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Letters from Proxima Thule

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Mercury's Daughter
It is now the Year of the Rat.

Admittedly, that does not sound promising. But it is, in the Chinese Wheel. Promising. And because of Palimpsest, my New Year was less renewal than the advent of a hell of a lot of work. So it's appropriate, I think, that I'm feeling the New Year now, as the rat peeps out, so to speak. Still New Year, different Year. Not 2008. My friend, the Rat.

See, I don't talk about it on this journal much, but the last couple of years have been an insane road for me, and the last year was one of grief and loss and depression. Darkest days, no joke. Divorce, moving to a new country, a new state, the ugly loss of my first post-marriage relationship, a frenzied publication schedule--mainly I've just been bunkered, waiting for the next blow. Only in the last few weeks have I had any inkling that maybe there is no crushing blow in store, maybe the rest of my life is starting, and I've done enough penance to deserve some happiness in it.

Part of me wishes I had done more than just finished a book. That I shouldn't feel so much as though right this second I have a chance to turn my life around and reinvent myself, just because a deadline has passed. But I have three finished novels in various stages of the publication process, I have time to relax for the first time in years, justbeast    and I are doing really well, I've bought dishes and a table a bed that are mine, that are the exact ones I want, our house is beginning to feel like ours, and for the first time since I moved to Ohio, I feel like this is here and now and I have to build a life, not just hold on until something passes, be it pain or deadline or breakup. I am alive, and I have to start acting like it. I must become more awesome, as a wise woman said at World Fantasy. This kind of awesome.

Only thing is, I'm not really sure how. It's quite hard to meet people in town, and our social circle has shrunk due to disapproval, breakup fallout, and a fair shake of intolerance. Not to mention I don't know anyone into whose acquaintance I was not grandfathered by justbeast  or grailquestion. I work at home, I don't know the city too well.

I'm taking little steps. zoethe    is teaching me to quilt. I'm starting glassblowing classes on Tuesday, inspired by regyt   . I'm going to do all those things you said I should, slowly, one by one. (I also joined OKCupid, though that has been less than effective in meeting anyone.) I've been keeping to a strict workout regimen, and I'm going to put pink streaks in my hair. I got my nipple pierced. I'm trying. It's hard work, getting reborn. I'm going to swim and spear-fish naked in Lake Erie a lot come summer. I'm going to try to be warmer and more open and less frightened of things. I'm going to go dancing more often. I'm trying, and it's hard. I feel too young and too old. I feel invisible most of the time. I'm lost. But I'm trying.

The funny thing about Pinocchio is that he never really figured out how he became a real boy. The Blue Fairy just smiled at him, and he had bones and blood and a sell-by date. He never got it--he had to fight through whales and crickets and donkey ears and hell and heaven just to be real.

He thought he earned it.

But he stole it.

It's a hard and bloody battle, just to feel like you belong to the world. You have to sneak up on living in the dark and hold it while it squirms and changes shape, hold it long enough that it starts to believe it's yours. And the fairies, when you find them, don't wear blue and they don't smile much. You have to go to the ocean to steal your heart and the Marionette Theatre to steal your voice and Pleasure Island to steal your cunt. It's a quest and it's a heist and it's a saving throw, but I want to be a real girl, and if it kills me, I'll find a way. Me and my Rat.

I may end up with donkey ears. I'm willing to risk it.

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Even with donkey ears, you'd still be really cute.


"I am alive, and I have to start acting like it. "

I hear you loud and clear. Here's to a wonderful Year of the Rat and ones after ...!

Here's to the Year of the Rat. And here's to flesh-and-bone, donkey-ears or no.

Also: glass-blowing lessons? Oh, man. I want. To take. Them with you. I want to take them! (grins) Have a fabulous time -- just watching glassblowers demonstrating at the Ren Fair has always been miraculous.

Just wanted to post, since our icons are the same. :)

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I wish we lived closer, too. Maybe in March, we'll make the stars align.

Reading your journal has been a calm pleasure for me as of late. For the first time in a long time it is nice to see in words the thoughts I have a hard time expressing myself.

It's quite hard to meet people in town, and our social circle has shrunk...

I completely understand why it is a challenge. Even after 31 years, I still feel like a guest to this city.

I know saying, "me too," is trite and unnecessary, but I can empathize with almost everything you've said here. In some ways it's kind of depressing (Why *am* I going to do tonight... other than sit alone?) but it is also comforting. To be known and understood, even in anonymity, is a beautiful thing.

I wrote something here once. I emailed it to you instead. You're already more courageous than I, apparently.

I feel exactly the same way as you. Only I didn't even have the courage to Email her.

Do it. Cat is ultra nice.

Have you ever read Franz Kafka's The Castle? What you're looking for sounds a lot like what "K" was looking for in that novel—to learn society's rules despite their nonsensical nature (well, at least some of them), and to be accepted despite all the bureaucracy the "system" puts in our path.

We're very much in a similar place right now, although I find myself internalizing it on livejournal while you blaze forth in glory. Maybe I will find the openness to follow soon-- but filtered.

I wave at you from my path, parallel-yet-not to yours, and flash some arcane symbols of good luck and good grace.

Glassblowing... awesome!! I made some torchworked/blown glass ornaments at the holidays and was thrilled with the process and the outcome.

Transforming is a hell of a thing. Last may I picked up my dogs and as much as I could cram into my car and moved across the country. 3000 miles away from everything I thought I knew... and I haven't been this happy in a long time. Maybe ever. It hasn't been easy... it hasn't been painless... but it's been good for me. Some days, I'm like a whole new person.

The transformative process is hard, and no-one should tell you different. I have transformed myself and moved thousands of miles twice now, and am about to do it again. It's painful and joyous and full of fear and there is now way out but though. But you know this. You are engaged in the process and there is a light that shines out from you as more and more of last-year's skin falls away from your new self. You'll do beautifully because you are already doing beautifully, even if sometimes all you can see is the distance between here and your goal. But the beauty of goals like transforming yourself is that there is no one moment when you can say "I have arrived" and then you stop. Because at that point you stop living.

I know I have only met you the one time at WisCon, but I felt an immediate connection. You make me wish I lived in the same city, and that's a pretty neat trick since I never want to live in Ohio, ever.

You are a real girl. You just need to believe.

It's so funny how things synch up sometimes. scathedobsidian and I were just talking about Pinocchio last night and how it terrified me as a child, specifically Pleasure Island, because I had been trained that it was the personification of all evil and hedonism is the worst trait a person can have.

You're very real. In fact, I think you may be one of the realest people I've ever met.

Well, maybe you and I can go get donkey ears together. ;)

Okay, the glassblowing, yes, utterly awesome. But what got me?

I'm going to swim and spear-fish naked in Lake Erie a lot come summer.

You are rocking the Amazonian huntress thing! And the idea that you could go from shaping glass with your hands and breath to spearing fish is just ... Mythic, really. This Rat heartily approves, and I've no doubt you and yours will do wonders this year.

You sound like you're able to be happy again. I'm so glad.

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A day belated, but since you are celebrating now, Gong Xi Fa Cai!

I really think that rebirth is a process that is not sudden, but is actually a never ending series of little changes. I was thinking about this recently due to a quarter-life crisis (I turn 25 on Sunday and I STILL am waiting tables at the same restaurant and am substitute teaching. College degree opening doors my ass). From the sound of it you are already moving in the direction you want to go. You have friends, you have a burgening writing career, you are taking on new creative activities, you are working to improve the health of your mind and body, and you are trying new things like the naked spear fishing in Lake Erie (the fact that the lake caught fire once not-withstanding), and you are making a home. You are actively trying to improve life and to mold it into the form you desire; this alone puts you leaps and bounds farther down the stretch than most people.

The meeting new people thing is hard. I myself tend to be rather reclusive and would often prefer to sit in my room and read, draw, or write than go anywhere that involves people. The fact that the career path of "writer" is an intensly solitary profession probubly doesn't help this much. However, it sounds like you do have some good friends, and that is nothing to sneeze at. Also, meeting new people via current friends can lead to new friendships.

So yes, steal yourself from the oceans and temples. Battle dragons and demons and reshape your world until it conforms to the images in your mind. Hunt down fairies hiding deep within the secret places of the world to grant your wishes. Become "more awsome," because, from what I can tell, yer already on your way.

I am now going to go eat some of the Thai food I made for myself last night. Mmm dinner.

the fact that the lake caught fire once not-withstanding

I know I am a Clevelander because I can say with indignance now: dude, that was totally the river, and it was a really long time ago. The lake was just declared ecologically dead. No big. ;)

Ah...well don't I just feel like I have pie all over my face now. ^_^ Thanks for the correction; apparently my brain combined the stories at some point. It tends to do things like that.

Back to reading webcomics and watching Invader Zim (which actually reminds me, I need to go buy some processed meat to mail to my best friend for her anii-Valentine's Day gift).

Finally posting a comment here :)

I think I understand all too well, if not in specifics, at least in generalities, of what you speak of here. Learning to live, not just to be alive... it takes courage, dedication, and... well, attitude. :P

Best of luck on your quest :)


Go for it, yuki-onna and your Rat ... !

-how appropri-rat this now is, now it IS the 'New Year' Chinoise --with fire-crackers plse...... From the highly rat-ed Russian artist, made for that Ordinary Every-Year New Year heh.

Let fly the real reepecheep ---ratangel teehee.
For Good Luck.

Re: Go for it, yuki-onna and your Rat ... !


Re: Go for it, yuki-onna and your Rat ... !

I know.......though, perhaps we didn't stomach Last Year's Hogspitality well --, it is appropriate to give him his Last Supper and goodbye Hogbones, somebody unwittingly already did !

I want to go spear fishing naked with you!

(You are reminding me of how I felt my senior year of undergrad. I'd spent so long with everyone around me thinking I was amazing while I knew inside that I was just faking it well enough, fooling them. I met this girl, a platonic friend sort of but so much magic and story and love, and something about the way she saw me helped me finally say to myself, now is the time. Enough with feeling like a fraud. I want to be the amazing person they think I am. It changed my world entirely.)

I think you've grown a lot in the last year - as the Chinese say: that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Don't worry, it'll get better as you get better.

Don't skip the workouts - simple physical release is good for the soul.

It is apparently the year of the earth-rat, and I will try to be more like Digger-of-Unnecessarily-Convoluted-Tunnels.

That's all the reply I have except that damn, you went and were all beautiful again, and I don't have the brain to respond.

Little steps are good after a time of massive upheavals and big changes. Sometimes one needs to lie fallow or plant a different crop to nourish the soil for a bit - this can be surprisingly difficult.

Too often, as we trek along the pathway of life, watching the ground for stones and sudden dips, we don't realise how far we've come until suddenly we find ourselves emerging from the forest onto a hill top and look back.

(I can probably be even more sententious if I really try...)

I know I'm being part of the crowd...

As one of the multitude who put you on their "friends" lists after the previously mentioned heartfelt story of a little girl, I'll chime in (just like everyone else it seems).

From all I've seen in my years, a path of rebirth is always forged through an awareness of what it is you are dissatisfied with, the will to change it and the perseverance not to take the easy route and simply fall back into old patterns. So for what it's worth coming from a complete stranger, you seem to be well on your way.

If there is one thing I understand quite well, it's feeling/being a contradiction. Far too old for my time here, yet I can be as child(ish/like) as can be believed. But I did have one contrary point to bring up, take it how you like.

Why do you feel the need to belong to the world? I may be misunderstanding what you mean, but as long as you have your heart, your voice and your... ahem*... that's what I've always found to be the most important thing. Things and people which are otherworldly are rare and beautiful.

You can be a part of this world and still never belong. But perhaps there is a reason for that. I can't presume to say what that reason might be. But looking at the last two non-Palimpsest related entries that I recall, it may be that it allows you to say the things others can't find the words to, or don't have the courage/inclination to put to words.

Two last things... One, what publishing house (or method of self-publishing) are you going through? I am interested in finding your work. Two, I apologize if I seem to ramble on or say nothing of any real meaning, between it being my bedtime and a splitting headache I did the best I could.

-* I tend to avoid using that particular word due to a natural aversion and an irrational fear that if I was to say it my multitude of sisters would swoop in from the wings to batter me about the head and shoulders until I curled up into a protective ball and wept openly.

Re: I know I'm being part of the crowd...

My current publisher is Bantam Spectra. I worked with Prime Books in the past. A search of Catherynne M. Valente on Amazon will show you all of my crazy books.

I need to belong because even the otherworldly need roots, and touch, and contact. And I'm not sure I have my heart these days. I feel all voice, and that's not...sustainable.

Re: I know I'm being part of the crowd...

No heart and all voice is something I can completely understand.

To belong to something is a strong concept to me. When you belong somewhere, it's often because you have eschewed whatever other places you might have ties to. That's an incredibly delicate balance otherwise. But perhaps this is just a difference in definitions, as to me, what you seem to be looking for is a place in the world.

I suppose the only difference in my head is the amount of cultural assimilation one undergoes. But I'll stop babbling on.

I'll look for the works. Thanks for that.

I have always wanted to blow glass.
I don't trust my art and magic these days.
I'm working on it.

I feel too young and too old. I feel invisible most of the time. I'm lost. But I'm trying.
This resonates.

I admire you very much, sometimes to the point of not knowing what to say.
I wish you good things, and many candles in your darkness.

Also: I wish we'd actually been able to do that Szepasszony collaboration...my options for that project changed, I no longer had a circular space to hang in, and I didn't want to put her in the frame of the proscenium. I drifted away...

If you're looking to make more Cleveland social connections, I'm local, and always up for coffee and wandering around a bookstore in the interests of meeting new people. Feel free to drop me an email at sarah_whitman_young at gmail.

(I think zoethe and theferrett will vouch for me not being bad-kinds-of-crazy or a horrible person *grin*)

No. Run. She's really scary.


Kidding aside, my biggest issue with *you*, girl, is that *we* never see you! We should all get together sometime.

There's a line from Rumi that goes something like... you find God in the looking for God/God is in the eye looking

I'm sure I'm butchering it, but I'm sure you get the idea. You are human in your looking for your humanness - in the longing for it.

In the times when I don't feel like I fit in my own skin, when I find myself awkwardly reaching for what know can be possible, I find that thought comforting.

I don't feel like I fit in my own skin

This is actually a phrase we use around the house for my occasional reckless/restless moods of moodiness.

even the gods --they have to 'grow INto' their skins

...is this better than donkey's ears, or what ? This one has it all, the creative process, the growing, the skin that is being molded around the shape........continual creation.

For me, I take it as a good sign, although it can be damned uncomfortable at the time.

Each time I read, each time I cry. Thank you for your light of words fairly wrought, and for just doing what you do. If you find yourself in Texas and need a hug or a patch of ground upon which to lay-- I will grant both! Huzzah!

Oh I feel you on this struggle. I wish I could say I have figured it out, but alas I have not.

We have been in the area for 6 or 7 years and I still feel the loner. I really need the courage to step out into the unknown and find the circle that I belong in. I was just thinking on this earlier this morning. Only I was not able to phrase it any where near as eloquently as you have. But I think the last 4 years have been a long enough time to wallow in whatever pity I have allowed since the thing occured and it is time to step into that wonderful world out there and enjoy life.

Now, I just need to figure out what I want to do with myself and what I want to be when I grow up.

That courage - she is a difficult thing...

I have a cool idea for the quilt I want to discuss with you when next we get together.

As to the rest, it's always going to be process. There's no way around that. We change and grow, people come and go. I completely reinvented myself at 40, but there is always something left of who you were - even a snake shedding its skin has the same skeleton.

And I do laugh at the ways we are similar: "I want more! I want new! I want adventure.... Um, now I want a day off. But also more! and new! and adventure!" Perhaps our discontent is our greatest strength. It keeps us searching, instead of settling in for an evening of reality TV.

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