Thoughts from a Mote of Light

As written to myself, this week past, in the wake of just one more 2020 thing…

* * *

Today, a revelation:

*

The world is a great and terrible;

So it has always been.

*

It gets worse, and worse, and worse.

And it gets better.

(It’s… a mood.)

*

A dark sun blinds

As sure as any other,

If you stare.

*

Hurt, fear, and sorrow

Have a lengthy half-life,

*

And hope’s a song too easily forgotten.

*

Therefore,

My dear, you must

Turn from the void

Whene’er you can.

*

Remember motes of light;

The taste of strawberries.

*

Keep a record

Of the right things in your sphere,

*

So when the dark comes crushing down,

You’ve lost the tune

And cannot move your gaze,

*

The truth remains

In reach

Where you can find (if not believe) it.

*

Give the you

That has a broader view

The chance to testify;

*

The you that,

Given time,

May yet return

*

Just long enough

To add a bar or two.

“So Mote It Be” by Tirzah Duncan

Thoughts from the Shadow

This past Wednesday (September 9, 2020), I – like so many in California’s Bay Area – woke to darkness.

And stayed there.

Unlike anyone else among the ogling locals, my head and heart carried Allyn-a-Dale.

In the hour or so between arrival to my jobsite and clocking in for work, my minstrel and I paced the waterside, gazes upon the ominous shadowscape that would go on to fill the day’s news cycle. Past 7am and, thanks to the smoke of numerous wildfires, it looked like night, but murky. Orange. Malevolent.

My words alone could hardly do it or our visceral reactions justice.

But, naturally, Allyn’s can.

* * *

Where the Shadow Lies

The sun – O woe, the sun! –

Is sick in bed;

It cannot rise.

It stays inside a foggy blanket,

Choked on smoke,

Beneath a shadow lies.

*

I peer through morning

Dark as dusk,

Mist red before my eyes.

I thrill and fear

Whatever’s next,

Here where the shadow lies.

*

I quicken my steps,

But where to run?

How do you flee the skies?

My world to darkness falls again,

And daylight feels a lie.

*

O winds above,

Please blow the haze away;

I beg you try.

Free land from fog and fire

And this dim that terrifies.

*

I watch and wonder,

Wait and worry,

Hush my spirit’s cries.

Our later dawn will brighter be,

Beyond where shadow lies.

*

I’ll not let shadow frighten me.

Where it falls,

There I rise.

(My phone wouldn’t take a photo without trying to compensate for the lack of natural light, so here’s a pic that more accurately represents the morning’s view.)

Thoughts from the Cage

In “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale”, I wrote:

“I’m fine. I just… I don’t belong here […] I hate this place, I hate being trapped! I want to be able to go out and do things! New and exciting things all the time, not the same places and faces day after day. I had that!” he moaned. “And now what do I have?”

* * *

In my journal this past week, I wrote:

Tirzah has asked of me, for her sake, that I [temporarily, while she gives herself to family] be fine. And so I keep my insides quiet. Hold feeling at a distance. Hide away inside of Avalon. (Am rereading my darling trilogy. Am remembering while I fell so hard in love) […]

What is it I’ve missed so much about the Outlaws books? The stories themselves? The people (of course)? The person I was when I wrote them?

“I miss who I was, too,” muses Allyn. “In the better parts of ‘Marriage’ and ‘Legend’. Before Will’s absence broke me.”

“I miss the process,” Will puts in. “The finding of the stories, and living them on paper. Even when it sucked. It’s… what we’re made for.”

I know. Me, too.

* * *

Aladdin_Trapped

* * *

A month into international lockdown, I wrote:

Let’s run away and keep on running

Our leaping hearts leading, breath falling behind

Air frittered away in gasps of laughter

In living faster, racing our colors past all of the lines

 

Higher, farther,

Our inner world lies vast

Haste now, waste not

A dream that may not last

Before your soul’s stuck fast, let’s run away

 

Let’s drive away and keep on driving

Miss me with an exit, we’ll escape beyond

Cruise to the edge of new horizons

I don’t mind our riding this adventure ‘til the wheels fall off

 

Knowing nothing

Of all that lies ahead

Leaving long gone

The everyday we dread

Before your light’s snuffed dead, let’s drive away

 

Let’s steal away and keep on stealing

All the precious little moments that are ours to take

Share out a cache of mini magics

While we have it, out like a bandit’s just what we’ll make

 

Diving down for

Our treasure sunken deep

Lost then found, all

They said we couldn’t keep

Before your power’s asleep, let’s steal away

 

Let’s feel alive and keep on living

Let’s fall down and fail and keep forgiving

Let’s last the night with the light of the moon

Let’s not stop now, we’ll be out of this soon

* * *

To the Me who penned that song, I write:

‘Soon’ won’t come soon enough.

Thoughts from the Fog

(I’ve been largely wordless for a while, but just lately, whilst scribbling to myself, found a way to answer my lifelong least favorite question: ‘How are you?’ So this, among other things, is how I’ve been.)

*

Fog gets me.

One thought, while driving toward the city: How something insubstantial as fog can make something so there be not there. The Golden Gate. Aged. Iconic. Large. Unmistakable. And yet, sometimes, invisible. Disguised in sky stuff.

(Much like the moon. Kin, maybe, in their souls. Or both just made much of by those who love them.)

Another thought: This place is wonderful. But this place is of America the Terrible. But is this country rotten, or this nation? Or its leaders? How much blame upon the people, how much on the powers that shouldn’t be?

People are awful. Some of them.

People are wonderful. Some again.

Our best and worst are leagues apart and held in single hearts.

This people and place are built of everything.

I don’t know how to bring that back around to the fog.

*

The thing with this pandemic is it makes it hard to find new things to say.

After all these months (has it really only been a few?), it’s just the same old problems over again. Even the new issues are mere reboots of what’s been wrong all along.

This country does not look good naked, and all but the occasional face covering is coming off now.

Some folks are paid to talk about it. Plenty will do it for free. Or for change. But what does someone like me have to add? I’ve seen no more and know no better. All I can do is echo the obvious.

As for other topics… what? I’ve read a book? I’ve watched a show? The light and the water danced beautifully on the bay this morning? It’s nothing to mark the days with. Lack of routine turns to sameness. The new normal is nothing is normal.

Twenty, thirty minutes in a line spaced six-ish feet apart for fifty bucks’ worth of socks.

Remember when we’d browse the mall for fun? Killing time before the times killed us. Making mini memories before yesterday was March and today’s August and what can we point to in between that felt like living?

There’s a version of hell that looks just like this. Probably more than one.

How’s this for bringing it back to the fog: I’m feeling lost in the blur. My existence, my reality, there then not there. Invisible Golden Gate. I’m forgetting myself. I’m a blank-eyed stranger. I’m alone in my own skin, and my skin is a bus heading out into nowhere, empty save for me, yet still crowded with the thought of people who used to inhabit these seats and might want to later, so let’s not get comfortable, legs crossed tight against imagined space invasion.

I’m social distanced from my own heart.

A soul in quarantine.

The virus knows more than one way to steal your breath.

PhotoFunia-1596471104_2

In Which I Have a Lot of Books (and Sometimes Even Read Them)

Once upon a day in the apocalyptic era that is 2020, I read a post by The Story Sponge featuring one of those fun blogging games that likes to make the rounds – namely, the “Do I Have That Book?” Challenge.

And then I forgot and did nothing about it, because my insides have become a wasteland ravaged by anxiety re: current events.

Then I came across the post again, because I’d had the good sense to keep it in my inbox, and – pleasant surprise! – this time, my muse awoke from its coma long enough to help me scour my bookshelves to see if I had enough qualifying titles for a proper play-along.

For the results – (including several very pretty snapshots of books of all sorts) – read onward!

<<<>>>

Do you have a book with deckled edges?

At least one! The dark, brooding, and super-Shakespearean “If We Were Villains” by M. L. Rio.

If We Were Villains

Borrowed it from the library, gave it 5 stars in my heart, and laid hands on my own copy. Will surely get around to re-reading one day.

Do you have a book with 3 or more people on the cover?

Although one could argue, based upon the trio of novellas within, that there are only two people on the cover, we’ll play illustrator’s advocate and call it seven. Behold, “Penric’s Progress” by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Penric's Progress

I didn’t know ‘nerdy young person has to learn to navigate life while playing host to and becoming friends with a tangle of strong personalities who need to ride his/her body to interact with the material world’ was a genre unto itself, but – with both this collection and my own “Inspired” novels sitting on my shelves – apparently it is! Penric and Annabelle Iole Gray would have much to chat about, I’m sure.

Do you have a book based on another book?

I’ll do you one better: A book based on a musical based on a book! “The Complete Phantom of the Opera” by George Perry.

Complete Phantom of the Opera, The

I believe there’s actually a copy of the O.G. “Phantom of the Opera” novel by Gaston Leroux somewhere in the house, too, though I’ve not yet read it.

(*quietly cracks up at the use of the term ‘O.G.’ in the context of Phantom*)

Do you have a book with a title 10 letters long?

A tricky ask, but ignore the subtitle, and I found one! “Over the Top” by Jonathan Van Ness.

Over the Top

The first acquisition in my literary Queer Eye collection, soon followed by the respective memoirs of Tan France and Karamo Brown, and Antoni Porowski’s gorgeous cookbook. Still waiting on the existence of a memoir and/or interior design book from Bobby Berk. Y’all lemme know if you’ve heard anything about that.

Do you have a book with a title that starts and ends with the same letter?

Now see, I could’ve used Tan France’s memoir (“Naturally Tan”), but I didn’t want to feature two Fab 5 titles back to back, so I chose instead “Thorn in My Heart” by Liz Curtis Higgs.

Thorn in My Heart

Is also one of the few titles one could place in the “Do you have a romance novel that reimagines a Biblical love triangle in 18th-century Scotland?” category, so bravo.

Do you have a Mass Market Paperback?

Every title I own in Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” series fits the bill. Pictured here, the last in the series’ second threesome, “The Bands of Mourning”.

Bands of Mourning

…Which I’ll totally have to start reading over from the beginning, because I made it partway through before setting it aside for literal years, and no way in Scadrial will I remember any people, places, or plot that went down.

Do you have a book written by an author using a pen name?

Is it a pen name if it’s just literally your name, but you wrote your previous books under a different name that was… also just literally your name? We’ll say ‘yes’ so I can go with “Fortune’s Pawn” by Rachel Bach (which I have not only read, but have reviewed on my blog!).

Fortune's Pawn, 02 probably

Do you have a book with a character’s name in the title?

Almost the whole of my Robin Hood collection could claim that distinction.

Robin Hood Collection

Be it Robin’s name or Will Scarlet’s – (or, in the case of the relevant novels I’ve written, Allyn-a-Dale’s) – these books like to call themselves after the legendary characters within them.

Do you have a book with two maps in it?

I couldn’t think of any books of mine with multiple maps, so I semi-cheated by using one of my gal’s books instead: “Invisible Armies” by Max Boot.

Invisible Armies

Never thought I’d feel the need to say this, but thank you, Tirzah, for your lifelong fascination with history and warfare. It has at long last come in handy for me.

Do you have a book that was turned into a TV show?

I’m… not sure. Would you accept a TV show that was turned into books? If so, I present the Diagnosis Murder series by Lee Goldberg.

Diagnosis Murder

I’ve always loved a murder mystery. And if those mysteries star Dick Van Dyke as a fun-natured doctor-detective, so much the better. (Also pictured here: A couple of Monk titles – i.e. another murder-mystery-TV-show-turned-book-series by the same author.)

Do you have a book written by someone who was originally famous for something else? (Celebrity/athlete/politician/tv personality…)

Again, setting aside all my Queer Eyes, this time in favor of “Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Gmorning, Gnight

…Y’know, that guy famous for, what? Some roles on TV, creating and starring in a couple of Broadway musicals, writing songs for Polynesian princesses and lightning lamps in Depression-era London… Nothing major.

Book illustrations by Johnny Sun, with whom I’m not as familiar, though a glance at his bio shows that he has done/is doing A LOT as well.

Do you have a book with a clock on the cover?

It might be in pieces, but that assemblage of gears and Roman numerals on the “Mechanized Masterpieces” anthology definitely looks like a clock, right? Yes, good, I thought so, too. (Also both read and reviewed on my blog, babyyyyy.)

Mechanized Masterpieces, 02 probably

Do you have a book of poetry?

A browse through a secondhand bookstore got me this little treasure: “Old English Ballads: Selected and Arranged for Use in Elementary Schools” by John A. Long.

Old English Ballads

Are all of ye olde poems inside about Robin Hood? No. But are several of them? Yesssssss! Have I bothered to sit down and read them yet? Mind your business!

Do you have a book with an award stamp on the cover?

I’d originally planned to showcase this one in answer to Do you have a book with 3 or more people on the cover?, but changed it up because, while “Penric’s Progress” has a crowd on its face, it lacks the Newberry Honor Book seal proudly displayed upon “The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog” by Adam Gidwitz (with illustrations by Hatem Aly).

Inquisitor's Tale, The

A humorous and deeply thoughtful novel, suitable for middle graders and so-called grownups alike. I highly recommend.

Do you have a book written by an author with the same initials as you?

Ignoring all the books that have my actual name on them, let’s go with “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield – quite possibly the first literary book for grownups I ever loved. I really must get ‘round to her recent latest novel, “Once Upon a River”, sometime. We’ll see how soon my library can hook me up.

Thirteenth Tale, The

Do you have a book of short stories?

Quite a few. Selecting one more or less at random, here’s “Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Folktales” retold by Alison Laurie.

Clever Gretchen

Grabbed secondhand during fairytale collecting phase. (‘Cause hey, for all I knew, I’d have another 27 Wilderhark Tales to write and would need all the source material I could get.) Have yet to read it, but surely … surely … someday.

Do you have a book that’s between 500-510 pages long?

Ooh, toughie! I flipped through a number of my books and couldn’t find anything that fits those exact parameters. But if you leave out the author’s note at the end, queer historical romp “A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee ends on page 501.

Gentleman's Guide, The

(Not that I would ever leave out the author’s note. I’m a very cover-to-cover sort of reader.)

Do you have a book that was turned into a movie?

How’s about “Ivanhoe” by Sir Walter Scott? I have neither watched the movie nor read the book, but a quick online search confirmed my assumption that such a movie must exist (because don’t most quote-unquote classics of Western literature?), and OF COURSE I’ll read the book eventually. It’s got a guest appearance by ROBIN HOOD, for Sherwood’s sake.

Ivanhoe

Do you have a graphic novel?

Just the one, I think: “The Veligent” by Melody Peña.

Veligent, The

Read and loved it way back when it was more than a fantastic collection of digital pages shared by the author/artist online, and checked in on her every couple years or so to see if I could someday acquire it in physical form. Happy day, I finally got to help Kickerstarter the hardback into being! (And got a magical little Poad™ figurine as a thank-you. ^_^)

Do you have a book written by two or more authors?

Any number of my short story collections could claim this one. Just because I love me a feywood-esque, I’ll choose “The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest” edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

Green Man, The

And it’s just as big a surprise to me as to any of you that I have, in fact, gotten around to reading this one! Miracles abound! Don’t ask me if I remember the details of any of the stories!

<<<>>>

High five, muse o’ mine! We actually made it through the whole of this blog post without getting squished under chronic existential dread. And if you, lovely readers, have felt likewise inspired to share your bookshelves’ contents – or have thoughts/opinions/feelings on any of the titles I’ve featured today – share all with me in the comments!

Until next the blogging bug bites,

~ Danielle

A Tale of Two Galleries

We walk into the gallery. Outside, a horsehead sculpture, smile charmingly smug. Inside, acrylic whimsy stretched in magnificent detail across every wall.

She greets us upon entry, compliments our outfits, follows our progress from frame to frame. She talks, she talks, she talks.

“Where did you get your coats?”

We forget.

“Well, coats are great. Now put your coat money toward a thousand-dollar painting.”

Probably a thrift store coat, in at least one case. Hardly a comparable expense.

“Yeah, my daughter’s a thrift shopper. Wears her finds to galleries in Europe. You can buy that painting in hundred-dollar installments, you know.”

We really can’t afford—

“You’d just spend it on food or something, otherwise.”

We really don’t have the space—

“I live in a studio. I had no money, once. Anyone can come up with excuses not to invest in a painting.”

Uh-huh… Ooh, we would live in that painting, if we could…

“You can. If you buy it and put it on your wall.”

(What part of ‘we have neither the money nor the wall area’ is she not hearing? Where does one hang an artwork they skipped on rent to obtain?)

We’re tuning her out, now. Finish our browsing. Purchase a small something to gift a loved one, no thanks to her. Wonder if she really believed that she had ever been like us; and if she was, which path do we avoid so as never to become her?

*

We walk into the gallery. Statuary looms. A four-foot frog, a large-as-life lion, a dark metal horse rampant, all in a cunning and costly clutter.

He points out that the tiny figurines we’re eying in the back-corner cases are such-and-such a price. (Inexpensive enough that we could buy them, exorbitant enough that we couldn’t justify it.) We give him fair warning that we’re too broke for this place, just dream shopping while on a sightseeing jaunt.

“Oh, where are you from?”

Not far, as of recently. In fact, one of us is employed just a few minutes away.

“Nice place to work.”

It is, at that. One of us keeps up the chatter (it isn’t me), while the other (it is) crouches over a bronze – a girl stretched on the ground with a book ‘neath her nose.

He watches from behind the counter, nonchalantly digs into his lunch, asks with mild interest, “What’s she reading?”

To our delight, a half-legible page reveals its heart with an ‘Open sesame’ –the tale of Ali Baba! – and just as magic, one half of our two hearts (mine) falls in love with the girl and her reading. No point looking at the price tag, though. Still no money, no space.

Our other heart half (hers) leaps at a statue of two golden otters, large and sinuous, the usual cutesy take on the creatures eschewed in favor of predatory power.

He – (somehow also like a predator, stately and sensual, but lately fed and therefore less a threat) – marvels at my other half’s impassioned otter rant. “Are you an interior designer?”

No, she’s just got a lot of feelings.

Nearly out the door, we pass a dish fashioned of translucent waves and the undines who dance among them. My eyes, on it, full of longing. Her eyes, on me, all affection. His eyes, on her; his words, to me: “She’ll get it for you.”

She would if she could. She will when she can. Someday, when we’re wealthy, it’s here we’ll return, for readers, otters, undines.

As for paintings… well. We’ll see who’s doing the selling.

Gallery of Us_PhotoFunia-1583632441
A gallery of us, living rich lives on the cheap.

Home, Dear Home

A sigh from Gilbert, the elegant one, as he sips at tea and gazes out from the couch, ‘cross the deck, o’er the trees. “It feels like Germany.”

That’s what our hearts said when first we saw the place.

The open house for the apartment was scheduled for a November noon. Tirzah and I arrived with many minutes to spare, and so elected to walk a bit up the hill from the house. And it looked of Germany. Smelled of Germany. Stirred our souls the way a ramble through little German woods and villages ever did. We’d been aching, ever since we parted ways, for the best of our old German home – my inner Gilbert missing it dearest of all. Now here was a piece of it, in Marin County by the bay.

And inside the apartment itself, all was fresh and light and – (compared to our little guest house in Fresno) – spacious. For Tirzah, at last, a proper kitchen, complete with a full-sized oven, a functional dishwasher, counter space. For me? Oh, just everything, everything. Even the things less than perfect called out to be mine.

We had other appointments in other apartments, and sensibly scheduled more, striving to go into them all with open minds. But this first place we toured was the one we wanted. This, we said, smitten, was Crush House. This was our house.

If we could only convince the reticent landlords that we’d be able to make good on the sky-high rent they demanded.

*

A yip from Galliard, the man-puppy de France, as he bounces at the windows over the bed. “Oh, ho-ho! Look you – it is deer!”

It is always deer.

Doe Out the Window_copy
The deer without

The evening we received the keys (inexpressible thanks to the friend of the landlords who’d run the open house and advocated for us every hopeful, fretful step of the way), we stood out on the deck, breathing excitement in and gratitude out, when a step sounded in the underbrush below. We peered through the dark, alert for… what? A man-sized person? A horse-sized dog? Instead, a doe, roaming the yard with nary a care for our voices nearby.

The night before we moved in proper, just transferring the bulk of our luggage from our Airbnb in preparation for the real thing (more thanks inexpressible to the lovely lady and her sons who shared their home with us during that limbo week in between a hotel and the new beginning awaiting us), a shadow walked the road mere paces from our carport. Into the streetlights, a stag – perfectly aware of us, and rightly confident that we would know better than to threaten his progress.

The day we labored our boxes, bits of furniture, and gargantuan mattress up the steps, around the front stoop, into the house (there really is no expressing how thankful I am that this neighborhood’s scenic hills defeated neither us nor the U-Haul that was in no way designed to navigate such a steep, narrow, winding way), a mother-and-fawn duo watched from various vantages. The doe’s bland stare conveyed silent judgment. It was becoming increasingly clear that the herd ran this territory, and they weren’t of the opinion that our presence was adding much community value.

*

A cough for attention from Will Scarlet, the man, the myth, The Most™. “I notice that we have yet to put up our John Barrowman pictures.”

There’s a lot of art we’re still wondering how to work onto the walls. A bit of furniture we’re still wanting to gather. A good deal of progress, however, has been made on both fronts. The aforementioned couch was a vital thrift store find. The papasan chair in our bedroom corner, scooped up for free from the curb while driving back from a day visit to San Francisco. The cubby shelves in our bathroom, purchased from the Target just a parking lot away from an invigorating waterfront walk. Deck table and chairs, obtained via a community app recommended to me while carpooling with a seasonal coworker. Massive desk-and-bookcase unit in the living room… well, the whole of that harrowing tale can be found on my Twitter.

Gazing Out After the Morning's Rain
The deer within

As for art, pieces of us and what we cherish are everywhere. We even managed to arrange sufficient lights, knickknacks, reindeer antler headbands, etc., to bring a sense of Christmas into the space for December. All this while juggling, for the first time: Gas-and-electric bills; internet account ownership; renters’ insurance; a work-to-home commute through actual, ridiculous rush hour traffic. Next-level adulthood is a lot.

But we’re making it happen.

On the days we feel strong and the days we feel weak. Whether we’re acing it or barely scraping by. When dragging ourselves up to alarms that sound before the sun, and while settling down with a plate of leftovers and a comfort Netflix session. This is the miracle we’re making. Our little Germany. Our house of deer. Our imaginary roommates with their cheers, complaints, and constant commentary.

Ours, all ours.

In Which the World Scrambles to Catch Up

Robin Hood looks up with a smile and wave from his seat at a coffee shop table. “Danielle! Good to see you again.”

I settle into the seat across from him. “Right? It’s been too long since last time.”

“Just a bit over a year now, I believe – with that so-called coffee shop a mere set on a stage, you portrayed by the Merry Men’s minstrel, and my crazy cousin directing the show.”

“Yeah, well,” say I, recalling fondly, “Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre skits are fun, but take a lot of brain energy to script. Easier just to hang out with you one-on-one in some quiet corner of imagination.”

Robin nods, sipping his beverage. “So, what’s new?” His eyes sparkle through the aromatic steam. “Or might well I ask, what isn’t?

I loose a long and multilayered sigh. “So, so much is new. To start with, remember how excited I was last year about landing that Amazon fulfillment center job?”

“Weeping with delight, if I rightly remember.”

“Mm. Well, the weeping remained,” I say grimly. “Turns out the job’s demands and culture are not, shall we diplomatically say, a good fit for me and Tirzah. Work-related injuries led to her resignation, and I was eager to follow before my own body and soul broke down beyond repair. But until she or I could find another job, I needed to stay where I was; rent for our adorable little home wasn’t going to pay itself, alas.”

Robin’s hum and crinkled expression radiate sympathy. “That sounds like quite the unhappy burden to bear.”

“It was,” I acknowledge, “but for Tirzah’s sake, ‘twas borne voluntarily. Her body and soul needed to know they were in a safe place for recovery before she could fully face the challenge of finding something new.”

JournalQuote_AlreadyASuccess
From my personal journal, Oct. 18, 2019

“Was the Fresno job search better, this time around?”

I’ve only just been served my tea, and I almost snort the first mouthful out my nose. “As desert-dry as ever. Sometimes I’m amazed there are two employed folks to rub together, in that city. Tirzah did come across an extraordinary opportunity elsewhere, though. And by elsewhere, I mean San Francisco.”

San Fran Magic Triptych

Robin’s brows rise. “You love that city.”

“I do! And the idea of moving there…” I break off, speechless with overwhelm. “It would have been magical. But she didn’t get the job.”

“Oh, luv…”

The time-honored nod of a mourner accepting condolences. “That was really hard – to have hopes fly so high, then come crashing down. But it served a purpose. It raised our gaze. We realized that if we aspired to live in or near San Francisco, there was no point continuing to apply for jobs in Fresno. So we centered our efforts on the Bay Area. Even visited there again, at the start of my birthday month, to help cement our intentions via a neuro-linguistic programming conference.”

“Neuro-linguistic…?”

NLP, for short. Any case, we were dreaming big and striving hard for— huh.” A retrospective pause. “It felt like a slogging eternity, but I guess this chapter had its beginnings in July and is in the midst of coming to a close. I’d sort of dared the universe to get me free of Amazon by my birthday.”

“…And?” Robin prompts, when I leave him hanging.

“That’s the day T and I drove three hours, one way, so she could have an in-person interview at an assisted-living facility.” I smile. “And she got offered the job on the spot.”

Robin’s grin could outshine the sun (*cough* nobody tell Raeóryn *cough*). “DAR-ling!”

31 years old

I wriggle with joy. “That was a Wednesday. They scheduled her to start on Tuesday. That gave us less than a week to pack up and move out – which we managed, like the legends we are, though it would’ve been worlds easier,” I say pointedly, “if we’d had a legendary band of outlaws physically present to lug boxes and furniture into storage.”

Robin shrugs his apologies. “You know we’d have been there if we could. Same for when you’re ready to move in somewhere new. Which will be… when?”

“Not entirely sure yet. It’s hotel and Airbnb life, to start with, because Tirzah’s job alone won’t provide income enough to reassure any potential landlords of our financial stability.”

“Ah. So it must wait until you’ve found a job, too.”

A casual sip of my tea. “Oh, I’ve just done that.”

“YOU—?!”

“At a children’s museum. The day before drafting this blog post,” I say, smirking to keep from squealing. “That was a Wednesday. I’m scheduled to start—”

No.”

“Yep. Tuesday.”

JournalQuote_RealMagic
From my personal journal, Oct. 28, 2019

“One week and a whirlwind apart,” Robin marvels. “’Twould seem you’ve got a strong share of magic to work with, after all.”

“’Twould indeed,” I murmur, weary and wonder-filled, tired and twinkling with hope. “It’s been a ride-and-a-half, Robin Hood, but I think it’s taking me where I need to go. Where I want to go, even. I can’t wait to see which blessings land in my lap next!”

“If things carry on at the rate they’ve been,” says Robin, raising his drink in salute, “that wait may not be long at all.”

San Fran Magic Diptych

It Gets Better (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to the continuation of last week’s Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre, All About the Author Edition!”

“To catch up on what you may have missed or forgotten,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “click here. Or simply read on. Given the slapdash way Will scripts these things, there will probably be an info-dump summary soon after curtain-up.”

“Nobody asked you to go all theatre critic on me, minstrel. Anyway!” Another smile for the audience. “Make yourselves comfortable as we now present to you: ‘It Gets Better’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a table set for two. On one side sits Robin Hood. On the other, Allyn-a-Dale, dressed like Danielle in a casual Allyn-a-Dale cosplay. Behind them, the backdrop shows other occupied tables in silhouette. A dark roasted scent spritzes into the house, transporting the audience toward a 4D coffee shop experience.]

Robin [hand up like, ‘hold on a moment’ ]: So, let me get this straight: You left your job and residence in Yosemite National Park, applied along with Tirzah Duncan for a spot in Fresno’s new Amazon fulfillment center, stormed the stronghold anyway when she got hired but you didn’t, and briefly ended up taking orders at a Burger King drive-through?

Allyn/Danielle [glancing out at the audience like, ‘called it’ ]: In info-dump summary, yeah.

Robin: Whew.  But you said ‘briefly’. So you weren’t there long, right? What happened next?

Allyn/Danielle [brightening ]: Ah. Now we’re getting to the good part. It began around the same time I started at Burger King. You see, there was this neighbor of the Duncans’…

[The general stage lights dim, leaving two bright spotlights – one on Allyn, and one stage left, where enters Lady Marion Hood, arms full of half-painted holiday lawn ornaments.]

Marion/Neighbor: I don’t know how in the world I’m going to get all these spooky decorations finished in time to sell for the Halloween rush! If only there were a reliable someone in the neighborhood with time, artistic talent, and the desire for a little ready cash.

Allyn/Danielle [raising a hand ]: I think you’ll find I match that description fair well. Fret no more, for so long as I’m working under 20-some hours a week, I shall help you with your professional painting projects.

Marion/Neighbor: Oh, thank God!

Robin [as the general lights come back up, returning the stage to the coffee shop ]: Painting, eh? Sounds fun.

Allyn/Danielle: It had its moments. Mostly, I was just glad of the gas money it provided.

Robin: Why, do you have a car now?

Allyn/Danielle: Oh, did I skip over that part? Yeah. Used Camry. Insurance shopping. Ongoing games with the DMV. There’s been a lot of adulting I don’t have time to recall in detail.

Robin: Well, outrageous gas prices these days notwithstanding, it’s gotta be handy having your own transportation to work.

Allyn/Danielle [smile spreading across face ]: You mean, to the Amazon fulfillment center.

Robin [astonished ]: But… you didn’t get the job…

Allyn/Danielle: Not back in summer, no. But applications reopened in September. And this time, I got in.

[A shout of “BABE!” erupts from offstage, and in rushes Will Scarlet as Will Scarlet, sweeping Allyn from his chair and into a hug. The lights sparkle and dance in pink and red; gold confetti rains from above.]

Festival Lights

Will: I’m so happy for you, Dani-babe! You’ve slogged through so much – circumstances less than ideal, both outside your body and inside your brain – but at last, it gets better! At last, the full-time Fresno employment you’ve been trying to land since leaving Illinois! WAY. TO. GO!

Allyn/Danielle [half laughing, half trying to wriggle into a position more comfortable for breathing ]: Thanks, Will. For the flamboyant congratulations, and for supporting me inside my head all along the way. But put me down so I can tell Robin about the second best part!

Will [depositing Allyn back in chair ]: By which you mean, the Best Part, Part 2!

Robin [amused and intrigued ]: What news can possibly bear that distinction?

Allyn/Danielle [grinning at Will ]: Cue the lights.

[With a snap of Will’s fingers, the celebratory lights are replaced by the two flashback spots on Allyn and on Marion, returned to stage left.]

Allyn/Danielle: Huzzah and alack, good neighbor! My hours are soon to bump up to 40 a week. I must needs bid goodbye to Burger King and, I fear, to assisting with your painting projects.

Marion/Neighbor: Alack indeed! You’ve been wonderful, Danielle, and I’m sorry to lose your aid. But hey, I’m participating in an art show across town, next week. I hope you’ll come.

Allyn/Danielle: I’ll be there.

[The backdrop lights up like an evening backyard full of vendors’ tents. Jazz music wafts through the air. Will steps up to share Allyn’s spotlight, back in his Tirzah costume.]

Will/Tirzah: Hey, check out that little guesthouse by the pool!

Allyn/Danielle: A ‘for rent’ sign in the window. Too bad we probably can’t afford anything in this neighborhood.

Will/Tirzah [pointedly ]: We probably couldn’t score an extra photo session with John Barrowman at Comic Con either. I’m gonna go talk to people. [steps out of spotlight ]

Allyn/Danielle [shuddering with social anxiety ]: Better you than me. Oooh, someone’s selling a really cool coat!

Robin [taking Will’s place in Allyn’s spotlight ]: Tell me your Best Part sequel isn’t just a new coat.

Allyn/Danielle: Could’ve been, depending on the coat, but no. Look ye there.

[He nods toward the second spotlight, which follows Marion and the newly arrived Queen Guinevere, dressed in a snazzy old-lady pantsuit, across the stage.]

Allyn/Danielle: Robin, meet Flashback!Art Show Hostess/Landlady. Ma’am, Robin Hood from the future.

Guinevere/Landlady: The future?

Robin: By way of the distant past, yes.

Guinevere/Landlady: Huh. Well, Danielle, I’ve spoken with Tirzah, and our mutual neighbor friend here – [gestures to Marion ] – speaks highly of you as a person, so how would you two crazy kids like to rent my guesthouse?

Allyn/Danielle [gasping ]: We can afford that?

Will/Tirzah [back in the spotlight ]: With our Amazon salary times two? Quite reasonably.

Allyn/Danielle: And… how soon can we move in?

Guinevere/Landlady: Next week should allow time to finish having the bathroom painted a lovely blue.

Allyn/Danielle: My… favorite color… [swoons into Will’s arms ]

Robin: A new job, AND a new house?!

Will/Tirzah [beaming at a thousand watts ]: And all settled in before her 30th birthday, too.

Allyn/Danielle [coming to ]: I mean, we still need a dining table, but yeah. We actually made it. [teary smile ] We’re finally… home.

[Robin and Will group hug Allyn tightly. Marion and Guinevere raise plastic cups from the art show’s mini bar in a toast. The party music segues into a jazzy version of “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, just because Danielle really likes that song. And the curtain comes down on the happy tableau – though, as far as Danielle’s real life is concerned, it may still be on the rise.]

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you, rarely enough, to real life,” says Allyn, “for providing us with inspiration for our art to imitate.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves (or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

The End Times of Yosemite Dan

On the first of December, 2017, I entered Yosemite National Park for the second time.

My inaugural visit to the park had been just that – a visit, as a tourist.

Five years later, I was about to become a resident.

That was seven very short, very long months ago. Back when the days were winter cold, the nights all layer upon layer of stars, the waterfalls abundant and full, an ever-present roar behind the call of ravens and Steller’s jays.

Now we’re deep into a scorching summer. The falls fade fast. The mountains blur out behind a choking veil of smoke. The sun burns red. Not far away, the woods just straight up burn. Wildfire has come to California. The park’s crowds of sightseers thin. The humidity overwhelms the Majestic Hotel’s walk-in refrigerators, forcing hundreds of pounds of refugee food into cramped trailers on the back docks.

Aesthetically, it all looks rather like the end of the world.

Realistically, it’s only the end of my time here.

My Tirzah left for Fresno a month ago, and with her departure came a familiar feeling. An itch of entrapment. A need for escape. The lonely ache for home that’s only ever further from reach when she’s gone from my side.

It was time to go.

Well, first it was time to find Fresno employment, so I wouldn’t be ditching the park and an income all in one go.

‘Twas a frustrating job hunt. Blame it on my curse: For whatever I most desire, I am forever doomed to call into the void, often without so much as an echo in response.

But finally, a former manager of Tirzah’s hired— well, not Me so much as Tirzah’s Highly Recommended Friend. I shall simply have to show my new boss why employers are always bummed to see the back of me. Lord knows my current manager is loath to let me go.

Most Valuable Employee tweet
Narrator: “Alas, her flight was to be none so swift and easy…”

And part of me is sad to leave the Yosemite I’ve come to know. I’ve seen her blanketed in snow, spilling over with floodwater, playing in the wind. I’ve wandered her pathways and rivers, climbed her boulders, crossed her fallen trees. I’ve smacked her mosquitoes and painted her ducks. I’ve treasured every rainbow she gave me.

Yosemite Watercolor, Mine_Rivertime
“Rivertime” –  Deshipley, 2018; watercolor, painted en plein air in Yosemite National Park

She actually gave me many things – memories chief among them.

And independence.

Resilient courage.

The reassurance that no matter how life’s challenges flatten me, I’m tough enough to eventually rise up for more.

Also, hella biceps.

There is much I’ll miss. But I’m ready to move on. Ready to leave Yosemite Dan behind, and be… still me. Just, as of next week, planted somewhere else.

Next chapter ho…