Sunday, January 10, 2021

Adventures in Basket Weaving, Parrot Mafia, Gym Ambition

I got some basket-weaving kits for Christmas and only just this weekend had the energy to break one of them open and have a go at it. Only there hasn’t been any “go” so far other than spreading the components over the living room floor and squinting in confusion at the enormously complex and detailed instructions. There’s also a grid-like chart that purports to show you when to switch from the beige raffia to the black raffia, but that just makes it all the more incomprehensible. I cannot for the life of me figure how following these directions is going to result in the end product of a cool-looking turtle-pattern basket. I do know that I will never again deride basket-weaving with that old joke about people majoring in it. It turns out it’s really hard, and if any of my readers did major in it, I salute you. The instructions reassuringly tell me that “starting the basket is the hardest part”, so maybe there is hope yet, once I can figure what the heck I’m supposed to do. Ironically, included in the instruction packet is a missive about the spiritual lessons turtles teach us, including patience and persistence. I’m going to need both, otherwise I can see exactly where this is headed--towards me sobbing with frustration and covered head-to-toe in blood-stained raffia.

The Stardew Valley developers recently did a big update that everyone was all excited about, and I was too at first, but it’s starting to drive me crazy now. They added a tropical island to the map called “Ginger Island”, which seems to be run by some sort of parrot mafia. The parrots control all access to the most desirable areas of the island and their preferred currency is Golden Walnuts. Want to cross that bridge to get to the mine? BRAAWWWK!! Five Golden Walnuts. Want to get into the mushroom cave? BRAAWWWK!! Ten Golden Walnuts. You get the picture. I’ve had it up to here with trying to find these stupid Golden Walnuts in the deep bushes and jungle, but I’m not going to get anywhere on the island without them. Additionally, they added a Beach Farm, which does not allow you to use sprinklers, which means that trying to make any money off of crops is going to be nearly impossible. I decided to just go with the flow and created a hippie ‘toon for my beach farm. She has no ambition whatsoever. She’ll be my chill, anti-capitalist character that I’ll play when I just want to zone out and fish on the beach. Overall, the update was a good effort with mixed results. Good on them for trying to freshen up the game a bit.

Speaking of ambition, my gym re-opened right around the time I started to recover from my vacation-induced illness, so I’ve been easing back into it again, but I can tell I’ve lost some of my previous oomph. It took a toll on me to have the gym yanked out from under my nose again just when I was starting to get back to where I was, and now I don’t fully trust it will continue to be there once I get back to being able to do a hundred pounds on the leg press again. (I was this close to getting to one hundred and ten pounds, and now I’m stuck at around seventy-five and trying to build back up.) I told my trainer I wanted to back off a little bit on the heavy weight training. I realized while I was ill that I had been doing more than my body could handle. I’m no athlete, I’m not entering any competitions, I just loved the feeling of being strong and physically competent for the first time in my life, and perhaps I got a little carried away. So I’m backing off a bit. At our next session, we’re going to do body weight exercises, and I’ve asked her to show me how to do a proper push-up. Back to the basics.

In keeping with the theme of chillness, here is video of one of the very sweetest moments in Stardew Valley—the Dance of the Moonlight Jellies, that takes place on the eve of the last day of Summer. It’s such a sweet, simple, yet captivating event. I think we could all use one of the moments right now. Enjoy!


--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Lessons I Learned from 2020

I got horribly sick again shortly after getting last week’s post up, and have now spent the vast majority of my vacation unable to move from the couch and needing long naps after even minor exertion. As such, I have had a lot of time to think, reflect, and come to some realizations. In keeping with the journalistic tradition of end-of-the-year lists, here’s a listsicle of hard-earned lessons I’ve learned in 2020, in no particular order:

As I was lying on the couch angsting about not being able to weight-lift or work out, I came across a post from a Facebook friend who is avid runner and recently injured her knee. She doesn’t know when she will be able to run again, but she is making the best of it by doing mindful walking and using this as an opportunity to heal her “adversarial relationship” with her body. Her post brought me to tears of sorrow. I realized that my relationship with my body has been adversarial too, and while I was fooling myself into thinking this was a form of strength, it is not. It has served only to deplete me. There is a difference between pushing yourself and pushing against yourself.

90 percent of my speech is not about expressing my truth but about soothing the feelings of other people. It does no favors to others to hide our truth from them. It is not up to us to protect others from our truth in order to create false harmony. The price is too high, and I’m not doing it anymore. I’m okay with losing friends now.

We must learn to become chaos-competent. When the pandemic ends, there will still be chaos and unknowns in the world and in our lives. Being able to stand grounded within it is what matters.

Healthcare innovation tends to move at a turtle’s pace, but this year has shown us that we can in fact mobilize at lightning speed when it’s demanded. Telehealth and research goals that were slated for years in the future were reached in a matter of weeks. There is no reason why healthcare needs to lag behind other industries.

The smallest expressions of appreciation have meant everything to people during this time. People are starving for it. A hand-written card, a little gift, a simple thank you, have been received like gold.

I am grateful to those who have taken the time to ask after me when my stress was at its peak it and was clear that something was off, as much as I tried to hide it. I have been surprised at the number of people who care about me. This surprise is something that bears deeper scrutiny.

Humans can become deeply selfish when in fear, but we also have an innate desire to serve. I was amazed at the number of people who e-mailed me wanting to volunteer during the height of the pandemic. And there were so many donated meals being delivered to our hospital that it became a logistical issue.

For a while, every night at 8:00 p.m., there was a minute of shouting, pot-banging and whooping in thanks to the health care workers. I dreaded this every night, because it filled me with guilt that I was not doing direct patient care and didn’t “deserve” it. Now I would feel okay about it. My role counts, too, and so does everyone else’s.

And finally, humans are gonna human. Within the walls of my institution, I have seen the full spectrum of human behavior play out, from the atrocious, unhinged and self-centered to the profoundly selfless and heroic. There’s nothing I can do about the former except hold myself to my own standards and not take bad behavior personally.

For whatever it’s worth, those are my insights after being forced to lie on the couch for almost a week and half, stuck with my own thoughts and staving off PTSD-like flashbacks from the Year of COVID.

Happy 2021!

 --Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Body Gone Haywire, Mug Madness, Imaginary CEO

After only a few days of vacation, I collapsed into a helpless heap of myalgiac pain and exhaustion and was functionally unable to move from the couch for two days straight. I e-mailed my trainer with a TMI list of my symptoms and told her that I had to put off any further online workouts for a while. She e-mailed me back, musing that perhaps I was “detoxing” from stress. I think she is right. There was no discernible illness going on, just extreme exhaustion, muscle pain, and a total lack of appetite (which thankfully has now resolved, and I was able to to eat a big breakfast today.) I felt 90 percent better this morning, but I still have some residual fatigue and muscle soreness. When I got my afore-mentioned massage, the therapist kept mentioning “adhesion”, which I definitely felt. All of my muscles and interstitial tissues were gluey and sticky and sore. One massage was not going to resolve a year and half’s worth of extreme stress and weightlifting. As much as I want to keep going and trying to make progress with the home workouts while the gym is closed, it’s clear that I need an extensive break from heavy lifting, as well as just plain rest. It has not been easy to wind down and I think my body just went haywire trying to cope with coming off of a prolonged diet of stress hormones, sleep deprivation and lactic acid build-up.

I was in a bit of a hurry last week to mail a package, drop off a return, and pick up a suitable birthday present for Mr. Typist, and on my quest I went to Bartell’s and grabbed some of those “genius” puzzles in the games section and then at the last minute decided to get him a big mug, because he likes his tea in a big mug. I found a big mug in the tourist-junk section, and I swear to God that I thought the mug graphic said “Pike Place Market” and I bought it thinking that it was a nice homage to his hometown. But when he actually unwrapped it, he looked at it with befuddlement and pointed out that it actually spelled out “Seattle Market Center,” only in the similar logo and red lettering as the famous “Public Market Center” sign that lights up Pike Street. To our great hilarity, upon further examination of said mug, we discovered a teal-colored salmon with a very put-upon expression, the Seattle-obligatory cup of steaming coffee, a plethora of roses, and quite puzzlingly, three heads of garlic. Additionally, it pictured a giant clock similar to the one at the Pike Place Market, but weirdly distorted and with both hands equally as long so we couldn’t tell what time it was actually set on. It was as though it was designed by someone who was briefly shown a flashcard photo of the Pike Place Market and then asked to do sketch of it from memory with their non-dominant hand. And whoever this person was somehow vaguely associates Seattle with garlic and roses, which is not a thing. It’s also a very lumpy mug, so whoever cast it could not be bothered to finish the job properly. Basically, it’s the most half-assed mug on the planet, and Mr. Typist absolutely loves it.

Because I’m crazy and there has been yet another Steam sale, I decided that a great thing to do on my vacation from the hospital would be to download a game about operating a hospital. So far, I have hired a front desk receptionist and general practitioner who hasn’t done much but wander around aimlessly. I think he needs a proper office, which I will build for him, but then he needs to start making me some money. I have expensive imaging equipment to buy and a fancy golf club membership to secure. So much for vacation!

 --Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Vacation All I Ever Wanted, I’m Worried about Katie and Peter

It’s official! I am On Vacation, my chickadees, and not a minute too soon after the hellacious work year I’ve had. Due to my prevaricating, it almost didn’t happen. I had vague plans to “take some time off around Christmas”, but with everything going on and being the sole person overseeing our screening checkpoints, planning for my departure felt completely overwhelming so I kept putting it off. My boss casually said to me last week, “You’re out of here after Friday, right?” to which I responded with a panicked, deer-in-the-headlights stare and stammered that I hadn’t done any planning for taking time away and that I “couldn’t just leave.” She wasn’t having any of my baloney. She found some people to take over the checkpoint duties and I spent the afternoon in a whirlwind of Out of Office messages, door signage, e-mail wrapping-up and preemptive plant-watering. Then I locked my office door and left the building, triumphant and exhausted. I’m not going back until January. It’s been almost two years since I’ve taken any significant time off, and I had no idea how tired I’ve become. I would love to say that I learned and grew from my experiences and blah, blah, blah but I think mostly what I did was just survive and develop a stress-related disorder as a fun bonus. I need this time. I can feel my whole body needing it, not to mention my brain and my soul.

This morning Mr. Typist said to me, “You are booked for a massage in one hour. Get there early.” I actually teared up. I needed that massage too, and I wouldn’t have scheduled it for myself. A tall, tatted-up lady worked my neck and back and hips and feet and I was almost too limp to walk home. I haven’t felt this much space between my neck and my shoulders in years. I can barely type right now. The bottom line is, vacation and massages need to happen in my life with far more frequency.

After eleven years, I finally upgraded to a new Kindle tablet, and I’ve been using it properly to continue making my way through The Fountainhead. Right now, I’m worried about Katie and Peter. They love each other and want to get married, but Peter’s mother is interfering in the most insidious way possible, telling Peter that Katie is not good enough for him and that she won’t impress the other architects and she will be bad for his career. I do not like Peter’s mother. She is overly-invested in her son and has an exaggerated sense of his talent. Peter is nothing special; he’s just a follower with a good education and some moderate skill. She should leave him alone and let him marry Katie and be happy, but she insists on meddling. I do not like meddlers. In the meantime, Roarke keeps turning architecture projects down. At this rate, he’s going to end up homeless. I’ll keep you posted.

It’s a little on the nose, but enjoy this 80’s flashback with Belinda Carlyle. I need to go take a post-massage nap.



--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Game Ghastly, Artistic Cheer, Architect Update

I wrote a few weeks ago in my Gloom Train post that I was taking grim pleasure in playing stoic outcast Geralt in The Witcher 3. I fired the game up again this weekend and started playing through the story of the Bloody Baron, who is a morally complicated man to say the least. Part of the story involves a monster that is so horrible, so terrifying and revolting, that I don’t even want to name it here in fear that you will look it up and have nightmares. Just reading the Wiki about it was horrifying enough, but the “real” creature in game was...well let’s just say I will never forget it. And I have slain giant rabid bears in Tomb Raider. I do not know what sort of demented human beings they hired for game design, but I think they were recruited directly from Satan’s HR department. I wouldn’t even tell Mr. Typist the truth about it when I threw my headphones off in revulsion and declared I was terror-quitting. He is playing The Witcher also, but he’s fairly far behind me. He’ll find out soon enough and may God protect him.

I never go anywhere anymore except work and the local grocery store. I tried to go to Joanne's about a month ago for red yarn, which is somehow missing from my expansive yarn repertoire, but there was a line outside because of people-in-the-store limits and I was not willing to wait outside in the bitter cold. I know we’re in a pandemic but I resented my freedom of movement being restricted in such a way and I decided that going to Joanne’s would just not be a part of my life anymore. However, I needed something this weekend to complete a craft project that I am determined to finish by Christmas (it’s a gift), so I emotionally steeled myself to go wait in line outside. It required patience, something I have less and less of these days. But the wait was tolerable, and eventually I got in. I was surprised at this simple visit’s mood-boosting properties. Just walking around the aisles looking at all of the materials and imagining the projects I could do and the cool things I could make cheered me up quite a bit. Since the pandemic, I’ve been very disconnected from my creativity. Everything has narrowed down to a tunnel-vision focus on survival and coping, and there has been no room for “extras.” Although I don’t actually consider engaging with one’s creativity an extra, the hard reality is that in time like these, it’s a mental and emotional luxury. At any rate, the visit was strangely relaxing. It smelled sweet and there was lots of pretty colored glass that I have future plans for. (FYI, the piece pictured here is not my project. I can only dream of that level of talent.)

I dove back into The Fountainhead this week after some time away. It continues to take my breath away. It’s very slow-going because I have to stop frequently, put it down, and process what I read. Sometimes I also have to grab my notebook and jot down thoughts and feelings because my system gets overwhelmed and flooded with emotion. And sometimes I just have to put it down to let the beauty of a passage resonate within me. It’s an experience that I haven’t had reading a novel in as long as I can remember. Over the last few years, reading has become simply recreational amusement for me. But The Fountainhead is forcing me to engage with all of my senses, and is far more of a commitment than an amusement. But it’s a commitment I’m willing to make, especially if the payoffs continue. I go back and forth on Rourke, but this week at least, I find myself admiring his spirit of rebellion and refusal to bow to down to anyone’s artistic authority. The other architects are architecting. I’ll keep you posted.

In the spirit of reclaiming our creativity, here is fun montage of some gorgeous and innovative embroidery projects. Enjoy and be inspired!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Ridin’ the Rails, Cyberpunk Master, Bikini Savages

Thank you to everyone who not only tolerated but embraced my Gloom Train post of last week. I’m still riding the rails, but I’m managing to continue on anyway. I’m still going to work and brushing my teeth regularly and slogging along with the infernal home workouts. I even managed to do a 5:00 a.m. session last week. 5:00 a.m. people. The sense of virtuousness that clung to me like sweet cologne for most of the day made it almost worth it. Almost. I don’t think I’ll be doing those very often. 5:00 a.m. is not “my” time and by 8:00 p.m. that night, I was practically comatose. But I would like it to be added to the official record, that I--notoriously Not A Morning Person--did a complete, one-hour 5:00 a.m. strength training workout. On a weekday. Please mail my halo to my home address.

I’m also still managing to distract myself somewhat with video games. After hitting multiple pinnacles of achievement in Stardew Valley by getting the town movie theater up and running (no small feat), breeding a baby dinosaur, and obtaining a Junimo hut from the town wizard, I grew restless and went back to refurbishing homes in House Flipper. I was thrilled to find that since I had been away, they updated the game and now have “cyberpunk” content. And the most astonishing content it is, my chickadees. It comes with multiple vintage pinball machines, a 3-D globe, high-tech hacking equipment, and a neon coffee-maker. And they even added a Japanese Hacker’s Loft wherein you can play with all of their new stuff. I was completely enraptured and spent all of yesterday morning re-doing the Hacker’s Loft to my great satisfaction and to Mr. Typist’s grudging approval. Then I bought the most expensive house in the game—the House on the Moon—and re-did that one with the cyberpunk stuff, too. Personally, I think I did both marvelously. Sometimes I mourn my missed calling as an interior designer, but then I think about all of the conversations I would have had to have with yuppies about granite counter-tops, and I realize I’m okay with that. (And also I realize that the term “yuppie” is not a thing anymore, but I’m using it anyway because I’m a rebel.) At least in House Flipper, no one talks to you.

One of the other things I am doing to calm myself and relax during all of this insanity is to watch videos of bikini physique competitions. I am adding a caveat here that I do not recommend that anyone who is prone to body or eating issues watch those types of videos. I probably shouldn’t be watching them. But they fascinate me and somehow I must. I don’t really understand how it works, but there seems to be one competition category for fitness and one for figure. I can’t discern the difference between the two, but both involve very muscular, spray-tanned women posing in tiny glued-on bikinis. This is something that I always found incredibly silly and ridiculous until I actually started strength training and realized what it takes to build muscle as a female. For some reason, watching these insanely fit women show off their sculpted muscles calms me and makes me feel strangely happy. I think embarking on this sort of endeavor is completely nuts and an invitation to an eating disorder and I don’t think it’s advisable for the vast majority of people. But damn, those women are savages who work like crazy, and I admire that. And it also helps me to see what a defined muscle looks like, especially in the back. I am still shooting for getting a pull-up, a goal that seems far, far away, and seeing real definition in the lats, traps and rhomboids helps me visualize it. I know what it takes to get those muscles to pop out. There are competition categories for women in their 50’s, and it has crossed my mind. I’m pretty sure I could deal with the semi-starvation and I know I could handle the workouts, but the required stripper heels and spray tan would likely do me in. Not to mention that I can’t cope with the thought of gluing a rhinestone bikini onto my body, so I’m out.

I ignored the absolutely absurd, eye-rolling narration of this video and just focused on watching the workouts, which I find incredibly inspiring, even though I am nowhere near close to the fitness or strength of any of these women. A 55-pound overhead press? Not happening anytime soon with this ectomorphic blogger. I can barely get twelve and not without crying.



--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Gloom Train

A long time ago, I was at a museum somewhere, possibly in Canada, but I can’t remember now. What I do remember, and what I have never forgotten, is a large, stark black-and-white photograph of a Native American shaman taken some time in the early 1930’s. I gazed at that photo for a long time. His face was dark, deeply lined and haunted. His soul was in his eyes, and I knew instinctively that he saw what was coming for his people with a stark clarity and helplessness. I’ve been thinking about that photo a lot lately, feeling the feeling that we are collectively on a course that leads nowhere good, that we are careening towards our fate on a galloping horse that I cannot slow down or stop. I am haunted by it, waking up nights for long periods of time, unable to distract myself effectively with exercise or games anymore. As much as work has been driving me crazy lately, at least it keeps the thought-demons at bay. I find myself reaching out in the dead of night for prophets on Youtube, for wisdom, for the bearers of history and light. I find myself fighting thoughts about it being too late now. I find myself inordinately worried about huge, unmanageable, world-shaking events that I have no control over whatsoever. I wonder if the center will hold this time. I struggle with despair.

The reason that I remain so stubbornly dedicated to my job, my community, my little neighborhood hospital, is that I’ve always known in the back of my mind that I have no control over anything else. My life was not meant to be big. I, like many before me who have served that hospital, was meant to be a small but meaningful light in a small but meaningful space, a space that for all its flaws and daunting issues is a place of healing and rescue, of renewal and restoration. And we are about to be very, very full of people needing all of those things. And I will do my part. I cannot control the virus or the fate of the economy or the political machinations going on with of either of those things. I can’t help the enslaved, the tortured, the starving, the victims of bombings and unjust wars across the world. I can’t rescue anyone but myself. I have to protect myself, take care of myself, and stand strong. It will not do for me to fall apart, to, as the song puts it, “be idle with despair.” I can only take solace in the fact that I am needed and that I have a community to serve.

To not end this on a total bummer: In spite of the fact that games are not adequately distracting me anymore, Steam had a huge sale this weekend and I downloaded the Witcher 3. None of the other Witcher games ever worked right on my computer, but I have a good video card now and this one works great. I am taking great solace in the fact that Geralt, the titular character, is a freak. Being a witcher is very stigmatized and he is essentially a lonely wanderer. Everyone wants his “special skills” and help, but no one really wants to associate with him other than transactionally. I’m enjoying playing a character in perpetual pain. It’s weirdly comforting right now.

I thought this video would be a fitting end to this post. Enjoy, and remember to breathe. I’m trying to. 

--Kristen McHenry 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Future Karen, Cohesive Horror, Marriage Update

I have declared myself Boss of Grocery Stores Elect and now pronounce that unless absolutely necessary, couples may no longer shop together. Restrictions have been put in place and yet there remain scofflaws aplenty who swan into the store as a couple, sharing one tiny basket between them and lingering over the oranges. Grocery shopping is not a recreational activity, folks. It’s business. You get in and you get out. You don’t bring your girlfriend and five of your closest cousins to pick up a loaf of bread and some Twizzlers. You don’t wander the aisles in a slow daze touching everything like a ballerina with Alzheimer’s. You make a list, you follow an orderly trajectory through the store at a brisk clip and for God’s sake, you get your bagging game together before you check out. I don’t want my radishes getting all mixed up with your diet ice cream at the check stand because you can’t quickly and competently put your items into a bag. Yes, I fully realize that these demands are coming from a projection of my anxiety around The Surge, but there have been a lot of dire meetings at the hospital of late and I’m getting very nervous. Also, they closed my gym again so I can no longer work off my excess adrenaline in the squat rack. So please everyone, just follow my simple grocery store prescriptions so I don’t end up on the wrong end of a viral YouTube video as the latest ranting Karen.

Last weekend during my aforementioned Day in Pajamas, I downloaded a horror game called “Maid of Sker.” It’s about a haunted isle in Ireland, so what more could I want? Unlike most horror games, Maid of Sker actually has a lucid plot and a well-organized storyline that makes sense and follows a logical trajectory. I love horror games, but I end up disappointed with most of them because after about forty-five minutes in, they all seem to give up on any pretense of a cohesive storyline and just devolve into gory chaos. Maid of Sker has a beautifully written plot, it follows a logical trajectory, and it’s bloody terrifying. Mr. Typist is getting PTSD by proxy from my screams thanks to its fiendishly-placed jump scares. And it has a very interesting theme based around music. My latest quest is to “Retreat to the Hotel.” You don’t have to tell me twice after what I just saw in the woods. (Shudder.)

Speaking of games, I realize now that I never fully updated you on my marriage to Elliot in Stardew Valley. I expected him to take me to Hell and back, and it’s been a bit of a disappointment. He mostly just sits in the garden and reads, and despite his vanity and abject laziness, he has turned out to be a kind, mild-mannered husband who occasionally says poetic if slightly puzzling things: “You smell sweet, my dear. Like a honeycomb drifting on a pool of spice tea.” After the hissy-fit Mr. Typist threw over my previous ‘toon’s marriage to Harvey, whose name he still refuses to utter, he has been remarkably quiet about Elliot—until recently when he sat down at my computer to do something and ranted out of nowhere, “Who is this idiot? Well I’m not surprised. You’ve married every other half-wit in the game, why not him?” (To be fair, every marriage candidate in Stardew Valley is a half-wit, both male and female. Something is “off” with those townsfolk.) Don’t tell Mr. Typist, but I think the next candidate on my list is going to be Sebastian. He is a confused, angry young man in need of rescuing, and I believe I’m just the one to carry out that operation.

For a nice, dark, mid-wintery horror treat, enjoy this beautiful Welsh lullaby accompanied by the trailer for Maid of Sker.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Pajama Day, Judgey Bird, Dogs in the White House

Yesterday, with the full encouragement of Mr. Typist, I initiated a “Stay in My Pajamas All Day” campaign. It worked out pretty well, meaning that I managed to actually do it. I parked my butt in my chair, I didn't go to the gym or take a shower, and I only looked at work e-mail once (a big mistake which led to ten minutes of swearing and empty railing against “the system.) I did pretty much nothing other than drink an entire pot of coffee and order a series of video games from Steam that I immediately gave up on the moment they became difficult or mildly confusing. I also got overly-involved in the fate of Tuca, a lost-and-found bird featured on Facebook who was denoted as a “super-judgey” snow-white parrot or macaw or some sort--I’m not good with bird types—who by all accounts is very rude and openly mocked the staff of the Kitsap Humane Society. I loved him immediately and on sight. The minute I saw the post about him, I wanted that bird so badly. I didn’t realize all of this time that what has been missing from my life is a judgey, sarcastic bird. Mr. Typist and I no longer have cats to judge us and find us lacking, so there has been this huge vacuum in our lives, and also, I am very drawn to albino animals. I consider them to be sacred, even the sarcastic ones. Especially the sarcastic ones. I really hope Tuca finds his people again, but if somehow he doesn’t, I am totally up for adopting him. He has thrown my birdological clock into full-on tick mode.

With a potential Biden presidency, there has been much excited talk about dogs returning to the White House The absolute last thing I care about is a presidential dog. A presidential dog does not interest me in the least. While I don’t understand them, I respect non-dog people for realizing that they are not dog people and not obtaining dogs. It’s also not lost on me that no one is ever excited about the prospect of a presidential cat. For some reason, cats are always under suspicion as being vaguely un-American. They do not care about your agenda and they don’t put up with your crap. With cats, the onus is on you to be curious, to reach out, to offer respect, to be patient. Cats don’t need humans in the same way as dogs do, and humans take deep offense to this. But earning the respect of cats yields great rewards. And cats are the purview of writers (who are also under constant suspicion of being vaguely un-American) perhaps because they are calm, they respect silence, naps, and boundaries, and they always have other options besides you. Presidents are mandated to have dogs. Everyone understands loyalty and happy tail-wagging. Cats make you work for it, and that does not provide the instant emotional crack that a dog does.

I guess I’m just going to talk about animals for this entire post. One of the afore-mentioned games I gave up on heavily featured a fox, which makes two games now I have given up on involving foxes. Apparently I am a sucker for foxes. You shove a fox in my face, and I’ll buy your damn game. I really wanted to make this last fox game work out. It was quite lovely and touching for about an hour, before I got completely lost and confused by the “fuzzy logic” of the runes and the lights and the arctic flowers and the lit stones and the damn wind chimes and I couldn’t take it anymore. There is a time and place for uncertainty and “intuitive knowing” and now is not it. Their shiny spiritual fox and arctic landscape are delightful, but I can’t do any more brain work. I am mentally in the market for a certain, linear path.

Because why not, here is a full hour of birds in a forest. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Star

The Star

All stars are by their nature merciful.

As a child, I dreamt you lived in the tender

Day-glow constellations, even when their light

had long since dimmed with time.

I always did love everything that shines:

The gaudiest poisons. The last light of the milk-glazed moon.

Night is in cahoots with the perilous moon.

But you, my maiden, are precise and merciful,

A beacon on the water where the white loon shines.

I’ve had to come to certain terms, make a tender

Peace with the wreckage of time.

So swing high your lantern with its buoyant light.

If there’s one thing I love it’s the promise of light:

The brilliant sheen of a fattened moon,

And your celestial chant in measured time.

Gleam on, beloved merciful.

The darkness seeps in with a tender

Ease, but only your song shines.

In my desolation, the black asp shines.

Cure my midnight with your avid light.

I’ve lived too long in this tender

dream, with only the guidance of the trickster moon.

Bestow your luminescence, my merciful

On all those who dream in measured time.

And what if your light won’t reach me in time?

You know what they say about all that shines

Oh, starry mother, be merciful

All I know is a dearth of light

And the lunatic whispers of the dire moon.

I walk the path of the tender

Fool, not knowing wisdom from this tender

Hope. I pray for discernment to arrive in time.

Love me best, barks the swindler moon.

But Sister of Stars, only your voice shines.

I’ve spent whole nights in the arc of your light,

Orchestral, sleek and merciful.

Witness the waning of the slothful moon. Shine

On me with your tender charm. In time

I’ll know that your light is merciful.


--Kristen McHenry