Friday, January 02, 2015

Decade in Review: 2014

Sometimes I notice the beginnings of fat and loose skin flirting with making a fold under my chin, and I try to laugh it off by saying "Gobble-gobble-gobble."  It doesn't always work.

January 2014.   I'm not sure when, but Ronald Hutton replaced Starhawk as my go-to source on NeoPaganism.  I spent most of the Winter going through Hutton's "Pagan Britain," which wasn't as much of a source of of schadenfreude in terms of debunking various Neopagan origin stories as I had hoped, but was still an informative (if sometimes dry) read.  "Pagan Britain" was a recapitulation of an earlier work, which said "there's not much of an archaeological record of ancient or pre-historic Paganism; the record might support some ideas about worship and ritual, but there's little proof one way or the other -- so everyone's free to imagine whatever they'd like based on the artifacts we do have (and your theories are just as valid as your weird neighbor's)."

The first quarter of 2014, I took a sabbatical from the Wordos table.  I spent the Tuesday nights writing.  I'd visited Fort Vancouver, and used what I learned about the forge there to write a story for Sword and Sorceress. rejected.

March 2014.  Turning Fifty officially began to bug me.  I felt like there was something I was doing wrong, or was forgetting to do, or needed to do.  Especially when my friends seemed to be getting published all over the place.

May 2014.  I discovered the painting of Wes Hemple.  Hempel manages to paint beefcake that's more than beefcake.  The nude or semi-nude male body is a powerful and subversive image, and he manages to make his paintings subversive with erotic overtones, while managing to not stray into explicit or gratuitous images.  Well, maybe a little gratuitous.

When I think about images of NeoPagan Deity I usually run across, the gods imagined are oiled up with a strategically placed vines or wolf pelts draped across their loins as they gaze out of the picture with smoldering bedroom eyes.  Or they're body builders, tattooed or artfully dirty, holding up animal horns to their brows and pouting like underwear models.  Or else they're about to perform The Great Rite  with a buxom, blonde, blue-eyed goddess.  And actually, I don't need to see depictions of two men performing The Great Rite because my spirituality is more than just a queer retelling of Heiros Gamos.   Hempel's paintings have embodied men navigating questions, they are working through something instead of being merely pleasing objects. 

June 2014.   Everything seemed to happen in June.  The month opened with the death of Jay Lake -- all of my social media networks turned into a memorial for him.  Jay was prolific, funny, crude, irreverent, erudite, and only six months older than I was.  I would have never thought when he appeared at my fortieth birthday party in 2004 that he would be dead ten years later.

I had a handful of crazy dreams afterward:  I had my feet whipped as penance for something, I lived in cardboard houses that were melting, I was battling a monster called "Pink Skull," and I woke up with the words, "I'm a fake," ringing in my ears.

I grumped about not having a mentor, and concluded that I'm semi-pro writer who writes lyrically, mythologically, queerly, deistically, sensually, imaginatively, romantically, and visually.   As much as I want my writing to live forever in letters of fire and to be the bane of English Graduates everywhere, I'm satisfied when the images in my head get into the reader's head.  

It would be nice and would save time if I had a guide for those instances when it feels like I'm lost in the woods at night and babbling to myself.  However, no mentor has materialized, so in the meantime it's up to me to prod myself into action, to track authors I admire and try to follow their path, and to initiate myself into my own voice.

And then I wandered into the Joanna Russ Archive.  Suddenly, I could listen in on a conversation about gender, orientation, wishes, desire and exploring character that Ms. Russ was having thirty years ago.  And it was exhilarating.  She had linked Kirk and Spock as gay gods in the early 1980's.  She was reading and writing and thinking about essentialism and sex and everything.   Out of all of her writings, I added wishes, Fears, Knowledge, Experiences, and Desires as a useful lens for crafting stories. 

My entry in the Penn Cove Literary Contest, "Before the Last Bloom Falls," was chosen as the winner for June.

In other writing news, I teamed up with a photographer friend of mine and we switched prompts:  she'd post a photo and I'd write a story to it; I'd post a story or vignette and she'd compose a photo with it.   At first we were doing a weekly cycle, but we switched to a month cycle.  It was a low pressure way to create about eleven rough drafts (two went through the Wordo's table) by the end of the year.

July 2014:  During a discussion of testosterone in older men, Mark essentially pointed at my sagging pectoral muscles and laughed.  In a fit of Capricorn pique, I joined a gym and started chanting explicit oaths under my breath as I worked out on various exercise machines.

I also designed and had 3-D printed two mugs -- er, sake cups -- er, jiggers -- out of ceramic material.  They are very cool, but they're Barbie sized.

August 2014.   Mark and I got legally married in a small courthouse marriage on top of the Lane County Courthouse roof.   We kept it small; my immediate family took pictures.  And nobody cried.  It marks how attitudes towards same-sex marriage have progressed, from Oregonian's amending the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman to the US Supreme Court striking down discrimination.   And now I can say "Mark is my husband," and it has a clear meaning.  I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to simply and clearly say to someone, "Mark is my husband."

September 2014.  In an effort to improve my performance, I got serious about blogging my progress writing and working out, and began posting word counts and work-out routines.  I got a simple word-count tracker, and was promptly appalled at how much I don't write; unfortunately, there's no good way to track editing manuscripts other than the amount of time I spend on them.    I managed to keep tracking up until about the first week of December.

As a result of keeping records, I sort of learned what I already knew:  going to bed late makes it harder to get up at 4:45 to write; changes in my routine make it harder to write; holidays make it harder to write; getting the Eugene crud (which the University and elementary students toss around) makes it harder to write.

Our friends, the Wylds, became the latest friends to move to the Portland area.  It's going to be strange without them, because they are one of the few folks Mark, The Child and I like to spend time with.

November 2014.  Maybe it was the post-Halloween sugar crash.  Maybe it was switching from Daylight Savings Time.  Maybe it was the reduction of light, but the first weeks of November were filled with Ennui.   Working out seems to help, and I seem to have shaken it off by the middle of the month.

December 2014.  I wrote and submitted some erotica; I was slightly relieved when it was rejected.  (Spell check had changed that to "slightly revealed," and writing and submitting erotica did feel like I was revealing a little too much.  I'm glad I wrote the piece, because it was good practice for revealing character ... oh dear, that's not coming out right at all... without getting distracted by all the eye-candy.)

I identified several dream images I've had, exploring the intersection of maleness, desire, and spirituality.  I want to work with them and see if writing them into story helps me to discover anything.  About the same time, I tried meditating on the dream images as I work out on the rowing machine; I'm at the beginning stage, but I think once I get used to holding images in my head (while maintaining a 750 calories per hour rowing rate or better), I should be able to use the fifteen minutes as a kind of work-out vision quest.   Or something.

We celebrated my fiftieth birthday with a dance party.  Mark arranged it all, and I collected four hours' worth of (mostly) 1980's dance music.  And danced all of it.  My back and abdomen are still sore a week later. 

When I think about 2014, it feels like the year where I'm trying to stay focused.  If I can stay focused, I'll be -- OH! Squirrel!  

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