Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tue Cent Twosday: Bird, a Poem

Image from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons free license.

Bird.
I see you, bird. Black feathers. Shiny.
Beak. Black beak like jet, hard and grooved along the length.
It’s longer than I expected. Long and sharp.
“Once there was food here.” Tatiana Tolstaya.
The forest. Mass graves, running for miles, between trees.
I like trees. I don’t feel death when I’m in the trees.
Death is probably there, I mean, it has to be.
Death is everywhere. That’s the whole point.
But in trees, the sense of life overwhelms all that.
I think that’s why I liked hiking so much.
Outside the reach of her voice.
Stay where you can hear me.
God, that used to piss me off.
I’d push at it, silently, in my stomach.
The ulcers are a reaction to using magic, I think.
Maybe it’s improper grounding. I wonder.
But birds are hard to find in trees.
My father said he’d piss off the other people in the Sierra Club.
He’d find the birds faster than anyone else.
He was smug about it, too, which I think is part of the problem.
If not all of the problem.
Meat hook on your face, bird. Weapon. Knife.
Are you carnivorous? You’d have to be, with that beak.
We didn’t have crows in that forest.
Stellar jays. Nasty birds, steal other birds’ nests.
But no crows. Maybe ravens, though I don’t remember them.
I saw a crow at the zoo. He was enormous. Pretty, but huge.
Not a wimpy bird.
Birds in England sound different than birds here.
How many different varieties of crows are there?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wednesday Walking In This World

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Evening Snow at Kanbara, Edo period (1615–1868), 1834
Ando Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858)
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper; 8 7/8 x 13 3/4 in. (22.5 x 34.9 cm)
The Howard Mansfield Collection, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1936 (JP2492)
Julia Cameron's second book in her Artist's Way trilogy is entitled Walking In This World.  For many years, I mis-read this title as Walking In The World, and the difference is notable.  "The" world is inspecific, whereas "This" world is particular.  By focusing on this reality, this moment, we focus on the now.  It is in the now that our power resides, where we access our own inner strength and wisdom.

Cameron uses images in her work of Japanese woodblock prints.  These are fascinating pieces of art, because they're carved into wood in a negative image and then stamped onto paper as a positive image, colored from there.  I found the image, above, while doing an internet search, but am most familiar with the collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.  They have a large collection of works by Hokusai, who is one of the more commonly known woodblock artists.

Katsushika Hokusai
Japanese, 1760-1849
Dawn at Isawa in Kai Province (Koshu Isawa no akatsuki), from the series "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei)", c. 1830/33
Not all of their collection is on display, such as this image, but you can page through their website and view an extensive archive of material.  Hokusai focused on images found in nature, particularly mountains and especially Mount Fuji.  He also has some haunting images of ghosts from Japanese folklore.

What museum near you might you visit this month?
What kind of art calls to your senses?



Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Writer In Her Library - The Shape of the Whole

The Library at Chez Noony
Or, The Ladybug Bed and Breakfast Dining Room and Reading Nook
I spent much of December and all of New Year's Day organizing my library.  I put everything in order by topic, and then alphabetical by author.  As I did so, I started to realize something:  my library is a clue to myself.  As I am exploring new diary techniques and autobiographical writing, organizing my possessions, and more particularly my books, has been a window that looks into the world about which I'm writing.

I can trace my own development as an adult through my books.  There are the ones I have from my first university degree; Russian, philosophy, metaphysics, Wicca, and astronomy.  Then there are my travel books and books about hiking - how to do it and where to explore.  I have a startling number of personal productivity books - Covey and Smith, of course, but lesser-known authors as well.  Personal finance features largely even before my MBA books, and I had a blast of nostalgia when I found my macroeconomics book, the first course I had to take as a prerequisite when I started my MBA.

There's also the material I collected when working on my unfinished master herbalist coursework, aromatherapy science, and cooking.  I have a huge home section, and not just on decorating the home - how to buy it, what to do when things go wrong, how stuff works in it, how to remodel it, and even how to entertain in it - and more than one entertaining book, too.  I even have a book on how to be a blonde (don't ask, it was at a used book sale and made me laugh, which was worth it for the dollar it cost to buy).

As I explore my own mind, and give myself permission to tell my own story and not the ones that were handed to me to cover the facts, I find that my library is a comfort to me.  I enjoy sitting in the Ugli Chair and looking around at the books.  I imagine staying in there for days, leaving only to use the restroom or get food and water, and that image is one that's exciting.  A retreat from the world to think and contemplate and read and write?  What could be more fun?

Excuse me, but I think I'll go sit in there for a while before I go to bed.  But before I go, I have a question for you, Dear Reader:

What are your favorite topics about which to read?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Box Talk - Questions and Answers

Morning Pages In the Garden With Coffee
Image © 2013, A. Catherine Noon
I'm sure I'm not alone during this time of year in wondering what new beginnings are occurring and what things to leave behind in the old year.

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Zora Neale Hurston

I think it's important to not be so quick to demand answers.  Finding the right questions is important, particularly if we are to get to the answers that will help us.  Our society has become impatient with not knowing; we assume the answer is always on the internet.  It's become common to say, "Just google it," and the company name has become synonymous with finding answers.

The important questions aren't so easily remedied.  Take "Who am I?" for example.  That's not something one can google.  It's also not something we can easily answer with a pat recitation of our name, birth date and serial number.  Sometimes the answer can take a lifetime, and sometimes we can live for decades without knowing that we don't, in fact, know the answer and haven't yet really asked the question.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Friday Funnies


Did you hear about the truck driver that got pulled over for knitting while driving?

The police officer yelled, "Pull over!"

The truck driver held up his knitting and said, "No, cardigan!"

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Writer In Her Library - Taming the Chaos


I have been a reader for a long, long time.  I started collecting books in my early teens and, despite two deep - and I do mean, deep - purges, I still have a prodigious collection.  The hieroglyphics above is a screenshot of the index I use to keep track of all this bounty.  (You can click on it to enlarge the picture if you're that masochistic.)

A couple thoughts about personal library organization:

If you're serious about being published, making an index of all the books you either own or have checked out - and liked - from the library would be prudent.  But don't just keep the author and title.  Dig a little deeper for clues into the business:

Who is the publisher?

Where are they located?  Are they an international conglomerate (tip-off here is if they have multiple, international, cities on their title page, like New York, London, and Tokyo).

What year is the book published?

What genres are listed on the Library of Congress listing?  This will give you an idea of other topics in which you might be interested, as well as give you thoughts about topics about which you might be prompted to write - even for blog posts.

Who is the agent?  You might have to do some digging.  It may not say in the front material, but some internet sleuthing might reveal it to you.  If you adore five authors, for example, and four of them are from Publisher A, and three of them are represented by Agency B, then poof! You know to whom you might want to submit something in a similar vein.  (This is the natural extension of the old adage, "Write What You Know.")

You might also be interested in where you bought it or who gave it to you.

Even more, you might want to say a few words about whether you liked it, or when you talked about it on a blog, or other information that is of use to you.

I keep my book index in Excel because I'm good with Excel and it's immensely customizable.  Others I know have done it in online communities such as GoodReads or LibraryThing.  I don't like those options because I can't control them, can't customize them, and at the end of the day, don't own them.  I like to have complete control over my list.

Over time, your library can reveal to you the shape of your own mind.  Maybe in 2010 you collected nothing but books on such-and-such subject, but this year, you're deeply interested in this other subject over here.  You can write essays on your books and share them with other bibliophiles online.  Or, like I'm doing here, you can even write a blog post about your organization system.

Fun times, nu?

Now, back to reorganizing.  We moved last year and it threw my library into disarray.  Next up:  textile arts books.  I can't wait!

What about you?
About which subjects do you enjoy reading (whether or not you have them in your library at home)?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years At the Hop!


Can you believe it's already time for the New Year's celebration? It feels like it should still be April. As I sit here, mulling over what I might share with you, Dear Reader, my mind is drawn to the idea of "new" and the next step, which many people connect with the New Year, which is "resolution."

I don't do "resolutions" anymore. I found they were too often "should do's," rather than "want to's." I have found, over the years, that "want to's" have a better chance of happening.

I've been doing more journal work this year and rediscovered a love of calligraphy. I’ve been doing what I call mandalas in my journal, either with a quote or with concepts from a particular project.

Image ©2014 A. Catherine Noon, All Rights Reserved
For example, I’m working on a Walking In This World workshop right now. I decided to do a two-page spread in my journal on the chapter, using calligraphy and imagery to connect with the material in a new way. It’s enriched my experience of the workshop immensely and helped me make new connections.

Image ©2014 A. Catherine Noon.  All Rights Reserved
In terms of my writing, I’ve been using calligraphy when I work on my character sheets. It’s been interesting to add color to a character, trying to figure out what color they would be and why. Then I do the mandala for them in that color.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What are your New Year’s Want To’s?

And, just for you, here’s a sneak peek at Sapphire Dream, which will be coming later this year. It’s set in the Persis Chronicles with Emerald Fire and Emerald Keep, which is out April 8th from Torquere Press.


Excerpt
Chapter 1: Kotek City

Cheula settled himself in the sedan chair, his back stiff.

“Lotta sittin’ about,” Driver Sami drawled in the thick brogue some of the Drivers were plagued with.

After four days on the sands with the man, though, Cheula started to get the hang of it. “That’s true. How do you stand it?”

Sami glanced at him, his lidded eyes metallic blue that flashed in Sol’s glow. It reminded Cheula, unfortunately, of a large sand beetle. The Driver leaned sideways and revealed a strange set of beads in a mesh weave on his driving web. “Ah cheat, my handsome Keeper.”

He said Keeper as ‘Kayprr,’ and it took Cheula several tries before he understood it. Now it just sounded normal. “Are those beads?”

“Aye.” The Driver sat back. “They stimulate the muscles.”

“Does it help?”

The Driver shrugged. “Nope.”

Cheula laughed.

“A Keeper would help, you know,” Sami said in a thoughtful tone.

“Are you… teasing me?”

“Would I do that?”

“I think you probably would!” Cheula chuckled. It felt good to laugh. It had been too long since he’d had an uncomplicated conversation with someone.

“We’ll break soon,” Sami told him. “The Winds are comin’.”

Cheula eyed the horizon warily.

“Don’t worry, Keeper. We’ll be fine.”

The first time they’d stayed in the inflated bubble that enclosed the sandsail, Cheula panicked. The more he tried to keep his composure in front of the laconic Driver, the worse it got. Sami seemed to sense it though, and started to tell him stories that kept him enthralled and made him laugh. By the time the Winds passed, his fear blew away with them.

They stopped and Sami hopped down, setting the chucks under the skis. The enclosure inflated around them with a hiss of metallic fabric, and the glow of the sun eased. Sami flipped his sunshades back, and the cyberplants receded into his skin like magic to reveal his hazel eyes.

He caught Cheula watching him and laughed. “Not used to sunshades, I take it?”

Cheula shook his head.

“Lotta Drivers use ’em. Hunters too. You’ll see, at Kotek City.”

Cheula hopped down to the sand, then under the sandsail to the little living area that nestled in its belly. Sami lit the daylamps and the fragrant oil filled the small space with its aroma.

The bench along the side served as a good spot to sit out of the way while the Driver settled things. He watched as Sami rummaged in his galley, got down a ceramic jug and poured two cups. He handed over a cup. Cheula took one sip and started coughing.

“Ouiska does that,” Sami murmured calmly.

“Sami!”

The Driver kneeled in front of Cheula, his eyes large in the shadowy interior. “Come, drink. Relax. It’s just us.”

Cheula smiled and leaned forward, watching Sami’s pupils dilate. “Oh?”

But when Sami caressed his cheek, he flinched. He couldn’t help it.

“What is it?” Sami asked softly, cocking his head. His thumb stroked Cheula’s face. “I’d not hurt you for all the goldstone in Kotek City, Keeper.”

Cheula swallowed around a dry mouth. “I…”

Then Sami stroked his hand down Cheula’s chest, intending no doubt to soothe him, and brushed the worst of the bruises. Cheula cried out and pulled back, heat flaming into his face. “I’m sorry!” he blurted.

Sami’s eyes widened. He slipped his hand inside Cheula’s robes and before the Keeper could react, flipped the fabric back. The purples had darkened into livid reds, browns, even a mustard yellow near where the ribs had cracked.

“Landin’!” Sami swore. “Who did that to you?”

“I…” He trailed off, the lie dying on his lips. This close to the other man, with such gentle caring in his eyes, so uncomplicated by anything other than mutual attraction, Cheula couldn’t say the habitual ‘I fell,’ or lately, ‘I was in an accident on a camu.’ He dropped his head forward to rest it on Sami’s shoulder. “My Contract, Digger Bekto.”

Sami sucked in air, a loud hiss. “Oh, poppet. Where is he?”

Cheula pulled back. “What?”

“He should have his knees brokin’ for ’im!” Sami growled, his cheeks red and his eyes fierce.

“He’s being punished,” Cheula assured him. “I promise. I’m from Sapphire Keep. Once they found out… Violence to a Keeper carries the death sentence.”

Sami stroked Cheula’s cheek. “But you… You’re shy now, is that it?”

Cheula nodded, miserable. “I want to. But…”

Sami came up on his knees and kissed Cheula’s forehead. “Don’t rush it, Cheula,” he whispered. It was the first time he said Cheula’s name, and it felt several times more intimate than it would have otherwise. “My brother’s partner had sommat similar happen to ‘im, and it just takes time.”

“I just…”

The Driver stood, holding out his hand. “Come.”

“What?”

Sami shook his hand impatiently. “Come.”

Cheula slipped his hand into the Driver’s calloused palm and let himself be pulled to his feet. Sami led him over to the wide hammock that swung at the back of the quarters. He lay down on it and settled the pillows for Cheula. He arranged the Keeper alongside his body and set the hammock to swinging gently. Then he ran his fingers through Cheula’s hair, just the part along the scalp before the braid, and Cheula got an idea.

He sat up and scooted sideways, so he could see Sami. With trembling fingers, he unbraided his plait, dropping the beads one by one into Sami’s palm.

“Are those…”

“Those three are sapphires,” Cheula said, pointing them out. “The rest are crystal beads. As I earn, I’ll replace them.”

“Three sapphires,” Sami breathed, touching them with a finger.

His hair gave off the aroma of the Baku seed oil he used and he watched Sami inhale with pleasure. He lifted the Driver’s hand and set it his scalp, where the braid had begun, and let him stroke his fingers through it. Sami’s eyes widened and he continued, setting the beads on a small shelf over his shoulder. Cheula turned and lay half on top of him and rested his head on the Driver’s muscular chest, tingles traveling up and down his body as the man stroked him.

They stayed like that for the rest of the Winds, Cheula listening to Sami’s breathing and Sami enthralled by his hair. Finally, it became so still outside that delaying further would be silly. Cheula started to sit up and Sami caught him. He kissed Cheula gently but thoroughly.

“Thank you.”

Cheula smiled at him. “It was my pleasure.”

They rose and rearranged their clothing, and Sami went to reopen the sandsail. Cheula went upstairs and took up his sedan chair, replaiting his hair.

But he left one of the sapphires sitting in the dish on the shelf downstairs, carefully covered with the travel shield so it wouldn’t jostle loose.