Just as if . . .

Melpomene:

 
 

A few years ago I went to visit Thalia at her university. In the course of my stay, she told me stories of the local defunct insane asylum. Or, as it used to be called, the sanitarium.

This Sanitarium was known for its fairly humane treatment of patients. And also for its self-sufficiency, until the government took over and they quite suddenly had no money and had to shut down.

This place features intriguing architecture. From afar, it appear blandly symmetrical. But up close, it is anything but. The window casings are different for each floor. The two turrets of the main office are similar, but not alike.

It is terrifying.

 

And then there is the graveyard.

The insane were buried on the property, unless their family could afford to bury them elsewhere. There is the hill of the cemetery, with rows of little, numbered rocks marking each grave. Most of the numbers are worn off, but careful records still identify each person. Except for in one upper corner of the field, where the stones have not only had the numbers worn off, but they are set in a circle.

The entire place is eerie.

Not necessarily with ghosts, but with the weight of confronting humanity, and all that humanity means. Which is what encounters with insanity does: forces  upon us the ideas of what it means to be human.

Last night a lecturer read Allen Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead” aloud, and the imagery brought the Cemetery of the Ridges suddenly to my mind.

And I had to write about it.

I just started scribbling sentences, in between taking notes. Not all of it made sense as I went, I wanted to get the idea-pictures down.

I had known – I think – that this graveyard did not start at the number one. (The first cemetery is missing.) I thought it began somewhere in the hundreds. But “hundred” does not fit well into the flow of a line.

So I made up a number.

The first one that came into my mind.

Sixty-four.

It sounds good and has the right syllables.

When I got home, I looked up the cemetery, to see if this numbering thing was a myth.

It is real. The first graves are lost to time and legend.

This graveyard starts at the number sixty-four. Exactly.

 

 

The poem above is, with a few minor word changes, exactly what I wrote during class.

I revised it slightly on my return home, trying to make spookiness even more present.

 

 

In the Graveyard at The Ridges Insane Asylum

They do not start at one. That one has been lost.
So now they begin in the center of their count:
Sixty-four, sixty-five, sixty-six, white stones on a hill.
Row on row from the crest slope down
To the river, wending, whispering,
With tall, stark pines on one side
And short, flat markers on the other.
We were taught not to step where they lie,
The buried ones, just as if there were not
Six feet of sod between us. But some markers
Stand in a perfect circle, and we are unsure
Which way the insane lay, facing outwards or in.
So we stop, one body length from the edge,
And wondering, gape at the sacred ring of Dead.

Originally posted on Egotist's Club:

 
 
 

A few years ago I went to visit Thalia at her university. In the course of my stay, she told me stories of the local defunct insane asylum. Or, as it used to be called, the sanitarium.

This Sanitarium was known for its fairly humane treatment of patients. And also for its self-sufficiency, until the government took over and they quite suddenly had no money and had to shut down.

This place features intriguing architecture. From afar, it appear blandly symmetrical. But up close, it is anything but. The window casings are different for each floor. The two turrets of the main office are similar, but not alike.

It is terrifying.

And then there is the graveyard.

The insane were buried on the property, unless their family could afford to bury them elsewhere. There is the hill of the first cemetery, with rows of little…

View original 406 more words

Corryvreckan

Once, in pursuit of expanding my musical horizons a very little bit, I checked The Best of the Thistle & Shamrock out of the library, and thus added William Jackson’s “Corryvreckan” to my playlists. I never knew what exactly Corryvreckan was, though given all the pictures of Scottish countryside in the video I just linked (after the baffling phoenix at the start), I assumed it was some place that Mr. Jackson found especially inspiring, and never bothered asking why.

Sure, every video YouTube links to it involves whirlpools, but I more or less ignored the implications of that.

Or I did, until a friend on Tumblr shared a post today with some information on Bolton Strid, a river in Yorkshire that kills anyone who tries to cross it and fails (or, worse, tries swimming in it).  Obviously I was fascinated, looked it up, and found a 2.5-year-old Cracked article listing Bolton Strid as one of the “5 Most Spectacular Landscapes on Earth (That Murder You).”

Wouldn’t you know it: said article also lists the Corryvreckan maelstrom. Well. That answers that!

Lured by the promise of some fascinating force of nature, I found the following video. Most of it is a rather soothing video of the Scottish shoreline, accompanied by equally soothing music, but check out 2:20 to 4:15.  If I thought the video from the surface too placid-looking, there’s an animation of the sea bed which somehow impressed upon me the weight and depth of all the water right there.  Go and have a look at the Charybdis Brecani!

Use Your Words: Facebook Without Likes

This is an intriguing post by Ms. Elan Morgan (in brief: she stopped using the “like” button on Facebook and found that it improved her news feed, while rendering her interactions…into actual interactions, with other people, with greater delight). She notes that cessation of liking things is difficult, so I will not necessarily follow her lead. Still, I’m curious to see how pronounced the difference might be between my feed now and my feed after a period of like-avoidance.

Facebook Like buttonThere are, presumably, more and less healthy ways to use Facebook. I took a look at my activity log for the past month: out of my 170 likes, only 2 were for content served up by a business or personality (Conor O’Neill’s Pub and the Inky Fool) rather than an individual I know; most likes were for status updates (72), photos (51), and links (38; this last category is most likely to involve third parties – think-tanks, news organizations, and the like).

Hitting the like button strikes me as a less-creepy way to engage with the acquaintances I don’t really talk to: K in New York making dumplings, V sharing beautiful desserts and Mumford lyrics, a friend-of-a-friend with a nice photo here, a fellow-that-was-always-cooler-than-me sharing an incisive thought there. But perhaps if I did comment, I’d find that it was not unwelcome; whenever I hear from college friends or more distant acquaintances, it tends to be more pleasant than strange.

Curiously, Ms. Morgan does not comment on whether abandoning the “Like” changed her output. Obviously, the experience of hitting “like” has more to do with what we receive or observe on Facebook than what we ourselves write, produce, or share. And yet…when Ms. Morgan used her words to comment on the posts of others, she produced content of her own. Not only did she render herself visible on the platform, but she added something: more focused approbation, old stories, perhaps exposition or criticism of whatever posts she saw.

But there’s also the content that she could supply by herself – her own statuses, pictures, links. Did she avoid sharing clickbait (or, similarly, “likebait”) in favor of something more substantial? Did the effort needed to refrain from hitting “like” extend to more carefully sifting what she herself posted?

I frequently debate with myself before posting things. Two impulses war within me: “Just write something (it doesn’t matter what)” versus “Only add if I can edify.” Where Facebook is concerned, I tend to avoid the weighty – mostly because I don’t want to spend all day getting into fights on the internet – in favor of the silly: informal polls, music of the moment, links I can’t share on my brother’s wall because of his settings, or various delightful happenstances.

The aforementioned brother suggested I ask Ms. Morgan herself if she recognized a shift in that direction. As it is, I think I’ll try a fortnight or two without likes. Perhaps it, too, will expand my love!

Thoughtwash

Today, I’ve been pondering the Pensieve. One of J.K. Rowling’s inventions in the Potterverse, it is a bowl with various runes carved into it; magic allows one to draw silvery threads of thought out of one’s head and put them into this basin.

The purpose is twofold. The first is that when one’s head is too full of thoughts, some of them can be unloaded.  Imagine how useful: remove the thought when you need to stop replaying your worst memory in your head; when you need to focus on one task instead of a dozen others; when you can’t sleep for anxiety; when you have so many ideas to ponder that you cannot pick and follow a single train of thought to its terminus.

Typically, though, we only see it used (in the books, at least) to examine memories – an extremely plot-convenient film reel or record of events, made shareable through the magic of the Pensieve, and more exact than life.

Also: inadvertent (or not so much) spying on one's professors

Also: inadvertent (or not so much) spying on the past of one’s professors

Useful though it sounds, I don’t typically long for a Pensieve. The act of picking out which thoughts to remove, to line up, to examine – that is organization enough for my Muggle purposes.  I also imagine that removing the first two or three thoughts could render one unable to recall which other thoughts one had wanted to cull and examine.

On the other hand, there are thoughts I wish I could erase or delete or scrub away with brain bleach.  The objects we perceive are grist for the mill of our cogitation, memory, and imagination; and only that which has been milled by the internal senses can contribute to our intellect and understanding.  Thus the things I see, the stories or articles I read, the words or music I hear, all become a part of me.

I should take far greater care for what grist enters the mill of my mind.

And so it bears mentioning Pensieve cabinetthat while I hunted for a picture of this thoughtbowl – look how decorative! – other basins came to mind, specifically baptismal fonts. I don’t believe Rowling meant to allude to the sacrament of baptism with her cogitation-basin, but I reckon that the baptismal font is the best help available for management of our thoughts and our inner life.

Luther’s Large Catechism reads as follows:

These two parts, to be sunk under the water and drawn out again, signify the power and operation of Baptism, which is nothing else than putting to death the old Adam, and after that the resurrection of the new man, both of which must take place in us all our lives, so that a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be practised without ceasing, that we ever keep purging away whatever is of the old Adam, and that that which belongs to the new man come forth.
But what is the old man? It is that which is born in us from Adam, angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, yea, unbelieving, infected with all vices, and having by nature nothing good in it.
Now, when we are come into the kingdom of Christ, these things must daily decrease, that the longer we live we become more gentle, more patient, more meek, and ever withdraw more and more from unbelief, avarice, hatred, envy, haughtiness.

What a litany.  Angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, unbelieving, infected with all vices.  True, true, true, true, and true.  I need much more than the removal of this or that unhealthy story, rude joke, vacuous song, or meaningless article.  I need nothing less than the washing of regeneration for all my thoughts, each and every day.

Baptism is not a one-time event.  It is the power of God to drown that Old Adam daily.  The thoughts put in to the baptismal font will either be redeemed, or they will be eradicated.

 

Culinary Ingenuity, Part 2

Tonight, I made a batch of crepes, and used them to wrap up some fried rice (made with leftover mushroom risotto, of all things, plus the requisite soy sauce and egg) and chorizo into breakfast-for-dinner burritos.  There were fridge pickles to go with it, and a sweet crepe for afters.

Am I

1) marvelously effective at cleaning out the fridge;

2) consuming four times the daily sodium recommended by the AHA;

3) profoundly disturbed;

4) terribly avant-garde;

5) overly fond of crepes and incidentally fresh out of black raspberry jam;

6) the single cause of every mess in the kitchen this week;

7) the reification of the American melting pot, at least where my dinner is concerned; or

8) all of the above?

Is this a beautiful example of household economy, or some kind of cry for help?

Is this a beautiful example of household economy, or some kind of cry for help?

On a less-rhetorical note: has this kind of madness ever manifested in your kitchen?  Odd as this concoction was, I still think my dad took the cake some 18-20 years ago.  He would always prepare a Sunday evening snack to sweep leftovers out of the fridge, but eventually found that some of the space was occupied by rarely-used, mostly-but-not-quite-empty cans of frosting.  One Sunday, he decided to serve them with graham crackers.  They sold, more or less, and so after that he put the frosting out again – which was great until we ran out of graham crackers and he put out saltines instead.  But it was, I suppose, ahead of the curve on the salty-sweet fad.  What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done to use up leftovers?

A Long-Unexpected Illustration

I’m hoping it won’t be stepping over any bounds to say that Thalia and her Vati have spent the past several months working on some storybooks (if so, expect redactions in the morning, I suppose).  They tell of The Noble Adventures of Georges and Jean-Luc, and are (so far as I have seen and read) charming.

The thing about them is, Thalia writes the stories and G. R. T. does the illustration.  This is, I am assured, a wise division of labor.

But.  Thalia HAS done some illustration in the past, and whilst going through some older pictures on my laptop this week, I came across proof of the fact.

There was a day, nigh-on two and a half years ago now, when the two of us declared that we would Draw Pictures of Poetic Merit for the Baby Loon (now a much older Loon!  We shall have to call her something else) and mail them to her.

The pictures were duly drawn, but were never sent.

Our apologies, dear Baby Loon.  Here they are now, better late (we hope?) than never.

IMG_3282 IMG_3284

After she had drawn Methuselah with ice cream, a camel, and a tent, and I had drawn a peacock, a pelican, a phoenix, and an albatross around a cross, we were in a sort of groove.  So we kept drawing.

IMG_3278 IMG_3279 IMG_3308

The latter pictures weren’t necessarily meant to go together, but I find it amusing that the Jameson family crest (shown here according to the whiskey brand variation; typically there are 3 ships and a bugle) and the tale of the Nancy Bell are both rather maritimey in nature.   I suppose one could indeed say that James of the Nancy Bell is indeed Sine Metu: Without Fear!  Without any Dutch courage involved, even.

“Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain’s gig!”

Speed Poems, or What You Will

Last month, I went to Comic Con.

It was fantastic, in the old, heady, fantasy-based, rather terrifying sense of the word.

It was also exhausting.

No, I did not dress up as an anime character. I went as an exhibitor.

My friend, to be known as The Grackle, (that is even how I have saved his phone number,) runs, organizes, prints, and hand binds a literary magazine. This entertaining and enlightening romp through a vale of modern literature and literary critiques is called the Grub Street Grackle.

This Grackle, being tenacious and persuasive, decided to sell magazines and promote the brand name at Comic Con. And he offered me a free ticket to help him man the booth.

Being of a slightly nerdy persuasion, I agreed.

But there was a catch. The gimmick was to offer FREE bad poetry.

“Free baaaaad poetry! Step right up and get your freeeee bad poetry! Give us three words and five minutes, and we will give you the WORST poetry you have heard all day. Guaranteed or your many back!”

It was exciting, intense, and exhausting. I give you here some glimpses of our efforts. (Some are done my yours truly, and some by The Grackle Himself.)

 

Words: hat, peanut, hero

Bad Poem:

How deep are the depths
of my soul?
They about as deep
as the inside of an overturned
hat, like a really big one,
like, think Abe Lincoln
times a million.
How rich are the contents of my
fertile mind?
As rich as the contents of a very
good peanut.
I am my own hero.

 

 

Words: ancient, dead, Tardis

Bad Poem:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the Tardis is spread out against the sky,
Like a walrus, dead on a table.
Ancient in its magnitude,
Rogue in time and space and fable.

 

Words: guinea pig, insomnia, creepy

Bad Poetry:

Oh, my, oh, me, oh, oh,
oh.
Ah me.
I lost my guinea pig.
Now I live
alone.
Except for my room mate.
And he’s real loud and creepy.
Now I have insomnia.
Oh, ah, me, ah, oh.

Words: daisy, girth, testicular

Bad poem:

I travel the cosmic daisy chain,
Hopping form leaf to leaf,
Flying between elaborate worlds
In my ship, the “Absolute Girth,”
Flying my sails occasionally furled,
And avoiding vestigial, testicular claims.

 

Photo: The challenge words were: testicular, girth, and daisy. What would you write?

 

 

 

 

Words: children, lighthouse, castle

Bad Poem:

We in this world
are all but children,
adrift in a sea of confusion
with no guide,
no lighthouse,
helpless,
sad.
Like kings without a castle,
or something.

Words: chloroplast, amoeba, eggplant (but a the time I could not remember how to spell chloroplast)

Bad Poem:

You are my chloroplast,
My darling chloroplast,
You shake my amoebas,
When I’m on an eggplant fast.
You’ll never know dear,
How wormy my cells are,
Unless you blast light at
a magnified degree
through a microscope
at your eye and see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many, many more, discovering in varying degrees the cross-section of idiocy and brilliance. The rest, should you wish to pursue them, may be found at the Grackle facebook page. We wrestled with words like Ramadan, cat, Jayne Cobb, regurgitation (that one was given by Captain America himself!) spaghetti, and carcinogenic.

And I know that there is one I wrote about watermelon and love that is actually almost a decent poem, but I cannot find it. If you spot it, let me know!

The rest of Comic Con was fun too. Crazy, obsessive, and bone-wearying, but fun.

Dilly-Dally

Typically when my sister muses leave me alone in the club too long, I start talking to myself and tend toward the confessional. That might yet happen this week, but first: yesterday’s festival of dill.

It could be said that this all really started back in May, when my housemates and I decided to have a somewhat formal tea. We prepared a couple different pots of tea, dairy-free coconut scones, and cucumber sandwiches in plenty. Thus my purchase of, and introduction to, fresh dill.  Prior to that, I’d only encountered dill as in a mirror, darkly: dried and faded and sprinkled on salmon. The fresh bundle was luxuriantly green and terribly fragrant in comparison.

Somehow yesterday demanded a reprise of that redolence, a reappearance of those feathery fronds. It is like having both delicate seaweed and a weeping willow inside one’s kitchen.

The first order of business was to mix some chopped dill into a bit of butter and a bit of cream cheese for English muffin purposes. That done, I decided to infuse a bit of gin with a few stems.

IMG_3310Then the requisite refrigerator pickles: some are garlicky, some are a little peppery, all of them are dilly.IMG_3313 After that, I still wanted to make something, but wasn’t quite up for baked salmon, borsht, or mizeria. Since the dill in the gin had only begun macerating…I grabbed a bit more dill, a bit more gin, and muddled them together. In went some lime juice and some liqueurs: honey, vanilla, ginger, and Chartreuse. The result was a bit like drinking in a sunlight field entire. It struck me as fitting; generally, smelling dill is like breathing in a forest and a field and the sea all at once.

IMG_3318What do you do with dill?