Oh dear. Is it that time of month already?

Yup.

Apparently this month it’s going to be weepy PMS, because I’m choking up repeatedly while reading The World Without Us, a book on exactly what would become of the world if humans vanished tomorrow, which is fascinating and oddly hopeful–the rather astonishing speed which with nature would proceed to whomp our cities flat is, in a bizarre sense, reassuring. I’m not one of those people who think the world would be better without people in it, I think humans do fantastic, wonderful, incredible things, and yet even the most mellow humanist occasionally getings into one of those grim "O what have we wrought?!" moods. So it’s oddly comforting to realize that sans humans, even downtown Manhattan would be serious bear-and-moose style wilderness in under five hundred years–and it wouldn’t all be tree-of-frickin’-heaven, either. (Other areas would take a lot less time, even the deserts, which are notoriously slow to recover from anything.)

Now, this is occasionally emotionally tricky territory, I grant you, even on my best days, I could get a little choked up about such matters, but even so, I don’t generally have to fight back tears at the knowledge that they pump something like 13 million gallons of water a day out of the New York subway system. (I grant you, it’s a big number, but I have no real concept of how big it is–I understand gallons in nano-tank terms. 6 gallons is manageable. 125 gallons, not so much.) I get emotional about my ecology, but not THAT emotional.

Still, possibly I should be reading something else for the next few days…Diane Wynne Jones, say. China Mieville. (Un Lun Dun, not…y’know…one of the others, which are all kind of like a tour of the coolest scenery ever, with a guide who keeps showing you marvels and then punching you in the kidneys.) Lovecraft, maybe. I find Lovecraft strangely soothing, and you can tell me I’m a total fruitcake for that, but the horrors are all comfortingly huge and far away and hard to get at, and I am anyway entirely the wrong person to be a Lovecraft protagonist. (Being female and all, and even leaving that aside, I am cynical in entirely the wrong sort of way.) Aged relatives do not die and leave me their crumbling houses and cryptic journals. My aged relatives, the few I ever had, tended to leave mobile homes and piles of tacky knick-knacks, and Yog-Sothoth wouldn’t be caught dead in a mobile home, even a double-wide with a nice yard.

Even assuming that I was driving in the middle of the backwoods of somewhere, and my car broke down, I would most likely find myself in the middle of a slasher movie, not a scene of Lovecraftian horror. (I’m female and have fairly large breasts–c’mon, you do the math.) Should I accidentally decide that the Arkham Bed & Breakfast would be a great weekend getaway, when warned to avoid the hideous nightly rituals of the local inbred populace, I will happily spend the night seeing what’s on cable; when the shrill piping of hideous flutes skirls through the night, my increasingly hard-of-hearing self will sleep through it; and when an ancient folklorist begins to tell me about the horrifying truth lurking behind local Indian myths, I’ll bring up that one Blackfoot myth with the lodge where the walls were covered in savage vaginas.*

The only risk I really run is hearing the cacaodemonaical cackle of whipporwhils, grabbing my binoculars and running out of the house, whereupon I will be accidentally stepped on by something eldritch and non-Euclidean. This will probably be embarassing for both of us.

(I think it’s the writing style, honestly–Stephen King’s Lovecraftian work, From A Buick 8, scared the ever-loving crap outta me, and I loved it. )

Yes, perhaps Lovecraft is a good choice. I never choke up reading Lovecraft. I wanted to re-read The Last Unicorn, but I think I’ll save that one for a few days.

*I think it was Blackfoot. It’s been a few years, and google is treacherous on the topic. Still, this is my favorite myth to mention when people start going on about how some fragment in native myths has to refer to some REAL EVENT lost in antiquity. I’ll believe you as soon as I get my house of angry vaginas, and not before.

Nature Report!

There’s a tiger swallowtail butterfly hanging out on my birdfeeder. While butterflies are rather more complex than I expected–I had no idea that the rather battered mourning cloak who does a patrol around the yard every morning was a male defending his territory, much as a bird would–I don’t think they’ve yet gotten to the point where they eat black oil sunflower seeds. He’s probably looking for salt or something.

My birdbath, gotta say, is a bust so far. I think it’s because there’s so much water available EVERYWHERE–there’s literally a moat around the house, where everything drains into channels in the trees–so the birds don’t need it at all. Possibly during the summer. I’ll see if I can’t get a heater for the winter, too.

This weekend was absurdly glorious here, the sort of spring day that feels almost like summer. Went to the Ren Faire with Carlota, and Kevin and his kids. Kevin got a new sporran. I bought a spectacular corset. (I think I have a corset problem. Now I just need more places to wear the things.) Did yard work Sunday. Kevin accidentally took out one of my Indian currents with the weed whacker. I need to get something to replace it…preferably something large and unmistakeable…

Today’s weather, however, is being schizophrenic–we’ve got fronts moving through at high speed, throwing up tornado warnings across the state and giving us alternating bands of rain and sun, punctuated by door-slamming winds. The temperature is supposed to plunge almost to freezing tonight, which is insane, since yesterday was creeping towards eighty.

Still, I can’t complain much. Spring is advancing gloriously. I can see the dogwoods blooming from my window. My witch hazel is flowering madly, the verbena even put out a flower, the bareroot red chokecherry I planted is going gangbusters and putting up flower buds. Everything I planted is growing furiously, particularly the wild indigo and last fall’s anise hyssop. Something is flowering out in the woods behind the house that may be blackhaw–gotta load up with bug spray and tromp out and make an ID for sure.

We’re almost out of juncos on the bird feeder. I finally got the yankee flipper recharged–we’ll see if we get more birds now that the squirrels aren’t dismembering the perch. The numbers have fallen off a bit across the board–presmably some winter migrants have left town, and they may miss the dead weeping cherry, which was sort of the staging ground for the feeder.

And now, enough staring out the window…time to get to work…

Debt Free!

As of Friday afternoon, I am officially debt-free!

Mind you, I’m a trifle surprised my car did not spontaneously combust the minute I handed over the money–there’s nearly 180K miles on the thing, and while it’s a rock-solid Nissan Altima and should see me to 200K without much complaint*, there’s something about paying off one’s credit cards that seems like a gauntlet thrown at fate.

I was never carrying very MUCH debt on the things–post-divorce, they got the usual workout, and I think the high point was around six grand–but it’s sort of nice to do anyway. Generally I keep them as an emergency fund and for the big one-time expenses (dental work for me or the cat, plane tickets…) and for all those things like hotel rooms that require credit cards to secure, so it’s not like getting out of debt is some kind of great weight off my shoulders, and I will now symbolically cut the card up or anything like that. The debt did not weigh on me emotionally, and I never had any question about my ability to pay it off. A lot of people don’t have that luxury, having been kicked much harder in the wallet than I was with my post-divorce expenses.

So for me, it’s a minor victory. Still, it’s kinda nice to do.

*Nissan has my undying customer loyalty, for just this reason.

In the final haul of Ninjabreath…120+ illustrations done, a dozen or so left to go. I’m on schedule, but It’s starting to hit the death march stage. You’d think, doing all this art, that I’d be immune to art guilt, but it doesn’t work that way. Instead I get art guilt because I’m not doing the art I want to do, combined with the burn out from all the art I have to do. I am longing to sit down and do a big weird complicated piece, something oozing texture, something cool.

Until then, I do these little pieces, working off and on, a few minutes at a time, as a kind of mental placeholder to stave off the art guilt for another day.

Waiting for Rain II

Ah…hmm.

So I went out to lunch with a friend passing through, and since I was out anyway, and had just gotten paid, I had this notion to drop by "Beggars & Choosers" which is a sort of vintage clothes/antique/random stuff store that is only open at really weird hours, and despite living here for about six months, I hadn’t yet caught it open when I was out and about, except once briefly with Kevin, at a time when I wasn’t really into trying on random clothes.

So I drop in, thinking "Hey, maybe I’ll find something that might be fun to wear at a con." (I have really gotten into the dressing up for cons thing. It’s like you have carte blanche to wear any weird thing you want, which is…well, a surprising amount of fun, really. I was never into playing dress-up as a child, so I have no idea how to explain this recent renassaince in my thinking. Possibly it has something to do with actually feeling attractive, but also a great deal with the absurd.)

So I was roaming around the clothes, chuckling at some of the horrors, mourning the lizardskin cowboy boots that were a size too large, and generally enjoying myself, and then I saw this…thing.

You know how sometimes you see something on the rack and you go "Man, I’d never wear that…" and then you try it on anyway, just to prove that you’re right and you never WOULD wear it, it’s going to look just as hideous on as you think it will, and it probably won’t fit anyway?

Yeah.

…Annnnnnd that’s how I wound up with a black velvet ballgown, and by "ballgown" I mean, "Yes, Goth Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!" (Not quite as frothy in the skirts, but not far off. Top is a black velvet bodice thing that fits like a glove, and then it…poofs. I could have hips the size of a minivan and you couldn’t tell it in that skirt. Very dramatic with the tattoos and the black and white hightop sneakers, let me tell you.)

I dithered for a few minutes–when the hell am I going to wear a friggin’ BALLGOWN?–but then again,  it fits so well! And at thrift store prices…and…well…

On the bright side, about fifteen years too late, I finally have a great outfit for prom. 

My ricordea opened up today!

It’s completely misplaced on the rock, and if it doesn’t flatten itself out over the course of the day, I may have to go in and move it so that it can attach properly, but it appears to have survived its encounter with the Great Turkey Baster of Mercy unscathed.

Learning Is Fun! or “Why Ursula Is Drinking Tonight”

Well, I just had an exciting learning experience.

The ricordea is a soft, squashy little nubbly disk that is supposed to be rooted to something. Only this one wasn’t.

This isn’t the fault of the store, sometimes they just kick loose when they don’t want to be where they are. I took it home, with the plan of popping it in a low flow area, where it could hang out and be happy.

I did all the acclimations, turned off the current in the tank, popped it into the sheltered rock nook, turned the power head back on, and watched my new coral sail loose from the rock and shoot into the current, to lodge behind a rock.

Um.

I yanked the power cord out with my toes–both hands were soaking wet and gloved–moved the rock, managed to catch it, drag it back–it weighs nothing and it’s slimy AND underwater, so it’s not exactly easy to hold onto, particularly since I don’t dare GRIP the little sucker–find an even more sheltered chunk of rock, turn the power BACK on, and watched it sail into the back of the tank, completely out of reach.

Err.

We will draw a veil over the next few minutes, except that there was a lot of swearing and some moving of rocks, until I managed to get a hole big enough to shove the turkey baster into, and then there was a terrifying delicate operation where I attempted to apply sufficient suction to lift the ricordea without accidentally sucking it into the friggin’ turkey baster.

It was not a graceful extraction.

The ricordea, already somewhat miffed from the move, was by now doing the soft-bodied equivalent of pulling the covers over its head, having become a small angry orange ball curled around its delicate undersides.

I trapped the beast in the net, turned the flow back on so that nobody asphyxiated, uttered a fervent prayer that I hadn’t accidentally dropped a rock on the goby somewhere, and went to the internet.

The internet led me to the shotglass method. Put a rock in a shotglass, put the ricordea on the rock, put the shotglass in the tank, cover the top of the shotglass with a mesh or a rubber band or whatever, and wait a week for the little devil to root to the rock, then put the rock wherever you want the ricordea to live and hope it doesn’t decided to kick loose a month later.

Kevin came home just in time to see me roaming the house with a rock in one hand and a crazed look on my face. I wish I could say this sort of thing is unusual, but it really isn’t.

"What are you doing?" asked Kevin, in the tones of a man who is somewhat afraid to know, but figures he might as well learn the details before the police arrive.

"I NEED A HAMMER!"

He looked at me.

"I have a logical explanation," I said, which was true, for a given local value of logic.

"You always do," he muttered, and went and got a hammer, which he was careful not to hand to me. "Now, what do you want me to do with this?"

"I need a chunk of rock small enough to fit into a shot glass."

There was a brief moment while I could see him trying and discarding hypotheses, moving past "art project," lingering briefly on "unusual mixed drink," and then finally settling on "probably something involving the fish tank."

He took my rock (a chunk of unused dead rock from set-up) outside, hit it with the hammer a few times, and I took several lovely fragments back inside.

"You see–"

He held up a hand. "Do whatever you need to do first…then you can explain." 

I scurried off with my rocks, dropped a promising one into a shot glass, spent a few exciting minutes pouring, coaxing, and generally manhandling the ricordea onto the bit of rock, put the shot glass in the tank, and slumped into a chair in exhaustion.

The shotglass rather ruins the lines of the tank, let me tell you, but I can handle it for a week or two if it’ll give the ricordea a fighting chance, assuming I didn’t kill it with all my manhandling. I mean, they’re pretty tough as such things go, people divide them by slicing them in half all the time, but I felt bad smacking it around with the turkey baster like that.

Whew. Well, that was exciting. Now I’m going to drink heavily for awhile.

I feel good about life today.

Most of this is the joy of finally getting paid some of my advance on the third book, which allows me to get through the next couple of months without getting a job at the local A&W. Part of it is having sushi for lunch. (Not amazing sushi, but for lunch sushi prices, hey, no complaints.) Part of it is the two coral frags I bought in celebration–one ricordea and one wee little frag of bright green zoas, which the guy gave me a deep discount on, probably for having cleavage in the middle of a sale.

Part of it, however, is Ben, who is a new cat these days, now that his mouth isn’t bothering him. He’s back to sleeping on the bed, the Immovable Object, being just as inconveniently heavy as when Kevin and I started dating, and waking me up in the morning by walking around on my pillow and knocking things deliberately off the dresser and onto the floor. Once I wake up, there is generally snuggling, and then demands of being FED NOW.

Furthermore, yesterday I caught him eating hard food! I’ve been feeding him gooshy food, as per vet orders, and once his mouth healed up, St. Kevin of Assisi was hand-feeding him hard cat treats occasionally to see if he was interested. Yesterday I’d run out of the gooshy food in the morning, and went out to get some. When I came back, Ben was suspiciously absent from the kitchen, and I finally found him hunched over the bowls where the other cats eat, nomming down the hard food.

He’s still getting his gooshy food, of course,but it’s nice to see.