things have shadows now, the sky is dingy white instead of nicotine yellow, and (amazingly!) I saw the sun behind a shifting veil of smoke and vapor. Not to mention the birds are screaming in every tree they can find, and the squirrels are out in force looking for snacks. It’s warmer, too–the eerie chill of the past few days is breaking in bits and pieces.

Back home now. The walkies were too short, just barely scratching the canine itches for movement, but it was getting hard to breathe. The deep drilling pain in my lungs is matched by the eye-watering, my nose filling up, and even my ears aching. I’m so ready for this to be over.

Today is for avocado toast (I have one ripe avocado left and plenty of good sourdough) and an epic battle scene, not to mention a villain-motivation scene. If I can just get those two done I can call it a day. I suspect it’ll be easier now that the smoke is thinking somewhat, though not nearly quick enough to suit.

At least Boxnoggin hasn’t attempted to fling himself through the sliding glass door more than once this morning. Small mercies. The light is strengthening outside my window; I never thought I’d miss blue sky. I’m generally more comfortable with the grey of a rainy Pacific Northwest winter, but I find myself longing for a clear day. Being able to run will do me no end of good; the smoke has worked its way into the garage so even the treadmill is off. I haven’t quite collapsed in a breathless puddle yet, but my lungs are telling me it’s close.

And now, breakfast. Tuesday is looking to be as quiet as can be expected. Maybe I can even curl up for a nap sometime this afternoon. Frankly the prospect of crawling back into bed is the only thing getting me through today, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Onward to a morass of blood, swords, cavalry, and trumpeted charges–no, in the book, not out here in meatspace, although the way things are going I wouldn’t be surprised. 2020’s looking to fill everyone’s bingo card.

See you around.

Art, Transmute, Possibility

I have often thought–and remarked–that the creative process is one of transmuting. An original alchemy, absorbing the pain (or joy) of being alive and transforming it into a piece that not only mitigates the burden of experience but also invites others inside as well.

You are what you consume, what you transform, in creative terms as well as physical or emotional. Which is a maxim of greater or lesser degree–one’s body turns everything to energy, heat, and shit no matter the nutritive “value” of what’s consumed, and one’s emotions have deep internal as well as external wellsprings.

…I’m even qualifying my metaphors today. Let me try again.

I have to confess I have often prided myself on the amount of punishment I can take and turn into art. But even my ability to transmute pain is being severely taxed right now. The constant retraumatization is fucking awful–and I’m in a relatively privileged position so far. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who don’t share my immunity, and the added load of guilt for being relatively safe while others suffer is crushing.

I have no great shining theme or call to hope today. All I’m after is the ability to get through until I can retreat to bed and escape the burden of consciousness for a few hours, probably assisted by some antihistamines since alcohol gives me hives anymore.

The next stage after hives is anaphylactic shock, but even that isn’t proving the deterrent it could be.

I thought once I’d finished with the recent mini-breakdown it would be easier to get back to work; I thought it was a gauntlet I had to run through and I could skid past the finish line, bloody and battered but still whole. But the hits just keep coming, and even retracting into my shell doesn’t work the way it used to.

One of the few things stopping me from plunging over the railing into the abyss is the fact that I have three paying projects unfinished. People are depending on me, so I have to buckle down and at least turn them in. Then there are the kids, and the dogs. All these considerations are getting thinner and thinner as I stare at the catastrophe unfolding, and that worries me.

It worries me a lot.

Like I said, I have no ringing call to hope today. All I have is brute endurance, which I happen to be kind of good at but which does have its limits. This morass was completely avoidable, but nobody cared enough to listen to the people shouting caution while the ship headed for the rocks.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. We might get through this. I don’t see how, but I admit the possibility–which is another function of art. To be able to admit possibilities one doesn’t believe in is a form of alchemy all its own. It’s not quite a superpower, but every time I sit down to write, it lingers behind every word.

The possibility is slim, fragile, and ghostly, but it will have to be enough.

Pineapple Thoughts

I am a pineapple, floating gently on blue waves.

…Perhaps I should back up a bit.

I was reaching the end of my ability to bear up a few days ago, I think, under the pressure of oh, let’s see, everything going on now. Then Ammon Bundy came out in support of BLM (but not the Bureau of Land Management, he’s still mad at them, I’m sure) and all the absurdity just… floored me.

It was a helluva news cycle. That wasn’t even the biggest item on the WTFJHT docket that day.

One cannot provoke or schedule the moment any absolutely baffling mess (like, say, yours truly putting together Ikea furniture, or surviving a pandemic in a failed state) suddenly reaches the point of “laugh or scream and die, pick one path, AND I SUGGEST LAUGHTER.”

So I started to laugh, and I felt that curious internal sense of pressure bleeding away. I was absolutely stick a fork in me, M-O-O-N spells done. The kids were a little concerned, the dogs were snout-down in their food bowls and so, unconcerned, and I was laughing like a hyena who had just discovered a pile of juicy carrion in just the right stage of decomposition.

I took a few days off after that, and now I’m having more luck with work. I was getting afraid that even my capacity to absorb bad news had been knocked out of whack by *gestures* all this.

But now I am a pineapple, floating upon the deep blue sea. It makes just as much sense as anything or everything else.

The Princess appears to have hit her own moment of absurdity too. “Mine doesn’t happen all at once like yours, Mum. I just sort of wake up one day and I’m done.” The Prince just shrugs; he processes in other ways.

It’s not quite exhaustion, though there’s a component of pure fatigue. I suppose it’s just that I’ve been stripped down to bare metal, there’s nothing left to come off, so why not laugh? This is, incidentally, the moment people become truly dangerous, because every last fuck is gone and we might as well.

I sat down today meaning to talk about hope, but I suppose I’m past even that. There’s not a lot left but shaking my head at the sheer outrageous absurdity of it all. We don’t even get a proper villain, just this painted-orange shitgibbon and a crop of petty criminals stuffing what will soon be useless paper in their pockets while an entire nation burns.

Yet the dogs still have to be walked. The squirrels still have to be yelled at. The kids still need me, and if I don’t write, we don’t eat. Of course we might not eat even if I’m working my ass off, the way things are going, but it’s either write or go mad, along with scream or laugh fit to die, so I’m choosing the former of the former and the latter of the latter.

So I’m testing a new plugin today, to bring a little art to the semi-daily posts, and one of the images was a pineapple floating along. It just… struck me.

I thought, hey, why the hell not? It’s pineapple, after all. It’s the fruit that digests you back. It’s a spike-covered monstrosity going for a swim, in utter defiance of its own impossibility. Fuck you, it says. I’m a fuckin’ pineapple, and you can’t change that. You’re gonna lose if you try.

I don’t know about your coping mechanisms, dear Reader, but I hope they’ve arrived and are doing their work. I hope they’re serving you well; mine have arrived at the last ditch and are putting up a valiant effort. In the absence of hope, I will take the giggles and chuckles; after all, they are the traditional best weapon against demons.

Evil cannot stand honest laughter, and tries to crush and stamp it out. The ability to find something funny–or, barring that, to simply laugh as you’re going over the edge because nothing remains but the irreducible called a soul and you realize that cannot be taken away, ever, no matter what they do–is kryptonite to these banal villains. So until further notice, I’m laughing.

If it sounds like a howl, or a screech, or the dying scream of an enraged goddess who will now return from the dry land of death to fuck your shit right up, well, now you know one of the deep secrets of witchery. Cry if you must, laugh if you can, scream in the darkness. Sooner or later you find out nothing in that darkness can match the juggernaut you’re capable of being, and the knowledge leaves a mark.

Maybe I’ve found a new superpower. It’s possible. Or, you know, it could just be that I’m a pineapple.

Floating on the warm blue waves.

Either, at this point, is just fine with me.

First, Pleasant Coffee

That first mouthful of coffee, first thing in the morning. I can feel the caffeine soaking in the moment I raise the cup to my lips, though I’m sure it’s merely psychological. Very little is as pleasant, even the fact that I got a great deal of the proofs out of the way yesterday and consequently have somewhat less to do today.

Somewhat. Not a whole lot, but somewhat.

I also have a new monstera plant. It was left over, looking sad and lonely and shaggy amid racks of brighter, better-trimmed, much smaller species, and my heart just cracked. Now he’s in my office, basking in a bigger pot under bright indirect light.

Yeah, I know. I can’t do much about the state of the world at large, but I can get a plant and nurse it back to health. It keeps me busy, I suppose. Attempting not to look at the news in the morning is good for me, I know it’s good for me, but I suppose I’m afraid the world will end and I’ll be the last to know.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, once I think about it, but the fear doesn’t think so. In fact, the fear, irrational as it is, tends to intensify if I don’t distract myself with work or… well, more work. If–and it’s a huge if–I can just drag myself out of bed in the mornings. Thank goodness for the dogs; they don’t give a damn about the state of the world. Their concerns are more immediate: breakfast, a good wee in the yard, walkies at the accepted time and along the accepted habitual route.

Heaven forbid brekkie or walkies change in even the slightest; the dogs, especially Boxnoggin, are creatures of strong habits and dislike any tiny deviation. He even gets miffed when the squirrels don’t show up at the same places he’s seen them before. I imagine him very much as a stage director tearing out his hair over some particularly enthusiastic and experimental actors.


I’d talk about the state of the world at large, but you probably already know and in any case, I’ve said what I’ve said and I stand by it. I am extremely disappointed that the media seems to be doing its best to elide ongoing protests, but what can one expect from corporations owned by one or two super-rich?


Anyway, there’s walkies to accomplish, a run to get in, and hopefully, if I am very disciplined today, the rest of the proof pages to knock off. Normally I do these on paper, because I don’t “see” the errors as well on a vertical screen. Fortunately I have a tablet and pencil, so I can pretend it’s paper while playing with something penlike. Which seems to be just enough to fool my brain into thinking I’m working in the accepted way, so it clicks over into “critical reading” mode. I don’t know how readers will like this book, but at least it’ll be the best I can make it before it toddles out into the world.

In between, when I’m taking breaks or before I really get going, I’ve been poking at Moon’s Knight. Of course I have other projects sitting and simmering, but that’s the one filling in the cracks while most of my bandwidth is taken up with Poison Prince. I’m deeply worried I won’t be able to pull off half of what I want to with Bloody Throne or Black God’s Heart, which is pretty usual at this stage of the game.

Part of the frustration is that I am not working at even close to my usual pace. Go figure, a worldwide pandemic, fascist coup, and massive protests seem to be giving everyone a smidge of trouble in the concentration department. I’m trying not to feel bad about it, but there’s that strange anxiety thing where the ability to cope with disaster is never good enough. At least I’m feeling more relaxed than I was–finally, finally nobody is telling me I’m “too sensitive” or “overreacting.”

Sooner or later I’ll be back to my usual speed. Or, you know, catastrophe will mean I’ve other problems. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, all I can do now is continue as I’ve been. I hope you find a little peace and self-care today, dear Reader.

We need all we can get.