Of Silt and Sulfur

Read part 1: Of Sun and Sea.

Feb. 16, 2019 // Edit: Apr. 17, 2019

R.,

In summers I greet a new year, a fire sign shedding winter’s dead skin in spring and quieting the threat of autumn now for the 30th time.

Last summer I was given a sorrowful gift. Climbing cliffs along the Nordic coast my toes caught on the edge of chiseled rock and I tumbled, careless, into the sea. I breathed in the saltwater and heard a mermaid’s song, muffled in my sunken ears. It lingered as I rose, alone. In the churning undertow I was sent the gift of grief.

Grief teaches that time is unruly and I realize autumn is an illusion. The chill outside sank right into my flesh, and the cold wet air settled at the base of my chest. In me the rain doused fire into ash, sulfuric as it filled lungs and then turned to ice deep within marrow. Grief’s story rewrote my own and I surrendered, beneath trees in grass flooded by autumn’s torrential rains and sank, seething, into the mud. I turned to clay and waited as autumn turned to winter.

In winter I promised to hold the sun in my chest and I did, for a time until the sun set to black and stayed there. But time is unruly, and I sank into its coaxing pull like lazy toes into diamond-white sand.

Then winter turned to summer somehow, and then winter again, and after a time in my place in the muck a spring banshee coughed up screeching from musty silt of gurgling bog depths, ravenous and fearful, grieving even the living.


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In winter’s summer the spring banshee molts, pacing through babbling freshwater spring into marbled salt waters, a crystal lagoon with chattering dogs and sulfured sea, while I sit ashore and pluck ticks from the snouts of strays.

Together we drag our toes across the sea’s shifting floor. The sulfur thickens the air and softens our skin. I breathe it deep as I wade. It softens the sand, too, into fine silt that swallows my feet as I wade, water to my waist. I let myself sink, and we float, eyes closed. I feel fire again in my chest, and I cry.

When we wade ashore the sulfur scent lingers but with her skin shed the banshee has softened. She is out for redemption, seeking, cautious. She whispers now, as the evening light dims.

I bring her home with me to a winter where ice and salt make footsteps harsh, crunching, unwelcome. The banshee grins a twisted smile and she shows me how unafraid she is of her breath, even though it freezes in the cold air and on her lips, and even though the ice creeps down her throat as she speaks. Together we laugh until the chill steals our voices.

Angry and ugly I had thought to lead her home to forest grass, but she has molded herself a humble companion. I watch her sink to her knees under the moonglow and wail for someone through the trees, softly at first, then sobbing. When the summoned greet her, she offers small gifts she conjured from clay. Now in winter’s clutches and clutching winter the spring banshee is a lightfooted adventurer, cloaked in sweet words whispered by friends. She is out for reparation now. Resolute. Fearless.

R.

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Of Sun and Sea

BorderB

Oct 7, 2018 || Edit: Nov. 11 2018

J.,

I’ve always hated winter. I was born only 300 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer. I was born so near to the sun, a fire sign sun sign, reaching for her. I was born so near to the sun’s arms but never held.

In the summers I thrive. My early memories of summer are flush with water. Crashing waves on beaches whose sands were laced with the roots of grasses that kept the sand grounded. Along the gulf I sought shells washed ashore for me to pluck.

As I aged I moved north, toward the mountains and away from the sea, but I still managed to fill my days with water. I caught salamanders and sculpted small cats from the clay in the bed of a creek. When the hail fell, the cul-de-sac became a fantasy, like dry ice turned to billowing mist as the hail hit the sun-soaked asphalt, and friends found each other in fog so thick we lost ourselves.

I moved north once more and stayed there for some time, on the banks of a river that divided our city along a redlined legacy. The river was sick, we were told as kids. There was a lake, but it was sick too, and it was there a boy in my class left his scar on my forearm. I still feel his nails digging into my flesh when I run my fingers over it. That day I learned to collapse into myself, to take up less space.

I met you along this latitude sometime later, in the autumn. We held hands under the yellowest tree and plucked its tiny leaves from the moss. You told me you loved me then. The winds chapped my unwelcome southern skin, but for 14 winters you lent me the warmth I had almost forgotten, the dreamlike heat of my childhood, so far from the sand and the sea.

The days grew colder, and then warm again, and then hot – like home, almost, but you hated to sweat. Together we sought the relief of water. When I longed for the beach you showed me the shore. The sand was only sand, with no roots to hold it down, and the wind whipped and gulls dove and sand burnt the soles of our feet.

I showed you my coast, the gulf where I met myself, and you caught lizards and complained of the humidity. Later we spoke our vows to this sea just a few miles north of Cancer, in my home. Soon we found ourselves exploring another home of mine, ancestral, a land laced through its waters. Drawn in by songs of the sea and rivers and lakes, we found our next home together. I moved north again, and east across the ocean.

37736720_10160529732530307_6762166587232354304_oThirteen summers we spent in love and on the 14th summer, you were deciding to leave me. We drove up the coast to the sea, climbing cliffs and breathing salted air while you were settling on the words to tell me you didn’t love me anymore. That summer you left me for the mermaid’s song. She almost drew me in too, to her island in the iron lake but they say it’s only men who can’t resist.

I’m now distrustful of still water and of summer’s warmth. I find trust in the rain. Its waters are constantly in cycle, moving on. In this city it rains nearly every day in the autumn, and the days grow colder and wetter even now. I daydream of lying in the grass and letting the rain filter through my flesh. It pools in my legs and rises until I overflow, saturated, and melt into the mud.

In the autumns I begin to fear. I begin to see the damp of my breath in the air, and I worry the breath itself will grow cold within me. This autumn I will not thrive. This autumn I will melt into the mud and become clay. Some child will find me and sculpt small cats from my flesh.

In the winter the chill will harden me. In the absence of sun I will learn to draw strength from the moon. When the winter rains turn my marrow to slush I will learn to be my own warmth. This winter I will learn to thrive.

I was born near the sun but this winter I will become her, a fire sign sun sign, with my own arms to hold me and to bless the moon for her reflection, which helped me find my way back to myself.

In the winters I will lay claim to the sun in me. When she falls from the sky she will not leave, but only lie down to rest her head on my breast. I will remember that water too does not leave in the winter but only becomes stronger before softening again.

R.

Read part 2: Of Silt and Sulfur.

Battling Impostor Syndrome with everyday cosplay

A week or so ago, a friend of mine recently launched me into the early stages of epiphany by sending me a fascinating Cosmopolitan.com article: “I Dressed Like Cookie [from ‘Empire’] for a Week to Get Over My Impostor Syndrome.

Writer Jazmine Hughes describes her struggle with Impostor Syndrome, a phenomenon that plagues many successful people, but which anecdotally seems to be acute among women in white-collar work. The topic comes up almost daily in a network of women writers to which I belong on Facebook.

In short, it’s a fear of being “found out,” the worry that you’re not really as smart or talented as everyone thinks you are – even after you make it, you still feel like you’re faking it.

And, girl, I feel that.

Hughes’ solution was so brilliant I am green I didn’t think of it myself. And her description of the experience is such a hugely worthwhile read that I’m going to give you a link to it again here. She simply becomes the role model for courage and toughness she always deserved: Cookie, from “Empire.”

Hughes writes:

Ever confident, Cookie’s primary goal is to reclaim her space; her mission, known from the first episode, is “I’m here to get what’s mine.”

I’m now six months into working at the Times — markedly less full of anxiety and ineptitude since day one, but despite working with the kindest and most attractive people in journalism, I’m still pretty uncomfortable. I love my job, but there are still days where I’m convinced I don’t belong, racked by the fear that someone is going to find me out and show me the door. This is called impostor syndrome, which I know a lot about (I’ve even written about it): a state in which a person isn’t able to accept their accomplishments, chalking it up to luck or a mistake. But what I like to think I have is an enhancedimpostor syndrome: a state in which a person goes, “No, I know about impostor syndrome, I’ve actually read the entire Wikipedia page, but this definitely isn’t it, I actually am completely incompetent.” (But that’s just … impostor syndrome.) Either way, I figured: Hey, if Cookie can regain the space she’d lost, then maybe I can carve some space out for myself.

Suddenly, I realized this tactic is what I need to save myself. Not for a week, but every day. Here’s a walk through the stages of my epiphany so far.


Stage one: Background

I’ve written here before about the joyous nerdery of cosplay but not much on why I like to create costumes to emulate my favorite characters: It’s super empowering.

For a day at a comics convention or at a Renaissance Faire I get to pretend to be a badass. I can forget that I sit at a computer all day correcting typos and convince myself I’m a pirate or a viking or even the Khaleesi herself.

[Ahem, side note, if you’ve been in “Game of Thrones” withdrawal all season, catch up with my podcast “The Rains of Podcastamere.”]

Laura Bogart wrote for Salon her experience of claiming her space in the world of cosplay, perfectly describing why I love to be someone else for a day:

[Last Halloween,] I went out as Daenerys Targaryen. I stood taller, walked with a longer, more imperial stride; I waved my hand and (with each drink) bellowed words of Dothraki; and I felt, for the most part, more connected to one of my onscreen inspirations and all the power and glamor she embodies.

Read more: “I wanted to go as Daenerys Targaryen or The Bride — but, apparently, badass costumes are not for fat girls

Like Bogart, my casual cosplay affinity came from a lifelong love of Halloween and appreciation for theatre. It all started to fall into place as I learned to sew and began to appreciate kickass women in movies, books and video games.


Stage two: The unintentional trial run

Flash back to September, when I had long been already scheming for my Halloween costume – a mid-level cosplay of Furiosa from the unspeakably empowering latest installment of the otherwise underwhelming “Mad Max” franchise, “Fury Road.” Charlize Theron shines as every young feminist’s new ultimate hero, idol, life coach. I’ll spare you the manifesto – and concede that it isn’t a perfect feminist masterpiece – but the film is worth at least two hours of your life.

I was shopping for a shirt to incorporate into my costume, and I find a real contender at Goodwill, but I ultimately decide to make my own. Then at some point in October, I busted out that contender, a quasi-sheer, long-sleeve dark tan tunic, to wear to the office. I donned it with black slim-cut jeans, black lace-up boots and a few unnecessary belts. Black eyeliner. Hair pulled back. Head held high. I was Furiosa Lite. At work. And I felt like an empress.


Stage three: Halloween and the Pa. Renaissance Faire

Mad Max Furiosa cosplay costumeMy husband and I made our annual trip to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire’s Halloween weekend dressed as Max and Furiosa, accompanied by our friend dressed as Nux the Warboy.

We fully intended to have a normal Faire day exchanging pleasantries, giggling at comedy shows, eating delicious food, drinking delicious wine and watching the joust.

Before even reaching the festival gates, a crowd gathered as a family asked us to pose for a themed photo. Faire-goers and actors alike were shouting movie quotes at us. We were instant celebrities. The mom in the family who took our photos urged us to enter the costume contest. It hadn’t even crossed our minds.

“You could definitely win,” she said. I looked over the couple and their three children, all in expertly sewn, handmade, ornate Renaissance-era garb and thought, “Yeah, right.”

Yeah, she was right. We entered the contest; we got past three rounds of critique from judges and audience members; and, dagnabbit, we won.

Mad Max Furiosa Nux cosplay costume

This. Was. It. It was the moment I thought, “Check me out. Look at who I became. I did this.” For the rest of the day, Faire-goers stopped us to take photos of us, with us, with their children! We had done it.

We had fooled them all into thinking we were truly great, but we were only pretending.


Stage four: Developing a plan of action

Alas, November has dawned. Halloween is over, and so is that spotlight I borrowed. But Furiosa lingers in my heart. I don’t want to let Halloween go, because it means letting go of her defiance and tenacity. If only cosplaying seems to invoke the spirits of all my favorite characters, how can I keep them close in my daily life?

My solution? I’m adapting my wardrobe. Not every day, but in my moments of vulnerability, I’ve got those outfits on reserve. I’ll dress like my heroines when I need their strength most.

I’ve found a boost even when incorporating small elements of their styles (like a well-defined swipe of eyeliner) when I convince myself they’re meaningful, representative of someone greater and stronger than I see myself.

I’ve faked it enough to make it – now I just need to fake the confidence enough to realize it.

You know what? It’s already working.

Furiosa Mad Max cosplay costume


Postscript:

You’ve got my Furiosa style bullet points, but how about some other characters?

Danaerys Targaryen: Turquoise maxi dress, lace-up gladiator flats, tons of gold accents. Or, textured brown halter top, tan cropped linen pants, sandals.

Black Widow: All black, skin-tight everything. Obviously.

Jill Valentine: Skinny jeans, dark blue T-shirt, combat boots, thick belt, fingerless gloves, beret.

Laura Croft: Shorts, tank top, combat boots, ponytail.

Katniss Everdeen: Black pants, athletic zip-up top, black boots, ponytail and a Mockingjay pin. Or, dress that lights itself on fire, if you’ve got one.

Got any others? Post your styles in the comments.

Find me at: RebeccaSJones.com

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 5.32.34 PMI finally did it. I bought a domain name, and I made a snazzy little website. There is no good reason for me to have taken so long. [Check it out: RebeccaSJones.com.]

When getting in my own way grew boring, I finally hopped on with a local domain hosting service (Fresh Roasted Hosting in Harrisburg, Pa.), saw RebeccaSJones.com was available, and picked it while it was ripe.

I still have feelings for you, dearest blog, but I knew I finally needed a real website if I wanted to bring in new clients for my freelance business. Working all day is great, but free time can be empty and boring, and I like for shiny new writing gigs to eat it all up.

For now, I’ve snagged a very clean WordPress theme [called Snaps] that I think is lovely. With my newly acquired CSS skills, I’ve got a few minor changes I’d like to make before the site is really my own… once I learn all about how child themes work. Oof.

If you’ve got any WordPress child theme advice for me, please drop it in the comments. If you don’t have any WordPress child theme advice, comment anyway, and tell me your opinions on “It Follows.”

Happy Monday.

So long, ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5. It’s been… alright: The Rains of Podcastamere

PodcastamereWe’ve seen how Season 5 plays out, and it’s… acceptable, mostly! We have LOTS of thoughts on the Season 5 finale of “Game of Thrones,” so for this very special Goodbye Episode, I’ll just leave you with the audio.

Thanks for tuning in for “The Rains of Podcastamere!” We hope to see you back again next season.


The Rains of Podcastamere” is PennLive.com’s “Game of Thrones” podcast starring PennLive Senior Westeros Correspondent Sean Adams, Community Engagement Lead Chris Mautner and myself.

Saying a few goodbyes on ‘Game of Thrones’ this week: Rains of Podcastamere

PodcastamereRemember that time we were like, “Oh, Stannis is such a nice man and such a great dad! Who knew?” Well, you know who knew? Not anyone else, because he’s a dream crusher. A crusher of sweet, wise, adorable dreams.

I didn’t get to complain as much as I wanted to this week, as I was far off at my house trying to swat away my cats. You all know how much I love complaining, so resisting the urge to interrupt at every turn was hard for me.

The episode was certainly a lesson in the importance of character consistency. And the pointlessness of Dorne. And the awesomeness of dragons.

Then, we have a chat about parenting as a theme in “Game of Thrones,” which seems apropos this week.

After a moment of silence for our dear, sweet Shireen, take a listen.


The Rains of Podcastamere” is PennLive.com’s “Game of Thrones” podcast starring PennLive Senior Westeros Correspondent Sean Adams, Community Engagement Lead Chris Mautner and myself.

Our theme music was arranged by Will Leinninger of Enola and performed by Leinninger and Vegas Grimwood, also of Enola. “Main Title” was originally composed by Ramin Djawadi for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Listen to Leinninger’s band 3033 on Facebook and Reverb Nation.

Join us next Tuesday afternoon for the penultimate episode of “The Rains of Podcastamere,” in which we’ll review the ultimate episode of “Game of Thrones” Season 5. In the final “Rains of Podcastamere” episode the following week, we’ll look back at Season 5 and try to tie up any loose ends they’ve left for us. Join us, I say!

Tyrion & Dany are a dream realized on ‘Game of Thrones’ (+ white walkers & more!): Rains of Podcastamere

HEY,Podcastamere EVERYONE! Sorry for the shoutycaps, I am just very excited to talk about this week’s “Game of Thrones” episode with you all. Wildlings, white walkers and oysters, oh my! It was such a great episode that I don’t want to waste your time reading this intro when you could just be listening to us talk about the awesomeness.

In our topic of the day, we give a shout out to JRR Tolkien and talk about the many ways “Lord of the Rings” gives influence to “Game of Thrones” – and where GRRM departs from the fantasy tropes JRRT established.

Listen away!

This post was updated to correct the embed code.


The Rains of Podcastamere” is PennLive.com’s new “Game of Thrones” podcast starring PennLive Senior Westeros Correspondent Sean Adams, Community Engagement Lead Chris Mautner and myself.

Our theme music was arranged by Will Leinninger of Enola and performed by Leinninger and Vegas Grimwood, also of Enola. “Main Title” was originally composed by Ramin Djawadi for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Listen to Leinninger’s band 3033 on Facebook and Reverb Nation.

Tune in each Tuesday afternoon at PennLive.com, if you’re into this podcast.