virtual reality

Last night my phone finally got sick of my procrastinating ass and forced me to install a system update. Along with the system update, there were also a bunch of updates to the apps I use, including the camera software. It looks a little bit different, but I can still find everything I need, so I didn’t think much of it.
This morning I took a selfie to show off my hand-knit neck wear to some like-minded friends, and I noticed that the camera automatically took two pictures, which seemed odd. I kept switching back and forth between the two pictures, trying to figure out why one looked slightly different than the other. One looked just a tiny bit eerie and it took me a minute to realize why.
IMG_20171115_113322073-COLLAGE.jpg
Do you see it? The program filtered out the freckles on my cheek and the scar on my nose, and made my skin just generally brighter / whiter.
AUTOMATICALLY.
It didn’t even give me a choice. It just assumed that I wouldn’t be happy with my face. Because who actually likes their face anymore, you know? Who WOULDN’T want to be touched up a little?
Yes, I’m making a leap by talking like my phone is making assumptions, but the simple fact is that while the phone itself can’t make assumptions, the people that write the programs that the phone runs absolutely can. They are collectively assuming that no one feels like their face is good enough anymore. They are collectively deciding to feed us an ALTERED version of reality FIRST…then offering the actual reality as an afterthought.
That’s not only sad to me, but scary as well. It’s SO easy to fake things nowadays. Altered pictures, fake social media accounts, news being spun to fit a network’s or publication’s bias. Who do we trust anymore? What do we grab on to in order to not get sucked into this crazy vortex of reality being constructed for us?
The way my head is wired, I need to check in with what’s real on a regular basis or I start to feel like I’m disassociated, detached…like I could happily float off into the deep end of the Crazy Town pool and let myself drown. To combat this, I go outside and spend time in nature. I visit friends in actual meatspace, face to face. I read about science because I find fact-based things grounding and soothing. I practice yoga and meditation, both of which remind me that I am here, right now, with each breath.
And I look at myself in the mirror or in pictures. Not like Narcissus gazing at himself in the pool, but looking at my own face for a moment and remembering that I am not just the constant barrage of feels pelting the inside of my skull. I am not actually a (mostly benevolent) ghost floating quietly in the background of all these rooms that I enter on a daily basis.
My wrinkles, my freckles, my scars…they all remind me that I am a person, piloting this meatsuit through space and time, having real experiences and doing real things.
I’d rather technology not decide to take those reminders away from me with the assumption that I value luminous, freckle-free skin over…you know…my actual face.

 

tiny magic

The other morning I was washing some pots before breakfast. A tiny soap bubble landed on the leaf of one of my African violets and didn’t instantly pop.

IMG_20171010_065549003

See it? It looks kind of like a big water droplet, but it’s not.

I’ve always loved soap bubbles. If my mom ever wanted to get me out of her hair for an extended period of time, all she had to do was hand me a bottle of bubble fluid and point me outside. HOURS of entertainment. The shine of them, the flow of liquid rainbows over their surfaces, the idea that a whole other world could be contained inside those ephemeral little spheres of soap film – they’re magic.

The little soap bubble on the leaf made me smile. I admired it a few times while continuing my chore, knowing that one of the times I glanced up at it again, it would be gone. I finished one pot, I finished another, and the bubble remained, cushioned on the soft hairs of the violet’s leaf. At that point maybe five minutes had passed and I was pretty impressed with the bubble’s tenacity so I grabbed my phone and took some pictures to remember it by.

By that time breakfast was ready, and after that I had to take Mark to work. On returning to the kitchen for a second cup of tea after I’d run Mark to work and walked the dog, I happened to look over…and see the bubble still there!  It had been well over an hour at that point since the bubble landed on the leaf. But there it still was, its surface swirling madly with tiny iridescent storm clouds. Amazed, I very carefully picked the violet up off the windowsill to get a closer look. The bubble quivered with the movement but didn’t break. I admired it for a bit longer, then had to bid it goodbye because it was time to get ready for work.

That bubble clearly gave ZERO fucks about my measly human existence and flimsy preconceived notions of How Things Should Work though, because I shit you not, it was STILL THERE when I came back into the kitchen on my way out to work. It had made leaf-fall at approximately 6:15am and I took this video (linked – sorry, WordPress won’t let me upload it without paying them more money and I love you guys but god damn), just before I left the house at 9:15am. THREE HOURS that little bubble sat there, that I know of. It wasn’t there when I got home from work around 4:45, but who knows how long it actually lasted after I left. For all I know, it might have popped five seconds before I walked back in the door.

Now, listen: I don’t care what you want to tell me about humidity and surface tension and dust and whatever other cockamamie logical frigging math-doing mumbo jumbo (it’s always math’s fault. ALWAYS). This was straight up MAGIC. That was a MAGIC bubble with OTHERWORLDLY properties that landed on my MYSTICAL African violet in my SUPERNATURAL GOD DAMNED KITCHEN, and you will never convince me otherwise.

The world is a dumpster fire right now – it might continue to burn for the next twenty years for all we know – but as long as we can still find a little magic now and then, things aren’t completely lost.

Magic, motherfuckers. Hang on to it when you find it.

we goat this

Today is my 8th wedding anniversary.

My husband got me a nice card  and wrote a heartfelt note in it, then wrote a further heartfelt post on Facebook and included a link to our wedding song.

The card I got him has two baby goats on the front and inside it says “we goat together”. It was completely selfish because I’m the one that loves goats, not him. I also don’t have the attention span to stand in the store and read all the lines of text on all the pretty, sentimental cards. I suck at heartfelt notes, too. I’m really more of a long-form person.

And yet, for some reason he thinks I’m a keeper. I have a feeling a lot of it is to do with my willingness to incorporate bacon and/or cheese into most dishes that I cook.

My husband is a lot of things. He’s smart, but he’ll tell you he’s not. He’s an excellent writer. He is kind and has a generous spirit – he’s forever helping people out, even people he doesn’t know and will never meet. He’s principled but also compassionate. He’s funny.  He sings his guts out no matter who might hear, because music is more important than what the neighbors think. He is sentimental and deeply sensitive. He has no time for close-minded, intolerant people, and yet he can somehow still be nice to them (which I am always in awe of, because it’s something I am utterly incapable of doing). He’s a champion-level trip planner, he’s incredible at cards (and most games in general, much to his poor-loser wife’s chagrin), and though he’d never in a million years admit it, he’s a natural leader. He’s wildly charming. He could sell ice to a polar bear at twice the normal mark-up and the polar bear would leave thinking she’d gotten such a good deal that she’d send all his friends over to buy ice from him as well. And, probably most important when it comes to being married to me, he has the patience of a god damned saint. Like, if there were a Nobel Prize for patience, they’d just rename it the Mark Armitage prize and stop even trying to give it to anyone else because no one else would ever even be in the running.

He keeps me afloat on days when all I can imagine doing is sinking. He laughs at my awful, puerile, completely inappropriate jokes. He drags me out of my shell and forces me to be social, but he’s also gentle and understands when I say I’m not up to it. He tolerates my inability to keep house and my (literal) piles of yarn. While he may not entirely understand my compulsive drive to always be making things, he never complains about the whiplash-inducing frequency with which I switch from craft to craft. He doesn’t hold my lack of executive functioning capability against me and he respects the weird routines I come up with to try and keep myself somewhat regulated. When I fall apart crying and can’t explain why, he doesn’t try to fix things and he doesn’t back away. He doesn’t think it’s weird that I stand outside for extended periods of time talking to the birds in the yard, or that I try to make friends with every animal that crosses my path (even when it’s maybe not super wise to do so), or that I sometimes repeat things over and over to myself in funny voices.

We’re not perfect. I’m still trying to learn how to not be alone inside my head all the damn time. Neither of us are A+ communicators, which is funny given that we both like to write. We’re both prone to making piles of stuff, and neither of us are super great at choosing to do chores when there’s fun stuff we could be doing instead. He takes really long baths and doesn’t like Led Zeppelin.  But at the end of the day, we don’t have to be perfect, because we have each other to lean on and that’s better anyway.

And I’m still convinced that he’ll come around on the Led Zeppelin thing some day…

i-goat-this

My first two goats are going to be named Page and Plant. Just saying.

free fallin’

When I was a teenager, I had a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers greatest hits CD. I think I may actually still have it, in fact. Anyway – the CD had a defect that caused a tiny skip in the first track, ‘Free Fallin’ ‘:

All the vampires, walkin’ through the valley

move West down Ventura Boulevard

On my CD, the skip was in the word “boulevard”, making it sound like some kind of syncopated contraction….like Tom had taken all the vowels out and was literally singing the abbreviation, “blvd”.

I had heard the song on the radio plenty of times and I knew it didn’t actually go like that, that it was either a microscopic scratch or a manufacturing glitch causing it, but I listened to that CD and that song in particular so many times over the years that it got stuck in my head. To this day, when I hear ‘Free Fallin’ ‘ and the skip DOESN’T happen my brain notes it and judges that version of the song, that particular split-second sonic experience, as ever so slightly sub-standard.

I’m not a music critic or a biographer and I certainly didn’t know Tom Petty personally, so it feels silly to try and eulogize him. What I can say is that I loved Tom Petty for his plain-spoken lyrical style. I loved that he was smart and sly and also a stoner, and didn’t give a shit who knew it. I loved that he was so versatile, writing everything from hard-charging rock like ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ to sensitive, almost bluegrassy-sounding diddies like ‘Wildflowers’. I loved his ridiculously nasal voice and his Scarecrow-goes-to-Hollywood looks, and I’ll miss him very, very much.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

‘Wildflowers’ by Tom Petty

wildflowers

what price good hair?

The last few days, my hair has been feeling kind of…crispy…but not like, dry crispy.  More like…sticky-crispy?  Like when you’ve been swimming in salt water and then you let your hair dry without washing the salt out, sort of.  The first day I noticed it, I was totally blaming it on the fact that my bastard-ass plumbing was on the fritz and I had really poor water pressure in the shower, the logical conclusion of which was that my shampoo wasn’t rinsing out of my hair entirely.  Last night I managed to semi-fix the water pressure issue in the shower though, and this morning it felt like all the shampoo definitely rinsed out fine.  And yet, here I sit with sticky-crisp hair once again.  I’m forced at this point to suspect the culprit may be the new shampoo I bought on Saturday.

Buying new shampoo is one of the quickest ways I can think of to send myself into analysis paralysis.  There are all these boxes to check: must be sulfate-free, must smell nice but not too strong, must not cost a crap-ton, must not make my scalp itch, must not make my hair look terrible.  Some of those are pretty easy – I can read the bottle to find out if it has sulfates in it.  I can sniff it to see if I like the smell.  But how do I know if it’s going to make my scalp itch or make my hair look terrible?  I don’t until I buy it and try it.  That’s the part I super DUPER fucking hate – the not knowing or even being able to make an educated guess.  It’s a total crap shoot.  I detest crap shoots.

But anyway, back to my current hair issue.

The real mind-boggler is that my hair actually looks pretty good despite feeling super weird.  It makes no sense.  My hair is very fine so it gets weighed down by product residue or oils ridiculously quickly.  Usually if I have enough gunk in my hair to cause it to actually FEEL gunked up, then it will LOOK gunked up too…but that’s currently not the case.  It looks fuller and thicker than usual (which is great since this formula I bought claimed to be thickening. Score one for truth in advertising), and it’s fairly shiny.  Things seem pretty good until I touch it, then the facade crumbles and I am left wondering why I can’t run my fingers through my hair and why my roots feel…well…sticky-crisp.

I can’t return the shampoo, so I’m stuck with it.  Do I just keep using it and hope that I eventually get used to it, or that it eventually makes my hair look so fabulous that I’m able to let go of the sticky-crisp issue?  Do I run, not walk, to the nearest store and go back to the previous brand that didn’t do much for me volume-wise but that smelled ok and didn’t make my hair feel weird?  Do I foist it off on some unsuspecting friend who quite possibly is more well-adjusted and has way less weird sensory issues than me?

It’s a conundrum, man.  I don’t know.
I want puffy alpaca hair.  Is that so much to ask?

I want puffy alpaca hair. Is that so much to ask?

There is no “sam” in Samhain.

Halloween is my favorite.  I know, it’s basically everyone’s favorite, but still.  I love seeing the clever, creative and often ridiculously artistic things that people come up with for costumes.  Also, I think it’s nice that there’s at least one guaranteed day a year where everyone can let their freak flag fly if they want to without being judged.  Want to roll up to work made up like a mermaid with a shark eating your head and not have anyone even raise an eyebrow?  Halloween’s your day!

 

Halloween also marks something more important in my personal calendar, which is the festival of Samhain.  I won’t bore you with a history lesson on how most Christian holidays and a great many of their most sacred rituals were copied directly from or closely based on those of the pagan peoples that they then went on to subjugate, but there’s plenty of information available if it’s something you’re interested in reading up on.

Anyway.

Samhain was thought to be, at its earliest root, a festival to mark the bringing in of the cattle for the winter by the herdsmen of ancient Celtic tribes.  During this time of year the herdsmen slaughtered animals to feed their tribes through the winter. They were getting the last of the plant-based food gathered as well, and getting ready for the long, cold season ahead. It was considered the beginning of winter, of the dark and unproductive (crop-wise) time of the year.

The transition period between summer and winter, the light season and the dark season, was also thought to be a time when the world of the living and the world of the dead drew near to each other.  This is, of course, the origin of the “spooky” themes of our modern Halloween, but in ancient times this drawing closer of the two worlds was far more serious business. There were spirits that needed to be appeased in order for herds, food stores and families to make it through the winter, and dead kin who were thought to come back to re-visit their families for honoring and celebrating.

I am drawn to Celtic and Germanic pagan traditions in general, partially because that’s where my ancestry lies.  My family came to what was then still “the colonies” from the British Isles, Germany and France, and were subsistence farmers for many, many generations on both sides of the Atlantic.  I’m not a farmer myself and probably never will be, but that generations-deep synchronization with the seasons is something I still strongly feel and relate to.  It probably also helps that I live in a very rural area where these seasonal cycles are to a certain degree inescapable whether one bases their livelihood on them or not. It’s a lot harder to lose touch with the change in seasons and what those changes mean for both man and beast when one lives in farm country.

Samhain, in particular, is also important to me spiritually because it affords me an opportunity to feel closer to lost loved ones.  I’m not generally big into the “woo”.  I don’t believe that I can light a candle and ask my dead grandfather to step through the veil for a nice chat, for example (although if you think YOU can do it, I’m willing to invite you over to try because I think that would be AWESOME).  But, I do believe that this time of year, the spirits of the dead are closer to our own world and may have a better chance of hearing us if we speak to them.  And really, who doesn’t speak to a dead loved one now and then anyway?  It’s not actually that weird, if you think about it.

Whether you spend it getting your goats in from the summer pasture, passing out candy to trick-or-treaters, keeping an ear open for the voice of a loved one long passed, carving jack-o-lanterns, or even sitting inside with all the lights out pretending you’re not home, I hope your Samhain is happy and safe!

And for fuck’s sake, stop pronouncing it “sam-hane”, “sam-in” or SAM-anything. It’s saw-win. Or sow-in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this is payback for something, I’m sure of it.

My dog wants to go out for a walk.  Normally this wouldn’t pose much of a problem, except I currently look like this:

 

IMG_20151024_163613966

Fetching…

It’s not even so much that I give a fuck what my neighbors think of how I look – it’s more that my hair isn’t dry yet and it’s really blustery out. Also, I am utter shit at putting my hair in rollers, so literally ANY application of force via air movement is going to make this delicate balance of hope and fuckery all come crashing down.

But…I can’t let the dog piss on the floor (not that he would anyway, he’s a good boy). So fucked-up hair, here I come!

mermaid hair, etc.

This afternoon I had a hair appointment.  It was extra long because I was getting some extensive bleaching and dying done.  There were several other women in the salon at the same time, one of who had a gaggle of daughters with her.  The youngest of the girls gave me the side-eye a few times while the stylist was applying the bleach and foils to my hair.  I smiled at her when she made eye contact, assuming she was fascinated with the dying process, especially since she had seen that I had bright purple streaks in my hair when I first came in.

As the stylist was finishing up with my foil packets the little girl sidled over to me and, in a surprisingly earnest tone for an 11 year old said, “You’re very pretty”.  I was momentarily taken aback but also quite charmed (hey, I never said I wasn’t shallow…heh).  Smiling again, I replied with, “Well thank you! So are you!”.

I hope she believed me, because it’s true.  I also hope she holds onto her own incredible generosity of spirit as she grows up.  I hope she doesn’t have it bullied and shamed out of her by asshole kids and a shitty society that tries to convince girls that their worth is determined by their clothing size.

The little girl had to head out when her mom’s hair was done, long before I was out from under the foils and hood dryer.  She was disappointed that she wasn’t going to get to see what my hair came out looking like, and I was a little sad that I didn’t get to see her eyes go wide in wonder at the swirls of bright green, blue and purple that emerged from under my stylist’s talented hands.  I think she would have liked it:

IMG_20151014_175402059

mermaid-y!