Between Music and Tomatoes

I got all the tomato plants into the ground on Sunday, but I did not hoover. There’s always a catch.

On the bright side, I didn’t work? At least, on anything sellable? So that’s a plus?

The kids put their collective foot down; I gather I was looking a little wild-eyed. I was absotively, posilutely not allowed to work on anything for a couple days. It got so bad they would glare every time they passed my office. “You’re not…working, are you?”

“NO NO I’M WRITING WEREWOLF EROTICA, FURTHEST THING FROM WORKING POSSIBLE, I SWEAR…”

On the bright side, the Selkie pinged me on Saturday and we ended up bombing into Portland for an Everyday Music trip. Masked up and vaccinated, we found all sorts of goodies–she had a list, but I, of course, just winged it.

Consequently I got a set of old radio plays1 and a Gormenghast DVD set2 as well as some, well, actual music. Including a still-sealed CD which made my nose twitch3. We’ll see if anything comes of that.

Between music and tomatoes, I didn’t get a lot of household chorin’ done, but I suppose that’s okay. It is summer, after all. And I’m halfway between projects, shifting gears rapidly and repeatedly to get edits done at the same time I’m producing new text.

Today I want to get Avery through the rest of that damn combat scene in Hell’s Acre, and if I’m still near the end of Cold North (at least, if they aren’t attacked again in the forest) I can get everyone to the hidden city and thrown into the dungeons, which will be a nice place to end the first volume of what promises to be a very long trilogy.

This is, of course, assuming the heat doesn’t prostrate me and the kids don’t tie me to the couch yelling “YOU’RE NOT DONE NOT-WORKING YET.”

Considering it’s a Monday, this could go either way…

Saturday’s Solitude

I drove west on Saturday, then back east again loaded with seedlings and starts. The plants were only an excuse, though collecting them was pleasant in the extreme (thank you, MZ, a thousand blessings upon your household). The real reason for the trip was two hours spent completely alone in the car each direction.

I love, crave, and need my solitude. Oddly, though, I’ve never been able to afford living alone. There’s always been roommates, and then there were the kids. With them in school, or one in school and one working, I could get a few hours of blessed alone-time fairly regularly.

Then lockdown happened. And while I have doors to shut and morning runs to perform, it’s not exactly the same.

So it was absolutely healing to get in the car and spend hours with just myself, the engine, and my thoughts. I feel like a new woman. It also helps that the drive over the coast range is spectacularly beautiful. Living here is lovely; there’s the sea within a few hours’ drive1, the mountains in either direction, and dry sage land should I want it accessible within a few hours as well. All in a place with enough rain to suit me2 and a distinct lack of bite-y, venomous things. It’s pretty perfect.

So, things I saw on the drive:

  • A marsh, still mirror-ponds populated by the begging fingers of dead trees, with long-legged birds casually munching amid the stilts;
  • Veils of rainy cloud on thickly wooded mountainsides;
  • A green hippie bus with “WE STOP FOR YOU” painted on the side and a group of brightly clad people stretching their legs during a short halt;
  • A smooshed porcupine, with a few crows dancing excitedly at such a feast (be careful, my friends, those quills are nasty business);
  • A shed or shipping container (not quite sure) with the evocative legend “SLEEPING PREACHER” spray-painted on its front and sides, so traffic both directions could read and wonder;
  • The faroff distant smear of the sea, singing its lonely song;
  • Moss hanging in great veils in a pocket temperate rainforest;
  • Tiny towns with strange names and chainsaw art in the front yard of many a proud home;
  • A hawk diving for lunch on a sunny field;
  • Many, many grazing animals, including cows, alpacas, and I think I even glimpsed a llama.

In short, a good time was had by all, and I get to spend my lunch hour today getting some starts into the ground. There wasn’t time Saturday after I got home–the Princess had spent the day prepping for a pierogi feast, and of course that took up the remainder of the evening. Sunday was spent on household chores and stretching out, since it’s been a long, long while since I’ve had a car ride of that duration.

I feel ever so much better. And I also took a few social media apps off my phone. My blood pressure doesn’t need them; I just can’t even anymore. It will mean greater productivity and less desire to just crawl under my bed and hide. It’s the latter I’m aiming for.

I hope your weekend held many likewise pleasant things, my friends. Now I get to have a bit of toast and look over the day’s work–I think we’ll have a reindeer ride accompanied by giant wolves on the way to a hidden city, and the rest of the combat scene I didn’t finish after all last week, as well as the planting and the watering. We also had some rain, which was glorious though uncharacteristic for June.

Of course the dogs are very interested in the prospect of toast crusts followed by walkies. And there’s probably some more coffee in my future, too. All in all, despite the fact of Monday, things seem somewhat reasonable chez Saintcrow right now.

I can only hope it lasts.

Of Many Minds

This morning I peered at the internet, said “what in the Sam Hill…” and immediately thought of Stonehenge. It’s pretty certain the saying was around before Hill built it, but I never let that get in the way of a good free-association.

Yes. Hello. Good morning, it’s Tuesday, my brain is twenty-four coked-up monkeys partying inside a skull full of breakable things and odd ends, and that’s even before coffee. Once caffeine gets in there, it’s going to be a real party.

Yesterday was spent on the first third of Black God’s Heart, which needed trimming and shaping in light of the finished arc of the book. It’ll get easier as I go along, since the more I wrote the more of it I could see, and I eventually arrived (in a series of oscillations) right where Book One needed to halt.

Or… maybe not. I’m of two (more) minds about the ending, which has never happened to me before. I think I’ve the right one, though it’s counterintuitive; I would prefer the book to end a different way but a story does as it does.

Which means the ending’s a question for a different day. Today is for revision now that I see the shape and have a whole corpse, even if the fringe at the toes may need a slightly different trim once I finish this pass. My urge to pack a lunch, get in the car, and drive up the Gorge to see the ol’ Henge again probably has something to do with avoiding work and wanting to sink into a good long drive where I can dream and build new stories.

It’s so uncharacteristic of me to want to leave the house at all, let alone for a car journey, that I’m a little weirded out. I’ll ascribe it to pandemic stress and the urge towards solitude; I haven’t had the house to myself in months. Not that it’s bad–I have doors to close should I need it, and can always go for a rambling walk in the park(s). I know I’m lucky. And yet if even I’m feeling the urge to flee, well, I can imagine how bad it is for others who don’t have my luck.

*sigh* So it’s back to revision today. Yesterday’s work was not all I’d hoped for, but it will get easier as I go on. I’m waiting for the point where The Gangster in the story finally clicked into place and I saw his motivations clearly, plus once I’ve salted in a few more mentions of the Big Bad (not the garden-variety bad) the entire fabric of the book will hang much more smoothly.

At least I know what has to be done. Which is far better than just wandering around in the dark with a machete and a cord, looking for a socket or a monster, whichever happens first.

The coffee is half done. The monkeys have noticed I’m imbibing it. The dogs are waiting for their walk. And yet I linger here, glancing at the cedars out the window every once in a while, waiting to hear their whispers.

Sooner or later, they say.

Sooner… or later, you’ll be free.

I just have to work a bit first, that’s all.

Magnolia, Centre

The Pacific Northwest is a bit strange. Magnolias do very well here. (So do rose bushes and figs, but that’s a different story.) I was be-bopping along, walking the dogs in the heavy, apocalyptic smoke (the world is burning, natch, ah well, had to happen sometime) when we were forced to pause under a big magnolia for something that apparently smelled AMAZING to two canines.

It struck me, looking at the branch hanging over my head, that the tree doesn’t give a good goddamn about anything. It just… grows. And for a moment my own burden of anxiety lightened, looking at the new buds.

Take where you can get it in this year of our disaster 2020, my friends. There are new leaves on at least one magnolia in the world.

The dogs finally had huffed all they wanted, and we moved on. But that moment of calm was a treasure, and I keep thinking about it. We’ve all been knocked ass over teakettle, but even in the spinning there are moments to be found at the centre.

May you have at least one, if not many, today.

Bee Ware

You might not be able to see it, but the crack between the concrete and the dirt behind the sign holds the entrance to a beehive. On warm mornings they are busily flying in and out, pollinating, gathering, doing their bee business. The people who live there put the sign up a couple weeks ago, and I think they absolutely mean to leave the bees alone long-term since they’re not harming anyone. Which makes me feel good; every time I pass plenty of the little fellows come to say hello and play tag with Miss B.

When I’ve felt like humanity is a shitshow not worth saving this week, I’ve thought of this–people quietly leaving the bees alone, merely putting up a sign to protect both the hive and passers-by. And somehow, it makes the rest of us worth fighting for.

We don’t have to be awful. And really, most people aren’t.

Gods grant I remember it.

Nature’s Cleanup Crew

Oh, nothin’ much, just scavengers making sure the sloughed detritus of humanity doesn’t choke the globe. It’s a livin’, ya know? Over on the right there, that’s Fred. He thinks he’s a crow when we’ve got food, and we let him think so because honestly, there’s only so much of this we can eat and he’s a bottomless pit…

They said Taliesin could understand the speech of birds, and I’m here to tell you that was probably just like the internet–a whole lot of weird unusable shit, with maybe a piece of necessary information buried in a random, moving place.

Anyway, let’s spare a thought for Nature’s cleanup crew. They’ve a huge job on their, uh, their wings (or paws, or whatever passes for hands among maggots) and not much time to get it done.

Just like the rest of us…

Civic Duty, Done

I was up at 5am after a restless night worrying about parking, and consequently I need more coffee if anything is going to make sense today.

That’s right, chickadees. I was on jury duty this fair misty morn.

The dogs were a little bemused at being yanked out of bed for predawn walkies, and despite napping while I was performing my civic duty they’re as worn out as I am.

I scored a reasonable parking spot (that meant walking only a few blocks) and made it there before the jury room opened. Brought plenty of books, snacks, had bottled water, a five-subject notebook in case the Muse bit while I was waiting, and everything I could possibly need packed into trusty old Herbert1. There were two trials, so after a short video on unconscious bias, half the jurors were randomly selected for the first and the rest of us waited.

And waited. I knocked off about twenty pages of my book before the jury coordinator came out with her microphone (the jury waiting area even had a kitchenette, it’s amazing) and said, “Well, they settled at the last minute, which sometimes happens. So you guys are free to go and you don’t have to call in the rest of the week, you’ve done your duty. Thank you.”

It was nice to be thanked several times for showing up. Also, somewhat ironically, the fellow making the loudest stink about hating jury duty (despite this being only his second time called) was in the first group, so the rest of us didn’t have to listen to his bellyaching and got to leave while it was still morning.

Some days the Universe hands you a break.

Nevertheless, I am somewhat at sixes and sevens. I had forgotten all about jury duty until my phone calendar reminded me after dinner last night, which was why I’d put the damn reminder in but was also an unpleasant jolt. Staying up almost all night worrying about parking didn’t help. I fixate on something different every time I have to leave the house for a new location, I swear. Plus, it’s kind of stress-inducing to EVER go to the courthouse.

Right next to the jury room was a Family Law counselor; that particular office dispenses protection orders all day too. There was a woman there with three small children filling out paperwork, looking harried and sleepless, and I longed to tell her I’ve been where you are, it gets better, I’m so sorry.

But I couldn’t, and when I left the jury room she was gone. I hope she and the little ones will be all right. I drove home through mist, seeing traffic heavy in the opposite direction, and stopped only to pick up milk.

You’d think my own adult and almost-adult child would back off on the cow squeezings, but I guess not. Their bones are FANTASTIC, thank you.

Now I’m home, hungry, and cross-eyed with lack of sleep. It’s a good thing they didn’t put me on a jury, I probably would have dozed sitting up during opening arguments.

I was struck, sitting in the waiting room, by how… well, how cooperative and civilized the entire group was. There was some grumbling about the hour and the parking, but everyone was mollified by the illusion of special treatment and the several professions of gratitude, especially in the video played for us. It was interesting to see the appeals to vanity clothing the lesson about unconscious bias– “most people want to make fair, just decisions, and this is a way you can do that, even by doing something so simple as recognizing you have biases because your brain needs them to make sense of all the information it’s soaking in!” I had positioned myself under a television screen, not wanting the damn thing nagging at me while I read, so I watched the screen far across the room and the expressions flitting over people’s faces as they watched and listened.

It’s all material, for a writer. Everything goes into that giant hopper in your head, ready to be plundered for a telling detail or a lifelike setting.

Anyway, appeals to vanity work wonders, I’ve done my duty to the body politic today, and I have a fresh cup of coffee. I won’t get a lot of work done, but I’m free for the rest of the week, so I feel unexpectedly liberated.

And very, very tired.

All in all, a productive morning, albeit in ways I wouldn’t have chosen. At least I know I’ll sleep tonight. Frankly, I’d better. Feeling this woolly-headed and lethargic is unwelcome indeed.

Happy Monday, everyone.