13 December 2012

Goodbye, Graf! Hello, Ninja!

Grafenwoehr Tower. I couldn't seem to
track down who drew it originally.
I’m leaving Germany early tomorrow morning. Although the work part of this three-week detail was not nearly what I expected (and far from productive), it has been a productive trip in other respects. I managed to track down a few cute Yule presents without which I would have been hopelessly lost. (What does one get a boyfriend’s parents when meeting them for the first time? My solution: German gingerbread cookies in a cute little cookie tin that sings a German folksong when you open it up. Couldn’t get that in Texas!) I’ve also finished writing the 11th chapter in Circle: The Spinner’s Journey, which will be my first ever novel…if and when I ever try to publish it. I have even written the first five pages of the 12th and final chapter. All that’s left after the actual writing process is complete is the massive editing. Since I began writing many years ago, and went years without touching it, there’s a noticeable style difference between the first few chapters, the middle few chapters, and the final few chapters. On a personal level, I like how my story currently displays my progression as a writer; on a practical level, I want it to reflect the peak of my abilities the whole way through, and that will require an editing mostly for stylistic consistency.

The whole first three chapters, and almost certainly the prologue, may get re-written…but at least I know where I’m going to have the most problems.

In other news, I am the best big sister ever. Well, at least when it comes to Yule presents. Last year I put together a Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit for Little Brother, which I had pieced together from various survival necessities from Ranger Joe’s and Amazon. You’d be surprised what you can find online. I found a water filtration straw—literally you can use it to drink out of a puddle in a rock and be perfectly fine—and a few other unique (but necessary, in a survival situation) items. I thought that was going to be difficult to top, because my brother is as much of an apocalypse nerd as I am. However, this year I managed to outdo myself. Because I am 100% confident my little brother does *not* read my blog, I’m going to go ahead and spoil the surprise right here.

I got him ninja swords.

Not just any ninja swords, but rather a set of high-quality, full-tang, tactically finished in black stainless steel ninja swords, complete with their own carrying case you can sling across your back. He’s going to faint when he sees them. I’m so excited! I literally can’t wait to see his reaction.

I’m actually even kinda jealous that I got them for him…because I definitely want my own pair.

09 December 2012

Gods of Winter

Winter Goddess of the North
by IndigoDesigns
The dead have followed the Raven’s song,
and no longer among us they roam.
~ Damh the Bard, “On Midwinter’s Day”

As I walk between the buildings, the snow packed hard from the daily press of thousands of boots, I am struck by the stillness. Winter used to always strike me like that: silent and still, a memorial to sleep. I had almost forgotten the affect this season can have on me, likely because I haven’t seen snow in almost two years, and I had stopped loving Winter and its gods of death long before that. Perhaps it was digging my car out of two feet of ice every weekend while I lived in New York that made me grow so bitter towards the season, or perhaps it was trudging to class through frozen puddles while I studied in Russia, or perhaps it was simply that I had forgotten that just as I need my nightly rest, the land needs its yearly sleep. Regardless of the reasons, I had grown to dread the period following Samhaine despite the joy with which I always approach that particular holiday.

And yet, now, surrounded by the stillness of cold, far from anywhere I’ve ever called home, I find myself reconnected to the Earth in a way I have not been since I last walked the forests of Virginia. I certainly never felt this connected in Texas, and most definitely not while deployed in the Middle East. Here in Germany I am in a nearly constant state of awareness, of connection, of prayer. The gods of winter are thriving; they sent their messengers forth to peck the ground for frozen morsels, cawing at the curiosities they find buried beneath the white. Every time I pass such a scene, I smile to myself and nod in appreciation to my black-winged brothers. The crows are out in full force now. I often wonder if they are as amused by humanity as I am by them.

I had been dreading coming here. I had convinced myself that this temporary duty would consist of nothing but work, work, work and DFAC food (never a relishing thought). No one else from my unit was going, and I was the lowest ranking officer on the invite list. I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which this detail could possibly have been worthwhile, and I was so worried about what would happen to my Platoon with neither myself nor a Platoon Sergeant to look after them and shield them from higher HQ for three whole weeks (he’s on leave en route to a new post, and I am, as I have mentioned, out of the country serving a larger mission). However, despite the frantic emails I receive once a day from my Commander or the XO, things seem to be at least—if not running smoothly—continuing to run. The realm I left behind is not, in fact, imploding; nor am I quite so alone here as I anticipated. One other officer I knew who used to be in my unit is also here, and I have since developed a few good friends among the younger Captains. They all still outrank me, but since my little gold bar turned black, no one seems to care whether you have one black bar or two. I still salute them when we are all in uniform, much to their chagrin.

Thus, as reluctant as I am to admit that I was wrong, I have to say it: I’m glad I came to Germany. I may even go so far as to admit that I am glad I came to this particular, forgotten spot of the former Soviet-controlled Eastern half. The woods here are dark and full of history; and, blood-stained as much of that history is, it still adds a richness to the fabric or the land. Perhaps that history is what the crows are searching through the snow for, or perhaps it’s just my imagination getting the better of me again, but the gods of winter have rekindled a flame I thought lost. I am now looking forward to Yule, to reuniting with my family and my forest, or at least the few trees that remain of those I grew up among. The rights to their wood has long been sold to loggers, builders, and other contractors, as if the forest itself were something a man can own.

The puddles here are glass, solid and still. The ripples froze in place, creating a mottled and unique texture on each one. Part of me is glad that they are frozen in their judgment, unable to reflect the faces that pass them by. Sometimes as I walk by them I am struck, not by the stillness, but by a still thought: the gods of winter are quite alive, and we are the ones who sleep eternal with dreams of a world we control.

07 December 2012

Alive auf Deutschland

Weiden im Winter by Kerstin Borchardt
I realize it’s been far too long since my latest blog entry. So much has happened that I can’t even begin to encompass it all. First, and likely most importantly, I’m pretty damn sure I’ve met my Orion. At least, as sure as one can be in such circumstances. More on that fabulousness later. And by later, surely by now you know I mean eventually. In other updates, I’m also currently stuck in Germany—and I use the term “stuck” rather loosely—on a three week detail for my unit. They wanted to send a Military Police officer who speaks German to support some sort of multinational endeavor. I really don’t know why they decided I was the best fit, unless perhaps someone was watching Inglorious Basterds and thought, “Well, if those are the requirements for speaking the best Italian…” Yeah. In my unit I *speak* the best German.

I certainly studied the language for three years back in high school, but I’m still horribly out of practice considering I haven’t made a concerted effort to speak it since 2007. And really barely made an effort then. Languages were easy once upon a time. I saw the patterns, they just clicked in my mind, and the grammar and vocabulary was a breeze to memorize. Then I went to college and either a) got dumber or b) just stopped being linguistically smart. Russian was way more difficult to learn than German or Latin or French had been, and now that I finally started to get the hang of Russian, anytime I attempt to speak one of the other three…Russian spills out of my mouth. Or, best case scenario, a Russian-German-French linguistic mishmash hybrid language that really doesn’t do credit to any of the three. Occasionally I’ll even throw in some Latin-inspired grammatical constructs, since that’s technically the language I studied longest for a whopping five years.

But I digress.

The point is that I am currently in Germany, doing a job they wanted two Captains to do (and I’m definitely still a Lieutenant, and there is definitely only one of me), and yet I’m also pretty sure that a monkey could do my job. It amounts to forwarding emails, sitting through briefings, and highlighting semi-useless information just so I can say that I was “tracking” it. Like I was saying, a monkey could do it, and not even a particularly intelligent one. Speaking German? Totally not required. However, I have at least made good use of the time--Germany has some very, very cute shoes--and the food has been fantastic, at least for a schniztel and bratwurst fan.

Anyway, it is roundabouts that time that I need to go make my presence known at a briefing in which I will have no speaking role. Don’t worry, I’ll bring my highlighter so I look official and important-like. At least I get a nametag??