changing the things i cannot accept

angela-davis-quote2016 has been the worst year of my life. My father went through a difficult and painful illness this summer, which resulted in his death in August. The whole ordeal has been devastating. I spent mid June through mid August at his side, then saying goodbye, and now I am dealing with the aftermath. I’m in the midst of executing his estate, which includes the sale of the house. Our family touchstone is gone, and my sisters, nieces, and I are dealing with the loss of that, and working to reform connections with one another. I feel broadsided, bruised, and exhausted.

And then November 8th happened.

Like so many others, I’m in shock, I’m frightened, and I’m very, very worried about what this means for my country, its people, and our reputation as a nation. I feel sick, betrayed, and because I was already down, I am struggling with how I will ever get to my feet and face this.

I’ve been in hiding since I returned home after my father’s death. I do this – I withdraw when I’m in pain. I find it difficult to even lift a hand to reach out to extended family and friends for support. I feel tired at the thought of explaining again and again, and facing my own grief. But now that my grief has doubled, now that an extra layer of confusion and fear have been added to my ordeal, I have to pull myself up, because it’s not only personal, it’s struggle within the populace.

I’ll be honest, I feel defeated. My first impulse is to run away. But I know that’s a feeling, a gut reaction to this struggle. I know that running, hiding, denying is not the way to help myself, or my fellow human beings. So I’m not going to allow myself to be displaced. I have a mind, a voice, and a pair of hands – I’m going to use them.

I’m defining three priorities for myself – three areas in which to direct my energies.

Underrepresented communities

The Environment

Education

Three very large and extremely important areas that directly influence our nation and our planet, and steer what kind of world we live in. I have to pull that in and focus on specific areas if I truly want to be effective, both locally and, ultimately, globally.

When I worked at the university, I served on a minority affairs advisory committee to the chancellor, and on a community building team for faculty, staff, and students. I can use that experience and expertise, and the contacts I made, to continue that work in the greater community.

I have a personal interest in the greening of cities. Composting waste, planting to reduce heat and pollution in highly populated areas, and supporting wildlife by planting to sustain bees and other nectar-seeking insects, and encouraging pesticide-free, wildlife inclusive plant care and gardening. I want to participate in community programs that address and support these goals.

Education is a right. It isn’t elitist, it’s not for a select few nor a means to exclude or compartmentalize, and it’s not a chore, punishment, or humiliation. It’s the means to break boundaries – those we set for ourselves, and those in place as discouragement or disenfranchisement to others. Fuck that. Education IS for everyone, and it IS empowering. This is the great secret – it’s the means to have influence, rather than be subjected to the influence of others. And everyone can achieve it. All those American lies about what it is to be educated in this country have got to be revealed. I’m going to do my part to tear down the deceptions, and encourage exploration of the many paths to education.

These aren’t short-term goals to sustain me until I feel better, forget, or get distracted by something shiny. These are lifelong goals, things I can participate in for the duration. As Doctor Angela Davis proclaimed, I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.

What about you? Which issues do you see yourself working to change?

sad peonies

peonies in happier days

peonies in happier days

Do you know what a sad peony looks like? Its little red heads, all swollen and ready to burst, lay huddled beneath a layer of prophylactic plastic, calling out to be set free.

This is what happens when it snows in May. Lilacs have frozen smiles on their wee little purple faces, roses look shocked and offended that they’ve been caught half dressed out in the cold, hollyhock leaves are sagging mopily on the ground, and columbine blooms are defiantly standing erect, shouting out “fuck you!” to the grey skies.

And me? I’m tromping around in the cold and wet, two layers of woollen winter socks shoved into rubber gardening clogs, t-shirt sopping and too-loose yoga pants sagging lower and lower as I beat the snow off of newly hatched leaves, stooping to peek underneath makeshift shelters for the smallest and most tender lodgers to make sure everyone is still with me. I never fully dried out yesterday, and this morning I was in past my ankles in last night’s freshly fallen snow – that’s a brisk waker-upper.

Tonight it’s supposed to freeze. And to that, I say FUCK.

one of the few welcome multi-eyed creatures in my garden

the bumblebee is one of the few welcome multi-eyed creatures in my garden

I used to think gardening was such a leisurely and refined little hobby, effortlessly sinking perky plants into soft earth and plucking a stray weed here and there while I stroll around, admiring my lush and beautiful borders. Ha. It’s plunging a shovel down with gusto, and ricocheting off of a boulder one half inch beneath the soil. It’s scattering seeds and seeing nary a sign of life. Ever. It’s bending down to smell a rose and coming face-to-face with a wasp, or reaching out to pick a flower, to meet up beneath the stem with the ugliest damn spider on eight legs. It’s surrendering to the weeds, which have launched an overthrow in numbers so vast, it’s useless to fight back. It sucks.

And yet, I am compelled to begin again and again, a staunch pessimist turned eternal optimist every spring. It’s a joke on me, my masochistic nature forcing encounters with arachnophobia, fear of hard physical labour, and continual disappointment. Are the occasional blooms from struggling survivors worth all the pain and heartache? I don’t know—when I see the lilacs in full bloom and contemplate crawling in between the bushes to live there for the next two weeks, when the roses are budding out and the peony is showing off and I’m excitedly waiting to see what colours the hollyhocks will be this year, I feel like Gertrude Jekyll and Beverly Nichols all rolled into one. I’m a gardening fool, a horticultural stud.

cardinal de richelieu, the most beautiful rose ever

cardinal de richelieu, the most beautiful rose ever

So yeah, I’ll continue to tromp around, shivering and hoping for the best as I fight to save my budding buddies from snow in May, cursing and dripping and crying on the inside at the very likely possibility that not all these little beauties will make it through the storm. And when the sun comes out again, I’ll peel back the plastic and give everyone an encouraging little fluff, hoping the little beggars will perform for me.

inspiration, agitation, sweet libation

Not quite an end of the year roundup because that no longer applies, but rather a brief account of what I’m doing, what I’m thinking about, what I’m planning, what will most likely not get thought about/planned/done this year.

iris apfel at home

iris apfel at home

My last post was a tribute to Isabella Blow, and I feel compelled to give a shoutout to another fashion icon, Iris Apfel. Ninety-one years old, this lady has scads of style – literally. She loves decorative chaos, from her modern take on Victorian clutter in her home to being up to her elbows in bangles at all times. It’s an artful chaos, the kind that, like a Jackson Pollock painting, keeps your eyes darting about, fascinated by the layers upon layers of clashing patterns and colors that somehow come together to create a cohesive look. She designed textiles with her husband, and has an eye for curious creativity. She’s amassed a clothing collection that has been on display several times, because it’s just that interesting. I admire the peanuts out of her.

Speaking of clutter (and nuts), I’m working on several different pieces at once—unusual for me, but right now, while I’m having trouble keeping my mind on any one thing for an extended period of time, it’s working remarkably well to jump from one to another during the day. I’m editing one piece, writing two more. Because they’re so different in tone, it’s surprisingly easy to shift about with renewed enthusiasm. I long for the days of unbroken concentration on a single piece, but until I can reclaim the ability, this is a great way to keep me going. I get a little nutso when I can’t write steadily. It’s like going stir crazy, all blue-balled in my head until I become an impossible bundle of nerves. This is the release.

The stress I’ve been under with some family issues, mostly stemming from my mother’s death a year ago, year and a half, has created monkeymind. I don’t think I’m thinking about it, but it’s there, disrupting my calm and consequently, my concentration. I’m hoping that will change this year. Either there will be progress, or I will have learned to back away.

There’s a new way to stay mellow in Colorado. Well, an old way that’s newly legal. Weed, of course. I’ve had it only sporadically since college, I’m lazy and antisocial, so I don’t like to go around looking for a source or a circle to insert myself into. Now I don’t have to. I’ve yet to go a-shopin’ but in a day or two there will be a place opening up about a mile from home. Seems I’m out of touch on methods of partaking. Vaporizers? And here am I, sloppy joint rolling my only method to date. I don’t mind pipes, like bongs, but I’ve never eaten it. I hear that’s a whole different kind of high. I’m planning on finding out.

Hey, there is a purpose to this. Monkeymind needs taming.

secrets in the secrets

wood cuttingIn Murmur, the names of the sabball, the demon-gods of the senses, are taken from compendiums of demons in the Anglo tradition. All except for Fig – I think he just appeared on his own. He’s the first member of my pantheon, there before the rest.

The idea for the sabball (a combination of the Pali word Sabba meaning All, and, well, All) came to me a long time ago when one day I was perusing a compendium of demons (as you do when you’re a morbid young thing) and quickly realized that what made the demons scary and dangerous was their advanced knowledge – they are all experts in some form of higher learning, be it science, philosophy, medicine, et cetera. Makes perfect sense that their power lies in knowledge. And isn’t it interesting that higher thought is the very thing many proponents of ridged laws and narrow viewpoints blame for humanity’s fall from grace? Hmm….

So that’s how my demons were born. I’ve kept some of their recorded characteristics – for instance, Murmur is capable of necromancy, Gaap is a philosopher, Ose’s expertise lies in the liberal arts, and Vine is a warrior. Fig is his hedonistic, earthy self. I’ve also added characteristics, and assigned to each the powers of the senses and the elements, divvied up as I chose. Quite randomly, I admit.

Murmur smell/water

Gaap sight/air

Ose sound/the void (a fifth element found in Indian, Asian and Greek cultures)

Vine taste/fire

Fig touch/earth

Another bit of trivia about Murmur: there’s a little Easter egg hidden in the text. Not something I set out to do intentionally, but it came about as I was writing a particular passage, and had a certain song running through my head as I did.

A little clue: I’m an indie/old school person, so don’t expect to find pop song references in my writing.

my novel murmur out october 11

murmur coverI have a release date for Murmur, October 11, and a beautiful cover courtesy of the lovely Anna Reith – there are links to her blogs in the sidebar.

This is book one of my Secrets of the Senses series. I call it metaphysical fiction. The book isn’t sex-centric like my erotica, though this excerpt contains one little getting-to-know-you scene. It’s really a story about Aonghas, a gifted guy with a skewed view of himself, and pretty much everything else. He works to change that, sometimes with success, sometimes not. As gifted as he is, he’s far from perfect. That’s what I love about him.

I’ll be talking more about Murmur as the release date approaches.

Excerpt from Murmur, Chapter 3

Fog on the moors is beautiful. In that ethereal atmosphere, one can believe himself to be floating in a cloud; the limited sight, the vaporous essence creates a world within a world, at once exciting and playful, and foreboding. On one such evening I walked through the low scrub, careful of my footing, cloaked within the fog and feeling myself to be a phantom traversing an otherworldly landscape. The sky grew darker, the fog thickened with the approach of night. I gave up sight, and navigated relying on other means, other senses—my knowledge of the terrain, my instincts. It was a thrilling experience that brought to full attention all of my being, and I walked with bold confidence.

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book three, you are kicking my ass

Narcissus PompeiiVery, very ironic, since I thought you would be the easy one. No rules, no holding back, flowing like absinthe. Ha. You’re the Green Fairy of late stages, when the effects are hard won, puzzling and painful. Quite fitting, since a drop has never passed my lips. Kicking my ass at the conclusion before I’ve even begun.

You are an intoxicant. I’m craving you, but when I have you it’s all confusion and stupor. I want more, I’m desperate for you even when you’re making me ache. Hurts to be with you, hurts to be without you.

Am I raving? Yes. I’m a lunatic with this one, and it’s only right that I should be. This one has taken on some enigmatic concepts, along with very intense transcendence. In short, I don’t know what I’m doing. But I kind of like it.

This book is all about transcending. Transcending all boundaries, all definitions, labels, concepts of what is beauty and what is broken. This is about the void, chaos and confusion, and the sound of echoes through time.

I’m not quite ready to talk about the series as a whole, so I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it does make sense, it is exactly as it should be. I’m doing exactly what I want, I’m getting the words I want, everything is falling in place just as I wish, only it’s taking for-e-ver, piece by excruciating piece. Now, I’m thinking and I’m hoping that the difficulty is all mine. I hope those who read it will enjoy the playful irony of it all.

Here – this is a good representation of where I’m going with this, what I’m doing and the reason behind it all. Hey look at me, all sharing and everything. Another side effect of the drug that is Echo.

The three descend the stairs to the café below, and once seated, Aequus begs to try the absinthe. Around them people talk of everything all at once. Their voices are at discord: no rhythm, no melody. A rush of white noise. 

A carafe of water and three glasses of the yellow-green liqueur are requested by Amadeo, and these are brought to their table along with a china bowl of glittering sugar lumps, and three pretty little silver spoons, pricked and ornamented. The twins watch as Amadeo places a spoon across each glass, a lump of sugar centred in each spoon. He methodically trickles water over the arrangement until the liquids louche, and passes a glass to each. “Enjoy,” he says. “Don’t expect too much—it’s merely drunkenness, until you develop an acuity for it. But that takes experience.”

“Like the first time getting high.” Caprice smiles and plays with her spoon, tapping it against the glass, the table top.

Amadeo puts his hand over hers, gently silencing. The room echoes with the clink of spoons against glass, of cutlery against china accompanying the drone of conversation, but Caprice’s rhythm is a dissonance amongst the din. Incongruous. They’re not meant to be here. “Getting high?” he says. “No, not like high. Like drink. A lot of drink, a pretty colour, fascinating taste….” He takes a long swallow that begins with lips softly coated, the tongue, the palate suffused in warm bite and florid bursts: coco and citrus; the back of the throat, the slide into earth and jade. It flows through him, the pleasure. He knows how to coax passion from the milky depths. The twins watch, fascinated, aroused. “This is absinthe, children. Not a hypnotic, an experience. It’s the experience that enthrals—what you ask of it, what it allows. It’s the consent that gives one the impression of transcendence.”

Aequus tries to mimic Amadeo’s limpid sensuality. He coughs up the herbs, licks the spatters fromabsinthe his lips. “I guess it’s not consenting to me, yet,” he jokes.

“It’s condescending,” Caprice laughs. “You’re like a baby sucking at a bottle, it’s not mother’s milk!” But she must force down her own mouthful, inelegantly hiding her shuddering swallow, Adam’s apple bobbing like a tackled lure.

“Nor is it an emetic, but it has been treated as both,” Amadeo says. “Alright—what are you doing here?” He rolls the glass between his palms, lifts it again to his lips.

“We’re tracing the origin of us,” says Aequus. “The true origin—us before us. If anyone should know, it must be you.”

Amadeo laughs. “Oh I know; I’m there when it happens, I know. But babies, you don’t need then what you have now. It’s like the absinthe—the consent to transcendence.”

Aequus thinks about this for a moment. “Theirs, or ours?”

“Both.”

Caprice pushes away her glass, reaches across the table for Amadeo’s hand. “Uncle, isn’t it like the origin of you? You then into you now. It is similar, yes?”

“No, baby.” Amadeo reaches for Aequus, and holds both of their hands in his. “A body? Yes. All that is me held in one form, all that is me that cannot be held.” He smiles at them, a doting, familial look. “You are flesh and blood. You came into this world as all humans do—tiny, wet, crying in the shock of vicissitude. But the pain we experience, that is much the same. The pain of singularity, when you are in fact multifaceted little jewels.

Aequus studies the foggy liquid in his glass, inhaling its scent and taking cautious licks around the rim. “Do you think we can’t bear it? We will. If it helps us to know, we will.”

An unsteady silence, and Amadeo speaks again. “I’m not worried that you can’t bear it. I’m worried that you can.

“That boy upstairs—it’s not that he doesn’t see; it’s that he does. He sees what all else are blind to. He lives in agony, he lives trying to create a world within a world, without the constructs to do so. Everything he does in attempt to create sense, it falls apart over and over and over. But you; you have always lived outside the bounds, you were born into this chaos. You want to pull the world in with you. Very clever, babies. You may yet find a way.

I don’t know why I’m sharing. For one thing, it’s a pretty safe bet, since no one reads this. Maybe I just want to send a little echo across the waves, perhaps dole out a bit intoxication along the way.

out now: revolving door by ryal woods at mlr press

Matt is still attached to his former lover through a bond of secrecy and obsession. He wants to break the bonds, Leo works to keep him entrapped.

This is Matt’s account of their latest encounter: his longing for strength to resist Leo, his giving over, and the battle within as they play this longstanding game of wills, from initiation to inevitable conclusion. This time he’ll break the rules, and stop Leo before he can make a quick exit.

Because Matt isn’t so innocent: it’s a double play, they’re both participants. Will breaking the silence be enough to break the spell?

Available at MLR Press, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other outlets

this is my mind on dregs

On a day when I was particularly frustrated by my own limitations and by the temptation to lift words and ideas from others, I lifted this line from Camus:

A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.

And I started to write my frustration. My mind slipped around to authors who were so talented, they created not only new phrases, but new ways of writing them down. Rimbaud is one of these artists. (Yes, I’m obsessed with Rimbaud. I’m very okay with that.) His work was unique, masterful, and had an influence on many creative movements.

So to make my theft complete, I used his poem, Vowels as a precipice to throw myself off of. I took great liberties with Paul Verlain, made assumptions and cast aspersions. In other words (ha), I made a right mess of things, and ended up here:

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wall of text time

I’m currently working on a story – it’s really a collection of vignettes that fall under a common theme. I thought it would be simple and fun. Very light, undemanding reading for pleasure.

That’s not quite where this appears to be heading. Everything I’ve written so far contains statements and situations of social sensitivity. I seem to have stepped up on a soapbox somewhere along the way, and I can’t decide whether or not it’s appropriate.

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writing is self abuse

I’m having a real fight with this third novel. Funny thing is, it’s the most enjoyable thing I’ve undertaken to this point. If I can pull this off, it’ll be a personal triumph. But oh, it’s driving me mad.

There’s much less structure to the underpinnings, I’m looping makeshift constructions around things as I go along. Makes me feel giddy, all of this brazen rule breaking. I just hope I end up with something that others will enjoy as much as I do.

It’s no surprise I wound up here – my favorite authors didn’t write in properly structured prose. I love going off the rails with them, adjusting to their rhythms and being shown a completely different view from sometimes crazily tipped angles. It’s enough to make you dizzy – but we love that, don’t we? We love the amusement of the ride.

I am nowhere near the levels of skill so seemingly easily tossed out by Henry Miller or Kazuo Ishiguro or Jean Paul Sartre. (I couldn’t find anything that gave a good description of The Reprieve, but the whole Roads to Freedom trilogy is remarkable.) I am no possessor of the ballsy bravery James Joyce showed when he said ‘fuck it’ and wrote in the poetic hum and private language of his characters. But god, it makes my mouth water. It’s like looking at the bent and swirled and pulled apart images of Picasso, or the layers upon layers of freeflow drips and spins of Jackson Pollock. To do that with words…. Yeah. That’s a mindgasm, right there.

But now that I’m into it, allowing my characters to drag me this way and that and running after them, trying to structure all of their actions – it’s tough. It’s fricking hard, it leaves me in little writing eddies of kinetic catatonia. Goddamn, it’s fun. I just hope I come through with a bit of sanity intact.