City

I’m sitting in the city park near where my daughter is doing her outdoor aikido (jo/staff training), listening to the birds celebrate the fact that we might reach mid-80°F weather around here today. Or maybe they are just chatterboxes.

The sound of the freeway make it over the barrier they constructed nearby to mask such noises, but it doesn’t bother me… City of just a different kind of nature than the kind you find away from the city, but it’s still nature and it’s nice to be out of the house, away from the house and the inherent responsibilities, just sitting and writing and listening and feeling.

I’ve been doing a lot of intensive spirit work the past month or so and my inner guide told me it was time for a break from the intensity. So I’m largely just sitting here, taking it in, letting the world wash over me. Following orders.

For some reason, this very moment is being visited by memories of a similar park on the other side of the Mississippi from where I am. A world away, and yet probably only three miles by bird. If that.

Near that park used to be a place that sold craft yarn and weaving looms. It may still, but it’s been thirty years, so it seems unlikely. I used to visit the stores nearby, my own international village when I was young, and more often then not, is stop by that store as well, even though I haven’t ever had the skill or training to take up yarn crafts. Still, I’d stop by, look at the looms and tell myself I really should learn how to weave one day. Why? I was never able to articulate the why. It was just one of those things.

And today, as I hear the distant clacks of wood on wood as parry and blocks are being trained, I’m drawn into that memory. It was always money that stopped me; now it’s time. And cats.

And up from that park, the kind that seemed to have this kind of day always attached to it, were other stores, most of which are long gone. A place that was the authentic international bazaar that Pier One always wished it could be, with incense, brass, coin belts, carved soapstone, carved obsidian, middle eastern scarves, stone buddhas…

Follow the street, and there was a vegan place before it got popular to be vegan, a New Age store that didn’t much act like a New Age store, but carried everything from ben wa balls to organic cotton futons before organic was a real thing. They had the best myrrh oil, I can’t find anything like it anymore, sweet, dark and sinful.

Also, on that strip of street, there was a pagan bookstore, one that was equal parts a goddess-send and a pit of frustration. I picked up a used hard copy of Salinger’s Nine Stories there.

There were theaters with all kinds of edgy plays, one of which was focused on non-caucasian productions called The Mixed Blood Theater. Another one, I saw a one man show based on Diary of a Madman performed by a man who was born with a stunted left arm, but you didn’t realize it until you paid attention.

There were winos and hippies and bums and punks and dirtballs… There were students and business people who seemed bothered by the whole humanity of the scene.

There was an all night cafe where some residents always seemed to be in attendence. And there were street acts and buskers of all types.

Or was organic and profane and beautiful and anarchy. And nature.

All of it just a few short blocks away from a park just like this one I sit in and remember the past in.

Old

Old Ways.

Found on the byways, sideways. SLIDEways.

I heard it calling, the beat of the drum of my heart, beating skyward, earthward, tripping on the horizon dawn.

Whispers in the woods.

With hands covered in earth.

The End// The Doors

Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain

Some days, certain songs resonate better than others.

I can almost smell the napalm as I recall the beginning of the movie of which this was a part, the whirr of helicopters flying through the jungle. I can almost smell whiskey on the breath of the person standing next to me in the empty bar, the air heavy with summer heat and sex drive drumming. There was sandalwood and chimes and, in that dreamtime, the bright colors blinded even in shadows and the magnolias spilled perfume into the night, the darkness shattered by a kiss and we tumbled tumbled into the unmade mattress on the floor — the closer to the earth, we said, closer to mother’s embrace. We meant death; and we made a shadowplay of our death in the grunts and thrusts and sweat and sighs. Sure, there were drugs, but none were needed, high as we were on each other and the songs and the night. Locust drones and the cooling dripping sweat as we slumbered past dawn stretching warm fingers through cigarette burns in the curtains, drinking from Lethe as it pour from your lips to mine and back to yours, heady and full lipped love-bites full of delicious pain.

More on the secret occult society novel that wasn’t and “Nightfell”

Sometimes it is fun to go back over my old notes for stories that either fell apart or I did worldbuilding for, but never took anywhere. Believe me, I have more than a few…

So, why mention these two?

Well, the first is the one I mentioned yesterday in my post about alchemy. My memory wasn’t quite as sharp as I thought about this one and they were less alchemists (although one of the characters was an alchemist) and more of an secret cabal doing many of the things that I recalled correctly: hunting down wayward nasties that are killing unsavory but human characters, dealing with curses, stopping eldritch things from crossing over from a conjunction of planes or via thin places, mystical stuff that might be magick, and all that jazz.

I found my notes, although I didn’t find my story start (suddenly suspect it is on the ReMarkable, an e-paper notebook I picked up back when it was mostly one of a kind), but I found all my world-building notes and the outline of two plotlines, and the portion of a third background story to weave into the larger story in an online tool I used to use until it became untenable to do so, as the limitation grew too strict for the free version and the paid version too expensive. Anyway, I tracked that down because I’d saved a backup of the Gingko App on my Google Drive and logged in to see it was still present in the original hierarchal “card” format. I liked the tool because you could “branch off” the tree for plot ideas, character development, research, misc notes, etc., and it is searchable (I wish I could find an online equivalent that wasn’t so much like wikipedia — I just want to make hierarchal-structured notes, not worry about making links — the closest is Zenkit, and that is still too fussy, in my opinion, for notetaking).

One of the more interesting things I had forgotten was the iteration of the name of the novel. In case you were wondering, “Arcanum Fabulis Factionis Sulphur” was Latin for “secret stories of the brimstone cabal”, which was the subtitle (with some liberties on the Latin). Other ideas that I’d probably lean more towards today are: “Sylloge Factionis Sulphur Historia”/”sylloge/collection of the Cabal Brimstone’s history” or “Arcanorum Factionis Sulphur”/”Arcane Record of the Brimstone Cabal”.

What’s the obsession with brimstone? As a cleansing/fumigation chemical. The Cabal envisioned themselves and the world’s janitors, clearing out impure and unpure elements that threatened mankind and the ones to purge intellectual darkness.

And I’d forgotten that I’d planned on have an antagonistic counter occult organization with a different agenda. Of course you need something like that in one of these types of tales, duh. They were “Coterie Crux Ansata”, kind of a precursor to a nazi-like group. A “crux ansata” is the Latin name for the ankh, and they are obsessed with the superman and everlasting life.

All fun to rediscover.

Looking at my old GingkoApp archive, I also saw another story outline that I’d completely forgotten about aside from the name, “Nightfell”. This was a story with more of the feel of the Hyperion Cantos (although I had yet to read that story when I started outlining this one). A little SciFi with a heavy dose of colonialism and “magic” (akin to the magic in Dune rather the the fireball-tossing stuff of high magic tales).

The main characters are bounty hunters on a planet left ruined by human colonialism. As my notecard reads:

Scathach and Brand are gloamstriders, mercenaries in a ruined, polluted world. The largely abandoned city-sprawls are now home to maddened beasts and malicious beings, products of weakened Engigang, the Narrows (or Narrow Ways), caused by the broken Galdorsang. The Galdorsang was a last-ditch effort to save an over-populated, polluted world but, instead of cleaning up the world, it unleashed further corruption bound behind doors meant to be closed forever by the Kyne.

With the addition of eldritch horrors to the already troubled planet, the remaining population fled for other planets — those that could afford it. Those who could not and did not wish to succumb to servitude to leave their home stayed behind. Eventually, even the transport carriers saw no profit in visiting the homeworld and ceased offering transport to the colonies.

Small pockets of humanity have eked out an existence behind barriers and via trade routes between enclaves, and the gloamstriders leveraged what they could of the ancient Galdorsang’s powers to provide the protection needed by merchants and travelers by tattooing their bodies with the song runes. Some of their work involved dark things as well, and they essentially became mercenaries for hire.

old notes

The Kyne are the fey-like shamanic nomads who are the original inhabitants who are more than a little annoyed they have been left with a mess to clean up. Why “gloamstriders”? I liked the sound of glyph-tattooed mercenaries for hire who lived neither “in the light” or “in the dark” because of the roles of the glyphs/rune as being non-dualistic. It is the name that the Kyne gave to them.

I won’t bother you with the rest, as the plot is far from sensible, written in half-pidgin that I might have understood at the time, but I assure you will require some deciphering if I want to use it. Plus, that was from “V.3”, and I’d have to go through the other versions to untangle what the whole plot was.

Still — seems promising… I should do that instead of writing lengthy posts about how something is “intriguing” and “seems promising”, but I haven’t.

Times gone by

Today: melancholy.

I realized as I sat down to work today that I miss two things: the circle/grove (but not the high rituals, if that makes sense), and the old-growth forest I used to basically live within when I was not swimming in the nearby lake as a child/early teen — at least until it was clear-cut and replaced with a shit-tonne of more-profitable, quick-growing, monospecies pine trees.

I miss the easy camaraderie of the circle and the grove I belonged to. Strangers were friends you had yet to meet. There were few value judgments and you could be you without wondering to much what might be said of you after you left the room. We were all rebels and outcasts, each group was an island for misfit toys, and so, unless you did something wholly egregious, you were accepted — superficial flaws and all. And it was enlightening, to sit there with the group in either celebration or just casual socialization, chatting up about things both mundane and esoteric. You could have a counterpoint and people would respect it. If you were wrong, they’d patiently try to explain the logical fallacy and, if you were right, they’d give you a nod and adjust their views to fit your contribution.

Looking from the outside these days, I don’t know that it works that way anymore. As more people have gotten involved, it seems like the same kinds of schisms we see in everyday life seem to have infiltrated the community, which makes me sad to some degree. I don’t know if you can ever go back to what it was 35 years ago — as welcoming and open-minded as it was back then. There were divisions, to be sure — but those dissolved when easily for the sake of common cause.

As far as the forest goes — I can’t say why that came to mind aside from the fact that I miss it. I’m not sure where I could find something so primitive that was an easy day jaunt, especially as people try to escape the confines of coronavirus and have overrun nature to the point that it feels like there are very few places left that they haven’t turned into a tourist destination. It used to be that I could get my fix down by the Minnesota or Mississippi Rivers, or even at bare-ass beach at Cedar Lake on a weekday (when people are decidedly clothed, if present at all), but my recent forays into similar areas have shown an insane amount of uptick in traffic — the kind where people need to be typical Americans and turn the volume to “eleven”, bring their shouting kids, and barking dogs and there is very little nature sticking around for all the cacophony of din. They are treating the nature areas as their new shopping malls, and it’s putting a lot of stress on those areas. It is not fun or relaxing at all to visit under those conditions. It grates, honestly, with the subwoofers and glass-pack mufflers, the whoops and hollers, the mountain bikers ignoring the “no off-road biking” signs… So I avoid it. People are nature, too, but they often make more than their fair share of “nature” and crowd out the rest.

Besides, it misses the whole “primitive” to follow established trails meant to keep disrespectful visitors from completely disrupting the ecosystem. I want to be somewhere where I have to be careful not to disturb a wayward sapling and snap an exuberant shoot of growth leaning over the trail, or dodge an elaborate web, or step over a mostly-rotten deadfall laying over the trail. To catch the flash of a white tail, or rouse a slumbering grouse when you step too close, or to hear the skittering of something that you can’t identify as it scampers over the dead leaves in the undergrowth. One sound I miss hearing perhaps the most is the lonely call of a loon filtering through the tree branches as I weaved my way along the narrow trails, leaving little more that boot-prints to be erased by rain or a deer hoof in my wake.

Dream #6

©2021 Michael Raven

We walked from the population center to the buildings being swallowed by the Ocean, my son and I [note: I do not have a son in real life], to go fishing in the waters beyond the newer ruins. We carried our fishing poles and made sure the residents saw we had our coronavirus masks on, though they seemed more intrigued by our kits and poles. “Americans,” muttered one in a business suit and a bowler hat, shook his head and gave us wide berth.

We thread our way between the newer ruins to the sandbars beyond, the more ancient places protected somewhat by an artificial reef of roman-style pillars and arches tumbled to ruin. The Ocean, it raged beyond the barrier, with waves reaching 20, 30, 50 feet in height, with a dark grey storm sky as backdrop. I wasn’t worried and my son didn’t know to be worried about such things as he ran ahead of me. I smiled because he smiled — though I wished he wouldn’t rush through the tide pools that filled with the raging storm between our destination on shore and the fallen city. Some were deep enough to pour over the hip waders I wore, filling them with salt water. It didn’t matter, I’d be dry soon enough.

I looked down at my feet and, to my joy, I found a fragment of the past: an olive-colored stone piece of an even older time, etched with hounds and cranes, weathered smooth and polished to a shine. I called to my son to share my discovery, but he was too far to hear me over the sound of the wind and the Ocean’s waves. A talisman for me, then.

I followed in his footsteps, the Ocean raging more and the sky getting darker with every step — but the kind of darkness where you can sense the sun behind the clouds. I found a jutting upright piece of stonework, stuck in the sand as if by some giant’s hand, with similar images as those carved on the piece I carried and I knew we’d come fishing to the the right place.

I caught up with my son, showed him my find and he smiled. Though the storm raged all around us, I only knew joy.

Raindance

Dani had started the absurdities, being the lightweight drinker of the four of us. The smoke from the fire seemed to follow her no matter where she sat and, in a fit of pique, she decided to try incantations and cantrips. “Dead bunnies bed bunnies dead bunnies!” she shouted at the smoke. Nonsense, of course, until the smoke attached itself to Tim, her fiance. He’d poo-pooed the idea the loudest, but was quick to copy her. She smirked when the smoke ignored his chants until it finally listened and found me.

I didn’t move. The mosquitoes vanished when it chose me as the next victim and I didn’t mind watery eyes.

Anna just smirked. The smoke wouldn’t dare find her. This, she knew. “Y’all, we’re tapped,” she informed us, showing the empty case of what had previously held beer. “I’m going to crash.” She started for the tent and Dani stagger-swayed towards her own.

“Let’s see if we can piss the fire out,” whispered Tim once they’d crawled in. I had to admit I was curious if it could be done. “It’ll stink,” I warned. “eh,” he said and started anyway. I joined in, figuring what the hell. For science, of course.

We had unexpected help.

Within minutes our minds shifted from beer and makeshift rituals to ward off magnetic smoke to trying to piss out the fire in the fire-pit — the next was a glorious midsummer downpour that crashed all camping plans. Without warning we were swallowed whole by a soaking downpour.

There’d be no sleep that night — no one had trenched, or put up a tarp to keep the heaviest rains off. We were drenched and there was nothing to do but revel in it. So we did what any drunk guy in a situation like that would do. We stripped and ran naked, howling like wolves in the rain.

We were two men gone batshit crazy as far as the women were concerned, as they crawled out to try to save the sleeping bags from the downpour, but to no avail — it took only moments for everything to get pregnant with the rainwater and, as quick as they moved, they didn’t make it to the cars in time to save anything. We were too busy howling like animals in the rain to help, probably pissing off the other campers who hid in their tents, still soaked from the unexpected downpour. No one had prepared for a rain event. No one.

And here were two idiots, howling while their partners rolled eyes and gave up trying to restrain themselves from laughter and finally howled with us.

Sometimes, there is no point in shaking your fist at adversity.


Mostly true. Some names changed, not all.I think I was 23 at the time.

Dead bunnies.

In the eternity of spring.

©2021 Michael Raven

Hold an eagle feather to my heart, washing the wind with each wave of my heart, washing the air with my breath, drinking in the leaf-rot scents, earthy with fungal fragrant decomposition. Violets at the funeral of Pan, long live the horned one, horny one, the man without a face.

I take the past , crumple into into all corners and shove it up their ass, shouting to the sky — are you happy now? Are you happy? They don’t feel a thing, I am sure, the efforts a waste, but goddamn does it feel good to desecrate those straw dogs! Then, the light dancing like motes on the cold breeze and —

I stand in the manicured garden I trample with my hooves and spite and fear and loathing, reborn I suppose. I trample those violets too, absurd as they are. Who wants to worry about the Death in winter, when it is spring? We dance, we sing, ushering in the Queen riding rabbits in a way that would make your mother cover your eyes were you still a child, make you father shudder in shame…

I was bed.

It was night, it was a gift ride home and, well, not so much bed as ‘carpeted’. We didn’t wait for comfort. It was green, nothing at all like grass, but we made it grass that May eve, lost in the brambles and soil as they rode us into the night. Belladonna and mandrake, the taste of dirt and sex into the early hours. Maybe declaring love to strangers. Shh — that’s secret.

I left that past out of my myriad folded prize. That is a past I will relish — inductress of mine. Selfish, I keep those treasures close, unwilling to let them fade.

Memories fade, washed out rags of grey and tatters ribbons flapping in the mountain of a mind gone to rubble. Where is the path? Overgrown.

The cold breeze wakes me at the top of the hill, my naked skin prickling with the chill, desire shrinking with the funeral wake of the vision and I tumble into the maelstrom me, skin and sticks, refuse and bones, laying in the rot of spring.

Thieves.

©2021 Michael Raven

Visits. Six or seven last night; like thieves in the night. Others, the nights before.

Friday, I heard floorboards creak as I slumbered, didn’t think much of it. Felt the bed compress with the weight of an adult, turned to say something.

No one there.

Saturday. Rinse. Repeat. Someone kissed me on the forehead as I woke. I swear I swear I swear I was not dreaming.

Last night, the barrage. These stayed in dream. Waking up from the visits, now fading into the mists of memory. On the hour, every hour starting at midnight. Thieves. They stole something, but left something in exchange. I may have ended up with the better end of the exchange, but it was still a theft.

Wisps:

  • Saint Paul, West Seventh limestone storefronts. We shared coffee, smokes. Advice: left behind the counter. He laughed.
  • Seattle, Belltown. Shopping. Something taken from racks and given, we ran and laughed as the cops were called. She told me not to worry; it was all a dream, she explained, but that I should cling tightly to what we snatched.
  • Grandparents house. Grandma telling tall tales, except each was more true than real life.
  • The crows, laughing outside. They spoke of other times and places. I listened, intent. I heard a secret, I am sure.
  • More. But gone now. The clock read 1am, it read 2am, it read..

Memory, waking, slipstream and fading. Important things — I hope I put it into a treasure chest for later.

Something inside had died

They raped the forests of my youth for old growth lumber, their saws buzzing all day, every day with the foul diesel exhaust overwhelming the smell of loam and ancient pines that lingered before. A summer of wanton destruction, as they stole my secret wild gardens and ravaged them to truncated penis stumps all waist high.

I cried.

No more meandering trails to lose parents lacking internal compasses. No more sudden blur of tawny brown as a doe decided she’d stood still enough. No squirrels making stomach-churning jumps from branch to branch. No grouse, no snakes, no frogs, no lizards, no life. Worst: no birds. Just rolling hills of severed pine, aspen, birch, oak, ash. No fey.

And, still, they were not satisfied with the pillaging they’d wrought, so they brought in their bulldozers and earth-movers and leveled each offending piece of wood that remained in the ground, treads tearing the earth, obliterating habitats, homes, and burrow. Drained some swamps, or filled them in.

Then the final blasphemy as they planted quick-growing pines in rows and columns (only pines), little saplings that could be harvested again in thirty years. No diversity. No esthetics. No nature-building. No wild berries. No soul. It felt as if they’d murdered all the spirits in that place; I think I heard those spirits crying with me as they drifted away.

Just scrawny saplings with a few needles attached to the center. Sterile and almost dead.

I cried again, hoping the tree-house I’d build years before, hidden away in the depths away, my refuse against the bullying of cousins, aunts and uncles, broke their fucking machinery at least once. But I doubt it.

It’s about that time that I think part of me died. It was about the time I’d become an honest to god teenager when it occurred, about the time the lingering depression in me woke and has never left since.

Since then, the closest I came to finding the same sense of joy and wonder as I did on those winding, overgrown paths through ancient woods was when I did hit some urbanx, exploring forgotten and abandoned places in the downtown. But then they took those away, too, and barfed up yuppie condos to take their place.

Both things were atrocities committed in the name of progress and greed.

There is no end to this story.