Archive Tag:words

Drabble 111 – Pyrolater


I am notoriously good at building fires. This might be because of my weird obsession with survival books when I was in elementary school or I might have just really internalized the two days I spent at camp, also in elementary school. I can’t say I have a particular finesse or strategy for it; I just pile stuff up according to burnability, give it space to breathe, and let it go, and, most of the time, it works.

I take a lot of pride in this, in part because a group of friends once insisted I couldn’t be trusted with a lighter (why? I don’t know, but I do know that the moment their backs were turned I lit a fire so good that nearby campers came to grab a stick from us because they couldn’t get theirs started), and in part, maybe, because it’s like nurturing a temperamental and dangerous child. Feed it, care for it, let it grow.

I haven’t been able to have many backyard fires this year because of burn bans–I live in the Pacific Northwest, and there were weeks of heavy smoke turning our clear air into an acrid haze. Fire is as easily destructive as it is warming.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 98 – Urticate

nettle by Leah Oswald

I grew up on an island surrounded by plants that stung and stuck to my clothes and tore scratches into my arms. I spent hours combing burs out of my cats’ fur, piling them into neat little stacks. Everything snagged.

Next to my house was a big open field of grass and blackberries and mice and nettles. The thing I remember most about the nettles was that I never really saw them–I’d run through the field carelessly, not paying any mind to the plants that lived there, and come home with bumps and stinging welts that burned and refused to abate unless you rubbed the bottom of a fern on them.

I have a scar on my knee from where a blackberry bush tore the skin open. Blood welled up there, dark red and juicy. I touched it and put my finger in my mouth, thinking it was a crushed blackberry.

Now my hands are tough and leathery and I can reach into blackberry and rosebushes without fear of thorns. They’re peppered with pale scars and callouses, but I wouldn’t trade them and fear my garden again.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 96 – Malison

Cassandra // Evelyn De Morgan // Public Domain

There’s this quote I first heard in Pretty Deadly, a comic by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, ad Clayton Cowles–“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” I bought volume two from Deconnick at Rose City Comic Con last year, and she signed the book with those words. I hadn’t read it yet, but that quote kept hammering through my head. Good luck, bad luck, who knows?

A lot of bad things have happened in my life. A lot of good things have also happened in my life. There’s no miraculous turnaround, just a series of events happening and happening and happening, some good, some bad. It’s easy to focus on one group or another and think that my life is either trauma after trauma or success after success, but, considered in a straight line, each one feeds into another. Remove a single event from my life and I’m not sure where I’d be, but it probably wouldn’t be here. I’m as much every bad thing as I am every good thing. I’m crying into a pillow and laughing on my wedding day. I’m thinking of my flaws and celebrating my successes. I’m on top of the world and buried under a rock.

I don’t think about luck anymore, at least not in the sense that it’s something you can have. I don’t have good luck. I don’t have bad luck. Sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen. I work and I try and I do my best and sometimes I’m rewarded for it, sometimes the stars align just right and I feel lucky, but I’m not sure it goes any deeper than that. Things happen. Things continue to happen. I keep moving forward.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that I’m not sure there is good or bad luck. There’s simply luck, and it hits us all now and again. Good, bad, who knows.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 91 – Desiderium


For some reason, I spent a good year or two wanting to run away to live in the woods. Life was a little hard, I was reading a lot of fantasy novels about girls who could talk to animals or travel to different dimensions, and while I had none of those powers myself, I thought maybe I would have a shot at survival thanks to reading Hatchet.

Obviously, I never did it. I think I knew I’d be found in about ten minutes, or, worse, I’d be wet and hungry and tired after a single day in a Pacific Northwest forest and I’d have to come crawling home and admit defeat. I never admit defeat.

There was always some worry that my family would blame themselves for my desire to run away to the woods. Maybe they would miss me once I was gone, but I hoped they would realize it was what I had to do. “Of course Missy had to run off to the woods,” they’d say. “There is no other option for such a girl. Of course we’ll miss her, but she’ll be fine–she read a book about a kid who had to survive in the wilderness once.”

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 42 – Kāihuā

“Chrysanthemum” by Benjamin Brackman

I have dreams of being a polyglot but so far all I’ve managed is English and some French. Spoken French is still a mess for me; I can pick out certain words and take an extra few seconds to translate them, by which point the meaning is lost and the conversation has moved on. But I keep practicing, listening to the same songs and hoping someday I’ll understand the lyrics as effortlessly as I would in English.

Learning languages is difficult. Words are packed full of meaning, not just at surface level but deeper, with context overlaying literal interpretation overlaying etymology and connotation all swirled around in there too. The difference between yell and shout is subtle, but they sound different to our (or at least my) mind’s ear–the former being sharp and painful, the latter being lower and generally more frightening.

When we translate words to other languages we lose meaning. It’s why translators often appear on book jackets–translating a work isn’t just flipping a word from one language to another. It’s analyzing all those other elements like connotation and context and wordplay and literal meaning to create something like, but not exactly the original. It’s an art in itself, and different translations will yield dramatically different responses from readers.

Case in point: my least favorite work of Greek literature is The Iliad, not because it’s particularly bad but because the translation I read was so poor in comparison to Fagles’ Odyssey and all the other texts I read, it forever feels inferior, amateurish, in my head.

When I write about words from other languages I can only rely on translation and hope I don’t lose too much of the meaning along the way.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 29 – Astrolatry

Orion Constellation by Miska Saarikko

There are few things more fascinating to me than religion. I’m not religious, personally, but not following a religion myself doesn’t mean that I can’t be interested in the things other people believe. Religion brings a lot of comfort to a lot of people and hearing people talk about their beliefs is them sharing a bit of their worldview with you–it’s informative and fascinating and wonderful.

That means that I have quite a few words on my enormous vocabulary list that end with –latry, meaning “worship of” the preceding noun. One of them is here, and at some point I’ll have a bunch more too. The only words on my list that approach the number of -latry words are those ending in -phobia (which has shown up once) and -philia, which means “an abnormal liking for or tendency toward,” and if you’re familiar with the suffix, you might have guessed why I haven’t posted any of those yet. Someday, someday.

Words are interesting. We construct our whole world, including our belief systems, out of them. Words are very, very powerful, and not just when they end with -latry.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Important Work and Imposter Syndrome

Important Work

I don’t know if it’s just me, but being asked what I do is a source of unrepentant dread.

I write. I write here and I write on a couple of different websites, including Women Write About Comics, which you should be reading. I also do a podcast on geek culture. When I tell people these things, they always want to know what they’re about.

And I appreciate that enthusiasm and interest, but I can never seem to find a good answer. As much as nerdy stuff is popular right now, saying I take it seriously enough to critique it still feels like I’m asking to be shoved in a locker. It’s one thing to enjoy, say, Game of Thrones, and it’s another to discuss the implications of lily-white Daenerys’ subjects all being poor brown folks, right? Like, who cares? It’s a television show. Can’t we just turn off our brains and stop being offended by things for two minutes?

(No. Well, yes, but I believe the question is not can we, but should we. I’ll get there.)

And the writing–more than once, I’ve had the reception to my answer of “fantasy” for what I write about be…less than enthusiastic. It has put me in more than one uncomfortable position where I wriggle around in my seat and try to dodge the question to avoid the stares of well-meaning but skeptical family members.

Which inevitably leads me down a sad and well-populated road full of questions–most important, does what I do matter?

Drabble 9 – Adoxography

Someone’s handwriting, much nicer than mine.

I was recently the matron of honor in my best friend’s wedding. Leave it to me to forget, until a day before the wedding, that I had to write a speech.

Thankfully, poetry came to the rescue. Writing might be hard, but interpreting poetry is something I feel a bit better about, these days, and the final line from Jack Gilbert’s The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart has been haunting me since I first read it.

Rather than rehashing the entire speech, I’ll just say that I think love is expressed differently by every person who expresses it, and sometimes that expression is unexpected or, to outsiders, mundane. 

I feel pretty strongly about destroying genre boundaries and high brow/low brow distinctions, so the idea that anything is trivial just doesn’t resonate with me. Who is this grand arbiter of taste that gets to decide whether something is meaningful or not?

I might have some bitterness attached to this issue. Anyway, here’s a drabble.