So, spring marks the start of some really lovely weather here — the cherry trees blossom, the weather warms up, and the world seems to come alive with birdsong:
Unfortunately, it’s also the start of allergy season. Since my body interprets perfectly normal Earth conditions as some kind of hostile invading force, I have to take antihistamines every day. Not most normal ones, either. There’s exactly one type I can take, and it causes drowsiness. I’m on sertraline, which also causes drowsiness. I also have intracranial hypertension. One of the chief symptoms of which is tiredness. See where this is heading?
(It is heading to take a nap.)
It’s nice to be able to get out more. My partner and I have been spending more time outdoors as more people get vaccinated and the threat of COVID-19 becomes a little less dire. But man, sometimes I get to the end of a walk and want to curl up in the moss for two or three hours.
I’ve honestly really missed writing here. Between paid writing work and tiredness, it’s often hard to find the energy — but I’m trying.
As much as I love cypress trees literally any time of year, November to early December is my favorite time for them.
Because they make everything smell fantastic.
Bald cypress trees turn orange and shed their needles in autumn to early winter — as I write this, most of the ones here are, indeed, impressively bald. The result is a carpet of needles mingled with sticky, resinous cones.
The cones are particularly interesting to me. They start out as small, hard green buds. Sometimes you can find them on the ground as early as October, but they don’t really ripen for another month after that. Then, they expand and become almost crumbly, their scaly surfaces separating and falling apart to reveal the fragrant seeds inside. That’s when it’s really nice to find a stand of them and pick up a few from the ground. I live for the smell of the rich, autumn soil, the earthy-spicy-sweet smell of decaying leaves, and the fresh, piney, almost citrusy scent of cypress resin. If I can meet some mushrooms or a neat patch of lichen on the same trip, I’mecstatic.
(I’m a pretty easy organism to please, all told. I’m pretty much a beetle with different ideas.)
After that, we took a trip to the arboretum. Naturally, there’s not much to see this time of year — the flowering dogwoods are not, the lilac is long since asleep, and the oaks and maples are skeletal — but there’s a kind of architectural beauty to a lot of the bare trees. Now is when they get to show off colors and patterns in their bark, the strange, Escher-like twists of their branches, and all of the other things leaves hide in spring and summer.
Most of the conifers, of course, are still going strong. I met a Norway spruce that I found especially pretty — I hadn’t realized that their immature buds look like flowers before, their papery brown petals unfolding like tiny roses.
It wasn’t late when we arrived, but this time of year, the early sunset and angle of the planet slants the sunlight in a way that makes everything look almost surreal. It’s a cold beauty, but I love it.
Not in the sense that a lot of us are, I don’t think — I’m mentally tired, sure, but I’m so sleepy. Part of it is my body continuing to adjust to having serotonin for the first time in my life, part of it is that it’s March, which means starting up this year’s round of antihistamines. Part of it is a trauma response.
Brains use energy, and a lot of it. Between figuring out how to supply ourselves, stay safe, maintain social distancing, properly decontaminate after venturing out in public, stay sane at home, take care of our children and elderly people, and deal with the constant stress of isolation during a pandemic, a lot of us are burning the candle at both ends and the middle, too. And it’s so tiring.
I’m still watching webinars like they’re going out of style. Still taking Udemy classes. I’ve also been immersing myself into the kind of weird, surrealist nonsense that calls to me — I started playing Dujanah (which is strange, chaotic, haunting, painful, and gorgeous) and AENTITY (as frustrating as it is eerily beautiful) last night, and I’ve got The Dream Machine waiting for me. Re-reading (observing?) the Codex Seraphinianus. Probably going to watch Mononoke later, so I can lose myself in color, pattern, and yokai stories for awhile. Might watch MirrorMask tomorrow.
At times, my building seems normal. The furnace still clunks and bangs, the exit still beeps when you leave it open for too long.
Sometimes, it’s like something out of REC. None of us know how long this is going to last, and I don’t think anyone actually trusts the people in charge to make the right decision anymore. This complex houses a lot of people — some are very old, some are young families. Some have children with neuroatypicalities. Some are mentally ill. Some are dependent on drugs to get through the day. Everyone’s experiencing the isolation differently, and some people are having an easier time weathering it than others. Some days, one of my neighbors wails. Some days, another screams at invisible antagonists in the hallway as he pounds on doors and yanks doorknobs. Some of my neighbors had resources in the community that helped them get through life, whether treatment centers or adult day care. I’m wondering if I should try to go for the lumbar puncture my brain needs, or stay home and hope I don’t have a seizure or lose more of my vision. Everyone’s wearing thin. I wish I had something to offer other than dry pasta and home-made hand sanitizer.
I have rituals, and I have prayers, but there’s a need for more immediate relief. Magically manipulating things on a subtle, energetic level only does so much so quickly, and this reaches farther and moves faster than one person’s energy can.
Thank you for reading here and listening to me kvetch, I’ll resume more upbeat posting (as soon as I’ve been able to have maybe six or seven naps). Here’s hoping this post finds you healthy, at home, with a full pantry and people you like.
I don’t really know as much as I’d like about mushrooms. I mean, I know enough to know that I don’t know enough to trust myself to eat one I pick myself. (Every mushroom is edible. Many of them are only edible once.)
I still like looking for them, though. My S.O. and I find some very neat ones sometimes — a massive chicken-of-the-woods, honey fungus, bird’s next fungus, eyelash mushrooms, all kinds. I know it’s still early to find any here (probably? I’m mean, I’m assuming), but I was still stoked to go looking for some. It’s only barely March, and things like morels and dryad’s saddles probably won’t be around for weeks yet. After being cooped up all winter, I would’ve been happy to find some of last year’s dried-out bracket fungi.
Alas, there were no mushrooms.
I did find some really neat moss, though. Complete with seed heads!
We sat on a fallen tree to have a picnic. It was really beautiful out — chilly, but not cold. Bright, with the sun slanting through the trees and not a cloud in the sky.
“Are you taking a pic of me eating a sandwich?”
“Yeah. The sun looks neat. Besides, you’re one of my favorite subjects to photograph.”
“… Y’know, I’m glad you took that as a compliment. I just realized that my dumb ass came out here unreasonably excited to see, like, fungus and moss and shit, so there were a lot of ways that could’ve gone.”
He’s pretty cool about indulging my whims. Even when those whims mean crawling around in dirt and leaves to get pictures of extremely tiny things.
Or when they mean me dragging him through the art supply store and spending twenty minutes deliberating between cotton and linen canvas, which I did on the way home.
Next weekend, I might take him hunting for cryptids. We’ll see.
I think I probably get enough vitamin D, in the sense that I’m not technically deficient, but months spent indoors have given me the preternatural paleness of a consumptive Victorian heroine. On some people, this look works. My skin has naturally beige/green undertones, so I just look like I’m half iguana.
This past weekend promised to be sunny and warmish, so my S.O. and I packed up and went for a drive. Saturday was Lake Accotink, where we walked along the edge of the water, enjoyed the light for a bit, did some people-watching, then took a detour on the way home for cheeseburgers.
(By the bye, Big Buns Damn Good Burgers lives up to the name. If you get the veggie burger, though, get it as a burger bowl. It’s very good, but very soft and probably too skooshy to hold in a bun without it falling apart.)
Even though the trees were leafless and the sand was chilly, the sun was warm and the breeze was gentle.
The next day, we decided to drive to the Arboretum. Most of the trees were still leafless, twisted branches scrabbling at the sky, laden with the remains of last year’s bird’s nests. Still, it seems like every time we go, we find something neat that we didn’t spot before — first the dogwood trees, then the path through the conifer specimens. This time, it was this beautiful Prunus mume, branches half-covered in fragrant, pink blooms, humming with honeybees.
We wandered around until we found a bonsai museum and an herb garden — closed and bare, respectively, but the area was still beautiful enough. We found an arbor to sit under, which had this really cool-looking (albeit one I couldn’t identify) vine braided along one side.
With the sun slanting through the trees, backlighting the few leaves and flowers daring enough to open up this early, it was nice. Relaxing.
… Though maybe I should’ve waited for it to warm up a little before I buzzed my hair again. Whoops.
As we drove through the park, I heard my S.O. huff softly.
“Degenerates,” he groused.
I turned my head and squinted in the light.
… I mean, he’s not wrong. I do not like the cobra chickens.
There are a lot of spots in the Arboretum that come alive with color in the warmer months. Bright splashes of orange, pink, and purple nestled into tufts and spikes of foliage, rosemallows the size of dinner plates, the works. There weren’t as many this time of year, but still plenty of color if you didn’t mind hunting for it.
… And also looking very strange while laying on your stomach in order to get close enough for a picture.
There were some very pretty crocuses, too, but they were a bit too far off the path for a picture (I’m not about to go trampling sensitive terrain for a pic or two, but, unfortunately, my zoom isn’t quite good enough for a clear shot). Next weekend’s probably going to be too cloudy and cold for more adventures like this, but that’s okay. I’ve got some other plans. Secret ones.
This week’s tarot card’ll be up tomorrow. Have a good Monday!
Tuesday night, I had the chance to see Richard Thompson perform live. It’s a show I’ve had on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to him a few years ago — he’s an incredible guitarist, and watching him play is really an amazing experience. When I stopped being able to go out much for awhile, I was legitimately afraid that I wouldn’t get well enough to be able to see him play. I only learned about Coco Robicheaux on the day of his death, and I missed the chance to see Tom Waits (who doesn’t tour very often) perform when I lived in California; two things I consider some of the biggest missed opportunities of my life.
I think my S.O. and I were the youngest people in the audience by close to twenty or thirty years, which made me a little self-conscious when we were finding seats. (‘Scuse me, sir and/or ma’am, biker punk and tattooed millennial with a shaved head coming through.) As soon as I sat down, though, I didn’t care. I still whooped it up and applauded hard enough to jam one of my fingers.
He’d just started playing “Valerie” when we got in, which is, bar none, my favorite of his songs. It was honestly a little overwhelming — I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my heart skipped a beat and I thought I was going to have a panic attack for a few. I teared up at “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” just like I knew I would. (Lucky for me, I’d had the foresight to forego eye makeup for this exact reason.)
The songs were moving, tragic, and hilarious by turns. His voice and guitar playing were superb. His banter made the venue feel small, with the kind of warmth and humor that turns a show into an intimate gathering.
I loved every minute of it.
And then, the next day, I found out that Terry Jones had died.
He wanted to be remembered as a comedian, but I knew him best as an author long, long before I knew anything about Monty Python’s Flying Circus. When I was a kid, we had a copy of Fairy Tales. It was my favorite children’s book — as a kid, I think I learned more important morals there than almost anywhere else. Like Three Raindrops, which taught me that everyone’s grave is the same size, and there’s no point in wasting your life on comparisons. Or Jack One-Step, which taught me the value of collective bargaining. Or The Glass Cupboard, which, I’m fairly certain, is what turned me into a tiny environmentalist.
I loved Michael Foreman’s illustrations, too. To be honest, I can’t really overstate the impact they had on my imagination as a kid, or even on my artwork now. His watercolors were at once bright and soft and dreamlike, surreal and strange, occasionally with a subtly unsettling edge. They were the perfect accompaniment to stories like The Fly-By-Night and The Wonderful Cake-Horse.
I’m much older now, but the stories and illustrations still mean just as much to me.
Jones’ passed after a battle with dementia. As much as we like to think that “where there’s life, there’s hope,” there’s still a very particular kind of mourning that happens when someone passes from a brain disease. There’s the loss you experience when someone is no longer who they once were, and the final loss that comes with death. Sometimes, the hardest thing to deal with is that we might not think we feel “sad enough” when someone actually dies, because we’ve spent so long mourning the person they used to be. It’s something I experienced with my grandmother, as she declined from brain cancer. As hard as it was to handle her passing, I felt guilty for feeling relief. Not for myself — I felt relief that she was beyond the pain, confusion, and anxiety that her illness had caused her.
It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with, too. Intracranial hypertension causes brain damage, and it’s very likely that I will suffer a stroke at some point and either die, or have to fight my way back from that. Sometimes, you have to mourn for yourself. The important thing is to process this grief, then get on with the hard work of living. For Jones, that was raising awareness. For my grandparents, it was my grandfather feeding, dressing, and bathing my grandmother. For me, it’s working a little more every day to try to regain some ground before I lose more of it.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it doesn’t matter if you’re part of an artist’s primary audience. Life’s too short to miss the concert you want to go to, or to overlook a book just because it’s intended for children. Eventually, like the Three Raindrops, we all become part of the same big, muddy puddle. Draw inspiration and spiritual nourishment anywhere you can.
Its 2:00 in the morning, and I am writing because I have, once again, destroyed my sleep schedule.
Well, not just my sleep schedule.
I have idiopathic intracranial hypertension. It makes me forget things, feel crushing headaches every moment of the day, occasionally lose my ability to see, and want to sleep basically forever. Left to my own devices, I will sleep for twelve hours and still be able to take a substantial midday nap.
Such is life.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow me much time for anything else. This doubly sucks, because what time I am left is also devoted to coping with the headaches, dizziness, anxiety, depression, and other trappings of having a head full of surplus brainjuice. Showering is tiring. Clothes hurt. On a high-pressure day, even holding my head up is more than my neck can manage.
I wasn’t always self-employed. Did I ever tell you that I used to work retail?
If not, this is why.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad gig — I learned a lot, especially about nutrition. The management was often a nightmare, but the work was decent enough to keep me doing it for several years.
I also had a number of customers who seemed to think I was pretty neat. One lady managed to avoid putting down her son’s dog after I made a dietary recommendation (he had been medicated for severe allergies of unknown origin, then needed phenobarbital to counteract the seizures his medication gave him. It turned out to be a severe allergy to corn). One couple straight-up told me that, when I changed stores, they would continue shopping at whichever one I ended up working at.
Those times were nice. The other days, though? Ho-lee crap.
Awhile ago, I had a DNA test. The results contained a couple of surprises, though the fact that there were surprises wasn’t, in itself, surprising.
Let me back up.
Years ago, when I was recently diagnosed with IIH, drugged to the gills, recovering from a spinal tap, and bored out of my mind, I decided genealogy would be more fun than staring at the ceiling and trying not to throw up. There was only one problem.
We’ll call him Albert.
Albert was my great-grandfather. He was my maternal grandmother’s father and, by all accounts, an absolute chemical toilet fire of a man. My grandmother wasn’t really raised by her parents — her mother died in a sanitarium at age 22, and her father, well…
Let’s just say I didn’t have much to go on other than that side of my family was French-Canadian, and their name was spelled wrong. It was extremely difficult to get more information about them, because every search result for my great-grandfather only turned up his many, many, many appeals from Attica. (Also, he was the one who changed the spelling of his last name, and was the only one in his entire family who spelled it that way. It’s like he went out of his way to make this impossible.)
I probably would not have liked great-grandpa Albert if I had known him in life. I have two toxic relatives who are both much closer to me and still living, and I don’t even talk to them. Neither of them have even been in and out of maximum security prison (as far as I know. It’s been awhile).