Tag Archive: learning


It comes on slowly, creeping up like crackling frost fingers blooming in slow motion across a windowpane. Just a few careful skeletal fronds at first, adding a pleasant accent to the view outside. White dancing patterns frame the bare branches of the trees outside, just barely brushing against the depth of the field and woods disappearing over the hill. Moonlight makes those fingers glow, and lures you into believing that they’re an addition, not a mask.

The hours pass. The fingers curl around more and more of the glass, deliberately and unstoppably greedy. They begin to caress the larger branches, crawling up and over the grass stubble at the bottom of the window, a measured crackle that whispers “mine, mine, mine” as it encroaches. The clear glass in the center gets smaller and smaller, all the fringes being nibbled away one “mine” at a time.

As the fingernail sliver of moon rises over the ridgeline, there’s more and more hard silver glitter making the whole outside world look different – ethereal, unreal and hyperreal, and all of it covered in “mine, mine, mine.” After a while, it’s easy to hear the things you can no longer see, because they’re all joining in the whispers of possession. It’s a rising susurration of desire and ownership. It claims as it clutches, and it throttles as it loves.

It’s beautiful, still. It will always be beautiful, even as it strangles. It is a thrilling, fascinating death.

You would never know anything had ever been any other way, coming in when the window is all covered over with greedy beautiful fingers and fronds. The only thing to be seen is the glow of the moon – you would never know there is a field out there, and woods, and a ridge. The only thing left is the glow, refracting off the prisms of clutching frost fingers, making shards and slivers of what used to be a lush, warm landscape.

It’s beautiful. It’s fascinating. It’s death, one “mine” at a time.

It bears no resemblance to what it was, what it could be. In the fallow season, the ice changes everything, even how the land breathes underneath its cold mask. It kills as it hides. It destroys an inch at a time, and it doesn’t understand how to regret the destruction it wreaks.

Eventually, the fronds and fractals will cover even the moon’s glow. Watch long enough, and you can see it move. It’s a beautiful death, fascinating even as it cloaks.

You will never know which was the first inch, where the first “mine” was whispered, hungry in the silver glow. If you’re very, very lucky, you may be able to see which one was the last.

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Companion

The power of the companion is this: they walk beside you, for a little while.  It is an immense and awe-inspiring power, and one that is hard both to quantify and to notice, except in its absence.  Companions are the people who understand, even in pieces, the pitfalls and joys in the path you are traveling.  They have turned their ankles on the same rocks, and seen the same vistas of wonder and grace.  They empathize, in the most intimate possible sense, with your experience.

Companions are the company you keep.  Companions are the strong hand in the dark.  Companions are the laugh that harmonizes with yours.  Companions are the reason to keep to the path, or the landmark to indicate where the path doesn’t fit anymore, or both.  Companions are the descant to the melody of your life.

Cherish your companions, because they are all irreplaceable.  Tell them they are beautiful, because they bring out the beauty in your self, and let you see it from the outside.  Do not fear the love of companions, given or received, because it is living art.  Do not mourn overlong when they pass away from your path, because the beauty and love and art is impossible to steal, impossible to lose in any permanent way.

Companionship is one of the greatest gifts of being a thinking, social, empathic creature.  Companions are angels and demons in a human skin, flexible and fallible and fixed and fickle, just as you are.  Their lessons are indelible, and their faults are lessons too.  Learn what they have to teach, hear what they have to say, learn their song and add the parts of it that fit to your own.  Create and engage with them, taste the colors of their hearts.  The beauty you will gain from them, and they from you, is worth every risk.

And remember, in all of that, that you are a companion, too.  Companionship is your gift to offer, to anyone who resonates with it.  Do not forget the power of the companion, in yourself as much as anyone else.

Last words

(Author’s note: y’all know I’m not a verse kind of person, but this challenge spoke to me, so I will speak back to it.)

 

Last words

razor keys
revolving keys

You wrapped my fingers
around them
tight, so tight

Keeper of shadows
the last shadows
of words
ever spoken

I will keep the faith
I will keep the faith
I will keep the faith

by blood and bone
and pain and shadow

I will keep the faith

I will hide the shadows
your words cast

and protect the light
your life has left

you are missed
your faith is kept

Seven bears

There was a girl, and she had six bears.  She was a very little, and very odd girl.  Her mother and father never quite knew what to do with her, because she called them “mother” and “father” in the same way she’d address royalty from a foreign country whose titles she didn’t understand very well.  She talked to other children the same way; trying to be friendly, and trying to fit in, but never quite understanding what it was she was supposed to be doing.

Needless to say, she didn’t have many friends.  She had six, to be precise, and they were her bears.  She’d gotten one a year, every year, on her birthday.  She talked to them, and asked them questions about things she didn’t understand, and they talked back (but only to her, when no one else was around) and told her what they thought about what she asked.  So she always had six answers, and she could figure out what she thought was right, and what was silly.

On her seventh birthday, two terrible things happened.  Neither one was supposed to be terrible, but they both were, because they couldn’t have been anything else.  She wanted very badly to blame her mother and father for them, but couldn’t quite manage it.  They hadn’t done either one meaning it to be terrible, only through a great misunderstanding that couldn’t quite be explained.

The first terrible thing started like this: her mother cut the cake, and she ate a piece, neatly.  Her father and mother both sang the birthday song to her (after the cake, but she supposed there was some leeway in how these things should go), and then she opened presents.  There were books, and a calculator, and a wooden pony that rocked back and forth.  Mother and Father could never quite decide what age they thought she was, so presents had a tendency to orbit around her chronological age in a three to five year span.  This suited the girl just fine, because she didn’t put much stock in ages.  They led to people treating her as though she were silly or stupid, which didn’t make any sense.

But every year, she could rely on a bear.  She was looking very forward to this year’s bear – she had Monday Bear, and Bear Tuesday, and Thursbear, and The Friday of Bears, and Significantly Saturday, and Son of Bear.  She was only missing one, and she knew (as the child places in every mind knows, with a certainty that is more sure than gravity itself) that she was missing one.  She only needed one, and now she would have all the bears she ever needed.

So, of course, the first terrible thing was that there was no bear.  She couldn’t even rummage through the wrapping paper to see if she had missed it somewhere.  All the wrapping paper was folded neatly and put in a trash bag as the presents were opened.  There was no bear.

“You’re a bit old for bears, don’t you think, darling?” Mother said, too brightly. “And, well, we know you talk to them when you’re supposed to be in bed.  So it’s for the best that you don’t have any more, you see.  It’s time to move past bears, dear.”

And the girl nodded, and very quietly set about not crying.  This is not at all the same as when she didn’t want to cry.  Now it was work not crying, and trying not to think about crying.  Crying wouldn’t make there be a bear, and even if it did, it would be the wrong bear.  She knew it.

The second terrible thing was an accident, and it wasn’t supposed to happen like it did, or when it did.  It was supposed to happen, just in an entirely different (and, theoretically, much less terrible) way.  Father and mother got into a fight.  They fought pretty often, and it had gotten worse.  They used to be loud fights, with yelling and doors slamming and all sorts of noise.  Now they were quiet fights, and the quiet fights were worse.  The silence could fill up the whole house and make everything quiet, in a dreadful way that was the sound of people waiting for a terrible thing to happen.

There was a quiet fight, after dinner.  The silence poured into all the rooms and pushed out all the air, so everyone felt like they would suffocate, even the bears.  The silence filled up everything, and didn’t leave any space.  Then, when there was no space left for anything, the sound of the front door closing clicked to itself out on the front lawn, where it had space to click in.  The girl heard it, through her window, and saw her father get in his car and leave.

Then the silence was embarrassed by what it had done, and pulled back a very little, as much as it could when it was all stuck in the house and was too big to get out.  It left just enough space for the sound of her mother crying, quietly, in the front room.  It was a very little sound, huddled in the tiny space the embarrassed silence had made for it.

 

Now, let the years roll over the terrible things, and make them fuzzy and less painful.  Let them be memories, with much less power left to them.  Let the silence leak out of the house, and be replaced with voices that are too bright and brittle, trying to talk to each other in the same language that isn’t the same at all, really.

Seven years, all of them full of minutes and seconds and hours and things, with time in them for the girl to grow up, but no less odd.  Years where she learns not to let her mother know she still talks to her bears, and listens to what they tell her.  Years where she still has only the same six friends, but learns to pretend there are more.  Years where every year, the orbit of age that her father and mother think she is gets bigger and bigger.

 

So, now that the years have worn away at the terrible things, there is another birthday.  She knows her father is not invited to this one, after how he was drunk and angry when he showed up to the last one.  She knows her mother is punishing her father, but does not really understand why, or care.  So he has sent presents, by mail.  Each one of them has a card, with a little sentiment in it, trying to show her love at a distance, when she never understood it in person.

There is a bear.  It is the right bear – the one that should have been there years ago, but got lost on its way to her.  It’s had a rough seven years.  It is gray with washing, and missing one eye, and the fur is all worn down until it is smooth and soft like velvet.  But it is here now, and has found its way to her.  It looks like it’s winking at her all the time, and perhaps it is.  The card with it says “I know you love bears, pumpkin.  I hope this one will do; it’s got a lot of history and love in it already.  I hope you’ll love it too.  Love, Dad.”  He’s always called himself dad to her.  “Your dad,” he’d say, or “her dad,” and mean himself.

The bear doesn’t talk during the party, of course.  It doesn’t talk at all until she takes it up to her room, and sets it down by the other bears.  They are all shinier than it is, better cared for and less worn.  They don’t smell, vaguely, of dog.  The other bears don’t say anything about the new bear.  They’re putting off their own sort of quiet.  It’s a waiting, watching, nervous and hand-wringing kind of quiet, as though they’ve afraid they’ve been slacking off and the teacher just walked in and asked to see their work.

“Hello, creature,” said the bear, in a gruff and growly bear voice.  “We’ve been waiting a long time to meet, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” the girl says, quiet and wondering.

“You are called Wednesday by the people who made you, so I will do the same.  It’s a strange sort of name for a creature like you, but it fits.  I am a Wednesday too, as you know – so you may call me Mr. Wednesday, to tell the difference.  Very pleased to make your acquaintance.”  He is smiling, and she can hear it.  It’s a charmer’s smile, a snake’s smile, and one she at once immediately trusts and would not believe for an instant.

“Hello, Mr. Wednesday.  How do you do?”  This seems like a good start, for a new bear who is not new at all.

“I do very well, Wednesday child.  Now, let’s see what we shall do about this fine mess you’re in, hmmm?”  And he seemed to wink at her, still, and she leaned very close to hear his voice, which had gotten very soft and gruff indeed.

Mr. Wednesday bear whispered all sorts of things to her that first night, some of them very silly and some of them seeming very smart.  And the other bears didn’t say a thing, all night long.  A very long night it was, and the sun overslept and left the dawn for what felt like very late indeed.

Mr. Wednesday rode to school in her backpack that day, so she could listen to him whisper.  He did just like he promised, and told her things all day long, even when other people were around, so long as she didn’t say anything back to him.  She learned a very big lot that day, and wasn’t sure if she liked it or not.

In the initial impact (and the landing of a significant fear upon one’s person is, indeed, an impact in every possible sense of the word), the symptoms run as follows.

Physical: tightening of the pores and follicles, increased respiration and heartbeat (often following a short but notable pause of said facilities), significant tremors in fine motor control, sometimes loss of some or all aspects of gross motor control.

Mental: chemical dump in the sympathetic nervous system, and a tendency to think in circles with an order of magnitude more profanity and less sense than usual.

Spiritual: variable.

 

Like pretty much everything else significant in life, it’s a bit like being hit by a truck.  Sooner or later, all descriptions and analogies come back to being hit by a truck.  Because, sooner or later, all significant events have an immediate, short-term reaction of complete helplessness followed by frantic action at the fastest available capacity, usually in a stupid direction.  We’re monkeys.  We’re bad at significant.

 

I like trucks.

 

Monster Enough.

What is Monster Enough?

That question started out as a rumination on how those of us who dream we are monsters are always afraid of not being Monster Enough.  We are pragmatists.  We know that no matter how good you are at your game, there is someone who is better, or faster, or just luckier today.  We bank not on being the best monster (because there is no best monster, o best beloved, only the monster who wins right now), but on being Monster Enough to win right now and to scare away all the need to win eventually.

When you ask it that way, what is Monster Enough, there is no real answer.  It is a hard question, I think, but not a true question.  It is a question for the place between childhood and realism where you can dream that all your fights will have a winner and a loser, that everything really is that simple.  Certainly, if you pick enough of that kind of fight, it seems like that’s the only thing that’s important.  But that blows away any chance of knowing Monster Enough.

Ask it another way:

Who is Monster Enough?
I am.  You are.  We are.

We are Monster Enough to make the people who love us feel safe in our arms.  We are Monster Enough to make the people who try to chain us tremble when they think of the word “reckoning.”  We are Monster Enough to be soft and good to cuddle, and Monster Enough to roar loudly in pain and fear at the dark.

My Monster Enough is big, and loud, and cuddly if you are nice.  She makes pancakes and knows how to sharpen a knife.  She dries tears on her fur and sings songs while her den falls asleep, and tends the fire and watches the dark outside the cave, just in case.  Monster Enough is not afraid of “going soft,” just because she loves.  Love makes her fiercer, stronger, more desperate.  Monster Enough knows that things which are too hard are brittle, and break easily.  Monster Enough is not afraid of being unready.  She knows that she was ready when children came, all unexpected, and that she was ready when danger came, all unannounced.  She does not have to plan to be ready – she just is.  She is Monster Enough.

My Monster Enough is not afraid to be weak sometimes, because being weak sometimes makes the strength she has stronger, more lasting, more tempered.  She is not afraid to nurture, because nurturing takes more strength than yelling, even if it is not as loud.  She does not need to prove anything, because she is already Monster Enough.

She and I are not the same, and may never be.  But she is someone I would be proud to grow up to be, and I am grateful to have met her.

Who is your Monster Enough?

Words mean things.

DESERVE.

“You deserve this,” she whispered into the cup of my ear, nibbling on the outside ridge of it.  “You deserve everything.  I love you.”  We curled up into each other, a nautilus twined in on itself in the gravity of infatuation.  We slept together, and woke together, still tangled up and relaxed, still so in love that it permeated around us.  We were beautiful, together.

“You deserve this,” she whispered into the side of my neck, clinging to me as if to life.  “You deserve everything.  I loved you.”  I pushed her away from me, frightened, repulsed.  She fell back, leaned on the wall, clung to me still with her deep, wet eyes.  She staggered back to her feet, slowly.  I looked around at the unholy mess our little apartment had become as she tottered out.  I barely heard her open the front door, but I heard the click-whoosh of her lighter.

 

NEED.

“I… I need a favor.  Please.”  It shocked him to hear it, almost as much as it must have hurt her to say it.  She was not the type of person to ask for things, ever.  He had never, in all his years as her friend, heard her say she needed something.  It was new, and frightening.  He knew, in that instant, that whatever it was, it was something she needed as she needed breath and light, and that he would do anything to give it to her.

“Look, I just need a favor, all right?  Nothing big.  Just a favor.”  The words were fast, too fast, trying to overrun her objections.  He was cupping her face in the palm of his hand, like he knew she loved, and she knew he was trying to make her see it his way, like it wouldn’t cost her anything.  She knew, too, that it would work.  Just realizing it made her tired, sad, and a little sick.  She was so tired of “compromising” with the things that he needed.

“I need you.”  I looked her in the eye, and did not flinch.  It was a powerful statement, left bald that way.  She was afraid, and I wouldn’t let that stand.  “I love you, and I need you.  I will not be the same if you go.”  I took a deep breath, and let it sigh softly out of my lungs, deflating all my defense, all my ego.  “I need you.  You are still my sun, my moon, my starlit sky.  It hasn’t gone away.  It’s not going to.”

 

Words mean things.

Words are the birds that take flight, and show you where your enemy is hiding.

Choose your words as carefully as you would choose ammunition, a love’s or lover’s gift, a mode of travel, a medium in which to burn and create.  Words mean things – have a care that the things you say are the things you mean, or ‘ware the dragons that live outside the edges.

You are beautiful.

(Author’s note: I started thinking about “words mean things,” and was paging through some other historical stuff, and ended up here.  Where here is, I am not sure.  But we will see.)

She said it to me, over and over, in more languages than either of us really had.  But we played at it, finding new words to use to say the same things.  You are beautiful.  I love you.  Words just foreign enough to be a little work, but close enough to our native tongues that we understood what was intended, immediately.

You are beautiful.  When we met, I was bald and reactionary and touchy and thought I knew a lot about being a dyke in a world that makes assumptions about what women are and what they want and need.  Now it’s years later, and I am bald (again), reactionary and touchy (still) and I think a lot less of what I think I know.  But I can still hear her voice, that first night.  You are beautiful.  I love that you dared.  May I?

And so we circled around each other, for months, and eventually came together.  Then apart, then together again, and now… Now we are somewhere very else.

But still.

You are beautiful.  Nothing changes that.

Because today was a day full of work, and then tonight was a night full of work, and now it is almost today all over again, and I will fuck up today’s work quite thoroughly if I don’t at least pretend I intend to sleep in between.

But there are things that need writing, and will not leave me alone until I acknowledge them.  It’s been a very right-brain-eating-my-face week, and for some very good and very interesting reasons, and some very bad and very interesting ones.  I am sorting through all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, and now here is a list, because that way I can pretend to the things that need writing that I will get to them, at least long enough to sleep.  And maybe, when I wake up again, I will remember what I meant by all this – or, even more interestingly, I will half remember, and make something not-quite-new-but-curiously-rewrought out of the bits.  Upcycled memory.

Words mean things.  It needs writing because it is true.  Because deserve is a blessing and an epithet.  Because need is a plea, a bargain, a comfort, a curse, a coward’s way out, a pretty lie, a naked and trembling truth. Because words mean things, and people mean things by words, and what we mean by things means everything – and when what we mean is not what it means to someone else, things can go very awry, or just very else.

The trouble with torture.  The trouble with torture, O Best Beloved, it’s that it’s predictably and practically pointless to do it to anyone else but one’s very own private, potent, purulently penitent Self.  No one else has the tools to hone the edge of the tool so fine that it cuts precisely where the intent meets the deed, so that the Self is reminded of what it couldn’t be bothered about before any of this silliness began.

Hookers, whores, call girls and storytellers.  We lie.  We all lie.  And the ones of us who are paid the most to lie to other people are paid to do it because our lies sound like something that those people want very, very badly to be true.  Find the truth that your john wants, and feed it out, micron by micron.  Get paid in the coin of your choice for every morsel.  Wrap as much of what you believe or want to be true in it as you can bear – every word that comes out of your cocksucker that you can believe, your john will believe because you believe it, and it will be easier to sell the ones you know are lunacy and pap.  Cut yourself on true words to feed him watered down lies that taste like lifeblood just enough to make him want more.  And while he’s swallowing, pilfer his wallet.  Or tell him why he had the idea to sign the contract.  Where is the line between fantasy and sociopathy?

Brains are tuning forks. Songs are the note to which mine resonates right now.  The shortcut drug is in full effect, and it is digging things up out of trunks long left locked to rust in the dark.  Pieces of Split City are slotting together, and I think I expected that to be a good thing.  It is definitely becoming something very else, though, and I don’t know what I think of that.  I am becoming, slowly, hesitant to think of these things that I am putting words to as part of some linear work.  There are too many parallels, overlaps, whorls.  Plotlines run like fingerprints.  It is confusing, fascinating.  I have told and retold the story of my own life to myself so many times, in so many ways, trying to make sense of it – perhaps I have worn parallel sorts of paths in my brain, so that it creates not single things, but what if bouquets of possibility and potentiality.

We shall see.

(Much of this is recognizable to me, minimal prismatic action.  It is, essentially, the narrative thread that life “ought” to have, but so often doesn’t.  It’s the story I’m starting to tell myself, in a lot of ways, about who and what I am and what I want and what I am willing to do.  Assume some things have been scrambled, and also that I made up most of the actual events, because many things are easier to process if they are posed as fiction.)

 

Singing for Myself

 

“It’s like being hit by a truck,” I told her, pulling a drag of smoke deep into my lungs and exhaling, feeling melodramatic just putting it that way, even though it was the only simile I could find.  “I mean, that sounds stupid, but it’s true.  It’s just this noise, that doesn’t even process as sound, and then a flash of impact, and then you’re lying there on the ground, trying to move, trying to get up.  And it’s this horrible feeling of helplessness, because there’s something wrong, and you can’t make everything work quite right anymore.

You know, in a minute, it’s going to hurt like nothing else ever has, and the pain is going to be a wave that rolls you under it if you don’t hang on tight.  But you also know that if you could just get UP, make everything MOVE, that you’d be back in control, and that no pain would stop you.  But because there are whole sections of you not answering the call anymore, the pain rolls you under, drags you into it, leaves you washed up on the shoals of your own mind gasping for breath and praying not to get hit with another wave.  But the whole time, even under and inside the pain, the voice in your head is telling you just how MAD you’re going to be, when you can just. Get. UP.”

She had her head cocked on one side at me, smiling a little bit.  She waited for me to hit the end of the picture I was trying to paint for her, and took another drag off her own cigarette.  Slowly, slowly, she nodded.  “I know what you mean,” she said.  And she did.

 

So, here’s the thing about being me: I’m stubborn, and I cannot let something stand once I know it is standing dead in my way, if I have control over it.  The picture I was making was about a song, that hurt in a way I couldn’t even begin to process.  So, like all the other stories I tell myself about myself, this story is about love, and about getting the job done.

 

There was fire in the sky, and I chased it.  I ran gladly to meet it, knowing it had no thought or opinion of me, no thought or opinion at all, but I wanted to meet it, to see it at its strongest and most glorious, to stand in the middle of it and be alive.  So I chased the fire in the sky, and caught up to it, for a little while.

There’s a thing that I can never really decide whether I believe: that everything happens for a reason.  I know that my life is too full of coincidences for them to be just coincidences, but I also know that I’m a pattern-identifying primate working under a load of genetic sample distortion that’s pretty fucking epic.  But one thing in the last couple of weeks definitely happened for a reason, and it makes me happy that it did.

A few days ago, I was engaged in a series of conversations by text message that were surreal, sleep deprived, and quite entertaining about the oddnesses that one encounters in this or that county, as I was driving.  It was between 5 and 10 A.M., and I was on small roads, with almost no one else on them.  One of those conversations was lamenting that I had been all over a particular piece of parkland, hunting for the entrance, and could find everything, apparently, but the main gate.

I found out, last night, why I spent a few hours muttering in frustration to myself.  It was so I could chase fire in the sky, and know where I was going and about how to get there.

Because, see, here’s the thing: if there are roads, then I will drive on them.  Your polite sign about permits makes my problem with authority itch.  I will politely close gates behind me, and I will not damage the terrain I explore.  I will not litter.  I will not start uncontrolled fires.  I am a safe, intelligent person.  And so I have decided I am permitted to drive on your roads, because you have made them fit for my car.

And, frankly, because I care enough to do it and you don’t care enough to stop me.  Not really.  So I win, because I give more of a fuck about whether I do it than you do.

So I saw the storm, in all its rolling, lightning-lit and multi-splendored glory, from below the epicenter, listening to the wave of silence that rolled in before the wave of rain.  I sat on top of my car and laughed to myself, gleefully, watching the sky open up and rain hell down on the forest around me.

And somewhere in all that, I remembered being hit by a truck, and feeling parts of myself go weak and numb, refusing to respond to my commands and calls.  I remembered singing in their kitchen, cooking, happy.  I remembered singing because it meant I was happy, and so they’d know.

And I remembered when the only times I sang were because I was so happy it needed somewhere to go, some way out of me so I wouldn’t have to try to contain my joy at just being fiercely and amazingly alive.

There in the rain, sopping wet in the wind and dark, I sang because I remembered what it was like to overflow with joy, to have my self run over without fear or worry that it would be damaging, somehow, to anyone else.  I found how to sing for myself again, and I sang to the storm because it was sing or explode.

So I wandered because I was lost, but wandering lost would show me the way when I needed it.  And I found the self that overflows again, and is not afraid.  It’s probably just coincidence that I found that particular piece of myself again just in time for Pride weekend, right?

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