World’s Shittiest PSA

It’s looking like my Stripey old man cat, Torin, is in his last days. Possibly hours, to be honest. I’m hand-feeding food a single kibble at a time and doing what I’ve done the entirety of his life, and that is the best I can to make his life as comfortable as I can. for as long as I can. Me? I’m….

not okay but doing my best to pretend that I’m not staring into the void of a world without my Stripey Love and no longer having an idea of how to function in a world where I don’t go to sleep with him hogging the bed or refusing to let me finish sitting down before he climbs into my lap, or waking up to his nose in my eye because he’s clearly never been fed in the history of ever, or following me around like an ever-present tabby shadow, or a hundred other pieces of daily life for the last nearly 18 years.

The worst part of sharing our lives with others is saying the final good-byes, knowing that we will have to face a world that they are no longer in.

Adulting Is Boring

As part of the transition away from Patreon and over to Ko-fi (and eventually be able to set up a subscription/donation option on here, directly), I’ve finally finished setting up a Stripe account (look, just because I started to in 2019 but never got around to finalizing it). Mostly because I need it to link to Ko-fi, since they don’t have an automatic option for credit card donations built in.

Now I wait to get the confirmation that it is, in fact, live and ready to go, which the automated email said might take a few days. Hooray.

Adulting is boring. Time to go play video games.

Where Willow-Wrens Gather

O ne’er go down where the willow-wrens gather
So late on a midwinter’s eve
For wailin’ and weepin’ will follow down after
And ne’er you more shall be seen

-Folk rhyme of unknown origin

A little while back, on a rather foggy afternoon, I was driving down a back road on my way home when a flicker of movement caught my attention. I glanced at the trees, but didn’t see anything. Something told me to stop and check it out, but I was in a hurry so I ignored it. Still, it bugged me for the rest of the night. Something about it had seemed familiar, but in that way like when you’re trying to remember a dream, and I couldn’t pull the memory up. Eventually I decided that either I’d remember eventually or come across it again, and life went on.

The other day, on a different road, something else caught my attention; a small flutter of red among the winter-dead plants at the edge of a small marsh. This time, I pulled over to investigate. (I may have had to do a little light trespassing to get to it…nothing much, just a little dip through a fence onto some conservation land that was closed for the evening.) I was glad for the fact that it was really cold as it meant I wasn’t slogging through mud, though I could have done without the bone-gnawing edge of ice to the wind that cut through my gloves like they weren’t even there. But I digress…

I climbed through the fence and walked over to the edge of the water, boots crunching on the ice-coated grass, looking for the flash of red in the rapidly failing light until I found what I was looking for. To be honest, it was so small that I have no idea how I saw it from the road. On a tree branch there was a small object of grass and string, fluttering frantically in the breeze. While it was a very crudely done thing, clearly done by someone not entirely sure what they were doing, it was nonetheless recognizable as a very specific folk charm. Memory clicked into place, and I realized what was familiar about the thing I had seen the other week.

This was a willow-wren charm and, based on the colors, a warning that there were willow-wrens gathering in the area. No, not the normal little birds you’re probably thinking of. Willow-wrens are…something else. There’s almost nothing written about them, being an extremely obscure and almost entirely oral lore. I ran across them decades ago, but haven’t thought much about them in years. To say I was surprised to find this would be an understatement.

There’s very little known about willow-wrens or where they came from. Some say that they were originally a bastardization of will-o-wisp myths. Some say they’re based on some random event that happened that got twisted over the retellings. Others say they’re exactly what it says on the tin. There’s even a theory that they’re actually some sort of magical construct, though anyone with a half-ounce of respect for folklore and myth looks sideways at that one.

Willow-wrens are the same rough size and shape as a normal wren, but are said to have feathers of long, narrow, willow-like leaves. They’re never seen during the day, appearing just as the sun sets and are often described as having a faint bluish-green glow, similar to that of phosphorescent fungi (hence the suggestion of being a variant of will-o-wisp).

Tradition is that seeing a lone willow-wren is a kind of good luck, and hearing one call is an omen (of what, the stories don’t actually say, because that would be useful or something, I guess). Seeing a flock of them is Very Bad and you should be getting away from there as fast as you can possibly manage. (Again, what the Bad is is a point of contention and ranges from death, memory or dream theft, permanent bad luck, kidnapping, that sort of thing.) There’s a third theory that the willow-wrens are some kind of guardian spirits that protect a place, as well.

One of the fascinating things is that the use of physical charms has persisted into modern times, with very few changes, aside from purpose (some to ward against, some to call, some to warn people away). A willow-wren charm consists of three stalks of grain grasses (rye, barley, oat) braided and formed into a circle, tied at the top with a knotted or braided yellow or gold cord symbolizing the sun. This is consistent across all versions. Tied to the bottom of the charm, there are 3, 6, or 9 cords, each with a seed threaded onto it, though there’s conflicting stories about what type and how many seeds. Different colors denote different meanings (red for warning, blue for calling, silver or pale green to ward against, etc.). Types of seeds used include apple, squash, buckwheat, mustard, and others.

The one I found was, as I mentioned, extremely crudely done, being a single stalk of wild rye coiled and tied with unknotted thread and no seeds, but was still recognizable as a warning charm. Someone was trying to warn people that willow-wrens were seen flocking, and either was in a hurry or didn’t have all the information on how to construct the charm properly. The fact that it was there at all was strange enough, given the obscurity of willow-wren lore.

Stranger still was the fact that what I saw the other night was the right size, shape, and color to have been a willow-wren landing on a branch, watching as I drove by. I don’t know why the willow-wrens are gathering, or who the charm-maker was, but willow-wrens are being seen again, and that is always an omen. Of what, I can’t say. I suppose that we’ll have to wait and find out.

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Why Are Bodies?!?

In this week’s lesson, our heroine is reminded that her tendons are terrible (holdover from the sheer amount of corticosteroids I needed to remain alive as the Victorian-esque sickly child I was) by playing too many video games. Guess who spent the last several days in a wrist brace ’cause she’s a dumbass!

It’s a damned good thing I’m cute, because sometimes I’m pretty sure it’s all I’ve got going for me.

On the other hand, the enforced downtime gave me some good, solid time to stare at the walls and think about all the art things I wasn’t able to work on and, surprisingly, there was a lot of them. Like, holy shit a lot. Also a fascination with creepy bird figurines and strange things found in the woods, so that’s going to be interesting.

Now I need to carve out the time to work on them, because after nearly 6 months of near-total loss of creativity, there is a BUMPER crop of ideas growing up from the mud in my brain, and they need to come out into the tangible world. I need them to exist in the tangible world, and I suspect others do, too.

On which note, it’s time to go find a blade sharp enough to slice through time, clear a space on the workbench, and see about harvesting what the part of me that spawned the Poppet Witch and her creepdorable little poppets has been growing in her strange little garden.

Morning Coffee Mystery Theater

It’s always interesting when you come across an arcane note that you left for yourself, hastily scribbled on the back of an old gas station receipt, and you have no idea what it is you were trying to remember.  Like, why did I need to remember “moth ash” and why did I think that would be a helpful note?  Was it for an ingredient?  A story prompt? A color I saw in passing? I don’t know!  It’s a morning coffee time mystery!

It does make for an interesting way to start the day, though, so there’s that.

This Quarantine Life

Uuuuuuuuuugh.

Last week, Himself’s work apprentice, who’s been pretending that vaccines are magical force fields that protect you from any and all possible infection, no matter how risky your behavior, unsurprisingly turned up positive for Covid. Which of course means that anyone working with this jackhole was exposed, Himself being the one working with him the most, because apprentice, and stuck in quarantine until they could get tested.

*throws glitter*

Which also means that those who live with the quarantined are more or less stuck in quarantine as well, because we ALSO are at risk, and also get to be the person who handles the entire load of day to day household operations while the other person is confined to two rooms of the house.

*throws more glitter*

This is not only boring as hell, it’s also stressful as fuck.

On the plus side, playing hours of Cozy Grove has started to chip away at the executive dysfunction that’s been preventing me from making any of my own art for months? Sadly, the majority of my art supplies are on the other side of the quarantine partition of the house, which means I’m cut off from them until we can reintegrate house, but at least things are coming back online in my head again.

The enforced downtime has also had the side effect of helping me resolve a situation that’s been bothering me for a while…the problem of Patreon, Ko-fi, and more pressure to produce specific things on a regular schedule than I can realistically deliver. Especially with all of the extra work involved with dealing with my father’s estate that are about to get even worse with winter’s onset. It’s probably going to shoot me in the foot, at least temporarily, but in the long run it’ll be better for my overall health and functionality, which is more important to me than a short-term set back.

Never a dull moment…

Hello Monday, It’s You Again.

Nothing like starting off the day having to have the “this is why we don’t scarf our food down so fast” discussion with the cat before I could even finish making my own breakfast. Or drink my coffee. Yup. It’s Monday. Here’s hoping it’s just getting it’s shenanigans out of the way early.

Spent the weekend collecting some of the furniture from the Other House (aka, my late father’s house) and getting them set up in my house, making plans to repaint the table and chairs to a color that matches my color scheme. It’s currently a perfect fine sky blue, but it will clash horribly with my terra cotta and sage kitchen, and grey stone tile floor. (I make my house sound nicer than it is…it’s a 1960 ranch-style with a badly done half-remodeled kitchen that the previous owners left it with. We haven’t had the money to actually do more than repaint it from the horrible yellow, white, and grey that it was. I’m pretty sure that the cabinet doors were found on the side of the road with a “free” sign on them, after they’d been out in the rain for a couple of days, and at least one counter top isn’t actually attached to the cabinet it’s on top of.) Not sure what color I’m going to repaint the table set to, but I’ve at least got the sandpaper and dust mask to get the first stage started while I decide.

Getting ready to spend the afternoon making turkey stock while I try and wrangle a few words of story out of my brainmeats. Or at very least a vignette that’s been stuck in my head for months. There’s a non-zero chance I may be able to pick up a drawing pen at some point today, but I’m not counting on it. The executive dysfunction is still not letting me do artwork for some reason, and I’m not going to force it. I’ll be able to draw when I can, and that’s just how this is going to go, I guess.

Before that, though, I need to run out to pick up the Nintendo Switch I ordered last week, as the notice that it’s come in just showed up in my email while I’ve been typing. Hooray for a good thing!

On Finding Myself Standing Upon Author’s Ridge

It’s funny, when I left the house the other day in search of a roadside god or some other strange thing, the last place I expected to find myself was standing on a hilltop just before dusk, shivering in the thinnest sweater I own and a light scarf I’d dug out of the back of the truck against the mid-November wind, a battered leather bag with my travel notebook and pens in it slung over my shoulder, looking down at the gravestones of Louisa May Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and others.

When I left the house, I had some road snacks, my writing bag, and a vague idea of heading somewhere northeast-ish, since I rarely go that direction.  It was one of those rare November days where the sky is a bright, cloudless blue instead of overcast or raining, though the wind was still sharp-edged and cold.  Good driving weather.  I figured I could get a good two or three hours of questing in before dark and, if I was lucky, maybe find Something Interesting.

The thing about eastern Massachusetts is that it’s Old.  Sure, maybe it’s not old compared to other countries, but for the US, it’s one of the oldest places we have.  Other people read about the Revolutionary War, the Pilgrims, the Salem Witch Trials and all that, but we trip over the damned stuff all the time. I regularly drive down roads that famous people once rode horses down, yelling that the “British Are Coming!”, and pass signs proclaiming that some historical event happened or historical figure stopped for lunch there.  Those roads were also, in many cases, decided on by what direction someone’s damned cows decided to take regularly and everything else just sort of built up around them.  They’re twisting, winding, and heavily congested with traffic, because we pack a LOT of residents, commuters, and tourists into a small area of real estate.  There’s so much going on that it’s hard to hear the small, quiet things in all of that.  Which is why I typically head out towards the western parts of the state most of the time, away from it.

Still, something said to go that way, so I did.

I drove for a couple of hours, past yellowing post-harvest farmstand fields, through downtowns with their eclectic mix of old and new architecture and industry, meandering around with no purpose other than to see what I might see. I admired monuments and memories, and mused on the differences and similarities between small gods and genius loci.  I smiled at kids horsing around while walking home from school, and glowered at people who decided that they were going to take their half of the road from the middle, and the rest of us would just have to get out of their way.  I passed through several towns, yet another nameless driver on the roads.

I found nothing.  My thoughts turned inward, twisting in on themselves, and I started to wonder what the fuck I was doing out here, wandering aimlessly like one more lost cow, with delusions of making a living writing about…what?  Half-imagined feelings and things I saw from the corner of my eye that were probably just trees or abandoned old restaurant mascots, or a dog?  There was a stack of dishes so deep on the counter at home that it was going to take days to dig through, because I’m trying to maintain two households and failing at both, and what the hell was I doing?

I decided that it was time to go back and deal with the mountain of dishes.  Besides, it was getting late and the sun would be setting soon.  I turned onto a minor highway with a route number I knew would eventually lead me home.  I worked on trying to soothe my brain, but it was settling in for a good sulk, and to be honest, at the time I was having a hard time trying to come up with reasons that it was being unreasonable.  On a whim, I turned into an old cemetery that looked interesting, because I find them soothing and I needed to stretch my legs anyway.

It was probably one of the most beautiful old cemeteries I’ve seen, laid out in a way that spoke of deliberate planning to be both walkable and integrated with the land’s contours in a way most usually aren’t.  There were the remnants of old cobblestone paths, and benches to sit on, and massive old trees.  It was breathtakingly, heartachingly lovely, and I forgot about being unhappy in the face of its beauty and peacefulness. 

I’d been wandering around for about 10 minutes or so when I came across the back of a sign near one of the entrances.  Figuring it would probably tell me the name of the cemetery and exactly which town I was in, so I could come back when I had more time to poke around, I walked around it to see what it said.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t remember where I knew it from.  Maybe it sounded familiar because of the ghost story?  That didn’t feel right.  Then I noticed another sign nearby.  It was a state park sign, with a piece of paper under the glass, proclaiming “Graves of Interest” and a list of names.

Oh.  Right.  That’s why I recognized the name, and now I knew exactly where I was.  I checked the map, and made my way up to the top of the hill opposite the entrance, smiling with amusement.  No, more like giggling.

And so it was that I found myself on top of a hill, shivering in the chill that comes when the sun sets in New England this late in the year, looking at the graves of literary giants who, in their own ways, had forged paths of writing that also left the proverbial beaten path, on the day I came very close to giving up on writing.  Message received.

I may not have found what I thought I was looking for, but a small god of lost writers found me just the same, and I’m very glad that it did.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

Adjusting Crowd Support Options Is A Pain In The Rear.

Blarg.

In light of Patreon’s ongoing issues, I’m working on transitioning toward Ko-fi for crowd support until I can get this site to support direct support. In addition to their latest debacle, in which they’re flirting with the idea of supporting N/F/Ts, I’m honestly tired of the fact that the words “their latest debacle” is a thing that I have to write. I’d rather spend my time working on creating something, and less time having to run damage control against their bad business decisions.

Not shutting down my Patreon yet, but will definitely be working with Ko-fi more.On that vein, I’ve upgraded so that it can accept ongoing monthly donations as well as one-time donations, and am considering whether or not to set up membership tiers. We’ll see. In the meantime, over the next little while I’ll be working on getting that gussied up a bit. It’s honestly a nicer, more functional site, in general, and they’ve also actively stated that they have no intention of supporting N/F/Ts, which makes me super happy.

Screaming Into The Void

It’s 2:30 in the morning and I’m still awake because the Insomnia Weasels are doing war dances in my brain. Apparently Patreon decided that I didn’t have enough going on right now and is making noises about hopping on the NFT bandwagon, and just no. No. What the actual fuck.

There’s a common statement that one can’t make money on the internet, and what pisses me off the most about it is that it’s almost true, but not for the reason people think. The problem doesn’t lie with getting eyeballs on posts, or getting people to actually drop a donation in the bucket after consuming the content, as one might expect, though these are legit Herculean tasks.

No, the problem is getting payment processors and hosting sites to ACTUALLY LET US GET PAID.

Seriously, I don’t have a donation button on here because WordPress will only let me do so if I pay them over $300 a year for the privilege of adding a PayPal button and Stripe (which WordPress wants to insist you use) has a fee structure that doesn’t work unless you start at a $5 bare minimum, which dramatically reduces the likelihood that you can convince folks to donate, and still means they’re keeping nearly half of each donation, making it not a realistically viable option. Patreon is hellbent on finding new and interesting ways to push people away from using the site and rolls out some new terrible idea every couple of months. Gods only know when Ko-fi’s gonna start pulling shady shit.

I’m just tired of constantly fighting to try and find ways to let people pay me. I’d much rather use that time and energy to actually, I dunno, WRITE.

/rant