24 March 2013

Re-Education Through Fire

The engine roars, and then it gives,
but never dies. We don’t live,
we just survive. 
~ Rise Against, “Re-Education (Through Labor)”

You know, I don’t often say this, but I’m not sure where to begin on this one. Generally the problem I have is that I can’t fully latch onto any one of the million half-formed ideas swirling about my head. In this case, it’s that I can’t seem which one to pick first, because it struck me this morning as I was driving home from dropping off Orion at work whilst Tim McIlrath’s scratchy voice blared from my speakers that all these ideas are connected. Not necessarily *all* of my ideas in the sense of everything I think about, but *all* in the sense of the ones I have been bouncing around lately, albeit not necessarily blogging about for want of coherence (and, as always, time).

What are these connected, bouncing ideas, you ask? Well. Back to my original dilemma: where to begin. I think I may just throw them all out there at once and then see where that takes me. Sure, because that usually works, and by “works” what I mean ever so sarcastically is “leads to a coherent end product.” So here it goes.

Disregarding any accusations of being a broken record, I really did spend a good chunk of my childhood running around the woods barefoot and climbing trees, and when I wasn’t getting in touch with my inner fae-amazon-native-hippie-athlete, I was reading books. Devouring books, in fact. I think I might have read The Hobbit before I read The Magic Schoolbus. My point is that I was either outside, learning straight from the source—albeit unbeknownst to me at the time—or I was inside, learning what others had learned before me. Then, of course, I became a pre-teen and discovered that music consisted of more than singing songs about bees and trees and flowers and the things I saw in the woods, and I picked up a guitar. Thus began my semi-rebellious stage. I listened to Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, the Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine. I didn’t exactly understand which machine RATM was raging against, but I liked their music nevertheless. I dressed like a cross between a punk and a hippie with occasional goth-prep elements. (Is that even a style?) I even went so far once as to walk downstairs sporting black lipstick, which was promptly nipped in the bud by laughter from my parents. But really, that was the extent of my teenage rebellion.

My parents never instated a curfew, because I never needed one. I never stayed out late or got in trouble or even ran with a semi-rough crowd. I ran with the track team instead. Sure, I went to the occasional punk show, but those were always straight edge, and I use the term “punk” here incredibly loosely. My parents loved me and always treated me like a thinking adult. All my teachers loved me, with the exception of the 8th grade fiasco. There were no authority figures in my life that I deemed unfair or unworthy, let alone tyrannical (again, excluding 8th grade). However, a part of me always longed for a cause, for a reason to fight the system—any system, really—for a revolution.

Then I went to college, and not just any college, a military one. I became part of the system without even realizing it, and now I serve the machine of the government as the “fourth branch.” However, I will get to that whole service issue later. Back to my college days.

Enter Rise Against.

This song always gives me chills. There are a few songs that do that, all for very different reasons. There is just something about the combination of the screaming and the rebellion and the mechanical references and the driving beats that sends tingles all up and down my spine whenever “Re-Education” scrolls across my iPod screen. While they’ve been making music for much longer than I’ve been listening to them, this song—released in 2008—was my introduction to the band. Even now it affects me with a wave of nostalgia, inspiration, rebellious longing, and just a twinge of fear. Funny how music can do that, and that’s part of my theory on why music is magic, but that’s another post entirely.

I’ve listened to this song for years now, yet my first time actually watching the video was just moments after I decided to write this post. Finally, several paragraphs later, you’re about to understand why this and why now. It's all about the fire. While I do not condone the tactics displayed in the music video, I can’t help but be moved by the symbolism. Obviously, terrorism = bad. But fire? = pretty. Anywho, before my carefully suppressed pyro flares up (flares? get it? I made a pun!) I am going to get back on topic. The fires they start in the city—which at least on the upside appears to be entirely unpopulated, apart from the bike-riding firestarters themselves—resemble the spark of knowledge, that destructive, creative, purifying force in the universe. The fire of suns, fusing hydrogen atoms into helium and releasing massive amounts of radiation that make life on rocks such as Earth possible. Food cooking over a campfire, in an oven, in a microwave, nourishing life further. Bodies burning calories, always consuming in order to produce. Fire is light. It’s energy. Fire is life as much as it is death. In this particular music video, the fire is used to cleanse the city of the tyrannical elements it represented, leaving the ground purified and ready for rebirth, for a new order, one in which differences are respected and celebrated.

If you can’t tell, my normally earthy-nature is on a fire kick lately. I think it may have something to do with all the coffee I’ve been drinking. Regardless, between Rise Against and Robopocalypse, my feelings about the future are a mix of excitement and apprehension. Whenever I crack out my tarot cards and ask for insight into the future of this country, of the world, I pull the Moon and the Tower: hidden mysteries, uncertainty, ultimate destruction necessary for rebirth and re-creation. I don’t know where things are headed, but I know I want to be there to put the pieces back together as necessary. I want to be that Amazon—a Warrior-Priestess-Leader—to set things right again once they go terribly wrong. Whether we are approaching a slow economic decay or a sudden, violent collapse; whether we are about to explode into another war or implode into a failed state; whether we are to turn a corner and reclaim our regional hegemony or even achieve global status (believe it or not, we have never quite qualified as a global hegemony by IR standards); I want to be there. I am a part of the system, yes. But what I pledged my loyalty to, what I signed up to potentially lay down my life in service to, is the Constitution. That pledge I hold as holy.

It’s a fabulous document, full of all sorts of wonderful knowledge and governmental ideals. You should read it sometime.

16 March 2013

First Attempt At Formalwear

My new dress :) and the
faux fur bolero. While I
did make the dress, I did
not, in fact, hunt and
skin the mink.
So recently there was a formal affair I had to attend, and for once I didn’t have to wear my dress uniform, but could wear an actual dress. Thus, after a long and laborious search for an appropriate dress, I determined that there is nothing presently on the market worth wearing. At least, not in the color I was hell bent on rocking (I’m an MP; I *had* to wear hunter green to our Military Ball, as it is our branch color). However, there are very few formal dresses for sale that qualify as members of the green spectrum that are neither teal nor chartreuse. There’s not really a market, apparently, for a good, solid, foresty hunter green…except me. I looked through store after store. I even looked online, and not a dress was there to behold except a few super-cheap jersey knit ones that really wouldn’t be appropriate anyway, and this one with a slit all the way up to the hoo-hah…

Plus nothing came in my size.

Thus, deciding that my hunt for the perfect hunter dress was futile, and wanting practice in the formalwear-making department anyway, I figured I would try my hand at using a sewing machine.

Now, I had never used a sewing machine, ever. They always scared the crap out of me. I had this irrational fear—and I knew it was completely irrational—that I would sew my finger into the fabric. That said, I’ve done lots and lots of sewing over the years, to include every Halloween costume since second grade (Cleopatra, cut out of a old white sheet, colored with sharpie, and hastily stitched together with black thread), but it was all by hand. My hand-sewing skills have greatly improved since those days, and my sewn accomplishments include a Xena-esque warrior goddess and the Mother of Dragons—complete, of course, with a dragon—not to mention a rather detailed Joan of Arc. Ok, ok, so mostly my sewing exploits involve a lot of pleather and stretch velvet with something of an Amazonian flair. I figured, how hard can using a machine be? or working with satin? boning? corsetry? I can do that. I can do anything! I’m a freaking artistic, craft-master prodigy, after all.

At least, that’s what I told my mother when she expressed her doubts in my abilities to sew a formal gown in time. You see, by the time I admitted defeat in my purchase-a-dress pursuit, I only had one week left prior to the event itself. I went to the local JoAnn Fabrics, picked out some lovely glitter-coated satin in the perfect shade of hunter green, some matching lining and thread, interfacing, the whole shebang. I even purchased a pattern (something else I’d never used before). Initially I was going to wing it, but when I saw the pattern I figured that would be a good starting point, considering it was exactly what I had in mind plus I didn’t have a whole lot of time for my normal process of trial and error.

And…it worked! I didn’t exactly sleep much that week, but by Thursday I definitely had a wearable dress. I had another ball the week after, so I made a few tweaks for the final version—mainly, adding a beaded trim around the neckline—but all in all I was able to pull off the impossible feat, thus making me feel much more confident that the creation of my perfect wedding dress will be doable. Anywho, so the dress is exactly as I wanted it, and I made it all by myself :) if you can’t tell, I’m a little bit on the proud side, hence the blog post and the picture.

15 March 2013

Mortal Journaling

Woman Writing, Pompeii
I’ve come to realize—a little late in the game perhaps—that life never slows down. I always find myself thinking that somehow next week, next month, next year, I’ll have time to think and reflect and write and paint and meditate and scry and sculpt and be me. I keep thinking that just around the corner is a break, that I’ll be able to breathe again, to relax. To spend time with the ones I love. And week after week, month after month, I’m wrong. Life never slows down; it just speeds up.

I picked up my diary today for the first time in over a month, and last month marked the first time since 2011. So much happened in between then and now that I didn’t know how to begin to cover it. I deleted a lot of phone numbers, opened an Etsy shop, moved to two different states, deployed, redeployed, grew deeper into my Pagan practice, made some new friends, finished writing a novel, fell in love, got engaged. Too much has happened to tell it all in one or even several journal entries. My life is moving in a completely different direction at a hugely increased speed than when I started, and yet my feet are still walking the same path. Or, perhaps, running would be a better analogy.

Once upon a time I wrote pretty regularly. I bought this journal at the tail end of high school, and the first entry coincides with my graduation. I wrote through all that last summer of freedom before I sold my body, time and energy to the government in return for two undergrad degrees and a steady paycheck (well, at least until the White House runs out of money). I wrote off and on throughout my university days, about once or twice a month until my last year, when I left my diary at home during a break and just never brought it back to school. Half a year went by, and in the absence of a diary I began a blog. Then life got in the way of even maintaining that much, and how easy is it to sit down and write for a few minutes once a week and post? The answer, in case you’re wondering, is entirely too easy for me to justify my blogtacular negligence.

The journal—which I have neglected even more than my blog, if you can believe that—is a hefty little volume, over 1000 pages bound in brown Italian leather with a metal, flower-and-vine styled medallion embedded on the front. It’s heavy, and it looks like something out of a medieval library, which is one of many reasons I chose this journal in the first place to contain my innermost thoughts, thoughts even I—outspoken and open as I am—won’t post anonymously on the internet. Something about today just made me pick it up again, and instead of writing, I found myself flipping through my old entries. I opened to a random page, and it was back when I was first dating DouchebagEx (or, as I prefer to abbreviate, DBX). I drowned myself in those memories, surprised at the insight I had as a 20 year old and yet disturbed by some of the words I expressed on those pages. I read through fifteen, maybe twenty entries before I realized the feelings I have my for my fiancĂ© are so much more powerful than those I thought I had for DBX. The emotional place I am in now is infinitely stronger and steadier than it was back in my freshman year of college, and little did I know then that my early doubts were indicative of an ultimately unhealthy attachment to a sociopath. I do now call him DBX for a reason…

It made me realize, once again, how lucky I am to have found my Orion, and how precious my time with him is.

Most of my friends from college are now scattered throughout the world. Some are presently deployed, some lucky ones haven’t deployed yet, and some have already come back to the States. One of my good friends won’t be coming back at all. It’s the price every one of us is aware of, to some extent, and it’s been weighing on my mind lately. I wonder if that’s what drew me to my diary today, the knowledge of my own mortality. As a Pagan with a predominantly Druidic/Celtic leaning, I believe in reincarnation and celebrate the circle of life; as a member of the profession of arms engaged to one who shares the same profession, I am painfully aware of life’s fragility. Thus, I am presently feeling the need to record the life I have, to write about the times I share with the friends and family who walk with me. Who run with me.

The handfasting is still a year and a half in the future, but in between now and then my fiancĂ© will deploy. I don’t know when exactly he will be leaving or coming back, and even if I did I would not post it here. I only know that he will leave, and I will be lighting a candle for his health and safety every night until he returns to me.

And I’ll be sewing a wedding dress, and missing him, and I’ll be writing.