Foxglove and Stitches

The following entry may contain triggering material.

In the corporeal world, I attended Catholic mass. It was at a smaller church, more like a giant gazebo. I sat at the periphery, with the lattice-wall at my back. The homily was about a pet parrot of a priest’s friend. The parrot had been trained to say a specific prayer depending on which claw someone pulled. When the priest wondered aloud which prayer the parrot would say if they pulled both claws, (I think it went) the parrot responded: “I’d fall without anything to perch on, you dolt.”

The point was that even a parrot can pray. Human churchgoing Catholics should pray with meaning in their hearts, and with a mind to community and humility rather than bargaining with a cosmic God for selfish purposes. The Paternoster goes “give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” and “thy will be done” not me and mine.

I want to say that Catholicism is complex, not inconsistent or contradictory, because so is life and the universe and everything. Still, it strikes me as suspiciously convenient to couch attractive and advantageous offers in terms of this religion—and then that anyone can cut down what they don’t like, also in the terms of this religion. Whether someone has the real goodness of the One True God in their heart and live the One Truly Proper Way, or if someone’s being led astray by the Adversary, becomes most obviously (to me, anyway) a matter of “yuh-huh” and “nuh-uh” back and forth into infinity about every little thing and big thing.

Such conduct is not unique to Catholicism, of course, but while the homily set up some no-nonsense structures (say what you mean, mean what you say, and have a care!) I kind of flinch inwardly at external attempts to fiddle with internals, because some days I don’t even know if I’m really myself or if I’m just a collage of what people have done to me. A break from that would be nice. Conforming to normalcy and the concept of a United Front have only ever been used to shut me up about things that were killing me (I exaggerate, of course—eating disorders and suicide don’t count as real death, as my family kept implying, it’s just a rude inconvenience by attention-seeking brats) and that sort of abuse has always been justified in terms of this religion. That might not have been what this priest meant to reinforce, but I don’t think it’s in me to be more than a cultural Catholic. Hey, culture is a lot—It's why we're the only country in the world where divorce isn't legal, we technically have Straight Pride Parades that shame even straight people, and atheists get put in jail (well, that one protest cosplayer, who in my opinion was out of line, no accounting for style.)

If I could decide, I should pull a Joan of Arc and protest against the cultural effects based on guidance from living half in Christian otherworlds, not play to cultural and bureaucratic stigma while half living in fairyland.

But it’s time I mentioned fairy pirate captain Foxglove, who stood outside the lattice looking out, as everyone else in the gazebo-church began singing Don Moen’s “Two Hands, One Heart”: “Two hands, one heart / One life to offer You / Two hands, one heart / That’s what I give to You…”

“I don’t like this song!” Foxglove exclaimed, raising both his arms (both starting from the shoulders, one ended in a hand and the other in a hook prosthetic.)

*

He probably has a point, but that doesn’t mean he’s not also melodramatic, and I hate dismissing anything as “just drama” because I have had some very real suffering treated that way, and feel as though that horrid phrase should never ever be possible to pronounce or spell. Then some abusive corporeal offline people I used to know really tempt me to say it, and the internal fracturing of my principles get me rocking back and forth while humming the theme from Galavant to soothe the turmoil. And after I’m soothed, I still don’t know right thing to do.

I left Foxglove out of this entry. I never know what’s going to be a Significant Otherworldly Exploration Discovery Event Development and what’s just zany and goes nowhere. He was there, around that same time, but all sighs and “We Shan’t Meet Again Because You Need Me No Longer, Yet I Remain Always In Your Heart…”

And I was like, “Yeah, right…”

Because I don’t want to put out there that I don’t believe it if someone says we’re over and done with.

But after that I wandered into Quartermaster Camshaft’s cabin and found Camshaft in pieces, and Foxglove shook my shoulders and shouted a lot at me to, “Get it together!”

But after that I lay in bleak and speechless conviction of my uselessness in a probably godless world anyway, and Foxglove kept prodding my head with a finger and saying that the high seas, at least, were his if they were anyone’s, and if I went on some paracosmic adventure right now then real-life Neo-Imperial China would quit the shenanigans in international waters.

“Stop giving me delusions of grandeur,” I’d muttered.

“At least take a shower,” he’d replied, with another prod. (By complete coincidence and not because he told me to while prodding my head, I pushed myself up and ambled over to the shower.)

But after that he stood outside church during mass and criticized the choir’s song selection. He doesn’t even usually go to church with me in what I call the otherreal. He doesn’t even have a corporeal human body, let alone a consistent disability to complain pointedly about. He is such a drrgrrargh!

***

Last night I felt a hollow pain in my chest. It’s a cliché for reasons of being a common human experience (probably? I’d say…) but clichés are bad for reasons. What if it’s only a common human experience because people who haven’t experienced it just keep saying the phrase, so people start thinking in that phrase, and use it upon feeling something “close enough” or to elicit an expression of empathy from whoever we say it to, so we’ve convinced ourselves that we feel it when we don’t actually or otherwise wouldn’t have? (Holy hearts, what sort of gullible and disingenuous person am I, that this would even be a pragmatic and intuitive distinction to make?)

What if the constructed associated meanings are misleading? I have felt what I describe to be a hollow pain in my chest when I tried to go vegan: It was a vitamin deficiency. I have also felt a hollow pain in my chest related to emotion. They’re both hollow pains in the chest, but they’re different hollow pains in the chest in ways I don’t have more words to explain right now.

This time, I intuited it to have some otherworldly overlap, so I went there in my mind and reached around and took the pain-thing out of my fetch’s chest.

It looked and felt like a sheep’s heart I dissected in biology class once, except the incisions came down from the big top end and met at the ventral node-tip part. They hung like a cartoon octopus’ tentacles, and flopped fleshily like flat noodles.

Well, I thought, It’s better than the black-gray goop that I usually get!

library

So, I went to my library, because it seemed the likeliest place to find a stapler, rather than Erstvale or Foxglove’s ship. I didn’t draw the furniture above because I don’t always know exactly what’s in my own sort of Surreal Save Point. One time it was zombies. My therapist thinks it Means Something. This time, there was a conference table between the door to the inside of the crescent bookshelf and the door to outside the library (as there usually is.) A chess set rested on the round table by the window in front of the mezzanine stairs, although their players had gone a long time ago. Up on the mezzanine were more bookshelves, a fireplace and armchairs, and a glass casket containing an ostentatiously ugly gown.

No staplers.

So then, I went through the crescent bookshelf door and into the poop cabin on Foxglove’s ship (that door doesn’t always lead to the same scape, but usually to the scapes that press up against the door like they’re eavesdropping). I shouldn’t be surprised that he was there, but I was, so I held up the heart and said, “I think I broke it. Have you got a stapler?”

The poop deck had maps, pencils, calligraphy brushes, sextants, astrolabes, pocket watches, Victorian keys, for some reason a weather vane and an orrery—but no stapler that I could see, and Foxglove wasn’t even looking for one. He just kicked over a trap door to another cabin and dropped through. I followed. He found a sewing needle and a bit of yellow-beige fluff in one of the caskets.

I sat on the table and waited as he got out a bit of paper card. With one hand, he began to twist the fluff into thread and I groaned. His hook had no trouble catching more fluff, and eventually the card was covered in a spool of looping thread. Eventually. Very eventually.

“I’ve got an REM cycle to catch,” I said, as he took a threader out of the casket. He shrugged and grasped the needle in his teeth. I said, “Maybe it’ll be faster if I did it—” because my fetch had two hands.

He shot me a disdainful expression and threaded the needle, then held his hook out for the heart. I hung the heart on it by an artery. He started to sew.

Having watched a pet kitten get stitches at the vet’s office after a bad fight with another cat, I did get the idea that sewing up flesh was different from sewing up fabric: each stitch is separate, so pulling one stitch wouldn’t pull the others along with it in a continuous running line.

I asked, “What does it mean if your heart feels hollow?”

Foxglove answered, “Of course it’s going to be hollow, there’s got to be room for the blood to go through.”

“That’s awfully literal!”

After swinging my legs over the edge of the table for a while, I glanced over at how Foxglove was sewing, and saw that he was embroidering long stitches so close together that they looked like hatch-shading.

“Quests were more fun when you were teaching me how to swordfight,” I remarked. “And I don’t even like combat at all.”

“Mm. Are archery lessons going well?”

“Under Marigold, it’s one of the more lenient levels of my personal Hell.”

“What did happen to Heartwrench?”

I didn’t want to tell him. I don’t even want to tell you right now. So we lapsed into a silence awkward to me, but I think Foxglove already knew because he had this smug grin all the rest of the while he continued sewing.

Eventually I got bored enough to flop down on the table and bounce my head against the wood.

Then Foxglove paused to take out his broken pocket watch, then made a face of dramatically exaggerated shock at what the unticking clock’s own face showed the time of. Then he politely left the cabin, and the heart half unsewed on the table.

I rummaged about the caskets and found a large blue stapler in one of them, and just used that on the rest of it, which was sooooo much quicker than sewing, Foxglove, you are such a troll. Then I put it back in my chest (the heart with the staples, not the stapler itself.)

And I felt better, so there.

*

I really never know what’s going to be a Significant Otherworldly Exploration Discovery Event Development and what’s just zany and goes nowhere, but this did seem like it would be an entertaining anecdote, so here it is.

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On Transverse Thought

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a compilation of folktales with analysis and commentary added. I read it when I was about nine years of age because I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to. It had fairy tales, so it was age-appropriate, wasn’t it?

In any case, that was when and how I caught the idea that, in fairy tales, the main character’s parents tend to be dead before the call to adventure if they aren’t going to be antagonists in the story. This wasn’t a realistic representation of reality: niceness isn’t fatal. This wasn’t a moral demonstration. If it was an artistic choice on the part of the teller and retailers, then the cliche would eventually be enough to put audiences off…wouldn’t it?

The prevalence of this trope, as Estes explained, was in its symbolic value: that of the turning point of self-actualisation, when a person realises that their value system is different than their parents’. Stories represent this shift through the death of the good-and-perfect parent, and often the introduction of the wicked step-parent. In some extradiegetic life, supposedly, they are the same person or the same idea of authority figure, but the psyche of their child tends to make some distinction or else acknowledges the shift through understanding the event of an in-story death.

How, then, would an extradiegetic death be symbolised?

It could be by some grand natural disaster that ends all existence or life as we know it. Or it could be by the fall of a single leaf. Death could even, confusingly, be symbolised by death.

So goes the transfer between the corporeal world and the otherworld.

The nature of any given focal point in the otherworld, too, is (from what I’ve observed) not only mutable but multi-dimensional. How the word “fae” can retain its meaning when applied to all of the following: to the powers of order, to the powers of disorder and madness, to the liminal beings interacting with humanity, to personifications of non-people entities, to people on the other side of some insular idea of people that somehow still remain people but in some other reality, to beings who speak in a language like the sound of bells and that were born of the laughter of newborn humans, and to miniature humans that grow out of flowers and have butterfly wings, to corporeal human beings who claim bloodline or inner nature that is fae…is a mystery that I can respect.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t know what I’m doing, unless I’m doing it wrong. I find out by doing, translations, transliterations, interpretation, creation, and all the warp and weft of fabrication.

Captain Foxglove Takes Umbrage

 Warning: The following entry may contain triggering material.

When Captain Foxglove acts out of character, I’m inclined to interpret this as reflecting a psychological node of sorts, that is breaking down due to some subconscious program of a sort gathering “error data” of a sort. So, Foxglove, usually encouraging, supportive, incisive with honesty at his worst becomes prone to verbally violent outbursts.

In this instance, however, it holds more significance to me to keep to running with the spiritualist program. I just really feel like I make more progress with believing in the experience than I do with meta-analysis.

So, Foxglove has three faces: the first I saw when I first met him, the second I saw on a quest where I caught sight of him lounging on a grassy cliff by the sea (and I sensed it was Foxglove even though he looked so different), and the third when I followed him down a flight of steel steps and he turned around when I asked to know more about him—and his face shattered, like the spaces between a perfect spiderweb only it was meant to shatter, because behind the human masque revealed pointed petals that blossomed into rows upon rows upon rows of pointed teeth.

That last bit could be another example of error data in my subconscious, though, crossing over my pirate fantasy with one of the Resident Evil genetically engineered monsters. But I told myself that I wouldn’t be going with that, at least in this entry.

Because, within the spiritualist paradigm, the thing that I figured out was that while they’re all Foxglove, he’s managed to get jealous of himself when one face gets more of my consideration than the other.

If only it could have been as simple as some evil mischief-maker stole the image of Foxglove that I knew, to impersonate him getting angry so that I would be upset or misled. Then I just have to call out the trickster and keep it real with Foxglove.

It might still turn out to be that way. The stuff of the otherworld and the otherworld itself can be so capricious.

The very night before this all happened, I did have a dream of my ex-mentor in psychism, let’s name him Mar, sat at this bar in a stable and radiated smugness about something terrible that he (Mar himself, not Foxglove) had done to me. While I was embodied in the dream, sitting somewhere across from Mar in this bar that was also a stable, I felt detached and unafraid.

Now I don’t know if my own response was because I’ve developed the strength to have my own standpoint from which I see that Mar is wrong about enough that nothing he does has the effect on me that he intends to have (because I can’t respect his point of view anymore) or if my own response was because I’ve shut down attachments and fears to the point that that I no longer panic when I ought to panic.

Part of me is convinced that this dream meant that Mar did something. This is preposterous to consider, of course, because there’s no empirical evidence for that sort of thing. Inner alchemy or practices with similar effect? Maybe. Dreamwalking and curses? I’m not so sure about those anymore.

So I bring it back to mind.

Perhaps there remains a node in my psyche that can manifest as Mar, and that’s who corrupted Captain Foxglove somehow, if that is even what the how is. That’s the way I’ll speak of it, if so, because it’s an important distinction for me to make right now between corporeal, certificate-of-life-birth possessing, social-security-number having, other-people-can-see-him-too Marr and surreal Mar.

But back to Foxglove.
 
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The Animus Effect

 

So, I met Captain Foxglove on a quest that I didn’t even know was a quest, because it was more like an admirer’s romantic fantasy than a transcendental meditation or something where you sit in your meadow and find your spirit animal or whatever.

PIC_1701A

Some time in late November, I think it was, I was taking a shower (in the corporeal world) when the Surreal pulled me into the poop cabin of Foxglove’s ship. The sun streamed in through the windows and Foxglove was loudly declaring that it was time to fight.

For a few nights after that (because waiting for sleep is usually the time that I do my quests rather than the Surreal interrupting my waking thought process while I’m in the shower) I would dream that he and I were on deck and he was training me in swordfighting, although he used a cutlass and I a broadsword and this was all imaginary which I didn’t consider entirely conducive to learning how to do anything. I’d wake up feeling slightly anxious, which, despite the relatively mild depression that I’d fallen into hadn’t factored in months.

As the lessons went on, however, my depression had cleared up enough that I was washing dishes with some regularity, which the extended family had requested I do when they first took me in. My uncle suggested to me that I not live in the past, which before then would have genuinely enraged me because by the nature of trauma and unresolved issues, the past would be the present; but under Foxglove’s unrelated imaginary lessons, somehow, my attitude had shifted closer to, “Can do.”

Vorpal Sword 0/3

 

Granny Weatherwax had never heard of psychiatry and would have had no truck with it even if she had. There are some arts too black even for a witch. She practiced headology—practiced, in fact, until she was very good at it. And though there may be some superficial similarities between a psychiatrist and a headologist, there is a huge practical difference. A psychiatrist, dealing with a man who fears he is being followed by a large and terrible monster, will endeavor to convince him that monsters don’t exist. Granny Weatherwax would simply give him a chair to stand on and a very heavy stick.

—Terry Pratchett, Maskerade

 

12 November 2011

For as long as I can remember, I have dreaded and feared this invisible shadow, this inaudible chord, these intangible bonds. Perhaps these were all just in my imagination, but this consideration did nothing to assuage the fear. When my imagination gave these form, however, then they felt like something that I could fend off with that same. Sometimes.

For one example, the dread of walking a hall at home after lights-out took on a more specific location, and the form of a hooded figure with a gaunt face. I could imagine a wall of electricity between this figure and myself, and this accompanied with the conviction that going near me was against some sort of playground rule. Whether that conviction created the wall, or the wall supported that conviction I don’t remember. Sometimes the figure would be caught in the electric net, and this would give me some time to run past it until it lost me. Other times, it would float right through or appear within the bounds, laughing, and I wouldn’t know why the wall wasn’t working this time. I certainly didn’t want anxiety, conflict, or even adventure. I tried to imagine it all away, but whatever logic, courage, or dismissive attitude I could muster would crumble into gut-wrenching horror. I didn’t want this, but I didn’t know how to exorcise it.

I grew out of it, but maybe it did have something to do with the depression I fell into much later. I worked on recovering many aspects that most people have naturally, and just didn’t have what I needed to grow into self-sufficiency. My only parent died. My only sibling continued the pattern, adding substance abuse to the mix, and systematically tripped me every step forward that I could take. I wrenched myself out of there, no plan, no skills, no real connections—to the house of a friend of the family’s. In this strange place, I had two spontaneous episodes of far-fetching. The corresponding overlay would be remarkably peaceful, even stagnant. Strange, then, that I would return to the Mainland and sense sharp threats growing towards me from the corners and edges of the room they lent. Maybe it was me.

This is the only relevance to the story: While I lay waiting for sleep, I would imagine standing ready with a sword. I’d leap up, land, slash across—and whatever I was fighting, it or they would shrink back. I made a story, just for myself, about what I imagined, and by that I don’t mean that I wrote a story (except for this text, which is actually telling this story) but that I conceptualized a story that I would live. It was about the name of the swords: the katana, Mercy; and the wakizashi, Justice. My sense of these respective names, I decided, were what had given these weapons form. I had defined the concept, lower-case, justice and mercy, in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

11 June 2012

I dreamed that a man made out of water, that I’d met before, also in a dream, and named Eddy– he laid four swords before me. I certainly recognized the swords.

Eddy asked me if I could tell the difference between the two black-handled wakizashi, Justice and Spite. It was like the ritual for locating the Dalai Lama, where a bunch of toys and other items would be laid before an infant, and if he selected the items that used to belong to the previous Dalai Lama, then he must be a reincarnation because he was drawn to what was familiar.

I couldn’t do it with my own weapons, in this life. It might have ended there, with me just having to admit that I simply do not know something as basic as Right from Wrong, but when I felt the compulsion to tidy up, I picked up Justice and Spite and held them together. They melded into a single weapon, which gave me an epiphany.

“I forged these as part of a psychic sort of symbolic fighting style that I envisioned,” I explained to Eddy. “It came from the conviction that mercy and justice are one and the same thing, if given that the entire conflict is fully understood. Mercy without justice is not true mercy, because coddling will enfeeble the receiver of such a virtue when real virtue will not do such harm; likewise, merciless justice is unjust because it only perpetuates violence and corruption of power. A full, true kind of Understanding shows a middle way, a course of action that incorporates both, so that both can truly be their respective virtues. I thought that they lacked one another, and that separation and subtraction was the illusion.

“I thought that I could keep them as separate parts, than when brought together dispel illusion and create a whole. Some illusions are necessary, if a subject’s capacity to understand is rudimentary–” I went ahem and pointed at myself, “– so there were times to implement Mercy alone, or Justice alone, for a needed and/or satisfactory outcome. Now I see that, that these virtues are not merely incomplete when they are separated– they are infected.

“Mercy without consideration of consequences, is Ignorance, necessarily it is willful ignorance. Justice alone is necessarily spiteful– consider the phrase ‘brutal honesty,’ honesty does not necessitate brutality, it necessitates truth, so if somebody is brutally honest, then the aim is not to be honest but to be brutal.”

To sum it all up, “I will never perfect the fighting style that I envisioned– not with these weapons. Phooey.”

Eddy nodded, unimpressed, and I sensed that whatever test or trial that I’d been dropped into unprepared– was over, for now. I also got the impression that there is no right or wrong answer in something like this, but there was just my answer. Still, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed, as if there should have been some great double gates that opened up somewhere to symbolize my graduating to a higher spiritual level.

Well, I did keep the swords, because samurai swords are just wicked cool. Perhaps there would have been pomp and circumstance if I’d given them up for a slingshot named Insight, or a rocket launcher named Awesome or something.