Photo Blog: August and Some September

Photo Blog: August and Some September

In June, I graduated from my Master’s program (in folklore). Traveled to the (Oregon) coast for some time by the sea and by the fire.  Then I took a thirty four hour train to San Diego, where I wrote and read stories all day, every day, for six weeks at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. In short, it was incredible. I’ll write about it soon.

I returned home to alpine lakes and sushi and sea monsters. Went wandering around my neighborhood early in the morning and found a mysterious display of sticks and acorns.

I had an impending show to prepare for with Felled, which meant many, many practices. Built a gong stand, did some shirt designs; collaborated with our bassist Isamu Sato for the Felled shirt. The other shirt I designed myself, for the neofolk band Wēoh.

The show was great; good line up (atmospheric black metal band With the End in Mind was on tour; Solace from Salem opened with enthralling, earthen harp music.) More recently, but still musically, I headed to Horning’s Hideout (a thirty minute drive into the woods from Portland) to go to Faerieworlds and see Wardruna. Maybe sometime later I’ll try to write up what that was like; all I can say now is that there is absolutely nothing like seeing Wardruna live. Nothing. Nothing. When I wasn’t watching Wardruna  do their soundcheck, or perform, I spent most of my time just wandering the crowds (and muddy roads) and the surrounding forest. Startled a creature that was probably a deer, but had the tail of a cougar. Found a fir cone with mushrooms growing out of it.

Returned home from Faerieworlds just today, spent morning till dusk cleaning bones, picking amaranth, unpacking. The bones will soon become instruments and jewelry.

Till next time.

me snow fb_2.

Life (universe, everything)

Well, fuck.

Can we just leave it at that? ‘course not. There is a lot of It and because of That I will allow myself a list (list for me, November) and later I will tell all the true(ish) stories. But not now; I’m not ready. So for now, a list.

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Clarion UCSD

I am going. (!!!!!!)

Foxes and Things that Look Like Folklore, But aren’t Really, but Maybe Actually Are.

Mythpunk and the Queer Fox. (My thesis.) The Storyfox Database. (Also part of my thesis.) Foxeology. (Yes, thesis.)

In short: THESIS. (Because I graduate in two months.)

Life.

We’ll skip this for now.

Publishing

There have been podcasts and stories and papers. I will talk about them.

Goat Skins and Burning Wood

This means drumming.

Food. (Because there must always be food in a list.)

Always: Dragons (sushi). Cabbage (fermented). Bolted kale (kimchi; so, also fermented). Green Fucking Peas. Tahini + kabocha squash (holy shit, really, I need nothing else). Pickled ginger. More kimchi.
Less than Always: Cornbread, honey butter, smoked salted caramel ice-cream and HAIL to the bee honeycomb toffee chocolate freckled ice-cream, chocolate peanut-butter sauce. All at the same time. Obviously.

Stories About Coastal Oregon Fossegrim. Also Riot Grrrl-Inspired Robots.

Novels I am working on. I took a trip to do research for the first. There are pictures (see link). There will be words.

Body

Working out and stuff. ’cause I do that.

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So, yeah. I’ve got a fuckton of blogging to do. When I’m not, you know, teaching, or working on my thesis, applying for graduation, novel-writing, writing other things, working out, tweeting, drumming or eating. (Note that sleeping and socializing are not on this second list.)

Be back soon.

(every death song)

There isn’t much I can say right now, only that I need to write something. Words not winding or aslant will come later. In the meantime, prose poetry.

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In the Hammer’s Wake.

I expected the ocean, the tidepool big as a cauldron full of wyrd that looked down through the earth and showed stars. I expected cobralillies, digesting mnemosynic silver in their freckled pregnant bellies, rimmed ’round the sunken place where the sea ended, rimed in blue frost. I expected that fossegrim fiddling in the briny turmoil and the steel strings wrapped ’round my neck, biting, and the cold salt in my mouth and the confusion over whether it was ocean or blood grown slow in my veins. But I never expected you.

You, terroir and terror, a sheaf of ribs in your hand, red wheat. You trod the seafloor, dense, a dying star.

When mjölnir fell, there was a song. Fiddling and fixenwhine, that golden apple wine of Iðunn, how did you forget? Mjölnir fell and you stood there laughing. I found you down in the ocean, I stood on the rim of Thor’s Well and when the waters receded, there you were, draped in dulse, rust searibbon aflap, your arms aloft, hands open. An octopus and squid had you, asquirm and wrapped ’round your legs, a starfish on your hip, your hair caught up in urchins. You smiled and smelt fled into the antigravity.

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How to Kill a Squirrel

From November, 2015:

Last night on campus I found a squirrel with two broken legs. I was on my bike, ready for another restless night of pacing in and out of Old Nick’s whenever I feel it’s time to head elsewhere or riverward (not that I ever make it to the river; I stop at the trees for something to climb or hold onto or sit under). But I couldn’t keep on. Have you ever seen something crawl on its belly? Not by choice, but because it had no other choice. It is not comfortable. The squirrel’s back legs were limp and splayed; it dragged itself toward the road, belly to wet cement, then gave up and turned for a corner.

My fucking conscience spoke up and I headed to the library for a box, then returned to the squirrel. It hadn’t made the corner. I put it in the box. I don’t know if this was the right thing to do, fuck my conscience, probably it was the wrong thing and anthropocentric, but if I were a squirrel with broken back legs I wouldn’t want to die underfoot near a road. In hindsight, I didn’t do a good thing.

I rode one-handed with a squirrel in a box wrapped in a towel all under one arm, praying the frat boys in their clone suits could hold off their jay walking so I could pass without braking abruptly and having to explain why I was throwing broken-legged squirrels at them. At Old Nick’s, I walked in, I walked out, waiting and winding myself up and chasing dogs off from the squirrel. Then Disemballerina, who were good and what I needed. It felt nice and cathartic and not, to sit on the floor and hide my face and get a hug and a candle from a friend who sat beside me awhile. I panicked in the way I know best (quiet) until the music was over and none of this has anything has anything to do with squirrels, but none of this really does and anyway, I write what I want.

Then the last note and I stood and things were better in the way that cresting a hill and seeing the forest is better, only it’s still far, so you smile and put your head down and keep on. Then I am Skaði. Then shots of icemelt, because that’s what the water at Old Nick’s makes me think of, every time. Then alar, because how can everything be all right and utterly not at the same time, then time dilation and Fae chronology, because in a moment there is every moment from there until another that is white and vodka and linen and birch/birch and goat hide and respite and deltoid, and then even further back (stars, trees, eyes) and then back again.

I suspected the squirrel was dead by then, but I took it up Skinner’s Butte anyway. Really muddy. At the top, I took it from the box; it didn’t move. Dead, almost there. I knew, then, I had been wrong. There is no kindness in intention. I had waited and I was cruel. I opened my knife and spoke to the squirrel. I told it I had no right, I didn’t know what else to do, I’m sorry, I’m nothing and we’re scaled and the choice was never mine. Only then it had to be, because I had gone that far.

After a point I was only talking to delay my hand. I shut the fuck up.

Stabbing is harder than it looks. I need to practice my aim.

I put my knife in the ground, then through the squirrel’s throat slantwise, and the brain was as bright a gray as winter overcast. No blood, so, dead already? I only felt something before I dropped my knife, craven; after that, nothing. Just motion, up down. I laughed, wry, when I had to pry my knife from its skull.

I didn’t bury the squirrel.

After, I watched the stars on my back in the leaves.

STORYFOX podcast, episode 1: Mary Lowd (interview)

Octopi, otters and a fox raised by chickens! (+ much, much more)

This is the first in a series of Storyfox-related interviews. Most will concern foxes, but today’s interview is a bit broader in scope, focusing instead on Mary Lowd’s relationship to animals in narrative. Show notes are below.

STORYFOX podcast, episode 1: Mary Lowd

Interview Audio
Interview Transcript

Mary E. Lowd is a science-fiction and furry author, best known for her novel Otters In Space.  She’s had three novels and more than fifty short stories published so far.  Her fiction has won an Ursa Major Award and two Cóyotl Awards.  She also edited a collection of furry fiction, ROAR 6, for FurPlanet.  She’s a member of SFWA, the Furry Writers’ Guild, a judge for the Cat Writers’ Association, and co-chair of the Wordos. Mary lives with her husband, two children, and a bevy of cats and dogs in a crashed spaceship, disguised as a house in Oregon.

Homepage:  www.marylowd.com
Free fiction:  http://marylowd.com/free-fiction.html
Twitter:  @Ryffnah

washing off the road salt

I should be writing about a fossegrim from the deep south or, at the very least, foxes, but I read something beautiful this morning and the only way I can think to undistract myself from it is by writing about it.

This morning I went for a very wet and semi-long bike ride. It was my first in awhile. I had my one and only wisdom tooth extracted two weeks ago, so I’d been taking it easy, because apparently your face needs time to heal after your mouth’s been stuffed full of fingers and sawed-up tooth. What I’m trying to say is that the bike ride would have been good no matter what, because I was out and in my head for the first time in too long. But when I woke this morning, the clouds were steady in the sky and I felt safe packing my rain jacket before heading out, which means the weather was promising that my ride would be more than good.

By the time I reached the Willamette, rain was falling hard. I stopped under the train tracks for a drink of water and to put on my jacket. My boots were soaked halfway across the bridge over the river. I could have been miserable, but I felt more euphoric than pissed off. I looked upstream and all I could see was an oceanic microcosm, a white island jagged with evergreens on a backdrop of fog, a scene straight out of Deception’s Pass at dawn. Then I was off the bridge and into forest, leafdamp, leatherdamp, hardturn close call wipeout and I fuck you not, all I could think is I’ve never been happier.

Theodora Goss got it right in her blog post this morning:

I think that beauty is an underlying order that captures and encompasses chaos…It does not make us more comfortable. What it makes us feel, I believe, is more alive.

And how could I not write about that after such a beautiful ride? Because it wasn’t just mud and prime salamander grounds and river so still you probably could have tread on it–it was also me, in my head, thinking and not thinking. Thinking about things I shouldn’t think about or feel. Thinking about shape and form and red and rune and want and ace and aro and sex and twins and unreachable gravity wells. When I’m out, alone, especially in the rain and under the trees, I just am. I am. I. Am. (Someone please take note of that reference.) And I am both fucked up and breathtaking. Not to anyone else–but maybe to myself, close to almost. I am a mess and at most myself, and that is fucking beautiful.

Awkward Sex Scene (Skyglass extra)

Tell me something distracting, Phoenix said.

Against my better judgment, I did:

My first kiss was drunken, and numb from the smokeless–the cold winter cigarette the girl and I were sharing. We kissed at the base of a stage. Her name was Rish. She had me up against a discarded half-stack, mouth on mine, hands flat against my ribcage, like she was trying to push me away even as we kissed. Like she was some sort of oracle.

I hadn’t expected the kiss. I was nineteen. It was my first and even though I liked her, I hadn’t really considered the possibility. But then it happened and I was half-drunk, startled–what was I supposed to do? Complain about her mouth? On mine? No, I kissed her back. Probably badly, but at the time she didn’t care. Or maybe she did and was just too nice to say.

Still, we kissed, and it was my first, and she was starbright, but I think the only reason I remember her mouth is because I could feel the music vibrate in her teeth. Months later, when I thought I was ready, we tried having sex. On several occasions. Once, we were in her yurt. It was on a roof so high up you could bury you face in the green sky. The tent was like a lung with a lantern inside; red cloth walls lit up by golden light.

We started…kissing, and…you know. When we’d lost all our clothes, she stopped. She looked at me, her stare all terrifying, and said, you’re weird. I asked why; she said I watched her eyes too much, her body not enough.

I said, but I like your eyes.

That didn’t matter, she didn’t care—she wanted me looking other places, touching other parts. She wanted my mouth on her breasts, and—just. No. They were soft and fragile and sweaty. I didn’t like it, but I wanted her to feel good.

Then she turned off the music that was playing and said, I want to hear you, just you. But the music had been the only thing holding me together. I think I actually moaned at the loss. I went soft at the loss, and she was like, really? and turned away, and then I couldn’t look at her any longer because I knew I’d screwed up. She needed someone human, and what was I? I’m like a tree, only I run on music instead of sun.

After I failed, I went outside because Rish asked me to. I stood in the dripping mist with my head in the green sky’s leaves. It was closest enough to do that. I was glad for the contact—cold, ragged, indistinct. I was choking. I forced air down my throat. It tasted of trees. Calmed me. I would try harder next time. I told myself, you will learn want, you will learn desire, you will learn lust.

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If you enjoyed the words above, consider checking out the rest of the novel (mine), Skyglass, which is currently being serialized over at Sparkler Monthly.

clocks cut

Sometimes you find that something you love with all your dirt-gritty and blood-gravid heart isn’t universally loved.

Fourteen. I was fourteen when I found my music. Mine and mine and just mine (so you’d think, then, I wouldn’t give a damn about universal adoration–but you know, there’s that whole being human thing, brimming full with logicfuck). Not all the bands from that time survived the course I forged from there to here, but some have. Some I still keep with me, earside, and spine- and bellywards. Pain of Salvation is one of these roadrazers, these unknowing companions (roadrazers), as all bands are (and, somehow, ineffably, aren’t) to the listener.

They:

Viscera. Greencoil. Mosswrecked epiphytic interdependency and knee-plunge and hipclutch. Plunge and batter and rust.

I don’t know how else to verbalize their soundscapes and stories, except with wordstreams like the above. Their music, it’s like kneeling in someone’s chest, stealing their lungs and squeezing the air into your mouth. The taste is seaweed and candlefish all solar-bright and a-flair–salt and oil and ash–and it drips down thick, sick, as any other pearlescent bodily fluid.

But–but I was wondering about the universe, and love. I recently spoke to a friend about Pain of Salvation, and found she isn’t fond of their newer work. Utterly fine. However, it lead me to think–about why Road Salt One and Two rope me in probably harder than any of their previous work.

This is what I wrote, more or less incoherently:

Apparently I have lots of thoughts and feelings about these albums. While Road Salt One does spin a sex-narrative, for me it’s more intensely about the fucked up ways humans catch (fire) against each other, the pain and viciousness and just humanness that ignites when people come in contact. There’s a bonus track that I’m not whole-hardheartedly fond of, but I think its last line sums up one vein of the album:

[And I don’t know where I need to be, but it is not here inside her]

Sometimes sex is the worst answer. The most painful? The least urgent despite all its gravid thrust?

And then, beyond–I think the album is about finding the spinal, self-machinated strength to just fucking trudge on and not letting the bruising and knee-dirt and bed-bow-and-warp keep you from existing in the world, from walking the road. (The songs Road Salt–and Tell Me You Don’t Know–for context seekers.)

But more than any of it, when I listen to Road Salt One, in the context of its it sonic power and musicianship, the thing is…giant. And purgative. Like some sort of wounded animal stranglehold put to music. (Am I somehow implying that strangulation is cathartic? Dunno.)

And then, more intimately, plain, me? I think of the song She Likes to Hide, because I like to hide. And Tell Me Where it Hurts, and Mortar Grind from Road Salt Two, because–just because. (Quiet.)

So on and on.

Listening to songs like Sisters, even after having heard them too-too many times probably than is healthy, the immersion is still…too much? Part of it is just the edgy, doomy subtly of the music (especially in the Leo Margarit’s drumming–not to mention Daniel’s breathwrenching and terribly vulnerable vocal performance on that song) and then, again,

Sisters, Sisters, Sisters. I’ve never been in love with anyone’s sister, yet it. It. It, the song, is oceanic and huge and so so small. The story isn’t mine (but somehow, I don’t know how, it is, it is) chokes me, but beyond that skin, the catharsis is anatomically negating and I can’t help but just sit and sink when that song comes on. I inhabit it?

I change every single fucking time I listen to the Road Salt albums–especially the first. Like I undergo a premature and quick and bloody chrysalis. And when it’s over, though I’m not actually all that different, in the between time, the friction of middle, the heaviness that falls before beginning and after end, in those places, I’m…something else.

And all I know is that I don’t. I just…don’t.

an obsessive anatomy

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.

the velocity of inwards

If you couldn’t tell from the exponential upspike in fanart production, I started rereading The Silmarillion last week. I’m participating in the Tolkienreadalong on tumblr (Team Angband ftw!), and it’s serving well to feed the fannish hunger I’ve had these past few months. But it’s also been a reminder: I like being wholehearted.  I consume consumption. I have this urge to find new obsessions or sustain old ones. But sometime I have to remember to hold back.

We’re only one week into The Silmarillion and won’t be finished till November, yet I’m already trying hard not to kick through the whole book this very instant. I want to pace myself, so I’m going slow.  What’s the point of participating in a readalong if you’re not actually going to read along? I’m in this for the neck-deep onslaught of intestinal Middle Earth  mayhem (and all the dark lords ever), but it’s the ‘along’ bit that I’m excited about. Being in the same ephemeral headspace as a couple thousand others, seeing the divergent and intersecting bookspawn people create via headcannons, meta, fanart/fic/vid (I mean hel, we already have a booty dancing Annatar–aka Sauron–video)–it’s a glorious leviathan overload of community, and I want to ride with it, not ahead of it.

I guess it’s as simple as I don’t want to be alone. Especially not with The Silmarillion. One, it’s vast, and sometimes silly and wonderful in its vastness, and these are not things that should be bibliomaniacally imbibed on one’s own. For example: it’s one thing to think to myself, Melkor is a metal god, and quite another to see a billion fanartists in pen-and-inked-accord with this thought. Also, it’s been years since I last read the book, but I have no doubt this reread will prove The Silmarillion to be problematic; I’ll catch some of the terribleness, but not all of it. In other words: bring on the meta-tons of destructive criticism. In the meantime, I’m going to teach myself how to slow down.