Poetry events happening this week in northeast Ohio include
No, you’re not seeing double. I did place the same image in two–actually, three–different places on my blog: the header image, the gravatar at top right, and in this post.
I’ve been posting less frequently lately, but I’m actively working on developing and revamping my blog for sharper focus and increased posting. As part of that effort–my official project for Camp NaNoWriMo this year–I thought I’d share our newest piece of home décor. All in keeping with spring refreshment.
After shopping a bit online for a spring/summer design on a welcome mat for our house, and not finding much I liked, I decided to see what it would take to make my own. It was easier and less expensive than I thought.
I hired PersonalizationMall.com to imprint a version of the original photo I used to make my blog’s logo, with the word “welcome” overlaying the image, onto a welcome mat. With this, I also purchased an anchoring black rubber frame for the removable image piece. It was cheaper to print the photo than to add the frame. Around $40 total for both before shipping and tax.
I edited my photo in GIMP before uploading and then added a minor canvas texture effect using PersonalizationMall’s tools. It’s amazing how easy it all was. A while back, I tried printing blog business cards through other services with less success, but I’ll return to that effort eventually.
Their service has pretty good reviews overall, and I was as happy as most with own my results. They’re here below and in my header above–I couldn’t resist.
In the photo, the great blue heron in the foreground seems to face the anhinga drying its feathers, but the second bird is actually in the background. I took this shot a few years ago while on a weekend trip in Florida with my husband, but Ohio has blue herons, too. I love almost every species of bird I’ve learned about, but blue herons are among those dearest to me, so it seems right that this is now part of my brand.
As for the mat, I chose a color for the word “welcome” that goes with our front door and shutters, which I also painted myself a few years ago–with indispensible help. (No, I swear I’m really not the poster girl for Better Homes.) The painting job was the first and last time I’ll do a project like that, especially while trying to operate a rented paint sprayer I’d never used before. Frantic sopping up excess paint before it dried on the shutter, paint dripping and splattering everywhere . . . . In my post about falling down the stairs with the dog, you can see the end result wasn’t too bad. But I digress.
In case you’re wondering, no, I did not and will not receive any compensation, discount, or reciprocal service for promoting PersonalizationMall.com. I just happened to search for a DIY welcome mat service and found them. Although I created a few Scotland trip calendars and wall prints using Shutterfly, which has lots of gift options for displaying your images, at the time of my purchase, welcome mats weren’t among them.
Welcome to spring, Easter, April Fools’ Day, National Poetry Month, Camp NaNoWriMo, or whatever you have going on right now. Stay safe as you step out into this crazy world afflicted with spring fever. And stop by again some time. You’re always welcome.
See photos from another close encounter with the iconic great blue heron:
a poem by Carrie Tangenberg
for C & M
Tumbleweed hydrangea blooms toss at strips of sheets of snow on the terrace tan under crisp white crust Some escape twirl ceaseless swirl off spring from the parent bush Blended brown latte foam that’s cooled too long stiffened to firmer spray bound as paper petals or bubbles stick as one against the gusting brisk Wintered over snapped off stems at shrub edges Then sheared near the base gain new names in the hands of neighbor children like “power beam” and “shield of power” They invent the rules of their game as they play it but never figure club or mace or sword, even when I suggest it They need not make blunt their force, strike or trauma, come out from fragile magic sprig
Happy Burns Night, Scotland!
Caution: Post contains old-time, though no less explicit, lyrics.
As a demonstration of the extent of my obsession withOutlander these days (largely what has been keeping me from blogging), here is an in-depth look at the words and music re-purposed for the most recent episode of theStarz TV adaptation.
Just as the main characters Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) of author Diana Gabaldon’sOutlander book series are both funnier and (he) more brutish than their TV series counterparts, the real Scottish bawdy song upon which the song used in the most recent episode, “The Search,” was based is both longer and raunchier. And yet, ramping up the humor this time, Caitriona Balfe’s and Duncan LaCroix’s (Murtagh Fraser) performances evoked guffahs galore from this avid viewer.
“It’s a bonny tune, but you need a Scottish song,” says Murtagh to Claire’s attempt to help him improve…
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Today Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in the theaters, but I’ll be waiting to see it until the heat dies down and the Christmas season ends. It’s important to me, but not so much that I would insist on joining the literal crowd. Life is, as it turns out, already quite crowded enough.
I was scanning satellite radio today, which I do not normally do, while running errands, driving through our snowy streets with my dog in the backseat, when I happened upon a mind-blowing discussion. The BBC radio program Crowd Science on Sirius XM, in my first time listening, was airing an episode about the science of household dust.
What struck me, among other things, is the living diversity resident in our everyday dust bunnies. Millions of microbes, fungi, insect and arthropod parts, dead skin, hair, and mostly fabric fibers. VOCs, too, to be sure. One perspective urged policy changes in the safety of household products to reduce the numbers of toxins sold to consumers, while another noted that we can safely live with a fair amount of dust and that some of the ways it is created (bacteria pooping out gold, for instance) may actually be beneficial.
Interesting as well was the expert perspective on how and how often to dust one’s home. Not too frequently but just enough so that the dust doesn’t permanently attach to the surface of furniture and other materials, which it will do for a few different reasons, by a few different chemical processes. One has to do with bacteria, another with humidity changes, and I forget the third. Dust on surfaces of dressers and tables can become permanent film that only a professional restoration service will be able to lift.
One’s dust can reveal under a microscope quite a lot of specifics about who one is and where one lives. Bald residents without pets will have far less hair in their dust bunnies, as a volunteer resident of Australia helped the program to reveal. And certain plants and fungi only live in certain areas, laying their detritus in the trims of our doorways to the outside. Dust is usually gray, even if you have colorful hair and a vibrant wardrobe, due to the blending of many colors that can be seen individually only when examined up close.
My own thoughts from the program?
Although we have the traditional saying from the Bible “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” little did we then know how much more than inanimate dirt our dust contained. Even after we die, the microbes we have shed comprise our ashes, especially when mixed again after, say, crematory sterilization, with the living ecosystems in outdoor soils, material surfaces, and liquid solutions. In death, there is always life, not just the promise of new life. It is not a linear, isolated cycle but a multifaceted, continuous whirlwind.
This quite changes the view of our bodily rest.
If spiritually we find peace, rest assured, our bodies and their shed layers never really do. We might as well say the remains of our deceased have been laid not to rest but to writhe and wriggle, freeze and thaw, moisten and re-crystallize, expand and contract, and generally remain restless and teeming with all kinds of life, as long as some trace of themselves stays detectable by microscope in their bodies’ places of final rest.
It lends new meaning, but perhaps less importance, to the notion that our molecules go literally everywhere whether we are alive or dead, and that our skin sheds enough to help create a whole new being left behind from our person repeatedly during our lives.
The bottom line is that there is no true separation on a physical level, none that we can see and distinguish with our hands and eyes unaided by science, between our biological lives and the lives of millions and millions of others of too many different living species to count.
The implications are up for grabs. Be grossed out. Claim it as an incentive for wildlife conservation (“we are one, literally”) and the fight against climate change, which may be inevitable regardless of human effort (the fight and the change). Justify strange personal hygiene habits. Do what you will with the information.
I find it fascinating whatever the outcome. The fullness of life is restored in my eyes. We’re not alone, in so many ways, and now in so many more. With knowledge come further questions and mysteries to explore. What does it mean for DNA testing or insect phobias or the obsessively compulsively clean? Are identity errors somehow possible because of these minglings and cross-contaminations, if you will? How can allergens in food products take our blame, or at least all the blame, for auto-immune conditions when the number of possible allergens in our environments is so unimaginably large? Far more in the air and environment than in our food, and even more so when we ingest them with our food. #washyourhands
Can we be too clean? What then? If we all live in such bodily zoos, should we re-define what it is to be dirty? How do all the tiny lives of our dust affect our thinking, behaviors, and fates? How does our awareness of them change our sense of ourselves? Of who we are as individuals or groups?
Above all, how does this influence our answer to the question of what it means to be human? If cleanliness is next to Godliness, do we not now see that it was always a pipe dream to strive for divinity? For purity? For resemblance to the necessarily unnaturally immaculate deity? For this vision of God does not allow for God to know dirt first hand.
When the lines of our very beings blur so completely like this, what implications could the inherent blending have for other lines in our lives? Other boundaries? Limitations? Segregations? At what point do physical differences then stop influencing minds and societies? At what point should they? We have more in common, as they say, than we have of differences. This turns out to be truer than we had ever before imagined.
However, I am no more or less motivated now to dust my home. Housekeeping was never a calling for me, but at least now I feel a little better equipped to cut down on my household dust and keep it in check.
The BBC’s dusting experts say to (1) use a natural-bristle brush to lift the dust, holding a vacuum hose inches away to suck up the lifted particles; (2) concentrate on the areas of the house between hips and shoulders, the places most visible to guests, and (3) dust regularly but not frequently so as not to increase health hazards, though meaning well, by excessive diligence.
Use a HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner. Dust often enough to prevent the humidity cycle from laying down that cement-like, microbe-moistened film layer on the night stand. Clean every room thoroughly once a year, rotating from one room to the next each month so as not to live only for spring cleaning—all spring long. Use the right tools or hire a cleaning service, and don’t go overboard with sterilization.
If you’re worried about the effects of toxins on child development, reproductive health, and cancer prevention, there is evidence you should be aware of them in order to mitigate the risks. Above all, spend more time outside the home if you are usually a home body (like me, unfortunately); chances are your indoor environment is much less healthy than the outdoor. Keep moving.
“All we are is dust in the wind,” or, you know, the doldrums. Pieces of ourselves lay scattered about our homes and workplaces and vehicles and yards and apartment buildings, and those pieces are lifted easily when disturbed—that is, until they crystallize on our furniture.
So if you want to make your household objects your own in a really primal way, no need to mark your territory Fido style. Just neglect your dusting for a bit, and voilà, pieces of you are embedded in the baseboards, the chairs, the counter tops, your appliances, your books and electronics, and even the porcelain throne, to say nothing of the carpet. Just be ready to share that space with millions upon millions of other lives.
And remember, if you must clean, you won’t just be killing strangers and unknown neighbors—fungi, insects, mites, plant sheddings, pet sheddings, bacteria, and parasites. You’ll be erasing bits of yourself as well.
This reminds me of the practices of Ethan Hawke’s character Vincent/Jerome in the 90s sci-fi film Gattaca. Working for a space exploration company toward his own voyage to space, the heart-defective Vincent borrows the identity of the genetically perfect but paraplegic Jerome through blood, urine, hair, nail, and other bodily samples that he uses for access and carefully spreads around his workplace while Hoovering up his own “de-generate” cells.
Knowing what Crowd Science has imparted, it strikes me how not only impractical but impossible erasing his true biological identity would really be if anyone in authority had bothered to screen more regularly and rigorously. And outer space would have remained only a dream for our underdog hero, though as he says at the end, we will all still have come from the stars.
Heavenly, long-dead stars or living, putrescent particles, it is all in where—and how—you look.
This one was a doozy. I was on target with my word count only the first day and the last. The rest of the month, I was very, very far behind in my progress, skipping twelve days of writing. New challenges, all of which can be nicknamed Ethan, continued this month.
Anyway, I made it! I won with 50,515 words at 10pm tonight. That’s pretty good considering I was at about 21,000 just last Thursday, also known as Thanksgiving, which we hosted as usual. It just goes to show that anything is possible with the proper motivation. Since I’ve won every NaNoWriMo I’ve participated in since I started in 2011, I could not let this one go without trying. What I found was that the closer I got to finishing, the more determination I had to make it happen.
Here’s a reminder of my novel’s synopsis and the latest excerpt, the scene that pushed me over the finish line.
Novel title: Hunted Song of Looking-Glass Land
Summary drafted 3/28/17, revised 4/1/17, novel drafted halfway 11/30/17
A tale based on Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, Hunted Song of Looking-Glass Land re-imagines the second of his two Alice books. Glimpses of original chapters and the use of characters provide a frame of reference for new adventures and insights about the true nature of heroics and villainy in Looking-Glass Land. The teenage girl Song Warber, a Jabberwock, or Wock, wields her singular music-making powers in the struggle of freedom and justice for all Looking-Glass Landers.
A little girl named Alice mysteriously arrives in Looking-Glass Land and stirs up trouble for Song’s family even as both her presence and Song’s threaten the monarchy. Yet, it is only by allying with this alien little girl that Song can fulfill a destiny she only begins to fathom when her family falls into the hands of those determined to tear them apart—the Royals, or chess pieces, of Looking-Glass Land. Alice’s destiny is also at stake as she awakens to the gritty realities of this ailing country. Her triumph will depend on new alliances, betrayals, comings of age, secret support, a bit of magic, open battle, overcoming tragedies, facing fears, and confronting the White King, the Red Queen, and a vengeful Humpty Dumpty.
Can two young girls of vastly different species, upbringings, and worlds ever hope to right the wrongs of the place they inhabit, however briefly, together? The good of parallel worlds may depend on it. And what will become of Song and Alice in the process? It’s a reversal across the chessboard of team loyalties and the realm’s purpose as a land of vivid dreams, uncommon reality, and infinite possibility. Will Looking-Glass Land survive the turmoil?
NEW CONTENT, 11/30/17, 10pm – Presented here unaltered from 1st draft and with a special shout-out to two fellow NaNo writers affectionately known together as “the Unicorn” because they are a prolific husband-and-wife writing team. It’s just magical.
Scene Draft: The Unicorn decides to revolt against the Crown.
Having met Alice at the reception of her and the Lion’s latest fight for the Crown, the Unicorn had become fascinated with this little human girl, a human child, all of human children whom she had thought were just “fabulous monsters.” It had tickled her hooves and made her eyes twinkle to hear that Alice had believed much the same about unicorns. They were bonded now, by the Unicorn’s initiation. “If you will believe in me, I will believe in you. Is it a bargain?” “That would be lovely,” Alice had said. Little did the Unicorn know how much she was to come to believe of Alice in this unique set of circumstances she found herself in.
Outside Drumming Town, the Lion lived to the south and the Unicorn lived to the north, from which they would meet in the middle for their weekly fight for the Crown. Before they headed home after their latest boxing match, the Lion took the Unicorn aside for a confidential chat, bloated as he was on plum cake that had not been sufficiently cut for proper digestion, though their guest Alice had tried to obey Looking Glass Land rules for serving Looking Glass cake by handing it round first and then cutting it.
When the crowd had dispersed, themselves bloated on plum cake and their brains filled with the din of the drumming that was meant, every time, to drum the fighting pair out of town, the Lion and the Unicorn could speak freely, seated on a bench in the circle where they had kicked up so much dust fighting their worthy fight.
“Unicorn,” the Lion began. “You know me. I am hot tempered, impractical, ferocious on most occasions.”
The Unicorn did not disagree with this but waited for the rest of what the Lion had to say.
“I have heard a rumor today of the most extraordinary kind, and as my faithful sparring partner, I thought it best to share it with you, get your take on it, you know, to see if you think there may be any truth to it.”
“All right,” the Unicorn said readily, “what is it?”
“Well,” said the Lion, and he looked around furtively, making sure no one lurked listening in nearby. “I heard from not one but two different sources, in the same day no less, that the White King will soon be discontinuing our regular fights for the Crown! Do you believe that? To end such a noble, glorious tradition, and what possible reason could the King have for such an insulting shutting of the door on us like that?”
The Unicorn gasped in shock and smashed his hooves against his powerfully muscled and beautifully bridled and decorated jaw. “Oh no! It cannot be true. It can NOT! We have given him no reason to worry that we might actually win—well, one of us—and actually challenge him for the throne—have we?”
“No, no, of course not, but do you think it has any merit, any chance of being true? If so, we have to do something about it, petition the King or—”
“Oh, dear, oh dear, oh dear!” The Unicorn went on, shaking her silky white mane and beginning to cry profusely.
“Will you stop blubbering already!” The Lion snapped, roaring his disapproval, his impatience, before the Unicorn had even let two drops of tears fall from her long white cheeks.
Sniffling continued, but the Unicorn tried to control herself long enough to continue the conversation. But then she let loose again, unable to stop it: “Oh, I knew it! I just knew it! You cannot trust anyone nowadays, not a king, not a queen, not a knight or a– OH! Or, even, perhaps, the sources of your rumor!” Now she had hit upon something.
“Well, that is possible, I suppose. We must be wary in any case. It would be utter disaster, sheer travesty, and just a damned shame if we were not to be able to continue fighting for the Crown!”
“I know, I know,” the Unicorn sobbed. “It would be the end of quite an era, irreplaceable in majesty and moment and beauty and grace and– well, in majesty and moment, anyway.” She had retracted grace and beauty in thinking specifically of the Lion.
“Enough of your jibes, Unicorn. I am more majestic, magisterial, and magical than you can ever hope to be!”
“Oh, what a fight we should have for the Crown now!” The Unicorn piped up, tears staining both her snout and her hooves.
“You see?” the Lion quipped. “Neither the King nor anyone can stop us if we choose to fight!”
“Indeed, but not today,” the Unicorn changed tune suddenly. “I am quite tired out. We had a real bout today, would you not agree?”
“Oh, yes, quite astonishing, remarkable, one of our best yet!” the Lion acknowledged proudly.
“But do you suppose this rumor has anything to do with the visit of that Alice girl we met today?” the Unicorn asked, growing increasingly pensive as the weariness reached her bones and horsey tail.
“Hmm.” The Lion grumbled and growled and snarled a bit thinking about the girl. He did not like her. He liked her even less for the little connection she had managed to make with the Unicorn.
“Oh, stop that! She was perfectly lovely, was she not?” The Unicorn read his grumbles well enough.
He only grumbled deeper in reply.
And so the foundation was laid, when the two would find out how serious things had grown in their realm, for an even greater division between them. They would be forced to choose a side, and Alice would be the deciding factor.
Later, the Unicorn, faced with the choice that had become so inevitable, found it was impossible to forget or dishonor the bargain she had struck with the visitor Alice. When the Unicorn heard that Alice was to be exiled from Looking Glass Land—before they had got to know one another, before the Unicorn would have a chance to ask her all about human life and other humans, before the possibility of replacing one pastime with another had fully materialized—that was the last straw.
It no longer mattered whether she or the Lion took the Crown, or if the White King retained it. The White King would not continue to ruin the Unicorn’s life any further, not if the Unicorn herself had anything momentous and true and noble and gorgeous and magical and mythical to say about it. And she often did.
1,107 words in one sitting