art, life

It was scary and I did it anyhow.

So, if you missed the livestream on Canvisi, I went on around 1 PM.

Well, I was supposed to go on at 1 PM, but, having never done a livestream before ever in my life, I had no idea how they work. This was absolutely no fault of the person running the stream, either — he was very helpful, professional, understanding, and kind. I, on the other hand, barreled in at 1 and immediately launched into my introduction with the vocal cadence of a hyacinth macaw on PCP.

“HI, I’MJANDTODAYI’D-“

I saw him gesturing toward his ears, and I realized that, despite the amount of Zoom calls I’ve been on, I have no idea what I’m doing. Also my phone was muted.

Fortunately, there was some intermission music to cover for me while I figured out why my setup wasn’t relaying sound properly and tried to get my heart rate somewhere below “hummingbird.” Eventually, everything was good to go.

Honestly, streaming was kind of fun. My lighting was less than ideal, because my studio’s set up to have great light for painting — video, not so much. I managed to cover most of what I wanted to in the time I was allotted, and I didn’t forget to plug my various sites and social media. Score!

I’m actually considering getting back into making time-lapse painting videos. Maybe streaming on YouTube. That’s something for another day.

Anyhow, in honor of getting through my first livestream without wanting to run out of the room, all of the paintings, prints, jewelry, and wands in my shop are currently 15% off. Some stuff has already sold, so be sure to stop by and check it out before it’s too late!

life

And… Frolic!

Things were extremely okay. I’d even say they were approaching neato. Then they were not.

My S.O. had a high-stress presentation, not at all helped by having to do it over Zoom. The effect was like something out of a Terry Gilliam-style dystopia (which, I guess, is kind of where we are now), only without the part where anyone was wearing a giant, terrifying baby head.

I, on the other hand, had a bunch of orders to write, a presentation to plan, two cats who’ve been throwing up just often enough to be Way Too Much yet Still Technically Normal, and about ninety pounds of carpet slowly moldering in the middle of my living room. (I am not good at estimating how long it takes things to dry. I also habitually underestimate how humid it is here. Next time, I will happily pay a cute amount of money to make this someone else’s problem.)

There’s only one way to unwind from this: Aggressive frolicking.

Well, aggressive frolicking after a long drive.

First, we tried to go to Great Falls Park, but they were crowded to the point where park rangers had the entrance blocked off. It’s still a pretty drive with a bunch of scenic spots to pull off, though, and time I spend in the car with this nerd is never wasted.

Plus we found a spot bursting with bright yellow sunchokes and goldenrod. I even made a little bug buddy:

If I’ve got my bugs right, this is a pale green assassin bug nymph. Fortunately, these stealthy little weirdos are only assassins to other bugs, though they can bite if provoked.

Afterward, we found some crape myrtles suitable for frolicking amongst. The flowers smelled lovely, everyone else was sufficiently socially distant, and I was loaded up on enough Zyrtec to sedate a category 5 kaiju so the existence of grass didn’t make me break out in hives.

Most people wore masks, even the ones running or cycling, but some didn’t. We brought ours, but didn’t end up going anywhere where we were in danger of coming in contact with anyone. With an entire area of the park to ourselves, it was easy to avoid breathing at other people (and getting breathed at, in turn).

I think the closest we came to coming within a hundred feet of another person was when this extremely charming family looking for a picnic spot. They rounded a fence to head down a grassy hill, when one of their maybe-four-or-five-year-old children exclaimed, “Oh! What a nice view!” I’m not generally a person of young children or babies, but it was the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.

That was pretty much it — sun, breeze, and the smell of crape myrtles. That’s plenty for me.

See? Idyllic.
life

Hunky Dory Space Adventures with Adolf Wolfli

I’m not very good at coming up with date ideas.

I mean, I’m good at coming up with ideas, just generally not ones that I can convince other people to do with me. That’s why my S.O. is pretty awesome — he’s almost always up for my bullshit.

The weekend before last, the heat finally crept below 80°F. Of course, it also stormed the whole time, so options were limited. Last weekend, the sweltering heat was back. Hanging out indoors somewhere else isn’t something either of us considered optimal, so we made our own fun.

Saturday, we picked up some pies (tofu curry and Baltimore bomb for me, pulled pork and strawberry rhubarb for him), put on David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, and cracked open my copy of John Maizels’ Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond. (I bought this book used, and somehow ended up with a signed copy. So, if you’re out there Steve Moseley, thanks.) My S.O. and I huddled around it like kids with a pile of comic books, poring over the incredible body of work of Adolf Wölfli, the otherworldly twists of the Palais Idéal, and the incredible figures of the Rock Garden of Chandigarh.

Photo of sculptures in the Rock Garden of Chandigarh by Fanoflesage. CC BY-SA 3.0

(Honestly, if you’re not familiar with Wölfli, get ready to go down a deep rabbit hole. His work is fascinating and unmatched in scope. You can even find some of his musical compositions on Spotify.)

Sunday, we had crêpes and settled in to watch a movie — Color Out of Space. Admittedly, I mostly find Lovecraft kind of tiresome, owing in no small part to a former room mate who was a little too into his work. Still, COoS is probably my favorite of his short stories. I’ve got a thing for malevolent architecture and eldritch landscapes, and this tale in particular scratches that particular horror itch really well. (So do SCPs 455 and 3219, if you’re into that sort of thing.) It’s also the kind of subject that lends itself to Lovecraft’s particular style, which tends to vacillate between “I can’t describe it, but trust me, it was super weird” and “they were secretly… Foreigners!” When you’re talking about something that defies description by its very nature, like a nonexistent color, it works.

Speaking of, I dig the artistic choice to show the eponymous Color as various shades of magenta. While magenta does exist at least as much as any other color, it’s pretty much the color mascot for the fact that so much of what we consider real is incredibly subjective. Neato.

I also dug some of director Richard Stanley’s other choices in this film. For one, the main protagonists (I’m hesitant to attach the word “hero” to a story so bleak) are a Black man and a young woman. There’s some romantic tension between them. You know, the kind of stuff that would’ve made Lovecraft have to take to his bed with a cool rag and some kind of nostrum.

There’s also one scene with a horse where the horse’s eye briefly flashes purple. It’s ambiguous, however, whether this and the horse’s subsequent freakout are a sign of the contagion or not. Notably, the part of the horse’s eye that appears to flash is the tapetum lucidum, the membrane that reflects light and aids in night vision. Is the horse acting out because the Color’s gotten to it? Is it reacting to what it sees emanating from the people it’s looking at? Is it both? It’s the little fridge horror/fridge brilliance touches like that that I really enjoy.

Lavinia, the family’s daughter, also provides some interesting references to Wicca. Nothing too complicated or heavy, really, though mentioning the Wiccan Rule of Three provides a bit of foreshadowing. The Necronomicon makes a brief appearance at one point, though it’s left unclear whether the in-universe book is meant to be genuine, or just a paperback for edgy kids. Some viewers put forth the idea that, while the Necronomicon itself is widely regarded as a hoax, all of the best hoaxes contain something tangentially genuine — so it’s possible, at least in-universe, that Lavinia’s ritual did something.

(It just wasn’t what she wanted.)

Lastly, near the end, we’re given a brief glimpse of the Color’s home planet. Normally, I hate this kind of thing — one thing Lovecraft got right here was the fact that the things your imagination conjures are inevitably far more terrifying than anything anyone else can show you. In this case, the look we’re given is brief enough, and the atmosphere built by the flashing colors, patterns, emotions, and musical score building to that point is just mentally overwhelming enough, that it’s impossible to fully absorb what you see. You’re given an image, but your imagination still has plenty of room to build around it.

It also strikes me as somewhat visually similar to the ending city in Junji Ito’s Uzumaki:

Which I thought was awesome, because I love Uzumaki. (I get some very Hellstar Remina vibes, too.)

No idea what we’ll do next weekend. There’s an abandoned pyrite mine I’d like to poke around, and this reservoir I found a bone at once. Really, after all this, I kind of just want to snuggle up and re-read a bunch of Ito’s books.

art, life

New artwork!

In case you don’t follow my shop, there are a bunch of new prints available.

I’ve also added a new line — now, in addition to the matte giclee prints, you can also get most of my work as lustre photographic prints. (These are just as high-quality as the others, just printed on a subtly glossy photo paper instead of heavy matte stock.)

And several others!

I always purchase copies of my prints before I list them, so I can make any adjustments to the source files to make sure they look as good as possible. Not to toot my own horn, but computer images don’t really do these justice — the prints came out so good, friends.

I also have several different tarot readings available. Please feel free to drop me a line through Etsy or my Contact page if you have any questions.

divination, life

I apologize for my tardiness.

I ate most of my bodyweight in melon and pasta and, like the mighty African rock python consuming the equally mighty springbok, I needed to sleep on a warm rock and not move for an extended period of time.

Anyway. I’ve been doing a lot of considering re: the Jungian concept of the “shadow self.” It’s a topic I’d like to delve into further, but really deserves a post (or three, or four) of its own. Suffice it to say that I think it’s what’s making the pandemic especially difficult for a lot of people — when it’s hard to be in the same room as yourself, you’re not likely to enjoy having a lot of free time on your hands.

This led on a short free-association jaunt through various meditations, trance work, and sound healing, and I landed on a specific need: a guide to what I’m trying to fix in the first place. I know my faults, and I like to think I’m relatively self-aware, but there’s more to integration than that. There’s really no road map for how this kind of thing is supposed to go, though.

In my search, I came across the Cleansing the Soul tarot spread by Emerald Lotus Divination. “Sure,” I thought, “Why not?”

It’s not a super complicated spread, but it yields a lot of information — from the needs of the physical body, to the soul, to the inner child, to how to stay connected to your higher self. I’m not really under any illusion that the general public is super into my own inner journey here, but, if you’re curious about how a theoretical spread might look and how the cards relate to each other, this might be helpful.

I used the Animalis Os Fortuna deck, and my own spread shook out like this:

What my physical body needs: Nine of Wands, depicting the iguana. In this place, this appears to mean the need to push forward. I’ve been engaging in more physical activity, so the message here seems to be to keep at it, and keep increasing my reps. I even bought a sledgehammer to make a shovelglove!

What my soul needs: Five of Wands, depicting the axolotl. Struggles, obstacles, and rivalry. I’m competitive by nature. I’m at my best when I have an opponent, even if they don’t know they’re my opponent and I make no attempt to take the competition out of my own mind. It’s practically what the concept of Instagram hate following was made for, if you substitute “hate” with “rivalry.” I’m not too enlightened to enjoy opposition. Comparison isn’t always the thief of joy — a little healthy competition keeps life interesting, and helps spur me to be a better version of myself.

What my inner child needs: Two of Wands, depicting the salamander. A pause, and to bide my time. Considering a lot of what I’ve been struggling with lately are childhood memories, it sounds like my inner whelp needs a break. I don’t blame them.

How my shadow self is impacting my life: Knight of Swords, depicting the magpie. Impulsiveness, aggression, and overenthusiasm. Consequences, schmonsequences, he has things to do. He goes for what he wants, and everything else be damned. His intentions are pure, but he’s kind of a dick about them. That’s… Yeah, that sounds about right.

This magpie’s probably choosing a new victim to swoop on.

A way that I can begin to accept my shadow aspect: Five of Swords, depicting the peacock. Defeat, and suffering from egotism. There’s an interesting pathology that impacts people in relationships with others who show signs of narcissistic personality disorder, no matter whether those relationships are romantic or familial. Laconically, it’s usually called “fleas.” They’re behaviors that seem to “jump” from a narcissist to a victim, and, if they aren’t resolved, from that victim to their victims. Essentially, they’re protective mechanisms — tiny things you do to protect yourself from narcissistic rage and other forms of abuse at the hands of someone with a fragile, wounded ego.

I can see a flea here. My shadow self impacts my life by making me impulsive and aggressive. I jump from one thing to the next if I’m not immediately good at it, because my upbringing showed me that failure meant mockery and pain. Aggression was rewarded, while softer feelings were mocked and rooted out.

How to better process my emotions: Ace of Cups, depicting an overflowing vessel. Interestingly, this card stands for optimism and new opportunities. It also shows a cup overflowing, and the suit of Cups specifically relates to the emotional self. This cup runneth over, sharing its bounty. The advice here is to process feelings by sharing them.

Something I need to be more aware of: Ten of Swords, depicting the vulture. Oof. Vulture and I go way back, and he usually seems to show up when some kind of purging needs to or is about to happen. (Did you know that vultures sometimes eat so much that they can’t fly, and need to vomit before taking off? Fascinating! Also super gross!) The Ten of Swords is despair and ruin. It’s the end of a cycle, and the ending ain’t a happy one. In this context, it means to let go and be reborn. This cycle is over, and it sucked, so get ready to start a better one.

They also poop on their own legs to cool off.

How to stay more connected with my higher self: The Queen of Wands, depicting the cobra. I love the Queen of Wands. She stands for generosity, creativity, and drama. She has power and self-possession, she’s courageous and hot-tempered. She’s beauty, she’s grace, she can probably wreck your face. The lesson is to temper that power with kindness, and invest energy into creative work.

The pandemic has done everyone’s nerves up wretched, and I think the shadow self has a lot to do with that. It’s not easy to have a lot of time on your hands if you don’t enjoy your own company, and it’s also not a simple problem to solve. This tarot spread doesn’t offer a quick fix, but it does answer some important questions.

life

We did the thing!

On July 2nd, I was able to send $50 to Black Lives Matter DC. Why the 2nd? Two reasons:

  • It was a Thursday, which is ruled by Jupiter, and governs blessings and increase.
  • I have a family member who was a complete butthole about the Ferguson protests, and their birthday is the 2nd, so screw them.

Thank you to everyone, whether they purchased a reading from me directly, or requested a free reading after donating to another Black-led organization.

life, Neodruidry

Water you mean?

I’m not really big into dream dictionaries. Symbolism is so subjective, it’s hard to really get usable information from a guide compiled for nobody in particular. That said, if you have recurring images you can’t really get a bead on, you could probably do worse than looking them up.

All of this is to say that I’ve been dutifully making note of my dreams, and have come to the realization that, holy crap, fully 99% of them are water-based.

The funny thing is, I used to live on an island. Going to the beach was a regular thing. When things got too intense at home, I’d sometimes hop on my bike and ride for hours — often ending up at one beach or another. I never dreamed of water then.

I don’t mean that I dream of drowning (because then I’d be signing up for a sleep study to make sure I don’t have apnea). I mean that I’m almost always either navigating around, traveling on, adjacent to, or in the ocean. The character of the water varies — sometimes it’s eerily, glassily smooth. Others, it’s pouring in and threatening to tear down everything in its path. In either case, I never actually feel threatened by it. I might have to work around the threat of an imminent flood, but, no matter how dangerous the waves may seem, they never cross into nightmare territory.

(If I have nightmares, they’re usually about crossing suspension bridges or trying to keep out zombie hordes using doors that are inexplicably too small and keep falling off the hinges, but that’s another story.)

Dream Moods mentions the usual stuff about ocean symbolism, it’s tied to the state of your emotions, rough seas mean turmoil, yada yada yada. (They do have one oddly specific bit about kissing the ocean floor, though.) Looking up “sea” yields pretty much the same.

I know water is emotion, but I haven’t really identified anything in particular that it might be referring to. The roughness of the sea doesn’t correspond to anything, it’s seemingly random. One resource offered up a bunch of prophetic meanings to sea imagery, but, if that’s the case, oh boy do I have a whole lot of very contradictory stuff coming my way. These also don’t “feel” like prophetic dreams that I’ve had. Another resource pretty much describes ocean dreams as a land of contrasts.

I have been considering choosing a patron/matron deity, but I don’t know who and haven’t fully committed to the idea.

Maybe the choice is being made for me.


life

My Apartment Building Has: A Baby!

A very grumpy and scruffy baby, but that is probably to be expected.

My partner told me that he’d spotted the wee one on the steps. I was so excited to go see, I actually went out without a mask (or shoes, or pants) to check up on them and leave some cat kibble and a bit of water.

Crow fledglings sometimes spend as long as two weeks on the ground. Nine times out of ten, there’s nothing actually wrong with them, they’re just in the awkward stage of learning to fly, growing their adult feathers, and looking like cranky little Halloween decorations that’ve been left in the attic a bit too long. Crow families and the rest of the murder are pretty close-knit, so their parents are usually right nearby to keep an eye on things. Babies have to learn to spread their wings eventually, though, so it’s not at all uncommon to come across a grumpy youngster, feathers all bedhead-ed up, covered in grass and dirt from hitting the ground seventeen times.

While cute, this baby is not a crow. This is probably an Ayam Cemani chick.

I talked to this one a little bit, left the kibble and water, and came back inside. We’ll keep an eye on them and make sure they still appear healthy, alert, and at an appropriate level of cleanliness (well, for a teenager, anyway). If they start looking listless or ill, we’ll get in touch with a wildlife rehabilitator.

For now? Good luck, little one! Hope you and your fam like chicken cereal.

Crows, ravens, and other corvids are A Thing for me — maybe this baby is one of the signs I’m supposed to be expecting?

life

I guess it’s Brain Awareness Month?

To be honest, it strikes me as a bit egotistical.

I mean, the brain is the only organ that named itself. Now we’re gonna let it decide it gets its own month?

Anyway, I’m not a fan of brains, personally. At this point in my life, I think I’d rather have a sort of undifferentiated network of nerve tissue, or just be some kind of sentient alien gas cloud.

For Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I want to talk about what a complete pain in the ass it is to be properly diagnosed with anything neurological.

The trouble with many neurological disorders is that they often don’t have a nice, neat, non-invasive blood test that can definitively tell you what you’ve got in a visit or two. There might be a weeks-, months-, or even years-long pattern of behavior that you need to exhibit first. There might be some other symptoms that, at first blush, don’t seem like they’d have anything to do with your brain. They might need to take a bunch of pictures of your brain and then stick giant needles in your spine. It’s kind of a crap shoot.

This isn’t to complain about doctors, per se — when they hear hoofbeats, they’re trained to look for horses, not zebras. This approach usually works pretty well, unless you’re a zebra.

All my life, I’ve had what I thought migraines. I regularly felt crushing pains in my neck and head, to the point of being dizzy, hallucinating, and throwing up. Sometimes, I’d notice my hands leaving “vapor trails” wherever they moved, like some kind of bootleg Etch-a-Sketch. I had an inhuman amount of trouble seeing things in my peripheral vision during driver’s ed, to the point where I never properly learned to drive. I was told it was anxiety and I needed to manage my stress level.

I could hear what sounded like distant drumming in my ears. The pressure in my head sometimes felt like someone tightening a belt around my skull. Sometimes, the thrumming and drumming sounded almost whispery, like voices. I was told I was hallucinating and paranoid and I needed antipsychotics.

After awhile, I noticed that I had double vision. A person I dated at the time told me I was a hypochondriac, and I watched “too much House.” Around the time I lost my grandmother to brain cancer, a doctor told me that these symptoms might not be something I could just keep ignoring — in fact, they sounded a lot like a brain mass of some kind. I was uninsured and couldn’t afford the imaging I needed, so I languished in medical limbo instead. (Naturally, I didn’t express my concerns to my then-boyfriend. Why would I, when he mocked me for being worried and told everyone around us that I was exaggerating?)

A few years later, I noticed that I always seemed to have retina fatigue. My eyes seemed to keep impressions of whatever I looked at, for way too long after I’d looked away. I had odd flashing spots. I thought it might be from my new contact lenses, but, just in case, I downloaded an Amsler grid to see if my eyeballs were just malfunctioning somehow. Sure enough, the wavy, warped, and missing lines told me something really, really wasn’t right. After one episode where I wasn’t able to see anything and went to the ER, I was told it was atypical optical migraines and I needed migraine medication.

It was another three years and a cross-country move before I was actually properly diagnosed. After years and years of misdiagnosis, someone finally scanned my broken head (there was no mass) and stuck a needle in my spine (but there was an absolute shitload of extra spinal fluid). My opening pressure, the fluid pressure at the beginning of the spinal tap, was roughly twice what is considered normal — 29 mmHg (39.4 cmH2O) compared to 7-15mmHg (9.5-20.4 cmH2O). Whoops!

Your body has a lot of mechanisms in place to maintain your cerebrospinal fluid pressure within a range of ± 1 mmHg. Mine… doesn’t. For some people, this is because of medication — steroids, hormones, antibiotics, certain pain killers, and even antacids can all increase cerebrospinal fluid pressure, but it goes back down once the medication is discontinued. I wasn’t on anything at the time I was diagnosed. So, my case is considered “idiopathic,” and, in all likelihood, congenital. It will never leave me, I will never be cured. I’m stuck with it until I either go into remission, or die. Welp.

Munchausen Syndrome and hypochondria exist, but they don’t describe everyone that’s struggling with the medical industry.

Sometimes, you’ve just got a zebra brain.

life

Who You Are in the Dark.

With everything that’s happened lately, I can’t really bring myself to post another update of the recent non-events of my life.

The most galling part is that it’s probably not that likely that police-on-civilian murder is actually on the rise — it’s just seen. With police forces allowed to self-regulate for so long with virtually no accountability, it really seems like the only reason that the Minneapolis police department responded by actually firing the officers involved and charging one with the murder of George Floyd is because the public’s eyes were on them, and irrefutable proof was spread far and wide.
Just look at all of the cops who get put on “administrative leave” instead.
Look at all of the “good cops” that look the other way when the “bad cops” go rabid.

Or, for a related example, look at the Glynn County Police Department’s complete non-response to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. It was only when the video went viral that anything was done. Look at the cops macing literal children.

I’m torn about providing links here.
On one hand, if you don’t know these specific cases, a link would be helpful. On the other, it’s all searchable, and I feel profoundly weird about possibly directing people to images of the victims’ suffering. Not because they’re disturbing (they should be disturbing) but I have feelings about dignity in death and it should be enough to know it happened without seeing it. I don’t know. I’m rambling. Google at your own risk.

Property is replaceable. People aren’t. None of the victims did things that were punishable by death, and I support any community that protests in response. It’s obvious that waiting for the people in charge to do the right thing achieves nothing. Nonviolence is a very specific protest strategy — when it doesn’t work, it’s time to abandon it.

Who you are in the dark, where no one can see your good or bad deeds, is who you are. Choosing to do the right thing because there are witnesses, or a viral video, or you might get fired or jailed, or you fear some kind of eternal damnation or other divine retribution, doesn’t make you a good person. It makes you an amoral coward.

I don’t really know what else to say. If you’re in a position to help, there’s a GoFundMe set up to benefit George Floyd’s family and cover his funeral expenses, another to cover legal aid for Minnesota protesters, and a list of local bail funds to help protesters in your city or state. If you are planning to attend a protest, please do so safely and responsibly, learn how to help in a medical situation, and keep an eye out for shit-stirrers. Even if you can’t donate or protest in person, there’s a list of anti-racism resources with other things everyone can do for a more just world.

Believe people when they tell you they’re suffering.