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.

he was a grass widow

he was a grass widow

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)

Ebb and Peregrine

(Ebb)

Ebb

(Peregrine)

Peregrine

I also updated my illustrations and sketches pages with a couple other images:

 

…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.

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.

Life Overlooked: The Western Scrub Jay

““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 OverlookedI 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.

Life Overlooked_Scrub Jay_1

Continue reading

grad school, simple as that (because clever and/or poetic titles evade me–which, of course, implies that my other titles are clever and poetic. They are not.)

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.

 

 

Arctic Salvage

Saw two of my favorite bands back-to-back in late September. Day one, I waited against El Corazon’s freshly painted walls, slightly sticky and pungent, the alternate scrape of brick and splinters catching my back. I watched the sky and the planes in it, and waited, and listened to the sound check. Not many people showed up early. More next time, maybe.

That night was Pain of Salvation, of Sweden, of rich and rending and vulnerable music with unbreakable bones. The set they played was good, but cut short by twenty minutes due to…frustrating reasons. It meant they didn’t play anything from their most recent albums, which was a little disappointing; the music on Road Salt I and II makes me feel storm-wrecked and campfire-warmed. But they played well and sweaty, nonetheless, and anyway, I’ve been waiting since I was fourteen to see them, so finally watching them play not a foot from me was a relief. Sometimes release is all you need, and I got a little of that that night (and a hunger), so I’m okay.

The next night was Sonata Arctica of Finland. I’ve seen them six or seven times now, but the show they played on the twenty-fifth felt like one of the best I’ve attended. One of the better shows of my life, too. Even managed to worm my way to the stage’s front and center, despite being too poor to afford VIP tickets. And as usual, I snared my usual drum stick from Sonata’s drummer, Tommy Portimo, which makes that the…sixth? stick he’s handed to me personally, with a thank you. Super nice of him, though I’m forever paranoid of the moment he realizes he’s been handing drum sticks to the same girl every time he’s in Seattle.

The next morning, I was up by 5:30. I had orientation for my grad program five hours south. I photographed my mom’s bacon-lattice masterpieces, packed the houseplant she’d been watching, wrapped Cavan’s breakfast sandwiches, and said goodbye to her and my dad and the evergreens, and damp air that feeds me better than anywhere else.

ghostlinks for mediums

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.

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.

dire me 4

dire me 4

(This was written a week or two back, so if you’ve been hanging out with me and time seems warped in what follows, my tenses wrong–it’s because I’m posting this late.)

1 (leaving Montana)

Our last days among the Rockies were spent at Miscon–Missoula’s local SF/F con–and shoveling our junk into boxes, cramming those boxes into the Uhaul. When we find an extended home for our meat to rest in, I think a drastic culling will occur. We aren’t shiny-hungry magpies squatting in a nest of glitter-skinned corporate offal. We like books, and musical equipment just sort of appears ’round us (usually with the help of money, but sometimes not. Eg: the garage dwelling drum recently forced into our possession), and don’t own much of the useless trinketry that other semi-affluent Americans drag behind them in a smear of materialism. But what we do own is more than enough to make me twitchy.

After packing, we headed to Portland. I blasted our first album, SEED, all the way through the Cascades, because we were finally finally going home. Knowing that we’re back west for good, that we don’t have to return to Montana, was a shock of relief, a slough of heavy dry heat, the fading crackle of pines, the clearing of August smoke I won’t have to swallow this year.

2 (home)

I’m writing this as we head to Eugene from Western Washington, to claim the apartment me were just offered, and it feels purely right to be blasting the guttural doomy beauty of Insomnium while hemmed in all around by low-bellied skies and leaning coniferous biomass. Big sky country always felt so much more choking to me than the greenthick of the PNW. I am bigger here, and closer. My potential is expansive.

3 (inward and back)

Though we have a place to sleep in Eugene now, after we sign papers and give people money, we’ll be heading north again to spend time in the Puget Sound for reasons: a birthday, father’s day, a wedding, music, sewing projects. Also sushi. Also Bucky Barnes and Loki.

The past few days have been strange, and warm, and slightly creepy–watching home videos always seems to be that way. Seeing how I’m still very much myself no matter where in time I am. Mostly, I was looking for glimpses of Tinker (the dog I grew up with)–hunting bees, stealing sandwiches, gnawing on off-limits Christmas presents. But still, it was amusing to see smaller, jumpier versions of my sister and I scuttling about on-screen.

4 (music)

March 2012: SEED released
June 2013: Winterwheel released.

Going by the above, Moss of Moonlight is due for another album release. Bittersweet truth: it’s gonna be awhile. And while there is one brewing, it’s slow in the making (we’ve had a name for it for more than a year now)–but only because it’s bigger, and spells expansion and evolution.

Meanwhile, we’re working on two other projects–the first is a Cascadian black metal collaboration called Old Man of the Lake. We’re working with an ex-housemate of ours to make something dirty and raw, and sharp. (I just heard one of the last tracks–despite the catapulting squirrels I was watching out the window while listening, it was a massive song, and haunting, and I cannot wait for it to be given to other ears.)

The other project is doomier, and apparently features me on lead vocals (ugh. nervewracking.)–it has a name, and an album title, both of which are safely skull-locked for the moment. But as we get established in Eugene, those two works should come together quickly; we hope to have fresh-birthed music to share by the end of 2014, or early-early 2015.

(expanse)

Just a list to end on:

pink
tightrope
catkin
firn
cordial
unearth
lolita
back forth
||:again:||