Book Review: “It was only on Stun!”

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I spent 15 years in fandom, up close and personal.  I’d say I worked on cons, but the truth is I was mostly a tourist who pitched in with the running of a con or two. Most people I knew worked far harder than me to make it a reality.  I met some awesome people, including Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Br. Guy, ESR, and Lois McMaster Bujold. This does not count all the wonderful fen who made those cons a reality.

This book was a fine bit of nostalgia for me.  This book was like being immersed in the chaotic world of a new con attendee for the first time. You may not understand half the references, but you don’t care because the ones you do reference are good enough to follow through the maze into the heart of the thing.  My first reaction about half way through the first act was, “Declan never told me he worked Con-Com!” Either that, or he was regaled with well annotated stories over the course of years.

I admit, the con scene thing has been done before.  But most people either give you an incoherent wall of sound for a background, or sketch through it so quickly it barely has time to be a bad stereotype.  This plot surges through a roiling complex venue, and no faction of fandom is left unscathed.   Rest assured, filkers get off easy– this time.  But anybody who is a fan of the vampire subculture must bring a healthy sense of humor to the party.  IF not, you should just toss the book aside right now.  Fandom is acted upon, and fandom reacts. It is not a static backdrop to be marveled at but a living entity.  And it shows.

25_WSSM_cartridge_comparison_AR-15

In order to have all this going on at once, it is a fairly complex plot with many things and layers going on at once. It helps that he has many vivid characters that stand out–yes,  even from each other.  you’d be perfectly willing to follow most of them down a rabbit hole– with appropriate body armor, of course.

There is a lot of action– and violence.  Granted, you are seeing it all through the eyes of one of those sheepdogs who is not quite sane.  He is a fascinating study of a “good guy sociopath”. This would be off putting for some. You get the sense he enjoys his job a bit too much. For fans of his other work, seeing the “Sean and Inna, the early years” is entertaining in itself.

Though totally packed with goings on, it also is densely packed with a collage of geekery. There is something for any fandom, pretty much– with an emphasis on media fandom.  LOTR is heavily represented.  You could say Tolkien has a whole character to himself.

There is one guy on Amazon who asks where the action is. Clearly he didn’t read the book. Because it doesn’t take long to find it, and it is pretty much constant throughout and accelerates as it gallops to a finish.

Seriously, this guy has to break into TV. I want to see his work on screen.

US_M18a1_claymore_mine

 

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The Broken Artist

By tiegeltuf from Bexbach, Saarland (daneben) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Classically, artists are a mess. Starving outcasts who could not do anything practical, fell in love for the wrong reasons, or just plain bombed at making a life for themselves.  There is a temptation to romanticise this existence, since artists have to live with themselves and subsist on the fuel of their dreams anyway.

The reaction of the practical workaday man is to snort and tell him to get a real job.  But there is a problem.  We NEED art. It’s not just a want, it is one of the things that make civilization meaningful, let alone worthwhile.  The conservatives have belatedly discovered this as the culture slipped between their fingers. As a result, we have stumbled into a self-indulgent orgy of ugliness and loathing.

The values we hold dear say nothing if there is no way to enjoy them.

The problem is more complex than a lack of artists. What you want more of, you must incentivize. The Left learned this a long time ago and has a nice gravy train set up for their artists.   What Conservatives need to do is create opportunities for artists, attract them to their banners.  What I see is not a lack of talent, but a lack of opportunity.

 

By United Artists [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Transitioning to a Capitalist paradigm seems to be the worst decision for aesthetics humanity has ever made. We need to come up with a fine way to make the arts a viable occupation, so the artist may still be broken but also self sustaining.  Relying on governments has led to a wretched crash in quality and art being art.  Art inspires one to the Good. Broken people, from their perilous position, have a perspective that grabs the common man, and has throughout time.   But as long as we ignore the arts, the timeless aesthetics and the values it upholds, the more we will always be on the outside looking in. The more our culture will rot from the inside, not from a lack of understanding, but from a lack of love for what it stands for.

Leopold Pilichowski [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The ultimate message of the artist is to sacrifice and suffer for the greater good. That is, full stop, why such dysfunctional people still squeeze blood  from their palms to make good art.  But we need a framework. We need right reason and judgement. But most of all, we need the love and the fire that burns brightly to light our way through the darkness.

Fuel is needed for that fire. And it is that much more important now that nobody has money to burn.

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Sunday Shrine 11/16

Image extracted from page 309 of King’s Hand-book of the United States planned and edited by M. King. Text by M. F. Sweetser, by SWEETSER, Moses Forster. Original held and digitised by the British Library.

As I just discovered my baby kitty (AKA Leif the furry monster) has cancer, I’m putting up a Sunday Shrine to St. Roch in New Orleans.

GUILTY.

Leif the furry monster. Considerably trimmer and younger.

Here’s hoping that the fine folks at NCIS NOLA get a clue  mention this awesome place! Though looking at the photos, they’ve had some shots of this area already.

Entrance arch to St. Roch Cemetery, New Orleans Photo by Infrogmation, Creative Commons License.

This was built in honor of St. Roch, who is a plague saint very popular in Germany.  You can find lots of chapels and shrines to him all down the Rhine.  St. Roch used to be a predominantly German neighborhood, and this chapel retains the culture that built it.

By Infrogmation of New Orleans (Photo by Infrogmation) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

During the yellow fever epidemic in 1868, Father Peter Leonhard Thevis prayed to St. Roch to spare his congregation.  If no one died of the fever, he would build a chapel in the cemetery in his honor.  Lo, no one died, so this chapel was erected. It has been a place of prayer and healing.

By Infrogmation of New Orleans (Photo by Infrogmation (talk)) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Infrogmation of New Orleans (Photo by Infrogmation) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

So, why do I ask St. Roch to help my cat?  Because St. Roch himself became ill, after healing so many. When the fathers of the city tossed him out, a nobleman’s dog brought him food, licked his wounds.  St. Roch survived to heal, and has been considered a protector of animals.

By christina rutz (originally posted to Flickr as NEW ORLEANS) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A great many people have come here for prayers, and leave tokens of appreciation, including moulded body parts, bricks of thanks, pennies and even food.  It echoes the milagro tradition practiced in the Southwest, especially on the border. It has a long history.

Note: Histories came from this wonderful article from Tulane University, and Wikimedia Commons.

UPDATE: Another nice set of photos of St. Roch cemetery.

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A Sign of Things to Come

I hear some folks are getting cold weather soon.  Here’s a little inspiration.

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Romance in Ruin

Source: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed; creative commons license.

 

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The Com Box– EXPLAINED

 

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By Wolfgangbeyer (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Com Box– EXPLAINED.

Have you ever wondered about those seemingly unassailable arguments that are ringed by a fence of obscurity– yet win every time? When you ask questions, try to probe what the underlying foundations or goals, you find… nothing. The ponderous pronouncements never become clear– but imply things that never get defined. It is as porous and adaptable to your questions and as inert as a noble gas. It always points to whatever the assumed audience wants to hear.  Yet the artist is highly skilled at dismantling the arguments of others.  You see this a lot.

Smarter people than me have come up with both a description and a name. One of those people, an innovator of exposing much modernist thought for what it is, is Pope Benedict the XVI. My source relies heavily on his theology, as well as philosophy from Edward Feser.   Simply put, it’s a well crafted sophistry that can grow any ideology you like, including for the very occasion of the discussion you happen to be having.

Created by Wolfgang Beyer 99seehorse)  with the program Ultra Fractal 3.

By Wolfgangbeyer (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Admittedly this is an old answer.  The first man to get irritated with this tendency was Socrates.  He started asking the right kind of questions to bring to light this chicanery of cleverness. It led the merry mind out of it’s safe circles, and the less disciplined to fury and frustration.  Alas, so many love to justify whatever behavior they are fond of, so, “for the good of Athens”, they killed him. That’s what “a cup of hemlock”. I understand, it’s an ugly way to die.

Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

Cristo_crucificado

The persons (and Persons) and antecedents are not comparable, but killing people who get in the way of pleasant untruths– who show off the folly we gleefully engage is a fairly common human thing.  We can’t call Socrates a patron saint, but perhaps the virtuous pagan of combox discipline?

This is what we mean when we say “The sleep of Reason produces monsters.”  We’ve been living in the twilight of reason for quite some time. And the monsters keep coming. The world and it’s leading lights get more decadent and reckless with each passing year. They seem to be enjoying the decline– so far.

How long before they realize they are playing with fire?  Will they see soon that fire burns and is dangerous? Or do they think that they will be shielded by hordes of People Who Don’t Matter indefinitely?  It really reminds me of those people who set fire to their own beards as some kind of prank.  Don’t they realize that the best case scenario are nasty painful scars? The worst case– and I’ve heard of a few– is death.

Yeah, apparently, if you soak your beard in some kind of flammable liquid, set it on fire, and… gasp, it’s dangerous! It’s stupid, too! The trouble is, these leading lights aren’t even setting fire to their own faces, but that guy next to them, figuring it can’t possibly come back on them.  But there’s all this flammable liquid sloshing around, and open, uncontrolled flame.  What do you think is going to happen?

What does that have to do with combox trolls, you ask?

One gets the impression that there is good to be had being one.

Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Sunday Shrine 11/9

 

mage: Title of the basilica of St John Lateran Author: de:Benutzer:Moguntiner; Date of creation: October, 2003 Licence: GNU-FDL

Welcome to the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran.

By MarkusMark (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Public Domain. Wikimedia commons.

Since it is the feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran, I thought I’d bring out the big guns.  So why does anybody care about the dedication of a particular church, especially not one in the Vatican?  Well… this church WAS the original Cathedral parish of the Bishop of Rome. It is not in Vatican City, but is still owned by Holy See.  It was consecrated in 324 by Pope Sylvester as Domus Dei, or “House of God.” (Thanks, Wikipedia, Famouswonders.com, and the Catholic Encyclopedia)  It is the oldest church in the Western World, has been rebuilt many times, but the facade is relatively new. You have to go around back to really see the ancientness of this building.   Dr. Hahn has more insights here.

But we’ll linger a little while on the exterior.

By Lucius (foto scattata da me) [Public domain, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The notes on this image say, “Jesus Christ surrounded by St. John the Evangelist, St. John the Baptist and Doctors of the Church.”

By Joonas Lyytinen (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

EZ 47:1-2, 8-9, 12

The angel brought me
back to the entrance of the temple,
and I saw water flowing out
from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east,
for the façade of the temple was toward the east;
the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple,
south of the altar.

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⇑Photographer:  cat’s_101Taken on: 2005-02-06 Original source:Flickr.com, North Gate.
He led me outside by the north gate,
and around to the outer gate facing the east,
where I saw water trickling from the southern side.

By Quinok (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He said to me,
“This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah,
and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.
Wherever the river flows,

By user:Lalupa (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,
and there shall be abundant fish,
for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow;
their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail.

Source: Gryffindor, 10/05/2005, Public Domain.

Every month they shall bear fresh fruit,
for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.
Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

But wait, there’s more.

More here.

Photo by antmoose, September 11, 2005. From Flickr.

And here.

By Berthold Werner (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is the tomb of St Leo XIII, who indeed was a Lion of the Church. He elevated Bishop Newman to Cardinal, and restored the Scottish hierarchy.

There is really so much here, that I can only share a small segment of the wonderful images of this holy space. Enjoy!

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Darkness = Depth?

398px-Goya_Caprichos3

Does Darkness equal Depth?

Confession: I grew up in this subculture. The closest I came to being in any social group was a child of Goth.  From where I stood, the real difference between goth and emo is that Goths have a 19th century fetish and dress better, and the emos only started wearing black after Kurt Cobain died. Before that, we called them grunge, and they tended to be happy-ish. After that, they co-opted Morrissey (good riddance) and rode off to find more bitter horizons. Even the death of the sun in a million shades of red, flesh and gold is too cheerful for them.

So where did Goth really come from?  What was it all about? Well, there is a reason why there’s a 19th century fetish in there, it was a movement back then, too.

Left over from the 18th Century, there has been this idea floating around since some German or other said that reality is not really real, and that our senses are useless. After a while, some philosophers decided that there had to be SOME way to perceive what truly was, so they said, “HA! The EMOTIONS have to give us something! THEY are the true insight into reality!” <sarc> Not too long after that, somebody decided that psychic powers were plausible. </sarc>

This  idea captured the popular imagination. The resulting movement was called Romanticism.  It helps to know that Romanticism was the birth mother of Modernism. The two share a lot of roots.  Basically, Romanticism goes like this. We cannot use reason against monsters. The world sucks, so we may as well enjoy the decline. “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die,” is the bottom line. It’s basically an overly educated remake of that tired old hedonism.  We are all monsters, so we may as well enjoy it.

 

This is where the idea of “Darkness=Depth” really comes from. YOu can blame Freud, too. He said that all the monsters of the subconscious were really taboos created to protect the ego from whatever threatened it. So using monsters as a psychopomp into the subconscious.

The theory goes, that they show us what really matters. They argue that fear = power.  Emotions are ultimately more useful and deep than our reason.  As an added bonus, nobody needs to really learn anything except what you wind up finding during that extended navel gazing session. From personal experience, I’ll give you all the spoilers you need.  It’s a combination of wishful thinking and what you want to see. Problem solved, right?  Um. No, not really.

Some creative people also borrowed from gnosticism, which explains everything you need to know about social groups in high school. Combine that with the accumulated wisdom of Versailles (substitute Hot Topic for having your own garment manufacturing empire to keep up with the Le Jonses) and the exegesis pretty much writes itself.

After that it was a lot of drivel and nonsense that led to all sorts of exciting ideologies that a little bit of reason would have kaiboshed before their adherents decided to kill off millions of people.  The sleep of reason produces monsters, indeed.

'From_the_Earth_to_the_Moon'_by_Henri_de_Montaut_01a

 

 

 

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Behind the Moon Door– Snippet # 13

Images sampled are in Public Domain (thanks, guys!) This is MINE. Yeah, I know. Unfair.

Images sampled are in Public Domain (thanks, guys!) This is MINE. Yeah, I know. Unfair.   © Margot St. Aubin

 

 

Rooster crowed. Clamour. Flashing lights. Alarm. The world seemed to be shaking and flashing. I squinted. This is what happens when you fall asleep with your chin resting on your cellphone. For once the animals were as surprised as I was, but they were faster about getting out of the way. Well, except Hello Kitty, who was deaf, and found the bright lights to be an irritation.

She had to be pressured off my feet, as she was too far away to be bothered by the vibration. Shadow McTrippy, my new ruminant follower, was also slow to move. I couldn’t remember the black miniature goat’s real name anyway. He lived up to his name as I struggled out of a knot of sheets to the computer that I’d set up on my old work desk.

 

The screen was flashing, my monitor software was on alert. As a twin, my cellphone was also buzzing and ringing and flashing on the floor. I’d dropped it in haste. After my desktop calmed, I picked up the phone and muted it. Then I went back to the big monitor and watched as I saw several figures flashing their way through the dark. I squinted. It was outside– either at The Pit, or… I saw a fragment of busted up concrete with a pebbly brown painted edge, edged by a tuft of grass, luridly lit by a pool of vivid light.

Oh, intruders were back at the New Cemetery. I swore an oath. I called Sarah and got voicemail. I groaned and left a message. that way, people would know what happened if I happened to do anything stupid. I didn’t want to wait hours for the cops to show up. I looked at the clock. Little after 3 am. Knowing them they’d wait until daylight. I groaned.

Hey, I had magic, supposedly. I didn’t know how to use it, but that hadn’t stopped me before, right? The gnomes helped me, so…why not?

I picked up the rifle. I pocketed my 1911, and put my .38 in my left leg holster on my cowboy work boots. I didn’t use the 1911 that often, but I knew it well enough. It is predictable and pretty much indestructible, and it would stop even my father in his tracks. I put on the bandolier and slung the rifle in it’s case on my back. I said, “Let’s go, guys.” to no one in particular, and walked to the paddock. She was waiting for me. She was wearing a saddle, and almost looked like an ordinary horse– well groomed, even. I put some rope and my bug out bag for short jaunts. Just in case, and it only took a second. But I knew it was Crystal Lilly.
“Why’d you come back?” I whispered to her.

“You need me. Don’t expect miracles, I’m not recharged, long story. But I can do a horse’s work. I fought in the Rye Wars at Blunedeh. Ask Trajan when you see him. You’ll need to see him soon.”

“Tell me about it.” I said softly.

We rode out in near silence. No, really. Her harness tack, and step was absolutely silent, and we only caused a stir, like a gust of wind. We watched animals freeze as they saw us pass. Did I mention I could suddenly see in the dark? No, not like daylight, but animal eyes glowed hot and green and shapes stood out, as if the veil of night had been raised half way. My flashlight just hung by my side like a club. The rest of my weapons pulled at me like weights. All living things seemed to exude their own light. The grass and trees looked vaguely magenta, the animals a greeny yellow, a sleeping owl a deep blue. Only the dirt and sky still clung to the pitch blackness, save for the palest blush to the east, and the cold, hard pinpoint light of stars.

She bounded over the fences with all the grace and none of the jarring discomfort of dressage. And still we stirred the ground like a driving wind. For a moment I felt like the leader of a vast wind army. What good would it do against men? I asked myself.

Finally we made it to the wrought iron fence, and followed along until we got to the gate. We were opposite the road– I hadn’t realized the iron pickett came out so far.

 

The gnomes can’t follow you into the cemetery, Lilly said into my head.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked. Fear burbled. “Can you?” I asked.

I’m not supposed to, but I can. I think your aunt will understand. But don’t be surprised if… things change for me a bit. The place is barred against most magic, she responded. There was little emotion in her words , which was highly unusual.

What about mine? I replied.

I don’t know.  The reply was calm, but had that same tang of emptiness that did not help my rising panic.

Then I reached over to the gate and unlocked it. I could still see the flashing lights– they were doing something near the graves. A coleman lantern rested on what was left of the grotto. It shed a harsh blinding light that cast the shadow of the figures a good distance behind us.
I looked at them, shading my eyes. The otherworld vision did not seem to work in there.

I swore an oath under my breath. I closed my eyes to clear my eyes of afterimages that interfered with my otherworld senses, too.

I could hear spades scraping against dirt. Anger flared up within me. As soon as my vision cleared, I looked into the dark and unlocked the gate. I turned on my flashlight and let my eyes get used to the light. By some miracle they didn’t hear me over the digging.

 

I pushed open the gate, walking it open with Lilly. While she still seemed able to read my intentions, I could no longer feel her mood, or hear her thoughts. I asked myself what Phil would do. No, that didn’t help. I asked myself what SARAH would do. That’s better.

I charged boldly up the gravel path through the old graves. The harsh mono-directional light cast deep shadows like out of a nightmare. Mostly I was praying. Then I got to the clearing where the New Cemetery really started, and I flashed my light directly on the lead one’s chest. I held the 1911, aimed at the dirt in front of them.

“Excuse me, sirs, you are trespassing.” I said calmly. “You need to clear out of here, now.”

The men stopped digging but looked at the leader, who stood there, smoking a cigarette. he wore brassy mirrored sunglasses. I’m not kidding. Bad 80′s music started floating in my head, and I had to remind myself that shooting him wouldn’t help that. I felt a little light headed after that thought, knowing that was a real possibility.

He stood took one last drag, and regarded me with a dangerous grin. He flicked his glowing butt away casually. A rising tide of bile burned my throat.

HE didn’t seem much intimidated or impressed by my posture. I quickly aimed at the center of mass.

“Do I have to get serious?” I asked.

“DO you know who I am? I am not trespassing. I’m family.” he said cheerfully. He held something in his hand I couldn’t make out. A horrible tingling sensation crawled up my back. I knew it was likely but I could never quite prepare adequately. It was my father.

I looked at his companions, who were less confident, staring at him. He gave me nor them any sign. So they watched him as dumbfounded as I was.

“Come on over here and give me a hug. I know you wouldn’t shoot me. You’ve never had the guts to go through with it.”

“Family doesn’t dig up the miscarried remains of lost children.” I said harshly.

He laughed. “Is that what this looks like? Oh, no, your aunt hid something in here a long time ago. She just asked me to come retrieve it. Must have slipped her mind to tell you.”

“That is a fucking lie and you know it.” I said angrily. I snapped my wrist to aim more carefully. Before I knew it, he had cleared some distance. Lilly was trying to back up, but one of the men had left his post. I had a very bad feeling.

The something hit me in the face. Before I could recover, I dropped the gun, and reached for the reign, as Lilly reared up and plunged on the ground in front of her, charging the second man, who must have drifted off. She became a frenzy of moving horseflesh, ultimately making it impossible for me to do anything but hold on. …And impossible for any of the men to retrieve the gun. It got kicked off by her plunging hoof off somewhere into the darkness, into one of the holes further off.

I don’t know how it sailed that far, but I wasn’t in the mood to ask questions.

Shortly thereafter she calmed, but started stalking the man who had donated half of my DNA. I could hardly call him father. My face was hot and sore, and I tasted blood. He’d struck me on the cheek with a whip, and I saw he was winding up for another strike.

With that kind of force, it was hard to figure how I’d managed to stay on board. Lilly reared up again, effectively dancing out of range– at least for me. I felt her flinch as the whip licked her skin, and muscles bunched under my thigh trembled. Ever forgetful, I mentally apologized, and tried to get to my rifle. The problem with the rifle is that I needed both hands, and when she did this, I had to have at least one. My seat was good enough for forms sake, and a good trot, but I was out of practice for dressage, which was a faint ghostly memory of a poorly remembered childhood. Suddenly I felt incompetent for teaching children anything about horses. but holding on was do or die.

“Get outta here!” I shrieked. “I called the cops.” How could I stand up against three thugs, when there was only one me, the guns and a horse? The very best horse, but none the less, a horse.

There was a movement off to the side. She shifted to the side and tripped him, moving out of the way as he fell. She snorted in satisfaction as he pitched into the dirt.

“They’ll take hours. You know that. Besides. We have an understanding, Sargent Morrison and I.” his voice was edged with anger, but he was never discomposed.

The next thing I knew one of the other guys was coming at me with a shovel, swinging it like a club. The best I could do was block with my flashlight, which smashed as the pyrex face was struck by the edge of the spade, which rung like a demented bell. I blocked several times, but had to take my eyes off my father. Fortunately, Lilly didn’t. She struck out a hind leg, and I felt her strike something solid. A figure shrieked like a banshee crumpled to the dirt.

Then there was another bright light approaching from the road. It could be anything from a cop, to a fleeing bar of light, signifying nothing,

He waited until it turned into the driveway. My father swore and picked up his buddy and started dragging him, like a rag doll. All the wile moaning and struggling weakly. Then something hit me on the back of hte head and rang like a bell.
My last thought was to wonder how he’d fooled Lilly.

I really really have to stop waking up like this. I had a headache. And there was light. LOTS of light. Too much light. There was a man prodding at me with a stethoscope. Eyes, ears nose and everything. I had something pulling at the back of my head.

The unfamiliar face was surrounded by a blue blur which resolved into scrubs. I was hooked up to an…everything monitor and some metal tree holding bagged liquids. Fun stuff. I noted with relief that I was not chained to the bed. And it really did look like a hospital. But the ultimate relief was when Sarah’s pale and concerned face emerged through the parted curtains. Her eyes flew open. “We are… so happy you are alive. DON”T GO INTO THAT PLACE ALONE AGAIN, do you hear me?” Sarah has the unique talent of being able to sound loving and like she will rip your face off at the same time.

I blinked. “Is LILLY okay?” I gasped.

“Lilly?… You mean that white horse you got out of nowhere? Lilly is fine. I had Colin take her home to get her cleaned up. She’d been roughed up and probably needs a vet too. He’ll take care of that. She got struck with a shovel, but I don’t think they broke anything. Didn’t hit her on the head, either.” she gave me an almost accusatory look. “but I can’t stay angry at you.” she snarled with a touch of sadness.

I wondered what Dr. Klingman, the old vet who took care of all Sarah’s horses, would make of Lilly. That made me giggle a bit. But he was old enough that maybe he had seen a thing or two, considering he’s one of the Irish Hills’ longest practicing vets.

“Did you get him?” I asked in a low tone.

“We pulled in just as he left. One of his men had been trampled. I think the guy who hit you two with the shovel. That horse… I’ve seen horse accidents, you understand. You know that Sally got badly hurt, when she tried to play a prank on Colin, when he was a lad.”

“But I swear that horse knew what it was doing. It was defending your unconscious body like… it was trained to do it. Then it let me and the paramedic tend you as sweet as you please. Where on God’s green earth did Phillomena Sweeny get a trained war horse that looks all the world like a Lipizzaner? And why, did it choose you to imprint on? They don’t fly with just some stranger. They’s worse than a guard dog.” In her exclamation, bits of Ireland came back in her voice. “I haven’t seen the like, since…” she trailed into silence. The next face that came through the gap in the curtain was Patrick.

I was both fanatically happy to see him, and intensely embarrassed. First, I’d done stupid and I knew it. Second, there was hardly anyone who I’d rather see. I wondered what Kendra would do or if she was mad at me.

I had nothing whatsoever to do with Pat and his ways, but… Kendra was touchy about trust. We understood each other about family issues, and she was less lucky than I. She only had Sarah, because I had Sarah. The rest of her family was all alike and she had tossed them all out of her life. Rumor had it she had some aunts that might have been okay, but they would not approve of her lifestyle choices.

So she was a ship alone in a hostile ocean, and she gained company only when she felt like it. I wondered how long it would be okay to call her back. That she hadn’t talked to me yet had me wondering. I’d wait a day for the ringing in my ears to stop, and I’d start calling her.

“You really need someone to stay with you in that house.” he said.

“Yeah. I keep getting pounded. Thanks for pointing that out.” I said.

He frowned. “I didn’t mean it like that. But I meant to say that I’m glad you are still with us.”

I smiled back. “It’s nice to be here. Except for the pain part. And the ear ringing part. and the thirsty part.” I said.

He handed me a glass of water and I sipped it thirstily.

“That’s a nice horse you have. I don’t remember seeing it before.” he said conversationally.

“That’s Lilly. Be NICE to her. She’s impressive. Well, not like a chess playing bear, impressive, but she was in the shed. Ken took care of her while I was laid up. Also, she tends to take care of herself. She gets out and grazes when she wants to. We don’t know why she doesn’t just run away. She’s smart enough to start taking over the world.”

Pat grinned, “All she needs is minions and thumbs.” he said.

“Well, arms and hands, too. But thumbs would be a good start.”

We chit chatted for a while.

“Well, glad your back. Don’t go off hurting yourself again. I’ll be back in the morning, okay?”

“It is already morning.”

“I mean real morning. After the sun is up.”

Apparently it was little past five when they left. I sighed and fell back into bed. I wondered if I’d be charged with assault with a deadly horse. I was asleep again before I knew it.

**

I woke up and had a chat with a female officer. She said no one was pressing charges but I needed to talk to them about what happened while it was still fresh. I told her everything I could remember, and they went over my injuries, wrote lots of notes, then left. A bit later, a man in a rumpled linen suit and a bowler hat appeared between my curtains. He looked strangely like a clerk who boxed in his free time. His bulk was mostly muscle, his face was scarred, but his hands were soft and calloused as a writer’s was, and he even had a few ink stains. He held a stack of papers.

“I’m here to represent you in case your father presses charges. Sounds like a charming individual. How many stitches did they put on your cheek?” “five.” “He do that to you himself?” he asked with more than professional interest.

“Um, yeah. Not the back of the head, though, that was his friend with the shovel.”  I said, wincing at the memory.  Every time I closed my eyes, I could see that shovel flashing at my face.

“Helluva nice guy. I’d be pleased to run him into the dirt for you. At bare minimum you should have a restraining order out against him.”

“I’m fine with that, but I don’t know what good it will do. He’s a law unto himself.” I said.

“Karrie Grace. What we are doing here, is painting a picture, in the event of a future prosecution. I can guarantee something like that will come across the courts in a matter of weeks, or months if we are lucky. Trust me, I have seen this sort of thing before. Not exactly, you see, these circumstances are…novel, but they tell the same underlying tale. Men like him don’t stop. They get frustrated, seem to go away for a while, then come back even more determined than before. You have to be ready for them.”

“Um, are you suggesting I should hire protection?” I asked weakly.

“That wouldn’t be a bad idea, but that’s not my area. I could get some names for you, if you’d like,” he said.

I smiled. “I think I have some cousins who would volunteer for that role and be considerably less expensive than strangers. All I’d have to do is feed them.”

The man sighed. “Far be it from me to bely cousins. But you must understand that they will not be… professional. People will be more likely to die.”
“Um, Mr… ?”

The man smiled, he looked Irish enough to knock me over. “Mr. Kenny, Esquire. Dale, Margrove, and Kenny, Associates. That Kenny is my father, not me.” he said sheepishly.

I raised my eyebrows. “Nice to meet you. But you must know they were retired military. I mean with honors. One of them was an MP. I know it’s not the same as professional security, but he has given thought of going into that field, at least in the winter when there’s less to do at the farm.”

“That’s the other trouble with family, especially the working kind.”

“Yes. I have to think about how to get this done while keeping my obligations to my other family. I think I’m actually safer at the Phil’s farm…for various reasons. But that place does need some watching over.” I said, thinking out loud. It was actually less painful to talk than it was to think hard inside my head. Yes, even with stitches against my teeth.

I sighed. “Mr Kenny? I’m afraid my visiting hours are nearing over.Ii have a lot to think about and an aching skull to do it with. Thank you, and go ahead with filing the restraining order and whatever other preparations you want to do. I’ll even look at your list but I can’t make any promises. Thank you.”

He looked a bit glum, but took some notes, nodded curtly, and departed without a word. I wondered if I’d somehow offended him. Then it occured to me, he looked like the sort of person who’d let you know– on no uncertain terms, if you did.

Later Pat showed up. “Hi.” he said. “You are going to have to get used to me being around. Oh, and Colin, too. Sarah hired a couple of hands she knows to take up the slack, and we are going to come and take turns keeping you safe.” he said.

“Sarah can do that?” I asked.

Pat nodded. “She can afford it. She’d just rather make her money off us.” he said it lightly, so it might have been a joke.

“Can you afford it?” I asked, weakly. I wondered if I needed to share my pay with them. I was already relying on them so much, it seemed hardly fair not to. But there was school, and… I sighed. I would probably have to take the fall off and work some anyway.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine. Especially Collin. And me, I don’t need much.”

“That doesn’t help. I already owe you a share of my pay from Phil. At this point I should make you partners,” I said.

“I said, don’t worry about it.” he said, “And what about the lawyer, who’s paying for that?” I asked.

“Oh, Mr. Kenny? He’s actually Sheila’s Lawyer. Sarah uses the firm, too. Kenny is their hatchet man.” He snickered. “he usually deals with violent offenders. On one side or another. “

I paled. “Why would Sheilla need a lawyer like that?”

Pat shrugged. “you’d be surprised what happens in the Lawn business. Run into some who take offense easily, who are also powerfully physical. It can be a rough road.” he said casually. “She’s offered to pay for him.”

Oh. So now I owed Sheila forever. Well, worse things than that, I guess…

Posted in Art, Obsessive Nitpicking, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Garden of Visible Prayer, by Margaret Rose Realy

By Ammodramus (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 A Garden of Visible Prayer, By Margaret Rose Realy

She opens the way for a beginner to look at intentions of your work. This book demonstrates  how to move forward, to sort the wheat from the chaff in a sea of conflicting ideas.  She does this by looking at principles, requirements and limitations. Her gentle text coaxes them forward in a compelling way.

By Sgt. Michael Walters [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

All of these things are put into place by your intent, and the physical limitations of space.  It is perfectly designed to keep you focused on why and what you are doing. That makes all the difference when hard work and tough decisions come to call.

She comes from the Catholic tradition, but her style is so open that just about anybody could enjoy it, provided you are on board with the premise.  That being, that gardens are a wonderful expression of spirit, and that setting aside a special place for prayer is a worthy and healing endeavor.  She amply demonstrates this by showing you how to make it happen.

I have read a number of books like this over the years. Granted,  this back when I was still pagan, but I didn’t let that stop me from examining a variety of traditions.

 

 

I found them decent, but always missing steps between thought, planning and execution that the writer assumed everybody knew.  They tended to be thick quarto  sized coffee table books with panoramic views that would do American Home and Garden proud.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The first thing you will notice is it is smaller than average for most gardening books. Do not think that being small translates to thin on information. She is efficient, and explains things both simply and clearly. She does not try to be all things to all people.

Instead of sweeping vistas, you have loving portraits of plants, plus an exploration of a variety of prayer spaces.  It gives a person with a limited space a place to breathe. Even  an apartment dweller who decides to arrange a patio garden of potted plants has to gain and is not classed out by art’s high expectations.

Prayer’s_Spring_in_Glover_Garden

By そらみみ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons Cropped by Margot St Aubin

There are also special sections for working with a public space, and how to work with a symbolset that is not your own.  These tools are so handy you could apply the bare beginnings to a hundred different processes, from interior decoration to beginning a novel.

Granted, these tools will not get you *all the way* into starting a novel, but it does show you how to take the barest beginnings of inspiration and put them in a rational order without killing them with your outlining superpowers.

 

By Ramon FVelasquez (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This is the best book on garden planning I have ever beheld. I do not say this lightly. I am not much of a gardener, but my mother owned all the garden books that existed between the 1970′s and the 1990′s. I was the sort of kid who read pretty much everything that had letters in it. I liked pictures in gardening books, so I read them to have an excuse to stare at the pretty!  Devious child, I was.

This woman is not just a landscape designer, but a master gardener who has spent years teaching a course that is outlined in this book. It is no mere course outline, but it is clear and well crafted framework to utilize for your own project.  the best part: all the inputs and limitations are what you bring on this journey.  Her long experience shines through.  I recommend finding other books if you want to know more about the care and feeding of plants or a source book for choosing specific varieties.

A lot of books like this suffer from trying to be ‘the be all’ book of gardening. She pares down and focuses on giving you the practical tools, even tells you where to get what she does not provide in terms of plant choice and care.  HOWEVER, by the end you possess the exact information you need to figure out what you need where to go next to get everything you need.  I have never seen this information all in one place.

A special note for those working on memorial gardens, or working on other sorts of deep emotional healing. The writing does tend to bring up lots of emotional stuff, even more than you expect. She provides a reading environment focused on looking at your feelings. So pick a good day, listen to some soothing music, and pick up this book. Even if a specific prayer garden isn’t your intention, and you just want to look at making your yard more your own, you will find tools to help that process.

By Ramon FVelasquez (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Please note that searching for “prayer garden” does tend to get you those big panoramic spaces that I was snarking about earlier. I wanted to show that a number of different  religious traditions make prayer gardens, but the pictures almost fly in the face of what I’m saying. Awkward!

Posted in Art, Christianity, Eye Candy, Health, Obsessive Nitpicking, Seasonal, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment