Friday, August 29, 2014

I have no good title for this...It's an anniversary of sorts.

It's been two years this weekend since Husband and a friend were on his motorcycle when they were schmucked by a drunk asshole. I say schmucked because said drunk asshole was going about 45mph and didn't slow down. At all. He pinned Husband's leg between the truck and the bike, breaking his pelvis in two places, dislocating his hip, breaking his foot, and finally flinging him across the overpass. There were other injuries, and some scars he'll bear forever. However,  Husband is definitely mending, although the extent of some of the internal injuries mean he still has pain all the time: nerve damage sucks, people. It sucks.

Two years ago on Friday I was sitting in the waiting room at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, going in and out of the ICU, hoping Husband could wake up eventually. I didn't know for sure until that Monday that he would. Two years ago 8/29 (since the dates and days don't match) I found myself in the ER at Regions at 10:30pm. To our friends in the ER with me, the doctors, nurses and EMTs (especially one in particular who knows us personally but said nothing so he didn't get removed from working on Husband), I can only say thank you. And that I sincerely hope the surgical resident who talked to me about the exploratory surgery necessary that night at 2am now looks his age, because it's goddamned disturbing to have a 12 year old telling you "we don't know where he's bleeding internally, but he's on his fifth bag of blood and we have to find the problem or he could die." Please dude, grow a goatee or something. Also, FYI, husband did not become a vampire. I just felt I should clarify...

As I understand it, our friend on the bike with him is also doing well, but her recovery is her own story to share or not...I just wish her the best in recovering and in dealing with the insurance company.

It's a funny thing, an intense accident. Not funny in a belly-laugh sort of way...funny in a life is fucked up and weird sort of way. Let me lay some background before I explain.

Humans, including Husband and I, get into ruts. Patterns of behavior, patterns of thinking, patterns of living and socializing, without really even thinking about it. I suppose the patterns happen BECAUSE we aren't thinking about it: when there is no examination of what's going in in our lives, we just sort of float through and act on habit instead of intent. Habitual behavior isn't a bad thing by nature: you can cultivate just as many good habits (eating healthy, exercising daily, etc.) as bad.  Change is always hard, whether you're creating good or bad habits, and more often than not people (including me) are more comfortable sticking with the devil they know than going through the pain and work of change.

Unfortunately, we'd both been in an unhappy rut for quite some time when the accident happened. There were so many reasons for the unhappiness, so many reasons for the horrible habits we'd both developed that it's difficult to even say when they started. But we'd both been generally stuck in these bad patterns for years. The accident was a catalyst, as major life-changing events usually are.

During Husband's recovery time we both had a lot of time to assess our lives, what we wanted, and where we wanted to go. Honestly, the entire first year after the accident was such a blur of emotion and physical turmoil it seems accelerated in my mind. There are months of 2012 and 2013 I don't remember clearly, and there are moments of memory etched in permanent, painful detail. It's been a very long two years, but there has been healing in every way possible.

Ultimately, his accident saved us both, as sick as that sounds. Waking up from a sleepy life and paying attention is hard. "Hard" isn't a sufficient description...hmm. Miserable, exhausting, enlightening, humbling, terrifying, thrilling, astonishing...all better descriptors but only if they're all together. It's harder when it's forced upon you. But once it begins, attention is difficult to stop, and contentment with the devil I know isn't possible anymore.

So, changes have been under way. Some are subtle: we've both been making individual efforts to work on accepting ourselves, on figuring out and actually working toward our on life goals. For me, that means a lot of meditation, writing, and slowly changing my diet/exercise to be a healthier person as well as a lot of internal work on identifying and...well...fixing the way I talk to myself.

Some are...less subtle. Ha. We moved from Minnesota to Texas, got new's a whole new thing here and it's both terrifying and exhilarating. I miss my people all the time. I don't miss the state, and I suspect this winter I won't miss the snow much. We'll see. Currently out my window it's changed from 93 degrees and sunny to torrential downpour rain (the sort we only got rarely in MN happens here often...I call it Trinidad rain: feels like someone's dumping a bucket of warm water on you). It's lovely here, and I'm flabbergasted that I (VERY unexpectedly) like Houston. Funny how  preconceptions you have about something are so often utterly wrong. I like it here, and I feel healthier than I have in a long while: a physical change of scenery was something I needed.

But I still miss my friends and family, particularly those who became so very close to me in the past two years. Interestingly, the accident wasn't just a catalyst for changes in ourselves and our marriage: it was a big catalyst for our social circle (individually and as a couple). I'm not always good at identifying actual friends from those who need something from me but don't wish to be needed or people who are just flat out selfishly harmful. During those months in the end of 2012, we both discovered truths about people in our various circles and surprising things happened. Some acquaintances became very close friends, old friendships were rekindled, some close friends drifted away, toxic people were cut out of our lives because it's too damn much energy to accommodate them anymore.

To those of you who have been with us (for him, me, or both) on this ridiculously weird, intense, painful journey: we hope you know just how much we love you. I'm so utterly grateful for everyone in our lives, and I have some regrets about those I didn't get to know better before we left. Things are better, and even with challenges we're both definitely on a better path, individually and together.

I'm happier paying attention.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mythic Monday: Artemis and Actaeon

It's Mythic Monday, and I'm writing tonight about Artemis and her vengeance upon a peeping Greek.
But first, you should know I have a bit of a problem with blank paper. I CAN'T STOP BUYING IT. While unpacking a corner of my office today (we better renew the lease here, because fuck if I want to pack all this shit up again in eight months!) I found no less than FIVE of the big 5-subject notebooks and six smaller notebooks/notepads. Good lord.

Those are all blank notebooks. For writing.
The blank journals (for JOURNALING, duh) are in a different space.

Slowly but surely, I'm digging out my office. A corner at a time.
Anyway, on to Artemis and her defense of her own virginity.

Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, a mortal woman who was seduced (or raped, depending on the version) by the God when he was in the form of a swan. Yeah. Not weird at all.

Artemis is goddess of the hunt, of all things wild, of the moon, and of innocent independence. I mean innocent in a specific way: she's the patron goddess of maidens and all things free of man's interference. She's described as the virgin huntress. There is some debate on the translation to English "virgin" as we think of it now, as it truly meant unmarried (not necessarily chaste, which specifically meant non-sexual). However, Artemis is often described as chaste as well: uninterested in the attentions of any man. Her twin brother, Apollo, generally has enough male and female sexual company to make up for her lack of it anyway, but he's another story.

Honestly,  Artemis could be a book unto herself. I chose one specific story tonight because it's the epitome of her response to being lusted after by both men and gods. In fact, many of Artemis' stories deal with her avoiding or thwarting rape, which is really disturbing if you stop and consider the implications, both for men and women.

So. Actaeon, the unfortunate soul in this tale, is actually a hero from Thebes. He's a great hunter and warrior, and famed for his hunting dogs. One day while chasing a stag into the woods, his dogs lead him to a sacred pool where Artemis is bathing. Transfixed by her beauty and, well, Goddessness (I mean, I'd likely stare as well, having never seen a goddess before in person), he stares. For a very long time.

Now here's where things get a bit tricky. In some more recent versions, Artemis gives him the option to save himself. As punishment, she takes his ability to speak and warns him that the moment he tries he'll be turned into a stag himself. In earlier versions, she just immediately transforms him into the very beast he was chasing on her land. The distinction is a key difference between a thought-out, rational punishment and a reactionary "gut-instinct" punishment.

If he can control himself he'll live, in the first version. After all, he didn't actually try to rape her, so her punishment is more about no man ever seeing her naked and living to TELL about it. AS long as he keeps his mouth shut, he's fine.

Of course, he can't. In every variation I found of the "removal of speech" story, Actaeon is unable to be silent. He calls out when he hears his hunting party approaching (maybe to call them over, maybe to warn them away: no one could know). In that instant a sound emerges from his mouth, he's turned to a stag.

The ultimate price he pays is the same in both versions: hounds (either his own, the Goddess's, or both) run him down in his stag form and tear him to pieces. Generally in the versions where Artemis changes him to a stag immediately it's his own hounds who take him down. That's actually a bit in ALL the tales: tear him to pieces, not eat him or kill him or destroy him: tear him to pieces. Seems rather important, since it's the phrase that's repeated throughout retellings. The violence and manner of his death have led some scholars to theorize this is a tale of sacrifice to the Gods. I have to say I don't agree (with the caveat that I am not a Greek Mythology PhD in any form, so I can only read translations, which could be wrong).

I see this story as a characterization of her determination to remain free and unencumbered. What mate could be better for her, after all, than a near-hero status hunter? Yet even he, in a scene often used in myth to precede sex (accidentally finding him/her bathing) and even love, is unable to tame her. I think this is a tale that intentionally reinforces Artemis is the ultimate untame-able wild. She will not submit to anyone.

Artemis is a favorite Goddess of mine.

Not actually shooting at anything. Except the office wall.
So much so, she watches over my desk.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Updated: Gmail Thinks I Have Tiny Junk...

I...well, I got nothin. 

On the other hand, I don't have a tiny weener. 

Updated: you guys, I'm surrounded by dick jokes today. Wtf universe?? 

This was on my garbage can: 

I surrender. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mythic Monday - Banshee

Are you of Irish, Scottish, or Welsh descent?

Is your clan name O'Grady, O'Neill, Caomhanachs, , O'Conchobhair, or O'Briain?

What about O'Grady, O'Neill, Kavanaugh, O'Connor, or O'Brien?

Then you may have a Banshee. Do not be alarmed: they're not the screaming monster portrayed on World of Warcraft. I'll explain the clan names in just a bit.

In Gaelic, she'd be called Bean Sidhe, Bean Sith, Bean Nighe, Bean Shidhe, Bean Shithe, or Bean Si. Perhaps now is a good time to point out that "si" in Gaelic is the "sh" sound. There are a few different takes on the Banshee and her duties, but ultimately they all deal with death.

The Banshee is a Faery woman associated most often with The Morrigan, Goddess of battle, war, and death (as well as many other things, including fertility, sovereignty, horses, and so on.). The Morrigan is a deity particularly close to my heart, and deserves a full post of her own. As an occasional messenger for The Morrigan, Banshees are often associated with ravens or owls. Modern mythologists speculate the Banshee's wail is actually the cry of an owl, which is also considered a warning that Death is coming for someone.

Banshees are known mostly for two acts: wailing to warn of an impending death (or wailing immediately after the death occurs), and appearing in a vision to the doomed-to-die. Interestingly, in the older tales banshees also served a purpose similar to the Valkyrie in Norse myth: guides to the afterlife for those who died on the battlefield. I'd imagine that's a large and stressful job, considering the number of souls on a post-war battlefield who wander about.

The most-told version of the Banshee's appearance to a warrior is as The Washer at the Ford: a woman washing the bloody clothes of he who is about to die. IN this guise she's called the Bean Nighe, the washerwoman. This is a direct link back to The Morrigan, who performed the same warning for Cu Chulainn in her myth cycle. Perhaps Cu Chulainn was such a hero his portend of death could only be delivered by a Goddess, not "just" a Banshee. In some tales, the Banshee work directly for The Morrigan, in others they're just fulfilling their ancient function, as sensing and warning of death is their only purpose.

As the Banshee who wails to warn of an impending death, she's often described as a sad, grey woman in grey or white clothes, nearly colorless in pallor. Sometimes she wears a red or green cloak. Sometimes she's combing her pale hair. She could be gorgeous or ghoul, depending on the story (and as this IS a culture famous for storytelling, I expect her terrible or wondrous appearance directly coincides with the time of year, the audience, and the person for whom she wails).

As the Washer at the Ford, she's sometimes a smelly, disgusting hag in tattered filthy clothes, sometimes a beautiful woman. In some areas the superstition lives, still, that should you find a comb on the road, leave it be: it's likely a Banshee's, and you do NOT want to catch her attention. She may or may not actively bring Death, but she certainly has Death's ear, after all.

I've often wondered if she's content with her purpose in this universe, constantly dealing with death and sorrow even when Death is a welcome visitor (as, occasionally, Death may become).

So where do the names come into play?

In Celtic funerary tradition, when a person dies a woman with a  lovely voice would sing the lament: a song for the dead, a song of sorrow for those left behind who'll miss the deceased's presence in their lives. A tearful, wailing, keen of sadness. My personal favorite example is Morag's Lament, from Rob Roy. This

It was believed that royal or lord's families received their lamentations from Fairy women due to their importance. Of course, that could have been a way to inflate their own legend, but you just never know. Tradition says there were five clans who had a permanent banshee attached to their family (some lists expand to seven through intermarriage of clans)...indeed, those I listed. King James I of Scotland is reported to have heard the Banshee's wail before he died in 1437.

The most recent reporting of a Banshee's service? 1948.

My husband is of Irish descent...his family name is in that list.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mythic Monday (Sort of): Yggdrasill - If You Can Pronounce It, You May Be A Viking

First, I'm late. I know it. There was death and sadness that I found really odd since I didn't know the man at all except for the characters he played but I felt sad anyway. And then there were assholes making snarky superior comments about how Robin Williams is going to hell for committing suicide, and then there was angry me changing the theme of Mythic Monday this week six times because I was SO LIVID at the bitch at work who made said comments I had a whole post planned on hubris and arrogance...

And then someone found my blog by searching lilith spurned adam ,marries satan (typed exactly as found) and I chuckled and remembered MY anger over her judgmental bitch behavior won't do a stitch of good. And...I spelled "stitch" incorrectly the first time around. Proofreading: it's not just for English Majors anymore.

And so I'm back on my original post topic...potentially with fewer fragments and more actual sentences. (My apologies, Mr. Benson.)

Crap. The period goes INSIDE the parentheses in this case, right? Sigh. Honestly it doesn't matter one bit: spellchecker is going to explode with this post anyway.

Moving on.

Norse Cosmology (not creation and the gods, just the worlds)...because I plan on doing a post on other excellent stories (like Thor fishing for Jormungand in the sea around Midgard) but in order to do so a prequel must be presented for those who aren't Astaru or Heathen or just mythology freaks like me. (If I'm incorrect on anything here, those of you who ARE Astaru or Heathen or just better vested into Norse myth than I am, please comment).

Also: Norse mythologies use spellings from Old Norse, Modern Norwegian, Icelandic (which is VERY close to Old Norse but not exactly the same), Modern Swedish, Modern Danish, and of course the English translations.

What I'm saying here is that there are MULTIPLE spelling nuances for most of these names. Please try not to rip my head off because I spelled something different from your usual use (particularly if you use it in your spiritual beliefs)...I just picked one relatively consistent spelling and went with it across the board.

The Norse universe is set up in sets of three. Yes, three IS the number and the number shall be three. I am not going into Gods here, just the cosmos for now.

The universe itself is made up of three...hmm...plates, or levels. Envision one of those china caddy things that hold plates horizontal yet separated from each other, so they're stacked but not touching. This is the universe: three "plates" set up with space above and below each. And just as you'd imagine, the top level is the one with the most light while the bottom has the most shadow.

The top level houses Asgard, Vanaheim, and Alfheim. The Aesir gods dwell here in their halls, and Valhalla (which is seriously a full post on it's own merits, which I have planned), the hall of the warrior dead. Also located in Asgard is the site of Ragnarok (the battle at the end of time between all gods, men, and monsters): Vigrid, a battle plain so vast it's a sea of land. I envision something like the Great Plains, or the Steppes of Russia and Mongolia, but ultimately Asgard was, as you'd expect, enormous.

Asgard - land of the Aesir, the warrior gods
Vanaheim - land of the Vanir, the fertility gods (until they united with the Aesir, anyway)
Alfheim - land of the light elves.

Below Asgard, in the second level, is Midgard, the world of man.

Midgard is the level surrounded by a never-ending ocean, and Jormungand, the serpent dwelling at the bottom of the sea who's so long he bites his own tail.

Midgard - land of man.
Nidavellir - Dark Home, land of dwarves, in the Northern caves and potholes (I wonder occasionally if they wear hardhats and reflective vests while they're fixing potholes?)
Svartalfheim - land of dark elves, in the Northern underground.
Jotunheim - land of giants, in the Eastern Mountains along the coast.

The way between Asgard and Midgard is the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge. Those of you who've seen the Thor movies know exactly what I'm talking about: they truly did a fantastic job.

The third level, the darkest, is Niflheim, the world of the dead. The citadel of Niflheim is Hel, a world of it's own. However, in some of the creation myths Niflheim and Hel are combined into one and the ninth world is Muspellheim, land of fire. Interestingly, and in typical Norse circular fashion...the "big bang" in the universe which CREATED the levels and nine worlds occurred when Niflheim, land of ice, collided with Muspellheim, land of fire. Yes, it's confusing. Now, even more confusing is the idea that Niflheim contains the PLACE "Hel" and has since creation. Dwelling in Hel is the monster/creature, Hel, who is the daughter of Loki (who hasn't happened yet, if creation just banged when the two worlds collided to form the underworld). The dead must pass THROUGH Hel the creature to reach Hel the citadel and finally to get to Niflheim.

The center of all three levels, at the center of the UNIVERSE, is the ash tree, Yggdrasill, the World or Guardian Tree. Yggdrasill's branches reach above out over all the worlds and over heaven, and its three roots are planted in Asgard at the Well of Urd (Fate); in Jotunheim at the Spring of Mimir (Knowledge); and in Niflheim at the Spring of Hvergelmir (the source of eleven rivers).

Yggdrasill truly is presented as a sort of all encompassing Tree of Knowledge, Ark, and central pillar of sustenance to the universe. Yggdrasill is where Odin sacrificed his eye to drink from the Spring o Mimir to gain his vast knowledge. Near the Spring of Hvergelmir dwells the great dragon Nidhogg, who gnaws at the root of the world tree. Deer, goats, eagles, squirrels all live on the tree and eat from it. Ratatosk the squirrel carries insults from Nidhogg at the root of the tree up to the eagle who lives in the uppermost branches. The Well of Urd, or Fate, is where the Norns reside, the goddesses of destiny who carefully tend their root to keep the tree healthy with all the creatures damaging it for their survival.

Yggdrasill is so powerful, it survives Ragnarok, the final battle at the end of the world. It truly is the central, stable being of Norse myth.

For those of you who want pronunciations...honestly there's no way I can phonetically spell the neat Norse "ou" sound, which isn't the same as "hound" or "wound." It's a Minnesota (minnesooota) accent thing, I suppose, so I can pronounce it but I can't WRITE it properly.

In general, Y sounds like a short 'i' (dig). J is usually a "y" (yes). LLs have a bit of a roll to them.

The other part of Norse language that's difficult to convey in writing is the rocking rhythm of the words themselves. Poetry, after all, was the primary source of entertainment and storytelling for a reason for a people with a rocking-horse style of speaking Ragnarok would be RAg-na-ROK.

Now, go forth and practice Hvergelmir (VER gel meer, g is hard) and Jotunheim  (Yout un hime) to your heart's content.

Monday, August 11, 2014

O Captain, My Captain

I have a post on Yggdrasill ready for Mythic Monday, but then Robin Williams died.

And I just can't bring myself to post anything about Norse mythology tonight. It's stupid, I know: I never met the man. I didn't know him at all. And yet I feel like weeping at the waste, at the sadness of the end of an icon I suppose. I can't even count how many of the favorite movies throughout my life have been his.

Instead, this. Of all his fabulous movies, of all the genius characters and hilarious skits, DPS will always be my favorite.

Goodbye, sir. Thank you for sharing your incredible talents with us.

May you find peace.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Nighmares At The Museum...Or, Ways To Feel Lucky I'm Still Alive

This isn't a real post: it's a bunch of pics from our trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science for my birthday (because the MAGNA CARTA was there, people, and nothing makes my geeky medieval heart beat quite as fast as a piece of parchment that was written in 1217).
After I stopped drooling on the glass attempting to read tiny scribblings I'm told are supposedly in  Latin but were written on really old skin, in fading ink, in a different language, by some sort of hobbit sized scribe erm... blind monks thrifty people trying to save messenger fees...
Anyway, after we finished geeking out over the Magna Carta we spent some time in the Paleontology exhibit.
Wherein I met monsters that I'm afraid are digging holes in my front yard and some unfortunate fellows had...incidents.
First, there were bugs. LOTS OF GIANT SNAKEPIDER BUGS.

If THIS is what's making a goddamned hole in my front garden, FUCK NO.
Then, there were super awesome giant cross sections of huge trees that lived about a zillion years before man was even a blip on the cosmic radar. And they're pretty.
I'm 6' tall. This cross section of a fossilized tree is taller than me...just how many rings IS that?
Then Husband unfortunately lost his hand to some sort of giant sailing lizard. Sad. (It's possible he's attempting to choke said sailing lizard, which seems foolish considering the HUGE FUCKING TEETH, but it all turned out ok in the end.)
His new hook is on backorder. 

Then we discovered Syfy channel has failed utterly in their monster movie motifs. I mean, come ON: in the Hall of Monsters in the museum these dudes just hung out, waiting to stalk you and eat your brains. Except they were literally 15 to 20 feet tall, and looked fully large enough to carry off a Clydesdale. Syfy, their NAME is Gigantodactyl. YOUR WORK HAS BEEN DONE FOR YOU HERE.
We do not eat worms.
Unless it's a sandworm from Dune...those might be tasty, and we're definitely early.
And terrifying.
And then we discovered this unfortunate scene, in which a skeletal zombie mammoth is fighting skeletal human hunters. As you can see, the mammoth is CLEARLY winning here.

Or, prehistoric humans could fly. It's rather difficult to tell.
See the skeleton? Natural Selection at it's best.

Nope, this dude DEFINTELY looks like he's having a piss-poor hunting day. Maybe the Mammoth learned to appreciate human flight deaths from Robin Arryn? (Yes, that's a Game of Thrones reference. What? This could be the brother of the sad mammoths that died at the Wall)

You win this round, Mammoth.

And thus our trip to the museum ended. And I'm reminded that even though I'm closer to 40 today, I still have a longer life span than people who tried to fly around mammoths. And that's enough for me.

Mammoth Butt. The End.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I Don't Need Your Homegrown Dandelions, Gmail.

"Laughed the car and into tears."
There is nothing I can say to top that.

Gmail has been trumping Yahoo for weird spam lately...not for the offers, but for the random gibberish in the body of the emails.
Because "homegrown dandelions."
I'm baffled.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Dear Anyone: IS THIS A SNAKE DEN??

I assure you, there's a hole there (rained last night). It's the size of a doughnut hole...2" across or so.

Seriously, what the hell made this hole in my front garden?? Giant wasps? Ground gopher (that's what Husband says it is, by the way)? 

Giant Snakepider? 
Teeny-tiny Hellmouth (in which case I expect Buffy to come save me immediately)??

What if it's something that attacks? Damn my front walk! First wasps the size of my flip-you-off-finger, now a CREATURE digging a snug Shelob cave next to the door.