Sometimes I get a little down on myself for not being an absolute expert on the things I love or enjoy. Like how dare I profess an adoration for fragrances if I haven’t studied under master perfumers, traveled around the world sniffing varieties of rare volatile oils, and begun to create my own blends and open up shop to sell them! Who do I think I am to say that I thoroughly enjoy the practice of knitting if I haven’t been educated in textiles and fashion, if I haven’t apprenticed with a craftsperson, if I haven’t begun to draw up my own patterns and publish a book of them? Can I even mention my love of cooking if I didn’t attend some sort of culinary institution, if I didn’t train with a celebrity chef or appear in a great bake-off, if I don’t have a professional series of videos on the internet documenting my homecookery?
I find delight in too many things to devote that amount of time to any one of them, and honestly, I don’t know that I love any of them enough to dedicate my entire existence to them. I have a great amount of respect and admiration for those who have found that one thing, or who are willing and able to put in the work to become some sort of next-level guru. But it’s not me. It might never be me.
I think these fears massively play into my anxiety and depression with regard to social media comparisons. I see people being wildly successful in their chosen field or craft, the thing that (I assume) they’ve devoted their lives to, and I start feeling badly about myself, lesser-than, for not excelling in similar ways. But wait. Stop. Step back a moment. Why am I feeling badly about a thing I know I don’t want for myself anyway? I already know I don’t possess that devotion or dedication or discipline to pursue any of my interests to that degree! There is nothing to compare, here. These people and I are on totally different paths, with different priorities and goals. What they are doing is wonderful and I wish every single one of them all the success that they deserve. But their journey is not mine. Somewhere along the way I’ve gotten things twisted and confused and made them more complicated than they ever had to be.
All of these thoughts whizzing round-and-round in my head made me think of this thing that my friend Flannery shared, and which I relate to in an intensely comfortable way. I don’t want to be the best and smartest at a thing! But…do I? No, that’s work I don’t want to do! Still…if we could be THE BEST…?!
Ok, but no. It’s all too much work and I’ve got too many other things I want to at least know a few things about! I don’t have the time or the inclination to know everything! Even so, realizing all of this, I sometimes question myself. Like…who am I to even offer an opinion about a thing, if I don’t have the scholarship and academic background and rigorous study and training to back it up? I guess it’s times like these that I must remind myself of this piece of wisdom from goofball alchemist and artist Tyler Thrasher, which I have re-shared from his Instagram, above in the featured image for this post. Take a moment to scroll up and read it aloud, or to go straight to his Instagram and read it there. He continues this line of thought in his caption for the image:
“Have no shame in multiple hobbies and interests. The world is vast and there’s room for it all.”
I was extraordinarily privileged to interview Tyler for Haute Macabre about his art practice and philosophies back in 2017; I love all of the artists who take a moment to answer my questions, but this Q&A has a special place in my heart. Tyler is so damn smart and savvy and talented–but also, just…fun. So much fun! And something he shared, which sums up his work and his art and everything he puts out into the world, is in this statement.
“I think curiosity and experimentation are just vital for being human.”
I don’t know who needs to hear this (I mean, me for sure) but: you really don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to choose, you can be multiple things in life, and having many interests is not a curse–you are a creature of curiosity and it’s part of being human.
I may never be a fragrance guru, a champion knitter, a captain of cakes. And I don’t even want to be! There’s so much else to do and see and know and be! I like to think I am leading a creatively complex life whatever my skill levels, even if they plateau and never improve, even if I abandon that particular interest for something else entirely. And you, too! Let’s just love what we love and not be dicks about it–not to others, and especially to ourselves.
I am the eldest of three sisters. Sometimes my friends assume that I am the youngest. I don’t know if that’s because my other sisters seem more accomplished than I am, or maybe I just act like a baby. Who knows? But it was I who was born first amongst this weird trio of siblings. We’re two years apart each. More or less. And at different points in our lives, we’ve probably felt closer to one sister over the other, and that’s a thing that is always in flux. I don’t know how they might feel about it, but I know these things happen and it’s okay. Some of us have more in common with another sister, and that’s fine, too. And this, too, is eternally subject to change.
One thing that I think we can all agree on at the current moment, is our mutual obsession with a particular set of dolls that we owned when we were very young. I say “owned” but that never feels quite right, does it, when you’re a kid and you’re not allowed to play with or even touch the item that supposedly belongs to you? Anyway, we’re all in our 40s now and these childhood fascinations came up as a topic of conversation when a few weeks ago we were chatting online and one of us mentioned our long-ago memory of these dolls, and asked if each of us also had a recollection of them
Well, of course, I do; I’ve probably thought about that doll every day of my life and continue to do so this very moment. I was utterly obsessed with her. She sat atop a chest of drawers, so high at the time I could barely reach the bottom of her skirts. She wore a frothy periwinkle lace frock (my sisters insist it was lilac but I know what I know!) and a ruffled bonnet and a knot of opalescent pearls around her throat. Our middle sister, whose room I shared at the time, had a similar doll that stood next to mine. Hers was chestnut-haired, where mine was frosty blonde, and hers swanned about in a deep burgundy dress whose tiers were crowned with cream-colored ruffles.
Our baby sister slept down the hall from us at that point in time, so her doll lived out of reach on her own chest of drawers, in her own room. We gradually came to agree that hers was a bit of an outlier; comparable in face and figure, but as she was a sassy cowgirl in suede and braids, her attire lacked the refinement and glamour of the other two. In retrospect, she was no less charming, but I think at the time my sister harbored a fair bit of resentment about being stuck with the doll who was, in the eyes of a sensitive little girl, not as good or beautiful as her two older sister’s dolls. I think they were all three lovely, but I get where she’s coming from.
I should mention, though you’ve probably guessed it: we’ve not seen these dolls in years. We have no idea what happened to them, although I suspect they were sold at a garage sale when my family moved from Ohio down to FL in 1985. Independently of each other the night of our doll discussion/debate, we each performed midnight acts of searchery and sleuthery, and we all arrived at the same conclusion. These vintage mysteries with their lavish Victorian/Grand Ole Opry style costumes, silky wigs, and haunting eyes were Bradley Dolls.
There doesn’t seem to be an official site for these gals but most of my reading points to the Bradley line of dolls being manufactured in Japan and Korea for the American market from the mid-50s until the early 80s; Artmark’ or ‘Treasure Dolls’ are two other brand names they were released under. The dresses are often elegant period pieces, with big hoop skirts and plenty of lacy frills, although their catalogs included a variety of themes and styles, including a few ‘mod’ ones that are noted as being the most elusive and most sought after. Some versions of the dolls had large, eyes, reminiscent of manga or anime characters, and the odd feature of strange, nightmarishly contorted fingers. Ours, thankfully, had the garden variety hands
Thus far both of my sisters have been able to identify the dolls that belonged to them. Middle sister has already located and purchased one to cherish anew, but baby sister, and I quote, still thinks her was “stupid and ugly”. Poor Cowgirl Mandy!
Search as I may, I can’t seem to track down my icy blue beauty. She was one of the fanciest things I had ever seen at 7 years old, and her influence has loomed large over my style and preferences throughout my life, inspiring and informing my yearnings over time. However much I grow and change, there’s always going to be the heavily-lashed, unwavering gaze of that exquisite doll, urging, Sarah, let’s be fancy. Let’s be fancy forever.
Heeding her impeccable advice, I think it’s time I too found a replacement. Sadly, it is looking as though I might never be able to find the original doll, but if it’s possible, I may have found one that I love just as much. I may be clearing a spot on my chest of drawers as we speak. And this time, I’ll even be tall enough to reach up out touch her dress, feel the folds of lace, fondle her pearl buttons. And best of all, she’ll really be mine. Not just “sit on a shelf to look at and never touch,” but well and truly mine!
Getting older is the pits but I guess at least we can finally play with our toys.
I can be an awful hater sometimes. I can admit to this! I’ll just react to something on a gut-level with no logic or real reason to back it up. Especially when it comes to a New Thing that everyone else seems to love. I don’t know if I am just a contrarian or if I think that if everyone seems to be into something then it’s probably a dumbed-down thing that was created to appeal to everyone, which is a big turn-off for me. That makes me sound a bit snobby, and I guess that would be true on some level.
The most recent New Thing I have been hating on is TikTok. Which ok grandma, yeah I know. It’s not actually all that new. But I’ve hated it since the moment I saw the stupid things that people were sharing from the app, and that hatred has only grown in intensity over the last year or so. This is unfortunate for me, because typically if there is a new social media platform, I want in on it. But not TikTok! Man, that place is obnoxious. And what’s worse, all of these TikToks are being shared in the other places I frequent. I can’t go to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram without someone’s viral TikTok nonsense screeching in my face. Make it stop!
But. Here’s the thing. In doing a bit more soul searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the platform itself I hate. It’s actually sort of a neat concept, isn’t it? Short videos to inform or inspire you, where you could learn something new or interesting, and of course, connect with the people creating and sharing these things. I think where the execution falls short for me are the things that I have seen people sharing, which overwhelmingly are these horrifyingly cringey lip-synch videos or, even worse, people pranking each other. I don’t consider myself a humorless person (I happen to think I am hilarious!) but I do not, nor have I ever, understood the appeal of or the humor in pranking people. UGH. Pranks are mean and bad, and you shouldn’t do them. This VICE article agrees with me, by the way, and I love this sentiment:
“Ultimately, pranks ignore the fundamental truth that living can be hard, and most people are trying to do their best.”
Pranks and bad lip-synching aside, in giving my TikTok hostility some more thought, I considered an idea which is something I apply to any occasion, whenever I can. Which is basically this: ok, so, this thing has got a lot of sucky aspects; how can I make it better? Or not exactly better, per se. Who am I to assume that my participation can better a thing? But I guess, rather… but how can I make it what I want it to be? How can I contribute to it being the thing I want to see in the world?
And the answer, is, of course: to be part of it. Participate. Contribute.
I often say “I will NEVER do X/Y/Z thing…but I reserve the right to change my mind about it at any time!” Yes, I can be stubborn with my annoying, irrational hatred of a thing (see also: Taylor Swift’s cardigan…still haven’t changed my mind on that one) but I can also reassess, re-evaluate, and realign my perspective. I can say, ok, I was wrong! Everyone else was right! Or maybe just that one other person was right! But here’s me, saying that I probably was not right. And I can learn and change and maybe be just an Intense Disliker, if not a Hater. Here’s me, now on TikTok. And many thanks to Susan Jamison and Gooby Herms over on Facebook, for the encouragement and account name inspiration!
At first, I didn’t really know what to do with it, but I think I’ve worked it out for now: 10-second perfume reviews! Is this the sort of thing everyone wants to see? Probably not. To which I say: make your own thing, then! Or watch some stupid pranks. Whatever.
Are you over on TikTok? What do you watch? Are there people knitting or cooking or doing 30-second book reviews or sharing gardening tips or reading poetry or teaching about gothic tropes in contemporary fiction and comics (and if that last one is a “no”, I see a niche that needs filling and I know just the person to do it, although I think they’d hate the idea, ha!) Tell me all! Except for the dumb stuff! Still don’t want to know about that.
If you watched any of the mind-boggling existential abstraction of Serial Experiments Lain, a bleakly stylish cyberpunk anime in the early-to-mid 2000s (though I think it aired in Japan in the late 90s) you will undoubtedly recall the hypnotic voice of Jasmine Rodgers. Rodgers was the vocalist from the band bôa, who were the creators of the show’s opening song, “Duvet.” Perhaps you didn’t know her name at the time (I didn’t) but you certainly knew that song.
When I think back on the series and that song these many years later, one of the first things I recall are the following lyrics. I often felt these helpless, hopeless sentiments while immersed in this bizarre story, teeming with insistent dread and urgent paranoia, a sense of profoundly shifting realities and inevitable loss of identity. I suppose at the time I was experiencing instances of this in my own life, as well. Leading a double existence while involved with someone very bad for me, floundering and grasping and sinking, in every respect.
I am falling I am fading I have lost it all…
I originally watched Serial Experiments Lain in 2003 or so, and though it was certainly a story whose many aspects haunted me long afterward, I really hadn’t given it much real thought in years. And then, in 2016 a record label reached out to me about a new release from Jasmine Rodgers. I’m still not sure how I got on all of these PR lists– I have only written one or two (or maybe three) full-length album reviews in my life– but I am not at all complaining, because sometimes these press emails yield gems like this.
The praise read as follows: “…relentlessly captivating and inspired, Jasmine Rodgers releases her remarkably accomplished lyrical debut Blood Red Sun.” It then went on to refer to her as “…the daughter of a Japanese poet and Free/Bad Company/Queen vocalist Paul Rodgers” and reference her previous projects, which included ….bôa! That name I recognized right away, and so I was of course immediately compelled to give the whole album a listen.
When I heard these lyrics again, my heart skipped a beat for a brief trembling second. It’s always so strange to revisit something you have such strong memories attached to, isn’t it? But now I can separate myself from the screen and the story. And the song, while still mesmerizing, doesn’t strangle and bludgeon my heart in the same way. I’m excited to spend more time with Jasmine Rodgers’ music too, now that I am thinking about all of these things again. The single “Icicle” which I have shared above, is especially stirring.
What are you revisiting lately? Does it hold up to your memories of it? And does it feel like coming home, or is it hitting in an entirely different way?
Listen, I know I am ridiculous and paranoid and maybe-probably-definitely overly sensitive. But when someone on your Twitter feed says something unkind, and which kinda-sorta-references a thing you wrote on your blog and then shared on Twitter, well sure. I suppose it could be a coincidence. I suppose they could totally be referring to something else entirely. But you’ve followed this person for a while, supported their work even, and you know enough about them to see they are scary-smart and sharp-tongued, they don’t pull any punches with their opinion and they absolutely do not suffer fools.
And then they tweeted something vague but also strangely pointed? And maybe which had nothing to do with me, but it somehow, on some level, made me feel like the fool who was being punched? Was I? Probably not. I am too small to notice, they don’t even know me and they don’t care. But I felt their ire and annoyance anyway because even if it was directed at someone else today, if I ever fall across their radar, it could be me tomorrow.
So I suppose this could a proactive ensemble, as well. Or a protective one. It could also be a “hey you, I admire you and respect you and am totally scared shitless of you” tribute outfit. I think it might be a little of all of this. I still think you’re super cool, even if you think I am a ninny. It’s fine. You’re probably not the first. And if you don’t think of me at all, well I don’t know if that’s better or worse. But at approximately 300 words and with a whole-ass wardrobe post with each piece carefully chosen and dedicated to you, well, I obviously spent a weird and fraught bit of time thinking of you.
I originally read this creepy, schlocky 1982 novel as a pre-teen, probably in 1988 or so, and I recall thinking it was boring. WHAT? There were parts of it that were ridiculous and others that were nonsensical, and overall it was maddening trash, but boring? This sensationalist, claustrophobic tale of dark secrets and gothic family drama was never boring.
I was reminded again of the book back in the autumn of 2016 when Jack and Kate of Bad Books For Bad People did a podcast episode discussing My Sweet Audrina after having both read it for the first time (and I definitely recommend giving a listen to their thoughts!) and so of course, I had to immediately revisit its horrific charms. It’s really, really awful. And I loved every second of it.
This is why I was SO THRILLED to learn just last week that there is a My Sweet Audrina Lifetime movie! I was similarly pleased when I learned there was a Lifetime Adaptation of Anne River Siddons’ The House Next Door (a book which I actually both hate and love, and which you can watch on Youtube!)
I think I need to compile a list of Lifetime horror, or horror-adjacent, adaptations. That is definitely going to be a project this year. Until I have a more comprehensive guide for us, we can watch My Sweet Audrina for $2.99 on Amazon, I guess.
Having made it through all seven or whatever seasons of TNG, we are now watching DS9. Ývan, for the umpteenth time, but me, I am seeing all of these characters and learning their stories for the first time. Except for Cabbage Patch doll-faced Chief O’Brien, with whom I was already familiar from his time on the Enterprise under Picard’s command. He was never really a favorite of mine. Sorry, Chief!
I didn’t think I was going to like Deep Space Nine, because I loved Next Generation so much, but…I do like it. Quite a bit. It’s just a very different sort of story. The Enterprise was exploring the galaxy, always on the move and going where no one’s gone before. They stopped somewhere, learned something, saw something, did something, sometimes even really screwed things up, and then, whoosh–they zoomed off. Next adventure! Deep Space Nine, being a Federation space station, is more or less in a fixed spot–relatively speaking– orbiting the planet of Bajor and guarding the wormhole. If things go wrong and they fuck things up…well…they can’t just write it off in a ship’s log as a bungled situation, set in a course for somewhere else, and then take off on a new mission. These guys are stuck on DS9, or if not stuck there, I mean, I guess it’s their job to be there. They can’t just up and leave. They have to deal with the consequences of their actions. And I think that sets up a show with more interesting dynamics and which leads to more complex storylines and long-form story arcs. I think I will always love TNG, but I am finding myself really emotionally and intellectually engaging with DS9, which I didn’t expect! I actually didn’t expect any of this, if I am being honest. For the longest time, I thought I hated all things Star Trek and I was never going to watch any of it. Of course. Never say never.
I just watched the season 2 episode, “Whispers” which was pretty intense, and fairly dark and freaky for Star Trek. At least in my experience. I am obviously no expert here. In this story, Chief O’Brien returns from a mission to find everyone, including his wife and daughter, acting strangely around him. Over the increasingly paranoid, noir-ish episode he encounters his crew carrying out orders that he didn’t give them, he’s locked out of access to the ship’s logs, he gets called in for complicated, unscheduled physicals, and his own wife doesn’t even want to be in the same room with him. After a twisty chase, an escape, and the discovery of a secret lair (or something? I don’t quite remember this part) O’Brien is fatally shot, as the real O’Brien steps out from a concealed doorway, where he had been being held captive. The episode concludes with the revelation that the O’Brien story we had been following was a “replicant”of the real O’Brien, created by an alien race to sabotage peace talks. The replicant O’Brien never knew he wasn’t the real Chief and never understood that he was the cause of the strange actions and behaviors of the crew. He dies, pleading to the real O’Brien to give his love to his wife, Keiko.
THAT. FUCKED. ME. UP.
I always get a little freaked out by imposter episodes. Like the ones in TNG where Lore shows up and pretends to be Data and then someone has to suss out which is the real Data so that they can incapacitate Lore? How do you know? How are you certain? Are you absolutely sure that the face you’re shooting is the real friend and crew member, and not the malicious shapeshifter or the evil android twin, or the villain with the freakily realistic mask? Those situations are bad enough, but what if the imposter truly believes that they ARE the individual they are pretending to be? This opens up all sorts of tricky philosophical questions about identity and personhood and uncanny musings on self and otherness and when the person in question is the show’s steady, reliable Chief…and the character that I’ve known the longest…that makes the reveal that he isn’t even the real Chief that much more of a gut-punch. Oooof! Well played, DS9.
I will admit that I did not at all see that coming. The story was so marvelously compelling and so engrossing and I really had no idea where they were taking it, BUT, I will say this. The whole time I was following along, I was also distracted by the memory of a book I read a few years ago. FOE by Iain Reid. Similarly suspenseful and atmospheric, it was also a story I was intensely engrossed in, and in the case of that book, I actually did figure out the ending…which, I think, is why my mind kept flickering back to it while watching “Whispers.” At the time I didn’t think I knew what was unfolding with Chief’s situation, but somehow on some level, maybe I did know. I will say no more about the book. If you want to read it (and I highly suggest it!) you should probably go into the story with as little knowledge as possible, and I won’t spoil it any more than I already have.
P.S. Also please read I’m Thinking of Ending Thingsby the same author. It’s a short book that came out a year or so before FOE, and I believe they also made a Netflix adaptation, though I can’t speak to that, because I’ve never seen it. The book, though? Hoo boy. I have NEVER been so mad about a book, or furious with an author, and I think you should read it too, so we can rant and rail about it together.
I don’t really like odd numbers–I feel like they are super aggressive? Probably a weird take, I know. Odd numbers just make me feel intensely uncomfortable and itchy in my soul. But somehow a list of four things just doesn’t sound as interesting as a list of five things.
your quarterly madcap on a budget thread: what is the ONE thing you would tell someone to buy to gild or enhance — even SLIGHTLY — their life in lockdown that costs $25 or under. i’m talking something frivolous and silly but that sparks joy.
So here are five gilded good things and life enhancements that are small sources of joy to me right now. Some of them didn’t cost anything at all, but most were under $25.
1.“Rajio taiso” exercises, a program of Japanese morning exercises and gentle calisthenics broadcast in the early mornings on NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting company. I’ve read that the first broadcast took place in 1928, and the aim was to improve the health of the general public in Japan. What’s nice about it is that it’s been designed for anyone at any age to do on their own, without any equipment required. Everyone from children to the elderly can join in, and there are even versions that you can do while seated. On mornings when it’s raining outside and I can’t go for a wake-up walk (or maybe I’ve just woken up too late, whoops!) I do ten minutes of Rajio Taiso exercises instead.
Alternately, I’ve been trying my best to follow along with this “yoga for sensitive knees” video, but don’t be fooled. If you, like me, don’t have much in the way of a regular yoga practice, this is not as easy as you think it’s going to be!
2. There are times I can’t commit to sitting in a bathtub full of water and getting my whole body wet. On some days, that seems like a major production and I haven’t got the energy for it. It sounds like an exercise in misery, but at the same time, my bones are are crying out for some sort of relaxing soak.
On those days, I run the tub half full, use all the bath bombs and salts and oils that I have at my disposal…except maybe even more than I might use for a regular bath, and then proceed to roll up my pants, sit on the edge of the tub, and lower my feet in. I bring a book with me and I read for about 10-15 minutes while my toes wiggle under the warm water, and then I use a nice salt or sugar scrub to slough away the barnacles and follow it up with an enthusiastic callous scraping. I dry off with a good towel, slather on a thick, healing foot lotion, and then suit my feet up with a cute pair of socks. I make a weekly ritual of this, and it is so very, very nice!
I thought I had a more illustrative photo of this process, but apparently, I do not. The above imagery is from an Instagram story I posted a few months ago. It’s definitely not that chilly anymore, which is even more reason not to immerse my entire body in a tub of hot juice!
3 . The Faculty of Horror Podcast. I believe I have mentioned before how picky I am when it comes to podcasts. They have to hit me in the right spot (weirdness, witchy tidbits, horror) AND they have to not be obnoxious. There’s nothing I hate more than listening to two people rambling off-topic and amusing themselves with a whole bunch of inside jokes. There’s a fine line between two friends who are having a good time and keeping their audience amused, entertained, and informed, and two friends who record themselves because they think they are hilarious but no one outside of the two of them knows what they are laughing about. So that’s my problem with a lot of buddy-podcasts. I don’t have the patience for them and they embarrass me. Not that you asked.
Andrea Subasatti and Alex West, however! I enjoy the heck out of their discussions in their Faculty of Horror podcast. If you are interested in horror analysis and scholarship through a contemporary, feminist lens, Andrea and Alex’s fabulously insightful, passionate, and incredibly fun chats are such a treat. I believe there’s over seven years worth of content, so if you’re unsure where to start, just pick through and look for some of your favorite films, and dive right in. I find that hearing people talk about a thing you already love is a great way to get a feel for their treatment of and read on a thing.
And I’ve recently been inspired to rewatch so many films due to their commentary and perspective! See Interview with the Vampire, Event Horizon, The Mist, and Hausu, for a few of my favorites. Additionally, they just did a “best of 2020” and I really just gobble up lists like that, so that’s a highly recommended episode, as well. The Faculty of Horror also has a Patreon where one can get access to additional content if one is inclined to support them in that way!
4. 505 by Elektroforez. I don’t know what to say about these guys, but I sure am enjoying them. I have been listening to them nonstop for the past week. They make me want to dance! Albeit, in a moody, morose, sort of way. A recommendation from my good friend Sonya, who I hear has got an excellent list of these austere, gloomy Russian goth, new-wave, synth-pop, post-punk type musicians that they’re going to share for our ears over at Haute Macabre sometime in the near future. Yay for new music! It’s been a while, but I’m suddenly becoming interested again and that is both a pleasure and a deeply relieving realization.
5. Oh, Suddenly Egyptian God! These little six-minute slice-of-life snippets are just too, too adorable. “This is sudden, but welcome to the world of Egyptian gods, where ancient deities work, have fun, and relax like the rest of us.” These little stories are, as one dour reviewer points out, probably full of inaccuracies, but come on. It’s cute fun.
Some bonus good things!
-We placed an order with Botanical Interests for a gazillion seeds and are so excited for our summer garden possibilities. -This chili crisp oil is, at $17 or so, insanely overpriced (damn you, persuasive Instagram ads!) but SO GOOD. – This addictively trashy book which I am looking forward to finishing while soaking my feet in the tub and enjoying a glass of wine. –This Marshmallow Fireside candle, which is just as amazing as everyone says it is -Twinkle lights for my shelves, seen in the feature photo for this post. Granted there’s only one string of them up now, but they just make the workday so much nicer that I can’t help but to think more lights will make the day even better? Eventually with enough twinkle lights, I will look forward to my 9-5? It’s probably too much to hope for, but I’m going to give it a try.
When I was in community college, I was part of the school’s “literary society.” I’m not quite sure how it happened, but one of my sisters and I, once learning that this small organization existed but was languishing under the slipshod leadership of someone or other (I honestly can’t remember who it was but I think he had sort of a “bro vibe”) well, we somehow ousted all of the members and resurrected the club as something entirely new? I can’t even imagine how that must have come about–and I am fairly certain I couldn’t figure it out even while it was happening!– but when my sister wants to get something done, she gets it done!
So we invited a few friends to join, and began writing and meeting regularly. We scored an excellent advisor, one of the school’s librarians that I admired tremendously, and I am still sort-of friends with, to this day, several decades later. Well, Facebook friends. But still! I’m barely friends with anyone from that time, so that’s quite a feat.
We began taking submissions and planning a literary magazine. We published two or three of them! I had pieces published in them (if we are friends on Instagram, you may have gotten a peep at them in my stories this week!) But I was also the secretary of the club, so we kind of had to include me, ha. We hosted events and invited authors to speak, we held little soirees on campus for writers and poets, we attended local poetry readings and volunteered our time for various causes. I can barely believe I did any of those things. Who was that person? I think those endeavors were made possible because I was part of something. I know I certainly would have been too fearful to attempt a single one of those things on my own. And though it eventually fell apart, it remains an utterly magical time in my life. Despite the fact that it was only community college, and I was poor and broke and in every other respect, I had no idea what to do with myself or my future. I knew for a time, as long as I was writing, I was dreaming things. And that felt like hope.
Right before our holiday break one year, we threw a potluck Yule-gathering and read poetry to children. I shared a few passages from the book A Circle of Seasons by Myra Cohn Livingston, which included wonderful artwork from painter Leonard Everett Fisher. I read aloud the winter portion of the book, which I thought so beautifully evocative, the imagery of which I hoped might catch the fancy of at least one or two small audience members.
Winter etches windowpanes, finger paints in white sculptures strange soft shapes in snow that glister in the night. Filigrees the snowflake, spins icicles of glass, Paints the ground in hoarfrost, its needles sharp with light.
Winter blows a blizzard, rages with a gale, Spews ice crystals through the clouds, pellets earth with hail. Breathes a freezing snowstorm, buries hedge and path, Quiets down in chalky drifts, on mornings bleak and pale.
These many years later (ooof! Too many years to feel comfortable thinking about for too long) I still write poetry. I was never formally educated or trained in writing and I haven’t spent much time honing my craft in that regard… and so I can’t say my efforts have vastly improved. But whatever. I enjoy writing poems anyway! And of course, I also spend a great deal of time reading poetry.
On a particularly chilly day last week, I was reminded for the first time in ages of Myra Cohn Livingston’s wintry word-spells, but could only remember a few words of these poems. I definitely could not recall the name of the book or the author! And no matter how I strung those words together or rearranged them, I could find no instance of the poems on the internet. I kept at it though and eventually was led to and rediscovered the book at archive.org, where you can check it out for an hour and read it in its entirety.
This post is dedicated to Katie, who loves winter so very much, and whose fantastical blog of marvels inspired me to challenge myself to write these daily posts for an entire month.
One of the first pieces of writing for which I was recognized was an essay, of sorts, that I wrote in the first grade, detailing my grandmother’s love for feeding local birds in wintertime. I don’t recall anything of what I wrote, save for a passage that my mother thought was hilarious and my grandmother herself got a little huffy about. “I do NOT do that”, she remarked when she read my passage about her hollering at the squirrels and chipmunks who stole tidbits and treats meant for the birds, as she stamped and swore in front of the kitchen window. Well, it could have happened that way, I thought. A few dramatics certainly made my ruminations more interesting! And my young writerly instincts were correct; this piece of writing won first place for the whole grade level in a contest I hadn’t even realized I had entered into.
The writing portion of this recollection is neither here nor there, really. In my 44th year, and during my little garden’s period of looking crappy and dead, I have recently hung up my first ever bird feeder. Though it took a week or so for the neighborhood avian population to take notice, check it out, and feel safe enough to start poking around, I am now enjoying watching them from my office window all throughout the day. It’s a delightful pastime, and I wish I’d thought to have done it sooner! And it occurred to me, as I ran outside this morning, shaking my spatula at a particularly audacious squirrel and shouting “fuck off into the sun, you thieving little shit!” that perhaps my grandmother is the one who is laughing now.