autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

The Screeching Lunatic

Today, my friend Taerie and I had been discussing the problems of adolescence, and how quickly and easily kids' personalities can change at about the age of 12 or 13. She had been talking with a woman who at first resented all the time and money she put into her daughter's horse/equestrian hobby, until she saw her daughter's friends move onto darker paths such as drug use and other dangerous hobbies, and realized if the worst thing her daughter did was to love horses, she was lucky. She stopped resenting the time and money, and started supporting her daughter's passion. It has worked...so far.

I really believe that everyone needs a passion, but none need it more than kids moving into that inbetween period of adolescence, when everything starts becoming blurry and more complicated, and those carefree days of just being a young child are suddenly gone. At that age, 12 and 13, we're too young to yet define ourselves, we have no clue "who" we are, but we are too old to not worry about it all the time. Immature choices are ripening to be made. Impulse control is limited. Kids mouth off rudely to each other, their teachers, their parents. They dress inappropriately for their age. They are crude; they are standoffish.

I remember entering 7th grade, which was a new school called jr. high, and leaving elementary school behind. Over the summer it seemed most everyone had gone insane. Kids I used to know were different, meaner, out of control. It was actually shocking. They had language and clothing and behaviors that I had rarely seen. Kids would hit, punch, insult, cuss, kick, start fires, graffiti the bathrooms, etc. While elementary school was not perfect, the extent of the chaos in jr. high was, frankly, outrageous. And this was a "nice" school (and way before the times of metal detectors on school grounds, and there was no such thing as gangs.) I had really been a very secure, outgoing, even bold kid before 7th grade. But suddenly it was all too much. It was overwhelming to the point of causing me to withdraw, even become slightly depressed. My friendships from my younger years were slowly disintegrating, though I did not know that at the time. But I could sense changes. Kirsten, who I had known since age 4, and who was a year older than I, had already been at that school for a year and had her own changes and peer pressures to deal with. Cindy and Sandy, the twins, my best friends since 4th grade, would move several miles away later that year and fall in with a harder crowd. If it weren't for a new passion, something to obsess me and lift me up, I'm not sure I would not have remained a loner and withdrawn. That passion was Star Trek. It was a geeky thing back in the 70s to even like it, let alone be passionate about it. It was "spacy." It was science fiction, therefore nerdy. But if something is that good, if it brings you that much happiness, you don't care in the midst of that good feeling if others call you a nerd. Plus, it introduced me to my still good friend Kym (and later led to my friendship with Taerie, mentioned above, and still later to my significant other of 25 years, Della.) I believe Star Trek saved my sanity and brought me back to the more carefree kid I was when I was bold but fair, less judgmental but authentic, a real person, not someone caught up in roles and popularity and the programs and hormones of growing up that lock us into a kind of social and biological slavery that steals our souls. Others around me at the time who did not share the Trek obsession might disagree. They might think they "lost" Wendy to an obsession that distracted her mind, but what they don't realize is that it helped preserve "Wendy" so that she would not become lost forever, so that the child could grow up but never forget how to breathe.

And this leads me to my next memory, one I think of often, and is probably a very defining moment in learning "who" I am, an aspect of the person I hope I continue to be, and that which, later on, jr. high threatened to destroy.

At the time of the following I was only 11.

Martha, who dominated my sixth grade class, was often so bossy and demanding it was difficult at times to be around her. She was unfair to others, she made friends and dropped them like a casual fad, laughed at kids who bungled the ball, and hogged the center spot of games. I remember standing up to her quite often, not threateningly, just trying to be reasonable, so that over the next several months there was a trading off of sometimes anger from her, sometimes grudging respect. Occasionally, she would try to win me over because she knew I was not weak and would not back down. Other times she tried to ignore me while I would loudly refuse to play certain games with her (she cheated, too.) We were hot/cold with each other. I think I was bold partially because I had good friends who were loyal and backed me up. Also, I did not care much for her, so I did not have any personal investment in her opinions. Simply, she couldn't personally affect me. I did not try to lord over her, but I would not let her lord over me or my friends. For many months it was much of the same until a day she became very jealous of my friendship with Cindy (one of the twins) who she wanted as her friend (no, it doesn't make sense, since Cindy could be friends with more than one person at a time. But Martha wanted her as an exclusive friend.) Cindy and I had been friends since 4th grade and Martha was plainly jealous of that. She said something very mean to me, I don't remember what, and Cindy was standing next to me, so I leaned down to Cindy (Cindy was short) and pretended to whisper in her ear, then laugh. I said nothing, just went: psssssst. But Martha became enraged and screeched, "What did you say about my father?" Cindy and I were very confused since in actuality I had said nothing. I admit I did try to piss Martha off with pretend whispering, and everyone knows that little whispering girls are just about the most vile of creatures, but it was truly harmless. Plus, when did her father come into it? I knew nothing of Martha's father and had never even wondered about him. I had missed a chapter, but I didn't care. I just laughed at her because she was being so ridiculous. BIG mistake. Because I dared to laugh, she challenged me to a fight after school in which practically the entire class (of 30 students) showed up.

All day kids talked about "the fight after school." Notes were passed in class about it. In the schoolyard, people discussed it in excited tones the way they might discuss an approaching holiday. I assured them I would not be there. They believed otherwise because, of course, it's more fun to believe in something exciting than in "nothing." No matter what I said, the "fight was on." I was not part of that decision-making process. Martha had said it and so it was. Martha ruled.

I still could not believe any fight would actually occur. I did not like Martha, but I did not hate her. And I was, quite frankly, a pacifist.

The end of the school day approached. The sky was California blue. The air crisped sweet. I'd ridden my bike to school that morning, and so quickly I headed for the racks. Andy, my brother, who was in the fifth grade, had heard news of the fight, and knowing I wanted to only avoid it, came scurrying along behind me out of a loyalty brothers and sisters age 10 and 11 suspect exists but rarely experience until older. Most of the time, for us, affection and connection was made through arguing, wrestling, and banning each other from our respective bedrooms. But this day, I think Andy was genuinely worried about me.

I thought I had beat the crowd, rushing across blacktop playgrounds to the bike racks. But when I arrived on the other side of the elementary school office, I saw a mob of kids surrounding all the bikes. How had they gotten there so quickly? Martha was not in sight yet, so all hope was not lost. I went straight to my bike and unlocked it, as did Andy. Then, abruptly, some goony snot-nosed kid from my class who liked to stick sharp things in his mouth to freak out other kids grabbed my bike lock from my hand, ran away a few feet, knelt and pounded it into the cement sidewalk. It came apart and the insides scattered along the walkway. I was stunned. I had no quarrel with him. I don't remember feeling much of anything but shock. Oh well; it was only a long padlock. I could get another one.

I started to take my bike and ride up the walkway to the street when kids on bikes and on foot moved to block me. Was my fight with the entire school?

Just then, Martha came running up. She yelled things I do not now recall, but they were anger-filled and nasty. She kept demanding I fight her. I refused. She came up to me and repeatedly pushed me on my bike. I refused to respond and tried once again to ride off on my bike but she pushed me over and demanded that the other kids keep blocking me. Of course at this point the mob mentality was quite efficiently rushing through these young, unformed and immature minds. So they did just that, more joining in than ever before, blocking with their bikes and bodies. She kept pushing me until finally I pushed back, once, not even very hard, and she tumbled over and down the parking lot curb. It was incredibly easy. She was so skinny. For all her hot air, I thought, 'Wow, I barely touched her and down she goes.' Then, I got on my bike and tried to ride through the mob. She either had a bike there, or borrowed one, because suddenly she was chasing me down the street along with the mob of, at this point, probably about 15 kids on bikes (leaving another 15 behind who were on foot.) Honestly, I did not want to fight her regardless of the fact that now I had just discovered she was a featherweight. Really, I knew better! I was, even at 11, not a vindictive or violent person. It had nothing to do with fear or whether I could beat her. It had to do with the fact that it was wrong,...plus my mom would kill me. I just wanted to go home. Andy was there and trying to help clear a path and even yelling at kids to get out of the way. About two blocks from my home, the mob overtook us again and blocked me and Andy. What a sight that must have been! If you had driven up on it, you would've thought an accident had happened. Adults came out of their houses! Cars stopped on the road! Martha was insane! Kids were yelling. Martha was yelling "Fight me!" At that point Andy and I looked at each other with that 'the world has gone mad' look. It was truly mystifying, and I actually felt apart from it all, out of body, like I was looking down at this madness thinking 'how did I get here?'

Just then my mom drove up. Being, like all mothers, psychic and with eyes not only in the back of her head but positioned just about anywhere we kids might travel, she knew something had happened. Maybe it was also because we were late coming home. I had a piano lesson I had to get to right after school, so I was expected not to dally that day. When it looked like I might be late she came looking and found us right away. She parked across the street, came out of the car like a whirlwind, demanding to know what was going on. Finally someone with a little authority! Kids scattered. Mom was nice-looking enough but you never wanted to mess with her. Like the scene in "A Christmas Story" (although no blood had been shed and my glasses were still on) she entered the quickly scattering crowd, dragged me away and put me, Andy and our bikes in the van. Also like the kid in "A Christmas Story," I suddenly started to cry very hard because I believed my life was over; I would be killed either by my mother or my father. No one would believe me that I had not wanted to fight an insanely screeching girl. I hunkered down on the floor of the van and wailed. I did not want to be seen by the other kids, so I stayed on the floor until we were far away from that block.

But I was believed. Andy was there and saw the whole thing and validated my story. He saw that I tried to leave, that I was blocked, that I never pushed Martha until I got tired of her pushing me. And I only pushed her once to push her off me. So Martha and a lot of other kids got in trouble. The sharp object-obsessed kid who broke my bike lock had to pay for a new one. And I received a lot of apologies, much to my surprise. Martha even apologized right after she came out of "the Office." "The Office" was a place bad kids went. You never wanted to go there. I don't know what happened to her in there, or what was said, and I was afraid she'd shriek at me again because she'd been in trouble. Instead, she put her arm around me and decided we would be friends again. Well, I still did not like her, and she was crazy so it didn't last. But she never said a bad word to me again. Luckily after 6th grade, she had gone somewhere else. I never saw her again and never have known what has become of her. She probably became some high-powered lawyer for Enron or something. She was nuts but she had wits and was smart.

As I said above, I think of that fight with Martha quite often, and surprisingly remember a lot of details because the person I was then is the person I have aspired to become again and again, bold, not letting anyone lord over me or push me, yet all the while not losing the idea of doing the right thing. I think that moment of feeling out of body showed me a kind of overview of the insanity of this world, and perhaps a part of me right then vowed never to let myself get so mixed up in it if I could help it. I don't have a problem walking away from a scene if it avoids drama. My pride does not demand conflict. I did not ever want to be like Martha. There are a million other ways of solving problems than becoming a screeching lunatic.

Wendy Rathbone
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autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

More Poetry

I have decided to use this journal to post poetry now and again. But I'll also write my thoughts and opinions when they strike me, or inspire me. It seems the thing to do to post poems, however, since I have a lot, and since some people who read this seem to enjoy them. So, here goes:

FOUR REASONS WHY I WANT TO GO WITH YOU

In the eons of your eyes
cities rise and fall like stars
Your patched sleeve trails
broken meteors

Beyond the sun
your black rook ship
rocks in a dream of
galactic November

Your name means
"from a town long buried
on the other side
of time"

When the Earth grew old
I wove my dress of cinder and ice
then, dancing below no gods
I wished only for you

(previously published in Dreams and Nightmares)

***

MOVING TOO FAST

When did I turn back
to get a better glimpse of
charming princes
When did I notice the little
winged girls in the trees
When did I suddenly see
how fast I'd been moving
year to year
on a planet full of mysteries
I'd missed?

***

untitled

There is only one autumn
It is the wind
now
and forever
ruffling the stars

(also published in Dreams and Nightmares)

***

untitled

Autumn is a town
on its own star
fallen from
the coldest
constellation

***

HOW I SURVIVE EACH DAY

The white lands have faded
I have dreamed the dream
of disappearing
Someone's pounding at the door
to myself
a stranger crying "Let me in"
while I hide in that numinous fortress
of stars and leaves I have created
all my life

My house glows
A madwoman sleeps here
No one knows what day of the year
it is
where the wind blows hot and cold
to my command
and the windows fog in confusion

Someone's coming to take me away
Someone's listening for my heartbeat
so they can find me
clustered in Scorpio
or the Little Bear
folded in gold dust
and end-of-summer reeds
Some minor god is breaking me
down
telling me I cannot inhabit
my own world
never leaving me
alone

***

Wendy Rathbone
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autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

Poetry On My Mind

It was pretty cool when today friend Debbie Kolodji used my poem in her live journal as an example of a good short-short poem to promote her measure for a short-short poem category to be added onto the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Rhysling Award ballot. You can see Debbie's entry and my poem here:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/dkolodji/#entry_36271

For the record, I hope the measure passes, although I'm not an SFPA member (but I am a former member.) I have long loved the short-short form, both reading and writing it. In fact, even many of my long poems are more like a series of short-shorts on the same theme strung together to give a sort of image tapestry. If there is a story to be told, I still often prefer it to be told in images, simply my preference to the more narrative or prosy approach of many poets. This is not to say I have not done my own narrative or prose-like poems. I have. But so often a good short-short poem can hone a point better than a long one, simply because there is minimal word distraction, and perhaps less of the poet's own self-indulgence involved (which is not bad, just sometimes distracting.)

But, speaking of self-indulgence, for me that is what writing poetry is all about. I love it and I love to indulge in it.

So tonight I have poetry on the mind. And it's time to share some more on this live journal.

untitled

Sunset reflecting
like spilled cider
on the windows

***

MOON-MAN

I stand
in the grove of December
in the garden of the end of the year
and watch you climb down
from your half-moon perch

The journey spins
in sorrow and serendipity
toward winter horizons
toward the scent of firs
and the blue door of the north

You are
the shape of my sleep
my right eye
my electric pulse
moon-man autumn-elf
bound for ice and stars
black sky native of the
infinities of my mind

I wear your cloak
your void hair
but hear only dour wind
tugging at my sleeves
December's longing
on black snow nights
pulls at the heart's hesitation

This is what made you
jump down from the moon

***

A VISITOR

A visitor at the door
speaks of dreaming and doubles
Rain alters the world
What February doesn't arrive
in a liquid river
of shimmering alien journeys?

I sit and chat with friends
knowing that half my mind
has run off again
living lives I can't remember
I grasp at visions
thinking they will make me whole

The heat of stars
brings a brief emotion
of something like love
But shadows shiver my soul
as if it was always
made of that familiar dark energy

I am warm only when
I am human
When I am Other
I am so much more
waking
from a long
dead sleep

***

DARKVIEW

In waves of night
the sea swims with planets
and schools of moons
Finned rockets slide through the murk
Impossible void-maids
comb their nebulae hair

***

untitled

jars filled with night air
line the vampyre's hearth

Wendy Rathbone
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autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

Why I Do Not Write More In My Live Journal

Ok, I'll admit I have been very lazy about doing this live journal. It's been a loooong time since my last post. I confess to many excuses:

1) too many ideas, not enough focus

2) distractions (such as novels, movies, puzzles)

3) a kind of bitterness toward writing of any kind (more later)

4) downright laziness

About number one: I do have a lot of ideas. I have a lot of thoughts. I am even accused of "thinking too much." Perhaps that is true and therefore I cannot focus on any one thing because I think about too many things.

About number two: I love puzzles and recently discovered Sudoku, a numbers game. It is extremely addictive. I also just finished reading The Da Vinci Code, among several other novels. One novel I recently read that moved me and I still think about it, although it is a very "small" story (my favorite kinds these days...leave the car chases for the young'uns,) is called Shadow Baby by Alison McGhee. I picked it up on a whim for $5 from Crown Books and it paid off. It is an extremely interesting tale of an 11 year old girl who, you guessed it, thinks too much! It's wonderful. I NEED to look up this author's other books now. Also, some good movies of note, recently: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (it blew me away!,) The Bee Season, and Brokeback Mountain. Sorry if this is rambling, but I have to say I walked out in the middle of Syriana. I said it above: I like the smaller stories. Even the story of Harry Potter, though rather larger than life, is still about Harry, an ordinary boy who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. Even through all his tales, he's still just a guy trying to get through his day and get up the nerve to ask a girl out. It's charming!

About number three: This one is complicated and I will try to explain without, hopefully, alienating everyone who may happen upon these words and read them. My bitterness toward writing stems from having been a writer for years, including in a professional capacity. I went to college to be a writer. I had this huge dream to write and only write full time, and I wrote stories and poems (even award winners) since I was 12. It was really all I thought about, and all I did. Sometimes I starved and sometimes I ate well. But everything was a potential story. Everything was in orbit around my obsession to write and just write...constantly. In fact, if I did not write, I started to feel kinda sick. Only writing made me feel truly whole and well. I completely identified myself with being a "writer." Somewhere in that whole process, which lasted from about age 12 to about my late 30s (I am now 45,) I lost myself. I am not a "writer." I am a whole lot more than that. I am, in fact, HUGELY more than that. And I found that my identity being wrapped up in only being a "writer" hinged on whether I made money, made sales, and wrote more and more. I think it drove me to a kind of madness, but not the rubber room kind. Just a kind of inability to simply "be." I would find myself during the years literally an insomniac tossing and turning as I tried to plot marketing strategies, plot plots, direct my subjects and my social life toward figuring out how to get that Red Ryder BB Gun of a feeling through my writing successes. I felt literally weighted (no pun intended.) I was, simply, overwhelmed. So I did a very hard thing. I stopped. But I still wrote in journals, and wrote poetry a LOT. I wrote and sold that stuff, but I wrote it for me, without a real intention or plot to sell it. Surprisingly, the weight lifted. The stress eased. I got into other things, other businesses. I did some other creative things, too, like beading and other "art." Now, after many years of not writing, and leaving that stress behind, I find it somewhat strange to face longer things again, to just sit and go at it on the computer. I will still write poetry, even long poems, but I no longer show them much to others. I have no need, and no will to. Frankly, and this is the part that may piss others off, I could not care less about any so-called "audience." I should care, and yet I do not. If I do write I want to be clear and understood as much as I can, but still I do not feel a resonance with "people" in "general" who are "out there." One on one I am fine. I will email friends. I will discuss deep subjects. But in general I am very leary of sharing my thoughts with "just anyone." It's not fear. It's simply: I don't care. So, with this journal, which I am glad I started because it can be fun, it is very easy to procrastinate. I say to myself, "Oh why should I bother?" Or, tomorrow will do. Then tomorrow comes and I do not write. I have a missing impetus, perhaps? I need a reason to share my passion, for passion I have, even in abundance, but I ask myself why bother to share it? This is not to say I do not share...but, well, the above explains a little why writing is a bit of a strange task for me anymore. Notice I do not mention the fact that writers are underpaid and under appreciated. That's another subject, and truly worse than one can imagine if one has not been in the business, and a subject that doesn't matter anymore to me if I write only for myself.

About number four: I am somewhat lazy when I have time off from my business (as I do right now in winter.) I tend to do my chores, fill eBay orders, and then get this wonderful motivation to just be downright lazy, watch reruns of "Roseanne", and do my numbers games. Or read. Or play with my dogs. Simple things in life please me so much more as I get older.

Ok...there we go. Here's a new entry and I have done it. I could promise more for tomorrow, but I like to be free to break that promise, so I won't promise because I hate to break a promise.

But I have much to discuss. A beloved dog. Some great movies. Christmas and my exterior illumination obsession. The ideals of friendship as one gets older. Since I really do like my own thoughts, no arrogance intended, I am never at a loss for words. And I can type a mile a minute with few mistakes, so that is not an obstacle.

Well, anyway, for what it's worth...blah blah blah. And here's proof that I do still birth the occasional poem; this one is brand new, never seen, until now, by any living soul other than myself, and I do not even think I really like it all much, but here:

Shadow
sometimes the air moves blue
around you
the blue of serene reality
of violets

Shadow
you please the stars in your
immensity
tossing prisms of time aside

your cape of wind
your fear of flame

your thought of love:
something like drowning
like a good book
or the scent of first snow
in a faraway
autumn galaxy
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autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

Take It Like A Man

We finally saw "North Country." I liked it a lot. It made me remember being picked on by one bully when I took drafting instead of cooking class at age 12 and was the only girl in the class. The bully constantly taunted me, teased me with sexual innuendos spoken close to my ear, and tried to touch me all the time. He finally managed one day to pinch my chest, hard, and that was the last straw; I chased him screaming through the classroom with a t-square raised over my head trying to beat him with it. Well, he did not ever pinch me again. I have a memory of him falling and me standing over him with the t-shaped implement raised over his head, screaming, "Bill Harry, if you ever touch me again I'll kill you!" That day a substitute teacher ran the class. He did nothing. He acted as if he never saw the event. But what is strange thinking back on it, in 1972 or any year what kid gets away with chasing another through the aisles of an otherwise quiet classroom threatening to kill them? What kind of teacher, substitute or not, pretends not to hear or see it? A deaf one? A blind one? And afterwards I, in full sight of every boy (and teacher,) walked back to my seat with tears streaming down my face, the skin on my chest where it was pinched hard aching, my body shaking so bad I could barely stay seated. The only person who ever stood up for me or tried to comfort me with kind words was a gawky boy named Kenny Leake (now a brilliant physicist.) Out of about 30 kids, he was the only one.

But the above is not the worst of it. At the time I did not realize, as I do now as an adult, that the teacher was as much to blame as the bully. When I first started the class, he told me that because I was a girl I would have to do extra good work, better than the boys, to receive an A (and I did receive an A.) He seemed to think I was wasting my time because there was no future in drafting for girls. Mr. Rickert. Boy, he was an asshole, possibly even more than the bully boy who picked on me because he let it go on. I think he was surprised that I did probably some of the best work he'd seen by any of his students. I remember he would look at my work and try to find fault and finally admit he could not and he'd give me an A and just tell me to round my eights better. I remember feeling weird when boys would go up with their work and he would only give it a cursory exam before grading it. He gave A's to boys whose work was even shoddy. With mine he pored over it practically with a magnifying glass. Also, he knew about the bullying and pretended he did not see it. The substitute was mystified and did not know the history of the class, but Mr. Rickert knew. To stand by and let someone be bullied, to actually witness it as a teacher and do nothing is, I think, the bigger crime.

I am lucky in my life that I have managed to have jobs or be around people who mostly were not gender prejudice. Movies like North Country remind me that it is not like that everywhere. Things get better with every decade, but it's still tough for women on the workforce depending on the job. I remember how horribly the first girl to attend Westpoint was treated. I remember the Anita Hill hearings. People say "take it like a man." But if you are a man or a woman being harassed daily, what are you supposed to do? What does "take it like a man" even mean to a man, let alone a woman? I wonder, do people even think about what they say, what their words even mean to each other? Some of the men in "North Country" had an idea that they were right about something, about women taking men's jobs, or some dumb reasoning like that. So that made it ok to treat the female workers badly. But did they ever think about their reasons, really? They did not have real reasons for anything they did, and they did not think. It's amazing to me to realize that people can decide they don't like someone else because of a quirk, a look, a gender or whatever, and then feel justified in picking on them. You might expect it from a third graders, but not an adult. I think we all try to say we are civlized, that we humans are better than beasts, but we are not so far from the beast inside if we can allow ourselves to treat others badly just because they are different or simply not to our liking.
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autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

Halloween Past

Wind like
moon's breath
cold as black bottom seas
leaf-witches on twig brooms
shivering
a storm of tiny white wings
Halloween snow

I meant to write this before now, but a bad cold has kept my energy low. So, though a week late, here is the Halloween entry I intended to write.

I love Halloween. I have great memories of a school carnival AND trick or treating, and being so excited I couldn't even eat my dinner. Our street was filled with groups of kids going up and down to each house. This last Halloween night my mom said she got a total of 5 kids in one group only. All the kids on my old street have grown up and moved away. It's all older folks living there now, I guess. I also think people are paranoid. It is media hype, of course. The razor in the apple is an urban legend. No one can track down who it ever happened to or IF it ever really happened. Poison in candy: the most known instances are parents poisoning their own kids. One guy who poisoned and killed his son (and tried but failed with his daughter) was sentenced to death...on Halloween. He was executed (I think it was in New York state but don't quote me on that) a few years ago on Halloween. Two years ago when Halloween fell on the exact date of the Renaissance Faire in Escondido (a Sat.) my significant other Della and I went to the mall down the road for dinner and the mall was filled to the brim with hundreds of trick or treaters. It was a cold night and the indoor mall allowed kids freedom. The stores had barrels of candy and the kids just went from store to store. It's a two story mall so there was lots of candy to be had. I guess that's a pretty good idea for trick or treating if you don't want to go into dark neighborhoods.

However, I find the dark neighborhood atmosphere is a MUST or you lose the whole flavor. My memory of Halloween, GOOD memories, are all wrapped up with the shadows and the dim lights in the house windows and the jack o'lanterns glowing. You can't get that affect in a well-lighted indoor mall. While stores decorate, it just isn't the same as being with a group of kids and venturing down a lonely road or front path to some house with glowing eyes in the window panes. And the cold wind blowing through your thin costume. And the stars twinkling overhead. And distant unseen kids yelling, dogs barking. And thinking that anything could be hiding behind that next shadowy bend. I love it. And if kids live in dangerous gang-filled neighborhoods, then like the farm kids my friend Taerie grew up with, they should be driven to safe neighborhoods and enjoy. In fact, that in itself it a great adventure. Taerie told me that when she was little and lived in the country, she and her siblings and friends used to have the neighborhoods picked out and mapped weeks in advance, anticipating the glories of real trick-or-treating.

In my mind, it seems a shame that extremist fear keeps kids from enjoying that old-fashioned thrill. I am all for keeping kids safe, and I understand a parent's worry. But kids can be chaperoned and still feel that wind, that darkness, that sense of adventure and unknown. To keep that from children by raising them in homogenized, pasteurized, well-lit disinfected environments stunts their spirit, their creative soul-spark. If you do not instill mystery, the excitement of the unknown, and wonder in a child, you quite possibly ensure the stunted growth of an unhappy robot. Kids need to explore, souls need to grow. Halloween is one opportunity for lighting that spark, from which, sometimes, entire constellations are born.
  • Current Music
    Theme from "The Nightmare Before Christmas"
autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

Cabin In The Woods

I have this story in my head. The main character is an older, eccentric woman who lives a peaceful, unstressed life in a small cabin (gingerbread? candycane fence?) in a wooded area that appears secluded but is not too far off the track...meaning Wal-Mart is within a reasonable distance for all necessities. The woman is perfectly happy growing her grey hair long, wearing her best clothes to water the garden, and sleeping all day and writing all night. The little woods get some snow in winter. In fall the scarlet, orange and yellow leaves flood the ground. Here Christmas is always around the bend. The air is fresh. The stars are blinding.

Of course the woman is me. I have found in my 40s that I have started to get really territorial and more "earthy." I enjoy puttering. I actually LIKE doing the dishes and gazing out the window at the huge back part of our property as I do so. I like lots of colors in my home, purples, blues, greens, and lots of coziness (so there are pillows and throws everywhere.) When I was in my 20s, I used to think the bridge of the Starship Enterprise would make the perfect, beautiful, stark living room. I loved the simplicity, the futuristic sterility and clean line, the big wall-sized tv, and the cool blinking lights of technology. Now, 20 years later, I couldn't be more opposite from that young woman who published Star Trek fanzines, and who wrote stories and poetry about robots, vampires, time-travel and ghosts. That woman was content with a corner for her papers and books, didn't mind moving every four years and did not care what color her bedroom was painted.

What has changed? Well, nothing. And everything. I'm still me. But I have a need for more solitude, and I have an urge to create more of a nest and make it my territory. Maybe I didn't feel that 20 years ago because my business then kept me at home, and I read and wrote a lot, which required me to be alone a lot. Now my retail business takes me away from home much of the year, and keeps my life in a kind chaos, both at home and away from home, about nine months out of the year. I long for that quietude to return again. And combined with that, there is the urge to make the nest cozy, and stamp it with my eccentric tastes.

I realize I am fortunate to have been able to run and live off my own businesses much of my life, with a few hard times thrown in to make it interesting. I have not been forced to punch too many time clocks past the age of 25, or answer to weird bosses whose demands make little or no sense and whose own job descriptions are mysterious but powerful and therefore intimidating. But still, what is this longing for more solitude, and where is this cabin?

I often think the cabin is where I currently live. It is up to me to make it like my fantasy story. And my current chaotic business has supplied some funds for fixing it up, so that's a benefit from all the hard work, and the lack of solitude during that work. It is an ongoing process and I have to remember that is the fun part. If I already had the cabin and the solitude, I might ask, after awhile, now what? I have to remember life is about the journey, not the destination. If we get too focused on the end result, we miss it all entirely.

So off I go to light candles that smell of rain and pine, to fill my rooms with crescent moons and orange leaves, to put on my prettiest ankle-length skirt, my rhinestone bracelets, my silver rings, and go outside and water the trees.
  • Current Music
    silence
autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

Dark Heroes

Last night a thunder storm passed through the desert that kept me awake much of the night. The booms rattled the house and startled the dogs. It even woke the coyotes, whose howls sometimes eclipsed the thunder. Mostly I am afraid of fire during storms such as these, especially if the downpours are short, as it was with this storm. I am also afraid, strangely, of being struck by lightning, even though I know how unlikely that prospect is. So I concentrated on reading to distract me, though the power went out a couple times for a few seconds. I am currently reading Capt. Hook by J.V. Hart, a story about young James Matthew, and how he comes to be that future nefarious pirate. It's really well-written. And James (the future Hook) is an energetic, genius type, and while picked on and abused, has a kind of spirit that makes you realize he wants/needs no pity. Yet, he is a sympathetic character. It is turning into quite an enjoyable read. The character is truly heartening, seeing the world as a play and taking very little of it seriously. It keeps him alive and makes him a hero in the eyes of his peers, though he never thinks of himself that way.

This reminds me of an upcoming movie I am very much looking forward to. "Serenity." If you don't know anything about this topic, well, "Serenity" is the theatrical film continuation of a short-lived space opera series on Sci-fi called "Firefly." My friend Kym convinced me to watch her set of dvds (all 14 episodes) last spring. I agreed to do so because I trusted her judgment that it was actually an excellent show. (Lately I have been suspicious of anything sf oriented, or from the sci-fi channel for that matter.) Subsequent to watching it and heartily enjoying it, I found out it was actually critically acclaimed and has a huge fan-base even though it was taken off-air in the middle of its first year (for reasons no one knows.) Later, I got my own set of the dvds and have watched it again, and it is even better the second time through. Anyway, there is a point to all this babble, in that the series reminds me of Capt. Hook (the book) in a way because it is about underdogs surviving. It is about atypical heroes, space-traveling smugglers or pirates for lack of a better term, about real people surviving on the fringe or, as the creator of the series, Joss Whedon has said, and I paraphrase, people Kirk and the Enterprise would have passed right over and never even seen. While I grew up suckling at the wickedly obsessive teat of Star Trek and have no regrets for it, I really must admit I love stories that center on people who say the things and do the things I always wished my Trek heroes would do...but didn't. Like instead of negotiating with the terrorist, just friggin' shoot him. Don't leave him alive to come back and kill your best friend in a later episode of revenge is a dish best served cold. No. Take care of it now if you can. Right now. And don't pretend that the horrible situation you find yourself in has anything to do with civilized behavior or rules, or the maintenance thereof. Survival means doing what needs to be done, or you don't survive. If you are living in the underbelly of society, there are no judges, no courts, and really no law. It's not really about being civilized at all. But then again, it is a reinvention of civility based on much more immediate needs, because you can only find your real heart and your own truths through distancing yourself from the societal programs. The characters in "Serenity" and "Firefly" are almost even more alive and real as a result, and their loyalty and their hearts are very human, which is why it is so good. They are not without flaws, and not every character is "nice," but the situation reminds me of Han Solo who did the right thing in the end because he could, and because he really did have a human heart. One quote from one of the characters: "A hero is only a person who gets other people killed." I LOVE that. I can't help it. And when something tweaks my thinking from its usual tilt, I can and do often enjoy the view from the other side. It's fun. It turns ordinary on its head. I like that. I remember a quote at the beginning of the original Star Wars novel by George Lucas, that actually would work for "Serenity," too. "They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally, they became heroes."

Something I recently watched all of again, that turned everything on its head, was that old 1960s Patrick McGoohan series, "The Prisoner." McGoohan is a genius, seer, poet, prophet, etc. I still can't believe how special and strange and wondrous that show was, and how the so-called "heroes" of "The Prisoner"'s reality actually became his worst enemies, which is probably the mystery of why he resigned his secret agent job in the first place. Anyway, there's a lesson in all this somewhere, like perhaps going with flow of the crowd because it's easier and you don't have to think might just turn you into a lemming.

On that note, I must tilt my own head, again, and sleep.
  • Current Music
    "You Can't Take the Sky From Me" from "Firefly"
autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

AUTUMN JUST AROUND THE BEND

I look up--
autumn mixes
with Orion
***

Here in the California high desert north of Palm Springs, autumn is definitely playing peek-a-boo, doing a slow strip-tease of the locust and poplar trees in our front yard, crisping the often groaning wind with currents from cooler climes, and darkening the light from summer white to October gold. August heat recedes at last. I welcome the dryer, thinner September air.

People often say that California has no seasons. Perhaps the winters are not as pronounced, especially closer to the coast, but there is change. The mountains do get snow, and lots of it. And the coastal areas clog up with fog and cooler overcast days. It can even sometimes rain!

But I live neither on the coast or in the mountains. I live in the desert, not the low desert but the high desert where there are tons of joshua trees and other lush vegetation (not just sand,) and where the stars are so bright and so close you should be able to pluck them raw right out of the sky. It can snow here. It definitely rains. But it is the wind that is special. It has personality, depth and history. It is definitely haunted. And it haunts me.

It might bother some people to be haunted, but not me. I love the feeling of the unknown. It has a definite feeling, like nostalgia, or a thought that you might be coming close to something familiar that never quite manifests. It is like the scent of a birthday cake cooking, or the memory of your father's prickly beard, or soft cool grass on your bare feet, the things that take you immediately to the child within, the source. And it is also pumpkin eyes blinking, dark wonder, the thrill of being slightly lost.

Autumn brings, on the edges of its cloak, these things and more. It is the season that reminds me I really know so very very little. About anything. At all. And because of that, EVERY door opens. And I blissfully stand before all possibilities.
  • Current Music
    Theme From Edward Scissorhands by Danny Elfman
autumn, night, spirit, Wendy Rathbone, poetry

THE LONG DARK

THE LONG DARK

The clouded evening whispers:
The long night is coming!
Who will light the tapers?
Who will keep me warm
in the folds of his cloak?

Wendy Rathbone

I quote one of my above poems because there is a current pyschic theme running through our country right now, in the wake of Katrina, and that theme is: who is our savior, and if that savior fails is he to blame?

My poem, when I wrote it, expressed a deep, fairly generic longing I feel when I look at the night sky, hear the whistling wind, smell rain and pumpkins on Halloween Eve. The longing is almost like a psychic call to the unknown, an expression, a shrug, a whispered "I'm here," "I am." I've never really thought of it as a search for who will save my soul, or rescue me from this earthly plane. It's more of the instinctive question that bubbles up now and again, "Are we alone?" It's curiosity, the tilted-head look, the sense of wonder...and wondering. And when you do find some "one," a lover, a friend, a like soul, and you feel some comfort, some warmth, isn't it nice to be enfolded in that cloak, in that company? Any future disappointment that might come is in direct proportion to our own expectations, so to not have assumptions and expectations is perhaps the best ideal, but of course we cannot live without them. Accomplishment comes from ideals and expectations.

And this leads me back to Katrina and its survivors. Who is there for them? Who will enfold them? Who will comfort? And it always and only can ever be one response: us. It's all we have. We're all we have. No God comes down with a big hand and lifts us up. If God is hope, then hope is in us. And in the end, we have only ourselves. We are hope or destruction, dark and light, good and evil, our choice. If we disappoint ourselves, then we can learn to be better. This is a human story on a human plane. We make it or we break it.

Perhaps when I look into the unknown, when I call, I am searching for myself. I am trying to find me, a better me, the best me. Because so far, in the weirdest ways, that is who has answered.
  • Current Music
    Lisa Gerrard's Whale Rider Theme