There's this great quote by Zora Neale Houston. She says, "There are years that are questions, and years that are answers"-
Some years are walks in a darkening wood.
People who don’t know what they want are dangerous. Resentful, unstable.
Shapeshifters, adjusting themselves to whoever they are around.
There’s a type of woman that feels she exists only in the moment that men glance at her. I imagine for these women, aging is hard. To feel your existence diminishing, year by year, until you cease to matter at all. A living death. This has been written about before.
Betrayers- how can these people, these shifters, respect themselves, knowing that they have no spine?
Perhaps they don’t respect themselves. Perhaps this is why they need to check their existence in the eyes of strangers.
That's obvious, I guess. But when one friend betrays another friend, what do you do?
What was at stake was trivial, has already passed. And yet. The true colors were there. I saw them in her eyes.
They say we are most critical of the flaws we wear ourselves. So maybe-
yes, probably. Let’s be honest here, you and I. I am critical of her because I recognize my past in her.
It’s a strange thing to have moved around as much as I have, in recent years. And my past has not followed me.
In Tucson, in Charleston, they did not know the truth about me, if truth is the composite of all we have done-
High school autodidact, moved out when I was- 16? 17? Crazy girl, bad reputation. Fell in love with a boy. Our love-nest in the treetops. Seven years of fierce, wolfish devotion. Devotion that devoured itself- and then, there I was. Suddenly alone, dust settling around me.
I did then what hollowed-out girls have always done (what girl above is doing). I exploded a bunch of other people’s relationships.
Sometimes love is musical chairs.
Musical chairs, for years. One of those relationships held Andrew. I stole him, like taking an egg out of a nest. I broke some other girl's heart. A nice girl, good girl.
Arguably, I guess, I did also steal that first boy, back when we were 17... another nice girl, good girl, much nicer than I was then. Maybe that is how it always goes.
(Maybe no safety in being nice.)
So I should not begrudge this girl, this devourer, for taking what she must, to figure out her borders. Bittersweet thieving. The lonely heart is merciless.
Oh, girl. But I do wish you were the thing I thought you were, anyhow.
Men have always been my cities. It's my failing as an artist The thing which has held me back most. My weakness in love: devotedness.
Our friends look to Andrew and I as a solid place. To our relationship itself as a dot on a map: and yet in human relationships there can be no solid ground.
Knowing this, as I know all too well, what is love? Everything is sand.
A dear friend came to visit us. His buddy wrote a magnificent article about him. I can never do more justice to Pat than that. You should read it here.
A number of wonderful days. Editing. Visiting Vail with family. Snowshoeing, writing, another linocut. Fireplaces. Long cold walks in the city, in the trees. This stuff, in coffee shops.
March 24th, 2014
Blue day today. I submitted some chapters to a contest. Contests an unwise practice, as Pat’s chronicler, Joe Yelverton, advised me with this quote from a manifesto:
"Don't enter awards competitions. Just don't. It's not good for you." -Bruce Mau
If you win, you possess for a while an incorrect idea about your place in things.
If you lose- again an incorrect idea about your place in things. (or is it incorrect?)
Bad all round. I know this. Knew this. Still crushed.
You know the stories about Hemingway papering his bathroom with rejection slips; Frank Herbert, Stephen King: dozens of rejections.
You know this, I know this. But man!
Maybe someday. I've submitted to several things... expecting more blues. Blue months, years.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep working, I guess, because that’s what I do, is what I’m for. Writing is the point of me.
But for the record, today I wondered what the hell I’m doing with my life.
This is what I’ve got on earth, and this is how I spend it-
Making signs on paper?
You ever wonder how many people get married, have kids, sign the contract, simply as a refuge from uncertainty? I've never wanted that. Never dreamt about weddings, suburbs. Haha, but that path does seem so much easier, somehow, doesn't it?
Of course there is no solid ground. Not ever, not really.
And sometimes there are holy days, even ecstasy, in making signs on paper- Exploring mind. Dreaming awake. Hard as it is. Still, I make a living with words, even if not with novels yet- so. Progress, freedom. Even in blue days.
Anyway, I’m incapable of giving in.
I continue to do this thing that I am for. Making signs, in case an echo wanders by. Feeling lost-
Stay your path, friend.
Drizzly Sunday, perfect for open windows, Townes Van Zandt... and linocut prints!
I'm going to make a few illustrations for my novel, so this was a warm up. Also, I wanted to make something neat to wrap a birthday present in, because I fucking hate wrapping paper.
Once you've got your drawing all good to go, tape a piece of tracing paper over it, and draw over the whole thing with a pencil.
Carefully lift up the tape and flip the tracing paper over.
Trace over the reverse side of the tracing paper.
You might want to grab an envelope or something to rest beneath your hands as you work, so not to smudge the lead.
Now tape your tracing paper, reverse side down, onto your lino-block.
Use the butt- end of a soft pencil to firmly rub the lead impressions onto your block.
If they aren't quite coming off, you can always trace over them directly onto the block, or simply start again. Just make sure to place your tracing paper exactly over the lines you've already transferred.
When you've got your block all scooped out, make a few test prints before printing on anything fancy, like tea towels or tank tops.
Squirt your ink out onto a smooth surface, and run your roller (brayer) back and forth in the ink until it makes a crackly sound, like frying bacon.
Now roll directly onto your block. Ink generously, but no need to press too hard; you don't want to fill in the blank parts!
Carefully position your paper on top of the block and smooth it down. I use my hands initially, and then a rolling pin. I also like kneeling on top of chairs to get enough leverage! ah, next time I'll do a better job documenting this process. Maybe.
There's this awesome moment of resistance when you lift up your print. From the paint sticking the two surfaces together? Love that.
Sketch pad & soft pencil.
Tracing paper, tape.
Lino-block. I like the soft carve stuff.
Ink roller, AKA brayer.
Linoleum ink. They have tons of kinds. Make sure to get fabric specific ink if you want to print on fabric. duh.
A smooth place to roll your ink out.
Lastly, some place clever to let your prints rest in peace for 1-5 days (depending on the ink.) Your cats will find this stuff, so it's a good idea to get them up out of the way if you can.
Andrew and I in the briefing room of the USS Yorktown, where outbound pilots received their missions... photo taken by our lovely friend Stu on his visit to Charleston :)
"At birth we set sail with sealed orders."
-Soren Kierkegaard (arguably)
And with that, I best be about mine, as I'm faintly certain my orders have nothing to do with whoopsy-daisying around on the internet.
I've been reading Carving Nature at Its Joints: Natural Kinds in Metaphysics and Science, which mentions The Celestial Emporium of Benelovent Knowledge, Borges' delicious classification of animals:
Borges' essay famously "shattered... all the familiar landmarks of... thought" for Foucault. You come across it fairly often reading the sort of mystico-philosophizing silliness I've long relished- but this reading inspired me to get cracking on my synopsis...
I decided to divide it up by characters in an invisible homage to Borges.
An earlier version was more dictionary-like, but I chickened out, thinking that might be a little risky. I'm using this synopsis for submissions and my story is already a bit... let's call it rowdy. I'm probably going to have a horrible time placing it.
Anyway! the synopsis...
Evening’s Land: Book One
1. ADA WALKER: Conjurer, Autodidact. Seventeen years old, her mind becomes a conduit into the Evening’s Land, which encompasses death and dreams.
2. CHRISTOPHER ADGER: Ghost, Bon Vivant. Christopher hung himself in order to escape the cult that murdered his father and has taken refuge from death in dreams. He comes to Ada’s defense when demons begin trying to leach through her into the waking world. Ada’s repeated conjuring makes him strong, and Christopher lusts to experience physicality once more.
3. OLIVER ROAMERY: Occultist, Enthraller. The leader of Charleston’s powerful blood cult becomes aware of Ada’s magical strengths. Roamery begins seducing MARY, Ada’s wayward mother, in order to get close to her daughter.
4. JUPITER SNOWE: Ada’s friend, a Telepath, Descended of a Ghost. When Jupiter visits Ada at home, things go awry: Ada has underestimated the hungers of Christopher. He inhabits Jupiter’s body, taking the girl’s consciousness hostage. Pretending to be Jupiter, Christopher seduces Ada, thrilling to the pleasures of flesh. But Christopher’s bodysnatch sets off alarms in those who monitor the Evening’s Land, and Roamery sends emissaries to Ada’s house. She escapes after a brawl while Christopher, still wearing the body of Jupiter Snowe, is taken hostage himself and brought to trial before Roamery.
5. TOBIAS WALKER: Ada’s whimsical but elderly father. Genius, Innocent, Cuckold. His wife missing, Tobias falls ill. Ada rushes out of hiding to visit him in the hospital and is kidnapped by Roamery’s men. Roamery, whose ambition is to become a god, commands Ada deliver him to hell via the conduit of her mind.
6. Ada and Roamery descend into the depths of the Land, where we learn Ada was conceived in dreams by HECATE, Lordess of Hell. Hecate invites Ada to rule with her in the lower kingdom. Ada declines. Roamery’s body is vacant during this conference and Christopher uses the opportunity to jump from Jupiter into Roamery, trapping Roamery’s consciousness within Ada’s own. Hecate tells Ada that Roamery is her responsibility now. But Roamery, unwilling tenant, is the equivalent of a personified mental illness. Will Ada be able to control him?
6. Christopher, now wearing Roamery’s skin, is the seeming leader of the blood cult that murdered his father. Jupiter, freed of him, swears vengeance on all phenomena. Meanwhile Ada must nurse her father back to health… but how long can the earthly daughter of Hecate stay away from the Evening’s Land?
In other news, after binging BBC's Sherlock, I picked up the collected Sherlock Holmes stories. They're wonderful, especially before bed.
Pauline West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
Pauline West's books on Goodreads
Candlemoth: A Holy City Romance
ratings: 27 (avg rating 4.04)
ratings: 24 (avg rating 3.46)
Candlemoth Volume 2: How To Spend It
ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.40)
Candlemoth Book 3: A Twist of Fate
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.17)
Stalker: A Gothic Thriller
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.25)