Tuesday, December 30, 2014

...in the mean time...

I'm going to be working on my major non-fiction project for the next few weeks, probably. That time line is a really rough estimate.

Feel free to pop over to my academic blog (it's on a side bar here somewhere - check on the left side, I think that's where I saw it last) if you're into that sort of thing.

I just finished up a book review of Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, by Paul Bloom, to kinda get my non-fiction writing muscles warmed up. Now I'm back on track working on that Bisbee Deportation paper I've had on a back burner for, oh, longer than I care to calculate right now. I'll be back here when I've either finished the Deportation paper, or I just need (yet another) break from it.

Cheers!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

mustangs

flicking tails and tossing heads
arched necks and crow hops
snorting and shimmering
- scatter
flashing hooves and floating manes
- even the kindest eyes flee



Inspired by:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

wish

Once
I danced naked on a stage
soaking in the warmth
eager to feel my body
glide and tense
with the sliding breaths
of a singing violin.

Morning comes
and pain blossoms
with lifting eyes
and I wish.

Then
I will stand
and stomp and
spin -
the crescendo
drawing me higher
to ecstasy.





This poem is inspired by real toads, real life, Lindsey Stirling, stripping, and tai chi

Saturday, November 29, 2014

the Wildwood Tarot deck



I got a new tarot deck, the Wildwood Tarot deck by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, art by Will Worthington. The first card to greet me when I opened the package had a picture of a stoat. I love stoats! And weasels and ferrets. So yeah, that's a good sign.

But the stoat is in the middle of the deck, and I like to begin at the beginning: with the Fool. In this deck, the Fool is called the Wanderer. There are many naming differences in this deck. The Magician is the "Shaman," the High Priestess is the "Seer," et cetera. Some of the differences were less obvious than those, and I had to check the numbers. I actually figured out the Archer (the Chariot) by the feel of the card and remembering approximately where the Chariot would be in the deck. But the Stag, number 8? Had to check, then felt silly because I had known number 8 was Strength... except that the description of the Stag does not fit with the traditional Strength card... and number 11 in the Wildwood deck, called the Woodward, does have the same meaning as the traditional Strength card. Soooo.... yeah, there are some differences. I think I may have to treat this deck almost as a more complicated oracle deck when I'm learning it, rather than trying to transfer my understanding (which is rudimentary anyway) of traditional tarot deck over to this one. That just won't work.

Other differences I expected, such as the overall feel of the deck. Where my steampunk deck is all hard truths and impassioned motivators, the Wildwood deck is deep truths with ancestral roots and a flair for verdancy. There's something solemn about these cards. Even the most light-hearted images - like the stoat - do not diffuse that abiding stoic presence.

The Wildwood deck is a radical departure from the easygoing and blunt playfulness of my Steampunk deck. Frankly, it's intimidating.

I'm both eager and apprehensive. I'm not sure I have the focus right now that this deck demands. Then again, perhaps they all require that same focus, and this one just won't let me get away with less (in contrast to my Steampunk deck, which allows me to get away with it, and my Animal Oracle deck, which is so familiar to me that we almost speak the same language).
Well that's an uncomfortable idea.
Hmm.

Here's where my stubbornness tries to kick in and lead me to jump into this new project - working with the Wildwood deck - all plans and good intention. But no, not this time. I'm working hard to insert common sense into my scheduling practices, and in this case that means not diving into a new and demanding project until my other demanding projects are finished. My foolish desire to rebel against intimidation be damned - this deck deserves my complete attention, and I'll wait until I can give it.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

an unread letter

24A going north:
race me, clouds.
I'm waiting with strangers,
our days numbered
in alphanumerics.
We are shadows
in our seats
held in relief
until our feet touch down again.



This poem was inspired by the imaginary garden, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, an unread letter, and the real toad from seat 24A, flying north, who gave us a word list:

fly, race, skew, waiting, strangers, clouds, dirt, shadows, horizon, contour, relief, scale

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

no knowing why

I was playing on my fridge tonight.
I wrote this for you.
No knowing why.



 [Text:
mysterious sand dimension
escaping
her frontier
no knowing why

she would eye space
like a nova come newly
here is the lost
like a deep star past]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'm so very tired of this.

I am completely at my wit's end.

This morning, every word out of my child's mouth was defiant. It took him two hours to take a shower and put clothes on. I had to miss my morning job.

This afternoon, I left him home for four hours so I could go to work. He was supposed to use that time to work on school. When I got home, he had answered 10 questions in one assignment. He had used the rest of the time to watch Transformers on Netflix, which he attempted to conceal by closing out the browser window. His school is online, so having no browser window open when he's "working on homework" was suspicious. Of course I checked the recent browsing history. We had planned to watch a movie together tonight. Instead, we did his school work right up until his early bedtime.

While getting ready to tuck him in, and adjusted the pillow on his bed. When I picked up the pillow, I saw a shiny new cell phone. Not his. I asked whose it was. He said he didn't know. Actually, he shrugged while giving me that deer-in-headlights look. I asked where he got it from. He didn't remember. No really, I said. Where. He mumbled something about my desk. Then I remembered I had a brand new, in-the-box Motorola Droid on a shelf in my desk. Looked at the phone. Yep, it was a Droid.

This... child... had stolen the phone out of the packaging, reassembled and returned the packaging so that I couldn't tell it had been touched, and then - did what? I don't know. There's no SIM card in the phone. If you turn it on, it tells you to either make an emergency call or shut it back off. But he did something. The camera lens on the phone is shattered. Completely. As though someone took and ice pick and a hammer to it. He says he can't remember. I don't believe that at all, but I couldn't see anything useful coming out of my mouth at that point, so I walked out of his room, shutting the light off and closing the door behind me.

That's $500 I don't have, gone in a child's lie. I didn't need the phone, but I had planned on selling it so I could afford to get him some decent Christmas presents this year.

I wanted to scream.
I wanted to hit something.
Mostly I wanted to cry.

This is becoming a pattern. Today wasn't unusual. The phone bit is unusual, but the deception isn't. The more I work away from home, the worse he gets. I can't afford to pay someone to come hang out with him unless I work a lot more. If I work less, we don't get to keep our comfy house.

I'm all out of ideas.

bitter holiday


all rank and file
and shining brass
fruit salad on your chest
parades and poppies
get lost in the dress

hero signs hang
around your neck
hang you up
so proud on display
reminiscent
of your better days
what are you now?

that emptiness
won't guide your steps
your happy home
went on without you
getting in the way
and all the thank yous know
you've seen better days

it's done it's over
you can't go back
you can't become
something new
your pedestal clings
and chafes
and hollows you out
while rabid onlookers
won't let you down

you're just a symbol now
all your lives
all your wretched loss
a talking point
and reality is
elusive as the solid ground

and there is no moving on
for the hollow heroes left behind




This poem was inspired by American Pie in the imaginary garden, Veteran's Day, and these three articles. Actually, four. Want to help a vet? Save your thanks. Instead, help us change this

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

nightingales sing against the dark

This has been a long time coming.
Songs don't come easy
in the light.
Don't give up on me.

My song is broken, sharp.
They see some smooth melodies
skipping through the stars:
so pretty, so sweet;
I hear its cracked harmonies
stumble in the clear blue sky.

Mine is a song that bubbles through rocks,
seeping between
the crushing earth,
pushing back
against the pain -
picturesque.

This has been a long time building.
Can't give up on  me.
Singing to myself
in dark corners
growing light, creating faith
in unknowing;
something could change
someday.



This post was brought to you by nightingales in the imaginary garden with real toads, the duality of life with mental illness, and the hope that you don't actually know what happens next


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bones' Apothecary: Oleander

So we moved into this new house a couple months ago, and there are several gigantic oleander plants out back. They're big enough and thick enough to function as a very tall privacy hedge between my back yard and the rest of the world. They have very pink flowers.

Not having had oleanders to care for before, I looked them up.
Turns out they're completely poisonous, so obviously people consume them for medicinal purposes.

I gotta say, that seems less than smart to me.

(I recently had an idea for a story about what would happen if all the warning labels were removed from quasi-dangerous products. Of course, the people behind the removal would probably be some secret eugenicist society. I'm taking bets on how much of our population would be wiped out in short order.)

Anyway, I harvested as many of the dried flowers as I could reach and ended up with two full gallon-sized jars of the things. It looks like the plants are just beginning to grow seed pods (very bean-like in appearance), so I should have a harvest of those, soon, too. For now, I just have the dried flowers. They dry right on the stem, by the way, and if I catch them before they fall and get smooshed by running dogs and kid(s), they're quite pretty.

A picture I took of some of the blossoms still on the bush.

The dried and harvested flowers.

I've listed the dried flowers in my etsy shop, under the Apothecary section.
What else am I going to do with all these flowers?
I think they'd be useful for spellwork or potpourri or, I'm sure, any number of flower-crafty projects.

While researching oleander online, I came across one story in particular. This tale seemed to pop up all over the place, whether I was looking for the plant's mythology or taxonomy. The story goes, in Greek myth a hero named Leander was in love with a maiden (why is it always a maiden?) who was imprisoned (by her father, of course) on top of an island mountain. Every night, Leander would swim across the treacherous seas to visit the girl. One night, a storm more terrible than usual raged while Leander was swimming, and (because ancient Greeks loved tragedy), Leander drowned. The following morning, the distraught girl ran up and down the beach looking for her lover, crying "O, Leander!" over and over. When she found his body, she saw that he had been clutching a flower. She took this flower from his corpse as a symbol of his profound love for her. The flower is now known as Oleander (please tell me you saw that coming).

Okay, so maybe this really is a Greek myth, but that really seems unlikely to me. I mean, it seems unlikely that it's a Greek myth. I'd more easily believe that it's a Victorian England myth masquerading as a Greek myth.

Nevertheless, the oleander flower is thought (these days) to have some potency in spellwork dealing with matters of romantic love.

Personally, I've never tried such work, so I can't give any awesome anecdotes on that.

Some other names for Oleander: nerium oleander, Dogbane, Rose Bay, Desert Rose, Ceylon Tree, Adelfa.

Cunningham, in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, associates oleander with femininity, the planet Saturn, the element Earth, and with love.

None of my other herb books mention oleander. None!
Maybe that's because most of my herb books are about herbal medicine, and oleander is a poison.
Don't consume any part of the oleander plant, mm'kay? 


Want some more info? Here's some:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerium
http://www.auntyflo.com/flower-dictionary/oleander
http://marshaamoore.blogspot.com/2011/04/magic-and-danger-of-oleander.html
http://oleander.org/



Monday, November 3, 2014

Samhain reading for the new year

I did this reading on Samhain. Yeah, my schedule's been a bit full. 





Who will guide my home?

The Dog is a guide and a friend, and focuses on the values you hold most sacred.
The Crane is a guide, too, that aids us in transitions and reminds us to be patient.
The Hawk brings perspective and shows us our roots - this will be difficult.

My home is my most sacred space; it is my sanctuary, and my primary source of solace. My recent move into a new home in late August this year feels incomplete - I'm still working on the remnants of the move. Those final boxes have yet to be unpacked, and the blessing of the house has yet to happen. Patience is key, I'm sure. Archer and I moved in together during this move, and the challenges brought up by our sometimes opposing perspectives have been, well, challenging. We'll get through it, but it ain't easy.






Who will guide my son?

The Cow is a strong mother, providing all the nurturing we need.
The Ram brings us home, through persistence and willfulness.
The Stag gives us pride and graceful strength, even under pressure.

I'm taking the Cow as a reminder of my importance to my son. It's not an easy thing for me to remember. Motherhood is something I avoided rather than sought out, and I while I hate the position it puts me in, there's nothing so vital as doing right by him. I'm his guide, and I'll do the best I can. The Ram tells me that his willfulness (which is legendary in our house) should be guided, not stifled. I'm working on that. The Stag gives me hope that he and I will get this figured out for the best.






Who will guide me?

The Adder is a guide through darkness, a healer through death.
The Cat binds the spirit to the body and works toward wholeness - this will be difficult.
The Ram gives the strength to break through barriers while retaining stability.

'A guide through darkness' can only refer to my path through Major Depressive Disorder. It has been particularly bad in recent months. One of my biggest challenges with this has been feelings of alienation from my loved ones and from my own body. My son has been the biggest help in that; his existence pulls me back, because he needs me. He guides me back, every time. ...I wonder if the Ram is one of his totems? 






What will happen in the coming year?

A shift of perspective (Hawk) can bring an ending (Raven) to something emotional; this will be a valuable lesson that will affect motherhood (Cow).
Look clearly, and reevaluate your situation (Fox); you will spend time alone, but your inner strength will guide you (Wolf); do not allow your spirit to neglect your physical needs (Cat).
Pay attention to your spiritual path (Blackbird); someone will remind you to play (Otter) - let them show you, don't be stubborn (Bull).
The hardships you face will become the stepping stones you need (Owl).

Hmmm. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Four Shillings Short & A Samhain Wish

I had - and I mean this, absolutely - the great pleasure honor spiritually deepening ecstasy privilege dumb luck to get to see these two musicians in person on Samhain. They played this song (below) and one other (which I cannot find a video for, to my dismay) during the Samhain ritual I attended, and played on into the night after the ritual.

I lack the words to describe how talented this duo is. I'm completely in love.

(Here's their website, in case you want to check that out.)

This song is beautiful, but its lyrics touched me most deeply.
Take a listen.







Tuesday, October 28, 2014

history is on display here (a morbid bit of poem)

History
is on display:
can you hear
the laughter?
Can you see
the fear?

When
will we 
eat again;
will the 
boys
get prettier
this year?

Children
lived
and died
here;
wind
crawled through
the chinked
log walls
and ate
their fragile skin.

Children
played
and worked
here;
they're echoes
in the
laughing
crying
stone.




This morbid bit of poetry was brought to you by the imaginary garden with real toads, thoughts of ghosts, and the following images (which I got from the aforementioned imaginary garden, so mentioning them is something of a double tap but whatevs).





The Hermit: 10/78 days of tarot

This dude reminds me of Gandalf or Merlin or Dumbledore, if Dumbledore were more of a wanderer.


... I kinda wanna be him.

Like, can I be that badass who clearly has his shit together, and can afford to go wandering off on whatever adventure he wants, no kids or lovers to say, 'hey, maybe that's not a responsible thing to do'?

Sigh. Maybe not.


Something to note: the cane he uses to support himself looks to be made from the same stuff he stands upon. Some of this stuff is useful as an engaged item, then, while some is useful only as something to step on.


The book says, perhaps obviously, that the hermit is someone who goes off on their own to find their own answers. The hermit tests each idea, uses those they can, and discards those that cannot be used. They hold their own light - possibly one of their own creation - and look out over civilization. This card indicates a lesson to be learned, and a time to follow your own guidance. (More information about the lesson itself might be revealed by other cards in the spread.)

I noticed, just now, that the hermit's vantage point is not so far that they loose sight of the city, but far enough that they are not part of the hustling crowd. This is not an escape; rather, it is a step outside the parameters, so to better see the inside. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

So, uh, I made some changes

to the format here because I wanted something a little lighter, and I finally figured out what I've wanted to do all along. So here it is, almost as I envisioned it. More changes may occur, as I figure out more stuff. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Strength: 9/78 days of Tarot

I started the 78 days of tarot project almost exactly two years ago. I got as far as the 8th day before getting distracted by other things.

To be fair, I did not say I would do all 78 days in a row.

Here's day 9: card VIII, Strength.




via



Strength.

Sometimes strength is staying calm.
Sometimes strength is fighting back.
Sometimes strength is gentleness.
Sometimes strength is violence.
Sometimes strength is forgiveness.
Sometimes strength is remembering.
Sometimes strength is gratitude.
Always, strength is courage.


In this image, I see all these things.
The woman is calm; she defies conventional 'wisdom' to hold the lion's paw; she is gentle; she is violent, as healing is painful, and there's -something- in her poise that seems to say she's capable of harm, perhaps harm is more normal for her than healing; she is forgiven this by the lion; the lion will remember, and perhaps she remembers the kindness of others in her act; the lion is grateful; she and the lion show courage where there is no basis for trust.

The fluid nature of strength is vital; we must remember this.


The book says: 
This card is about approaching one's inner monsters with compassion. The author compares this card to that of more traditional decks, in which the woman wrestles with a lion. The suggestion is that one's inner beast is better tamed with love and healing than with brute force; i.e., compassion is a more mighty strength than violence.


I've had a hard time writing about this card. It just felt so... obvious. Like, duh, of course being nice will get you farther than being mean. Then again, being too nice gets you trampled. So there's that. I've got this 'be nice' thing down so well that standing up for myself in any capacity is damned difficult. The kindness in strength isn't my challenge - its opposite is. It's all about balance.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Howl Thief begins...

I'll start by telling you this:
The italicized part below is something I've posted before, with just the tiniest of changes right there at the very end. For the longest time, I had no idea where this story was going. Then Magaly's Blooming Howls inspired me, and I thought a little more about who these two characters were, and where they were going. I can finally see the path they have to tread, and though it's a longer one than I can scribe in a few nights, I'll share the beginning with you here...


Eggs scrambled with spinach and mushrooms, a little salt. Peaches, sliced. Cottage cheese.
Check, check, and check.
Naylee will give me that face, the one filled with sweet happiness. I turn off the stove and scrape the eggs onto a plate.
A couple forks from the drawer, and -
There she is. Radiant. Bouncing into the room.
“Jorg! Look what I made!” Naylee giggles and holds up a ridiculous… sea slug? “It’s a sweater, obviously,” she laughs, unable to even attempt a straight face. I’m grinning back at her, despite being completely confused. The knitted thing is huge, and orange, and when she holds it up that high it blocks my view of her. Still smiling, I let her hand it to me. It could be a sweater, if I had no arms. I’m helpless. Naylee’s smile quiets. “Don’t worry,” she coos, “you can put it with the rest.” Relieved, I toss it to the top of the kitchen cabinets, where a collection of ill-fated knitting projects is accumulating.
“I’ll get the hang of these things one of these days,” Naylee insists. “I don’t know about that orange though. That might be a trim-only sort of color. A little goes a long, long way, ya know. Oooo! Peaches! Hmmm, you must like me an awful lot.”
That’s my Naylee. Teeny Queen of Distraction. My heart thumps. I reach for her waist, and I like the way my hand wraps from one hip to the other.
“Come here.” It comes out of my throat as a growl.
“Oh, scary! You know sexual dimorphism in humanoids isn’t supposed to be this distinctive, Jorg.”
“Mmmm, I love when you talk dirty to me, Naylee.”
She’s giggling again and just like that, I’m taken. Again and again.
“Hey there big man,” Naylee bats her eyelashes, “are you gonna feed me first or what?”
I pull her close, so gently, and ask her, so softly, if she’s really that hungry. A kiss on her cheek, then her lips.
“Not really, no,” she whispers back.
“I need you,” I admit.
“Oh please,” she laughs.
I had meant it, but that’s okay. I smile and kiss her again and play along. “My princess, my love, you taste like joy.”
I’m rewarded with a new round of giggles and accusations of romantic delusions. She’s right. She always is, she just doesn’t know it yet. I pick her up and kiss her again.
“Oh, you got me!” she squeals and smirks, “whatcha gonna do with me now?”
I carry her across the kitchen and into her gardening room. There’s a couch there, under the big bay windows.
“Naylee, may I?” I whisper in her ear.
“Yes please,” she says.
I set her down and lay myself on the couch. I’m careful - no need to break any more furniture throwing my weight around. When I’m settled, I tug her hand. She straddles me, her knees at my hips, and leans down for more kisses. I catch her again in my arms and hold her as close as I dare. The air around us seems to heat as we kiss. She rubs her body against me, sending hisses of urgency up my spine. Distantly, I feel myself rumbling and I grow stronger against her warmth. I open my eyes to take in this whirlwind of a woman - sometimes I have to see to believe - and a flicker of movement comes from the open room to my left. Releasing Naylee with my left arm, I grasp her tighter with my right and catch the little fucker in my left hand. My grip dwarfs his fist, and I give it a shove, sending him back across the room. Still squeezing Naylee with my right arm, I pull her in closer to that side. She’s taking advantage of my turned head and trailing little kisses along the side of my neck.
“You really need to do something about that,” Naylee says between kisses.
“I know,” I grunt. A blond scrapper of a boy is taking aim for my head again. This time when I catch his fist, I squeeze. First the bones crack - a very satisfying sound - then they crumble, and the boy disintegrates. I sigh. Naylee trails her kisses back up to my face, and I hold her with both arms again. And I’m -
Waking up.
Damn.

Jorg blinked. His eyes felt strained, as though he hadn’t been asleep for hours. The sun was streaming in, highlighting the empty space on Naylee’s side of the bed. She must have gone to work already. Jorg grumbled and got out of bed. Strange dreams had interrupted his sleep, and waking alone wasn’t comforting. Nevermind the several centuries he had spent alone before meeting Naylee; he’d had three years to get accustomed to having her around, and he never liked her absence.
A plastic crash came from the bathroom, followed quickly by a muffled “Sorry!” Not at work, then. She must have dropped something. He frowned. Hopefully she hadn’t dropped a plant pot. No, it couldn’t have been that, he decided. That would have sounded like ceramic breaking.
Naylee cracked the bathroom door and poked her head into the bedroom. “Sorry Jorg, did I wake you? I dropped my lotion. Slippery stuff.”
Jorg smiled, happy to see her round, cinnamon face peering back at him. “I was awake,” he said.
She smiled back, relieved. She was always so worried about him. It was endearing.
“Naylee,” he began, “do you know anything about dreams?”
A frown played on her lips. “Not really. I never got into all that stuff. Why?”
His brow creased. “I had that strange dream again last night. It felt,” he paused, casting about for the right word, “it felt too real, I guess.”
The frown settled more firmly on Naylee’s face as she considered this. This was the third time Jorg had woken with those bleary eyes and that worried mien. 
He described the dream, skipping over the embarrassing bits, but it wasn’t much different from the others he’d had. They all started out normal enough, but that blond boy, that worried him. The boy felt separate from the rest of the dream, as if he didn't belong there. As if the boy were not wholly part of the dream.
As he spoke, Naylee came to sit next to him on the bed. When he was done, she thought quietly for a moment.
“There’s a dream reader,” she said finally, “on my way to work. They have a shop just a few blocks from here. I go by it every day. It looks clean, reputable. Maybe you should stop in there today and ask about a reading.”
Jorg knew the place. He’d seen it too. It was at the edge of the Rev - The Reverie, officially - where all the Dreamers lived. It wasn’t visited much by anyone who wasn’t a dream witch. Witches of any type had always seemed a bit too clannish for him. The dream witches hated the green witches, who hated the fire witches, and so on. That whole attitude annoyed him. Then there was the general seediness of those dream shops. They tended to attract people Jorg wanted nothing to do with.
But, Naylee’s suggestion made sense. He had the impression this dream was something he shouldn’t ignore. Following his hunches had gotten him out of many a tight corner; no reason to stop now. He agreed to check out the shop before going to work. He had a light day planned, anyway. Plenty of time.

The sun was making an unusually intense appearance in the San Francisco sky when Jorg walked to the edge of the Rev. The Dreamer’s shop seemed huddled into the first floor of a decrepit brownstone. “Dream Reader is IN!” the sign blared, giving the only indication that life existed on the other side of the blacked out windows. Sighing, Jorg, pulled the door open and squeezed his bulk through it.
The tiny room held an aged upholstered chair in each corner facing the windowed wall. One of these chairs held a dog. A border collie, Jorg thought. The dog lifted its black-and-white head and peered at Jorg, seeming surprised. Then it stood and stretched its way to the floor, and trotted through a curtain-covered doorway in the back wall. Jorg stared after it, not sure what to do next.
Jorg had just decided to sit in the other chair when a reedy man burst through the curtained door, arms wide and jaw flapping.
“Welcome!” the man said. He brought his hands back to together and wrung them, eyeing Jorg and clearly unsure what had just crossed his threshold. Jorg felt his face pulling into a frown, and carefully brought himself back to neutral.
“I need a dream reading,” he said calmly.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

tarot solves writing blocks, for real

I've been working on the Jorg and Naylee story... except that everything I've written so far is background stuff. Important, yes, but the more background I write, the more I realize I have no idea where to take this next.

So I'm turning to my trusty tarot deck to tell me what happens next. The exercise goes like this: I do a reading for Jorg and Naylee's story, and whatever the cards say, I have to write. Then I expand on that and, voila: story!

Now let's see how this goes...



First, as I grabbed my cards, the animal oracle deck felt necessary - I realized that J & N are each related to some sort of animal. I drew two of these. Jorg is a frog; Naylee is an otter. I can totally see that, based on the descriptions of each that I wrote yesterday.

This has nothing to do with their colors. The Frog is a healer; it is compassionate because it has lived in two worlds, and understands both. It uses this wisdom to help others. The otter is playful and easily distracted, but capable of hyperfocus when it's time to work. Naylee can teach Jorg to play; Jorg can understands Naylee's distraction, and grounds her.

On to the tarot. The draw I'll use is one I came up with while I was working exclusively with my oracle deck. I used it to tell a story for people, about themselves. It works for fiction, too.

Not a great picture.

Here's the spread:
Knight of Wands, Devil (R), 10 of Pentacles (R)
2 of Swords (R), Ace of Pentacles, 3 of Wands
Ace of Cups (R), 7 of Pentacles (R), Lovers (R)
2 of Pentacles (R)

The beginning:
Knight/Wands - someone who dashes in on will alone; determination without reason
Devil - a problem of your own making
10/Pentacles - the summit of prosperity; a stable happiness

The journey:
2/Swords - a conflict, a catch-22; ignoring indecision, but tiring by holding out
Ace/Pentacles - a fleeting chance for prosperity
3/Wands - actively waiting; watching the next step coming

What the journey brings:
Ace/Cups - a chance for emotional growth
7/Pentacles - a pause in the progress, to assess achievement thus far
Lovers - satisfaction with a decision made

Summary:
2/Pentacles - retaining balance with great difficulty



... And we're off!

True Story

Roll with me here -

Pieces
flying off my little truck
scampering down the highway:
That tailgater swerves and backs off.

/Smirk./

Oh look! Over there!
(Nothing to see here folks)
That cloud is crawling like smoke
under the San Jose Mountain
(is that the name? I can't recall) -
an underground cloud factory

letting off steam.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Jorg and Naylee prepare for blooming howls

The last time I wrote about Jorg and Naylee, it was primarily to convey a dream I had into written words. I said very little about their appearances, because that wasn't a detail of the dream I had retained. So to prepare for their upcoming appearance at Magaly Guerrero's Crafting Blooming Howls party, I thought I should get an idea of what their appearances might actually be.  


So here you go, Jorg and Naylee, as I see them:  



Jorg has a fecund howl; it drips from the ceilings and vines across walls, laden with ghostly blooms. It makes him feel manly. Men should create, he says.

He has skin like sage and a frosting of evergreen fur, soft as silk, that gives him a faint glow in the right light. In any other light, that fur is nearly invisible.

His thick throat gives him a deep and resonate voice and he likes to sing to the gardens he sees. They always respond in kind.


Jorg thinks deliberately, generously, and thoroughly. He speaks slowly, weighing each word as it comes. He always means what he says.

He says his name with a soft /j/ and a hard /g/. 


Naylee is diminutive and forceful. She is more skilled at decomposition and reverse engineering than she is at creating. She is light-hearted and at ease; she is hope. She is easily distracted. 

Her skin is the color of Arizona adobe. Her eyes and short hair are the same shade of manzanita-brown. 



They are each something west of human, or perhaps in Jorg's case, east of human. 




Look for more of Jorg and Naylee on 17 October 2014, at the Crafting Blooming Howls gala.

around about here


Breathe in, breathe in,
tell me again -
why we're here
yelling.

Breathe out, breathe out,
around about here
I'll find
something worth keeping.

Breathe deep, breathe shallow,
just don't get stuck -
these ruts are killer,
nothing healing.

Break hard, breathe harder,
it's all right now -
sweat makes the heart
beat strong.




This poem is brought to you by real toads, Donna the Buffalo's keen vision, and the memory of a lazy ex-lover. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

building happiness

I have Major Depressive Disorder.
Some of you already knew that. It's not a secret.

When my medication works: It's as though that gray cloud that's hanging over me, is just hanging there. It does not shrink or lift, but it does not rain, either. The medication removes the immediacy, the weight, of Depression, but does nothing to fill that void with happiness, or with anything at all. The happiness I must work for.

That work involves building my home into a sanctuary, a place a feel a strong, healing connection with. I am an animist, and I feel strongly the flows of energy around me. All things have a spirit, an energy; this is the basis for my connection with my home, once it is built. This is also the way I heal best. Without my sanctuary - without a place I can go that is a safehaven, a shelter from all the hurt out there in the world - I am ungrounded. Being ungrounded unnerves me, and makes me unhappy. I learned this very recently.

When I moved into a new house at the end of August, I knew it would be tough. I did not know the move would send me into one of the most difficult depressive episodes I have experienced in recent memory. I figured out fairly soon (mid-move) that the episode was connected to the move. I thought it was just the change. The stress. The challenges. A normal reaction to a difficult time for anyone, but especially for someone with MDD (or other mental illnesses, I'm sure).

Perhaps a week ago, I had a particularly bad night. In the worst depths, I began writing down my thoughts. Understand that my thoughts when I'm in the grip of Depression are not reliable in the details, but they often reveal the underlying trigger(s) for that particular event. In this case, the thought that came out was clear: I miss my home, I wrote. I miss the safety, the sanctuary of my little house.

Just a few mornings ago, a conversation with Archer - my soulfriend - clarified my feelings for us both. I needed to feel the connection I'd had with my old house; I needed to build that connection with my new house. Without it, I feel like a stranger usurping the space within this building, intruding in the house's domain. So I will build a relationship with my new house.

This is the work of happiness.

It includes a list of things to do: hanging the rest of the pictures and art, organizing the bathroom drawers, sweep up the already-accumulating dog hair, et cetera.

It includes organizing my container garden in its new home.
A gift came from an unexpected new friend, just after our unexpected move. It was a wormwood plant, an herb sacred to Hel. It's thriving in the sunlit porch of this house. 

It also includes a ritual of bonding, in which I will introduce myself to the house-spirit, and entrust it with the protection of my self and my family. Together, the house-spirit and I will ward this space, while I weave my roots to its anchored beams. I will ground myself in this home, and create a sanctuary of it. Then, I will welcome my gods to join this bond: Sretya, who holds the luck of homes; Hel, who keeps truth and order in life and death; Bast, who brings joy to those who wait; and Odin, who guides the steps of wisdom-seekers. My altar will be built, and my guardians will be placed.

I will come home.

for the real toads on Open Link Monday: John Keats (and a grasshopper)

The prompt for this Open Link Monday finds inspiration from a poet born in October...

John Keats was born 31 October 1795 - a Samhain child, though they wouldn't have called him such.

The Poetry Foundation says this of Keats:

"Keats today is seen as one of the canniest readers, interpreters, questioners, of the "modern" poetic project [...] to create poetry in a world devoid of mythic grandeur, poetry that sought its wonder in the desires and sufferings of the human heart."

At times he seems particularly morbid, but at times I think I like his morbid moments best. 

These, for example:

On Death 




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3XoZbJGSM
http://www.john-keats.com/gedichte/on_death.htm






Ode to a Nightingale



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeFtMBZWrjc
http://englishhistory.net/keats/poetry/odetoanightingale.html






... but as it turns out, he had something of a sense of humor, too:

Give me women, wine and snuff
Until I cry out «hold, enough!»
You may do so sans objection
Till the day of resurrection;
For bless my beard they aye shall be
My beloved Trinity.


http://www.john-keats.com/gedichte/women_wine_and_snuff.htm

Apparently, that poem has been discounted by at least some critics as "not a serious attempt at poety," but I think that's no reason to dismiss a poem. They can't all be serious, because that would be ridiculously tedious.

That's my opinion; your perspective may vary.




I'll tell you this: Perspective is a bitch of a thing.

~

The grasses ceded their whispering afternoon song to the high strains of an unfamiliar wail. A child - perhaps a girl - in a paisley dress had wandered in their garden. The wail was not hers; her song was softer and warbling, and it sputtered beneath the alien sound. Her steps faltered, stilled by the shake rising from knees to lips.
A cloud darkened as it covered the sun, and the wail rose again, tuneless and unfeeling, closer this time to the child's toes.
The child turned and ran.
The grasses bent their heads to the conquering grasshopper.

Written for Open Link Monday, inspired by Keats and Perspective. 
~

Prompt: http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com/2014/10/open-link-monday.html

A reasonably thorough version of John Keats' Bio: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/john-keats
Website with Keats' complete list of poetry (I think it's complete, anyway): http://www.john-keats.com/ 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

flash fiction 55: Lost Bones

The trees grew thick as thieves, racing to capture the light from the clouds. The bones stumbled, clacking along, alone. So far past flesh and shivered by the rising night, the bones careened across the root-strewn floor. A glance back revealed nothing but the crowding trees. Faster, they seemed to accuse, find the child!


~This post has been brought to you by the flash fiction 55 writing prompt at the imaginary garden with real toads, by the letter k for kink, and by a ravaged mind having a grand old time. You're welcome.

Friday, October 3, 2014

caving in imaginary gardens with real toads

(untitled... for now)

Brave the wailing fires and a stony mouth,
I'm bigger on the inside;
Walk among my teeth, dripping
in a rush of life
flowing
through earthen arteries;
I am your forgotten womb.



I'm really getting into these writing prompts growing in the imaginary garden. They're striking quite the melody on my creative bones. This one, about a gigantic, wondrous cave in Vietnam, gave me something to chew on all day, as I saw it this morning right before I left for work. Tasty. 

I'm a bit lost on what to name it. I'd rather not go with the name of the cave that inspired it, because I think this could be representative of many caves all over the world, and I'd rather not narrow it unjustly. 

Crafting Blooming Howls with Magaly Guerrero



I first met Jorg and Naylee in a deam last June. In the dream, I was Jorg. I suppose that's beside the point.

So anyway.

No shit, there I was, neck-deep in smoothies and dishwater, when all the sudden -

...I don't know where that was going.

So. Anyway.

Magaly Guerrero over at Pagan Culture has this annual blog party in October, and it's awesome. You should totally check it out.

My contribution will probably be another chapter in the J&N story. I wasn't sure, at first, that I would be able to do that. I wasn't sure I knew where that story was going at all, or even whether or not there would be anything truly witchy or magicy about it.

My backup plan is to blog about my first Samhain as a dedicant of Hel, and my first Samhain without a coven. That's this year, by the way, not something that happened in the past. It's happening Right Now. Cool, huh?

As it turns out, I think I'll start work on the J&N story. I was at work today (in a cafe, making smoothies and washing dishes, but not both at the same time), thinking about writing. And thinking about J & N as characters. I really don't know much about them, but today I got some hints.

I'll be shaping Jorg's fecund howl long into the night, just the way he likes it.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Goddess Spirituality Teaches Social Justice" ... wait. What?

Any time I hear an absolutism it makes me cringe.

Nothing is absolute; all things in moderation.
The irony of those statements, I think, proves them.

So the headline "Goddess Spirituality Teaches Social Justice" really hurt my reflexes. I avoided reading it for two days hours minutes while it sat there at the top of my blog feed, taunting me with its ridiculousness. Then I succumbed.

I started the first paragraph prepared for some sort of explanation of the silly headline - and had to step back and skim the whole article. The author starts the article with the word "so."

As in, "so here's a bunch of examples of this idea I haven't explained, but obviously since I have these awesome examples (*ahem* anecdotes) that obviously indicate how right I am about this unelaborated idea, you have to agree with me. Because examples."

No, that's not an actual quote. I made it up. That's just how the article  made its first impression in my head.

Seemed a little pretentious, in my haughty opinion.

It all went downhill from there. The author rails against the patriarchy, claiming the world would be so much better if women were in power and the world focused on a female deity instead of a male deity (as if the WHOLE WORLD follows Abrahamic religions... ugh, don't even get me started), and if we just put women in power over men then everybody would be equal. Because that's logical.

It made me wonder where genderqueer and transgender folks exist in her world.

Don't get me wrong: I'm no anti-feminist. I think the post-modern feminist movement is doing great things. I also think putting men below women - as this author does - isn't equality. That's just flipping the power binary, without even acknowledging that almost nothing in human sociality is actually binary, and power structures are not an exception to that.

At some point, I realized that the article seems to be an excerpt - or rather, a collection of excerpts - from a book. I came to this realization because the image heading the article looks very much like a book cover. There's no text confirming this, but it's probably a fairly safe assumption. I'd rather think these paragraphs were taken out of context than believe the author really intended to begin, "So...," or that the author really thinks no explanation of the title is necessary. Because the explanation never comes in the article. I looked. Twice. And it was painful.

Bad writing is nearly as painful as bad logic. This was very, very painful.

I'm going to skip over all the really insulting crap - like the implication that if you're a woman who doesn't like having menses, you only feel that way because the patriarchy forces you to - and skip straight to the author's summary of their point. Mostly because it was the most coherent paragraph I found.

"In conclusion, I’ve touched briefly on but a few ideas showing how Sacred Feminine herstory, metaphor and  mythology might be reclaimed and reinterpreted to provide a roadmap toward a more sustainable future.  We have in the feminine images of divinity deities, archetypes and ideals to show us the way.  It is up to us if we want to move away from or temper the “authoritarian father” idealogy that shapes our religions and culture and instead heed the advice of the Great She and her Sacred Feminine liberation thealogy as our role model."

Right, because all our religions are masculine-monotheistic, and feminine-monotheistic is the only possible solution!

Ugh.
I'm so done.

Incidentally, I've enjoyed most of the posts I've found on pagansquare.com.
This one just happens to be irresponsible.

Seriously. Children could be reading this crap! This is modelling very bad writing! And logical fallacies being presented as truisms! That should be sacrilegious.


And to make it worse, I never even got to talk about whether or not Goddess-centric spiritualities could possibly teach social justice any more or less than any other religion, because the article had nothing coherent to discuss! So annoying.



I'm watching you, pagansquare. 



Damn, I got so irritated I forgot to include the link. Sorry about that. Here it is:

http://www.witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/her-sacred-roar/goddess-spirituality-teaches-social-justice.html

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October to the Trees

sneaking
snaking
snuck
up on you -

You who thought
September pretties
could come alone,
without me on their heels.

Silly.

Dance with me
- shake your leaves -
I'll bring them down

all fluttering
stuttering
crumbling
to the ground -

The carpet
to be mauled by
nimble toes
dancing to your
winter's death.



I got inspired by Magaly Guerrero, who got it from a lovely Imaginary Garden with Real Toads
I highly recommend seeking them out, if ever you lack inspiration.

And yes, October really did sneak up on me this year.
I really thought September was longer.
Wasn't it longer last year?

Monday, September 22, 2014

equinox reflections on Hel, and death as duality



"If there is spirituality in nature, it is in the sublime purity of wild roses and wild mushrooms in mossy woods and the vitality of deer nibbling kelp on the beach and the violet light of an oncoming storm and, equally, in the anarchy and filth of the spawning grounds, in the undoctored real of the ever-dying world...

Nature is not simply done to. Nature responds. Nature talks back. Nature is willful. We have no dominion over the wild darkness that surrounds us. It is everywhere, under our feet, in the air we breathe, but we know nothing of it. We know more about the universe and the mind of an octopus than we do about death’s true nature. Only that it is terrible and inescapable, and it is wild."

Read morehttp://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/facing-death-zm0z14fzsau.aspx#ixzz3E4HtAHLc



Some things, we know.
Some things, we know as pagans.
Some things, we know as pagans who follow Hel.

The two sentiments quoted above are both from the same article. The author is facing the world knowing she has very little time left in life. Soon she will cross over to wild death's hands.

Roxy, my ancient boxer, is approaching that same door, though I'm not sure she knows it. I'm not sure she doesn't know it, either. Maybe, like the salmon in the article, she seeks it instinctively and defiantly. Mostly, she seems very tired.

Equinoxes are balancing times; the Autumnal Equinox turns our faces toward death. The natural world becomes darker and more deadly, and living things prepare for the cold wait til spring. This is the turning point in the year's balance. Life and death hold equal sway, today.

Hel is spoken of, almost entirely, as a 'goddess of death'. We discuss how death and life are entwined and interdependent, and we comment on Hel's appearance as being half alive and half dead, all in various terminology. Then, we name her Death. This is not inappropriate, as long as we recall that death is life, and life is death. When she collects our souls in her realm, she does so at the time our wyrd dictates, never early, never late. Her timeliness - her balance - marks her as a preserver of life, until that moment when death holds more sway than life. At that moment, she preserves death. Always, she is both. Ultimately, she is a perpetual equinox, inescapably balanced. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

coming home to Hel

During the lunar eclipse last spring, I dedicated my home to the service of Hel. Then I decided to move. The two events were not causally related. 

In the weeks before moving, dead things began appearing on my doorstep. I mean that literally, and no, I do not have a cat. A hummingbird, perfectly preserved in flight-like posture, was laid in the center of my back step one morning. A bumblebee curled hollow on my windowsill, outside after a rainy night. Et cetera. 

I thought it an odd coincidence.

I - we, the denizens of my new home - have not yet done any sort of ritual blessings or dedications for this new house. 

Lately it seems that "death's door is flung wide open" - a quote I'm stealing from a friend of mine. And probably these many deaths - in my presence, in my community; our small town has lost so many over the past few months - are nothing to do with my springtime dedication to Hel. 

Regardless. 

I feel myself called back to Hel. 
Not that I had ever left, but I have been focused on other things beside my spirituality - moving, for instance. The pull of my spiritual path has been strengthened by a tie recently cut, that held me - somewhat - away from pursuing my faith in the manner I would chose for myself. That is, I've cut ties with the coven I was a member of. 

Technically speaking, they cut the ties. They sent me an email, addressed to the entire coven, that detailed a list of complaints about my lack of attendance. I hadn't made it to all the meetings during my move. ...Before I allow this to devolve into sarcasm, I'll just say that it's for the best. The coven's spiritual path had never truly been my path. 

Mostly because I'm not Wiccan, and they were (they don't call themselves that, but they use all Wiccan books and rituals and believe that all gods are essentially the Consort and all goddesses are essentially the Lady. As a result, they don't bother getting to know the gods they call on, beyond a cursory internet search for relevant myths. So, yeah. Duo-theism. Is that a word?). Anyway, I'm a polytheist. My gods are separate entities. I anthropomorphize them like crazy, because it makes it easier to think about them, but really - if I really get down to it - I think of each as a separate energy with its own traits. So anyway, tangents aside, my reverence of Hel, or any other of the individual gods I work with, doesn't mesh well with their 'all goddesses are one goddess, who is the source of life' thing. 

So anyway.
I'm not in a coven anymore. 
This gives me more time to pursue my personal spiritual path. And ironically, will leave me more time to mentor my mentee from the coven. But that's another post. Is 'mentee' a word? I'm out of writing practice... 

And now I've circled back around to Hel. 

I'm not quite prepared to establish an altar in the new house, mostly because I don't know where to put it. So my house does not yet have a sacred space. My old house had become a sacred space in its entirety; I'm still searching out even one altar surface in this house. 
Patience. 

The house is still coming together as a living space. I have to be patient.  

For the moment, it's enough to know where I'm heading: home to Hel. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

on living with another adult

I had never really lived alone - without another adult - for more than a month or two until my second husband left, about three years ago. [Ew, saying "my second husband" makes me feel gross.] I have always hated living alone. I hated the loneliness.

Over the past couple years, I realized that 1, my primary relationship was with a person who had an aversion to co-habitation, and 2, I wanted that relationship more than I wanted a roommate. It took some internal work to come to terms with what that all meant for me. I considered whether or not I would always need another person living with me to be happy. Now I'm facing moving in with Archer, and I'm concerned about whether we'll each be able to adjust to living with someone. He has long been clear on his difficulties with cohabitation; I'm just becoming aware that I will have these difficulties. I've become used to living without someone else. I've started enjoying it, even.

This isn't a question of whether or not I want Archer to live with me. Always, I'm happier when Archer is near. This is a question of adjustment. I'm not sure exactly how it will happen. We'll get creative, I'm sure.

growing the little house of Bones

I live in a little house.
It might  be 900 square feet. It has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, and a dining room.
There are no hallways.
I use the front porch and yard as my art studio.
My 'laundry room' is an attached shed; I have to go outside to reach it. I share that space with house spiders, because they keep the flies down.
This house is full to bursting with me, my son, and our dogs. This house has a friendly, warm feeling to it that I cherish. It's a happy house, and it makes me happy.
There isn't room in it for one more living thing. Or any more dead things, for that matter. In fact, I recently had to get rid of some books because I realized I could not possibly fit another bookcase in this house, and stacking them in front of the bookcases is hoarder-esque.

I didn't really understand exactly how full my house was until I considered how I might go about making a third person comfortable here. That third person, of course, is Archer. He will be moving in with me in the near future. So as I thought things like, "I could move this over there, and..." it dawned on me that no amount of shuffling furniture would make this house big enough for all of us.

So I'm gearing up to move out of this little house that has sheltered my son and I for the past almost-three years. This is the house that taught me there is no such thing as "hoarder-chique." It taught me that I can garden, and things will actually grow. It taught me the value of leaving a string of lights up on the front porch - my house always looks inviting. It taught me to love front porches - now a requirement for future homes of mine.

I'll miss this house. It will be awkward, for all of us, learning to live in a new space with a new person. And when I go to see a potential house, I'm looking for something I cannot see. I'm looking for happiness in the walls, peace in the floors, and comfort in the ceilings. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

I'm making it: cleaning houses and finding balance

I finished my bachelor's degree last spring, majored in psychology and anthropology, minored in history, so now I can clean houses full time and work more hours at the cafe.

I can't, at this point, go back to working an office job. A "real job" as my mother called it. She apologized for saying that, acknowledging that cleaning houses was, in fact, a real job that results in real money. But she'd like to see me in a career. Something that pays the bills a lot more easily. It just can't happen yet.

Mostly I say this is because my son isn't ready to go back to public school, and working close to home and on a relatively flexible schedule allows me to continue homeschooling him. My goal is to have him ready for public school by the 2015 school year. He's seeing a therapist, who is working with me to help him with his social anxiety. All this is true. Even if I wanted a 'regular' job, he wouldn't be ready for me to be gone that much.

I don't want a regular job. Well, part of me does, but not the rational part. I'd love to have a steady, and larger, income with benefits and all that fun stuff. I'd love to know what work I was going to be doing that month, and the next. I'd be an awesome park ranger, or historian, or researcher.

The rational part of me knows that I have not won the battle with my depression, and in any job that is only a job, not a passion, I will crumble and give way. I will start the work with excitement, just happy to have a job. But depression will creep in eventually, and I'll do something - show up late, not finish assignments, whatever - and get fired, or laid off.

For now I'll keep working at the cafe and cleaning houses, which keep me physically moving and don't allow me to wallow. The happiness of my customers in both jobs is rewarding enough to make me come back, on time, every day. And soon I'll apply for graduate school. With a Master's degree, I can teach. That has always been my favorite work, and I could do that joyfully, in spite of my depression.

I'm having good days - when I end the day with smiles from the homeowners and cash in my pocket - and bad days - when the bank tells me I can't spend all that cash - but here's to hoping the balance will find more good days than bad. I have a few years left before I qualify for the 'real' job I can handle.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bones' Apothecary: Barrel Cactus

First, you should know that "barrel cactus" isn't a single species of plant. It's a common name that includes two genera of cacti: ferocactus  and echinocactus.
Second, they're somewhat cute, in a ugly-sneaky-menacing way. Not dissimilar to small, ferocious, ineffective, squishy-faced dogs. You know the ones I'm talking about.

From here.
An example of a echinocactus. From here.

And a ferocactus. From here.

I know you see what I mean. 


So anyway, these guys all have some basic shared traits that make them easy to identify as barrel cacti. For example, they are cacti with a roughly barrel-like shape. Also, they are ribbed, spiny, and they produce flowers and fruit. They can branch, but often they're just a single column sticking almost-straight up, not unlike a giant penis of death.

From here.

This one is starting to bud.
I love how ridiculous they look with their flower heads.
From here.


They do tend to lean a bit to the southwest, as they grow toward the sun. This can be a problem as they get taller. See all that ribbing they have? During the rainy season, they fill up with water and the ribs flatten out a bit. Gives them plenty of room to store water for the dry season (which is most of the year, in the Sonoran Desert). It also makes them top-heavy when they're full of water. Being top-heavy and leaning a bit means that these cacti don't usually get very tall - after a certain height, they fall over. Then they die.

Like this. See how it's starting to turn gray, and the ribs are deep?
It's dying, and it isn't storing water anymore.
From here.


Wikipedia says barrel cacti are dangerous to people. I disagree; barrel cacti don't move around much (not like those damned jumping chollas - more on those in a later post), and they're not very sneaky (once they're past a certain size they're pretty obvious, and below that size... well, don't walk barefoot in the desert and you'll be fine). The problem, according to the wiki page, is that "a puncture to human skin from one of the spines is considered a 'dirty wound'. If the puncture is deep enough to draw blood, antibiotics may be needed; and could take up to several months for the wound to heal properly."

That's quite a stretch from the reference the wiki author cites for that "information." The cited reference, the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum website (which is a great resource), does say, "with all deep puncture wounds tetanus infection is a remote but real possibility." This is not at all the same as calling cactus spine punctures "dirty wounds" that could take "several months" to heal. Cactus spines are, in and of themselves, neither poisonous nor venomous, mkay? In my personal experience, brushing up against a cactus spine accidentally gives you the cactus-equivalent of a splinter. Obnoxious, yes. Deep puncture wound, no. Now, if you somehow manage to jam one of those babies into your flesh a few inches, yeah, that could cause problems. But the problems wouldn't be because the thing in your flesh is a cactus spine; you would have problems because there's a thing in your flesh. If you had a monster splinter in your flesh, you might have to consider a tetanus booster, too, no matter how benign the tree was before you splintered it.

Moving on to other myths...

No, you should not drink water from the inside of a barrel cactus if you're thirsty and want to play cowboy. It is not a "traveler's friend," despite that unfortunate nickname. The water inside a barrel cactus is highly alkaline, and causes diarrhea and headaches - more or less of each depending on the species. For example, fishhook barrel cactus (ferocactus wislizenii) juice is more likely to cause diarrhea and joint pain, while Coville barrel cactus (ferocactus covillei) juice causes headaches. If you're really afraid you might die of thirst, you still shouldn't do it. Diarrhea will further dehydrate you, and you will die. Instead, try the prickly pear cactus for liquid sustenance; it's far more friendly to our digestive tracts and neural sensitivities, and if you're seeing barrel cacti, there'll probably be some prickly pears nearby. Like this:

That odd looking cactus in the top of the picture is a prickly pear.
The little red fruits are actually quite tasty when cooked.
Prickly pear jelly is The Awesome.
Anyway, back to barrel cacti...
From here.

That is not to say that no part of the barrel cactus can comfortably be consumed; the buds and flowers can be cooked (parboiled; this reduces their natural bitterness) and eaten, or sun-dried for later consumption. The buds or flowers are available for harvest for a few months each year, typically starting in late spring or early summer. The easiest way to harvest the buds or flowers is with a stick or two - you can pluck those little suckers right off there with a couple sticks. The seeds can be ground up like flour and mixed with water if gruel's your thing. Not sure how that would taste, but it's edible.

If you really wanna get gutsy - and careful - you can cut that cactus open and use it for a container. Their structural integrity is quite good. You'll just have to dig out the interior.

There aren't a lot of medicinal uses for a barrel cactus, but there's a possibility it could help with pain. Remove the spines, roast a slice of the body, wrap the slice in a cloth, then press it to a sore area. Again, do not consume the body of a barrel cactus. It will hurt you.

I've found zero references to barrel cacti in a spiritual context, so I'll just share a bit about what I think of them. Your mileage may very.
This is a plant whose most common cause of death is it's own weight, as it stores more water than it can hold at its angle. It's almost a perfect metaphor for hoarding. It could be a reminder that we can't hold on to everything; we can't save All The Things. Or maybe the barrel cactus could be seen as a reminder to let go of things that are weighing you down and keeping you from growing. That which you think is saving you (storing all that water for the dry season) might just be what kills you. As the Buddhists say: let it go.


References are linked as they are used, except this one because it's a real book:
"Indian Uses of Desert Plants" by James W. Cornett, published in 2011 by Nature Trails Press.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

This is one of those days, one of those posts, where I'm writing just because I have to write. Because I can't just sit here and cry. I missed my VA appointment yesterday. That one was with the psychiatrist, and I missed it because when I woke up I got distracted and forgot what day it was until about half an hour after the appointment was supposed to start. That appointment was at 8am. They only offer "those appointments" (I have no idea what that means) at 8am. Today, I will miss another VA appointment, this one because it conflicts with my son's counseling appointment; both our appointments are at 2pm. I called the VA clinic I go to, and rescheduled both the appointment I missed yesterday, and the one I will miss today. I waited four months to make these appointments, and waited five weeks between scheduling and, well, missing them (and in the midst of those five weeks, the VA changed the appointment times - I found out by showing up for an appointment that wasn't happening at the time I showed up - so the ones I'm missing are not even for times that I scheduled, all because the VA is evil). I'll wait three more weeks for the new appointments, which the VA may or may not reschedule, with or without letting me know. Both of the appointments are just to get referrals for other doctors. And all I want are refills. I'm not coping well. It all seems so fucking hopeless.

I just want to not be sick anymore.

Somebody please just make things better, instead of worse. My efforts aren't getting me anywhere.