Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Porch

We were going to have a pirate gallows at some friends' house and a Halloween Party. But instead, fever hit our house (103.3F) so we're quarantining ourselves.

Mark made a bunch of grave markers and added decorations to them.

I like the foil wrap that he glued to the front of one of the graves. It looks even better in the dark.

Here's the Celtic Cross I made. I was not quite as industrious as Mark and used sidewalk chalk to give it a marbled look.

As usual, we hung a bat on the front door.

It's not what you think.

Someone pointed out that the ghost carved on the side of the pumpkin looks like a gathering of Southern bigots. It's a ghost. Popping out of a grave. The cross was supposed to look like one of those Celtic crosses one sees in a graveyard.

If this were going to be some kind of political statement, the ghost would have been a Unitarian Universalist, and instead of a cross there would have been a Burning Question Mark.


We went on a tour of the Pioneer Cemetary in Eugene. Eugene Skinner, the city's namesake, is burried here. Some of the graves are very old, and have stones that folks could order from a Sears (I think) catalog. This one struck me. Hope is in a box, but is the curtain opening or closing? It's all very Pandora. If you step back, the stone looks like an open mouth with eyes were the curtains are being gathered.

Near the entrance, some crocuses were sprouting up. Usually, these flowers appear in May. But these October blooms look like they're starting a procession to someplace far, far away.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Unhappy Shoulders

The other day I lunged after something without thinking and inflamed a muscle in my shoulder. My physical therapist is not happy. I've also been slouching my shoulders when doing a particular stretch... so my therapist wants me to remember to use better posture. My arm has been sore, so I've been holding it in my lap -- this is a tight position and undoes the work of all the stretching exercises I've been doing.

I can feel a throbbing line from my scapula to the underside of my elbow. It hurts and wakes me from sleep. Endothermic crystallizing packets are now my friends.

More Pumpkin Ghost

Boo! (Again!)

Just to make sure everyone knows. This is a ghost popping up out of a grave with a cross marker on it. I am not making a political or racial statement. It's just a ghost!

Pumpkin Ghost


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Her Name Was Lola...

I was going for something between "Huzzah!" and "Happy Halloween!", but I think this photo turned out kind of "Copa Cabana."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Self-Therapy for Orpheus ?

Last night was the Wordos Halloween Short Story Party. After a quick round of business, we sit back, eat snack food, and read each other 1000 word stories. The theme this year was "parties" (I modified mine to include "gatherings"). Stories ranged from pretty funny, to macabre, to downright creepy.

My science fiction story surprised me. I'd originally thought I'd write a sarcastic send up of the recent Sedona Sweat Lodge Tragedy - something snarky about plastic shamans and prosperity theology. Partway through creating the manuscript I realized I was writing a diatribe and switched gears. The deadline loomed and I wrote snatches of the story between preparing for the Shrew's memorial and other family obligations. I forced myself to stop re-writing the beginning and get to the end, which I think I wrote very late at night in bed. Tuesday morning before the reading, I ruthlessly (sort of) chopped out 500 words to make the story fit the reading format.

Tuesday night. My turn at the podium came. I hauled my laptop with me and began the story. As I got to the end, and I started to choke up. I'm loosing voice control and tears are threatening. "Great," I'm thinking as I'm trying to read the ending. "People are going to not understand what I'm saying, and I'm going to look like one of those writers who is overcome with the brilliance of their own artistry. How professional."

Sometimes, a writer will put personal truth into a story. In this case, I drifted into a story resonance through a kind of word association game induced by focusing on the writing-under-deadline process. I hadn't had a chance to read it aloud in its entirety. I don't read my stories so much as perform them, which triggered a catharsis.

In some ways this seems worse - writing as self-therapy. I want my stories to get into the heads of other people, not be a vehicle for me to work through my own issues. But on the other hand, stories are supposed to have heart, an "ah ha!" moment, a place where they speak to a listener's truth. After some reflection, I'm afraid I wrote a typical John story: someone muddles into danger, but mystical music somehow (we're not quite sure how, but it was also a religious experience with dense and obscure philosophical meaning) saves the day by calling them back. But I hope I wrote a story about searching, a story about being lost, a story about family, a story about being found.

Sigh. I guess I have to go watch The Wizard of Oz and Moulin Rouge now....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Illustrating for the Shrew (and Me).

I felt like I needed to do this. So...

I cleaned up the memorial design for Leslie from yesterday.

Once the design was in, it was fairly easy to make a black-and-white outline version.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Remembering the Shrew

It is with the greatest of sadness that we announce the passing of Leslie Engle, the owner and guiding light of Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire, early this morning (Oct 16, 2009). Leslie started the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire nearly 15 years ago with her husband Ken (who died three years ago). Quite simply, Leslie was The Shrew. There will be a memorial service on Saturday, October 24th (2009). Details will be posted on the Shrewsbury website,

Leslie once told me that she was born in an airplane flying in the air during (I believe) the Blitz of London. This made it difficult for officials filling out her birth certificate. Somehow the circumstances of her birth seem appropriate for someone who became the founder of the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire.

The first time I met Leslie was at her home -- the Shrew Box -- before the very first Shrewsbury Faire. I'd been encouraged to play the harp for the Faire, and I was nervously showing her my Society of Creative Anachronism costume. I'd been to a Renaissance Faire in Minneapolis, and I was anxious that I wasn't really up to her theatre standards. Leslie was wreathed in cigarette smoke, grace, and calm -- I've been busking and harping ever since the first Faire.

In the early years of the Faire, Leslie (and Ken) put up with my latex velociraptor puppet side-kick, Vaal -- eventually allowing Vaal to facilitate Shrewsbury business meetings. Leslie appreciated the puppetry involved, and gave me tips for roaming a faire with one (Vaal got some outfits to be more "period.")

Somehow, Leslie decided that Shrewsbury needed an Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. I remember she and Ken taught a bunch of us the dance -- a procession with deer horns on poles -- in a park. That was the only time I've ever seen Leslie relax her Deeply Ingrained English Sense of Privacy to engage in a hippy/mystic/woo-woo moment. She leaned her back against a park redwood in front of a stick of burning cedar incense. Seeing her so as we learned the Bromley struck a chord of illumination within me. It was a magic moment.

Making the magic happen. Leslie always spoke about making the magic happen at Faire, whether it was drawing a guest into a short moment of theatre with a "Good morrow, and how fare you?" as they entered; or drawing them into a simple dance; or (in my case) simply believing strongly enough as I harped that I really was from another time and place and that my harp could return us there -- at least until a cell phone (or a bag pipe) interrupted.

Leslie was a kind of den mother to the Shrewsbury players, and I think she always was where ever she went. She believed in the power of chocolate and tea. I remember sharing a good laugh with her about the time she was helping some poor (probably very drunk twenty-something) waif who had called her, stranded, for a ride. Leslie was reduced to enunciating the following command: "Look. Around. You. What. Do. You. See?" I was in tech support at the time, and the parallels were hilarious.

But sometimes I think she let herself get worn out -- and this was always evident after the Faire. And each year it seemed she got more and more wrung out after the Herculean effort of willing the Faire into existence.

We loved her for allowing us to play in her faire. Slowly, it became our faire, and Leslie became our Elizabeth I, our Virgin Mary, our Lady of the Lake, our patron saint working miracles behind the scenes. And although she was very shy, and it tired her, she would appear on the days of Shrewsbury Faire -- in later days on her electric horse Malaprop -- to be our luck-piece, our rallying point, our example of working the magic. I learned the best thing to do when I saw her during Faire was to keep walking, wave a secret wave, and not try to give her anything.

I loved her humor. I loved her wit. I admired her devotion and perseverance for making her dreams come true. I will miss her mentoring -- she was a wonderful listener with thoughtful and encouraging insights. She helped me deal with being newly gay, thirty-something, and single in Corvallis, and she always made a little time when I would call her and say, "I just had this dream and when I woke up I had a feeling I should tell it to you."

I'd like to think that if Leslie were here right now she'd somehow catch our collective gaze. She'd smile, and then she'd say, "Look around." We'd look at each other and she'd add, "Look at the magic around you. Now go play faire."

I will. But I think I need to re-read O'Shaughnessy's Ode a few more times.

Good-bye, Leslie, and safe journey.

❧   ❧   ❧   ❧   ❧

Delenn: "Strange. The galaxy seems somehow smaller now that all the First Ones are gone forever."

Sheridan: "It feels like the magic's gone now."

Delenn: "No, not gone. Now we make our own magic. Now we create our own legends. Now we build the future."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shoulders and Socks

Quick shoulder update. Woke up this morning with a lot more flexibility. I can actually turn the steering wheel of a car with my left arm, which is an improvement from this weekend.

On the dream front: Mark and I were in a shoe store shopping. They had a machine they could feed your socks into, and the machine would un- then re-knit your socks (one sock at a time). I was wearing mis-matched socks at the time (a red and a white one) and they came back clean and satiny.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Corn Maze Photos

We went to a local farm with some friends to run around in a corn maze. Afterward we visited the pumpkin patch. It's a local tradition we've been doing for about a decade.

Last year we discovered that the pumpkins in the field were put there by farm hands. I suppose this makes some sense given that the nights usually drop below freezing and the pumpkins would get mushy. But the transport of the pumpkins from the fields to a warehouse and back into the fields doesn't have the same romantic appeal.

In the past we've gone later in the month. This year we went earlier and had better weather. There's lots of farm animals there, too. I like to photograph the horses (and carts) and this year we had to be a little more careful not to spook them (we were in a place the horses weren't expecting us).

Lava Lamp!

Happy new moon ◯

I found my green Lava Lamp up in the attic. I plugged it in last night, and I guess it needs some cooking (or something) because it's not quite flowing the way it should be. Last night it seemed like the stuff at the bottom was a giant convecting blob at the bottom with no larger blobs reaching up to what looked like a floating brain at the top. Occasionally an oily drop would condense off of the brain. I'm not sure if the solution is too hot or too cold, and the web sites I've read suggest gentle heating and cooling to fix things -- if fixing is indeed possible. Resisting the urge to slowly turn the lamp upside down.

In shoulder news... man, my shoulders hurt. I think I woke up about five time last night because my left arm was in an uncomfortable position. Half of my scapular, trapezoid, and biceps want to stretch and the other half really don't. Which reminds me, I need to do my stretches...

Today will probably be one of the nicer days of Autumn; the rains and very cold weather are in the next days' forecast.

Off to the Corn Maze!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Moon, characters, fall and shoulders

Second PT visit for my shoulder. The good news is that the exercises I've been doing have restored some mobility in my shoulder. The bad news is that I probably haven't been doing them enough. I'm still managing pain with ice -- this morning my arm kind of felt like electrical current was running through it. If the pain becomes too bad, I've got some acupuncturists recommendations.

Autumn is here. In the morning the rising sun burnishes a maple on the other side of the fence. And the acorns are falling out of the oaks. No frost yet, but we've taken in the cherry tomatoes, and just yesterday I found three strawberries ripe for the picking.

This morning, despite not being a morning person, I got up at 4:30 AM PST to watch the L-CROSS crash into the Moon. For some reason I thought I'd be able to see a flash or a dust plume or something. My eyes weren't through cleaning themselves or something because looking up at the sky that early was like looking at a movie with dirty contact lenses. I did see a shooting star in Taurus, though.

In other developments, I've been playing with UFT-8 characters, like ♬ ✈ ❂ ❊. I'm looking forward to being able to write (☉♑ Happy Winter) or (☥ Back from the MET) or include the moon phases: ☽ ◯ ☾ Or it's a Mercury Retrograde Day: ☿ʶ Or start singing old Sound Garden songs: ☀ I wish that Egyptian Hieroglyphs were part of the UTF-8.... but it looks like I'd have to include a character set somehow. But if I'm really clever, I can figure out a way to use ❧ in bullet lists.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Monday, October 05, 2009

Is It Art Yet?

I'm working on a seasonal photo.

I'm not sure how well it's working.

I have three favorites.

But I may re-shoot this if I can use a pipe-cleaner for the body.

Caption Contest

...and stretch.

I suppose that it's a good sign that the part about PT that hurt the most this morning was when I forgot about my arm for a moment and opened the front door as I was arriving. Okay... and discovering what my deductible is. The stretches my therapist did felt kind of nice.

Good news: I have "frozen shoulder" or encapsulitis. No one really knows the cause and it usually goes away. PT and some special stretches will accelerate the healing process. Bad news: my shoulder will probably hurt and have limited mobility for up to a year. Worst case scenario: surgery will be required to convince my shoulder socket tissue to release its death-grip on my humerus bone.

Off for some ice. And my stretch regimen.

In slightly related news: this morning, I dreamed that I was swimming around in a very large pool with a yellow canary on my left shoulder. I forget why I was taking care of a theatre's yellow canary this way -- instead of walking, everyone in the dream was swimming / flying.


Shoulder update. I'll be seeing a physical therapist today. I've filled out about eight pages of questionnaire. I can't help but think of a medical joke my friend Laura once told me, where some explorers were captured and given the choice between "Chi-chi" or death; the last explorer -- after listening to the horrific screams of his fellow explorers who have chosen Chi-chi -- chooses death. The final line is the leader of the captors exclaiming, "He chose death. But first... Chi-chi!" I think the humor has something to do with western medicine's methodology. After reading Jay Lake's posts on PT, I think "Chi-chi!" will be one of the least likely things I'll be saying while my arm is getting manipulated.

In slightly related news, I decided that the shoulder meds I was taking were making me too loopy for the amount of sleep they were supposedly giving me. The first few days they really did help me to sleep mostly through the night, but I must have gotten used to them because I started waking up in the middle of the night. So I've stopped taking them, and I can feel my short-term memory returning. Man, I am so thankful I don't have really chronic pain -- I'd hate to spend decades in a medicated haze.