Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Yule

It's the longest night of the year, the darkest of days before we begin the swing back toward the sun, and it has been a fairly quiet evening. I can't sleep. I'm disciplining myself not to go back to the living room, turn on the TV, and put in the next two episodes of Dr. Who with Christopher Eccleston and save them for tomorrow. I'm rationing them right now.

I had planned a full Yule celebration, but circumstances kept it from happening as I envisioned it. Still, Nelo loved the dragonfly themed gifts I got her, the landlady can't wait to hang the new wind chimes I got her, and Michael's gift is still in my living room, a forlorn and silent reminder that he decided to be alone tonight. The landlady left huge gift bags stuffed with homemade goodies and European chocolate in front of our doors and Pastor is carrying a brand new stuffed doggy in a Santa hat around with him, tucking it between his big hairy paws and resting his head on it when he lies down. Pastor made sure I was properly introduced to his new toy and got plenty of hugs and scratches before he laid down with his new pal.

The waning moon is a faint half circle of light in an otherwise deep black night where an orange light glows on the corner and muted holiday lights glimmer through the thick cloak of silent night. My head buzzes with conversations with friends over the phone and neighbors. The landlady showed me a couple gifts from one of her friends and we talked about how to rehang a beautiful sketch of a horse framed in cherry wood and wide charcoal mats, the sweet tinkle of the wind chimes still hanging in the air. The hallway smells of lavender, tangerine, and eucalyptus from Nelo's hot bath, lingering in the cool air and sneaking tiny fingers of scent beneath the door. I still hear Mark's voice on the phone wishing he could come back to Colorado before the end of the year and spend the time watching the new year dawn, his voice wistful with longing for snow frosted slopes and clear, cold air. Instead, he will go to Richmond, Virginia to spend the holidays with his sisters.

There is only the faint wagging tip of a year left and already the plans for a new year are filling my to do list. I have to remember to get a new engagement calender to write everything down. For now, I'm looking forward to next week's fare of writing, editing, and cocooning with episodes of Dr. Who while I ignore the clock and the computer and forget all about work until next year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Out of darkness

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Is it wrong to take a friend's trust and twist it into a weapon to beat them down or force them deeper into obscurity, their dreams dead before they have a chance to breathe their first lusty cry? Is it wrong to torture and torment someone to hasten them along the dark road of death into the next lifetime? Or are these simply examples of the Universe, the All, wanting to know how it feels to rend reality and fashion it into a darker shape?

Would we know night without the day, shadow without light, truth without dishonest, black without white, etc.? Do we need opposites in order to see the positive aspect of anything -- or do we choose the labels of good and bad based on our own selfish needs, wants, and desires? One could say that darkness is a friend and companion to someone with porphyria, that light and shadow have no meaning for the blind, that truth is a matter of perspective and slant, and that black and white are the absence and presence of all colors, except that white light is the presence of all colors and the color white the absence of pigment of any kind. Turn a jewel a certain way and all the flaws are visible, but turn it in another direction and it seems flawless. Which is truth and which the lie? Which the good and which the bad?

Hitler was seen by many as the saviour of the German people, the man who brought Germany from the brink of ruin and bankrutpcy after reparations required by the martial courts after losing in World War I. And there are those who see Hitler as a monster who exterminated millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and genetic and political undesirables. Turn the jewel in the light and you will see flaws or perfection, even though it is the same jewel.

It is the story of the frog and the scorpion, each a prisoner of its nature and neither able to free himself from its genetic coding. Do you fault the frog for using his amphibian capabilities in saving a fellow creature or the scorpion for reflexively stinging the frog in the midst of the flood and causing both their deaths? Fault one and you fault the other. Their futures, their paths, their lives are inextricably bound by circumstance and nature.

We seek perfection in all things, but we would be better served to see perfection in even the meanest and ugliest of creations, for one man's perfection is another man's foul creation. To all things under heaven there is a purpose and a use. Energy and power are neutral. It is we who place labels and judgment, forcing all creation into a preordered and preconceived mold to suit our tastes, our vision, our perspective, and no one is completely right or wrong. Life is life. Power is power. Energy is energy. And all are grist for the Universe's mill, a bit of grit killing an oyster who spins a coating of beauty to hide the nip of death. One without the other ceases to exist.

Good news or bad news first?

This has been a day of ups and downs and really ups and really low downs. Thank goodness it is nearly midnight and another day can begin its roller coaster ride.

After working into the wee hours of the morning, nose dripping and sinuses swelling, I managed an hour of sleep at a time between visits to the bathroom. When I finally managed to make a fist and hang onto a coherent thought I checked to find my paycheck had finally arrived -- late (by two weeks and one day) and way too light on the dollar side of the decimal point. At least the rent could be paid and that was of paramount importance. The electric bill will just have to wait another couple of weeks. It will be close, but it won't be late. I was more worried about the rent and that is now taken care of. One less thing to keep me awake at all hours pounding the keyboard only to be shorted beaucoup bucks. But life goes on -- sort of.

The the news got better. I discovered one of my poems entered into a contest won first prize. It's my first official, bona fide first prize for poetry.

And the winner is...

Masks on the Wall

You don't see me;
you never have.
You saw the masks I wore
now hanging on my walls.

Masks on the wall,
a collection of different faces
for different places,
the colors of emotions
for different occasions.

Masks on the wall,
a new face
worn for a time
then cast aside when you
wanted a new and different me.

Masks on the wall,
relics of my chameleon days
when I twisted and turned
myself inside out
to be what and who was wanted.

Smiles for family,
tears for lovers,
frowns in all the right places,
and always just the right faces.

Masks on the wall
are who I have been.
They signify the me you expected,
the me you created,
the only me you wanted to know.

Masks on the wall,
gathering dust.
I don't need the protection,
the deception,
the hiding place.

You still don't see,
you never have,
and now I know you never will.
It doesn't matter
for at last I wear
the real me.

That didn't hurt too much and many of you might have read it before. I'm still proud of it.

I had to give up a gift I gave myself for Yule, a hand-tooled leather bound journal, in order to get my laid away gifts out of hock, but it was worth it and they are waiting to be wrapped (wonder how much wrapping paper I can get for a small handful of change) and given to friends and neighbors tomorrow night during our little Yule celebration. That felt really good and almost obliterated the awful beginning to my day. And then came the email.

For a couple decades, I was a close friend and frequent correspondent with a lovely, talented and prolific writer who gave me encouragement. One time, after reading one of my manuscripts, she called her agent and told him to expect a copy of the manuscript that she felt he should look at an represent. He read it and sent me a lovely note: great writing, fast pace, excellent flow, but not the kind of work he represented. I accepted his verdict without question, as I never expected my friend to coerce or otherwise push anyone to accept work that wasn't up to snuff. I found out tonight during a long conversation that the agent didn't turn down my work because he didn't represent my kind of writing but because he was coerced by someone else, someone who made it their business to make sure I did supersede them in publishing a novel. That person has been revealed to be a negative influence that kept many promising and talented writers from being published, writers who were friends with the wonderful woman who saw in them promise and talent and ability and did her best to see that the road was smoothed a little for them.

Our mutual friend and I talked for a couple hours tonight and the friend told me that just before the writer died she had read a short story manuscript I sent her and was full of praise. Unfortunately, she was going blind and died shortly thereafter, unable to deal with the loss of her sight, and I didn't know how much she valued my writing.

I am amazed that someone who should know better and who was given a wonderful lifestyle in a highly creative atmosphere could be so eaten up by envy and hatred that she would delay or outright destroy another writer's chance to be read and known. What amazes me the most is that the envious woman is someone I called friend and sister because we shared the same birthday, someone I thought I knew. But she is someone none of us knew and that is just beginning to be brought to light. However, her bill has just become due and Rose Wolf, who has relied so heavily on her Ph.D., is about to find out what it feels like to spend a good part of her life behind bars where her education will do her little if any good. Her treatment of Andre Norton and Rose's betrayal of Andre's trust and loyalty is about to come to light.

Out of even the worst circumstances can come good.

Tonight a close friend shared her grief over the passing of a beloved pet and reminded me that friendship endures even when death's cold hand reaches into our lives. A neighbor reminded me that even though I had little, she had less, so I shared what I had. An old friend facing a court battle to right a litany of wrongs asked me to share in gathering up the loose ends of a powerful legacy to help right those wrongs. And a sister reminded me that even when it seems as though love and happiness are running through your fingers like the finest sand there is still hope.

No matter the news, good or bad, it remains news that can enrich or inform your life depending on how you deal with it. I have to keep that in mind when the nights are darkest and the journey toward dawn seems endless. Time does indeed have a way of healing all wounds, but more often it will wound all heels.

That is all. Disperse.

Phases of the moon

moon phases

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The most dangerous idea of all...

I woke up with swollen sinuses and a strong desire to cocoon with books and movies. Good choice.

I love historical costume dramas, especially when they are based on actual events. One of my choices today was The Affair of the Necklace, otherwise known in Parisian papers as l'Affaire du Collier in the wake of the American Revolutionary War and the days that led to the end of the French monarchy for a time, ending with the beheading of Marie Antoinette and King Louis. Hilary Swank and Simon Baker paint an all too realistic portrait of the times and sensibilities that led to deception and intrigue. The villains were well played by Johnathan Pryce as Cardinal Rohan and Christopher Walken as Count Cagliostro. Definitely a movie to see.

My other choice was Dangerous Beauty about the age of Courtesans in that most decadent of cities, Venice, a movie that fit my mood and my writing today of all days, as did the previous movie.

The high cost of honest love.

I am amazed. At no time in history have we measured the cost of attaining our heart's desire in such mean and miserly terms. We know only what burns deepest in our hearts and souls. Like a raging fire, desire eats away at our resolve and fear until at last we risk all for its attainment.

But is a cool head and careful planning any less dangerous or less risky? Love is an intricate dance with an uncertain and unsteady beat on a thin wire above a pit of hungry snapping crocodiles. One misstep even at the attainment of our prize sends us plunging to a painful and prolonged death.

Marriage is a contract, an exchange of goods and services to profit -- hopefully -- both parties. In the time of chivalry's brightest flowering finally did love enter the yearning heart and spirit of the contract to make marriage and alliance a more painful business of endless torture. Were we any better off without love or by courting love in secret while we paraded our seemingly felicitous contracts in public, a shining example of hypocrisy and appearances for appearance's sake?

When marriage took on the trappings of religious cant and solemnity, making love a perquisite of the connubial state, romance the holy grail, untouched and untasted by all but the scorned and punished sinner who faced the darkest circle of hell for daring to love boldly and without regret.

There is honesty in love that is tarnished by the dishonesty of appearances for appearance's sake, hidden in a religious habit sanctified by man's dream God and bound in steel bonds by legality and social demands.

There can be marriage with love but all too quickly does love wear lust's mask to clarify and burn away the taint of sin in order to possess desire, the wolf wearing the sheep's curly wool in order to wander close to the heart of the herd, taking the old, the young, and the weak unawares, feasting with bloody relish, coming again and again to the innocent massacre under cover of darkness and in blackest shadow.

So is the courtesan and the rankest of whores more honest in falling willingly to so-called sin and openly bearing away the well and hard earned spoils of her trade, working harder and smarter than any bandit brandishing the sanctified ring of contractual vows. Why not love openly, putting the devil to shame and call a religious spade a spade?

Love need not be socially approved nor need it wear sheep's wool to cover its lustful desires. Desire and love are their own payment.

From the beginning of narrow-minded and societally accepted time has love borne the stigmata of envy's wrath, choosing to bear it openly in defiance of custom's blind folly. Maybe Lucifer had it right -- better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, a cur at the feet of a jealous god of small and mean stature created by Man out of his fear and unslaked desire as he postpones his life in hopes of a promised brighter and happier future that may never materialize, but upon which all bank.

Unable to reach openly for what burns deepest, Man paints all in ebony enamel while furtively chipping away to find the brightness beneath that calls to his heart of hearts, tearing at his hair and rending his garments in the light while creeping silently from shadow to shadow dividing his body, mind and soul for the sake of lies and jealousy and the fear of standing alone for truth and, yes, even for love.

Will we never learn to put love and contractual obligations in their proper places? Will we never learn that joy and pleasure are their own reward and that when we bow to society's whims and religious cant we all lose what is most dear -- the freedom to love where and as we will?