Winter Is Coming, My Dearest Beloveds…

Well, my loves, we’re almost halfway through November and winter and the Dark Months are bearing down on us.  I’m not going to candy-coat it, it’s very likely going to be a lot more crappy than usual this winter, after all the stress and strain of this fucked up year.

I don’t know about you, but I am *not* looking forward to wrangling with my SAD on top of all this.  To make it more exciting, my house is in a valley, so the sun rises a bit later and sets quite a bit earlier than even just a half mile down the road, which is great for Himself (he has the summer variant on SAD and too much sunlight is bad for him), but sucks for me with my winter variant.

On the strangely positive side, however, we know it’s coming, which means we can actually take steps to prepare for it and set up things to mitigate the damage!  There’s the usual; lightboxes and exercise are your friends, stay hydrated, make sure your meds are adjusted to handle the additional stresses, lick a vegetable at least once a day, that sort of thing.

But there’s also other things.  I’m a huge fan of the concept of hygge which, contrary to the dictates of capitalism, isn’t about spending money on dozen of throw blankets and single-handedly supporting Yankee Candle with an out of control candle habit.  It’s consciously creating rituals and oases of comfort and calm in your daily life, and deliberately choosing to look for the small happinesses instead of focusing on the negatives.

As a New Englander with screaming SAD on top of my garden variety depression, it’s honestly how I’ve survived our winters since long before I ever found out about the Danish ideas.  Nor’easter dropping 3 feet of heavy, wet snow in a day?  Welp, time to light some candles, toss a pot of stew on the stove, and poach some pears!  The weather outside might be vile, but I have the warm glow of firelight, the smell of a delicious, hot meal, and the gooey sweetness of dessert inside my walls.  Zero degrees and a windchill of -30 and still have to go out in it? Sucks, but when I get in, I’ve got the electric kettle prepped and ready to produce hot water for raspberry cocoa with marshmallows and warm, fuzzy socks waiting to look forward to.

This is the year to use the Good Dishes for everything  Yes, even breakfast or snacktime.

This is the year to have little projects pre-planned for the Dark, Cold days.  Makes notes for things like  “First Snowfall of December – bake cookies” (yes, things like the Pillsbury Ready Bake stuff totally count), plan weekly Streaming Movie Nights with people and go all out on the popcorn and movie snacks.

This is the year to GET THE DAMNED FANCY COCOA YOU KEEP NOT GETTING YOURSELF.

Drink the fancy cocoa.  Use the fancy cups.

Get the nice smelling candles and USE THEM EVERY DAY.

Set aside regular time to read a book, or work on a puzzle, or do something just for you.  Yes, even you parents.  Maybe even especially you parents.  If you start feeling guilty or whatnot, remember this very important thing.  When you take time for yourself, you are also teaching your little ones to take care of their own emotional and mental health and modeling healthy stress-reduction techniques that will serve them well as they get older.  They learn so much by watching what you do, as well as what you say.  Taking time for good self-care teaches them to do the same, and will help them be overall healthier adults.

That craft or hobby you keep thinking about taking up?  This is a good year to do it.

Spend a little time every day making your home or space an oasis of cozy and comfort. Start today.

Seriously.  Make plans for things that you enjoy to do over the winter and spread them out across the calendar.  Start the planning and prep work NOW, before it sets in and you’re fighting against the cold and dark.   Learn to find the small beauties and the little happinesses and look for them everywhere you can.  Store them up for the days that are hard, and remember to be extra gentle with yourself on those days.

Moisturize, for the love of little fishies.

Most importantly, reach out if you need to, no matter if the weasels are lying and telling you not to.  Take care of and be gentle with yourselves, my loves.

What about you?  What do you already do or are you planning to do to get through the winter?

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

The Poppet Witch Speaks

I promised I’d start writing a bit longer bits about the poppets, so here we are, the first installment of the story, from the Poppet Witch herself.  I hope you like it!

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I’m told that, given recent happenings, I should start writing stuff down a bit more than usual.  Always was bad at it, and leaving a paper trail always seemed a bad idea, but something about “documentation” and “for the love of God, what if something happens to you?!?” and all that, so I guess I’ll give it a shot.  I ain’t gonna promise to be regular about it, though, and fair warning, there’s some things you can’t pay me enough to write down and others that ain’t no one’s business but my own, even if I’m dead before anyone reads it.

Haven’t kept a diary since I was a teenager, and I feel a bit ridiculous trying to do so now, but well, here we are.  Maybe if I pretend I’m writing someone a letter I’ll feel a bit less foolish about the whole thing.  Figure I should start at the beginning so the rest makes some kind of sense, while I’m at it.

Folks have lots of theories about what the poppets are and where they came from.  Souls of lost children, mine or someone else’s, are a particular favorite.  Stolen souls, in general, seem to be popular. Bargains with devils were made, they’re devils themselves, familiar spirits summoned to do mischief, that sort of thing.  Course, they’re all wrong,  but they do amuse me just the same.

No, I think I’m not going to write down what the truth is.  Folks need a little more mystery in their life.  The world’s getting too tame and besides, too much information is bad for you.

I must say, I didn’t expect them to get as advanced as they have been.  That’s been a nice little surprise.

So what are they?  What it says on the tin, more or less. They’re dolls of sticks and twine and scraps of cloth, mostly.  Whatever’s around that works.  Like those little corn husk dolls folks make, just, well….more.  I made the first one when I was out cleaning up the dead wood that’d come down in a storm a while back, and remembered making little dolls from flowers and things in my ma’s garden while I was little.  I wanted to see if I could remember how to do it.  Poor thing was rather rough and didn’t hold together well, but it was alright.  Or it was until the kitten decided it was a toy and it got chewed up and scattered around, at any rate.

Still, I’d like having it around and I wanted to see if I could do better, so I kept practicing and trying new things until I got it right.

Honestly, it was as much of a surprise to me as anyone else when the first one got it into its head to move.  Damned near threw it into the fire before I caught myself.

The thing a lot of folks don’t realize is that witchery is a sort of science.  It’s got different ways of seeing and doing things, but the main difference is what you’re working with, really.  Also the scientists take better notes, from what I hear. A big thing we’ve got in common, though, is neither of us are particularly good at leaving well enough alone when something gets our curiosity up.

That first one was years ago, now, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.  It was just a bit after dark, in late fall.  Day’d been pretty normal…I’d spent most of it dealing with getting the gardens set for winter and sold a few teas and things to the local folks, Himself was off doing his thing, as usual.  I was getting dinner ready, when I noticed that the cats were sitting quietly side by side instead of fighting, staring at something.  Figuring it was either a mouse or a bug, I went to take a look.  It wasn’t a mouse. It was one of the little dolls, standing in the middle of the living room floor, looking back at me.  When it tilted it’s head, I yelled and moved to grab it and toss it into the fireplace.  I stopped because it raised its hands in front of its face, like it was trying to protect itself, and well, it was obviously scared and well, I ain’t a monster.

After shooing the cats out of the room, I sat down on the floor so as not to spook it more than it already was (the poor thing was shaking so much I had a concern that it might actually rattle itself back into a pile of sticks, and that wouldn’t do at all), and started talking to it just like I would any scared critter, and waited to see what it would do.  After a bit, it stopped rattling, took a few halting steps closer, and looked at me like it was expecting me to do something.  So, I did the first thing I thought of.  I held out a hand, and it climbed up, sat down, and wrapped an arm around my thumb, for all the world like it was settling into its favorite chair.

Over the next weeks, it took to following me around, and would climb up onto a nearby shelf or look at me until I picked it up and put it where it pointed me to bring it so it could watch what was going on around the house.  I taught it to make different sounds in certain patterns for important things like “yes”, “no”, “help”, “please”, “thank you”, and all that.   It was a curious little thing, and seemed generally good-natured, though it had moments of oddly intense…staring, isn’t quite the right word, given it’s lack of actual eyes, but it’s close enough.  It would fix it’s attention on you so hard you’d almost swear you could feel it, and you weren’t sure what, exactly, it was thinking.

Not gonna lie, it was a bit unnerving at first, but we had a talk about it and got some ground rules sorted.

One day I found it in the work room, looking at the half-finished bits of others I’d been working on.  Hadn’t touched them since the night it walked itself into the living room, so it was the only one finished at the time.  It looked so sad it hurt to see, and I decided I needed to finish them and see about making it some others of its kind.

That’s a story for another day, though, and I’ve used up enough daylight writing this much for now.

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Crossroads Days and Roadway Oracles

I got up yesterday morning and was feeling *really* squirrelly.  I haven’t gone for a good, solid drive since sometime last spring, and I’ve been going a bit stir-crazy.  I’m a routewitch, and I need to be out on the roads, looking for mysteries and oddities and forgotten deities and all the interesting things that the Road leads me to, or I start to unravel a bit.

I was trying to decide if I wanted to go out or not (I miss the days when traveling was an easy decision, don’t you?), when I was struck with the intense conviction that it was a Crossroads Day and yeah, I needed to go out and find what the Road wanted me to see.  So, I got dressed, grabbed a Luna bar for lunch on the go (lemon are my favorites), and headed out.

What’s a Crossroad Day?  Hmm.  How do I describe them…..

A regular driving day is just that.  I’m bored, or I’ve got something on the itinerary for a certain day or that’s been waiting for a specific weather pattern, or whatnot, and while usually pleasant, they’re not anything hugely significant most of the time.

A Crossroads Day, however, is More.  Crossroads Days are when I get the feeling that there is Something I need to see or encounter, and I am restless and on edge and Need To Be On The Road because something is calling and I need to find it, and I have to go out.

Crossroads have gotten a bad rep in folklore over the years;  demons, sketchy deals with devils, that sort of thing.  They are liminal places, thresholds where two roads exist and cease to exist simultaneously for a moment, and so they are places where stories and myths are drawn to, like moths to flame.  They are places where answers are looked for, and found.

Crossroads Days feel like being at the crossroads, waiting to see what’s going to show up and what changes may come with it.

These are the days when I find things like the Juniper Saints, or Satan’s Kingdom, or find myself in a small, hole-in-the-wall bookstore where one of my favorite authors happens to be doing a book-signing that day (that’s how I came to have a signed copy of Charles De Lint’s “Someplace To Be Flying”), or I see or experience something that causes me to have an important realization about something I hadn’t been able to get clear on until then.   That sort of thing.

I like days like that.  Those are the days that remind me that life is more interesting than we remember and to pay attention.

Got a couple more answers on what the Oracle of Roads is (or rather, is not) while I was out there, too.  I was wrong about what the Oracle was, so I guess I have to start thinking of myself as the Oracle now.  Also need to figure out how the hell that’s supposed to work, seeing as reading the Road and interpreting what it’s saying generally requires me to be, well, behind the wheel and out there.  Guess that’s my next question for it, since it’s sort of useless to be an Oracle if one can’t communicate with the folks who have questions….

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

“Excerpt From The Book of Lemminations”

Background:  On March 23, 2007, I was in a whimsical mood and wrote A Thing.  It was called “Excerpt From The Book of Lemminations” and it was very short, and cute, and silly and got mistaken for a lesser known tidbit from Sir Terry Pratchett (which I was unbelievably proud of, because Sir Terry was amazeballs, and it is absurdly happy-making to have my words mistaken for his) and HOLY FUCK DOES IT READ HORRIFICALLY DIFFERENTLY IN 2020, which is why I hadn’t wanted to share it again, but I’m tired and cranky and the hell with it. 

For Reasons, I’m skipping Early Patron Access on this one, and going straight to unlocked.  So, without further ado, the oft referenced, but not seen in many a year, “Excerpt From the Book of Lemminations”…

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“…and Lo! it SHALL come to Pass at the End of Days that Holy Squiknor (holy be His name), Lord of the Lemmings, King of the Meek! Ruler of the Slow of Wit! SHALL come at last unto His Reign! And there SHALL be peace at last and much feasting and song, and Sacrificing! The Faithful by the thousands will Fling themselves from the High Places for His Honour and His Glory! And it Will be glorious, and Squiknor (holy be His name) SHALL be Pleased.

Thus have I seen, and Know my Visions to be Truth for I am the Love Lemming, Squiknor’s (holy be His name) own chosen Prophet!

Lemminations 2:16

*found on badly damaged scrolls during an archeological dig of the great Lemming city, Lemnalia, along with various pieces of debris; broken pottery, bent and tarnished cutlery, scraps of material which we assume to be garments, the usual flotsam left behind. It is believed that the Lemnalians commited mass suicide in some archaic ceremony to appease their god, Squiknor, at the time of the Great Drought of 1278. Unfortunately for the Lemnalians, this was a horribly ill-timed plan, as the Drought had actually ended the year before.

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

What Even Are Words? An In-Process Post

From time to time over the last year or so, I’ve been writing a little, I dunno, serial ambient microfiction (snippets, but this is what they more accurately are) that started with a post over here last winter, The Problem With Poppets, and just sort of turned into a sporadic Thing on Twitter by accident.  Recently, I hit a point with them where I realized that I could actually start doing a longer, epistolary version from the Poppet Witch’s perspective, and then…

My brain froze in indecision.  How do I write her?  Do I do journal entries?  Letters to someone?  Who, if so?  Will I fuck it up if I switch from the third person that the snippets are in to a first person voice?  Do I give her a name?  How much detail do I give her larger world?  Do  I let people know her timeline?  Should I ease into that? How much information should I give on the poppets and keep them both charmingly whimsical yet somewhat unsettling and menacing, without ruining them?  Can I write her dialect properly? WHERE DO I EVEN START?  Do I pick up where the snippets left off?  Do I run the snippets and entries on different timelines?

Most terrifyingly… Can I write the longform and keep it interesting to read or am I going to kill it?

So, yeah, I might have worked my brain into a wee little panic state…

On the positive side, I managed to break the seal yesterday and have gotten a couple of paragraphs down, so yay!   Hoping to get the first one finished up and posted within a week, and trying to get one or two a month out, depending.  (Did I mention there’s an ambient component?  I might be working on an actual set of poppet chimes, because Reasons.)

In the meantime, a small taste (liable to change somewhat between now and full posting, because draft changes)…
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The Poppet Witch speaks:

    I’m told that, given recent events, I should start writing stuff down a bit more than usual.  I was always bad at it, and leaving a paper trail always seemed a bad idea, but something about “documentation” and “for the love of God, what if something happens to you?!?” and all that, so I guess I’ll give it a shot.  I ain’t gonna promise to be regular about it, though, and fair warning, there’s some things you can’t pay me enough to write down and others that ain’t no one’s business but my own, even if I’m dead before anyone reads it.

Haven’t kept a diary since I was a teenager, so  damned if I know what I’m supposed to be writing down.

    Folks have lots of theories about what the poppets are and where they came from.  Souls of lost children, mine or someone else’s, are a particular favorite.  Stolen souls, in general, seem to be popular. Bargains with devils were made, they’re devils themselves, familiar spirits summoned to do mischief, that sort of thing.  Course, they’re all wrong,  but they do amuse me just the same.

    Truth is…No, I think I’m not going to say what the truth is. Where would be the fun in that?  Folks need a little more mystery in their life.  The world’s getting too tame and besides, too much information is bad for you.

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(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

General Lore: The Rules of Fruit and Hallows

Recently  I was asked an interesting question about the Rule of Fruit, which I had not been asked before.  For those who are unaware of some of the…lesser known…rules that govern the world, the Rule of Fruit is this:

“Stolen fruit is Faerie fruit. Fruit acquired through trickery is goblin fruit.”  

The question posed was: “What if someone else steals it, and you trick them into giving it to you? It’s still stolen and acquired through trickery?”

The answer is that it is goblin fruit. Its provenance is based on its manner of acquisition.  Thus it changes ownership depending on which Court gained it the most recently, and must be ceded accordingly. 

However, sometimes arguments arise when one party does not wish to give up their hard-won prize, and so, long ago, the Crossroads was called to adjudicate  and make a determination regarding ownership of disputed fruit.  The Crossroads created the Hallows Rule, which stated thus:  “Should a Court or one of its members reject the Rule of Fruit, the fruit becomes Hallows, and is relinquished to the Pumpkin King to do with as he so chooses.”

The Rule of Hallows has been altered somewhat since that time, and now states “Rejection or willful opposition to a Rule grants provenance to Hallows, and subject to the Pumpkin King’s will.”

These are the Rules of Fruit and Hallows, as decreed by the Crossroads, and so they must be honored.

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Roadside Lore: “Softly Do These Languid Shadows Whisper”

I saw a ghost one night, years ago, and the memory of it has haunted me since.

 It was around midnight or so, in late autumn, at one of those big rest areas off the Maine Turnpike.  There was a woman standing by the big glass window, looking out. Even though it was late, that particular rest area is always pretty busy, but she was standing there, alone, a still figure in a pool of quiet amid the louder river of people, and no one seemed to see her but me.  

She wore a black chiffon party dress, patterned with fern green flowers and emerald beads that glittered slightly from the fluorescent lights overhead.  In one hand she held a pair black high heels dangling loosely from her fingertips, the strap to one clearly broken.  On her feet she wore a well-worn pair of brown hiking boots, and over her fancy dress she wore a faded, blue flannel shirt that was somewhat too big for her.  Something about the way she wore it made it clear that it had never belonged to anyone else, instead of something given to her by someone else to keep her warm.

Her hair was long and dark, and hung loose down her back, though it looked like it had been pinned up not long before.  At first glance, she looked young – maybe 22 or so – but was more likely past 30.  She had one of those faces that are hard to place ages to.  Not ageless, per se,  but more like Time wasn’t quite sure where she fit, if you know what I mean?

She seemed to be both gazing at her reflection, lost in thought and unaware of the discordance of her surroundings, and looking out into the darkness, past the parking lot lights, at some distant thing only she could see.  Her expression was a strange blend of emotions – sorrow, hope, resignation, determination – all at once.  It was like she was looking at her past and future at the same time and making up her mind about something.  It was a look to break your heart, because you knew there was a deep hurt behind it that hadn’t yet started to heal.

After a moment, she sighed, turned, and walked out, pausing on the concrete landing just outside the glass doors of the lobby.  As at the window, no one seemed to notice her as she passed them, or they, her.  She looked thoughtfully at the broken shoes in her hand for a moment, as if unsure of something, then placed them on top of the rubbish bin.  She stepped onto the pavement and walked out in the darkness beyond the lamplight, the handkerchief hem  of her skirt fluttering in the chill autumn breeze and wind from the nearby turnpike.  Another wandering ghost resting for a moment in the liminal space of a rest stop in the middle of the night before continuing on down the road.

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Between Melancholy and Mischance: Resurrecting Old Writing Tricks

Many aeons ago, before the dawn of dust and time, I was an aspiring young writer with dreams of published works someday.  I had planned to go to college for it, even, but well, Life Happens and so here we find ourselves, a few thousand miles off course, staring at the stars, looking for roads that’ll lead the way back.  Thanks to you, my wonderful Patrons, I’ve been able to take a couple of online writing classes in the last couple of weeks, and y’all I LOVE IT!  Like, this is the Best Thing Ever.

I do not, however, love seeing just how painful my writing has gotten over the years.  Yikes.  

One thing I’ve been struggling with is getting myself to sit down, open a notebook, and START PUTTING WORDS ON THE BLASTED PAPER.  I am *awful* at writing exercises, even though I know I really need to do them.  I sit at the page and stare.  And stare.  And stare.

It’s very boring. 

The flash fiction course I’m currently working through has a bit about games to play to get the flames of creativity sparked beyond the usual “sit and write whatever comes to mind” variety kinds of writing exercises.  One of these reminded me of something I used to do, back in prehistory.

When I was a teenager, a friend  of mine had one of those magnetic poetry sets on the refrigerator, and I loved to look at it and see what the jumbles of random words would do. It was an amazing tool to tap into the creative wordwitchery side of my brain.  To this day, one of my favorite phrases that I’ve been hanging onto comes from that:

“The perfume speaks: listen, child, they would poison you with words.”

Seriously, is that not a great line?  Someday I’ll even figure out what I’m going to do with it.  In the meantime, I’m hoarding it like the word dragon I am.

Something I’ve toyed with over the years, but never got around to because it was going to be A Project, was making something similar of my own and well, today I got around to it at last.

I strongly advise against being like me and formatting, writing, and cutting out over 400 words, entirely by hand, in a single afternoon.  It’s a wee bit painful.  Partway through the cutting stage, my hands started to cramp up on me.  I took a break to let the muscles unclench, and wondered why the hell I was bothering going to so much effort.  (My hand *really* hurt, and it was making me cranky at myself.)  Idly, I sifted through the words I had already trimmed and pulled a few out.  I considered them and realized that I was holding the answer in my palm:

“between melancholy and mischance”

Okay, fine.  That sort of thing would be why I was doing it.  (It occurred to me later that this could also make an interesting oracular device, so that’s getting kept a little closer to the front of the To Be Considered pile.)

It took a couple of hours, all together, but I now have a starter set of words to play with, stored in an old black marble box that once held my mother’s few pieces of good jewelry, and I Am Pleased.  It’ll get added to over time, but I’m happy with it, and am very much looking forward to using them.  After all, if one can’t play with words, what’s the point of writing?

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Crossroads Bargains and Childhood Friends: In Which Our Heroine Befriends Monsters

Some people have guardian angels who watch over them, and protect them from things that go bump in the night as they dream of sugar plums and fairies or whatever it is that normal people dream of.  I have Angus.  He’s the monster under the bed. He mostly eats dust bunnies and occasionally one of the cats’ toys now, and he doesn’t live under the bed anymore.

You see, when I was little, I was utterly terrified of the dark.  I mean, flat-out screaming terror if the lights were out.  I couldn’t sleep without a nightlight until well past the age when most kids have given up their fear of the dark and moved on with their lives.  Nothing my parents or anyone else said would convince me that there wasn’t anything in the dark to be afraid of.  I was regularly informed that there was “nothing there in the dark that wasn’t there in the light”, which, I mean, I guess they meant well, but that merely meant things were there and I just couldn’t see them.

I didn’t sleep much as a child.

Now, every child knows (and those adults who have not forgotten that the world is bigger and far more interesting than most want to think about) that there are monsters everywhere.  There’s the monsters under beds, the monsters that live under the backless basement stairs, the monsters that live in the shadow behind the streetlamp posts, the ones that run beside the car at night, and countless more.  None, though, are as fearsome and terrifying as the monster in the closet*.  It is known. 

I had a particularly menacing specimen in my closet who, to make matters worse, moved with us.  So, even though we moved every couple of months, I couldn’t shake the bastard.  At one point my mother, who was also a witch, tried to banish it, but I’m pretty sure I heard it laugh as it increased the menace rating.  This was, to say the least, A Problem.

One day when I was maybe around 10 or 11, I had a really bad night.  The shadowy horror in the closet wouldn’t give the looming a rest, and even when I did manage to get a little sleep, it whispered nightmares into my dreams.  By morning, I was exhausted.  That day, I decided that I had had enough of being afraid and that it was time to try a new tactic.  I was desperately underslept and nothing had worked so far, but I had to try something else.

I went to the library to try and do some research on the subject (it was the 80s and the internet didn’t exist yet…it was a Dark Time), but couldn’t find much that would help me.  I knew how to deal with fairies and trolls and all that, having read basically every collection of fairy tales and lore I could get my grubby little fingers on, but nothing in them had information on what category my problem fell into.  Folklore has an odd gap when it comes to these types of monsters, and I’m still not sure why, given how common they are.

I didn’t leave completely empty-handed, though.  One theme that comes up frequently is bargains, and to be honest, if I’d been a little less desperate, I probably would have dismissed it, but let’s face it…I’d been dealing with this monster for as long as I could remember, and it had to go.

Now, you’d think that I’d have tried making a bargain with the monster in the closet directly, but you’d be wrong.  I had two monsters that lived in my room;  the bastard in the closet and the one under the bed.  Either of these are dangerous, but of the two, the monster under the bed has rules that are sacrosanct.  Don’t let your hands or feet dangle over the edge, don’t get too close when getting in or out (it’s best if you can jump, but if not, go ask quickly as you can), and never use a hand to retrieve something that went under at night (wait until morning, or have an adult get it for you), and most importantly, ignore it, no matter what it says. For it’s part, the monster under the bed stays under the bed, and tries to convince you to look at it, or reach a hand under, or generally get close enough to where it can grab you with it’s spindly claws.  As long as you follow the rules and don’t listen to it, you won’t get eaten.  Clearly this was who I had to strike up a deal with.

Also, the monster under the bed is in closer proximity, and of the two, I’d rather the one who lurked under my pillow be on my side in all this.  At the moment, it was effectively a neutral party, and I needed to shift the balance of power in my favor.

One of the most important things that I knew from folklore was that when dealing with fairies, goblins, and the like, they were probably going to ask for something excessively unreasonable, like my firstborn child or some unspecified thing like “the first thing you see when you leave the room” that was likely going to be something like my cat or my mom, and that agreeing to something like that is a totally rookie mistake.  No, I was going to make this bargain on my terms from the start.

That night, after dinner, I went to my room and sat, cross-legged, on the old loveseat I’d commandeered when my parents had gotten a new living room set the year before, facing the bed from the safe distance of across the room.

“Okay, monster, let’s talk.” I said, addressing the shadowy recess under the bed.  “I have a proposition for you.  You and I both know the situation with You Know Who over there.  This needs to stop.  So, I was thinking that you and I call a truce and instead of trying to lure me out so you can have me for dinner, which has proven wildly unsuccessful after all these years, if I might add, you start protecting me from it.  In exchange, you can have whatever finds it ways under the bed, on the condition that it’s not one of my pets, any belongings I actually care about, or something that I’ll get in trouble if it goes missing.  The deal is off if you eat something not on the list (if there’s doubt, leave it for 24 hours….if I haven’t claimed it by the next evening, it’s yours), you attempt to eat me, or if it comes after me and you let it.  Please let me know by tomorrow, so I know whether or not I need to find…other solutions… Thank you for your time.”

The “other solutions” part may have been spoken in such a way as to also imply dealing with removing it from my life, as well as the one in the closet.  I wasn’t above subtle threats, as well.  I think he appreciated that, to be honest.

That night, I slept better than I had in a long time, as I did for many nights afterward.  My bargain had been accepted.  

Within a few weeks, I felt comfortable enough to try turning off the night light, and never turned it on again.  The monster in the closet still stood in the shadow, but it mostly sulked and tried to loom from a distance, which was reasonable progress and an acceptable compromise.  I’d gotten rather used to its presence, to be honest.  I still kept my hands and feet from dangling over the edge, because it was best not to tempt my new bodyguard, but I didn’t jump on or off the bed anymore, and made sure to uphold my end of the bargain.  I made a habit of thanking him, as well, because manners.  Eventually I learned that my monster’s name is Angus, and we became friends. The closet monster moved out, but still pops in to check on me now and then, but it’s mostly out of habit now and not a serious dinner attempt.  Angus still hangs around, but he moved out from under the bed years ago and spends most of his time bothering the cats and relaxing.

I still keep my hands and feet on the bed, and I still keep an eye on what goes under the bed, though.  A deal is a deal, after all, and it’s best to not break promises made to the things that go bump in the night.

*There’s some debate whether the monster in the closet is the worst, or the monster behind the door.  Several informal polls have shown the results so close as to be more or less tied.

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Plague, Protests, and Progress(?)…

It’s been, um, an eventful couple of weeks, hasn’t it?  Ongoing plague, worldwide protests, and discussions of some very long overdue social changes finally getting started.  I guess Covid-19 has been good for one thing…it made sure that people were home without the distractions they usually use to insulate themselves from the horrors that the police have been visiting on Black people for centuries and they’re finally getting mad about it.

About damned time.  I’m glad to see that serious discussions about defunding the police and revamping the training and required standards of behavior are finally happening, as well.   The fact that the police have a massively bloated budget and are supposed to be in charge of way more things they should be is half the problem, and when you put that into the mix with screaming racism, it’s a quite literally fatal combination.  

On a positive note, Twitter’s push to amplify the voices of Black artists and writers has given me a whole lot of new folks’ work to check out, and I’m loving it.  I’m particularly happy to see a lot of folks pushing to amplify arts and stories that aren’t only about Black trauma. I’m uncomfortable with how everything is often centered on what boils down to “educating White people about systemic racism”.  Not because I’m uncomfortable with the subject matter, but because at a certain point, it stops being helpful and starts being trauma porn, and joins the ranks of things like queer people are only about rainbows and glitter to cover the tears of love denied, and Native Americans are only about Colonialism and the Trail of Tears, and none of us get to be real people just making fan art or writing sci-fi or fantasy or ya know, things that aren’t about being a hated demographic and how it makes our lives terrible.  (I say “our” because I fall in to the queer category, but hey guess what!  My art has literally nothing to do with what it’s like to be a bisexual woman in a straight-passing relationship or the shitty things that people have done to me because bi women are hypersexualized, because really?  That’s a part of my life, but it’s not something I feel needs to be on display or be the defining feature of my existence. I don’t owe anyone that glitter.)

I also have a problem with this growing idea lately that we all need to stare, unblinking, down the Firehose of Suck, like it’s A Clockwork fucking Orange.   The world is, and has always been, a shitshow, but it is also full of wonder and beauty and good things, and so are we.  Focusing exclusively on the horror is bad for the collective psyche and accomplishes nothing but damaging everyone’s mental health.  I’m not saying ignore the suck, but ffs, GO LOOK AT A PRETTY SUNSET OR LISTEN TO A PLEASANT SONG AT LEAST ONCE AN HOUR WHILE YOU HAVE A SCRAP OF SANITY.  (I’m a certified health care professional whose field deals pretty heavily with mitigating the damaging effects of stress on the human body.  LISTEN TO A PROFESSIONAL WHEN I TELL YOU THAT STRESSING YOURSELF OUT ABOUT BAD THINGS HAPPENING, WITHOUT A BREAK, WILL STRAIGHT UP KILL YOU IN A HORRIBLE WAY AND TO KNOCK IT OFF.  Go get a glass of water, take your vitamins, read a good book, and get some damned sleep.  You can’t fight injustice and build a better world for everyone if you’re insane or dead.)

*ahem*

*slowly takes a deep breath, focusing only on my breath going into my body*

*exhales slowly, focusing only on my breath going out of my body*

*repeats for a total of three calming breaths*

*takes a sip of water*

Now, where was I?  Oh, right.  So yeah, seriously, there are some awesome new to me artists and storytellers cropping up all over the internet lately, and I’m looking forward to checking out their work.  I encourage y’all to go seek out new to you folks, too, because more art is good!  The world needs more artists.  We need to envision the world being better, or what the hell are we even fighting for?

As for my stuff, I’m working on overhauling my website, and getting my studio workspace reconfigured to focus on making jewelry more, as well as figuring out how to sell jewelry and do any kind of travel in a world where I can’t be in physical proximity to other people.  In all honesty, there’s a non-zero chance that this is going to be my only website for a little while, if I can’t get the hosting and ecommerce situation sorted.  I’ll hold onto my domain, but there may not be an active website on it for a couple of months.  We’ll see.  I might be able to pull something off.

Hope y’all are holding up okay.  I’ll try and write more often. I don’t mean to be as radio silent as I have been.  The world has been A Lot lately, and I might be a witch, but I’m also just one little river nymph with only a small stream and a bit of small swamp to her name.  In the meantime, drink more water, get some rest, wear your mask, wash your hands, and let’s go see about building a kinder world, shall we?

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)