Masks, Dropped

Terrible heat; we who live in the PNW aren’t geared for this sort of thing. Physically drained, and if I even glance at the news I wonder why one should get out of bed at all. Of course, since I can’t really sleep I might as well get up and at least try to work. The plants need watering, too. Might as well–that’s what I keep repeating these days. Might as fucking well.

I’m working on Volume 7 of Anaïs Nin’s Diary, and rationing the poems in Jay Hulme’s Backwater Sermons. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Nin once the Diary finishes, but also relatively glad that I can turn my attention to other things. My only regret about Hulme is that I can’t go even more slowly; the poems are wonderful antidotes for the awful, killing bleakness I often find myself lost in.

The garden is doing splendidly. Some of the dahlias survived squirrel depredations and have come up, which is a blessing. The new hedge trimmer works like a dream and I’m considering taking it to the grape vine, just to keep the bloody thing under control. But that’s not a decision for today; I am not in the right frame of mind to be trimming tender green. Whacking at old growth requires a bit of bloody-mindedness, but the newer stuff needs care.

Does all that sound like I’m depressed and near-broken? I suppose that’s not far from the truth.

Still, I’m enduring. I want to be the weed these bastards can’t kill. I want to survive without being turned into what we’re fighting. The bitterness stands a very real chance of twisting me, just as it did when I was a child, and I am determined not to give them that victory.

I’ve been watching a lot of a particular YouTube channel that deals with explaining the behavior of narcissists. A certain amount of narcissism is present in a healthy personality, sure, but our culture and society prioritizes and rewards the nasty kind far more than anything reasonable. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about surviving narcissists, due to my upbringing, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised–there is just so much more information about how to deal with them, validation if one must suffer their depredations, and new research about why they do what they do than ever before. Learning that they rarely if ever change has been consoling; it means I don’t have to hold out hope or leave any part of myself open for their return. And hearing the reiteration that several of my coping mechanisms aren’t uncommon at all has been oddly helpful, too.

Therapy was wonderful for me, and this kind of knowledge being freely available (again, since I have the hardware and internet connection to access it, I do not forget that) is helping me build a bulwark against the current crop of fascist bullies. Because what are they but domestic abusers writ large? They all–fascists, bigots, cult leaders, intimate abusers, bullies–work off the same playbook, a thin stapled-together pamphlet of nasty tricks and brutalization. The different varieties may have a preference for a certain strategy, but they use the gamut, and are all cut out of the same cloth.

We know what these people do. We know who they are, and they have never been so overt and easily recognizable as right now. They’re practically shouting “I’M TOXIC! PROTECT YOURSELF FROM ME!” at the top of their lungs 24/7. The masks have dropped.

How odd, how strangely hilarious is it that wearing a scrap of cloth over one’s face marks one as a decent person who cares about others, and the lack shouts “I’m a huge selfish asshole”? It used to be toxic people wore camouflage to hunt with more ease. In my brighter moments I think that it’s actually a good thing they’ve been so emboldened–we have lifted the rock, and of course the mass of pale, sickening squirming underneath seems like an explosion. It seems endless, it seems too deadly and huge to fight.

But we can see how far the rot extends, now, and that’s the first step in treatment. We can protect ourselves–and each other–with greater ease. There’s no ambiguity, no “well, maybe X doesn’t mean it, maybe they’re just having a bad day.” It’s gone far beyond that; they have literally removed all cover, camouflage, and the pretty lies they used to operate under.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and what we can see we can treat. Or fight.

So I’m going to water the plants, take Boxnoggin on his ramble, do some stretching since I can’t run in this weather and my body is in full-fledged, miserable revolt. I will pull way back on social media to protect myself for a while, and continue the work. I will try to remind myself not to be bitter, that maybe one or two people heeded my warning(s) and that if I reached even one person it was time and effort well spent. Try to remind myself that even my silly little stories have value, and even if I’m too exhausted to come out swinging I can still build a refuge and offer others some solace, some relief.

I thought reaching adulthood meant I could be free of nasty, toxic, abusive bullies. It seems they’re everywhere now, but I have to keep reminding myself that they’re just loud. In reality, we outnumber them, and their selfish, opportunistic fellow travelers as well. Plus the technology of today means validation for the rest of us, not to mention direct proof of outnumbering, can be had daily.

We’re not trapped on the planet with the toxic, bigoted, fascist bullies. They’re trapped here with us, and we outnumber them by more than two to one. They’re loud, vicious, brutal, and don’t care who they hurt. Yet we are the powerful ones.

Gods grant we don’t forget it.

Green Fire

Tender? Yes. Weak? No.

The rhododendrons suffered badly under the heat dome last year. (Thanks, corporate-fueled climate change!) I was afraid we’d lost fully half of them. They straggled through the winter, and the only reason I didn’t take them out was because suppleness still lurked in their limbs instead of the dry-bone feeling of dead wood. That, and my stupid, persistent kindness, the willingness to see if things will get better, to whisper “do what you must, I’ll help all I can” to maybe-dead plants.

Now, in a wet spring, fresh growth covers them. On my low days, I wonder why they’ve bothered. And there have been a lot of low days lately, what with All This.

It also makes me wonder if it hurts a phoenix to burn. Renewal is at the end of the fire, certainly, but it never comes without cost. Does the fragile, sticky, delicate new growth ache as it bursts free? Does the phoenix feel a sweet pain, cold air hitting wet wings as a butterfly struggles out of necessary confinement? Will I endure long enough that this agony becomes simply something that was instead of it hurts, it hurts now, it hurts so much?

I don’t know, and the rhododendrons aren’t saying. I touch their trunks, feel the living weight of their branches, examine the raw, downy leaves. For a bare moment the pain lessens a fraction, and I take a deep breath. Sometimes, simply enduring is the only courage possible–or necessary.

Gods grant me strength to sing through this fire, and to cover the scars with green when it’s over.

Flower Foam

Not pictured: Several drunken bees.

We’re getting waves of rainy and sunny days, which the flowers love. And what the flowers love, the bees love too.

I took this picture immediately following a punishing run the day after Bailey left. Standing on a sidewalk and crying might have garnered me some attention (maybe, ours is a very live-and-let-live neighborhood) but I took a picture as cover while whispering to the bees that she was gone. They had to be told, after all, and I didn’t have the breath while running.

Fortunately they were so busy with the azaleas, most of them merely nodded and went about their business. But after that they stopped trying to crawl into my mouth and nose. (Maybe they’re just giving me some time off.) And while I was weeding yesterday, they behaved as usual–riding on my hair, investigating my arms, tapping my cheeks. It’s disconcerting to have them bumble right into one’s face, but I suspect it’s doubly so for them.

There will be a Tea with Lili today, but it might be a short one. We’ll see if I can get through without breaking down. And I wish you all a very pleasant, hopeful, and peaceful weekend. Heaven knows we could all use a break…

Dogwoods, Irreversible

Rust, or blood?

The dogwoods are in full, exuberant flower–there’s a legend that they were used for the cross bearing the Christian Jesus, and that their flowers bear nail-marks in sympathy. Lilacs are beginning their dramatic show, the white violets have returned to simple green growing but the purple ones are a creeping mat of flowers. Lithadora and vinca still putting on a good show, as is the alyssum.

By the time the dogwoods bloom spring is irreversible, and I let myself believe winter is over despite all my armor of coping. (If I expect the worst, I cannot be disappointed, only wearily unsurprised or happily wrong.) Plus, it’s getting warm enough for the bees, so I have to be ready for them to attempt nesting in my hair during walks, or crawling into my mouth or ears during a run.

Miss B is holding steady. Though it won’t be long, this is not the week she’ll leave me. I am…grateful, for that. Give me another week, a few more days, a few more hours. I will use them well.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. Be gentle with yourselves, and each other. And since it’s Friday the 13th, remember our vow: Do no harm–and take no shit.

Over and out.

Bright Pop

So bright, after a greygreen winter.

The rhododendrons are having a tough time. Last summer’s heat domes messed up the formation of flower buds, so they’re just green this year. Maybe some will bloom later, but I’m not holding my breath.

Some of the azaleas have decided to pick up the slack, though. After a long wet winter, in all shades of grey, dusty olive, and wet fir, the first pops of plant pizazz are even more vivid. The cherries and plums are nice, certainly, but pink and white only go so far. Daffodils and jonquils are likewise glimmers of sunshine, but really it’s the azaleas and rhodies the color-starved wait for.

And this particular bush didn’t disappoint. I literally stopped in my tracks on my way home, staring at the flowers with my mouth a little open–both because I’d been running, and because I hadn’t realized just how much I longed for a few naturally bright daubs.

Happy Friday, my beloveds. I’m still trying to recover from the damn werelion thing and the new office chair requires an adjustment or two. But all the plants in my office are happy, and there are buds on the lilacs; this may well the the weekend they burst into exuberant bloom.

I can’t wait.

Sixth Time Friday

Snow? Ha. I scoff at such inclemency!

How is it Friday? Wait. Is it Friday?

…I checked, for the sixth time this morning. It is indeed and irrevocably Friday, and I’m pretty sure the recent freak snowstorm was winter’s very last gasp. Sometimes seasons like a long drawn-out death, like certain movie villains. Remember Alan Rickman’s death scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Everything about that movie was fantastic, except for Kevin Costner.

Christ, I’m old.

Anyway, it’s Friday. There’s an upcoming Tea with Lili today, where we’ll be talking about how to deal with snapback. (I will still be knitting on the same damn shawl.) I’m sure there will be other tangents and subjects, as per usual.

It is a hushed, dripping, misty morning, and the neighborhood is quiet. This is, I suspect, a mercy of short duration. Even the dogs are subdued (don’t worry, this won’t last) and I am only a third of the way through my coffee. The week is bouncing around inside me, trying to find a place to settle, and I dislike the feeling intensely.

I’ll be working all weekend, but at least I can take a deep breath while the fog wraps the trees–blooming or simply leafing out–in cotton and the birds gather on the Yankee Squirrel Flinger. I do really have to tell you guys about Boxnoggin and the windchimes, you guys will enjoy that story even if it’s embarrassing–for him, mind you, though he’s forgotten all about it already.

I was wearing shoes and thus escaped shame. (Mostly.)

Have a lovely weekend, my dears. May your weather be fair, your pets hilarious, and your relaxation epic.

See you next week.

After the Snow

We had quite a lot of wet, heavy snow (especially for April, in this part of the world) falling very quickly yesterday morning. It was lovely…until the crashing started all through the neighborhood. The firs around the house lost some huge branches, and as a result there’s a call in to the insurance company. I’m sure there were a rash of similar calls, because even though the deadly silence of snow you could hear the breaking and thudding everywhere.

This fellow could have gone straight through the house, but did not.

This particular limb is hanging across the deck; it landed on the roof crosswise and slid, bending the gutter and punching through the deck’s upright slats. There’s another one just as big lying over it up on the roof proper, and you can see both from the front of the house, over the roof-crest. This is just a sliver of the damage the storm did. You can also see a bit of the leftover slush-ice, which is lingering in shaded patches.

So far the insurance company seems genuinely helpful, but that’s no indication. All my phalanges are crossed, because it’s a lot of fallen crap and we simply can’t get to the roof to figure out if it’s whole. I guess we’ll find out when the thunderstorms move in later today?

Added to that, the faucet in the kids’ loo needs replacing. Fortunately the Princess likes puzzles and home repair, so she’s given Yours Truly a list of supplies, which are wending their way through the supply chain. It’s…very odd, to have someone in the house to rely on. I’m used to doing everything alone, world without end, amen. Learning to loosen my grip a little and accept help is quite a journey.

The zero draft of Hell’s Acre‘s Season One is finished, and the last chapter will probably go out to subscribers this week. I am spiking for the finish of the Sekrit Projekt’s zero, too–the VC Andrews/Cat People thing–and that will be lovely to have off my docket. It’s possessed me for long enough, I think.

They’re saying thunderstorms and wintry mix today, so that’s going to be grand. There’s still snow on the roofs too, though it seems to have largely melted off boughs–which is a mercy, because more rain atop the wet slush is heavy and could bring down even more weakened limbs, and we’ve had quite enough of that, thank you.

And that’s all the news I can think of this morning while my coffee cools. We could have done without this, but if it had to happen, at least the tree-arms didn’t fall point-first. Any one of the fallen could have punched straight through both floors if they’d hit wrong. So we’re fortunate in that respect, and I am thanking every lucky star I can think of.

At least nothing’s hitting the roof this morning. The dogs were quite put out with both the absence of walkies and the constant noise of impacts all through yesterday. Boxnoggin was a nervous wreck and even Miss B got a little tetchy, pressing close to my leg and looking up at me as if to say just make it stop, Mum, why are you doing this? Poor thing, she’s dead convinced I had some sort of control over what was happening. It’s probably too terrifying for her to contemplate otherwise.

Tuesday promises to be busy, but at least I can crawl into work for a short while and escape. (Unless some-damn-thing else happens.) I do have a SquirrelTerror tale to tell you (how Boxnoggin got tangled up in windchimes) but that’ll have to wait for another day.

See you around.