Sunday, December 9, 2018

Hard Days

There is a lot that I don’t talk about on this blog, as I am very conscious of respecting the privacy of those around me. So I will keep this brief. There was a sudden and tragic death of a young man in my family this week, and we are all reeling from it. I am shocked and saddened and very concerned for those who were closest to him. I’m unable to concentrate well enough to write anything at all today. So I will simply leave you with some poems, and a plea to hold your loved ones close.

Four Bowls
by Kristen McHenry

You buy four bowls and a silver robe the same day the dog gets his teeth pulled. Something about the bowls, the robe, and the missing teeth all go together but you can’t seem to parse it out. “A leaf is a kingdom of fervid veins” is the only thought that sticks. You’ve thought this before but would never say it out loud. A leaf is not a metaphor, a leaf is not a body made of light. You’ve been told by serious people it’s a factual item, specific and concrete. It doesn’t do to always think of things as other things. You are stern with yourself about this, you promise yourself, next time, but then you’re surprised by a blue jay and it’s something about the fleeting nature of genius and breaking with routine, and also, nobility and the urge to paint a tree. Oh, no no, the serious ones shake their heads and waggle their lovely long fingers, fingers that spend all day running up and down crisp lacy lists or columns of numbers, cool marble fingers meant for holding pencils and pointers and ball point pens, but never pens with funny little pom-pom toppers or holograms of nudes, just the purely functional ones, and you are jealous of their ability to see each thing in its precise measurements, and you miss their beautiful waggling fingers when they go off write to another list. You haven’t forgotten about the leaf, and the serious ones would benefit from hearing that a leaf is a long, fine song, an infinity cycle, but in the end you decide for some, such knowledge is upending, for some, it’s best to know a leaf only and exactly as a leaf, a thin, flattened structure borne above ground and designed for photosynthesis.

Teaching Peaches
by Kristen McHenry

I dreamed
I taught a workshop
on how to eat a peach,
despite what little
I know
of peaches, what little I know
of bright and sweet.
Still, I dished them out
fat slices.

You have to go
slow to really know it,
I said with all sincerity.
I ate the pit before they noticed it.
I wanted them
to comprehend
only the lavish, the most
abundant slice.

On Emptiness
by Kristen McHenry

When I stick my hands in there to feel around there’s nothing. Once I sat for emptiness alone, entire months, flailing blindly in the spaces where emptiness had weight. Nothing rolls off of my palms, nothing mocks my efforts. I’m parched and have received bad information. All that time I sat, breathing in, only to know my own low feelings. To kneel there open-handed and say, this is all I have to offer. My palms no longer ferry light.

They say within a void lies all possibilities, but I think there are only two persuasions: Corpulent emptiness, and a nothingness that drifts above our heads, that will not acknowledge us. In second grade we planted seedlings. They came up vivid, lusty shoots. I understood then there was a kind of order, that this was nature’s outcome. It was impersonal and pleasing. Could I now proclaim, I am feeling full, or I must fill up, or, I am fully felt. I flounder with seeds and window boxes. The problem is that emptiness has teeth, and wishes of its own. The emptiness is un-content. It will not do with the least it can survive on. No stones, no feathers, no shells settle in my hands. Only a crusted thing, grown around its nut, seed of all nourishment, jewel of the essential.

Sit and think of nothing. Sit and engage only in the hollowness of breath, its motion in your veins. I tell people all day long because I believe it is important: We breathe in oxygen, we breathe out carbon dioxide, the lungs lunge, the lungs do their job. There is nothing easy in the effortless.

I remain to this day faithless despite everything I knew my heart could do. I stick my hands in there to feel around. I bring up tangled in my fingers a clear and weightless substance that slips off into space.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Game Binge, The Lure of the Sea, Buddy Bar Brawl

Last week, the lethal combination of a Steam sale, a four-day weekend, and a rather hefty account credit led to some bad game choices on my part. Look, it’s not my fault, okay? It’s Steam’s fault. They sent me an e-mail with an entire list of every game on my Steam wish list, all tantalizingly cheap and gazing up at me with their eager, shiny titles. I tried to exercise a modicum of self-control, but one bad choice led to another purchase, then another, and yet another, so that I have now hit rock bottom and am playing a $1.99 game called “Old Man’s Journey,” much to the cackling delight of Mr. Typist, who apparently thinks it’s appropriate to bust his wife’s chops about her game fails.

The first game I downloaded looked fun and spooky. It was about a haunted mine shaft. It turned out to be dull, confusing and repetitive. There was no game map, and I ended up running around in the mine shafts for hours, occasionally startled by a ghostly scream or an unearthly howl. I gave up pretty quickly on that one after looking at the walkthrough and realizing it was going to be far more work than I wanted to do for the pay-off of a middling story and ho-hum graphics. The second one gave me great hope. It centered around a dainty little water creature who, at least for the first wonderful hour or so, drifted serenely around in a beautiful aquatic magic land, full of brightly colored singing flora, glowing sea-creatures, and reassuringly easy puzzles. I was just getting into the rhythm and the story of the game when it took a sudden, violent turn into aggressively twitch-based action. The adorable little sea creature turned into a killer, and the previously serene sea life turned lethal. I went from soothed and entranced to a nervous wreck in less than five minutes. Forget it. The next one I downloaded showed great promise, and I actually got a total of about five hours of play out of it before I hit my frustration tolerance. It was about a female pirate/assassin. She had lots of “special powers” and the story and lore was great, but it turns out that when you’re an infamous assassin, guards don’t want you in their city. I wish that the game developers worked a little less on fancy powers and a little more on making Stealth effective, because it seemed to be completely useless. No matter how much I stealthed, I was accosted and killed over and over again. More stress than it was worth, even with a great story and characters.

So, I am now playing a little artsy indy game called "Old Man’s Journey,” which I haven’t finished yet but am enjoying a lot. It’s about a bearded old man who receives a mysterious letter, then promptly packs a bedroll and a rucksack and embarks on a long journey. Being old and all, he occasionally he sits down on a bench to rest, at which time his face is overcome with an expression of wistfulness, and we are treated to a memory from his past. Apparently, he was a sailor and quite the stone cold fox in his youth, and he managed to convince a very beautiful woman to marry him. They had a daughter together, but alas, several years into their marriage, domestic life had become unbearably stifling for him, and he succumbed to the Lure of Sea, leaving them behind so he could sail around the world and look at whales and such. It was a jerk thing to do to say the least, but I am always sympathetic to those vulnerable to the Lure of the Sea, being so myself. So far, no murder-by-guard, twitch play, or being trapped in a muddy brown mine shaft. I’m calling this one a win!

Speaking of wins, the other night, Buddy got into a brawl with another cat and came crashing up onto the deck to be let inside once he realized he was going to get beaten. I sleepily opened the sliding door for him. Just as he was about to cross the threshold, the cat he had gotten into it with decided to mouth off with what I can only surmise is the cat equivalent of “That’s right! Run, you little bitch!,” and Buddy immediately turned and made a beeline to jump back over the deck and show him what was what. At the same time, the hapless owner of Buddy’s rival stuck her head out the window and shouted, “Miles! Get back inside!” I dove for Buddy, caught his writhing body just before he jumped, and wrestled him to the safety of the living room, much to his outrage. It was like every bar brawl in every movie, where the bystanders finally get the two guys separated and one of them spouts off and then they’re both at it again. I don’t know how Miles feels about the incident, but Buddy was sufficiently humbled enough to willingly stay inside all of last night, meaning I finally got some uninterrupted sleep. Another win!


--Kristen McHenry

P.S. I'd just like to add that it's really unfair when a video game makes you ugly-cry at the end. I'm not naming any names, *cough* Old Man's Journey, but come on. That is so bogus. If this was the middle of the day, I would have had to re-apply mascara, and that would be on you. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Zen of Weaving, Age Dysphoria, Ugly Chair Battle

I have an exciting loom update—my aforementioned loom dyslexia seems to have mysteriously cured itself! I don’t know how or why, I just know that I put the loom away for about a week, and when I picked it up again a few days ago, something just clicked and I got it! Maybe my brain was puzzling it out in my unconsciousness all this time, or maybe I just realized it wasn’t nearly as complicated as I had originally made it, but I can now weave with impunity (at least, I can do one type of weave on this particular loom), and the result is the humble beginnings of a proper scarf (pictured here.) It’s slow going, but I like that. I’m one of those jittery leg-jiggling types who always has to have something to do with my hands, and weaving is very calming and Zen-like. Granted, I have no idea how to remove the weave from the loom properly, or how to finish it or add fringe, but I figure I’ll deal with that when the time comes. For now, I’ve got hours of Zen-like weaving ahead of me, and my friend has a very flawed scarf to look forward to.

I need the Zen because I seem to be suffering from a bit of age dysphoria, and it’s confusing. I feel both old and not-old at the same time. On the one hand, I worry that I’m accelerating into becoming a shawl-wrapped granny at an exponential rate. More and more, I want slowness and peaceful domesticity and quiet. I am increasingly disturbed by loud noises and crowds and traffic. The last time I went to the dentist, I had to resist the urge to ask him if he was twelve. Everyone looks twelve years old to me now. I actually discussed the possibility of covering my slowly creeping gray hairs with my stylist during my last haircut. (His verdict: Don’t do it. Red hair is too difficult to color.) On the other hand, I’ve done lots of things over the last year or so that were new for me, like traveling overseas for the first time and learning to shoot a firearm. I don’t feel my actual age in any way, and I’m quite puzzled by it. It seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with me. I have every sympathy for that Dutch man who was in the news recently because he wanted to change his age so he could have better luck with the ladies and garner more respect. I suspect my age dysphoria wouldn’t be so bad if the media would stop pushing this nonsense that forty is the new twenty and fifty is the new thirty, and showing pictures of sixty-year-olds modeling in bikinis. Whatever happened to the idea of aging gracefully? Bleh. Excuse me while I go wrap up in a shawl and literally tend to my knitting.

Speaking of sitting, there is an ugly chair in our living room, plunked there extraneously from when Mr. Typist got a new chair for his computer room desk. He was supposed to dismantle said ugly chair and take it out the dumpster, but I had a sneaking suspicion that he is emotionally attached to that chair and would be loathe to throw it out. I was right. It’s been there for well over two months now. And Mr. Typist and Buddy the Cat have formed a sneaky, chair-keeping coalition, both trying to emotionally manipulate me into agreeing that the chair can stay. Buddy takes stubbornly long naps on it, and Mr. Typist keeps commenting on how much Buddy loves that chair and how important it is to his cat mental health. I think I lost the ugly chair battle for good yesterday when Mr. Typist put Buddy’s favorite cardboard box on the chair, and Buddy immediately climbed into it and went to sleep. I don’t hate the chair quite enough yet to deprive Buddy of his favorite napping spot, but one of these days, I will snap, and that chair is going to be thrown over the deck by my own, brittle, aging hands. I’ll let you know when that day comes. In the meantime, here’s a little laugh for you: