Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Burst of Domesticity

Do you think about the feeling of folding warm laundry? About how it feels to smooth out the wrinkles in your clothes and sheets and towels? About letting the warmth seep into the bones of your fingers and breathing in the clean smell of home? About the victory you experience when you realize all your socks have escaped the clutches of the sock-eating laundry monster?

It's a good feeling.

Or grocery shopping. Think about grocery shopping, especially as a college student: you've stopped eating cereal because you ran out of milk, and you had to make a sandwich with the end pieces of your bread, and you haven't cooked green things in a long time, and there are no bananas within reach —and then Giant. Wegman's. Costco.

There are grapes in my fridge right now, GRAPES.

You'd be hard-pressed to make me any happier in this moment.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blog Challenge Outro

Well, this month has been difficult and wonderful and horrible and fun all at once.

There's no way, really, to describe the dread I felt some nights at 11:00pm when I realized that I still had to write and post something within the next hour. There’s also no way to describe how much I surprised myself at what I could squeeze out of my busy schedule, day after day, when I probably could have been sleeping. I have written some pretty lame poems, but I’ve also written some that I actually really love, and I’m ecstatic that I managed to write on “Rainstorms” exactly as much as I wrote on “Cry of the Stars.”

I’m so grateful to Stevie for holding these Blog Challenges, because they’re a big spark in my world that sets the fire of inspiration burning for a long time, and this month was no different from the past challenges in that aspect. I had been feeling creatively kind of dead before February, but I’ve become mostly alive again—phrases and snippets of poems and stories are constantly floating around in my head again, and I couldn’t be happier to have them back.

Hopefully it lasts! Hopefully you will hear more about the wacky stuff that happens to me at college, and find out what happens to Lill’th (our poor reluctant protagonist) and her friends, and read more fairytale poetry if I can think of any more fairytales to retell. The prompt vault I constructed for this challenge is still about half-full of unused prompts, so stay tuned for Scripture reflections, magical pets, “Ode to Squirrels,” musings on life and living, and a possible story about the sun and the moon as children.

I suppose this is me promising to keep writing, no matter how awful it feels sometimes to keep doing it, but definitely more if you people are actually reading it all.
Keep reading, readers. I’ll keep writing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Erruindel Chronicles: II

Part I
In Which Lill'th Is Not Given A Choice

"I am not going to marry you," blurted Lill'th immediately, drawing the natural conclusion. "I know you were that bear from earlier," she added quickly, as she could hear her mother approaching the common room, "and I'm not about to associate with magic like that, so you can take your offer elsewhere."

Eivex, apparently on a different page altogether, was speechless.

"I'm sorry if you were secretly in love with me," Lill'th went on, rather wildly, "though I honestly don't see how that would be possible, since you've never been here before."

"Oh, I—No?" said Eivex, his pasty face turning an incredibly deep shade of red. His long white hands were twitching nervously at his sides.

"Not to mention that you're probably old enough to be my father," continued Lill'th, who didn't know why she was still talking.

Fortunately for him, Eivex was saved from having to answer, as Za'allamaca, Lill'th's mother, glided into the room just then, holding a heaping load of clean washing, which she promptly dropped into her daughter's arms with an airy "Welcome home, darling" and a light kiss on the cheek. Eivex let out an audible sigh of relief and went to stand by the table in the corner.

"What have you done with my trousers?" said Lill'th, frowning down at the oddly-shaped clothing in her arms.

"I cut them open and sewed them into skirts," said Za'allamaca, flipping her long black hair over her shoulder, "so you can dress like a proper woman. Now that you are sixteen, after all."

Lill'th frowned harder. "Mother, you can't do that. Have you ever tried climbing the cliffs in a skirt? It's impossible! Also, these are so ugly."

Za'allamaca's beautiful dark eyes flashed, at once dangerously furious and wistfully nostalgic. Oh no, thought Lill'th.

"I once climbed to the top of the Black Tooth itself," Za'allamaca said in a low voice, "in the most lovely silk dress. I never faltered, not once in my long ascent. The dress is still lovely. By Loej's hands, I married your father Jacob in that dress. Pah! Do not ask me if I have climbed mere cliffs in a skirt."

Eivex, whose presence Lill'th had momentarily forgotten about, had a sudden fit of obviously fake coughing. Za'allamaca turned to him, instantly charming and elegant again, the perfect hostess. (Lill'th looked between them, feeling conflicted and emotionally whiplashed.)

"Now, sir," began Za'allamaca, "about that goat and its rainbow kids—"

"I have changed my mind," interrupted Eivex, somehow turning an even more impressive shade of red than before. He tugged at the laces on the front of his shirt and cleared his throat. "I am no longer interested in the goat. I...I would like to marry Lilith instead."

"Lill'th," said Lill'th automatically, then, "WHAT?"

Eivex smiled anxiously, showing more teeth than was strictly normal.

The spray of wildflowers sitting in a vase on the table seemed to wilt in the long, awkward silence that followed. The wooden floor creaked faintly. A small purple mouse fled the room through the open doorway.

"All right," said Za'allamaca, finally. "Let me fetch Jacob."

Lill'th dropped her pile of hideous trouser-skirts in shock as her mother glided back into the kitchen. She couldn't be serious. She was serious. She was calling Lill'th's father right now to come perform the betrothal, probably right here in the common room, with its old worn furniture and dirt-streaked walls.

How was this happening? Wasn't she supposed to at least make this choice for herself? Lill'th had been planning on probably choosing Aaron, who was nice to her and didn't smell that terrible if she really thought about it. Today was supposed to be her special day, the day that marked the beginning of her dreams coming true, and yet here she was, about to be forced into arranged marriage like some sad girl in Ayla's Fairy Tales From The Ringlands. When she'd dreamed of being married, it wasn't at all like this.

Lill'th was about to start crying when Eivex urgently grabbed her arm and whispered, "Quick, before your mother returns," which was a horrible thing to say just now, so she got angry instead, flung his hand away, and turned her back on him.

"Okay, first things first," said Eivex from behind her, "I am not old enough to be your father."

"That doesn't matter much now, does it?" said Lill'th, fuming at the streaky wall.

"Secondly," Eivex said, "I don't actually want to marry you, I just needed some way to convince your parents to let you come with me without it looking inappropriate, and it seemed—"

"Hold on," said Lill'th, turning back around. Nothing today was making any sense. "You don't want to marry me?"

Eivex's fingers started to twitch again. "Do you find odd things happen to you often?" he asked. "Nights get messed up, trees fall behind you, sparrows and cows love you, lots of thunderstorms, anything?"

"Well, let's see," said Lill'th, glaring at him. "A bear showed up as a man who's pretending to want to marry me in order to kidnap me instead, for undisclosed reasons. No, nothing weird."

"Do you like fire?" he persisted.

"Hate it."

"What about water?"

"I can't swim, if that's what you're asking."

Eivex scratched his head. "This doesn't make sense."


"There's a prophecy about you," said Eivex earnestly, "only I didn't realize it was you until just now. You're supposed to have amazing powers, and you're the one who's going to set this land free."

Lill'th threw her hands up in utter confusion and despair.

"Free from what?" she cried.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The End of Myself

The end. This was it: I could feel the precipice crumbling beneath my toes. I took no step back, only stood there looking into the thick darkness. Eternity was not forever, then; it stopped here, a dry, dusty cliff with a wall of black in front and down and on all sides.

I pushed against the wall. It pushed back—nothing to be done.

So? What now? To go back the way I came? Tell whoever's there (if anyone is left?) that I've done it, I reached the end of eternity and it is nothing but nothing.

Despair rose in a choking instant. I had hoped to find something when I pressed forward: a sign, at least, to guide me where I needed to go. But here was only cold dust on my feet, and everywhere a darkness so heavy I could have been blind. Perhaps I was.

A footstep.

I tensed, ready to run. Another step, closer this time. Warm light sparked, flickered, and illuminated a face. It was him.

"When did you get here?" I asked.

"I've been," he said.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Typical Conversations #21

It's been more than a year since I last added to this series, but I just found one old unpublished transcript and realized it was time to begin again.

MOM: Scattergories. 'C', for vegetables. Go.
ME: Cucumber.
MOM: Carrots.
ME: Cilantro.
MOM: Cabbage.
ME: Corn.

*long pause*

MOM: Any more?
ME: Cauliflower.
MOM: That's a good one.

*another pause*

MOM: Hahahahahahahaha no. Okay, now 'A.'
ME: Arugula.
MOM: Avocado.


ME: I can't think of any more! Apples! Aaarrranges!
MOM: Those are FRUITS Davina

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How I Turned Nursery Songs Into Nightmares

This is a story I've already shared with some friends, but I think it’s worth commemorating in writing as well. It is best told in two movements.

I. Adagio, suspenseful
The background of this sad tale is as follows: in my Engineering 102 class, we’re building and programming small Lego robots that are tasked with searching an arena for yellow and blue canisters, capturing the canisters, and delivering them to separate landfills, one of which is marked by a strong light source. (If you've talked with me recently, you've probably heard about this robot thing, because it is somehow the most stressful project I've ever undertaken, even though from all accounts it’s very hard to get a bad grade in the course.) For the purpose of the preliminary competition, which is the focus of this story, we’ll ignore the yellow canisters and the landfill without the light source.

My group coded a search function that makes the robot run in an increasing spiral from the center of the field. This involved a lot of switches and loops-within-loops, which got seriously confusing, so we decided to take an upperclassman’s advice and put bits of sound into our code at important points, in order to know what the robot was running at any particular time.

What a great idea, I thought to myself at 11:43pm as I was adding the sounds. In fact, I’ll choose the musical notes to be recognizable songs at each part of the function, so I can immediately know what’s going on. How about the first four notes of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” at the end of each search loop? It’ll be cute, I thought.

It’ll be cute. Cute.

Try this out with me. Sing the first four notes of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”—just the first four. You’ll find yourself singing “Mary had a—” and stopping there. And this is precisely what chimed its charming way through our heads every single time the robot completed one square and prepared to enter another.

Mary had a—
Mary had a—
Mary had a—a what?
What did Mary have??

II. Vivace, enunciated
For the other sound bytes, I foolishly chose snippets of Brahm's Lullaby. In particular, the robot declared that it had found the direction of the light source—when the light sensor read 50 or above—with a loud, four-note ascending melody before it would drive towards the light. This was all right in practice, when we used a phone flashlight as our simulated “light source” and only heard the melody a few times before the robot reached a threshold where it released the canister, backed away, and turned around.

On the actual field, during our competition, it came to our attention that our wheel motors were out of sync, enough that our robot had a significant left-turn drag whenever it tried to go forward. This meant that every time it tried to drive towards the light, it would turn left after about two inches, lose the light, rotate again until it found it, play the melody again, and repeat the whole process.

At around the tenth repetition of the melody, I started to tremble and cover my ears. At around the twelfth repetition, the robot leaped forward into a dramatic left turn near ninety degrees, then stopped in utter confusion, as the light readings on that particular part of the field fluctuated constantly between 49 and 50.

The melody began to play endlessly.

I yelled in anguish, lunged to the other side of the arena, and scrabbled at the robot’s off-button until the whole program aborted.

“Shut UP SHUT UP SHUT UP,” I screamed.
Fellow students nearby backed away, some laughing nervously.

Throughout the rest of the day today, Brahm's Lullaby has kept needling its way into my brain and taunting me with its deceptively innocent tones, but the song is ruined for me, forever. I've had to keep myself from clawing at my own ears in the middle of the street.

Needless to say, the sound bytes are coming out of our code as soon as we don’t need them anymore.

Monday, February 16, 2015


When a writer poses that last-resort but all-too-common question, “What should I write about?”, she can generally expect three kinds of responses from three kinds of people.

  1. The Unintentionally Narcissist Friend: “Write about me!” 
  2. The Extremely Unhelpful Friend: “idk, like something”
  3. The Friend Who Spends Too Long Pondering Everything: “Write about how the ethics of raising and killing free-range chickens can be applied as a metaphor to war.”

I suppose it’s to be expected. Who can really rise to the sudden demand of inspiration? Who can truly fulfill the role of Writer’s Muse at a moment’s notice?

Then there’s my friend Haleigh. Also known in previous years as my blog-stalker—or if you were a keen observer of that one speed poetry post two years ago, you may have glimpsed her lurking beneath the charismatic Sirenia Featherheart’s captivating work.

Haleigh has been probably the single best prompter I’ve encountered so far. Where most people clam up and supply stupid ideas, she’s always ready to supply suggestions that are specific enough to inspire, but still vague enough to take their own form in any writer’s hands. In addition, Haleigh’s prompts tend to have the added benefit of humor, which I am sometimes prone to neglect. I’ll forget that poems can be funny, and then Haleigh comes along and tells me to write a clerihew, or a poem based on the lines “weeping, wailing / (do you care for parasailing?)”, or on the name Francesca.

So this is just to give credit where credit is due. Tonight Haleigh resorted to being the Unintentionally Narcissist Friend, but since the unintentional part was very sincere, and since she actually totally deserves a whole blog post about her, I decided to take it.

Thanks for everything, Haleigh. Let’s speed-poem again sometime soon.

(Note: This post has focused on Haleigh’s role as inspiration in my writing, but it should also be mentioned that she edits all my papers like a boss, and can absolutely knock your socks off in an iambic pentameter competition if you are foolish enough to challenge her. Girl’s cool. Don’t mess with her.)