I’ve been at a writer’s retreat all this week (more on that in another post). One of the prompts we were given pushed my emotional buttons. To write to the prompt would have taken me into the Realm of Big Fucking Feelings**, and in that moment, that simply wasn’t cricket.
Our cat Smokey, otherwise known as “Empress Smokey Jade Mountain, First of Her Name” (doesn’t everybody give their cat a grand long nonsensical name?) died abruptly and unexpectedly yesterday, June 16, 2018. She was aged only ten years (give or take–she was a rescue, so we don’t know for sure).
Though my partner Rob was clearly her favourite human, she had room in her heart for me too.
She often served as a muse for me:
- there is a cat based on Smokey in my novel Blood Rain
- in Fables, Fictions, and Fantasies: A Compendium she appears as herself under the pseudonym ‘Small Cat’ in the story called “Feed Me”
- she was the inspiration for a poem I wrote called “Ergot Incantation for a Cat” (that poem is included in at the end of this post)
My very small human and animal family is still in shock at her abrupt passing.
I will never forget her sweetness, her ferocity, her weird obsession with the clothes dryer, and the feel of her featherlight fur on my skin. It was like Gothic cotton candy.
I know that not everyone is “an animal person.” I am also aware that our world has much bigger problems than one dead companion animal. Y’all, those are bigger problems for other days.
Today I ask that you share some of your kindness and compassion with me as I grieve for the most dainty and ferocious fur-child I’ve ever had.
Then please offer a gesture of love tonight to your own dear ones, regardless of species.
If you’d like a free-of-charge epub of the recently-released Fables, Fictions, and Fantasies: A Compendium sent to your very own email inbox, just email me and I’ll forward it to you as soon as I can. (Don’t like to be crying and on the Internet at the same time, so it might take me a couple of days to repond. Crying while Interneting it’s almost as dangerous as drinking while Interneting.)
email: chloe (DOT)a(DOT)firstname.lastname@example.org for your free book.
Ergot Incantation for a Cat
steely blue with
claws and teeth, claws and teeth, claws and teeth
steely blue with
claw and teeth
asleep, a-twitch beside me
mealy brew with
paws and heath, paws and heath, paws and heath
mealy brew with
paws and heath
a-peep, an itch inside me
freely flew with
freely flew with
slaws and sheath
a-creep, a witch bestride me
Sometimes when writing poems I use unfamiliar or less common words. When I do that I like to include a few footnotes to help all y’all out, just in case you’re like “Ergot, wtf is ergot?!” If you are a smarty pants and know all this stuff, well, all I can say is “good job, guess you can skip the footnotes.”
 Ergot is a small black mold that can infest stored rye grain. It has hallucinogenic properties. Some believe the women, men, and children who “confessed” to cavorting with the devil, riding broomsticks through the sky at night and so on during the European Witchhunts (aka The Burning Times) were describing ergot hallucinations to the inquisitors.
 Heath is a plant common in many parts of Europe. You could cook it up in a cauldron for some ‘boil boil/ toil and trouble’ action if you want, but I’d advise you add in a few (ethically sourced) animal paws for good measure.
 “Slaw” is regional contemporary North American slang used to denote “a slut” or anything that is “broken down, beaten up, or worn out”. I don’t have the energy at the moment for a feminist polemic about the connections between so-called “sluts” and witches, so : : Hundreds, if not thousands, of books and articles have been written about this topic by humans much smarter and more accomplished than me, so happy Googling.
 “Sheath” has, in some historical contexts, been used to refer (rudely) to women’s genitals, much as “sword” has been used for male genitals.
What I’ve been doing:
I spent April getting ready for the Creative Ink Festival, working on some pay-the-bills projects, and doing final edits on manuscripts.
More of the same in May until the festival itself on May 18, 19, and 20. The festival attracted people from everywhere. Some of them came on planes. I can never get on a plane without somehow catching a cold. It’s been this way for years.
I’m not French kissing everyone on the plane, nor am I chewing their used tissues, nor do I create opportunities to lick door handles, so I blame the air-recycling systems used on planes for bathing me in a pestilential miasma.
Apparently I am now such a delicate petal that I cannot be in rooms with people who have recently been on planes without catching cold. (And again, before you ask: I didn’t French kiss anyone–not even the bartender who kept refilling my wine glass for free– nor did I chew tissues or lick doorknobs.)
Since then I’ve been trying to recover from what I suppose is just a garden-variety cold, complicated by my asthma and allergies. It’s been *seventeen* days. Argh. I keep coughing up things that would not be out-of-place in the movie Alien.
The Difference between “Aspiring Writers” and “Writers” . . .
It’s funny, but the solution, while simple, is not easy.
I’m not much of “a joiner” nor am I a person who loves group activities. I need a certain amount of “leave-me-alone-to-brood” time.
Nevertheless, I attend two different manuscript groups and I love them. Here’s why . . .
5. No one minds if I attend meetings in my pajamas.
4. Saturday morning cartoons are not what they used to be.
3. Critiques– even unkind ones– are helpful. Hard-to-hear feedback can lead to deeper insight into one’s own work (and save you loads of time when it comes time for the second or third draft).
2. The feedback is immediate.
The number one reason I love writers’ manuscript groups?
1. Deadlines. Organized structured groups provide deadlines. You know the old saying “if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done”? The person who coined that must have had me in mind. With a deadline, I can move mountains. Without one, I can’t move at all.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
~ Albert Camus
Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.
Thinking of family always makes me sad. I won’t ever have the relationship or the comfort or the support that some other people get from their families. Even though there is nothing to “fix”, I will always grieve for that.
Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying “comparison is the thief of joy“. I think this is true.
Comparison . . .
- Fosters unrealistic expectations and perfectionism
- Fosters competition (the unhealthy kind, not the having-fun-wrestling-on-the-floor-with-a-litter-of-puppies kind)
- Fosters envy and jealousy **
- Keeps us small and spiteful
I think the worst thing about comparison is that we– most of us, anyway– are trained to do it to ourselves. No one needs to tell me I suck compared to the writer who lives just up the road from me.*** I am busy telling myself that. *sigh*
** I’m not being redundant here. “Envy” is the emotion we experience when we covet the possessions of another. “Jealousy” is the emotion we experience when we think a relationship we value is threatened. I notice that people tend to use the words interchangeably. IMO, they should not. 😉
I wrote this a few weeks ago, waiting for the tectonic shifts in my personal life to occur. They have, and it’s ok. I like the new thing.
* * *
I am on the verge of some unsettling changes that will be evolving over the next few weeks.
On the negative side of the balance sheet?
- The unknown– how will I know I’ll like the new thing until I’m in it, and what if I don’t like it once I am there?
- The cost (in time, actual money, and stress) to other people (a.k.a. “Who the hell am I make decisions that have an impact on other people?)
- The self-doubt– maybe I’m an idiot to make significant lifestyle changes for no reason other than . . . (tho’ truth be told in the current sitch I have felt like I’m drowning in obligations). I freely acknowledge this is more about me than about my situation. My friend Nancy recently told me that one of the reasons she lives alone is that when there are other people around she can’t help ‘scanning’ them all the time– taking their emotional temperature to see if there is something that they want or need. To be clear, no one is typically asking for that. That doesn’t matter. It’s an automatic unconscious reflex. The nesting set of cultural, cognitive, and affective imperatives that make something like this possible, and indeed, inevitable– is a much bigger blog post. Indeed, it’s likely a very large book. Suffice it to say that Nancy’s comment resonated for me.
On the plus side of the balance sheet?
- More time alone (which is good for my mental health)
- More time alone (which is good for Getting Things Done)
- More time (for self-care; as in with fewer responsibilities to others, I won’t have to pencil “shave my legs” into my day planner. I imagine looking at my shins, deciding they need to be shaved, and having the freedom to go do that. . . without scanning the room first).