24 December 2011

Don't Start...I know.

Where have I been this December? The same answer I always give, I’m afraid: busy as all hell. I know, I’ve been a bad blogger. I promise I’m not going anywhere, at least not just yet.

A few random things I’ve done recently:

  1. Get pepper sprayed. In the face. And then complete a damn obstacle course with my eyes on fire. FML. I get to do this annually for the rest of my career! Fabulous.
  2. Drive 13 hours back to the best state in the union to visit my family.
  3. Host a brief reunion with my BFFs from high school for a little winter gathering.
  4. Add 5 days worth of music to my iTunes library. I know…awesome, yea?? I was thrilled.
  5. Lots of other random ridiculous things that I can’t blog about, but have been keeping me away from my computer for a month.

Anywho, regular blogging will commence shortly. In the meantime, muse on this:

I will maintain the truth
I knew naturally as a child;
I won't forfeit my creativity
To a world that's all laid out for me. 
I will look at everything around me,
And I will vow to bear in mind
That all of this was just someone's idea;
It could just as well be mine.
     ~Ani DiFranco, “Alla This.”

And, as a throw back to last year, here’s some musing I did on the topic of trees last time I was home for the holidays: Bringing In The (Fake) Green. Enjoy.

30 November 2011

Be Who You Are. Completely.

I just can’t win.

As many of you know, I’m a nerd. I have a shitton of hobbies, interests, and things I’m generally good at. I’m also pretty damn smart. I wouldn’t say I’m a genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a good memory and school was always easy for me. I’m also pretty cute. So. There’s the background info.

Here’s some more: my entire life, I’ve been told not to brag. I’ve heard so many times NOT to talk about myself. Don’t talk about what you’re good at. Don’t talk about what you do. Don’t talk about being smart. Don’t tell people your talents. Don’t talk yourself up. Don’t talk about your awards, accomplishments, or experience. Don’t brag. Don’t brag.

And for goodness’ sake, don’t brag!

People hate you enough as it is because you’re good at everything, because you’re pretty, because you’re smart. SO DON’T REMIND THEM.

My whole life. That’s all I’ve ever heard.

I listened.

Very few people, out of the many bazillion people I’ve met in the fourteen countries I’ve traveled to, know even half of what I’ve accomplished in life. Not many of my friends are even aware that I have a blog, let alone what I’ve posted on it. A handful of my friends from high school know about my music, a few more remember my knack for linguistics. I think one year I was voted most artistic or something like that. However, I can probably count on both hands the number of people who can name at least 2/3 of my hobbies, interests, and talents and yet who also know who I am.

And today? I just got told, by three very authoritative figures in my current job the exact opposite of what I’ve always been told by everyone else, ever. These three men said: Talk yourself up. If you don’t tell people what you can do, we don’t know. If we don’t know, we’ll think you’re mediocre. We’ll think you’re just like everyone else. 

And then we’ll overlook you.

So here’s my advice for the day, dear readers. If you’re special, be special. Don’t let someone tell you not to shine your brightest. Don’t ever let someone tell you—no matter how close to you she is—to be less than yourself to make other people feel more comfortable, or to make them like you more. People will like you or not like you, and it’s completely arbitrary, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So just be yourself.

The world doesn’t need more mediocrity, and if the Army has taught me anything, it’s that perception = reality. If you try to blend in with the rabble, you become the rabble. Let yourself stand out and live up to your full potential. If you don’t, who will?

29 November 2011

Music As Magic: Feeling Pagan, pt. 1

So this isn’t exactly brand new news anymore, but…Florence + the Machine has a new album out, titled Ceremonials. It’s fabulous. I can’t pick out a song that will ever replace “Howl” as my F+tM anthem (I just adore the primal imagery and hunting references), but overall I like this album more than Lungs. Her voice is just magical, and whether or not Florence herself is Pagan, listening to her music makes me feel more like one. Currently my favorite song off the album is rotating depending on which one I’m listening to at the time, but the one that stays stuck in my head when the music isn’t playing is “No Light, No Light.” Here’s a video of a live performance. The quality isn’t spectacular, but you’ll get the idea. I’ll provide some sort of analysis later…for now, just enjoy the song ☺

24 November 2011

Bookshelf Updates: Welcome to Aorea

If you haven’t yet noticed, I’ve been slowly building another set of pages on my blog under the Bookshelf. One of the reasons I got into blogging was because of my love of writing, and recently I decided to take on a new blogular project dealing with the creative writing I do on the side (in addition to all the other things I do on the side, like draw and paint and sculpt and make jewelry and run and play Frisbee and make music and…and..and…too many hobbies). Thus, as an inspiration for me to actually finish the several novel-type projects I’ve been working on (for years), I decided to build a set of pages summarizing my stories and describing the world in which they all take place: Aorea.

I’ve been working on The Spinner’s Journey, which is the first book in the Circle series, since I was in 8th grade. Around 10th grade I discarded the original storyline and opted for a newer version, which I promptly began and have been slowly finishing since. I wrote about half of it by the time I graduated high school, finished up another five chapters throughout my incredibly busy college years, and I only have two chapters and an epilogue left to write before I begin the lengthy process of final editing and then attempting to publish. Because I cannot avoid having long delays in between finishing one chapter and starting another—often half a year or more—I edit the entire story prior to beginning a new chapter, so the editing of The Spinner’s Journey has been an ongoing thing. Nevertheless, the first few chapters need a lot of work, as you can definitely tell I was still in high school when I wrote them.

Currently I have two pages—Story Summaries and Aorean Geography—complete and posted under my Bookshelf. There is space for additional links (currently they don’t work, as I haven’t written those bits yet) that will be filled in as I finish them, to include some explanations of the weirder/more confusing terminology I use in my summaries as well as character profiles of my protagonists. Once I *finally* inspire myself sufficiently to get to work on the final two chapters and then the massive editing requirement, I may decide to post some excerpts here, but I recommend not holding your breath.

I remember writing in my college essays for Brown and Georgetown back when I was a senior that “I have thousands of years of history for a world that doesn’t exist cluttering up the interior of my skull,” and using that as an excuse for my inability to do mental math with any alacrity. All excuses aside, the statement is entirely true. I do have thousands of years of history for an entire world, full of creatures and cultures great and small, rich with magic and mystery and mundane acts of survival, all entwined with the rest of the knowledge in my head. I know every little thing that has ever happened and ever will happen within the context of three separate series of stories, each series occurring during a different time period in Aorean history: Circle, Haven, and Guard. Circle is the springboard, and the protagonists of Haven and Guard are descended the protagonists of the Circle series. I keep a giant three-ring binder of notes, sketches, summaries, bones of dialogue, and snippets of descriptions that I like to call my “Big Book of Aorea.” Honestly I don’t know how I manage to function in normal reality when I have an entire parallel reality I’ve created also filling my brain, but somehow I succeed. And, maybe, if I’m lucky (and if I stop being lazy with my writing), I’ll finish churning out those stories. Until then, sate yourself with the new and improved (and still improving) Bookshelf section of my blog. Enjoy!

22 November 2011

FTX + The Price of Greatness

Amazons from Xena: Warrior princess. Pic from here.
“There is no place or companion in the world, then or now, for a woman of implacable will and focus who will not compromise or yield in her determination to pursue her vocation.” – Athena Andreadis

We got back from our week intensive of field training. We all smelled pretty ripe—it was most noticeable once I got in my car at the end of it all, turning on my cell phone for the first time in what felt like forever, and then got a huge whiff of damp, mold, dirt, CLP, and metal and promptly thought to myself, “Holy crap…that’s me”—but it was definitely worth it. I love being in the field, even if “the field” is currently more mounted (on vehicles) than dismounted (running around the woods) operations, not to mention the focus on urban environments. Regardless, it was a lot of fun, and naturally I learned a lot (and remembered a lot of what I’m supposed to already know).

Anywho, that’s where I’ve been for the past seven days, and now we’re approaching another long weekend, which will officially begin for me tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, one side effect of playing in the field for a while with minimal sleep, irregular mealtimes, and high stress/energy activities is reduced immune system efficacy, of which I am currently feeling the full force. I love being in the field, but I hate being sick, and the two usually coincide for me. At least I’ll have the weekend to recover and visit with some more family & a few new friends who may or may not be accompanying me for Thanksgiving dinner at my Uncle’s place. With or without their presence, it will be a good time with good food and lots of wine. What more could I want?

Well, I want to make sense of some recent revelations, for starters. And this brings me to the quote at the top of this entry.

People are funny creatures with funny habits. I’ve encountered so many analogies over the years for human social interactions and patterns that I can hardly keep them straight anymore. We’re supposedly pack animals, and therefore function better when we understand our place within the hierarchy of our pack. I happen to like wolves, and one of my totems is the Wolf, so to an extent that analogy resonates with me. Alpha males and females, leaders, followers, lone wolves. You find all these roles played out in both canine and human interactions. However, human hierarchy is far more complex than the dynamics of any wolf pack, and often the individual and group relationships are far less loyal among humankind. (Not to say that wolf pack dynamics are at all simple; rather, I am merely emphasizing the complexity of human group dynamics.) As I could expound upon this a great deal more than a paragraph, I will save the rest of my musings on this specific aspect of my point—which I’ll get to eventually—for a later date.

Another animal comparison I’ve heard (occasionally) equated with humans is the concept of mating for life. It’s understood in the natural world that some creatures, for whatever reason particular to their species, will mate for life. Squid, owls, penguins. Like the pack-animal comparison, it could be said that some human beings mate for life, albeit under more complicated circumstances. Love at first sight, true love, soul mates. All of these instances could be characterized as a type of lifelong mating, a knowing of one soul recognizing its counterpart in another, however long that recognition may take. Obviously, not everyone finds this. The list that comes to mind of failed relationships (not to mention skyrocketing divorce rates) attests to the rarity of mate-for-life occurrences in human encounters, but I also know that it does in fact happen. I know my parents are soul mates if ever a pair of lovers were. I know other couples in my family tree who clearly represent that kind of love as well. My brother will likely one day find such a love.

I’m also pretty sure I won’t.

The one person I’ve met thus far in my journey—short as 23 years may be—who I’ve felt any glimmer of recognition for, happens to live on the other side of the world. He’s a person of talent, vision, intelligence, and dedication such as I’ve never met in anyone else. He’s easily the most amazing person I know, but all the things about him that make him amazing are all the things that keep us apart.

For relationships to work, there has to be compromise. One person has to be willing to sacrifice their goals and dreams for the sake of the other’s. I could never do that. I could never give up what I do because it’s a part of me. I am my Work. I am my Beliefs. I am my Art, my Music, my Words. I am Bellatrix, Anden, Amazon. I could never change who I am or give up myself to align my path with another’s. I could likewise never ask anyone to do the same for me, and even worse, I could never love anyone who would be willing to do so. The only way I could find love is if someone else's preexisting goals and dreams happened to perfectly align with mine, no compromise or sacrifice necessary. That, my friends, is an impossibility. These recent revelations of mine coincided with my reading of Athena’s post on her awesome blog (Astrogator’s Logs) that discussed great women of talent and their inevitable loneliness. She's much smarter than I am, and so she explains it much better than I can.

Men of vision, talent, and drive can find love. For whatever reason, biologically or socially-induced, women will flock around them. In contrast, women of vision, talent, and drive often end up alone. Not necessarily for lack of suitors, but for lack of partners. As a whole society is unprepared to deal with them. And you know what? If loneliness is the price I must pay to accomplish my goals, so be it. If I am to be the person I want to be, then I will gladly pay that price. After all, one of my matron goddesses is a Virgin Huntress.

I am not even close to being who I should be, to living up to my dreams and goals. But I’ll get there.

One day, I promise. I will get there.

13 November 2011

Entropic Discord

To diverse gods do mortals bow;
Holy Cow, and Wholly Chao.
I got to see my family this weekend! Unfortunately they already left. Littlest Brother was in rare form, acting his absolute cutest. We were driving to do some sight seeing with my aunt and uncle, and we passed a bright blue motorcycle. Littlest Brother (15, autistic, and adorable) said, “Look! It’s a blue mocha-cycle!” Gods, I love his accent. He also calls caterpillars “color-pitters.” That little boy is amazing.

Anyway, while my family was here, we watched a couple movies and some random science shows. One of the shows we watched—NOVA, I believe it was called—dealt with the law of entropy, or in non-sciencey terms, the tendency of the universe to move from order to disorder. Now, thermodynamics was never my strongest point back in my physics classes, and we only briefly touched on it in my nuclear engineering courses, so I’ll let some quotes do my talking for me. Everything about my academic history makes me hesitant to ever use Wikipedia as a source; however, for basic definitions and layman’s understanding of key terms/concepts, it’s not so bad. I’ll never quote it in a formal paper, but here it is. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about entropy:

Entropy is a thermodynamic property that can be used to determine the energy available for useful work in a thermodynamic process, such as in energy conversion devices, engines, or machines. Such devices can only be driven by convertible energy, and have a theoretical maximum efficiency when converting energy to work. During this work, entropy accumulates in the system, which then dissipates in the form of waste heat. 
In classical thermodynamics, the concept of entropy is defined phenomenologically by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of an isolated system always increases or remains constant. Thus, entropy is also a measure of the tendency of a process, such as a chemical reaction, to be entropically favored, or to proceed in a particular direction. It determines that thermal energy always flows spontaneously from regions of higher temperature to regions of lower temperature, in the form of heat. These processes reduce the state of order of the initial systems, and therefore entropy is an expression of disorder or randomness. This picture is the basis of the modern microscopic interpretation of entropy in statistical mechanics, where entropy is defined as the amount of additional information needed to specify the exact physical state of a system, given its thermodynamic specification. The second law is then a consequence of this definition and the fundamental postulate of statistical mechanics.

And all of that just makes me think of Discordianism.

As I've discussed before, I don’t consider myself a follower of any one Pagan tradition, nor do I confine myself to one specific pantheon of deities (I myself am a hodge-podge of ethnic and cultural backgrounds; why should my spirituality reflect anything else?). Thus, I’ve always had a soft spot for the ideas behind Discordianism, namely that both order and disorder are constructs of the human mind. Neither is a statement of reality, and yet both are equally true and untrue. Anything is possible, and everyone is right. And everyone is wrong. It’s the ultimate interpretation of do what you will. I think it’s both poetic and hilarious, and also very, very (un)true. Apparently I’m also not the first person to read about entropy and then think about Eris, goddess of discord. Check it out:

The Principia Discordia contains the Law of Eristic Escalation. This law states that "Imposition of Order = Escalation of Chaos". It elaborates on this point by saying that the more order is imposed the longer it takes for the chaos to arise and the greater the chaos that arises. The idea is not new; it is mentioned in the Tao Te Ching: "the more laws and orders are written, the more thieves there are". 
This can be read as an argument against zero tolerance and hard security, or just a statement about the world and human nature. It can also be seen as a parallel to the second law of thermodynamics which states that entropy (the number of states a given system can occupy) never decreases over time. It is also reminiscent of Newton's Third Law, where every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

So, there you have it. I have once again come to the circuitous conclusion that I am not nearly as original of a thinker as I would like to think. Nonetheless, interesting parallels between the law of entropy (proven, time and again) and Discordianism, yea? Makes me proud to be Pagan.

07 November 2011

Merlin and Magical Names

Merlin the Great by Mark Stefanowicz
“And as you stand there, taking deep within your heart this gift of knowledge from the Gods, and having made your first steps upon the magick path, then are two things required of you. The first is that you must now take a magickal name known to none other than yourself, an the second is that you make a private offering of thanks unto the Gods.”
–Nevill Drury, Merlin’s Book of Magick and Enchantment, p. 64

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for high school again. Maybe it’s because I’ll be missing my five-year reunion soon. Really, does anyone even bother going to five-years? Or maybe it’s because I’ll be getting to see my family this weekend. Probably the latter. Regardless, all these nostalgia feelings inspired me to crack open a book that is and always will be near and dear to my heart: Merlin’s book of Magick and Enchantment by Nevill Drury. Naturally, the author’s name does not appear on the cover; you have to dig for it, or else what’s the fun in pretending it’s a book written by the famous Merlin of Arthurian Legend?

The first Pagan book I ever owned was given to me for Christmas by my best friend, Amphitrite, back when I still considered myself a good Catholic girl who sang in the youth choir every winter and executed faithfully the duties of an altar server the other four seasons. I went to mass every Sunday with my parents and brothers. I wore a crucifix almost every day. I gave up makeup, AIM, candy, cursing, and fighting with Little Brother for Lent. And then…my very Baptist friend gave very Catholic me an ornately bound, gorgeously illustrated, and poetically written book that explained—in narrative form—the basic tenets of (modern) Druidry. I doubt the irony of this situation is lost on anyone who regularly reads my blog.

When I first unwrapped it Christmas morning, I stared in awe at the cover and then proceeded to flip through all the illustrations. The artist in me salivated over the colors and the symbolism in each picture (if you can get you hands on a copy of this book, however cheesy its premise, I highly suggest it if for no other reason than the artwork). Of course, even at fourteen I was well aware that it wasn’t actually written by Merlin (I’d watched a thousand History and Discovery channel specials on Aurthurian legend by then, even, not to mention Mists of Avalon, so I was well familiar with the historical evidence versus the myths), but my spiritual world was still very narrow. I had never heard of Paganism, Wicca, Asatru, Druidry, anything. To me, the myths of the Old Gods were just that—myths. Fabulous stories created by men (and, perhaps, women as well) throughout the ages to explain natural phenomena they could not otherwise understand. I had studied the Roman and Greek gods since elementary school—the mythology curriculum was always my favorite—and then again in Latin classes. I had a basic familiarity with the gods of the Egyptians and the Norse from my own reading, just for fun. I knew that other ancient cultures had other deities, but that Christianity had replaced them all. I didn’t have the first clue that these Old Gods were being revived. At least, not until I started reading Merlin’s Book of Magick and Enchantment.

I can’t say that was the start of my journey to Paganism—that would have to be when I was seven and first questioned why God was a dude when (S)He always felt feminine to me (pretty sure my parents thought that I thought way too much for a seven year old after that one)—but it was a major milestone. Several years later I was writing my (high school) senior thesis on the resurgence of Goddess-worship in the form of Neopaganism. By college? Game over, Catholicism. You’d officially lost another follower.

I remember having a discussion with Amphitrite’s mother shortly after she had given me the book. Her mom specified, “Well, it’s not for reading, we just thought you’d like the pictures.” I nodded and smiled and said “Of course! Lovely pictures. Won’t read it.” I’d already read it. Twice. My own mother, giggling surreptitiously nearby, just shook her head. She knew. I do, after all, inherit my curious bones from her side of the family.

One of the chapters of the MBoM&E has to do with choosing a “magickal name,” or rather, a method for divining one. I’m aware that a magical name is a topic of some debate in the modern Pagan community, and there are good arguments from all sides on the matter. I have my opinions, which I’ll present briefly here. Anden Jade is not my given name, but I consider it my “working name,” or for you non-Pagan readers, the name I present to the larger Pagan community…on the rare occasions I encounter any members of said community, that is. It’s my public name, hence my using it for my blog and for my music website. However, I don’t consider it my true name, or the name by which I call myself when I come before my Deities. That is a name I hold close to my heart and only two of my closest confidants—Amphitrite is one of them—know it. They keep mine; I keep theirs.

Words have power. Names have power. Naming something gives it form, meaning, purpose. Naming begets understanding. What I can name, I can visualize. What I can visualize, I can recreate (through art, through music, through magic). What I can recreate, I can control. At least, that’s the theory of my perspective.

I did not divine for my true name. I did not consult runes or tarot or alphabet soup. I did not ask for it and get an answer in a dream. I did not stare at a crystal sphere until my eyes crossed and letters appeared before. I did not wait for anyone else to name me. My true name has always been a part of me, long before I knew what it meant. Ever since I can remember, I have called myself secretly by a name separate from the one my parents bestowed upon me at birth. I distinctly remember being five or six, scampering around the woods, spinning in circles and thinking to myself, “I am not Lissa, I am ____.” (Melissa is my first name, by the way. I was Lissa until I was around eight years old. After that, I decided “Lissa” sounded childish, and began to use the full version until college, when suddenly people just started calling me Mel.) Funny how these things work out. And to think it took me over a decade after that to finally figure out that I’m not a good Catholic girl, I’m a Pagan. Sometimes I think I’m not as smart as my family and friends and coworkers seem to think I am. You’d think between the statue of Diana my grandfather carved for me and my lifelong obsessions with running through the woods, dancing in the rain, Celtic folk music, Amazons, candles, history, and mythology that I would have figured that one out a helluva lot sooner. Oh well. Better late than never, eh?

31 October 2011

Semper Idem

The Lament, acrylic on canvas, painted by
yours truly on 30 October 2011
This is just a little poem/song (haven't decided yet whether or not I'll ever set it to music) that I composed last night before falling asleep. It's pretty relevant to a current situation, and is the title translates from the Latin phrase "Always the same." You know how I love working in those classical references whenever I can, and this particular use of "semper" (always) has a double edge of meaning that will be only apparent to some...and that I'm totally not going to explain, haha, so sorry. Additionally, to your left you will see my most recent painting, which I have titled The Lament. This painting was inspired by some recent emotions welling up and spilling over, in this case rather than cry a puddle on the floor of a broken stage like the angel depicted is doing, I chose to spill out my pent up frustration in a series of songs and, well, this painting. Hope you enjoy both. Let it never be said that I wasted negative energies. I much prefer the method of tapping into frustration, anger, hurt, and melancholy as a muse and eventual release. Without further ado, allow me to present "Semper Idem."

Your silence speaks
      a novel of rejection,
just another in a pattern,
     I seem doomed to repeat.
You claimed you thought
     that I am worth the effort;
now you can’t even bother
     to talk to me.

When I reach out to you
     and try to make things easy,
you can’t even meet me
And so our dance continues,
     a spiral to implosion,
and I can’t take your silence
     one more day.

Quit being cold. I know there’s warmth
     inside you somewhere.
     I saw the spark smoldering
          not so very long ago.
Quit being numb. I know that you
     can feel again.
     Just speak the words that have
          been weighing down your tongue.

You told me that you
     still think I’m pretty,
that you want to be with me,
     but you just need time.
If you meant it, then
     the timing wouldn’t matter;
It will never be convenient
     in an inconvenient life.

Quit being cold. I know there’s warmth
     inside you somewhere.
     I saw the spark smoldering
          not so very long ago.
Quit being numb. I know that you
     can feel again.
     Just speak the words that have
          been weighing down your tongue.

Quit being scared. I know that I am
     intimidating; I’ve been told
     that now at least
          a hundred times.
Quit being sad. I know I can make
     you smile again,
     crack that pretty grin
          and make you laugh.

But your silence speaks
     when your words will not,
and it’s telling me that I
     should just give up.
If you won’t see the pain
     your silence causes me,
then there’s no point in
     trying to hold on.

Happy Samhain

The final musical installment in my week of halloween, and as if there could have been any other choice for this historic and epic moment, comes from The Nightmare Before Christmas. As it began, so shall it end. Enjoy the haunting and hilarious “This Is Halloween” intro to the movie!

30 October 2011

Dante In Russia

A photo I took near the base of Mt. Elbrus last autumn
Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

~Loreena McKennitt, “Dante’s Prayer”

As promised, here’s a song that, for me, really gets to the heart of what Samhain is all about: the thinning of the veil between the Here and the Other. This time of year I can feel the ancestors reaching from the other side, pushing the boundaries, straining to communicate with their descendants and pass on the knowledge and wisdom of the centuries.

McKennitt describes briefly the events as she was writing the song in the video below (traveling through Russia, reading Dante’s Inferno). Having done both activities, although not simultaneously, I can see elements within the song of its larger context. However, the way the song makes me feel—her haunting vocals, the melancholy strings—whispers Samhain to me all the way. Certain lines especially (“When the dark night seems endless, please remember me”) evoke words the ancestors call out from the Other, asking to be remembered and revered as they watch over their progeny. That’s just one of many fabulous things about poetry; it’s all subject to interpretation.

Without further ado, Lorenna McKennit, performing “Dante’s Prayer” live:

Zombies And Ghosts And Vampires, Oh My!

Fun movie! Hot cast. Pic from here.
I didn’t sleep at all Thursday night. We were finally released for the weekend Friday evening around 1800, and I took a shower & went to bed with the intent of getting up in an hour or so to post another video here and then meet up with some friends for dinner. However, we all went to bed with the intention of getting up, and then no one did. I slept straight through from 1900 until 0430 the next morning when the alarm I had forgotten to un-set started blaring, at which point I promptly decided “to hell with it” and slept until almost noon.

Then on Saturday, I just completely forgot for the day apparently that I have a blog, and that I was posting music videos of Halloween & Samhain themed songs. Instead, I spent the afternoon drinking tea, watching vampire movies (Lost Boys, Lost Boys: The Tribe, and Lost Boys: The Thirst), and making some final adjustments to my Xena-esque warrior goddess costume. Apparently I’ve lost a lot of weight since last October, which although a pleasant surprise, necessitated about an hour of sewing on the corset and skirt so they’d fit again. Pictures of this year’s wearing of the black “leather” armor will be posted here once my friends send them to me, as unfortunately they’re all on other people’s cameras.

Anywho, because I missed Friday and Saturday with Halloween music videos, I’ll post two now and then another one for Sunday later this evening. Enjoy! Today's selections come from Rob Zombie & My Chemical Romance.

27 October 2011

No Time

Sorry folks, but I just don't have time today to wax in any sort of direction. Today's musical choice: "Remains of the Day," from the movie The Corpse Bride.

26 October 2011

Buffy Versus Bridget? No Contest

Buffy will always be my hero, and
Gellar will always be Buffy to me.
Today was another hectic day, in a hectic week, in a hectic month, in a hectic year, in a hectic life. Perhaps one of these days I’ll slow down…and then I’ll likely get bored. I spent the better part of the day stressed, running late to one thing or another, and trying to print a 20page document I spent the last two evenings (and most of last night) writing. And what’s even better? I get to do it all again tomorrow, and Friday, and then for the first half of next week, too. Another 20 pages due Friday, and my hours are occupied from 0500 every morning (often earlier) to 1800 every evening (and sometimes later). But hey, at least I get paid for this, right?

In other news, my random illness seems to be responding well to the meds. I can tell my throat is still a little swollen, and it hurts still, but other than that I feel fine. That said, I’ve always had an unusually high tolerance for pain & discomfort, so things tend to be a lot worse than I think they are. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

Of course, as always, even when I have zero time to myself, or to read or write or paint or draw or sing or play my guitar, I manage to acquire drama. The recent drama is nothing new (see: Well, This Feels Familiar), and nothing particularly heart shattering, but sucks. Breaking hearts, and being broken in return. It seems to be a pattern. Anywho…I’m going to get back to the current episode of CW’s Ringer with Sarah Michelle Gellar (I miss Buffy). I’ve been trying to watch it for the past three days now, and something keeps glitching with the internet, making it take 20 minutes to watch 5 min of video and 10 min of commercials. The show is pretty good. I mean, it’s no Vampire Diaries, but it’s delicious all the same.

Now on for the real reason of the post: the latest installment in my Halloween/Samhain music videos! Today’s choice is Bette Middler’s portrayal of Winifred Sanderson in Hocus Pocus, quite possibly the greatest Halloween movie of all time. In my (occasionally) humble (but never wrong) opinion. Here’s Winifred, the lead sister, singing “I Put A Spell On You.” Enjoy!

25 October 2011

Being Sick + Song#2

Picture from here. Gotta love vamps with wings :)
Today was an adventure. I don’t get sick often, and when I do, half the time I’m convinced I’m not actually sick and that it’ll pass any minute now. This morning after our work out I had some sort of strange rapid onset symptoms. I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and a swollen lymph node, but other than that I was fine, until all at once I wasn’t. Several hours later I started shivering, despite it being 80 degrees outside and even hotter indoors. I also had massive headaches and by lunch time, I felt like I could pass out at any moment, so one of my friends drove me to the ER (nothing else was open), and turns out I had a fever of 102. One hundred and freaking two. Apparently, I really was sick.

So they shot me full of random meds & steroids & antibiotics, and apparently I’m supposed to be feeling normal in 6-8 hours. Yay. In the meantime, today’s Samhain song is from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6, “Once More, With Feeling.” As Spike sings it to Buffy, and the song is called “Rest in Peace,” it seemed appropriate to add to my daily Halloween-themed ditties ☺ Enjoy. I couldn’t get a very good quality that was the video from the actual episode, but you’ll get the gist.

24 October 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Oogie Boogie carved into a pumpkin. Pic from here.
My favorite holiday is quickly approaching. Even back when I was a devout Catholic, low these many (and by many I mean about 7) years ago, I adored Halloween. Once I began to research Paganism, mythology, and the ancient origins of commonly celebrated holidays, the end of October took on a whole new meaning for me as Samhain, the thinning of the veil. With only a handful of exceptions—to be precise, three years out of four of my college experience—I have made my Halloween costume, entirely by hand, since second grade. This year, I’ll be sporting my Xena-esque Warrior Goddess attire once again. I spent so long working on it last year (more on the construction here, here, and here) that it didn’t seem right to only wear it once. Unfortunately, however, I’ll be lacking the wolfskin cloak and bejeweled sword, as I accidentally left them in Virginia. Either way my costume will be awesome. I’m going to a party Saturday night to celebrate with some friends, which will be the debut of the costume, and some of us will be hitting a haunted house thingy too at some point. I can’t wait.

And because I love Samhain so damn much, and because this is going to be a hellaciously busy and stressful week for me leading up to that fabulous excuse to commune with the ancestors and access the energy of death and change, I’ll be posting a daily song. The first is “Jack’s Lament” from The Nightmare Before Christmas, one of my favorite movies of all time. Enjoy!

22 October 2011

You Know Where I'll Be

Look for me beneath the branches,
buried in the brittle leaves;
I’ll be waiting after sunrise for
     you to come find me.
I’ll leave my hair in tangles,
and I’ll wear your favorite dress.
We’ll live off air and sunlight,
     forsaking all the rest.

This is meant to be;
we are all we need.
Scarlet ribbons bind us,
     soul to soul.
The forest will keep us hidden
for as long as we require.
We’ll be the masters of our temple,
     treading into the unknown.

Look for me not in the starlight,
nor by the light of the moon;
I’ll be where the sun warms the moss,
     damp with autumn dew.
I’ll lead you into the valley;
we’ll walk hand in hand,
and when you finally find me,
     you’ll never be lost again.

This is meant to be;
we are all we need.
Scarlet ribbons bind us,
     heart to heart.
The forest will keep us hidden
for as long as we require.
We are the writers of our comedy,
     acting our own parts.

17 October 2011

Praise Diana!

Artemis. Picture from here.
Two weeks ago I had a profound Pagan experience, which I have been meaning to write about since, but something kept getting in the way. First it was a long weekend when I flew to the East Coast again to visit my cousin & her husband, then it was a week of hectic classes and field training preparation, then it was a weekend of field training…and now I’m back to a relatively normal schedule. Hence my having time to write melancholy & melodramatic song lyrics about losing myself in metaphorical rose gardens.

Something about roses and thorns never ceases to fascinate me.

Anyway, back to my profound Pagan experience. So. We had our land navigation test two Thursdays ago. Back when I first entered the Army, I had never learned how to use a map before, let alone a compass. Suffice it to say I’ve come a long way since then and have passed—with flying colors, I might add, NBD—all my recent land nav exercises. It was mainly because I finally, after five summers of scrambling through the woods trying to make sense of the contour lines, figured out how to terrain associate in conjunction with following an azimuth. It was a riot.

However, this last time was different. The course wasn’t particularly difficult, but the map was scaled slightly off the standard, which made plotting (and therefore, finding) our points more problematic. The scaling error between the maps they gave us and the tools we had to plot our points with did not effect my first point, so I found it right away. It only took about five minutes, actually, so I was quite pleased with myself ☺ The second point was another story.

So no shit, there I was, traipsing around some random forest in Missouri, enjoying the weather (pleasantly warm with a nice cool breeze, not a cloud in the sky) when I realized I had not remotely paid attention to how far I’d come from my first point, but that I definitely should have come across my second by then. Then I reached the boundary of the course, and realized I’d definitely gone too far. So I turned around and headed back the way I came. I walked around in circles for a while, because I knew I was close to my point, until I realized I was all discombobulated and my methods clearly weren’t working. It was a self-correcting course—the grid coordinates were posted on the point markers so we knew for sure when we found our points—so if I could stumble upon any point at all, I could re-plot a course to my specific point. I closed my eyes, centered and grounded, and offered a simple petition:

Goddess Diana, Great Huntress, Protector of the Wilds,
Guide my steps, lead me to a point. Any point. Please.

I took a deep breath, released it to the ether, and opened my eyes. Standing maybe twenty feet away from me, on the top of a small hill, was a doe. She stared straight at me through the thick foliage. I nodded my head to her, and she looked away in another direction. I walked in the direction she had indicated, and in less than a minute, I came across a point. After I plotted the new grid coordinates, I determined I was only about 100m off from the point I was looking for, so it was easy to find after that.

Later that afternoon once I had found all of my points and was starting the trek back to the camp we started from, I saw a hawk flying overhead. I smiled up at it, offering a silent prayer to my goddess for her assistance.

I love being Pagan.

Lost In The Vines

I don’t have a lot of time, but when I do,
I think of all the nights I lost on you:
the ones that took forever just to pass,
only to leave me lost again.
I don’t know what’s wrong, but that it’s true:
I could never love someone like you.
Though it hurts as bad as if I did,
knowing that you let me down again.

I’m tangled up in roses and in thorns;
these words are petals scattered in the wind:
pale and fragile, spoken yet unheard,
leaving no impression where they land.

I don’t know where you are, and losing you
feels something like forgetting what I knew
I should never completely let go,
only to fail myself again.
I don’t have a lot of time, but if I did,
I would search the sky, the sea, the land,
if only for a trace of where you went,
a whisper of where you’ve been.

I’m tangled up in roses and in thorns;
I never know what I’m supposed to say.
An empty, fragile shell of who you were
haunts my dreams each night, and every day
I’m wishing you were here, waiting to see
the wind lifting these brambles off of me,
leaving just the roses and the leaves:
then I can finally be free.

I don’t have a lot of time, but when I do,
I remember losing myself with you,
and though those days are hidden in the past,
sometimes I think that I am lost again.

03 October 2011

Well, This Feels Familiar

The air in here is starting to get thick;
I breathe and breathe, but nothing is coming in.
I thought I had it figured out, thought I knew it all,
but the light is growing dimmer behind these walls.

You were supposed to be something
new, but you are just like the others.

It’s easy to tell me what you think I want.
It’s easy to make promises and then forget.
The harder part is the follow-through (which I thought
you could do), but I guess I’ve just been fooled again.

You were supposed to be something
new, but you are just like the others.
You’re no ray of sun, no break in the storm:
just another man who still acts like a boy.

So I’ll keep writing angry lyrics,
spill my ink like so much blood,
until the words run dry as featherbeds
with hollowed-pillow skulls.
These boys who say they love me,
don’t understand what it means
     to be alone on a path
     that no one else can see.

Did you notice, dear readers, that the recent lyrics I’ve been posting don’t have Stargazing as a tag? Yes, in fact, I’ve moved on. Another month, another muse; or perhaps it’s the same muse I’ve had all along, just bearing a different name.

02 October 2011

New Art, New Musical Obssession

It’s the mission of modernity:
You’ll get what’s yours,
Until there’s nothing left over,
Until you get no more.

And it’s not what we’re owed,
But it’s what we’ve earned.
It’s closer than we realized,
And it’s time now to burn.

~ Kevin Devine, “Another Bag of Bones”

I haven’t done a whole lot lately to further my spiritual goals, which is unfortunate, but my creativity has been nothing if not active. The picture above is a painting I completed a few days ago, depicting Eyvind and Nessa from Juliet Marillier’s historical fantasy novel Wolfskin. Eyvidn is a Viking Berzerk warrior, whose people launch an expedition to the Light Isles (Marillier’s name for what is now Orkney), where Nessa—a priestess and a princess of the natives they encounter—and he eventually meet and fall in love. The story is, as all of Marillier’s novels are, much more complicated than that. However, they are one of my favorite fictional couples, and having recently reread the Saga of the Light Isles (Wolfskin and its sequel, Foxmask), I was inspired to paint them. I don’t normally engage in fan art, but I just felt like painting them the other day. So that’s what I did.

I’ve also been slowly but surely making progress on a sewing project. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with the finished product, as it’s not something I’m making for Halloween, and it’s too ornate and fantasy-adventure-esque for regular wear. In fact, I’m not even entirely sure what the finished thing will look like. It’s a dress, and it’s got lots of forest-green velvet, black leather, green cotton, and dark green snakeskin-print. Its elegant and functional, thus far, like something an Amazon Queen would wear both when running through the forest and when holding diplomatic discussions with some representative of the Patriarchy. As I don’t do a whole lot of those activities (ha!), in short, I don’t have a clue why I’m making what I’m making. I’ll post pictures when it’s finally complete.

Below are some pics of another painting I finished recently. I actually completed it in late August, but I painted it at the request of a friend, and I didn’t want to post it anywhere (neither here nor my fb artwork album) until he’d seen it in person. As of yesterday, I can finally post my pictures! So. I called it The Songwriter. Enjoy.

And, now that I’ve updated you on what I’ve been doing with my free time—what little of that I have—on to the purpose of this post: another musical obsession. Currently, the song with the most plays on my ipod is Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band’s “Another Bag of Bones.” The song itself is a commentary, so I won’t waste any of your time adding further comments on it here; let me simply emphasize that this song is absolutely awesome, everyone should hear it, and every time I give it a listen, I get chills. Check it out.

26 September 2011

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Forbidden, for a valid reason, but you know
     that’s never stopped me before.
Yet I’m no good at keeping secrets…
     maybe it’s time I finally learn.
You could be the answer to
     the question I never knew
          how to ask.
If you are, it’s worth the risk, but
     I want something real, something I can
          put my hands on.
I’m trying to wrap my head around this,
     trying to fit a name to what I have
     (as well as what I lack), and I am
Trying to give the best that I can,
     trying to escape this place home free,
     and I hope that you will escape with me.

You better believe that this is destiny
     we’re messing with…
(I’ve got a mission that I can’t quit).
This is your only warning:
     I will not be broken in.
I will live and die untamed by any man.

Forbidden, you’re a poisoned apple
     and a hidden gem;
I wish I could take the rose
     without pricking my hand.
Even as I hide behind the dark,
     I want to show you all my scars.
Let you take my hand, so I can
     lead you into the night:
Sure as shadows--sure as winter
     follows autumn--you will
          follow me,
And it’s deadly how much
     I want you to succeed.

You better believe that this is destiny
     we’re messing with…
(I’ve got a mission that I can’t quit).
This is your only warning:
     I will not be broken in.
I will live and die untamed by any man.
I will live and die untamed by any man.

18 September 2011

I Have The Weirdest Dreams. Srsly.

Picture of stars & nebula from here.
The things my subconscious produces at night really concern me sometimes.

I may or may not have mentioned this on my blog in the year that I’ve been a blogger, but I have a lot of apocalyptic dreams. I dreamt once that nuclear bombs were dropped on every major (and some not-so-major) city in the United States, and in that dream I went back in time to save my family. I couldn’t save my father. I’ve had at least a dozen dreams in which I was battling zombies, usually with a sword. Once was on a hill in Scotland, once was in a cave in China, once was at my university. Several more, the locations didn’t matter, they were just generically dark and depressing post-apocalyptic cities. I dreamt once that vampires had overrun the world, and there were just a handful of us surviving humans who fought them from the underground. I’ve dreamed twice of an alien invasion. The first time was two Sundays ago. The aliens were some strange, floating, legless but vaguely humanoid creatures with long tentacles for hair and thin, ethereal arms. They were all gray and blue and white, and to an extent, reminded me of the Wraith in the Stargate: Atlantis series. I encountered them in a military setting; they came out of the woods during a training exercise and burned the legs off of one of my comrades. It was a disturbing dream, although I wouldn’t exactly call it a nightmare. I’ve only ever had three of those my entire life, and they’re the only dreams I won’t talk about. With anyone. Ever.

The second time I dreamt an apocalypse via alien invasion was last night, and parts of that dream take my breath away just to remember. I have a vivid imagination, and my dreams have always been realistic in sensation if not exactly realistic in situation, but last night…it was something else entirely. I remember carrying a large man on my shoulders up a hill, running as fast as I could with his weight pressing on my back and straining my quads. I remember running over stone and crumbling pavement as the shifting earth gave way beneath me, deafening gunfire, bullets ricocheting off of concrete and splintering wood. I remember seeing an army of men, led by a small, elegant women in a black dress. I remember, down to ever word, every coy smile, my conversation with her. I remember trying to kill her, only to discover that her skin healed over faster than I could cut with my little knife. She was laughing at me the whole time.

But I knew—even as she laughed at me, as she told me not to call her an immortal, but simply to accept that I couldn’t kill her—that I could do it. I could put an end to the invasion by taking her out, and I knew how. I took out her general. I remember exactly how that felt.

And it was all just another post-apocalyptic dream. Again: sometimes my subconscious produces the darnedest things. I’ve never even come close to doing some of the things that I did as easily as breathing in last night’s dream. I’ve hiked up a slew of mountains and hills, with various amounts of weight on my back, but never a full-grown man weighing me down. I’ve fought men and women of varying sizes in combatives classes, but never been in an actual fight. I’ve only heard gunfire in a controlled setting, at a range, and with hearing protection muffling the sounds. Yet this dream was as true and real feeling as if I had done all of those things, as if I lived another life in another reality in which a spaceship, painted to mimic the night sky, hovered over America like a writhing, twisting, spinning thing. It was gorgeous, but it was dangerous, and I knew both things simultaneously as soon as I saw it.

And then I woke up, and the dream was over, and I’ll never know how the story ends. It was all in my head; I was the heroine, the leader, humanity’s last great hope, and I will never know if in that version of the apocalypse I lived or died, failed or succeeded. I woke up mid-sentence in my conversation with the aliens’ leader, her annoyingly perfect smile lingering before my eyes, the memories of the dream teasing my ears and nose and all-too-realistically aching shoulders.

I normally like my dreams. I'm prone to dreaming adventures, and journeys, and complicated story lines with a peppering of action, romance, and comedy. I've dreamed of finding love in a forest from another time, and I've dreamed a message from an ancient goddess. My dreams of battling zombies are always fun, although the dank, dark settings are generally depressing. My alien invasion dreams? I'm not enjoying them quite as much as I'd've hoped. I miss dreaming about the Forest Lord. He can wander back in my subconscious any night and I'll be just pleased as peaches.

Queen Mab, have you been visiting my bedside? Perhaps I need to make a bigger dreamcatcher and slip some lavender under my pillow. I smell another tarot reading in my future.

15 September 2011


Earth Goddess Moonshine by avewa-je-me
It occurred to me today after I finally got online long enough to catch up on the blogs I follow and check the (nearly pitiful) traffic stats for my (pathetically un-updated) blog that the one-year-birthday of my blog came and went without any note. So. Consider it now noted: my blog is one year old, plus a little change. Happy birthday, World Between The Trees!

Now that that’s out of the way, on to what I’ve been doing lately that’s kept me so busy and away from my laptop. We’ve had a shitton of training, mostly shooting and qualifying and hitting up various ranges, not to mention a pile of briefings. The shooting was the fun stuff. For the record, targets. Just targets.

Other than that, I’ve felt closer to the Earth for some reason. Maybe it’s the approaching autumn or being up so early every morning (usually around 4) that I can still see all the stars—including my beloved Orion—but regardless, it’s there, that feeling. I closed my eyes when I was out on the range this morning, just listening to the wind sweep across the grass and feeling my roots dig into ground beneath me, and knew. I knew I was a child of the Goddess, in all her incarnations. I knew my life had a purpose, and that purpose is what brought me to my current location and with this specific group of people. I knew that I was meant to lead. In what capacity and for how long and where I’ll be in a decade are still evading me, but there was still the simple knowing, the gut-knowledge, bone-knowledge, that I was where and when and how and with whom I’m meant to be.

It’s a good feeling.

08 September 2011

Three Perfect Seasons

Picture from here.
I went through a lot of my old poetry and song lyrics about a month ago, and I came across some interesting things. I wrote this set of lyrics several years ago--I think right around winter of my freshman year of college--and, like most of my stuff, I find it thematically resonates with me now even more than it did when I originally wrote it. I also like the imagery in this one, but of course, I could be biased. Hope you enjoy it! And please don't judge me too harshly; I was young. Hells, I still am, and if you haven't noticed, I have a thing for overly dramatic imagery surrounding the relationship between seasons, especially autumn. Title: "Three Perfect Seasons" (yes, just like the title of this entry, if you're one of those observant types).

He looks like the wintertime;
You remind me of a summer, long gone by.
Now everything is quite alright:
I have frost at my fingertips, poetry by candlelight, 
     dark hair, and darker eyes.
Almost a year has passed since I
Threw it all away, my summer sky,
     on a song and in a night. 
Now everything is turning out just fine: 
Winter brushing autumn lips, chocolate and fireside, 
     cold hands and colder lies.

We’re almost alright now, and I’ve almost forgiven you,
And we’re almost alive now, and you’re almost telling me the truth.

So let’s hear it for the earth who moves around the sun, 
Making sure that we end up exactly where we had begun. 
We’re on speaking terms again; 
You’re asking me your questions, 
     and it takes all I am not to give in. 
He is still my winter present; 
You are still my summer past, the memory of that
     which should never end.

We’re almost alright now, and I’ve almost forgiven you, 
And we’re almost alive now, and you’re almost telling me the truth. 

Now let’s hear it for the moon who moves around the earth, 
Counting months as they pass
     and fail to heal the hurt.
Now everything is quite alright:
I have icy windowpanes, winter snow that still remains,
     glistening in the starlight,
My star-bright.

We’re almost alright now, and I’ve almost forgiven you,
And we’re almost alive now, and you’re almost telling me the truth.

I’ll make a wish upon a star, shooting across the November sky.
Kick my seasons out of order; make my planets align.
Keep the winter from entering so fall and summer can collide.

We’re almost alright now, and I’ve almost forgiven you,
And we’re almost alive now, and you’re almost telling me the truth. 
We’re almost alright now, and I’ve almost forgotten you, 
And we’ve said goodbye now, but we’ve never told the truth. 
We’re almost just fine now, and I’ve fallen again for you, 
And we’re almost perfect now: isn’t that the beautiful, perfect truth?