Friday, December 31, 2010

Thoughts That Stretch From One Year Into the Next

Guys, I feel so good right now. I don't know why. I'm not drunk. I haven't inhaled any illicit substances. The only drug I'm on is caffeine. But I feel so excited, like something big is about to happen.

It's New Year's Eve, so that probably makes sense, but past New Year's Eves I haven't felt like this.

Driving home tonight from seeing a movie ("The King's Speech" - SO GOOD), I looked at the rooftops of suburban neighborhoods all shadowy under nightfall and lamplight and I thought, "Magic is everywhere." It's not in some foreign kingdom, and it's not stuck in the pages of some book. It's everywhere.

G.K. Chesterton, a wonderful writer, once said this of George MacDonald, one of my favorite storytellers of all time: "The commonplace allegory takes what it regards as the commonplaces or conventions necessary to ordinary men and women, and tries to make them pleasant or picturesque by dressing them up as princesses or goblins or good fairies. But George MacDonald did really believe that people were princesses and goblins and good fairies, and he dressed them up as ordinary men and women. The fairy-tale was the inside of the ordinary story and not the outside."

I believe that the world is full of magic. We're all of us more than what we tell people we are. More than our jobs or our roles or relationships. More even than our goals or hopes. You may be a queen under some kind of enchantment, a hero at a crossroads, the wise mentor dispensing advice to wayfarers. You may be in need of saving, or you may be the dragon someone needs saving from.

Magic is everywhere. There are doors leading to it all over. It's hidden all around us. It's hidden inside us.

And that makes me so very happy I could dance.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


For Christmas my friend Rebekah bought me a quill and ink and this:

Beautiful, right? The figures are two muses - you know, the ancient Greek goddesses who inspire creation. Her idea was they could inspire me in my writing ventures. Really sweet.

So far they've inspired this...

...and this...

So here's to a creative and inspired 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Darkest Day

I'm not Wiccan, but I find beauty in their sabbats and esbats - days throughout the year filled with symbolic meaning to represent the changes in nature. I've always thought my favorite of these was Samhain (pronounced "SOW-en" where the "sow" rhymes with "now"), which everybody else calls Halloween. This is the transition of fall into winter. The harvest is over, and now come the cold months. I never really cared about that aspect. It was always more the costumes, the eerie thrill of it all. It's hard to resist the lure of Halloween: shadows lurking, ghosts and beasties, so many mysterious things that can never be fully explained.

That, and the candy. You can never go wrong when candy is involved.

So yes, Samhain - Halloween, or All Hallows Eve - is still probably my favorite holiday to celebrate. Costumes, candy, spooky fun. You really can't beat it. But when it comes to what these special days stand for, I think my favorite is Yule. But why, exactly?

Pagan friends of mine are quick to rant about how ancient Christians "stole" the pagan festivals, moving church holy days to the same days to win converts and make the transition from paganism to Christianity that much more appealing. ("Look - you can still party. Just party with US now!"). It's true. Jesus was most likely born sometime in April, or September. Those are the two I've heard bandied about the most, but every scholar seems to have a different interpretation. Still, it's very unlikely he was born in December, and certainly there would be no way to know if it was on the 25th.

But whoever it was who decided to celebrate Christ's birth side by side with the pagan Yule festival was something of a genius. Symbolically speaking, they fit together like two corresponding pieces of a puzzle.

Pagan Yule is celebrated not on the 25th, but on the winter solstice, the 21st of December. This is literally the darkest day of the year. Light is at its shortest span, and night is at its longest. It is a gloomy time, cold and bleak. The land will bear no crop. The weather is harsh and unforgiving. This is the epitome of defeat, of the lowest one could possibly go. But that's why it's significant: because it's the turning point. On Yule you can know that though you live in shadows, you've reached the blackest, coldest, most difficult hour and survived. To rephrase a Florence and the Machine song: "The dark days are over."

Yule stands for hope in the midst of greatest despair, and Christmas stands for the arrival of salvation. Good news when you would least expect to hear it. The beginning of something better. The coming of the light.

I stood outside a couple nights ago in my driveway, staring up at the sky and cursing under my breath. There was a lunar eclipse - the first time in over 300 years that it's happened on the winter solstice - but you wouldn't have known it from where I stood. The night was moonless. There were no stars. All were hidden behind a thick blanket of clouds.

Which made the dark of this darkest night of the year press in a little closer. Which made me shiver, all the more aware of the cold. Which made the world outside feel for a brief moment like one giant empty room. I felt small and alone, dwarfed by the void, insignificant in the midst of it all.

But that was then, and already the days are growing longer. Already things are looking up. So I'll celebrate Yule and Christmas, celebrate hope and light. I'll hold my candle to the dark and watch it glow.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mad Ramblings

I had a dream last night that freaked me out while I was in it, but it fled away in the morning (in the way of dreams) before I could remember what scared me so much.

Two things remain: the first, I had a daughter, or a young girl who was in my care. I'm not really sure which. She was at least two years old, maybe three, but she didn't have a name yet. Her parents - I? - had not wanted to name her until she earned a name. Some cultural tradition maybe? I have no clue. And I just kept thinking it over and over again: "Pax. Her name is Pax." As in, Pax Romana.... Latin for "peace."

It felt very angel-messenger-at-Christmas-y: "And you shall bear a son, and he shall be called..." Only in this case it was, "This girl has been given to me (or is mine somehow?), and her name is Peace." Only it's Pax. Which is weird. But whatever.

The second thing I recall: I thought she had really long, beautiful eyelashes, but at one point - while she was sleeping, maybe? - when I got closer I could see they were actually the legs of centipedes which were resting on her eyelids, and they started moving and fell off.

This really isn't blog-post-worthy material. I have a list somewhere of blog posts I want to write: my reaction to the announcement that Disney plans to move away from the fairy tale genre, a total rant about James Frey and his stupid ripoff of young writers/YA-novel-assembly-line "Full Fathom Five," and other things I can't remember now. But instead you get this weird dream crap, because I'm sick, and my sickness is doing the "bubble head" thing where I feel like I'm in a space suit staring out at people through that big shiny helmet thing. All the pressure in my head is definitely doing that - making me feel like I'm in outer space or way deep underwater. My throat isn't bad - yet - but my nose is being annoying, and mostly it's my head. My stupid frakking head. I wish I was Princess Langwidere from "Ozma of Oz," only instead of stealing heads from other people I'd simply remove mine for a little while until it decides to behave again.


NyQuil is not working. And neither is this. All I want for Christmas is to get rid of this damn sickness!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Sound

It's the strangest sound outside... a bit like the ocean, or a symphony of faintly chirping birds, but not really either of those things. So I go out in my slippers at 1:30am and look into the darkness. And it's ice - not soft enough for snow, just these tiny little crystals careening down, transforming the world into something glittering and sugar-spun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ink on a Page

My days bleed away,
ink on a page
that never really had the time to dry
I try
to reign them in
and fail completely

This is irksome, this is tragic
all this nonsense about magic
with life
fragile as an eggshell
sliding closer to the ledge

I may rail at Ozymandias,
measure loss by absent Esthers,
think of light and fading embers,
make my lists and swear I’ll get to it all someday
But my todays
slide easily into tomorrows
and I’ve no idea when they will run out

The hourglass stands,
that old Time cliche
of sands perpetually running away
Our minutes in motion,
we watch the loss
as they sift down into piles below

But where do the minutes go?
Where is my other side?
If this life’s the top, where do lost moments hide?
I want to know.
What is there to show for it,
this hollow lie?

I may rail at Ozymandias,
measure loss by absent Esthers,
think of light and fading embers,
make my lists and swear I’ll get to it all someday
But my todays
slide easily into tomorrows
and I’ve no idea when they will run out

My days bleed away—
injured badly, gaping wounds,
and I carry my awareness, an infection
festering deep within my core
I have the questions
none of us can ever answer
We just ignore the elephant
and get on with the routine every day

But I’m losing my moments
my moments and hours
I’m losing whole days
and the months melt to years
I can’t banish the fears
that my years won’t last long now
until I’m a shadow
no sand left above

They talk about love,
but then, what do they know?
And words like eternity tossed about so assuredly,
with such sincerity
(or is it lunacy?)
I can’t—and none of us can ever—be sure

So I rail at Ozymandias,
measure loss by absent Esthers,
think of lamplight and shadows and slow fading embers,
blink in January, only to discover it's December,
losing here and now to thoughts of "soon" or "I remember"—
So I make my lists and swear that
I’ll get to it all someday
But my days bleed awaybleed awaybleedaway

ink on a page

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

School's Out Forever?

So, I really have no idea what this blog is. I often post really personal stuff on here, because it is a fairly private space. I have one "follower," to use the blogger-speak (Hi Ashley!), but I don't think of this blog as being read much. Which is cool. But then every so often I'll use it to write something like my last entry, and I'll link it somewhere (facebook, twitter, etc.) which reminds people that the blog exists, so any personal stuff I've thrown out there is not very far away if someone were to just click a few links here and there.

That said, I'm taking a risk. My mom is on facebook now, and this blog is linked both in the website section of my profile and on my wall right now (for "Said the Ocean to the Moon"). So she could very easily come here. If she is here (Hi Mom!), I can't really do anything about it. But I'm going to say something I don't necessarily want her to know.

I really want to quit grad school.

Let me rephrase. I really want to quit my current graduate program (library science) and apply for another program that actually holds some level of interest for me (I'm thinking literature). I'm not ready for a creative writing program yet. But I'm really interested in literature. In fact, I took enough lit courses as an undergrad for it to have been my second minor, only I didn't take a couple of the specific ones they require for majors/minors (like Shakespeare, or American Lit). So far in my library information studies, I've taken 12 hours (or 4 classes). Of those, literally half have been literature courses. Granted, they teach the literature within the context of librarianship (the two courses were Literature for Children and Literature for Young Adults), but it's still the closest thing you'll get to a literature class in this degree. I loved these classes, because for once we were talking about what was inside the covers of books. You have no idea how frustrating it is to sit for 3 hours in a classroom and have to talk about books as objects. I mean, yes, they are physical objects, but they're really portals. They're really other worlds tucked carefully inside a binding. They're characters, setting, plot, theme, words, images, ideas. And to sit there for three semesters' worth of discussions on budget issues within libraries, or the perfect temperature to keep a collection at to best preserve books, or how to catalogue a book.... BORING. So very very horribly ridiculously DULL.

I like working at the library. I like working with kids but not having to take responsibility for them like a teacher or day care worker would have to. I like shelving books, making bookmarks, coming up with displays, helping people find what they need, suggesting books. All that is great.

But I don't love it. I've found a job that suits me, that I'm fairly good at, that comes with this whole level of respect that I'd never anticipated ("You're a librarian? Cool. You must be all smart and stuff."), and it doesn't pay well but it pays enough.... for now. I'm extremely grateful to have this job and won't make the mistake again of quitting a job on a whim. But I'm not going to allow myself to mistake not-hating a job for loving it. I hated working at Borders. I hated working at Target. I hate my cleaning job (but it's easy money, so I won't give it up in a million years!). But I don't hate working at the library. I just don't see myself working there in ten years. I don't see myself there in 5 years, or even 2.

One thing they keep talking about in grad school is how this is a competitive field, how it's all about networking, etc etc. So there's one strike against it, as I kind of hate competition and don't have a networking bone in my body. But the other thing is this idea of working toward a goal, of wanting to achieve something. Nearly every guest speaker in class this semester would ask us to introduce ourselves by giving our name, where we work now, and where we'd like to work within a library system. You'd get answers like, "I'm working in HR at an office job right now, but I'd love to be a reference librarian at an academic library, possibly with an eye for becoming a branch manager one day." Or "I want to get into preservation and archives and possibly work with texts in museums." There was a goal, a plan, a reason they were in this program. Then you'd get to me: "I work part time in the children's department of a public library. And that's pretty much why I started this degree, so I could get a job working in the children's department of a public library." So the underlying idea is: what now?

I understand that this should be a no-brainer. It's a 36 hour degree, and I'm already a third of the way through it. If I get my MLIS, I'll be eligible to work at a library in all fifty states. Due to recent changes, now there are only a few states in which public libraries will hire anybody without an MLIS. So to have one would guarantee me the ability to apply for work at libraries in other states if I ever wanted to in the future. Which is the smart, responsible thing to do. Nevermind that if I keep up at my current rate, I won't graduate until December of 2012 (Classes are only offered evenings Monday - Thursday, and I work evenings Tuesday - Thursday, so I'm limited to whatever's offered Monday nights or whatever I can get online. Argh.)

My parents have been ridiculously kind. Realizing that school can be expensive, they've allowed me to move back into the house without paying rent for as long as I'm taking grad courses. Which is seriously wonderful of them. And which is also part of what's making this decision so very hard.

You know what I want to do? I want to write books. Like, get my act together and actually write good stuff, stuff that I can send away to agents and editors. I want to get paid to sit in my pajamas all day clacking away at a keyboard and filling empty pages with words and worlds. I want to put the stuff between the covers of the books that librarians learn how to treat like objects.

So I have this devious little idea at the back of my mind, which is where the whole risk-of-being-discovered part comes in. My idea centers around a lie. Lie and say I've enrolled in an online course without really doing so. Lock my door and slave away at my computer for several hours doing what my parents and friends think is classwork, when really it's me trying to write this thing.

But it's a risk. At the end of four months, I might have something presentable. Or I may have another NaNoWriMo mess on my hands. (Seriously, I was all happy because I finally made the wordcount, but in terms of stuff I'll actually use in something someday, I think other than "and," "but," "to," "for," "the," etc. the grand total is something like 3.4%. Seriously. It sucked majorly. Not in an I'm-trying-to-be-modest way. In an even-the-trash-can-I-use-to-throw-this-away-in-will-be-grossed-out-by-the-suckiness-of-it-all kind of way.) So if I have something, I mail it off and cross my fingers and hope that by this time a year or two from now I'll be on my way to being a published author. But if I just end up with another mess, then the gamble was in vain and I have to 'fess up that I've put myself a whole semester behind for nothing.

You know, somewhere in the world there are people who have actual problems. Who don't have enough to eat, or who fear for their lives, or who don't have basic freedoms to believe and act as they see is right. And then there's me, a whiny little brat who is bored, confused, and unsatisfied even though she has a perfectly great life.

I'm sorry.

Shutting up now.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Said the Ocean to the Moon

Once a while ago, when the earth was young, I looked up and saw your face. It was cold and unforgiving and the kind of pale that's almost ghostly. And yet your sad beauty won my heart.

When you move now, I move. When you wander, you tug me along after you. It's this constant back and forth with you, and I feel it like an ache, and I moan and howl and shush myself, ashamed at my foolish longing, and I toss salt-water tears to the wind.

They say life comes in cycles. They say life is ups and downs, the high point and the low all one circling whole. Well, my love for you is like that. All mountains and valleys - sometimes placid, sometimes heaving and crashing against every barrier that tries to hold me back.

When does the story end, my dear? When I've clawed away all that remains between us? When I render to rubble all that would separate? What then? I fear that to hold you would be somehow to harm you. For you possess great power when you dictate from afar - all gravity and aloof disdain - but what would you do with the nearness of me? With this desperate deluge of feeling?

There's far too much between us, love. And I imagine that you, cruel and constant and cold, would not have me even if I could reach you. But what's life without trying? Hope is always foolish. So I follow, so I crash, so I weep. So I long for you, and shall continue to long for you always, long after the earth's bones have been worn down to sand and blown away in a bitter wind.