Thinking of You Still.

In my memories, you both are almost always smiling.
Did you really smile that much?
Or have my memories already become
sKeWeD?

If it is that my memory is in error, perhaps it is not entirely an evil thing,
for maybe the remembrance of you both is finally becoming what it should be—
a source of strength.

Or perhaps your smiles are what I most fear losing to forgetfulness (and anger, and grief). But oh! I want to remember every emotion I saw cross your faces, every piece of yourselves I got to see.

But perhaps you both really smiled that much.

I know there were times you were too sad to deal with the world,
but neither of you liked showing that aspect of yourselves.
At least, not to me.
(Ben, I’m pretty sure for you, at least, it was that you never liked anyone at all to see that.)

I remember moments where you didn’t smile of course. Moments you were too sad to. But those are far, far outweighed by images of humor and mischief and joy.

Perhaps it was because you were together, most every time I saw either of you.
Indeed, I know that was part of it.
For I got to know you both equally,
and saw the change in each of you when you were with each other.

You were the sun and moon respectively and both of you glowed.
You brought out the best in each other.

I feel privileged that I got to see your meeting,
and the growing of your mutual love.

I’m finally to a point where a day sometimes passes that I don’t think of you,
but the vast majority of days you both cross my mind at least once.

I know some of what you both went through. I wish I could have helped you more.
But thank you for sharing with me so many of your smiles.
For because my memories of you are filled with them
(and with listening, and with kindness),
when I think of you, you bring me joy,
even though it is still very, very painful.

I truly believe, with what optimism I have, that the two of you are together,
wherever you are,
and that because you’re together, you’re both still smiling.
(At least, this is the only possibility I will accept.)

But still, please do not ask me to smile yet,
for my heart is still too raw.

I am a writer. Always have been, always will be.
The theme of “immortalizing” people through art of all kinds
has been prevalent for centuries.
So while my attempts will never be enough,
only a faint shadow of what was,
I will do what I can.

For too many good people die young, and the world still has great need of them—
still has need of the two of you.

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An Episode In Everyday Life . . .

Thwack. . .

“Haaaa!”

        Thud.

(Clack-clack-clack.)

        “I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you, you monster. . . .”

Smash.

        “Aha!”

The door creaked open cautiously, letting the wary outsider check up on the suspicious sounding activity. A pause.

Bang!

        Bang, bang, bang.

“Yes! Success!”

        The victor crowed and danced in victory—spinning in a circle before finally spotting the audience and freezing.

“What are you doing?”

“I was just— . . . there was a really big spider. . . .”

“. . . Really?”

Twiddled thumbs.
A sigh.

“Well, here, you forgot this. Again. See you after class.”

Phone returned, the roommate left once again, rolling eyes in exasperation.

        The door shuts.

A pause.

                    Solemn fist pump and whispered

                    “Victory!”

 

Later That Night . . .

. . .
(crickets chirping)
(rustling)
(a groan)

        “What the? Ahhhh! Gagahrawww-Ehhh! H-h-hugge!”

SLAM.

        “I TOLD you they were monsters! Where is it?!”

“There! there, over there! KILL it. Do it now! KILLLLL!!”

        “You won’t get away either! Die like your brother. Gahrawwh!

               H A A A A A A A A ! ”

 

    Cree- – – – – ASH        tinkle, tinkle

SMACK.                       BAM.

                   Thud.

 

“KIILLL.”

“Death to the evil one!”

 

And thus, the battle continues. . . .
Catch us at the next episode!

(No spiders or people
were harmed
in the making
of this production.)

Migraine

There’s a flower in my head and it’s trying to bloom
but the roots are twisted up with my brain stem,
and burrowing into the crevices.

The petals are trying to unfold,
the plant is trying to grow, tall and beautiful,
but my skull is only so big, and it’s long reached the roof.

My head feels like it’ll explode soon,
so this beautiful weed can grow through the hole in my skull.

But instead it keeps trying to bloom
and I’m still locked in suspense.

A poet known as “Iron Hand”? More likely than you may think.

Gottfried von Berlichingen (1480 – 1562), more famously known as Götz of the Iron Hand, was a German Imperial Knight and poet. And oh yes, he saw combat. He was involved in numerous military campaigns and fought an estimated 15 feuds. He also worked as a mercenary and kidnapped nobles and attacked merchant convoys. In fact the empire banned him twice because of these activities. Most notably of all though, his hand was shot off by a cannon ball in the siege of Landshut (1504), and if it’s not amazing enough that he lived a long life and continued to have an active military career, his iron prosthetic hand (well, actually, he had two made) seems to have allowed him to write.

(If you’d like to know more about his prosthetic, I found this article interesting https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(18)30025-7/fulltext)

Götz is just one of many poets who were active warriors. It’s interesting to me that poetry, and the arts, have been so starkly separated from sports and military in our society. Poetry especially used to be so intrinsically tied to war, that I wonder just when poetry became some “flowery” “girly” “superfluous” thing. For one example of a society in which poets and warriors were inseparable is the Irish. The Fianna, the elite warriors of Irish legend, were trained both as poets and warriors. Poetry had power.

In a long overdue continuation of my study of gender from epics to romances I will be covering the Ulster Cycle, specifically focusing on stories involving Cú Chulainn, in order to narrow my focus some. The importance of poetry and its use by both men and women in literature will be one of many things that will be examined.

For the Foodies

And today we introduce: a mini escapade into cooking!!

So the background (I’m a writer, of course there needs to be a story behind this, however minimum) is that my grandma made French toast and I had never had any like hers and it was the best. It was still golden brown on the outside, but the inside was creamy, almost custardy. And it was stupendously delicious.

So I set out to recreate, or somewhat recreate, that.

For one thing I know she used “real” bread as opposed to wonder-type bread, “real” bread with nice thick slices. I stupidly went to Walmart for this so options were limited. I ended up buying Aunt Millie’s Texas Toast.

The other thing I did besides ensure I had thicker slices of bread was to soak each piece of bread longer in the egg mixture.

Annnnd it worked! Visualize that perfect golden brown on both sides of each piece of bread, smell and taste that maple syrup and those blueberries! It was custardy on the inside and the best French toast I ever made.

I do think the Texas Toast was just the slightest bit thicker than I would have liked, but I got the effect I wanted.

I’ve never been to a restaurant that had that custardy interior, or seen a recipe trying to achieve that. So listen to your grandparents! Or people in general. There’s always something someone in the world knows that the rest of us suckers don’t.

My mind is like a rusty steel trap . . .

half the time the mechanism works and it holds onto something so I’ll never forget it, the other half the time it doesn’t even try. And it’s truly randomized.

For instance:

Some completely arbitrary, inane piece of knowledge? 50% chance of it being remembered, 50% chance it’s not.

Someone’s name? 50% / 50%

Some piece of life saving know-how? 50% / 50%

Something related to my field? 50 % / 50%

Something I want to remember? 50% / 50%

Oh wait. There are a couple of areas where the percentages change:

Something I don’t want to remember?

Me: 26 years old trying to sleep, My brain: remember that thing you did in first grade that one time that was super embarrassing??

Dates, of basically anything, have about .05% of being remembered.

The short of it is, I really can’t actually predict (for the most part) what my brain chooses to hold onto. This does not mean that there aren’t those vital memories that stand out, of course. But if my brain is so arbitrary, really other people’s brains must be at least half as arbitrary, right?

In other words, what is a significant moment in our lives isn’t always a significant moment in anyone else’s life, no matter how close we are to them.

One of the moments that stands out in my mind when I think of my life is this: One of my best friends was over with her family and I felt a migraine coming so I lay down. This amazing friend of me read to me while I was laying down (if I remember right). I think her sister was there too. I felt better when it was time to have dinner so I sat up . . . and threw up all over the blanket on my lap.

Yuuuup. That super sucked especially because I rarely throw up from a migraine. And you know, they were . . . right there. Sitting with me.

I remember the bad migraines, but I don’t remember ever really talking to anyone much about them during elementary and middle school (actually I didn’t really talk about them until they went chronic). I don’t remember ever having a conversation with this friend about migraines during that timeframe. But I remember this. I still think of it occasionally all these years later.

I found out this year that my friend doesn’t remember that. My friend—whose memory seems to me to be an exceptionally useful steel trap and remembers 75% more than me about elementary and middle school—doesn’t remember that.

Maybe there is no point to all this except our brains are complex, and occasionally I think that mine is the runt of the litter. Or you know, maybe the message is one of those inspiring “don’t worry about your mistakes” cliches. Who knows. I mean, do you? How well do you know your brain and your memory? What will you remember about these posts?

Even if you don’t remember anything, I hope these posts are worthwhile to you. There’s not much point in sharing if they’re only worthwhile to me. Actually, though, even if they’re not worthwhile please keep reading them and please harass other people to read them. (But like, gently. Gentle harassment please.) If you have time to scroll through social media you’ve already read for an hour or rewatch an episode of tv, it’s worthwhile reading my posts, right? Maybe most of them are arbitrary enough that your brain might just remember them.

A Handy Dandy Guide To Dealing With The Extraordinary

When you see a spaceship . . .

run toward it to see what will happen. Or else you’ll always regret not doing so, and will lie awake at nights wondering what might have happened, what you might have seen and learned, how your life might have changed. Worst that can happen is probably that you can die, but you risk that every day when you get in your car or on a bus. Or maybe kidnapping, but that can happen anywhere and tends to happen where and when people feel safest. You probably come closer to death or kidnapping more than you realize, and you probably only got close enough to a spaceship to be kidnapped by it once.

When you see a t-rex . . .

make sure there are plenty of more appetizing options between it and you before you stop to watch. You must stop to watch. No two scientists can agree on much of anything concerning dinosaurs, so it’s your opportunity to find out if any of them were right about its color, or the use of its baby arms. Just make sure you leave before there’s only one more scrumptious offering between you and it.

When you see something you shouldn’t like a person who walks with no shadow, or someone whom the mirror does not reflect . . .

at all costs make sure they do not discover you have seen what you should not. Observe them when they are nearby and you can safely do so without being discovered. But by all means do not follow them or needlessly seek them out. And by God don’t be stupid enough as to declare your findings aloud to others. And make sure you think of reasons they should leave you be, so you’re prepared for when they know and come for you.

When you see a mass of people following someone . . .

make sure you find out who the person is and why people are following them. Then make sure you know who is not following and why. If you follow, make sure to keep your mind and eyes open, and to always listen to what the non-followers have to say, and to watch how your fellow followers treat the non-followers. Remember you do not have to follow them, that you always have a choice, multiple choices in fact.

When you see a monster . . .

treat it with courtesy. Hide your fear and be polite. They’re sick of people screaming and running away. Monsters are rarely what they seem. As a general rule, those who look harmless, trustworthy, innocent, reasonable, humorous turn out to be the real monsters. Just make sure not to step too close to anyone’s teeth or hands.

When you see a door you’ve never seen before . . .

open it to look inside, but keep in mind that if you step across the threshold you may never come back.

When you know you’re dreaming . . .

you’ll learn more if you don’t interfere, but let things unfold without you.

 

 

Trope: Long lost brother

So, after staring at a blank blog post I finally went and looked at one of those lists of writing prompts, which I never find helpful. Reading through (and rejecting) them, I came across one about high school. I don’t know what the prompt actually was, because I was suddenly hit by a memory and started this.

There are only a handful of friends whom I actually remember meeting, and only because they were such highly unusual meetings. This was one of them:

So it was freshman year of high school and I was waiting for the bus when it started to drizzle a bit and I decided to stand under a tree to get out of it. I hadn’t been there long when some guy came and joined me, all smiles and “what a great idea.” Oh no. A social, happy person. I made polite but to the best of my memory would rather have been left alone. Then these chatty girls joined us and started talking. I was likely trying to surreptitiously look for an escape route when one of the girls opened her mouth and asked,

“Are you siblings?”

Not the type of fateful question I was expecting, though I should have been due to its use as a trope. (Spoilers: No, the guy does not actually end up being my long lost brother or anything).

We looked at each other, and let me tell you, I once read something about how you can’t glance at someone and have a whole conversation through it, especially when you just met the person, and that writer is wrong. I didn’t know the guy, he didn’t know me, but in literally a second and only by eye contact, we managed to have a conversation I can imagine to have sounded something like this:

“This. This is the perfect opportunity.”

“You’re right, this stuff doesn’t just happen.”

“You cool with it?”

“Oh, I’m cool with it. Let’s do this.”

And simultaneously, we turned to her and said “Yes, yes we are.” Slinging an arm around my shoulders, the guy I had never met before declared, “This is my sister.”

We didn’t just say the part, we didn’t act the role, we became it. We quibbled just like real siblings. Really. Punches to the shoulder and mocking and everything. So really, you can’t blame them for believing us.

Alas, we slipped up. One of them asked something like “hey, what’re your last names?” or some benign question along those lines and we tripped. I don’t remember if we hesitated too long or if we both had given a different answer at the same time. In any case, the initial girl figured out we weren’t really related, but we had her going for a good twenty minutes or so.

Fun over and buses arrived, we parted ways. I don’t think we even exchanged names.

. . . and then later in the week I sat down to lunch with two friends I had made and long behold! He appeared! Instantly, we both pointed declarative fingers at each other and exclaimed:

“You!”

The other two were quite confused, as I’m sure you can imagine. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull off the prank a second time as they already knew him too well.

For the rest of high school I regarded him as my actual brother. We didn’t hang out outside of school much or anything, but that initial meeting had colored the rest of our interactions. I haven’t seen him since high school, but still remember him with fondness.

So now, I guess I do really have a long-lost brother!

West over Water, in The Coldest of Days

It’s cold—really cold. In fact, if you’re in Michigan, USA, our state is going to be colder than Antarctica this week! (Antarctica in its summer, that is.) A perfect time for me to reread some Icelandic sagas and really embrace the setting, then word-craft by a cozy fire. . . .

As a special treat (if you’re into literature), here are some cold-inspired kennings.

Ice:

  1. “the roof-shingle of the salmon’s hall” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300)
  2. “of the channel-sky” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035)

Hail:

“the gravel of clouds” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035)

Winter:

  1. “all the serpents’ slayer” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300)
  2. “that grief of the snake” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300)
  3. “every bear’s night” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035)
  4. “the affliction of the stone-mackerel” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035)
  5. “during the sorrow of the thong of the path” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300)

And of course, as Michiganders know at the very least, we always need some ale and spirits to get us through this cold season, and the colder it is, all the more reason for something to warm you up!

Ale:

  1. “the surf of malt” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300)
  2. “of the ocean of flour” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035)
  3. “my yeast-Rhine” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035), “Rhine” of course being a reference to the Rhine, or Rhein, River in Germany

Mead:

  1. “with pure lakes of horns” (Poetry from Treatises on Poetics)
  2. “to woods of war-rods” (Poetry from Treatises on Poetics)
  3. “the cure of speech” (Poetry from Treatises on Poetics)
  4. “the honey-wave” (Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300)

And—just because the descriptions are appropriate and remind us that ice can be associated with good things as well as ill—Silver:

  1. “of the ringing ice of the hand”
  2. “snow of the purse”
  3. “purse-flour”
  4. “snow of scales”
  5. “arm-ice”
  6. “crucible-snowdrifts”

All from (Poetry from Treatises on Poetics)

All the above courtesy of The Skaldic Project: https://skaldic.abdn.ac.uk/db.php?if=default&table=kenning&val=WINTER

Thank you for going through those poems so I don’t have to!

 

Now get your blood pumping for adventure on this cold day of a cold week! :

“The opposite-rowing giant of the mast strikes hard, a file before the prow, with a chisel of sudden hail out on the smooth road of the young prow bull, and a cold wolf of wood files mercilessly with it about the prow of Gestil’s swan with gusts before the decorated prow board.”

For those of you not used to reading this many kennings at once, the Penguin Classics edition of The Sagas of Icelanders has a, perhaps, more comprehensible translation:

“With its chisel of snow, the headwind, scourge of the mast, mightily hones its file by the prow on the path that my sea-bull treads. In gusts of wind, that chillful destroyer of timber planes down the planks before the head of my sea-king’s swan.”

The Penguin Classics edition also handily breaks down the first translation for us to show how the first and second translations are related:

“the giant [or enemy] of the mast” = the wind
“opposite-rowing” would be rowing in opposition, and the wind rowing in opposition = the headwind
“a chisel of sudden hail” = a storm
“ship’s smooth road” = the sea
“a cold wolf of [or enemy of] wood” = wind, so the wind uses the storm to “file” the prow of the ship
And to clarify, the kennings meaning ship/boat are: “young prow bull,” “Gestil’s swan,” “sea-bull,” and “my sea-king’s swan”

One could also, from what I can tell, translate the wind as “a coldly dressed giant of wood.”

In any case, it is clear that those on the boat are facing a cold, windy, and wet day. So surely they’re more miserable than the rest of us whom are only cold and
wind-buffeted. So no excuses! If they’re still off for adventure, we shall follow suit!

And so on this, the coldest week (hopefully) of the year, I myself have embarked on my first kenning adventure:

“the cold wolf’s fangs struck, freezing all my blood with its ferocity”

“through air the sheer ice-knives slice”

“with puffs of the ice-giant’s bellows”

“under the roof of the turtle-house”

“the fjord’s sword-plain”

Now Presenting:

A warm, indoor adventure-challenge for you to have an excuse to take a moment and sit inside with some hot cocoa (that may or may not be spiked):

1st. Can you guess what my kennings mean?
2nd. Make some of your own kennings, or find some existing
“cold-temperature-themed” kennings I did not include in my post.
3rd. Share in comments!

Women Can Do Everything Men Can Do— but in Heels, and with Heels


For the many women talked down to at Home Depot, Dick’s, etc. let me tell you this story.

Years ago I went to Home Depot with my sister. She was wearing church clothes and high heeled dress boots, and walked through that store like she owned it: quickly, business-like, confident smile, head up, shoulders back. Politely but firmly dismissed an inquiry of if she needed help (“I know exactly where it is, thanks”). She bought this huge sheet of some dry wall stuff . . . I really have no clue what it was. I do know it was almost as long as her Malibu. She carried it by herself, laughing off anyone’s offers of help.

We exited that store with men staring after her in amazed, dawning respect due to how much knowledge she had.

BUT.
The best part:

We get out into the parking lot where my sister partially leans the sheet against her car and tells me “I always wear these boots when getting this because” WHAM—she slams her boot at it and it breaks cleanly apart—“it’s the best way I’ve found to break this board into pieces that will fit into your car without wrecking it.”

My sister majored in Historic Preservation and is currently working in her field. She specializes in metals.