The garden as of yesterday.
Sometimes, I draw things. Not very often, not like I used to when I was a kid, drawing character designs for the game my friends and I called ‘FANTASY,’ which was basically us running around in the woods with sticks that alternated between swords, bows, wizard staffs, and spider-web removers with the greatest ease. These days I say I haven’t the time to draw, but that might be a lie. Maybe I’d just rather watch Buzzfeed videos.
I wouldn’t, actually; but sometimes I do things I don’t want to. Recently, though, I’ve been doing (close to) what I want: been circling round and around the next novel I want to write (codename Bladderwrack, for now), by writing bits and pieces extricated from its middle and building a playlist on youtube:
I’ve also been working on character designs, so I thought I’d share a glimpse or two:
(Ebb and Peregrine)
…anyway. I still have to recount my trip to the Oregon, but that means sifting through my indecipherable journaling, so that might be a few more days in coming.
““Life Overlooked” refers to the humanistic goal of “overlooking” or shepherding animals and other life as well as the ways in which non-human species and human relationships with them are often overlooked or ignored…The goal of this project is to utilize the scientific and cultural knowledge of everyday people to create a data bank and place-based map about non-human animals and plants in the US, Canada, and Mexico as we enter an era of mass extinction.” (Life Overlooked website)
Below, you will find my transmedial journal on the western scrub jay, a microcosm of the aforementioned Life Overlooked. I chose the western scrub jay for a number of reasons, but mainly because I’ve been going through magpie-withdrawal. It’s been almost a year since I moved from Missoula, Montana back home to the deeper heart of the Cascadian bioregion (though Eugene, OR is much further south than my previous home of Bellingham, WA). Though bike commuting in white-out conditions in the middle of Montana’s winters was less than thrilling, I still have affection for its scapular yellow hills, the summer storms tumbling down the Rockies. And there are people I miss. But I found an animal-emptiness in me after the move, too: magpies.
I miss their intermittent raaks and rr-e-e-e-e, their sudden scolding paroxysms, the stutter-flight of the juveniles, the charged curiosity of their hop and head-tilt as they watch. There’s nothing like being watched by a magpie. It’s a frustrated fondness I have for them–to live in such close, but parallel proximity with something so obviously alive. I always felt…on the verge in their presence, close to something pivotal and cosmic and comic, but ultimately un-grippable.
And then I moved back and the magpies were gone. Eugene has crows, of course. And I like crows, I grew up around them–yet they aren’t the same. Colder, a bit more disdainful. But, as I soon found, Eugene also has scrub jays. I find them more crotchety than magpies, but they make me smile in the same way those other corvids do.
There’s a number of scrub jays that hang around my house, so I decided this bird journal (below) might best capture my evolving, corvic thoughts via notes taken from my garden-observatory. With the help of research, what I have here is, in its (probably) final iteration, a chronologically paced study that combines observation, poetry, sketches and scientific notes to craft a nuanced (though admittedly heavily etic) gloss of the western scrub jay.
So occupied. The first week of year one of my grad program has passed; I’m still finding a comfortable rut to roll along. It’s not a matter of being stuck–I’m happy where I am, studying folklore (or learning to study it). What I mean, is I’m still finding a rhythm to settle into, so I can get my academic work done, and mind my core–which is strange.
One of the reasons I’m here is to bring folklore closer to my core. But that doesn’t mean making drumming and writing centrifugal. Right now I’m learning to make space. Over the summer, I set myself the goal of getting 75k words of the magpie book written. I managed 65k and I’m inclined to be content with that. But I still want to try and wrap up the rest of draft 1 by the end of October or November. It will happen. I’m taking a grad fiction seminar and after just one meeting, in which we discussed a broader and more dynamic definition of omniscience, my understanding of how I should be telling this nestled story of mine is clarifying:
Because the magpie book’s spine is a story told by a pair of exterior narrators, the close-third perspective I’ve been using really doesn’t make sense. Considering the tricksy, corvid nature of these outer-narrators, I don’t think they’re capable of limiting themselves to the contents of two separate and single heads, one at a time. An omniscient narrator would give them the freedom to flit about, wreck havoc where and where-not appropriate, to make potent and highly opinionated statements about the story, and the nature of story, as magpies would be (in my mind) wont to do.
Then, of course, there’s the drumming to make way for. Soon, I hope have to have a space for my set, which means there will be a significant drop in air-drumming–not absolute, though. One thing I’ve learned being away from my drums this summer is that I can nail a song much quicker and more exactly, than if I were sitting at my kit. This is probably directly related to my tendency to free-play along with songs. Which is fun, but not exactly beneficial. I taught myself a couple songs in early summer (Pull Me Under, A Dudás, and Suncatcher), paying attention to nuance and detail. Distraction plummeted with only air and anatomy and brain-fabricated sounds at my disposal, so that’s a technique I’ll be keeping with me. Nonetheless, having nothing to strike for the past four months is the sort of difficulty that can only be coped with by pretending it hasn’t been hard, so really, truly being able to drum again will be something like waking up.
As proven by a recent photo I tweeted, grad school is keeping me inundated. It will stay like this, I know. Okay, fine. I can survive doing things. I get excited when something comes along that needs to be added to the to-do list, because I like drawing lines and bisecting letters and crowing glee with the doneness of it all, and by the time all this is over, I will have struck-through many to-dos, but probably not as many as I should. And that’s okay. Life is a massive to-do list on a pedestal (or a toadstool, because why would you put a to-do list on a pedestal when you can have fungus?) and the only way it ends is in the inkbath of death.
…that’s the afterlife, by the way: your existential to-do list. Drowned in a bucket of milked ballpoints.
Continuing with my backlog of links. This time it’s media-related.
More specifically, things I’ve been obsessing over:
<>This cover of Bjork’s Joga, by Georgi Kay. Heard on the show Top of the Lake (which is worth a watch).
<>And this cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, by Daughter. So much moodier, and…desperate. And fitting. I love it. For…for reasons.
<> Woodkid’s Run Boy Run.
<>Ever since finding the BBC’s production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in my hometown’s library in high school, I’ve loved audio dramas. I listened to the Secondary, Tertiary, and Quandary Phases over and over the summer of my senior year, while baking hundreds of pounds of granola and cookies. I can quote from it with ease (or could, at one time), but these days, AWAKE is the audio drama of my heart. It recently finished up, and is free to stream, and whether or not you’ve been looking for a generation ship murder mystery with a diverse, heart-punching cast, then congratulations! you’ve found exactly what you need. I have to admit that I haven’t actually listened to the last chapter, but that’s only because I really don’t want it to end. IT CAN’T BE OVER.
<>Because of Phobs, I’ve been tossed violently back into The Silmarillion fandom. I say violently, because I’ve been bewitched by her Melkor and Sauron. Yay for the dark lords of Middle Earth. ; )
<>Stunning Nude Photo Series Will Make You Think Twice About The ‘Ideal Body’ (NSFW) I love many things about this, but something especially about the lighting, and the occasional vivid green biomass, and what it all speaks to.
<>I’ve been waiting to link to this post, Roads to the Heart: Cascadian Yule MMXII, because I hadn’t had a chance to fully sink into its loam. If you want to know what being embedded in the core of Cascadian music (especially metal and folk) is like, read this. I finally got a chance to read through the whole narrative, and found it really beautiful. Reminds me a bit of Canis Aureus, which was a dark folk/black and doom metal festival held on private land near Eugene, OR this summer.
I made a decision at the beginning of high school that changed me forever. I have no regrets. The memory isn’t bitter. At the time, my choice made sense, and it still does–nonetheless, it was a strange decision to make.
From the near-beginning of my life until ninth grade, my foci were drumming, writing, and visual art. I think drawing was the first, it had always been, I’d always done it. Writing came not long after. (I had to learn to enjoy books first, but once my hunger for narrative started in third grade, feeding myself was a quick and natural progression.) Drumming took longer–in fifth grade I started band as a percussionist, but didn’t connect with it in that innate gut-kindling inescapable magnetism till the summer before ninth grade, when I began studying the drum set.
I can’t pinpoint the existential moment I started drawing, but I know when I stopped: high school. This goes back to the choice I began with. Two weeks before high school began, there was band camp. The day it was supposed to start I was wavering: I could continue with music and let it become my own personal, friendly parasite (I’d heard stories of high school band and its tyranny)–or, I could quit, and focus on visual art. (At the time, I had aims of going into character design.)
My mom neatly dispatched my indecision. Her solution: attend a day of band camp, test the waters, choose. I tested the water, chose the drums–and for the most part, turned my back on visual art.
I’m not sure why. It’s not that I thought my percussive center was already folding, that I was groping desperately for anything that might save it–because it wasn’t folding. On the contrary; it was lifting its head. Sniffing the air. But still. Why side with a medium I’d loved only a year, when visual art had been with me almost my whole life? The simple answer is that band was a hel of a lot of fun (probably mostly because it was actually pre-, percussionists-only, band camp). And, undoubtedly, my…interest in a certain unnamed instrumentalist (who I had no doubt would be continuing band) had something to do with it, as well.
My other answer: I’d found my musical heart (metal) a year before, and already knew I wanted a band of my own. Alas, I wasn’t a stellar drummer (still working on that, always will be), and I knew I needed help. Band, and its percussionist director, could be that help.
End-story: I gave up drawing. I kept doodling on my paper edges, but the intensity was gone. I stopped filling sketches, I stopped trying. This lasted for years–a decade, I just realized, looking at the calendar. I was fourteen at the time. I’m twenty four now.
In June, I started drawing again. Not scribbles; not copious, repetitious and embarrassingly sloppy eyeballs. I began drawing with intent. Studying anatomy and form and movement–distilling and stilling it all as I focused on the lines I was making, learning to be dissatisfied again, to see my failures once again, learning shove through them and find even more, because that’s how you get better, you know. That span of lost time has the potential to sicken and frustrate me (just think how much better I’d be now if I’d kept at it), but I won’t let it, and it just doesn’t. I did plenty during that time, and I’m glad for it, and the way I went forth. I wrote and drummed demonically, and now I have a published book, published stories and poems. I have a band (multiple bands) to call my own.
One thing I remembered vaguely about drawing, but didn’t really truly recall, was how obsessive I can get about it. I’m driven and (paradoxically) singular in all things, but with visual art, the obsession is even more innate, somehow deeper. When I’m free-playing on my drums, I can find my flow easy, but if I’m working through a new groove, or focusing on some weird foot ostinato with tricky limb independence over top I have to be awake–and while that wakefulness is sinewy, it can, on occasion, be snapped. Yet, if I sit down and tell myself ten minutes on this painting and NO MORE, I’ll typically find myself still drawing or painting, arting, whatever, three hours later. It’s a dangerous preoccupation, because drumming and writing are still my heart (rather than being a near satellite like visual art is), and lately, it’s been destructively distracting (for those of you nonexistent people who’ve wondering at the lack of blog posts that contain words, you’ve found your answer). The haze is so addictive that if I want to get anything done, I have to keep my sketchbook in a separate room, and my tablet unplugged.
I want to keep drawing. There’s so much I want to be able to do with pen and paper and paint and pencil, etc , whether it’s digital or analogue, so in these dwindling months till grad school, when time will be severely squished, I need to learn how to get things done again (I’m currently not counting making visual art in the ‘getting things done category’). Maybe teach myself to make drawing a treat. Or possibly a bribe.
But until I reign myself in, have some arts/works in progress. Including a new chapter of Skyglass.
Eluréd again, with his as-of-yet unnamed owl. More
naked elves of my Silmarillion fanart can be found here.