Blessed Samhain

Smallquietstill, this year has passed for me. Smallquietstill, my passage through the holiday. Blessings, then, to you, this day of new years. Blessings, then, to you, in remembrance of loved ones gone. Like a river, we are thrust forward today (as we are every day) knowing the winding bends that came before, and a vague notion of our destination.

Today, I honor my beloved dead, those whose threads have been cut short, those whose lives have touched my own. We are bound to winter by the eating of our bread: bread, from the Greek, the food of mortals, food that dies with us. I take an apple, cut it star-wise– apples are the food of the dead. I take a loaf of bread to add some honey– this life is brief but sweet. I take a pomegranate– Persephone, you brought us winter, read slant-wise. Bound to flesh and blood and bone, we are dying every day, the contract in four small, red seeds like rubies. I honor the dead. And I taste of life.

May my lips never touch ambrosia. May my immortality be on the lips and tongues of friends. May I drink deeply of all this life has to offer. May I do honor to the memory of dear ones since passed. May this life, for all its shortness, be a thing of beauty: like four small seeds, bright as rubies.

Blessed Samhain.

The Unfortunates

Really, the only unfortunate parties here are my data. I mistreated them so. You, see, my hard drive failed. Honestly, it was to be expected. I can’t complain. It served me long and well, since 2002. A 40 gig drive, it was little and fierce, uncomplaining as it held safe all my files, photos to save games. It valiantly called forth the information to render exotic locations for me to explore, from the foyadas of Vvardenfell to the lively desolace of the Capitol Wasteland; from the bustling streets of Tarant to the red rock desert of Durotar. All of these places were just a mouse-click away, thanks to the efforts of my late little C drive, Gamgee. May he rest in peace.

Where does that leave me? With my tales and verse all backed up, I’ve lost only images, music, and my progress in pixelated universes. It’s strange how relieving that word “only” is. Game worlds can be retrod. Pictures, well, new ones can be taken. Music hurts more, but much of it can be re-ripped from my CDs kept safe and pristine. My words, though– those are priceless to me, no matter how bad, rough, or crude. Blocky text and poor grammar can be reworked, but the spark of a particular phrase, once extinguished, is gone forever. In my writing folder are the clumsy typings of a little girl, kept not as a precious memory, but as rich ugly ore from which I still draw, smelting, refining, forging something new. To know that my work, my “real” work, is safe… that gives me a little room to be flippant.

The internet, my old friend, presents a slightly different problem. Without a box from which to access it, I’m stealing net time from gracious friends. For now, I’m in limbo… little as it matters this weekend. I won’t need to be internetting from Necronomicon. You can, however, expect delighted ramblings upon my return.

Wild Folk and Wildren Things

I don’t expect a lot from movies. Of late, I’ve come to expect more of video games. There has been so much shoved through the pipes of Hollywood that simply hurts to watch– things which offend my sense of decency. Now, considering that my sense of decency includes ample droppings of the f-bomb, much in the way of artful sex, and at least a good helping of balletic violence, you’d think I’d be a hard one to offend. This is not the case. Nothing offends me more than stupidity. Hard-headed simplicity, if you will. Better yet, call it vacuous tripe. I cannot stand stripped-out characters, empty husk-puppets dancing to the rhythm of predictable lines outlining a starkly contrasting divide between good and evil.

When I was little, I loved stories which made me feel like something was at stake. Something real, if not tangible. Few movies ranked among those tales then, and fewer now, but I will tell you that one of my sharpest childhood memories was watching The Last Unicorn, hiding my head under my favorite blanket, terrified of the red bull, hulking hell beast wreathed in flame. At stake? More than good and evil– a unicorn who learns regret, and then Molly Grue: “How dare you! How dare you come to me now, when I am this!” Those lines caught me up short, even as a child; a well from which I deeply drank, a poem reread until I finally understood. Nothing was simplified for me.

Now, Where the Wild Things Are was a rare taste of something bitter sweet, watching it this evening. Parents concerned it was too scary for their kids? I wonder where were they when I wet my bed at night, waking from nightmares of running down cavernous halls chased by fire, the scent of brimstone, and the the thunder of hooves herding me toward the sea? Nowhere near, thank the gods. I’d not trade those memories for the world.

Fear has a special place in childhood. There are many things to be afraid of– some we outgrow, some dog us nightly into adulthood, and some… well, some we never considered when we were small. Some fears are bitter thorns, some are waking terrors, and some exist in shadows now so that we may know what’s there later in the light. Wild things are fearful– but they live in each of us somewhere between our guts and our hearts and we are right to be afraid of them. Every child knows this. That’s why we keep telling scary stories to them. That’s why there can be comfort in those tales. There can be. There can be. There isn’t always. Where the Wild Things Are is full of those tender fears. I have never seen a film so honest about childhood– I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film so honest, period. Everything about it rests in context, and all of the action happens in the space between minds, hinges on unspoken fears and desires.

It comes down to this: the best stories respect the viewer or reader, and instead of pandering to an idealized audience with x and y characteristics, a good story unfolds itself and the audience finds in it mirrors, truths, and painful barbs. That’s why the best children’s stories are loved by adults: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Catwings. That’s why the greatest stories for adults are given to children as quickly as possible: so many of the works of Ray Bradbury. Where the Wild Things Are is an honest story for adults about children and change and how scary people are and how easily we can hurt one another. It’s a story for children that doesn’t pretend that they are innocents who need to be talked-down-to.

When I went to see this film, I expected little, and instead I was given a great gift. Thank you Mr. Jonze and Mr. Sendak. And if the rest of you don’t like that, I would tell you that you can “go to hell.”

A Time for Harvest, Thank the Bees

A little more than sixty days out, and the okra is ready to come in. Pale flowers, buttermilk and raisins, greet me each day as I go out to water. The pods follow, longer than my fingers. I follow the pods, basket and garden scissors in hand.

I garden to get out of my head. Strange though it may sound, but with my knees in the dirt, I’m finally firmly planted in the real world. It’s the world of food, greens, sun and bugs. You can talk about your responsibility, your money, your debt, but it doesn’t get much realer than the food chain. Healthy dirt is healthy people, and we are sorely lacking.

I amend the soil in my garden: compost mostly, clippings here and there, kitchen waste, and sometimes a little manure. I watch for bees: they’ve been absent, save a few bumble bees, who give me hope. Wild honey bees are almost gone in North America, not that they were native, but neither are many of our food crops which depend on them for pollination. Colony collapse is serious business. I belong to the disease camp of theorists. The bee business is mercenary, hives sold from around the world regardless of pests, parasites, and illnesses, and we wonder why there are so many infestations of virus-laden mites. We feed our bees on monocultures, and shrug when their immunities go down. We over-winter them on corn syrup and soy and marvel when they die.

Corn syrup and soy: American bees eat like American people. Tell me, what’s wrong with this picture? If we find the foods we eat to be empty of real nutrition, why are we feeding them to the most precious link in our agricultural chain? The prospect frightens me. Forget cell phone towers– malnutrition paired with the global exchange of bee parasites and illnesses, is it any wonder adult bees abandon ship and die alone leaving only disease-ridden larvae to rot in the hive?

Nervously, I consider apiaries myself, but fear the pesticides in my neighbor’s picture-perfect yard. I peruse my plantings now in flower, all that okra, my pumpkins, and the sunflowers. I see a bee. She gives me hope.

Fightin’ Words

I head south on I-75, getting on at Fletcher Avenue in Tampa. “Fletcher.” One who fletches arrows, placing the feathers on the back end so the arrow flies true. I fly like an arrow southward. Until… I see it, a billboard, looming over the highway on the passenger’s side. “This is a Christian nation.” Red on white, attributing it to the Supreme Court. It reads like a shout. My right hand goes from the shifter to the pentacle at my neck, and I am suddenly small.

I can know that it is referencing the 1892 Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States decision, I can know how this decision is viewed by justices today, and I can know that Justice Brewer, who was involved in the decision, also upheld Oregon’s limitations on the working hours of women not because of worker’s rights, but because women’s child-bearing health was considered a thing to be protected. I can know these things. But they don’t help when a large billboard in red towers over my drive, telling me I’m not wanted in the country of my birth because my religion isn’t right.

How do Muslims, Jews, Buddhists feel driving under that billboard? As small as me? Smaller? Angry? Indignant? How do atheists feel on their way to work, looking up and being told “you’re not wanted here”?

It is a tactic employed by a select group to make others feel “othered.” Like the young man in the Smithsonian calling the timeline of European history “bullshit” because it didn’t conform to the Bible, there is rage and anger in this billboard’s outburst. There is a fight here. It isn’t a fight about the soul of the nation, though some would have you believe it. It isn’t even about which religions are socially okay to practice. No, it’s about privilege. It’s about who gets to feel comfortable all the time, and who has to walk around feeling ashamed of themselves because they are secretly or not so secretly part of a pariah group. It’s about who gets the freedom to express their religious devotion publicly, and who has to fight to get days off to worship. It’s about belonging.

The sign had its effect, though: I drive under the shadow of the billboard, curled inward on myself, nursing a mental punch to the gut. “This is a Christian nation.” And I am not a Christian.

Edited on 2/24/11 to add clarifying detail.