Emily’s Babies

Some readers may recall me mentioning Emily, our fat little black cat. She’s the one who goes mad with purring and comes waddling when Kevin whistles John Williams tunes, with the end result that most nights, while laying in bed, we get at least the Imperial March and the theme from Indiana Jones.*

Emily–more commonly known as Emmy-bear–also has another peculiar trait. She carried around stuffed animals. And cries over them. Every now and again, in the morning after Kevin has left, I will wake to tragic mewing, and when I sit up and look to see who has gotten their paw stuck in a bear trap, I see Emily sitting over a line of three or more stuffed animals, which she has stolen from the kid’s room, dragged down the hall, and carefully arranged in our bedroom.

Then she mews at them.

“Emmy-bear…” I say wearily.

“Mew,” says Emily.

Usually it’s just one, relocated silently somewhere in the house–she favors those about the size of a beanie baby, but I have occasionally seen her drag a stuffed bunny almost as large as she is, and she gets it a good twenty feet down the hallway. And sometimes she requires more than one, in a group, although whether she is having a tea party or a play date or assembling her army of stuffed minions for the final assault is anyone’s guess.

I have seen this before, in my stepmother’s broody miniature poodles, but they were breeding dogs once upon a time and mostly did it when they were about to go into heat, and Emily was spayed when she was barely bigger than Kevin’s hand and has no experience with that whatsoever. And she has been around REAL kittens, and wants no truck with them, so perhaps misplaced maternal urges is not the correct diagnosis.  Nevertheless, we have taken to calling the roving stuffed animals “Emily’s babies.”

This morning I got up and went into my studio for coffee and internet poking, and when I had gotten through my half-cup of coffee and finished poking Echo Bazaar, I opened the door and found that a small stuffed tribunal had been assembled in a semi-circle around my door.  I sighed, returned them to the kid’s room, and went to take a shower. I have no doubt that in another day or two, they will all be dragged back out and placed at their various stations in the house.

I think Emily likes me well enough, so she probably wasn’t lying in wait, getting ready to yell “Now! Strike, my plushies!” Probably.


*James Thurber, in his essay about the Airedale named Mutts, which had to be chased inside with a faux thunder machine, said something to the effect of it being a bizarre way to run a household. I think something to this effect daily, usually when trying to get out of bed with Benjamin T. Cat pinning me down.

Study in Scarlet

So I went and got a wee little sampler of the red I wanted, which required two different Lowes, and a lot of time browsing the specialty publications. As usual, they have not yet put out “Do-It-Yourself Home Decor For Artists Who Fear Power Tools But Not Color And Are Gamely Trying To Turn Suburban Tract Housing Into Something Less Soul-Destroying On A Fractional Budget Quarterly.” Where’s my specialty publication? I’m special. (At this point in any given tirade, friends and family generally being coughing and muttering “You’re special, all right…” Feel free to join in.)

Anyway, once they secured the correct base for my color, I took the red home and put it on the wall in a broad swath. Then I dug up the green Kevin had originally planned to paint the living room, and put THAT on in a broad swath.

Then I stood and stared at them for awhile. There was something about the green I couldn’t quite place…it was too pale, and not as intense as the swatch had looked, but there was something else…something familiar I couldn’t quite put my finger on…Easter grass? Sea foam?

Kevin came home around that point, studied the green, and said “Hmm. That’d be a great color for a bathroom or something. Can the red be shinier?”

“Yeah, we’ll do it in semi-gloss. What with the dogs and all.” I continued staring at the green. Did I have a shirt in that color? Surely not. It would make me look bright pink and do things to the black-and-red hair not healthy to contemplate. I wanted the red for the living room. Definitely the red. But the green, what WAS that green? I knew that green…

I went up to my studio, glanced across it at the large cardboard Danny Dragonbreath standup, and slapped my forehead, because somehow, Kevin had picked the exact swatch that corresponded to Dragonbreath light green.

I could maybe handle the guest bathroom in that, but no WAY was I dealing with it in the living room.

Red it is. I went and got two gallons of Porcelain Red. It’ll take at least three coats because red suuuuucks, but I shall have that room redecorated or die in the attempt! (Which no one will notice for several hours, because of the red.)

No, Really, I’ll Be Fine Come Fall

I am getting an urge to redecorate the living room.

It’s entirely because I am cooped up away from the garden because it’s too bloody hot.  I know this. Lack of ability to fool around in the garden kicks me into home-improvement mode, which generally involves paint and bookcases. Apparently I have to keep altering my environment in some fashion, or I get twitchy. Unfortunately, much like knowing that PMS is a set of chemicals in your head, and you don’t really want to pull that person’s guts out through their ears and nail them to a tree, the knowing is only marginally useful. Everything is chemicals in your head, after all, and they all feel real.

Nevertheless, this sequence may end with the living room being turned either China Red or a fairly strong green.  In the course of my daily errands, I find myself stopping at places with bookcases and interesting furniture and feeling lust in my heart.

There’s also the problem that I keep running into, which is that I’m clearly not quite over the shape of my last relationship. I see furniture I like go on sale, I get an urge to repaint the living room, and I think “No, no…gotta go run it by the Significant Other first.” James had distinct opinions on furniture, and would never in a million years have gone for a intensely colored living room, which might damage the property values or something, and anyway we had a joint bank account, so dropping four or five hundred bucks on completely new furniture would have required some serious consultations.

Then I feel resentful that I am forced to compromise on this, and recall that when I was single, I could have just hauled off and bought the entire damn set (or at least what my limited budget will allow) and hauled it home and consulted no one and if I wanted to paint the whole room blaze orange–well, I was renting, so I couldn’t, if I was a single homeowner, I could, and it would be nobody’s damn business. Compromise is one of the requirements of relationships, and on most things I’m unbothered by this, but running my hands over bookcases and contemplating paint swatches, I get a little sulky. Why must I compromise? I am an artist, damnit! I have a vision! A vision of bookcases!

The thing is, this isn’t fair to Kevin. More importantly, it’s inaccurate. Because the fact is, if Kevin came home and discovered that the living room was a different color and loaded with different furniture, he’d say “Oh. Cool!”* As far as he’s concerned, a partner who is seized with the desire to redo parts of the house at random, on her own nickel, is a gift from the gods. He does not want to consult on the color or the styling beyond the basic brainstorming. He doesn’t care. If it looks good and doesn’t break and has room for everything and makes me happy, then the actual details could not interest him less. So my irritation at compromise is more or less completely misplaced, and belongs to a relationship I’m already out of.

This is a man, after all, who when I bought a gigantic painting of an abstract rabbit and left him a frantic voicemail about my inability to fit it in the car, could hardly talk for laughing and managed to bungee cord the beast into his convertible, despite the fact that a large piece of canvas in a convertible is not a painting but a sail.

The only things Kevin would really object to are things that I’d never do, like wallpaper borders, which I loathe, or freehand murals, which I could never live with.  Well, and he probably would balk at turquoise and pink, which I’ve always kind of liked as a combination, but that’s not a living-room thing anyway. More of a small bedroom thing.  And if I embraced Country Kitsch, there would be some whimpering, but so far, my only inclination in that direction is a fondness for chickens.

Screw this. I think I need to go buy paint.

*We have a standing deal that if I repaint a room and he really hates that color after a suitable adjustment period, I’ll repaint it, but it hasn’t come up. Although I did help him repaint the dining room which had been turned Uterus Pink by his ex-wife.

Shocking Admissions

Dear readers, I am about to make an admission that many of you will find shocking. Some of you will be horrified, some of you will be appalled, and a few of you will probably dismiss me as a worthless lump of organs and never read my work again. Such is the price we pay for admitting the truth.

I kinda liked Eat, Pray, Love.

Not the movie, since I haven’t seen it, although I hear it’s pretty bad. But I read the book a year or so ago, and you know, it wasn’t bad at all. I wouldn’t say that it was a fantastic mind-blowing experience, but I enjoyed large chunks of it and identified with other bits and laughed quite a lot and would recommend to it to divorced women of my acquaintance. I picked up a copy when I hear her interviewed on the Diane Rhems show, where she failed utterly to sound like a barking self-absorbed moonbat, and instead came across like a sane, sensible, funny woman concerned about the issues of the world today, and I thought hey, I wanna read this author. (I have gotten more book recs from Diane Rhems…)

I mention this because, with the release of the movie, both book and author are getting hammered for being shallow selfish rich-bitch first-world-exploitive and a lot of other phrases of quite astonishing vitriol. Usually, I see, by people who start out with “I haven’t read the book…but this is what’s wrong with it!” and then go on to lambast the author for a multitude of imagined sins.

I admit, the sheer anger leveled at this book by people who haven’t read it puzzles me a bit. Haters gonna hate and all, and it’s fashionable to dismiss the popular and so forth, but even with that in mind, Elizabeth Gilbert takes a heavier than usual beating, and I find it all rather surprising.

So the author discovers she’s at a point in the marriage where her husband expects kids, and realizes to her horror that she, having always expected to want them at some point…doesn’t. Really really doesn’t. There’s a scene where she describes curling in fetal position on the bathroom linoleum around a pregnancy test, sobbing with relief that it’s negative and terror that she has to go through this again next month, and the month after that, and so on. (I’m gonna guess this scene did not make the movie.) And lord, there but for the grace of god…had I a smidge less sense and a smidge less iron when my ex turned to me and said “I think I want kids,” I could have been there on the linoleum myself. (Instead, thank god, something reached out from the back of my brain and seized my vocal cords and said “Well, I really can’t help you with that.” If I could find that part of my brain, I would give it flowers and small unmarked bills. There were other causes of the divorce, but I think it was after that he decided to…um…look elsewhere.)

Anyway. Author does only thing she can think of and bolts. She gets the world’s most horrible dragging divorce, throws herself into yoga and a terrible relationship, sinks into deep dark depression, and finally manages to claw her way out far enough to convince an editor to give her a book deal (she’s a travel writer) to visit three places on earth she always wanted to visit–Italy (to focus on the sensual) India (to focus on the spiritual) and Bali, (to focus on the beautiful.)  The rest of the book covers these bits, and does it with humor.

Yes, the author is something of a tourist and occasionally somewhat shallow, but she’s entirely aware of that shallowness and she is wry and self-deprecating about it and furthermore, like all good authors, a very good observer of human behavior, and she speaks to many of those truths. And since we do not demand that our authors be perfect–thank god! I don’t want to get a job at Wal-Mart!–it works quite well.

I think a lot of us who came out of a bad divorce got better in part by focusing on things that made us happy–even ridiculous, pointless things, like learning Italian. And plenty of people couldn’t hack the depression meds and credit yoga and meditation similar pursuits with saving them from depression  (and generally we don’t slag on them for it!) so I’m not sure exactly why Gilbert going to stay the ashram run by the guru whose meditation practices she credited with helping pull her out of deep clinical depression seems to piss so many people off.

Unless they haven’t read the book, and didn’t know that bit and assume it was just basic Western spiritual tourism. Which is possible. But jeez, people hate on this book a lot. Sure, some of them are clearly just pissed that they don’t have the money to go travel the world when they’re depressed, but I can’t imagine the vast majority is that shallow. I dunno. Yes, Gilbert fixed her depression by travel, and that’s not widely accessible, but it’s an autobiography, not a self-help book, and if we have to only write about experiences that everybody can duplicate effortlessly, our literature will be significantly poorer for it.

Now, it’s not a perfect book. Lots of people would find it a snore, or annoying, or whatever. But hey, I enjoyed it, parts of it spoke to me.  There is a scene where she sits in Italy and carefully arranges the absolutely perfect lunch on a plate and feels a kind of odd happiness and I stood in my kitchen more than once, carefully laying out several kinds of interesting salad on a piece of red Fiestaware, and feeling a fragile emotion that I would hard pressed to explain fully, except that it was something like even though my life is wrecked beyond measure and I do not know how much of it I am going to be able to salvage, this meal here is perfect and the rest doesn’t matter while I am eating it.

(Heck, a good bowl of chicken and wild rice soup and a mini-baguette in the evening was frequently the great joy of my day.  Dark times. I got better. I didn’t go to Italy to do it, but I’m not inclined to slag on somebody who did. )

So I dunno. I liked it. I don’t expect everybody else to like it. I just can’t figure out why so many people hate it so violently…and haven’t even read it.

And another thing…

mixed media, 5 x 6

I tripped over the sketch for this one in an old sketchbook, and had a sudden desire to paint it, even in a quick little watercolor form. (Okay, actually I just had a desire to paint SOMETHING and this was the first thing that caught my eye. And damnit, I never have done enough with the Little Creature.)

I myself have never been entirely sure that I like oolong tea, but I’m not entirely sure that I dislike it, either.

Original for sale, prints available.

Herd Shrine

Assemblage, My Little Pony, electrical wire, various bits and pieces.

Herd shrines were common throughout the Toymark, although they were highly variable in both form and iconography. There are fads in religion as in anything else, so ponies were more common in some regions, while in others the shrines involved almost exclusively model horses. Shrines involved stuffed animals were significantly rarer, and are known from only a handful of examples, mostly from the Cloth Quarter. Specific deities within the Herd were sometimes invoked, but shrines to the more abstract concept of the Herd were more commonly found in many areas of the Toymark.

Following the violent coup that installed the Tinker-thing in power, and the resulting establishment of monotheistic state religion under the aegis of St. Barbie, Herd shrines were defaced and vandalized, and many of the most elegant examples vanished forever.

….yeah, I have no idea. I was fooling around with stuff, verdigris paint an old pony and so forth, and the Toymark sort of wandered in. (It’s not a custom pony in the sense of the really cool ones people make, more of…err…thing.) The sign on the front of the base says “Herd Shrine — Donated by the Sculptress” because way back in the day, when I was wandering the wilds of Oregon with my mother, doing a government project to assess the condition and repair needs of outdoor sculpture, we found this statue of Abe Lincoln on a horse. It was not a good statue, largely because Abe had been done to heroic scale and the horse had not, with the end result that he looked like he was straddling a mutant Shetland pony. The base had the title and township and whatnot, but it also said, in large letters “DONATED BY THE SCULPTRESS.” Either that was very important to the sculptress, or the town didn’t want anybody to think they’d spent money on it. Your guess is as good as mine.

Original is for sale, drop a line if interested.

Hot damn!

PatchTogether is re-releasing the Biting Pear again, this time as a plush! Pre-orders will start next week–it’ll be a foot tall and will hopefully cost around $15. We’re also in some exciting discussions about future pear products, so keep an eye out!

Our Lady of Grackles

Little is known about Our Lady of Grackles, despite a surprisingly large worship spread throughout the Gearworld, and occasionally even diffusing into worlds adjacent. Her origins are mysterious. There are a great many stories put forward as to those origins--most of them are lies, and all of them are wrong. What is known conclusively is that she is always hooded, usually naked, and only trustworthy if you are in danger. She does not speak--anyone who claims to have heard her voice is also lying--but the faithful claim that sometimes, in the dark, they can hear wings.

I wish I knew more about Our Lady of Grackles. She’s one of the important divinities of Gearworld, and like the Monks of Perdition, I think she sends the occasional tendril into the worlds that Gearworld runs under like an access corridor.  (That’s always been one of my thoughst about Gearworld–that if you opened the right door somewhere, you’d find it, miles of tunnels underneath everything we think of as the world, where the important business gets done, or used to get done. Y’know, kind of like Disneyland, only less sinister.)

Anyway, another assemblage piece–putting the paper-doll cut-out of St. Azul into the other shrine made me think that was what I needed for this one. Original is for sale, and I have prints (weird as it is to do prints of a sculpture…)

Anxiety Dreams

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and adding to the stew is a rash of anxiety dreams. Most of them are con-anxiety, which is kinda weird because I’m done with cons for the year–I suppose it’s a case of delayed onset.  Regardless, a few rough nights have ensued.

Last night I was in a cabin surrounded by zombies. The zombies apparently were part vampire or something, because they could be driven away with religious iconography. I was trying to blockade the large glass doors (who the hell puts swinging glass doors on a cabin!? In zombie country!?) Then I discovered that while they recoiled from crosses and the like, they really succumbed to the spoken word.

I ran through what shreds of Bible verses I knew, the even fewer shreds of the Koran, the Lord’s Prayer, the Disciple’s Creed, the Alcoholics Anonymous credo, did a couple of Hail Marys, and then seized on hymns as the ultimate weapon vs zombies.

Unfortunately, while a Catholic upbringing is the guilt that keeps on giving, my retention of hymns was very limited. I can do the Battle Hymn of the Republic pretty well for a verse or two, but then I get stuck and hum a bit before coming back in on the chorus. I got through a couple  “Glory, Glory, Hallelelujah!”s turned around, and discovered that while I’d been guarding the doors, a couple of zombies had gotten through the windows and were menacing my comrades (not one of whom had the decency to be a priest or a rabbi or anything useful.)

“Right!” I yelled. “You all know this one! Everybody sing!”

I have woken myself up yelling before. I have woken myself up moaning before. But I can honestly say that this is the first time that I have ever manage to wake myself out of a sound sleep by belting out the opening bars of Amazing Grace.

Kevin, who was sleeping a few inches away, was also jolted awake and tried to talk me down from my nightmare, but I was already wide awake at that point.

(The sad bit is that I would almost certainly have done it to the tune of the Mickey Mouse club, since Garrison Keillor’s version is the one I remember best…)