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Sprout — A Set of Poems

Rain/Fire/Life

So tight pressure warm — between — thoughts, did you hear here we are have you seen are you hungry who is this?

Shield pressed up to warmth of sun, cold beneath fluid full of prey, of words of change of haste of remembering — this radiance!

Creep through, taste the soil, searching searching, hairs expanding, everyway I taste I taste it tastes of sweet — decay — released power deep in salty granules, forage forage; here

Here I taste strong

Devour my fill

Slowly.

Delicious.

Furl, breathe the night. Uncurl, the sun, small with sinking heat, expansive in the warming day.

Exhale.

This! Pain, what is taking my leaf? It is my own! Change change change remake myself, remake my taste? The way I smell? The leaf still trembles smaller and smaller, enzymes tasting enemy mouth, scissoring parts of my memory – this was when I first sprouted! That is my second grown leaf!

Ask them to come, say the voices in the hunting grounds, ask the others to come and they will. But how? I cry, and wail when again my leaf, my only leaves!

Help me! Come, here is a feast. These hold onto my limbs to be. Come, eat as much as you want. I will shelter you, I know the burn of these compounds now, I know you to avenge my chlorophyll.

But until you arrive — here, to the murderers of my first growth, take these sugar drops on my skin, how sweet; how sweet I am, what kindness, come and eat, come and eat. How you will startle when the ones who bite you come.

At last, relief.

At night relief.

Come hither, carry my pollen. I will offer choice, but first, your mothers, your mothers. They tire me. I would speak to the day instead.

Imagine a longer shape of cup, a brighter color, a different scent; a new perfume to woo a new counterpart. They fly as you might, but daylit, hum as you might but the breeze from their wings does not soothe dusty, their narrow caress limber and fleeting. A fond memory and gone.

 

Notes:

  1. Plant roots demonstrate hunting behavior, albeit on a much slower scale. They dig through the soil until they find where nutrients or minerals are more plentiful, then slow their growth until they’re done absorbing. The leaves also track the sun so as to better use sunlight for photosynthesis and will jostle one another for better positioning during the day and as they grow.
  2. Tomato Hornworm Moths will seek out Wild Tobacco plants to lay their eggs on; while the moths do help the plants pollinate, the caterpillars eat the leaves and can cause the plant to have to kick into defense mode before it gets eaten to death. When the caterpillars bite into the leaves or stems, the enzymes in their saliva interact with the chemicals in the plant. These plants have the ability to use their fragrance to encourage other predators to come in hopes they will eat the caterpillars, and also are able to emit sugary beads on their skin which (when) the caterpillars eat them make the caterpillars smell strongly to their predators. However, when these defenses don’t do the trick, the Wild Tobacco plant is capable of changing the structure, fragrance composition, and timing of its flowers. Over a period of eight days, the plant is able to change from a night blooming, moth attracting, shorter cup-shaped blossom to a day blooming, hummingbird attracting, longer cup-shaped blossom. Scientists are not entirely sure why the plants don’t just make the change permanent, but some theorize that hummingbirds are not consistent enough pollinators to serve the plants needs; the Wild Tobacco can change the flowers back when they choose to, also over an eight day period of time. Scientists are also not entirely sure how the plants are causing this change.

Daughter Vines

Radius

        Diameter

                 Choice

                      Complexity of breath

                                     Sweet, tangy, sour, bitter.

                                                                          Tomato.

                                                                      Yes.

Reach, forage, stretch —

                                      There —

                                                   There.

                                                            Need. Feed. Attack.

                                                                         Bite deep. Screams aerosolize.

                                          They taste fresh, taste full, taste strong.

                          Help me? Help me? No.

             I am here. I am

Hungry.

             Feed me.

Scream for help — when they come, if they come

                                                           It is already too late

                                                                      I drink your sap, make it mine

                                                        I drink your life, make it mine

                                               I grow full, complete

                                 My skin bloats purple

I reach the sun and rest. You will feed me.

                                 Comfortable. Sustain my needs

                                                        That I may have daughters of my own.

 

Notes:

  1. Dodder Vines are a part of a genus which consists of somewhere between 100-170 species. They are now known to be part of the morning glory family. They like to grow in warmer climates, and only four species are native to the northern parts of Europe. Dodder vines are able to hunt other plants by searching for the odor given off by their future host.
  2. There are many folk names for dodder vines; strangle tare, lady’s laces, fireweed, wizard’s net, devil’s guts or hair or ringlets, goldthread, hail or hair or scald or strangle or beggarweed, helbine, love vine, pull-down, angel or witch’s hair or witches shoe laces.
  3. The leaves on dodder are so small and scale like that it seems like there aren’t any at all. They can make small fruits and flowers, and their seeds can survive typically 5-10 years in the soil. This is important because while they can sprout on their own, they do need to find a host plant quickly (5-10 days) after or they will die. When they find a host, they make what are called haustoria which insert and integrate into the vascular system of the host. Each plant can attach to multiple hosts. When the haustoria embed in the host, the spray of plant sap and odor released is equivalent to a human scream; this scent-scream is also best know to us as the smell of freshly cut grass.
  4. While dodder vines are parasitic, they do also transfer genetic information and chemical reactions which can help multiple hosts respond to herbivorous or disease based attacks by warning those not immediately impacted to being ramping up their defenses.

 

 

 

Fields Forever: Strawberry Song

We live to jump! firmly

push off roots one long step

stem arching like the sky

above until – tap – earth

And so! become again

sister to my sister

daughter after daughter

land and moving again.

Earth grows cold; we share space

in this small world poke leaves

and fruits out to see sun

but no! All’s cold and wet

huddling roots close for warmth

the solid world shell breaks

but not us! Look, we’re still here

in spring. Jumping, skipping

ground to shell, shell to ground

racing along, let’s see

who can reach the farthest

newest dirt and beyond!

Crown over earth, morning

pink blooms blush to berry.

Summer’s sensation’s here

and we all live to jump!

Notes:

  1. Strawberries create daughter versions of themselves at the end of long stalks, called runners; these stretch further out from the mother plant and, when they are long enough to bend back down to the earth from the weight of the stems, grow roots and leaves at the new contact point. They can do this many times during the growing season, which is partially why they grow in patches and also can cover ground so quickly.
  2. The ones which grow in our backyard live in two red ceramic strawberry pots which my mother has brought with us as we moved house to house for many years, and now live with me. We planted strawberries in them two summers ago, let them grow and left them be for the winter. Without any care or support from us, they not only survived through the winter but thrived. The pots actually broke apart a bit; they lost the little support cups that we originally planted the strawberries in, but the strawberries don’t seem to have cared because they fruited several times this year. They have come back through their second winter so far and have even been hardy enough to handle the temperature fluctuations like pros. They are very resilient berries.
  3. Strawberries can be one of three genders; male, female, or hermaphroditic. Male plants produce only pollen, and females can produce fruit from their pollinated flowers, but for either of these genders to reproduce you need to have the other. The hermaphroditic plants are able to self-pollinate to bear fruit. Apparently, there are two different genes which combine to determine the gender of a given plant.
  4. Strawberry plants tend to grow their leaves in clusters of three to a stem; they do have many stems to one plant, which creates the fullness above ground.

Opining for Conifers

 

I

survive

everything

I

require fire

to open seed cones

feed small pines with ash

clear complications

old branches, useless limbs, flame

exfoliates          I am relieved

carrying needles I spend three years

long, patient growth    I    build armored bark

around water flowing   I  drink seasonally when

      sun shining warms me       I      hold carbon and will keep

your energy even          I     revive and remake

lean and living sapwood             I cling to dead heartwood

giving strength     I will remember

 I

when   I grow

older     diffuse

store   energy sugars

travelling         everywhere distant

cousin      carbon   dated eldest

sustaining acclimating water     moving    

lipids       forming         sugars  dissolving and still

steady flexible adaptable    alive   despite

destruction alive and            here stand

  I

 

 

Notes:

  1. To opine is to explain one’s position or to make an argument but the etymology traces back to the Latin, opinari, to “have an opinion, be of opinion, suppose, conjecture, think, judge” (emphasis added).
  2. Conifer; earliest known usage from the Latin, meaning “cone-bearing, bearing conical fruit (conus – cone, added to ferre– to bear, carry, as in the root which means ‘to carry’ or ‘bear children’)
  3. Conifer trees are incredibly resilient, and can be found in some of the most difficult terrains to survive in. Instead of losing leaves every year, like deciduous trees, confers retain their needles for up to three years, which saves the tree energy wasted making and releasing new leaves. This style of growth does require more water and can create more water loss from the leaves respiring; however, the needles are also coated with cutin, which is waxy and helps prevent water from freezing and killing needles. The cutin also keeps snow from accumulating on the branches. Another way to year-round protect their needles and the small and constant photosynthesis they work through, conifers have needle structures that are very close together in order to reduce evaporation. The leaves only hold a small amount of water in them during the winter.
  4. The movement of water in the trees is also adapted carefully to give conifers an edge in snowy or cold terrain. Conifers have evolved a system where their cell walls are stronger than other trees cells, which helps them to withstand greater pressures of freezing and thawing expansion and compression during winter than other trees. One source records the conifer cell ability to resist pressures up to 900 psi! [Michigan State] They are also able to control the flow of water through their trunk and other places in winter so that instead of hibernating, on warmer days they can restart the system, and on colder ones they can prevent themselves from cells bursting.
  5. Conifers are also adapted for fire. The cutin is actually flammable, but this is good; as the tree grows older, the lower limbs age, fall into shadow, and become more of an energy drain than a benefit. With wildfires, the lower dead wood is removed and transformed into ash, and other growing things are also cleared out from where the tree is hunting for resources. Some of the conifers specifically design their cones to only open when exposed to intense temperatures, so the seeds will have a better chance of finding soil full of nutrients and room to expand.
  6. Carbon (and other nutrients) are drawn up through the trunk, and the conifers can produce sugars and lipids from these, but they also stock carbon; when they grow older they have these savings and don’t rely on photosynthesis as much as younger trees do. Trees also absorb radiation; the best known and studied example of this is the Red Forest, where the trees have died from the radiation but remain standing; there are signs of regrowth and the wildlife treating the area as something like a preserve as it is inhabitable, and very slowly the ecosystem is reviving itself. However, there is concern because these trees are steeped and holding all of this radioactivity; when there next comes a fire which burns the red forest, the smoke will kick up all of the absorbed radioactivity. On a smaller and less frightening scale, Suzanne Simard, a professor at the University of British Columbia, has used small amounts of radioactive material to trace how trees share nutrients and ‘talk’ to one another with great success.
  7. Carbon dating has shown that conifers can be the longest living and oldest trees in the world currently. There is a bristlecone pine in California named Methuselah, who is confirmed to be almost 5,000 years old. The location of Methuselah is actually kept secret for its protection.
  8. Sapwood is the living wood inside the bark and outer layers of the tree. Heartwood is actually dead wood at the center of the tree which the sapwood encircles. Heartwood is used to support the structure and weight of the tree as it grows, and is therefore essential.

 

Save

                   Plum shadows —

                   Earthshine,

                   moon faced —

                   apple peels curl —

rain drips, slow drops

                                   falling silent — soil soaked

persists nevertheless —

                                        seeks alluvial plains,

                               release

 

Channels grooved deep,

                                        limnology suggests contained

flow — familiar, fierce,

                                       enduring reptilian confidence

whispering meaningless rainfall,

                                                   soothing rivers, banked catfish,

wallowing within waterfalls

                                           false promises: hushed creekwater,

 

Blossoms open, softly

dreaming honeyed nectar

                  Suitors floating, humming —

                   Listen — Invisible signs

                   beckon discerning eyes, soulful/

            alive — pollen written love letters

hovering winds whirl heavenward

 

Maternal molds — meadows meeting

                                saplings, springing — strands stand

             welcoming cultivation — extension — exploration —

speech sampled — mother tongue —

                           woven, composing compost

                                                           abstractions — growth —

                    musings —  murmurs — daydreams —

                                                              limbs stretching sunward

 

freely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bibliography/ Further things to read!

Cook, Bill. “How Do Trees Survive in the Winter?” Native Plants and Ecosystem Services, Michigan State University | College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, 4 Oct. 2018, http://www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_do_trees_survive_in_the_winter.

Michigan State has done fascinating research on conifers, including this straightforward article, which includes an explanation on how conifers in particular are able to survive very challenging environments.

De Moraes, Consuelo M., and Mark Mescher. “What Plants Talk About.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 6 Oct. 2014, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/what-plants-talk-about-video-dodder-vine-sniffs-out-its-prey/8234/.

This is a part of a longer piece; this particular section focuses on Dodder Vines and their ability to hunt for tomato plants based on the smell tomatoes give off. I found this very helpful in understanding and engaging with the movements of an active organism as opposed to simply seeing a plant hunt for nutrients with their roots.

“Douglas Fir.” The National Wildlife Federation, http://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Plants-and-Fungi/Douglas-Fir.

Based off the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service, includes very short, detailed paragraphs of information on Douglas Fir trees.

Eckenwalder, James Emory. “Conifer.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 4 May 2018, http://www.britannica.com/plant/conifer.

Encyclopedia Brittanica has a very up to date, approachable article about Conifers in general and the different types in specific; I found the scale charts so helpful I expanded on theirs to share the one included above. However, if you cannot afford to pay for the article, it will only show part of the entire entry.

Franzen, Harald. “Plants Attract Enemy’s Enemies To Survive.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 16 Mar. 2001, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/plants-attract-enemys-ene/.

Scientific American presents a straightforward and easy to approach article on how tobacco plants react and defend themselves against caterpillar attacks. Brief, and useful.

Hill, J. C. “What Plants Talk About (Full Documentary).” YouTube, DocumFeed / YouTube, 28 Feb. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrrSAc-vjG4&index=2&list=PLhk1Y01WpCBR8Kf_9OzmAK2nMo9yklr74&t=2183s.

This is the documentary that helped to inspire this entire series of plant poems. I found it engaging, detailed, funny at times, and overall fascinating. I definitely recommend this to anyone interested in learning a basic level of information on how plants communicate without humans even noticing (most of the time!).

Howell, Catherine Herbert. Pocket Guide to the Wildflowers of North America. National Geographic, 2014.

Less useful in writing this particular paper, but very helpful in beginning to identify the plants in the backyard that I wanted to narrow in on.

Kaiser, Bettina, et al. “Parasitic Plants of the Genus Cuscuta and Their Interaction with Susceptible and Resistant Host Plants.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 16 Jan. 2015, http://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2015.00045/full.

A very dry and scientific article, nonetheless very detailed and useful look at the interaction between Tomato Plant defensive response systems in reaction to Dodder Vines (of the genus Cuscuta) written by members of the Institute of Plant Biochemistry, (Centre for Plant Molecular Biology, University of Tübingen) and the Department of Botany (Ecophysiology and Vegetation Ecology, Julius-von-Sachs-Institut für Biowissenschaften, Botanischer Garten der Universität Würzburg, University of Würzburg).

Kershner, Bruce. Field Guide to Trees of North America. Sterling Publ. Co., 2008.

Very useful book in identifying trees, but also particularly helpful to my research on conifers and their variations

Malakoff, David. “Devious Dodder Vine Sniffs Out Its Victims.” NPR, Science / NPR, 28 Sept. 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6160709.

Another reference from a radio station article, this also links the reader the journal “Science” which featured this article, as well as including audio. I was more familiar with this article when I started.

Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology. “Tobacco plant thwarts caterpillar onslaught by opening flowers in the morning.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100121135659.htm>.

I found this site useful for the  scientific facts and explanations of how these plants were able to change from one form to another in order to attract different types of pollinators.

McLendon, Russell. “This Parasitic Vine Helps Plants Communicate.” MNN – Mother Nature Network, Mother Nature Network, 13 Sept. 2017, http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/blogs/dodder-vine-plant-communication.

An approachable, easy to read article about research on dodder vines and their ability to transfer warnings of infestations from one plant to another.

MidiSprout. “Plants FM.” Plants FM, MidiSprout / Plants FM, http://www.plants.fm/.

This site offers the best selections of sound, produced as the nodes on a plant read the electrical currents the plants emit and turns that current into a tonal frequency; the sound is quite beautiful, and reminiscent of my imagined Farandolae from Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time Series. The exhibit of the MidiSprout device, which is what is transferring plant response to audible music, that is currently at the Denver Botanical Gardens in the Orchid Room is what began this entire endeavor, as I was startled into thinking about how plants react to the world around themselves, to each other, and also to us. Youtube has a great variety of plant recordings, including one where a man played music to his plant for 6 hours with the midi sprout transmitting, and over time the plant’s rhythms and patterns changed to interact with the sounds the man was playing. I would strongly recommend starting at Plant FM and then looking up the Midi Sprout on Youtube for more adventures in plant song.

Nuwer, Rachel. “Forests Around Chernobyl Aren’t Decaying Properly.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 14 Mar. 2014, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/forests-around-chernobyl-arent-decaying-properly-180950075/.

Really useful introduction to the environmental effect of the Chernobyl radiation disaster, and how it is impacting the plant life around the area.

“Online Etymology Dictionary.” Edited by Anonymous, Index, www.etymonline.com/.

The OED has been an accurate source of information for a large lexicon and the roots, or lineages, that led to modern or archaic word meanings. It is a very useful and reliable resource for definitions and linguistic backgrounds, and is also fun to see what words mean or where they started.

Peterson, Lee Allen, and Roger Tory Peterson. A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.

Very dry and somewhat difficult to navigate, but did have some useful information on evergreens and conifers that helped me narrow down what information I was actually missing.

PBS, Nature on. “Wild Tobacco Plant Tricks Caterpillars for Self-Defense | Nature on PBS.” YouTube, YouTube, 23 Mar. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wunMErJJl00.

This source is a nice little documentary style explanation of one of the tactics the wild tobacco plant uses to prevent caterpillars (and presumably other herbivorous predators) from devouring its leaves or other necessary parts.

Wernick, Adam, and Alexa Lim. “The ‘Vampire Plant’ Is Even More Nefarious than Scientists Thought.” Public Radio International, PRI, 22 Aug. 2014, 4:00 pm, http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-08-22/vampire-plant-even-more-nefarious-scientists-thought.

Interview with James Westwood, both audio and written form, about dodder vines and their tactics and tendencies. I found it useful to listen to the article to confirm facts in conjunction with my other sources.

Yao, Stephanie. “Strawberry Gender Decided by Two Genes, Not One.” Dark Green Leafy Vegetables : USDA ARS, United States Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service , 6 Aug. 2009, www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2009/strawberry-gender-decided-by-two-genes-not-one/.

 

A preview of future poetic entries to come:

Garden Medley


Snow caught

Snow drop

 

Daffodils

present March

glow

 

Rose:

thorn throats

thrones throve

Opium orange

Ghost tears

Witch socks

Disturbed growth

Summer poppies

 

Godlike

viewing green

foliage/pests

herbivorous insects

“Release

the Ladybugs”

 

Chemical Warfare

Spotted Knapweed vs. Wild Lupine

Royal purples – Wars of Roses

historically tame: these intruders

murdered innocent bystanders (grasses)

Spotted Highwaymen vs. Wild Shield Walls

(winner?) only worms


Note on Rose:

  1. There are two types of embryonic leaves that form the two major categories of flowering plants; monocotyledons (single embryonic leaves) and dicotyledons (which have two embryonic leaves). Roses are dicots in terms of their embryonic leaves.

Notes on Chemical Warfare:

  1. The Spotted Knapweed is a destructive invasive species, brought to North America from Europe. Here, the climate and insects haven’t deterred growth and they have spread widely because of the lack of any natural enemies; they are also very sturdy, as even insects burrowing into the taproots don’t slow them down. These plants grow best in places of turbulent soils, and the monocultures (especially around human roads and houses) cause huge drops in biodiversity
  2. Spotted Knapweed deploys chemicals through its roots into the soil in order to break down the nutrients; however these chemicals are also fatal to the native grasses and the death of the natives allows the Knapweed to take over vast swathes of land. This type of area denial is rare in plants. The problem with Knapweed is that it releases (-)-catechin where most plants are working in the (+) spectrum.
  3. Wild Lupines, however, release oxalic acid to take apart the nutrients; oxalic acid acts as a shield barrier, preventing further spread of the (-)-catechin and providing protection to other plants nearby (for example, to the grasses!) This balance and positive feedback of plants is much more typical, demonstrating how different attributes of various flora can work together to more effectively form a healthy community/ecosystem.

Shadow Dancers: Fuchsia

I am sunsets sepals and petals

curled tongues, outstretched carapaces

autumnal hummingbird alizarin crimson

whispered fuchsia poison dart frog violet

wispy daybreak clouds pale eggshell indigo

nightmare mauve sliced yam peelings

Shadow / Light

branches as canopy synthesize sun

hammocks between limbs create sanctuary

rocks as bulwark constricting membranous scales

laddered bark supports escaping floods

 companionship as community

epiphytic

Notes:

  1. Diagram of the parts of a fuchsia flower (from the Solent Fuchsia Club). The sepals are the outermost petals that close around the flower before it actually blooms; they’re a bit thicker and act as armor for the petals until they’re ready to emerge. There are typically four petals which curl around each other like a group hug with the stamens and pistils in the center.
  2. Fuchsia flowers have grown wild and still grow in the oak forests of South America, among other places. Cuttings and seeds from these have been taken for the more ‘domestic’ variations we grow in gardens. They are most often found either wrapping their roots around rocks between ferns, mosses, and other ground covers, or up about 3 – 6 feet off the ground. They don’t like to live in flooded soil, but they also dislike being too dry, so they tend to bloom and do best in the seasons of the year with more precipitation.
  3. Epiphytic plants are those which grow on and around other plants but don’t predate on them; instead, they photosynthesize and gather water and other nutrients on their own. In the case of fuchsia plants, which like to live in oak trees, they don’t even compete for pollinator attentions, as oak trees are wind pollinated and fuchsia plants draw hummingbirds and others to pollinate and help their seeds to travel.
  4. Fuchsia roots wrap around the bark of the host, or the rock, and create a sort of ‘scaly’ like dry skin, papery membrane around themselves to anchor on.
  5. We have a variant of fuchsia in our backyard called ‘shadow dancers’; they need to keep cool and grow best in partial shade. They are very sturdy little flowers but look incredibly delicate; the colors are very vibrant, and they bloom often during late summer to early fall, when watered carefully.

 

      (Image also from the Solent Fuchsia Club site)

Copyright © 2019 Anastasia Barnett

Happy New Year!

Hello, O Reader!

I made it through my first semester of grad school with flying colors. And also moved, and got all myself together. It’s exciting!

Our kitty is adjusting to the new house, but he’s happily hiding inside the box springs of various furniture and popping his head out every once in a while to play. I have also discovered that instead of the nice scratching post he has, he really likes to sharpen his claws on a couple of branches I have under the bed, so we might just give him a log.

Lo, the kitty prepares for…. more hiding in various places, probably.

But most important, the wedding dress got finished on time! It was an amazing day (6 months ago @_@) and we’re both still really really happy, although neither of us is quite sure what to do with the dress yet. Most current thought is seeing if the DMoMA might be interested. Apparently they might like things like this? Who knows. Anyway, PICTURES!

My husband and I! Thank you to the anonymous stranger who took this photo, I still don’t know how she did this with her phone and without getting any other visitors in the shot!

My page and I – she is showing off the back of my dress! I have little paper roses in my hair as well.

Me sitting in the dress – it was surprisingly a lot easier than anticipated. My brother is coming to join me here – kudos to my awesome bridesmaid for getting this shot!!

One of my bridesmaids is taking this picture – my bridesmaid on the right took the picture of me sitting with my brother. This is probably one of the funnier ones for me; the two of them are *acting natural*, but meanwhile my page and I are having a legit sweet moment in back. Hilarity! 😀

My flower girl and I! also the front of my dress. We had the sweetest girls walking with us 😀

It was a beautiful day, and every time I think of it I still get giddy. So much love!

I have also started to get back to my writing now that I’m not working through the pages and pages of essays and moving and wedding brain. Things kind of weirdly piled up there, in the last 6 months of 2018 which I really wasn’t prepared for, I guess. I recently submitted a piece to a publishing company whose work I love, so I am crossing my fingers that I’ll hear from them, but if I don’t I’m going to try again and again until they get sick of it! Picking some more places to start working towards publishing.

I also am going to probably update the blog with the poem I’m working on from my Eco-poetics class which will likely at least be touched on in my Long Poem class, because it’s really cool! I started writing about plants, and the cool aspects about them, from the perspective of the plants! The poem is shaping up a bit like an illustrated and poetic field guide, which I wasn’t expecting? I don’t usually think of myself as a poet, but apparently I can do at least a little of the wordshaping! 😀

Stay tuned for more writing, O Reader!

 

Hello, O Reader. No doubt you have given up hope of my posting some time ago. The Wedding and finishing of my dress went well (Pictures at some point I promise) but immediately after I started work and grad school and have very little brain space left over. Working on it tho! My goal is to try to start posting on a regular if infrequent basis. Hopefully, once a month will be doable I might also start posting some of my writings for class, since the MFA is Creative Writing after all.

Hoping things are well; this autumn I feel like we’ve gone straight to winter, and leaves aren’t the only things falling.

Because this is becoming a more and more frequent thing in my life, please please please. Please if you’re depressed, if you’re angry or scared or tired or just need help, please ask someone. There are hotlines. You can ask anyone you trust. Please hold on. Saying it will get better feels really trite, but remember that you are one part of a network; the l oss of another life affects us all. Your pain may or may not end, but ours won’t. Please stay alive. Please keep trying even if you haven’t got anything left to give. This world and this life aren’t perfect and they never will be.

Nonetheless, you have value.

As a wise friend reminded me:

You are loved.

You are loveable.

You are worthy of love.

And maybe I don’t know Your real name or who you are or what you’re going through ( I can’t imagine how you feel in your situation) but I remember feeling tired and done and wanting itto end. I’m feeling some of that right now.

A very clever phrase I found online (sorry to the author I am on lunch and don’t remember your name but will try to later) said that depression and other mental illnesses are like fighting a ongoing and constant war that you can’t even acknowledge it exists or is happening.

So I send my care package of love. Winter is coming. Darkness across the land and in the mind.

But remember spring. Remember summer. Remember there once was happiness and lightness, and I’ll try to do that also. I look forward to seeing you on the other side.

Now, lunch is over and I’m back to my hiatus.

More to come: at least by December!

This has been a long time coming.

I think I’ve been working on this for a month and a half or so. 

Okay, before I go any further: Bear with me. Let’s take a deep breath. I don’t want to have an argument, I want to start a discussion, or even and more importantly add my thoughts on the subject as a means of trying to find some logic in the rhetoric around me.

Breathe in with me, (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

Hold it. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Breathe out with me. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

I don’t want to fight. I want to understand. Shall we take another breath? Let’s meet on the same level page. Let’s think about this, not jump into the roles predetermined for this topic. We are more than just single thoughts. We are more than either or. We are complex, and have different and difficult beliefs, and even when we want the same outcomes.

I want to start with the trope of the “good guy with a gun”, and how I see it developed in the culture around me. I then want to touch on, only touch on! some statistics and perspectives, from both the NRA and sources like the CDC and some research organizations, as well as the BBC. Finally, I just want to work on a simple thesis, which I will state now.

I want the U.S. to direct and fund the CDC in researching gun violence.

I don’t want to either take guns from people or make it easier to obtain them. I just want some research on the topic.

Again, O Reader, bear with me. Here we go. This is a long one.

1) The Trope and Some Context

The above clip is from the video game Overwatch. I’ve played this game, and while it isn’t my favorite, it’s a fun first person shooter style game.

The character speaking is McCree, a Western Cowboy styled hero, and if you look him up on gamepedia, his motto below his picture (smoking gun and cigar and all) is “Justice ain’t gonna dispense itself.” He is written as if he is from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and his voice actor, Matthew Mercer, has a nice western accent that feels familar and comfortable. You know who this man is, he’s the good guy bounty hunter, or the white hat sheriff. He’s the guy who rides off into the sunset, but also the one who does what needs to be done, the one you know will get his hands dirty and then pat the dust off himself with quick, efficient strokes. He is, as he likes to call himself, “Your huckleberry.” He owns his power of the quickdraw.

I remember as a child the games of the westerns that have been common in the states since the heyday of the era of the Wild West. The cowboy is the romantic, “the quintessential American hero“, the worn-down, civilised outsider, who has a flair for the heroic and fits as well into the rugged landscape as any man, the man who speaks to people of all races but is never himself actually subordinate no matter how much society looks down on him, because he’s good with himself and his God, and has the whole open space and his freedom no matter what. A free spirit, but often the law himself as well.

And one of the most iconic scenes, of the hero and villain facing off, is epitomized from the instance of the final showdown, where the white hat (our good guy) and the black hat (our bad guy) both stand in opposition, fingers twitching above there guns, eyes squinted despite their hat brims in the sunshine, the wind blowing in the background, both still as stone until – bang! bang! someone goes for their gun and gets the shot off a little faster, and the other man falls to the ground.

They aren’t always on the right side of the law, either. Some of the famous Outlaws draw power from their celebrity, the ability to excite the imagination in the same way Robin Hood does. Escaping the law to where the law can’t reach, taunting the people who try to create the civilized and make it exciting again. When kids play Cowboys and Indians, it’s a question of the Wild Other and the Othered Wild. It’s how we present the rough edges of civilization mashing up against the wilderness that is untamed and fights back.

Image result for Gunslinger

And the gender isn’t always male, although it mostly presents that way (for example, the Lone Ranger, Buffalo Bill Cody, Eddie Dean, the iconic John Wayne; Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, Jesse James). Annie Oakley, Kitty Canutt, Pearl Hart, Belle Starr, and Calamity Jane all took part the great unknown, the Manifest Destiny of taming and turning wildness into some form of sense. Bonnie and Clyde, among others, even took on the West in couples, rather than on their own.

Some of them found a fine line between their feminity and the projection of their empowerment into a place where, typically, no sane woman would tread alone. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of her travels, but her womanhood isn’t questioned, as she helps farm with her family, marries, raises a family, does all the right, womanly things. Annie Oakley, and her competitor Lillian Smith, were promoted as “lady” sharpshooters, and dressed in hat, gloves, corsets and skirts. Others made their way in pants, or disguised as men, and simply got things done that they wanted done. Laura Bullion, for example, took this option as well as wearing the more conventional attire as it suited her.

I think Yosemite Sam is yet another version of our good guy with a gun, though he treads a little closer to the line. His attire and attitude present him as a foil to Bugs Bunny, but with all of his bluster and wild behavior, cleverness and yet failure to outwit his creature nemesis, he seems to embody an inversion. Instead of taming the wilderness, the wild creature is able to defeat him in his schemes, and he has to try again and again. The Cowboy, traditionally wins out. Nonetheless, despite Sam’s character flaws, he does keep trying, improving his approach, working towards his goals. He’ll pull himself up by his own bootstraps (another common trope in the U.S.) or die trying. Or at the very least, end up flattened or exploded or whatever the episodes require of him.

But overall, the image we have is the sun-tanned man with skin like leather, a ten-gallon hat, with a Remington or a Colt, cowboy boots with spurs, maybe a poncho, smoking or chewing tobacco, with a horse of his own and the ability to find perfect sunsets to vanish into at the end of the day. Weatherbeaten and seductive. What’s not to like?

And even the ladies have their place. Either shocking in buckskins, or in elegant and fashionable dresses, with rifles and/or a careless air, a drive to succeed and the ability to follow through.

There are no weak people in the west; they wouldn’t survive. The delicate must survive back east, and the strong and just will prevail in the west, paving the way so those delicate souls can follow them out safely, to conquer this new world.

What’s not to like?

And we still believe this today. We have heroes in Stephen King’s Gunslinger Tower series (which hits the nail rather on the head, I think), Cowboy Bebop, Firefly, Fullmetal Alchemist, Marvel’s Deadpool, DC Comic’s Vigilante (again, hammer meet nail), Kingsmen, the Dresden Files, some of the CSI characters, Criminal Minds, many tabletop role-playing games allow characters to embody this archetype, Devil May Cry, Call of Duty, Destiny, Mass Effect, Disgaea, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Overwatch (as mentioned above), Leverage, and the list goes on and on. We see folk heroes, played by people like Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford, John Wayne, Keanu Reeves, Angie Harmon, Renee Zellweger, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Again, they’re sexy, we trust them to protect us despite the odds, and they aren’t afraid to kill when danger presses. Usually, these days, it presses with guns and greater and greater martial threat.

They’re our heroes.

2) Arguments and Numbers

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/gun-control-debate

I’m going to try to be as unbiased as I can be in this section; I’m pulling from the places I trust, and also the big ones from the opposition to my usual view. I want to be as fair as I can. If you read this, O Reader, and think I’ve missed information or need to add more, please please let me know. I do not think we have enough information to successfully deal with all of the pieces of this issue, and I crave more, more and more that is valid and provable, and reasonable, and logical. Something that I can trust, and verify.

If I don’t manage to be unbiased, I am very sorry.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/0WsGTEN1njw/maxresdefault.jpg

 

Giffords Law Center states that, in regards to gun laws,

Many types of gun laws are effective at reducing gun deaths and injuries, keeping guns away from criminals and other prohibited people, and fighting illegal gun trafficking. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence tracks important studies proving that smart laws can and do work to prevent gun violence. Our publications offer in-depth analysis of significant trends in firearms laws and policies nationwide.

According to their research, citing the New England Journal Medicine, living in a home with guns

“increased an individual’s risk of death by homicide by between 40 and 170%”

-[Garen J. Wintemute, Guns, Fear, the Constitution, and the Public’s Health, 358 New England J. Med. 1421-1424 (Apr. 2008).]

And from the American Journal of Public Health,

“…even after adjusting for confounding factors,  individuals who were in possession of a gun were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession” 

-[Charles C. Branas, et alInvestigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault, 99 Am. J. Pub. Health 2034 (Nov. 2009)]

They state that the gun lobby has claimed a higher rate of defensive gun use than the Violence Policy Center with Bureau of Justice compiled statistics has found, that gun violence costs “at least $229 billion every year”, including emergency and medical services. They claim that it costs more than $700 per American yearly and that “smart gun laws” prevent loss of life or capital. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they say, over 30,000 lives are lost annually, and more are wounded. They have pages of statistics and numbers, and it’s worth looking through them to see what they have found, and to check their sources. But –

These sources are largely from 2010 and before.

So, moving later and later.

FactCheck.Org discusses “Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts”. They note these issues:

  • Laws allowing concealed carry do not necessarily lower the crime rate
  • Guns in school do not necessarily provide the option of preventing school shootings
  • More guns do not necessarily mean more violence, but there is no proof of a causal relationship as yet. There are other factors that lead to crime.
  • According to a study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, seven of the ten states who had the strongest gun laws also had the lowest gun rates
  • The number of daily gun murders is not the same as the overall rate of murder, and as of 2010, the rate of murder was the lowest it has been since at least 1981. BUT- non-fatal gun injuries increased last year and is the highest since 2008
  • Federal data shows violent crimes committed by guns have declined for 3 straight years; additionally, of the 130 school shootings included since Columbine are about a quarter fewer than claimed
  • The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, the highest rate of homicides among advanced countries, but gun crime has been declining. 
  • President Obama suggested that gun violence is an epidemic, but that factors like access to mental health care, and cultural glorification of guns and violence are factors; additionally, he said that polls show support of banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, as well as increased background checks
  • The CDC has been careful around gun issues, since the 1990s because NRA lobbyists worked through Congress to cut funding.

A Campus Safety Magazine explains the CDC in 2016 found that almost 90% of public school have a written plan for a response, and 70% of those schools drill students. And a 2015 report they reference found by a 2004 Secret Service Report suggested that “the likelihood a student will be killed at school [is] less than one in a million”. They count also that the statistics suggest that of 123 school shootings,

  • 93.5% of shooters were male
  • 5 used 2 firearms each
  • 26.8% of shooters committed suicide
  • 69.1% of shooters perpetrated a homicide
  • 15.6% of the homicides include multiple fatalities

Tracked through 2015:

  • 84 incidents of total shootings occurred at k-12 schools (53% of the total)
  • 76 incidents took place at college or university.
  • More than half of these shooters intentionally injured or killed at least one other person with a gun.
  • 12 shootings were unintentional.
  • almost 1 in 6 shootings occurred after a confrontation or verbal argument
  • in 33 of the shootings, no one was injured on school grounds

The Secret Service Report then offered:

  • all of the attacks were committed by males
  • 98% took place after an experienced/perceived major loss
  • 78% had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts prior to the attack
  • 71% felt persecuted/ bullied/ threatened/ attacked/ injured prior to the incident
  • 95% attackers were current students
  • 59% occurred during the school day
  • 61% used handguns, 49% used rifles/shotguns
  • 3/4 only used one weapon, even if they carried multiple
  • 81% were carried out individually

“Red Flag Behavior” can include bringing a gun onto campus (which feels obvious), but there are also other factors which can give warning to a student in trouble.

The BBC posted an article in 2016 when President Obama vowed to increase background checks on buyers. Their statistics, in summary:

  • in 2015, there were 372 mass shootings, where mass shootings are defined as a single shooting incident killing or injuring four or more people,  including the assailant.
  • in 2015 there were 64 school shootings, including Sandy Hook and also including occasions where no one was injured  but a gun was fired
  • in 2015, 13,286 people were killed and 26,819 people were injured (excluding suicides) and these figures were expected to rise once the end of the year as counted
  • in 2012 (the most recent comparable year), they say, gun murders per capita in the US were 2.9 per 100,000; in UK, 0.1 per 100,000; 60% of murders in the US, 31% of murders in Canada, 8.2% in Australia, and 10% in the UK were by firearm.
  • the death toll from 1968-2011 exceeds the number of deaths from the War of Independence to Iraq
  • After Sandy Hook, the NRA claimed its membership reached around 5 million
  • On average, between 201 and 2011, according to the US Department of Justice and the Council of Foreign Affairs, 11,385 people died
  • Guns are effective and lethal. When an attacker has a knife instead of a gun, there are fewer fatalities. However, more research is needed before making a conclusion from the variety of statistics
  • There are more guns being owned, but it is unclear if there are more gun owners because they do not have to register to purchase one.
  • The CDC shows falling gun homicide rates, but only includes “injuries inflicted by another person with the intent to injure or kill”, but some accidental shootings are included
  • The number of school shootings is sometimes inflated to prove a political point; this article only could confirm 130 school shootings since Columbine, which is still a lot and really tragic

Aljazeera posted February 15th of this year an article, where they explained that “three of the deadliest mass shootings in US modern history have occurred in the last five months” prior, and then provide a timeline of a 20 year period’s worth of the deadliest shootings in the US.

 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, who states they are a “not for profit corporation formed in 2013 to provide free online public access to accurate information about gun-related violence in the United States”, in 2018 alone, the statistics are thus:

  • Total Incidents: 17,055
  • Deaths: 4,299
  • Injuries: 7,542
  • Children (0-11) Killed or Injured: 179
  • Teens (12-17) Killed or Injured: 753
  • Mass Shootings: 65
  • Officers involved where Officer was shot or killed: 79
  • Officer involved where Subject/Suspect shot or killed: 708
  • Home Invasions: 629
  • Defensive uses: 495
  • Unintentional Shootings: 501
  • Annual Suicides (22,000) are not included on the Daily Summary Ledger

Looking at the NRA website, they formed in 1871 with the primary goal of “promoting and encouraging rifle shooting on a scientific basis”. Since then, they have promoted shooting sports for youth and adult members both, and have been affiliated with programs like the Boy Scouts of America, the American Legion, and many others. They also have provided access to legislative facts and analysis to members, so that they can act politically. Law enforcement training has also been a facet of their interests, in order to provide law enforcement with proper certifications. They also focus on firearms education and are proud that they boast some of the most politically active members who contact their congressmen and vote. They also offer support for members who identify as disabled, and try to provide better access. They are also aware of women who have begun to show their enthusiasm. According to their Gallup poll reference, 23% of women own guns as of 2011, as compared to 13% in 2005; And according to their own statistics as of 2016, there were 5 million members, their annual revenue was $348 million, 100,000 members joined after Sandy Hook, there are an estimated 310 million guns owned by civilians which means 22.4% of adults owned a gun, and 31% of households had a gun on the premises. They were able to spend $3,605,000 lobbying,  and $5,982,316 was given to them.  They also provide these demographics:

  • households owning a firearm: 42%
  • total individuals owning a firearm: 30%
  • total males owning a firearm: 47%
  • total females owning a firearm: 13%
  • total whites owning a firearm: 33%
  • total percentage of non-whites: 18%
  • Total Republicans owning a firearm: 41%
  • Total percentage of Independents owning a fire arm: 27%
  • Total Democrats owning a firearm: 23%
  • Total owners for Protection Against Crime: 67%
  • Total owners for Target Shooting: 66%
  • Total owners for Hunting: 41%

American Gun Facts provides its sources at the bottom of the page:

  • Guns are used over 80x more often to protect a life than to take one
  • 200,000 times a year women use a gun to defend against sexual abuse
  • They provide a comparison of Highest Gun Ownersip Rates compared to the Highest Intentional Homicide rates around the world
  • According to the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, they state there is a negative correlation between gun ownership and violent crime
  • Nations with strict gun control laws have higher murder rates (and after this statistic is a link to take action)
  • They provide the FBI crime statistic that Murders, Rapes, Aggravated Assaults and Robberies decreased, and offer the percentages of how much.
  • They also state that all public mass shootings from 1950 have taken place where citizens are banned from carrying guns
  • This site also claims that between police officers and armed individuals, there are more citizens who own firearms, that they have a lower error rate, can stop shooting rampages more quickly, and kill more criminals per year than the police.

And if you want more sources, I recommend these two sites for a starting point. Personally, I’m more inclined to believe the NRA’s statistics than those from the American Gun Facts site, and more inclined to trust the numbers from FactCheck.org where I can dig through the sources they provide, but the short answer to this entire section is that there are too many sources and places for information to be gathered from and we need a more solid, comprehensive study that actually digs into all of the facets of this tricky issue.

3) My Personal Experience

I love folktales, folklore, cultural heroes. I love hearing about Annie Oakley, and the other heroes of the West who paved the way for settlers and the more gentle and ‘delicate’ city folk to make it out across the rugged mountains into a ‘civilized’ new home. There’s something about riding off into the sunset that appeals and the idea of being that one hero who can outdo the villain for the sake of the town by being just a little bit faster is a story I’ll read or watch over and over again. I’ll admit I like Zorro more than John Wayne, but both have their place.

https://www.sportsmansoutdoorsuperstore.com/category.cfm/sportsman/guns-of-color-rifles-pink

My cousins and my grandparents who ranch and who deal with large animals like bears, elk, and javelinas, have appropriate weapons to keep themselves and their land safe. They keep them carefully and make sure that they know how to use them as tools. They know how to do what they need to do, and they never, ever point them at anything they don’t want dead. Some of them use rifles; one of my cousins has a small rifle that’s Barbie pink. She’s very good. My grandfather took time to teach me how to shoot a .22. I’m not very good. But I have a feel for what a weapon that can kill feels like against my shoulder, in my hands, what it feels like to hit or miss a target. I’m lucky – I’ve never needed to train with one to keep myself safe from wild animals. But I know that if I did need to, I would put hours and hours and hours in making sure I knew how to do it safely and intentionally.

I will say, between a hand gun and a rifle, I like the rifle better. It feels more precise. And I do support appropriate guns for appropriate solutions. If you are a rancher, for example, you need to keep your home safe from things like bears and javelinas and possible your land safe from elk or moose. I don’t really think bleach is going to work in the case of a javelina coming at you. Wild pigs will mess you up. But I don’t think you need a submachine gun to deal with them. Probably. If you do, you have other problems.

I’m also a gamer; I play first person shooters, I play games where you have to kill aliens or spiders or monsters or other players and some of them are more graphic than others (I’m looking at you, Dragon Age. That is a lot of blood.) But they’re fun, and some of the stories that are developed in series are gripping, touch on important issues of gender and decision making, or just question who you can and can’t trust in a world torn apart.

I like to play Destiny, which is a first-person shooter and when given the option in game, I prefer to use my fists (see below video- that’s my jam! Although not me playing. Kudos to Mr. Fruit. Also I suppose language warning?). I’m more accurate with a shoulder check, and it really really surprises people when I charge them. There’s a certain distance that it doesn’t matter because I can get to you. When I have to, playing me against the computer, I prefer hand cannons and rifles.

When I played Call of Duty, I liked a sniper rifle alright, but my favorite weapon was a shield. You can do remarkable damage to another player if you corner them with a shield. You can also draw people out, help the people you’re on the same team with by drawing attention and causing enough of a stir that you can’t be ignored and you can’t be dealt with. There’s a power to it.

http://community.eu.playstation.com/t5/Call-of-Duty/How-To-Not-Suck-With-The-Riot-Shield/m-p/9799918

That one on the left was my jam. Take ALL the attention! And find your corners. If you find a good corner, no one can touch you. It was great.

https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2017/09/captain-america-concept-art-from-the-marvel-studios-opening-logo/

Artwork by Marvel illustrator Ryan Meinerding

Captain America has been one of my favorite heroes since I got into comic book characters and superheroes. His strength of character, compassion, willingness to protect others and stand against what’s wrong, and his understanding of what it takes to overcome a disability and make something better. Fearlessness and compassion. The combination makes him dangerous – and I suspect it’s why he has a shield as a weapon, and not a gun, a hammer, explosions or magic. His job and his identity are wrapped up in his need to defend. That’s important.

http://redemption13.tumblr.com/

Credit to Guyu on Tumblr for this rendition.

I love Dick Grayson, Robin and Nightwing. He’s another one who doesn’t use guns, more inclined to disable than take apart a perpetrator. It’s a hypothetically gentle way to deal with people who break the law, who put other people in danger, who want to hurt and hurt until they get something out of it. He works out how to save the most people possible, and does it while quipping and making sure other people feel safe and okay while he saves them. He’s also fearless and compassionate. He learned from Batman, who I am reevaluating in my list of heroes; I didn’t use to like Batman, but Dick Grayson learned his behavior from one of the best, one of the original heroes with that perfect combination of need to protect and desire not to kill, even when it would be easier.

http://fillthewell.com/here-are-22-of-the-most-beautiful-libraries-in-the-world/

We’re going to pretend the library I work at is this one – The Trinity College Library, in Dublin Ireland. (Perhaps one day I WILL work at this one….. I’d at least like to visit.)

I work in a school library. I’ve been keeping an eye on the gun debate, on the schools that are attacked and the massacres. The stats and the stories and the protesting. I’m so proud of our students who protest. I support them wholeheartedly. They are changing the dynamic and the tone and the way we frame the dialogue around this fraught topic.

I keep an eye on them; make sure they’re safe, make sure that bullying doesn’t happen, make sure that the ones who need help are helped and that they know that they are safe. It’s important that they feel safe when they’re learning. When they’re seeing their friends, when they’re away from their homes and their families, and when they’re in a place that should be safe. A place that values merit and progress and access.

Kids should be safe. It’s my job to make it happen.

I am no man. And that doesn’t matter. I will protect my charges.

My personal thought on arming teachers? Don’t give me a gun. Give me training on using a fire extinguisher, or bleach, or cleaning chemicals, or even my school building itself as a weapon and a defense. I don’t want a gun. Don’t misunderstand please – I will get between my students and a threat, but adding my questionable capability with controlled death in a tense situation has never felt right to me. I can’t help anyone with that. And I think it frightens me more that a student would see me as an easy danger to their life than a person who wants to protect and help them.

We had a lockdown at work on account of someone reporting a gun case entering our school. It terrified students and teachers both, and even though it was resolved safely, and it was a good practice in case of emergencies, it was still an exhausting, frightening, and overwhelming experience. What broke my heart, in particular, was one girl, talking to her friends after the fact, who said, “It’s not that it’s going to happen to us, it’s that it’s going to happen to someone somewhere.”

In the morning, we were informed that we were on lockout and then lockdown. We collected our students, helped them to hide away and shelter in place. We waited together, in the dark; some teachers comforted crying students, so afraid they couldn’t help it. Some teachers prepared for the worst case scenario – one teacher at my school, who was locked into a small gym, nearly hit another teacher with a baseball bat when the door opened because he was ready to go, ready to protect his kids. Some students, when the teacher was not prepared or able to fulfill their duty, mutinied and protected themselves because they’d drilled for this. They knew what needed to happen and they made it happen. I am so very proud of them.

My kids were calm. I offered coffee in the dark, told them it was a precaution and that we would be alright. The cops I spoke to didn’t seem worried. I don’t know what’s happening, but I’m not worried. It’s okay. It’s okay. I’ll let you know when I hear anything else. Some kids were nonetheless more cautious than others; some tucked themselves in between the metal shelves, away from doors and light and as small as they could. Some kids, not worried and with their phones updating them, sat in a dark corner away from the door and drank coffee in silence. I stood there, between them and potential danger, and couldn’t be afraid. I couldn’t. If I had had a gun I would have been more afraid. It would have signaled to them that I was unsure of what was going to happen and actually thought that they were in imminent danger. As it was, I kept my eye on the fire extinguisher and the email feed that told me what status we were in.

What was I ready to do to protect them? Anything. Anything, and above all, I needed to protect them from being afraid. I needed them calm and relaxed in the face of an emergency, because when you’re calm and rational, when you aren’t afraid to the point of crying, you can think and react safely. I needed that.

Just in case.

And we were okay. And I tried to check in with other teachers and kids for the rest of the day, tried to make sure that everyone was doing okay, and when I went home I started feeling the exhaustion and the fears hit. I’ve been going through what I did and didn’t do, over and over again, because my job is to take care of my kids, and what if something I did or didn’t do put them at greater potential risk? What if I could have done better?

What if I did something wrong?

I’m still having those feelings. I’m still unsure of everything, down to the words I put on the page to try to escape the circular, fearful thoughts. I’m unsure of driving. Drivers are frightening me, with how stupid they’re being, with not signaling, with swerving and being aggressive and just generally using a skill level we would be ashamed of our high schoolers using. I’m unsure of how tired I am or might be. I don’t know if I’m hungry or tired or thirsty, or what I want, but I’ve gone through quite a lot of ice cream.

Find the recipe here

I’ve been through a lot of emergencies when I was little. I think I have learned quite a few things about how to manage one, but it’s entirely different when someone else’s kids are with me. If it’s just you, or just you and your family member, or you and a friend. The stakes are different. But with those kids, who I may or may not talk to again this school year, who may or may not need my help as a librarian, all I could hear in the back of my head was quotes from a childhood activity I learned in kindergarten.

Here it is, in all of its glory:

Going on a Bear Hunt: Children’s Song

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! It’s some long, wavy grass!
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go around it,
Got to go through it!
(Make arm motions like you’re going through
long grass and make swishing sounds.) 

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! It’s a mushroom patch.
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go around it,
Got to go through it!
(Pretend to go through the patch
making popping sounds by clasping
fingers together and clapping hands.)

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! It’s a wide river.
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go through it,
Got to swim across it.
(Pretend to swim and
make splashing sounds.)

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! A deep, dark cave.
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go through it,
Got to go in it.
(Pretend you’re in a cave)

Uh, oh! It’s dark in here.
I feel something,
It has lots of hair!
It has sharp teeth!
It’s a bear!

Hurry back through the river,
(Pretend to swim
and make splashing sounds)

Back through the mushroom patch,
(Make popping sounds)
Back through the long grass
(Make motions like you’re
going through grass
and make swishing sounds)

Run in the house and lock the door.
(Make a loud clap sound.)
Phew! That was close!

I’m not scared!

I haven’t thought about that in years and years. It was pretty surreal.

Apparently, repeating “I’m not scared” in the back of your head is a great way to encourage other people to also not be scared.

Or something.

https://nypost.com/2014/09/30/2-grizzly-bears-move-to-the-central-park-zoo/

Grizzly bear Betty playfully waves to on-lookers at the Bronx Zoo in 2005. J. Larsen Maher / Wildlife Conservation Society

4) Let’s Study This

In short, O Reader, since this has gotten quite long enough, I think we don’t have enough knowledge on this subject, and the causes and effects, to make an accurate decision one way or another. This is an incredibly complex issue, and there isn’t a simple answer, or we would have come up with it by now. I want more of us to be able to approach one another with a base knowledge to determine the grounds for the actual conversations, not arguments that we should be having.

I do think that our cultural outlook on the presence of firearms in our lives and who is allowed to have them and who is not is impacting rather dramatically our ability to approach this as scientifically as might be useful, or as compassionately as might be needed. The politicization of the arguments has further caused rifts and painful collisions of beliefs; I truly believe that we all want our families to be safe and happy and healthy, and that we want to live in a world where fear for our lives is not a common thing you drill for and instead we can continue to be a productive and united society.

Whether or not you agree with me, O Reader, I would request that if this sort of topic comes up, you try to take space, calm down, breathe deeply, then open your mind and question where the similarities are. What can we agree on? and how can we all best understand each other’s approach so that we can actually get somewhere with a contentious issue and make the world better?

Please let me know if you disagree in the comments, but I request you be as respectful with me as I will try to be with you. I would like to know what I don’t know that you do, or if you have other ideas or thoughts on how to approach this, I would like to hear it.

What? Why?

Handelingenkamer, Netherlands

Things found in a library:

  • a school of goldfish, scattered across three feet of dark carpet-seas, some of the fish in pieces and particles from some unknown predator
  • sunflower seeds, in fairy-circles; or perhaps a squirrel has exploded? Unclear.
  • a clementine, half peeled, pressed between the covers of two books in the 300s section; shelved, incorrectly, and waiting for someone to see it
  • contraband, rolled up and resting just behind a book on a stand, too lethargic to find a better hiding place as soon as it saw me coming
  • a turkey salad, dissected carefully and intimately, lying in stark relief away from the tin foil it traveled in
  • pistachio shells, one by one like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail; only I can’t see where the path leads
  • a gold necklace, thin and fragile like a fairytale quest item; unclaimed from where it glittered beneath a shelf
  • a moldering apple core, desiccated and rotting; a zombie crawling underneath the heights of the book bastions, friends with the mice
  • gum, crushed into the floor like lovers kissing, impossible to separate but with more of a permanent proof
  • paper shreds, the teeth torn from a notebook page, the homework lost and forgotten, a test graded and discarded in frustration or obliviousness
  • bottles, hopefully washed into eddies of hidden corners behind chairs and beside the rows of bindings, waiting for someone walking along a beach to read their messages
  • keyboard letters, part of some scrabble game that no one entirely knows the rules of
  • chess pieces who have taken their turns far afield in search of Alice or Wonderland or both

The Book Of Secrets Digital Art by Donika Nikova “Silent Night. You only hear the noise of the opening of another sheet of the old book. The night light is sparkling lightly. Every book is a new adventure experienced by your imagination. And she invites you … come … in another world.” – Donika Nikova

A post! A post!

I thought I might do two things at once here; I promised someone I would give them a list of all of my fairy tale/folktale/mythology books and such, and also I think if Sei Shonagon could write up lists of things as her entries in her pillowbook it should count for me to do something similar now. (There’s another post idea for later – early blogging before the internet!)

Image result for lIBRARY

So; I don’t have anything like the complete collection I’d like, and if you have any suggestions to broaden my cultural background would be really nice! O Reader, here we go.

 

Africa

Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum

Ashley Bryan, Ashley Bryan’s African Tales, Uh-huh

Hasan M. El-Shamy, Folktales of Egypt

Dayrell/Lent, Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky

Kioi wa Mbugua, Inkishu: Myths and Legends of the Maasai

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Asia

Coomaraswamy and Sister Nivedita, Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists

Kato, A History of Japanese Literature

Keene, Essays in Idleness

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths and Legends of India

McCullough, The Tale of the Heike

McKinney, The Tale of Saigyo

Mildred Marmur, Japanese Fairy Tales (A Giant Golden Book)

Morris, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Old Tales of Japan ( I think this is compiled by Algernon Bertram Freeman Mitford, Lord Redesdale)

Amina Shah, Folktales of Central Asia

Shirane, Traditional Japanese Literature

Rumiko Takahashi, The Art of InuYasha

(Tuttle) Tales of a Korean Grandmother

Legends of Micronesia

Reader’s Digest, Tales from the Arabian Nights

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Australia

Mudrooroo, Aboriginal Mythology

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Europe

Aesop’s Fables

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King

Anchoritic Spirituality: Ancrene Wisse and Assorted Works

Hans Christen Andersen, Fairy Tales (Three copies)

Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (translated)

Joseph Bedier, The Romance of Tristan and Iseult

Beowulf (I have maybe six different translations, not counting my feeble attempt, which is really nice when I’m trying to get to the meat of some of the more difficult phrases to translate)

Jan Brett, The Hat

Burns, Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien’s Middle Earth

Chretien – Raffel, Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (Five different copies)

Dante, The Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso) (I have a couple of different translations because it’s nice to compare and I don’t speak Italian -yet?- so it’s good to have several eyes on the same words)

Paul Delarue, The Borzoi Book of French Folk Tales

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North

The Finest Legends of the Rhine

Jude Fisher, The Lord of the Rings: Complete Visual Companion

Laszlo Gal, Prince Ivan and the Firebird

Garnett, The Norman Conquest: A Very Short Introduction

Goethe, Translated by Walter Kaufmann, Faust

Goodrich, King Arthur

Rene Guillot, The 397th White Elephant

Edith Hamilton, Mythology

Homer, The Odyssey

Ibsen, Peer Gynt

Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales

Irish Blessings, Toasts, and Traditions (Barnes and Noble edition, apparently)

J.R.R. Tolkien

The Silmarillion

– The Hobbit

– The Fellowship of the Ring

– The Two Towers

– The Return of the King

–  The Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2

–  The Lays of Beleriand

–  The Lost Road and Other Writings

– The Shaping of Middle Earth

– Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Kalevala

Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories

Nora Kramer (Ed.), Princess Tales

Lindow, Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs

Samuel Lover and Thomas Crofton Croker, Ireland

The Mabinogi

George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Magnanini, Fairy-Tale Science

Sir Thomas Mallory (Penguin Ed), The Death of King Arthur

Lucy Maxym,  Russian Lacquer Legends and Fairy Tales

Perry Moore, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

[moore?], The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion

Njal’s Saga

Nyeb, D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths

Alexey Orleansky (Illustrator)/Paul Williams (Translator), Russian Fairy Tales: Palekh Painting

Packer, Tales From Shakespeare

Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, Ed. By Henry Glassie, Irish Folk Tales

Polacco/Philomel, Babushka’s Mother Goose

Purtill, Lord of the Elves and Eldils

P.V.Glob, The Bog People: Iron-Age Man Preserved

T.W. Rolleston, Celtic Myths and Legends

Russian Fairy Tales

The Sagas of Iceland

The Saga of the Volsungs

Shakespeare:

– Othello (Cambridge)

– Romeo and Juliet (Folger)

– The Pelican Shakespeare, The Sonnets

– As You Like it

– King Henry V

– Othello (Signet Classic)

– Macbeth (Signet Classic)

– The Riverside is probably my favorite edition, but I have several different copies

[snorri sturluson] Edda (The Poetic) (I have two copies)

Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda (I also have two copies)

The Song of Roland

Swedish Folktales and Legends

Tan, The Arrival

Chretien De Troyes, Arthurian Romances

Elizabeth Warner, Russian Myths

Carolyn White, A History of Irish Fairies

Wolkstein/McDermott, Oom Razoom

Yershov, The Little Humpbacked Horse

Zvorykin/Onassis, The Firebird

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North America

Baylor/Bahti, When Clay Sings

Tales from the Dena

Pat Carr, Sonahchi

Cohlene, Turquoise Boy

Courlander, The Fourth World of the Hopis

Isak Dinesen, Winter’s Tales

Guiberson/Lloyd, Cactus Hotel

Henderson/Garretson/Weber, Prose and Poetry: The Firelight Book

Lloyd Lewis/McCousland, Poems of the Midwest: Containing Two complete volumes Chicago Poems and Cornhuskers

Max, Spider Spins a Story

McQuarrie/Anderson, The Illustrated Star Wars Universe

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Noble, Ancient Ruins

Rucki, Turkey’s Gift to the People

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South America

Cruz/Zubizarreta/Rohmer/Schecter, The Woman Who Outshone the Sun

Brenda Hughes, Folk Tales from Chile

National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Magic of Remedios Varo

Frances Toor, A Treasury of Mexican Folkways

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General

Tony Allan, The Mythic Bestiary

[Arizona], Hopi Dictionary: Hopiikwa Lavaytutuveni

Brian Andreas, Some Kind of Ride

Ed. By Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables

Nathan Ausubel (ed.), A Treasury of Jewish Folklore

David M. Bader, Haiku U.

Graeme Base/Abrams, Animalia

J.F. Bierlein, Parallel Myths

Harold Bloom, Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages

Brett, Fritz and the Beautiful Horses

Brown, Inside Narnia

Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker

Ed. Caldwell and Kendrick, The Treasury of English Poetry: A collection of poems from the sixth century to the present

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Kate Castle, Ballet

Joanna Cole, Best-Loved Folktales of the World

Coolidge, Greek Myths

Courage Books, Mothers

Tom Cross, The Way of Wizards

Ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest

Ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, The Faery Reel

Adam Jacot de Boinod, The Meaning of Tingo

Dening, The Mythology of Sex

Joosse/Lavallee, Mama, Do You Love Me?

Jules Feiffer, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears

Leslie A. Fiedler, The Stranger in Shakespeare: Studies in the Archetypal Underworld of the Plays

Flowerpot Press, Family Treasury of Classic Tales: Enchanted Lands

Ginsburg/Tafuri, Asleep, Asleep

Gordon and Hollinger, Blood Read

Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire

Gwynn, Literature: A Pocket Anthology: Fourth Edition

James Gurney

– Dinotopia

Dinotopia: First Flight

 

Hammond and Busch, The English Bible: King James Version: The New Testament and the Apocrypha

Jean Houston, A Mythic Life

(call # SC JEN? ) Tales of Fantasy

Leeming, The Oxford Companion to World Mythology

Alison Lester, Imagine

Mathis, Animal House

Mayer/Hague, The Unicorn and the Lake

Mortimer, Catopia: A Cat Compendium

Burleigh Muten and Rebecca Guay, Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic

Numeroff/Bond, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Ion and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales

The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories

Mary Pipher Ph.D., Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Terry Pratchett/Stephen Briggs/Tina Hannan/Paul Kidby, Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook

Diane Purkiss, At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things

Putnam, Mythical Beasts

Howard Pyle, The Wonder Clock

Kathleen Ragan, Outfoxing Fear

Margret and H.A. Rey, The Complete Adventures of Curious George

Marks, The English Bible: King James Version: The Old Testament

Minot, Three Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction and Drama: Sixth Edition

Morris Schreiber, Stories of Gods and Heroes

Norton-,  The Study of American Folklore: Fourth Edition

Scholastic Voyagers of Discovery, Water, the Source of Life

Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Stanley, A Country Tale

Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses

Tartar, The Classic Fairy Tales

Tennessee, Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life

Thurber, The 13 Clocks

Waddell/Firth, Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?

Walsh, Mouse Paint

Ward, Tajar Tales

Warne, The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies

Whitman, Children’s Stories

Louis Untermeyer, Story Poems

Vandevelde, The Rumplestiltskin Problem

Vaz, Mythic Vision: The Making of Eragon

Rose Weitz, Rapunzel’s Daughters

Scott Westerfield, The World of the Golden Compass

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

Harve and Margo Zemach, Awake and Dreaming

Steven J. Zeitlin/Amy J. Kotkin/Holly Cutting Baker, A Celebration of American Family Folklore

Jack Zipes, Don’t Bet on the Prince

Jack Zipes, The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales

Jack Zipes, Spells of Enchantment

Jack Zipes, The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World 2e

 

Kaleidoscopes of Butterflies

And sometimes I don’t post for a month and a half. O Reader, I am sorry.

I am thinking I will write a longer post about my thoughts on mental illness when I have a little more strength to do it with, but right now I wanted to at least write something so that you know that I am still alive and doing things. Even if the things are hard to do.

BUT!

This post is not about that. This post is about my engagement photos at the Butterfly Pavilion and a brief update on our animals at home.

MOSTLY THE BUTTERFLY PAVILION THO!

So, since the wedding is going to be in summer at the Denver Botanic Gardens, we opted to go take pictures in the summery regions known as indoor greenhouses, and to see the butterflies. It was a beautiful morning too, with lots of sunshine.

We went in and took a bunch of pictures sort of here there and everywhere, but I’ll save those for another post. Instead, here is a picture of a butterfly that landed on our photographer’s camera!

Isn’t it pretty?

So we wandered, happy as a cloud, and the butterflies fluttered by. There were some well-wishers as we went, and after the photo shoot, we just enjoyed the space for a while. My fiancé took a picture of our photographer with Rosie the Spider, and I went and looked at the honeybees. I am SEVERELY arachnophobic, but I love bees so it worked out for everyone. It was pretty cold, so the bees were mostly staying home and keeping themselves rested and ready, but they were still active and lovely.

Eight brave bees! Or one brave bee multiple times. No one knows. But still, not many went on any adventures. I can’t say I blame them – the hive has to be much nicer on a cold morning.

Bees! and a bit of my reflection because camera angles were not a thing.

I love bees. I’m planning a whole post about them later. Hopefully before the end of the month. Wish me luck!

So then we traipsed. Here are some butterflies who let me take their pictures!

We also saw the turtles in the little pond:

And some bumblebees:

They were not in the little pond, if that was unclear, O Reader.

The aquatic section of the Pavilion was also cool; they don’t have their mandarin dragonet anymore (my favorite fish! But it got eaten by a sea urchin. Go figure.), but they do have a new squid/octopus (I can’t remember which, and aren’t I embarrassed…) and some other really cool critters.

And to finish it all off, we got to go home to our sweet darlings.

And that’s that!

More soon, hopefully you are safe and well and will continue to be, O Reader.

Cheers and Salutations!

Success and December

I did it! 

I am pretty happy about this! It was my fourth year that I’ve ever made the word count in time for, and this year i had a plot and story to keep going beyond the 30th. I probably could have cut back and told a shorter story, but I think this one deserves to be as full as it wants to be.

Here are some of my other stats, tho, if you are interested (and also if you aren’t):


It was a little up to the wire, but I planned ahead and made it work.

Usually in December I would be working on school work or editing or something like that, or even just trying to keep my nano pace going just a little bit longer, but I think I hit a bit of a burn out. This year has been a bit tiring and I will admit to having slept and sort of lazed around a bit in the last week or so. I’ve still been questing (tabletop roleplaying games are pretty essential) and going to my performance rehearsals (shameless plug for the Rocky Mountain Revels – it’s going to be a fun show and we’re all working really hard), but I think I may have fallen into a brief hibernation. Also we’re largely out of halloween candy except for gobstopper-jawbreaker things? I don’t really love those, which is why they are still leftover, but apparently neither do my roomates. 

My kitty has been a bit bemused by my abrupt shift to a nocturnal sleep cycle, but I think he likes the cuddle time. He’s been pretty silly when he curls up. Some highlights:

He was being a panther. Maybe. The last two are actually in reverse order, because I tucked him in before going to bed and he snuggled in. 

He really likes the bean bag chair, if that wasn’t evident.

I keep looking forward to being able to have the classic day of snow, cat, tea, and book, but I guess three out of four isn’t bad. Hopefully the snow will follow soon.

I suppose to wrap this meander of thought up, I hope everyone has a safe and peaceful December and cooler heads prevail. Stay safe, O Reader. More later.

STILL ALIVE

It’s the season of Nanowrimo as I mentioned in my last post, I think. I’ve been juggling a weird work schedule so my word count has looked more exponential than linear, so that’s cool?

Look, my stats! Behold the not writing I did today.

I’ve had a couple of days where I got five or six thousand words done, and that felt really, really good. When I get to the point of writing like that, I fall into the story and it’s just like trying to keep up with the action.  It’s not always easy to do it, but usually after I sit down and actually focus I can get there. It might not always get done perfectly, but during nano I get the plot moving quite nicely and even when I’m feeling the characters despair or joy or confusion or whatever it is I feel hopeful. 

When I get into that groove editing I catch the mistakes and reweave it stronger. I

But I’m being here vaguely, and sometimes I forget the other things I need to do. Like blogging, or posting on Patreon, or emptying the catbox, or eating food. I think it I weren’t trying to do this on a 40 hour work week it might be easier? But I’ll get one thing or the other, and some things fall through and others get done (late at night usually). My fiance is being patient and loving and helping with the catbox and Chaucer has been occasionally calling me back to reality when he wants attention.

“Hey, I know you’re busy but feed me.”

He tried to pull me out of the bathroom a couple of different times this morning. Unfortunately he isn’t bigger and I don’t fit under the door.

I know I’m going to have a couple of days or frantic thousands of word to keep up and I’m looking forward to it, but I also wanted to make sure I pop up here and there just so you know I’m still here, O Reader. 

There’s a tradition of writers posting during Nanowrimo about how much they’re dying and drinking things with caffeine. I don’t know about the being overwhelmed – I’m not quite out of my initial burst of story confidence so I think I can make it and that sort of helps with the crazy feeling. But the caffeine part is true. I’ve been drinking quite a bit of Chai this month. Thank you to the people who keep supplying the Chai.

And thanks to my friends and family who keep supporting me in beautiful, wonderful, powerful way. I love you all. Thanks for waiting out the vagueness. 

I’ll leave you with a picture of my kitty being silly and comfy with my fiance. 

Stay safe, O Reader.Kitty-cat says mauw! Look at his toe-beans!