a prelude and an epilogue

 We have once again survived another journey around the sun. (This is, of course, constantly true: every moment, another cycle completes, depending on when we draw the line; we are perpetually surviving in our battle against the onslaught of time.) Some years that feels like more of an accomplishment than others.

I realized recently that it's really the first day of the new year that I like most; the late-night celebrations, the "last X of the year," are all part of the ritual, of course, but there's something more compelling about starting the year off right. Spend a day in quiet, doing something you enjoy, get some rest . . . does it matter if we make promises, or keep the ones we make? It's about taking a moment to change your mindset, and your mindset matters so, so much. Optimism and resolutions and hopes for the new year are an important part of that: if we give up before we start we'll never get anything done. That, I think, is what has always drawn me to the new year.

It's also a fitting time to make the sort of changes you could do at any time but have been putting off for whatever reason. So: I have mentioned my desire to consolidate the countless scattered selves the internet makes of my presence online, and to retire this blog. The solution I wanted to do was to build up a domain and put things there and . . . maybe I'll still do that, but for now, I think I'm going to start doing what I do here over at my cohost. It's a social media site that is not designed for infinite growth and gaining market share and all that capitalist bullshit, and God knows if I was looking for a following and growth from the sort of shit I post online I have been doing it wrong.

This place has served me well over the years, shifted in shape and form several times. I've met people through this place, discovering me from back when the search engines' algorithms would still allow you to discover tiny blogs by googling very specific phrases, back when there were more than three websites and discovering a new one was something you'd do. I used to watch which search terms were leading here; I'd get some weird ones (my old favorite was always "public places to make out") and some more expected (we used to be a pretty highly ranked result for the phrase "dreamers often lie").

I wrote about memories turning into stories recently, about the burden of carrying our memories with us, but there are good memories, too. I'll remember the people who came through here, and there are some stories and poems on here I'll always be proud of. Memory is a burden but it is also something magical, something that lets us revisit the people we used to be, the times we used to live in, the ways our lives used to intersect. And that stands preserved for the intrepid explorer to revisit, should they so desire.

In the meanwhile, I am vaudevilleghost over at cohost, and I've written some haiku over there. There will be more soon, or soon-adjacent. Thank you all so much for reading.


three twos, one zero

As I write this, approximately 24 hours remain of the year 2022 in the Pacific timezone. While I don't think it has been, on the aggregate, a great year, it has at least not felt like a nonstop chain of disasters; for me, at least, I am leaving the year feeling better off than when it started, which is something I don't think has been true since . . . 2015? It's been a while.

I do worry that perhaps I'm becoming desensitized to the constant onslaught of bad news, and part of it is that I have in the past several months somewhat stopped following the news as closely as I often do. I don't think this is particularly virtuous, but I do value my mental health and worrying about the ongoing collapse of what people so often call "the American experiment" is not particularly conducive to keeping one's anxiety low. But I am finally understanding that the "experiment" part of that moniker is meant to suggest that it is a fragile thing, and it certainly is, isn't it?

Intermittently over the past week or so, when my thoughts are left to wander, I've found myself experiencing this odd sensation of dread. It isn't really localized, even when I try to pin it down, it's just there, this sensation that something is terribly wrong. While I don't think that means anything, it's instructive, I think, that my reaction to moods such as this is to think of it as a fleeting thing, like a dream, and like a dream it will fade from my mind and thoughts when I can find a distraction. While the aloof, detached thing has its fair share of drawbacks, there is something nice about being able to experience a negative emotion, say "this, too, is ephemeral," and then just . . . let it pass. Moods are like the weather: real, but temporary. They are not you.

We had a week of snow leading up to Christmas, ending with an ice storm like I had never seen here in Seattle and on the mountains in general. The buses here shut down, which I had never seen before; the streets and sidewalks were covered in a glaze of ice that made even walking nearly impossible. And the pass was closed and I was unable to make it home for the holiday. And I am told the weather elsewhere was also bad, and that a vast number of people had flights cancelled (apparently in no small part due to Southwest airlines' bad planning, but also due to weather). Another reminder from Nature that we exist at her sufferance, I suppose.

And that is the nature of winter. It's cold, and it's exhausting, and it's humbling. Winter does not care about your plans. The snow will fall, the ice will come, and sometimes there's nothing you can do but hole up and wait for it to pass. But the longest night of the year is behind us now, the days are getting longer, and already the spring feels like it's in reach.

I hope 2023 will be a good year. I don't know if it will be. It feels like we have been in a winter that has lasted for seven years now. But right now I feel like a thaw is possible, like there really may be a spring in the future, like maybe this does not need to last forever. And New Year's is a time for hopes, for holding onto each other and whispering promises of a brighter tomorrow. So let's end on a hopeful note: happy 2023, friends. Spring will be here sooner than you think.


2022 media list

Another year, another list of things that I interacted with in some way. This list is definitely missing some things, as I sort of fell off documenting what I was doing, and I mostly try to avoid listing things I didn't finish (and there's a good number of those). Bold indicates something that stood out, and I realize I bold too many things. My taste is just too good, I guess.


  • UNFATHOMABLE: A spiritual successor to the much-acclaimed Battlestar Galactica board game, a hidden role game in which you are all cooperating to get your ship to reach its destination... but one of you is a traitor! This time it's Cthulhu-themed. Definitely one of the better hidden role/secret traitor games out there.
  • IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD: This was pitched to me as "Seven Wonders but better" and that is pretty accurate. Drafting game where you build a sci-fi dystopia, it makes for fun tableaux and is a lot less arcane than Seven Wonders in its scoring.
  • ON TOUR: Roll-and-write about mapping out your band's tour; the dice seldom give you what you want. The roll-and-write genre is great at providing bullshit, and this one is a fun one.
  • INIS: Mythic-age Ireland: the game! Explore and control the titular island, unique drafting system for determining what actions you can perform in a round, lovely artwork. I'm here for it.
  • DEEP SEA ADVENTURE: A simple little push-your-luck game about diving for treasure and dying because you ran out of air. Low-stakes push-your-luck game, which is always nice to have on the shelf.
  • WINGSPAN: A tableau-building game where you collect birds. Lovely components, fun little game, this one is one of the board games that even non-board game people have probably heard of but it's really good despite that.
  • ARKHAM HORROR CARD GAME: A cooperative deck-based character action game ft. Cthulhu monsters and story campaigns, I quite enjoyed this one and there are definitely opportunities for those who enjoy that sort of thing to delve in and build decks with wild combos and all that jazz.
  • CONCORDIA (VENUS EXPANSION): This game ended up taking too long so we didn't finish it but it's kind of neat, you're a Roman merchant trying to do a bunch of trading.
  • SPIRIT ISLAND: Pandemic, but the disease is colonialism. You are an island spirit trying to repel European invaders and this game absolutely slaps. Co-op and theming at its finest.
  • VEILED FATE: Plays 2-8 players, which is a great player count, but at higher player counts it can be very... chaotic, and not necessarily in a good way. I still quite like this and think it has some interesting ideas, and at 6+ players it's a hidden role game without traitors and lying to your friends, so it's worth checking out.
  • RAILDOAD INC: Another roll-and-write, this time you're building a transit network and it will be terrible. Good times guaranteed.
  • BETWEEN TWO CITIES: An old favorite; you and your neighbor are trying to build a city, and so are you and your other neighbor. You win by being the best of everyone at the table at helping your friends. A great gateway game with a scoring system that is sufficiently easy to understand that it can feel very deterministic, which is why we also have...
  • BETWEEN TWO CASTLES: Play is very similar but there are so many variables that go into scoring that you no longer feel pressure to make The Optimal Play.
  • MASCARADE: Bluffing/hidden role game where you might not actually know your role right now, either! This game is a lot of fun and plays up to thirteen, though at higher player counts you may have a hard time making sure everyone is paying enough attention to make it fun for everyone.
  • SORCEROUS CITIES: Build a magic city in real time! Starts out being pretty easy, but things get more hectic as things wear on and you find yourself just slamming down tiles and hoping for the best.
  • FORMULA D: A racing game with something like a push-your-luck mechanic, this game is very silly but also pretty fun.
  • CAPTAIN SONAR: Two teams each crew a submarine and try to blow up the enemy's sub; fun and unique but I've been bolding too many of these and I feel like I want to play it another time to really "get" how it goes.
  • COSMIC ENCOUNTERS: A simple negotiation game where multiple people can win together, this one is pretty fun and there are a whole lot of powers each player could potentially have which means there's going to be lots of variety.
  • BLOODBORNE: A tactical miniatures game inspired by the Soulsborne game, Bloodborne! It was pretty fun and apparently has a campaign mode and you know I love those.
  • HADARA: Another civilization-based drafting game, this one had some interesting ideas, was possible to do well at on one's first play, and made me want to play it again. Can't complain about that!


  • POKEMON ALPHA SAPPHIRE: Gen 6 is my favorite gen and this game features the DexNav, the best feature in Pokemon history. A beautiful world to explore, and very close to XY in my overall favorites.
  • POKEMON LEGENDS: ARCEUS: This is such a fascinating departure from the series. I found combat kind of a slog, but this game felt great, and was a welcome departure from the established formula. Far from perfect but this game is worth checking out for sure.
  • SPLATOON 3: It is no secret that I love the funny squid game series, and this is one of them. It feels great, lots of QOL changes, I'm still playing it way too much.
  • MONSTER HUNTER RISE: SUNBREAK: Monster Hunter Rise's expansion is very good, as it turns out! They're still putting out title updates with new monsters and new things to farm and I haven't delved as deeply as I usually would but if you liked base Rise even a little bit you should pick this up.
  • POKEMON SCARLET: They put out two Pokemon games this year and that is too many. I really enjoyed Scarlet, but it falls short of being an amazing entry largely because it's very obvious in many areas that development was rushed; it's hard not to wonder what this game would have been like if it had been given more time.


  • THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH: Joel Coen did a Macbeth! It's black-and-white and minimalist and it's pretty good and it also made some choices I found utterly baffling. Good times if you like our pal Willy Shakes.
  • LINE GOES UP: Dan Olson of Folding Ideas releases an in-depth analysis and takedown of cryptocurrency and NFTs and why, exactly, they are as bad as they are.
  • THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA: This was a lovely animation of a Japanese folktale (the tale of the bamboo cutter). Definitely worth your time.
  • NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND: A classic post-apocalyptic animation with some absolutely beautiful images and some deeply unsettling ones.
  • KIPO AND THE AGE OF WONDERBEASTS: Still good on the rewatch! I was originally sold on it as a hopeful post-apocalypse story and it does not disappoint.
  • HE-MAN: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATIONS: Internet man-babies were VERY mad at this one but it is very fun, very clearly made from a place of love for the source material (to wit, the 80s action figures), and features Mark Hamill having an absolute blast as Skeletor. Did not expect to enjoy this this much.
  • THE HIDDEN FORTRESS: Worth seeing just to understand what people mean when they say George Lucas ripped it off in Star Wars, but also this is a very good movie and you should consider watching it.
  • POKEMON XY: It's the Pokemon anime; this one is mostly notable for making Ash be a character who is unequivocally skilled rather than winning solely by luck and determination. It has some good character arcs and moments. Worth watching if you think watching the Pokemon anime is a good use of your time.
  • REDLINE: An absolutely buckwild racing anime with a lovely art style and just . . . I love this movie, you should watch it. It is hard to describe.
  • DON'T LOOK UP: It's like if the pandemic was a movie (but I think it started filming before the pandemic was a thing and then maybe morphed in the telling?). This was clearly made from a place of deep liberal anger at the state of the world post-2016, and while that is cathartic it also sometimes feels like it doesn't have much more to say but "this sucks, huh?"
  • JOHNNY MNEMONIC: Classic early cyberpunk bad movie featuring Keanu Reeves hollering angrily about how he wants room service. It's a bad movie but in a fun way.
  • BLADE RUNNER: Classic early cyberpunk good movie, featuring some very good moments and possessing many different editions due to . . . reasons. I like this, but it sure does feature Harrison Ford being a little bit sexual assaulty.
  • OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH: The gay pirates show! It's good. Tone can be a little weird sometimes, but that's a common comedy problem.
  • STILL THE WATER: A beautiful slice-of-life film by Naomi Kawase about life in rural Japan; does feature some graphic scenes of goats being butchered, but this was a lovely film.
  • TOKYO GODFATHERS: Probably the least Satoshi Kon of the Satoshi Kon films, I was a little nervous of watching this because one of the characters is a trans woman and I was worried it would be . . . less than sensitive. And while some characters are pretty shitty about it, this is a story about found family and treats the characters with kindness. And it's a Christmas movie, so you can watch it now I guess?
  • THE BEFORE TRILOGY: Richard Linklater's trilogy, each movie taking place on a single day and set nine years after the previous one, about two characters who met by chance on a train and then hit it off. Very interesting character studies, and it keeps things ambiguous in a way which really works.
  • THE OWL HOUSE: I love this show and it is a goddamn crime that it has joined the ranks of cartoons being cancelled for being too gay. Eagerly awaiting the conclusion.
  • PAPRIKA: The movie everyone says Inception ripped off and Satoshi Kon's final film, this movie is a wild delve into the world of dreams, featuring his trademark ability to use editing and animation to really make things feel dreamlike and uncertain.
  • THE RINGS OF POWER: Tolkien nerds are so, so mad at this series because it isn't Adhering To The Source Material but I'm super enjoying it. It's trying to comment on the source material in an interesting way while also just being very play-it-straight high fantasy with all the archetypes and tropes. 


  • PETER GAY'S THE ENLIGHTENMENT: A two-volume academic history of the Enlightenment; I got a little tired of pop history and wanted to really delve. It's an academic text but it's well written (and even occasionally funny) but also, like... you're reading this to learn, not for entertainment. It's good at that.
  • THE BARU CORMORANT SERIES BY SETH DICKINSON: Too lazy to look up if this has a series name. This is good, stories about empire and the dismantling thereof featuring some characters who are just delightfully awful people. Did have a few moments where I had to pause and look directly at the camera, but that's forgiveable.
  • TERRA IGNOTA: I love this series and did a full re-read pretty soon after the last book came out; it's still good, it turns out! Compelling worldbuilding and philosophizing and while the ending isn't what I'd call satisfying I don't think it's meant to be; it's unsatisfying in a way which invites discussion. 
  • THE UNBROKEN: Another fantasy story about empire (it's a theme!!) but this one didn't really do it for me. It wasn't bad but it also didn't feel like it was saying much that was interesting.
  • A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE: Still another story about empire, but this one is a space opera! Some fascinating worldbuilding and fascinating storytelling; I'm working on the sequel right now.
  • THE HAPPY BUREAUCRACY: This is a series of novels by a coworker of mine and they are surprisingly pretty fun. Very inspired by Hunter S. Thompson's Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, except set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the IRS survived the apocalypse and is still trying to collect taxes. Well-paced and fun.


a quiet moment

I've heard a lot of people talk about meeting old friends after many years and talking like nothing has changed, like no time has passed at all. That didn't happen. She arrived after ten years, and of course she wanted something--everyone wants something, that's how people work--and we talked for hours, not in spite of the years, but because of them. That time happened.

There's a strange intimacy in talking to someone you loved once and then haven't seen in ten years. You can tell them the truth; you no longer have to fear hurting or being hurt, knowing or being known, because it's already happened. It's powerful. So I made her tea that she didn't touch and she asked about one of my new scars and I told her that all of the old ones still hurt.

When we'd finished talking--dancing around what we wanted with the full knowledge that's what we were doing (and I hate how 'dancing around' implies a level of pretense; the beauty of dance is watching two people in perfect control making something beautiful together)--I took her back to my little flat, navigating the frozen streets, and I made her another cup of tea so she could not touch that one, too.

And then, when we were truly alone, we could finally start pretending that she wouldn't be gone in the morning, that she was just as safe and warm as she always had been, and that after carrying so many burdens for so long I still had anything left to offer her. In the morning the sun would rise and the ice would melt and after she left, we would both have another memory to carry with us.


a conversation

The place is empty when I arrive--there's a bitter wind out there and the streets are icy and why would anyone be out in this? But she's waiting at a table, drinking a mug of something hot, and she gives me the ghost of a smile when she sees me, kicks out the chair opposite her and raises her mug in greeting. "Can I get you anything?"

"Whatever you're having," I tell her.

She gives me a look that I can't read--a quirk of her lips, a sparkle in her eye. "Sure." She looks comfortable, I realize. Less gaunt than when I'd known her, softer lines and edges, and she stands and moves with a confidence that wasn't there before, busies herself making something that I'm not convinced is the same thing she's drinking. She sets the mug in front of me and sits down again. Her face is different, too. Tired, but content. She is watching me with an expression I'm not sure I ever could have read, but ten years ago I would have been certain I could. I must look just as strange to her, now. So much more time on the road, so much less time studying in libraries, trying to understand the world through old histories.

She curls her fingers around her mug, holds it up to her face, and looks down into it. Watching the patterns in the steam, perhaps. There's a nick on her index finger, I notice, small and bright like a cut that's just healing. "Your hand," I say, an unfinished thought, before anything else makes sense. I'm thinking of the scars of hers I used to know, wondering how they have changed in the years.

She shrugs. "Not every scar needs a story." Then something like a smile. "Not that that will stop me remembering."

I tilt my head.

"I carry it all with me. I can't not." She runs her thumb along the fresh cut, wincing slightly at the pressure. "Every scar. Everyone I've loved, everyone who's loved me. Everyone I've hurt, or who hurt me." Her eyes flicker up to meet mine, and I feel myself blush as I look away. "Even you," she says. I don't dare to ask which one I am. "It's easier to turn the happy memories into stories. Do you ever notice that? Does that happen to you? You tell the stories so many times it's the stories you remember. The cadence of telling it, the ways people react, the inflections. And you keep telling it because it's the closest thing you have to a memory."

I can't read her face but she is searching mine, now. I say nothing.

"But the ones that hurt, the ones you can't bring yourself to tell, those stay sharp. I wonder, sometimes, if I could turn those into stories, too. If all the times I hurt you could become nothing more than words and moments to pause for effect. Instead of feeling it fresh every time I think of you."

Ten years ago I think I would have risen to that bait. Instead I say, "You know I came here for a story. Maybe that will help?"

"Perhaps." She sets her mug down and lets her hand brush against mine. "Happier memories will help, too. Before I have time to turn them into stories."

And for a moment I allow myself to wonder how many of her memories of me have become stories. I let myself meet her eye and give her a smile. "I would be happy to help," I tell her.


an interlude for december

The times when I've had the thought 'oh, I need to write my December prelude' did not coincide with the times when I felt like I had the time to sit down and write it, and the days seem to pass so quickly these days. Sometimes I wonder if that really is just a product of getting older. I remember, as a kid, how the time between December 1st and Christmas felt impossibly long, how having one or two weeks off for winter break felt like an age, how the duration of a summer break felt like eternity. Now? Summer feels like yesterday, Christmas seems imminent, and I'm already wondering what the plan is for New Year's.

Winter has arrived. We had a weeklong stretch where it seemed like every day was threatening snow, and where I am, at least, it mostly failed to deliver, except for one evening. I had gone out to meet up with a friend I hadn't seen since prior to the pandemic, and all the while we were hanging out I kept glancing out the window and wondering why the sky seemed so light so late at night. As it turns out, the city was coated in a thin blanket of wet snow. Everything was still and quiet and beautiful, and I knew with a certainty that it would all be gone by the morning.

Fall is the season of the ephemeral, but winter holds its fleeting moments as well; fresh-fallen snow does not remain fresh for long. And I've been thinking of those ephemeral moments a lot recently as I've been spending more time than is probably reasonable playing Splatoon 3. Unlike most online multiplayer games, the Splatoon series does not feature any form of in-game chat, so if you choose to join a team with random players, you have very limited means of communicating with them, and no way to rejoin them if you are separated. Every now and then you are paired with a team that you really enjoy, whether because you play well together or simply because you have just shared some memorable moments with them. And then they are gone.

It's sad, of course, but there's something beautiful there as well. You are joining a team with people you will likely never meet outside of this context, and working together with them, and then going your separate ways. Some you will remember, some you will forget, but a community is built of so much more than the people you will see again.

The year is winding down. I will try to post my media list at some point, and I will of course do my usual year in review and New Year's meditation, and then . . . well, we'll see. I have something resembling a plan, but I've always been hesitant to voice plans out loud.


a prelude for november

What a strange October that was. Warm and sunny and smoky; so many people said it was like summer never ended, but that's not quite right, and I can't even decide if it's fair. Is summer the season of smoke, or is that something else, something outside of our concept of the seasons? It always feels so apocalyptic every time it happens, and this year it really took it out of me. I don't want to say that's entirely why I didn't follow through on my writing plans (bad sleep schedule and being busy with other things contributed to that as well), but it certainly made it hard for me to do anything.

But it's November now, and the cold and the rain and the wind have finally come, scouring the leaves from the trees as all the colors begin to fade--and they were brilliant, a relic of our extended sunshine--and the holiday blitz draws ever nearer, which means the year, too, is drawing to an end. It's far too early for a year-end retrospective, but . . . well, time certainly is strange, isn't it?

I was thinking earlier of the time when I was young, playing tee-ball at some event or other in kindergarten. The coach suggested that we imagine the ball as the head of our teacher--obviously this was not a school event--and I was appalled--I liked my teacher and the idea of hitting someone with a baseball bat felt wrong in a way I don't think I could have articulated.

I'm not sure I could tell you what prompted this memory, but it's one of those early childhood memories that's always lingered with me, and I'm not sure I've ever talked about it. Sometimes we look back on our past selves and wonder who we even were, but sometimes the strange mirror that is our past shows us someone we recognize. Of course that kid grew up into someone who feels a lingering sense of guilt when they learn they have accidentally killed a spider.

All of which to say: November has come; the cold and the dark are settling in; and as much as I complain about the holiday blitz, I certainly understand the impulse to seek some refuge from the long grey winter.



Our friendship developed slowly over our career in the academy; I think we'd known each other for a year before we even had a conversation where it was just the two of us. (She even commented, I think, with a rare wryness to her tone, "Have we really known each other for so long and we've never been alone in the same room together?") It wasn't that we didn't like each other, but the opportunity never arose for more than an odd conversation here and there. She was comforting, a little oasis of stability amidst the mercurial moods of the rest of us, and I came to treasure those moments we spent together.

I think she's the reason I was able to start seeing the cracks between us, the way everyone leaned on her for support, the way she would always offer that warm smile, and listen, and offer advice or consolation as we needed it. And when one day we were alone--we had taken to practicing fencing together--and I finally asked if she was all right, she finally told me no.

She'd gotten too close to the chaos that was the rest of us, I think. She'd become entangled. All she could tell me is she was overwhelmed, that she felt pulled in so many different directions, that she was exhausted--I don't think she understood yet that what she needed most was to leave. So I did what any friend would do, and I planted those seeds, and tended those little shoots of doubt, so that one day she could finally be free of us.



We have learned enough ways to love.

It should have been easy, walking away. We'd spent so much time so close to each other that we'd get pricked by each other's thorns, which, if we weren't careful, would catch and tear and draw blood--and that had been going on for more years than I could count. We gave each other such exquisite scars, and in our lowest moments we knew better than anyone how to comfort each other--there is no greater intimacy than seeing someone who is gravely wounded.

So, full of righteous fury, I left. And though I will tell you until my dying day that I was right to do so, I also began to feel, when the sun had set and I had no company but my thoughts and the cold and the snow, an intense emptiness. Because it wasn't all barbs and thorns, was it? Didn't we sharpen each other, make each other stronger? And I imagined just what she would say, to comfort, to injure--in the end I'm not sure either of us could have even told the difference.

I could have put so many miles between us. Instead I lingered just out of her reach--which, yes, was dwindling by the day--and reveled as rumor of each new setback reached my ears, and longed to be at her side to say the words that would heal her each time I learned that someone else had finally deserted her. And no matter what happened, whether I found solace in the company of some fellow deserter or spent my days alone, I felt just as alone as I know she must have.

It would have overwhelmed me eventually. I pictured that moment so vividly I sometimes thought it was real: the smug look on her face as she mocked me for crawling back, the exact cutting words I would say in return. And, much later, her head on my shoulder as we whispered comforting lies to each other, as though being so close could end in anything but disaster.

Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if I'd been strong enough to leave, or strong enough to stay.


a prelude for october

I don't think I can recall an October that has started out this warm and this dry. There have been sunny Octobers, of course, but we are now in the darker half of the year, where the sun is weakening and the days getting shorter, and the idea of an October day that threatens to hit eighty degrees is almost absurd. Yet here we are. The leaves are turning and for the most part the nights are getting chilly, but there is still no rain in sight and there is still smoke and sun and warmth to be had. It's uncanny.

The leaves are starting to turn in earnest now; it was a strange summer, and I wonder how that will affect them. Warmer summers tend to lead to more vibrant colors, if memory serves; so what does an odd summer like this one, which started out cool and then just never quite ended, mean?

It's so tempting to try to read patterns and meaning into the weather. We want to be able to see the stripes on a caterpillar and know whether the winter will be mild; we want to feel in tune with the seasons, as if they are something we can ever really understand, as if we can divine some deeper truth when October is too warm or when the snow never stops falling one winter.

The past several Octobers (with the exception of October of 2020) I've tried to write something every day, or most days, based on some one-word prompts. I will endeavor to do so again this year, so, as the kids say, watch this space.


of mist and sunlight

A thought I had today.

 I keep having this dream that you find your way home. It's foolish, I know--wherever you are, it must be better than here, this mist-choked waste that was once the heartland of an empire where we all lived complacent in the pleasant delusion that this was what the world should be. And even if you wanted to return, how could you navigate this cloying veil that stretches on forever?

In the dream, your face no longer mirrors mine, as it once did. You have grown thinner, the lines of your face have become sharper and more gaunt, and the countless roads you've walked under the desert sun have darkened your skin and bleached your hair. You carry scars whose stories I do not know, and there are lines of care in your eyes I do not recognize. You stand differently, your smile is different, your clothes are unfamiliar. And I wonder, because I am so used to using you as a mirror, to seeing the world through your eyes, what I must look like. Have I grown pale in this sunless land? Have the lines of my face softened? Has the smile I once spent so long practicing changed, become something strange and haunted?

I have haunted these mists for too long, now. The city where we once lived is gone, drowned in the ocean, and a fog rolled in from that cursed place and smothered the land, and with it smothered the dreams of . . . is it everyone? I have tried to find the edges but everywhere I go the mist stretches on forever. And around us everything begins a slow slide into decay, as this strange twilight in which we all find ourselves trapped erodes our will to do anything but lie down and wait for the end. I wonder sometimes if I am alone in still having the drive to carry on, the hope that one day I will see the sun again. I wonder sometimes if I still have that drive at all.

It's the thought of finding you again that keeps that hope alive, even if I can't face you, even in dreams. I promised once that no matter what happened, I would be there to understand you, that you would never be completely alone in this world, but you stand before me in dreams, changed in a way which I may never understand. And I, coward that I am, cannot apologize, because then you would forgive me, and then my heart would finally break.

So instead I ask you about the sun. And you tell me about hot days in those desert highlands, about smoke and winds and unbearable heat, and for a moment I can close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun and the scouring of the wind and imagine that there is still light in this world. So I continue, searching the mists, and, despite everything, allow myself to hope.


a prelude for september

A long, hot August has given way, reluctantly, to September. The endless sunlight is rapidly dwindling and even the warm days left lack the strength of high summer; there is no avoiding the twinfold threat and promise of Autumn. Oh, it's still warm, and people still dress for the summer, but now people consider bringing a jacket or an umbrella if they'll be out for a while. Now the rain won't feel unexpected when it comes.

I've been noticing more spiders out in the trees on my walk to work--there's something magical about seeing the same spiders building their webs in the same spots day after day, week after week. Fall is spider season, and it always makes me a little sad that so many people are afraid of them. They're such lovely, fascinating creatures.

I've also been imagining lately what the trees that line my street will look like when the colors change. There are so many of them, old, massive trees, making the street feel more like a park than a thoroughfare at times--and I say that as someone who lives in a city with trees everywhere. The promise of an avenue so thoroughly lined with brilliant leaves is a powerful one.


a prelude for august

August crept up on me this year, as evidenced by the fact that my legally mandated prelude for this month is almost a week late. It happens, I suppose. Increasingly as the years go by I perceive time in almosts. As in, August is almost September; in that respect, August, the month is so clearly in Summer's domain, is really just almost fall.

I used to dislike August, due mostly to a series of Augusts where bad things happened. That sentiment has long since faded. Now it's the month where I celebrate my sister's birthday, the month where the long days of summer begin to dwindle even if the heat lingers, the month which, to me, really typifies the best of summer. Which is to say: yes, the heat is unpleasant; but there is a magic to spending August nights on the porch watching the sun set.

Still, it rained this week. For a brief moment there was wind and rain and I went outside and felt the promise of autumn in the air so sharply I could almost see the leaves on the trees as they would be in a few months' time, all bright and vibrant, dancing in the streets. And perhaps that's why I've come to forgive August for its slights against my younger self: what is August but the promise of autumn? We are almost there. And that first crisp autumn morning is nothing without the heat of summer before it.


a prelude for july

Traditionally July is about the time that Summer finishes her morning coffee and gets going in earnest; the clouds part and the occasional summer rains vanish and for several months she is the unquestioned queen of the region. This year . . . it's hard to say whether it will be a return to form, but the extended forecast certainly suggests it will take a bit longer than usual to get there. I can only hope that this will indeed dampen the threat of wildfires, which so often start around the fourth of July weekend.

Summer is an interesting time of year. I often wonder how much of our association of summer with vacations stems from the school year; or perhaps it's the reverse, that children get a summer break because summer is the time we go on holiday. But there's a poetry there, the endless days listing lazily in the summer sun, that period of time when doing nothing is the thing you want to be doing. Does our culture celebrate summer this way because of some intrinsic quality of the season, or do we think of the season this way because of our celebrations?

Some days I miss when I could enjoy a July 4th barbecue and fireworks show. It's hard to think of our dying empire now without regret, as its institutions bleed and die and those whose theoretical job it is to at least staunch the bleeding are too busy worrying what sort of precedent it would set to apply gauze to a gushing wound. But even before the death of our empire was so obvious, the excessive patriotism of it all, the callousness of fireworks to those who are sensitive to it (and to the environmental damage it causes) . . . it's hard to enjoy it, even if the individual trappings of a barbecue are something I will always find enjoyable.

There is an impulse, I think, to try to go back to the times when we could enjoy things without consciousness of their problems within the context of the world we live in. So much reactionary thought, especially online, is a fear that we will lose our innocence if we continue to learn. That it is better to watch the fireworks than to worry that somewhere nearby, someone with PTSD will be unable to enjoy their evening because of the sounds. That it is better to celebrate the concept of America than to contemplate what America is.

Still, here in Seattle, for many people, this is the official start of the summer, however listless she may be this year. And even if it is far from my favorite season I like to celebrate them all.


a prelude for june

Usually by the time June rolls around, Spring is clearly on its way out; the layer of clouds that creeps into Seattle and covers it until early July is seen as a lapse back into Winter's domain, and we give it epithets like "the June gloom" or "Juneuary." But this year what is more clouds other than more of the same? Winter is gone but Summer has been slow to stir.

Personally, I love these days: the clouds are not so featureless and dull as winter's clouds, but paint the sky in chaotic patterns of greys; the cool air in the morning is bracing and even the warmth of the day isn't oppressive; and the sun, though still present, is not blinding or oppressive as it so often can be. But while it's hard to deny that Spring is here, it doesn't feel like spring usually does. An odd time.

When last I wrote something here, I was still in the old apartment, dealing with the violent, abusive roommate who slashed our tires on our way out. I felt diminished in that place, not just because of the old roommate, but . . . it's hard to describe exactly what the fringes of the city feel like. Nobody is there because they want to be there. It's built into the infrastructure: the streets are too wide, designed to funnel cars . . . elsewhere. And while the posted speed limits, like most places in the city, are something like 25mph, no one drives slower than 40. There's no heart to it. Even the nice places, the little hole-in-the wall teriyaki joints and the neighborhood dives, are havens against a hostile neighborhood, oases that make this vast desert of unlivability feel tolerable. Infrastructure wonks will holler at you about how walkability and bikeability and good transit are vital to a city, and they aren't just saying that because they want to be able to walk and bike and bus everywhere. They make the neighborhoods feel alive, like neighborhoods. I feel revitalized in a way I didn't think was possible.

So, despite everything, I'm hopeful. Hope, I was reminded recently, is not simply the belief that things will work out for the best, but the belief that it's possible, if we work towards it.


an excerpt from ada palmer's "perhaps the stars"

One of my favorite recent book series from the past few years is Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series, which begins with Too Like the Lightning and concludes with Perhaps the Stars. Though this excerpt is from the final novel, it contains no plot spoilers.

For context: in the imagined future world of the series, Terra the Moon Baby was the first child born on the moon, a historical figure who died from health complications due to the circumstances of her birth. Terra Ignota means "unknown lands", and was Latin text that was sometimes inscribed at the edge of maps.

The old United States of America remind me very much of Terra the Moon Baby. Both were crisis births, sudden necessities when too much damage made healing and homecoming impossible. Each era’s genius rose to the occasion, marshalling our newest guesses, how best to nurture human possibility amid such strange new problems. Old wisdom said of each that she would not live long, this birth unplanned, wracked in the womb by strange forces, so, as she survived, each month, each year became hope’s small defiance: Look, I stand on my own, and walk, and speak, and feed myself, and now the friends I leaned on in my frailty lean on me as I grow into my strength! As all Earth watched and listened, each fresh act of the toddler helped us plan our own sojourns beyond the old walls of the known and possible. And even in her later years, as one by one her organs failed her—judiciary, liver, senate, heart, all patched together in her infancy by scholar-surgeons who could only guess how this unprecedented body would develop under Earth’s long battering—as one by one these failed her, still we learned so much, so much from how they failed her as, smiling between her pains, this hope-child gifted us the infinite treasure of understanding what broke down. What killed her. That understanding which is bedrock now of how we don’t break down as we dare venture farther, out past monarchy, past Moon, these vast terrae ignotae on whose thresholds it was so hard to be firstborn.

This paragraph hit hard the first time I read it, and hits harder today, as the organs of the United States continue their path towards failure. There's a hopefulness there, that the world can learn something from the fall of the American empire, that, for all its failings, there is still some beauty to be found, if not in America itself, than in what it tried to be.

I've discussed here how I have been reading about the Enlightenment recently, in part because I was trying to understand better where America came from. And while I think it was flawed from its inception, I am coming to better appreciate that when America was founded, there was cause for the European intellectuals who dreamed of Enlightenment--of freedom from the church, from censorship, from a world governed by arbitrary whim rather than by scientific study and reason--to be hopeful when America won its independence. And I have to hope that we can learn, as we see this country falter, how to do better in the future.

None of which is to say that this is good. Fundamentalist Christians seizing power and launching their blitz on the rights of everyone who is not them, starting with criminalizing trans people and banning abortion but by no means stopping there, is a terrifying reality and showcases the depths to which humanity can sink when it allows itself to be governed by hate and fear. I hope for a better world; that does not mean I think this one is good, nor that I think a better world is inevitable. But I do think that a better world is possible if we work for it, and that when America falls, it will be possible to learn.


a prelude for may

I've always liked May. In years like this one, when the Spring is cold and Winter's tyranny is slow to fade, it is the month when we stagger blinking into the light, some part of us not quite willing to believe that it's really over, that Winter's grasp has really fallen slack. And then, when we finally realize that it's real, that it's here, we can finally celebrate. Such celebrations are always short-lived, of course: Summer is just around the corner, and she comes with the threat of heat and smoke, but for now, at least, the air is warm and vibrant and everything is flowers.

It's appropriate that May is the month when I am leaving this dreary apartment in the northern outskirts of the city and moving into a more vibrant neighborhood with people I like a whole lot better, and even more appropriate that our search for new housing seemed like it might be fruitless prior to this latest windfall. Sometimes the whims of the weather and seasons form an appropriate macrocosm to the microcosms of our lives; sometimes we can pretend there is some order to the universe.

I've been taking the train to and from work for almost two years now; yesterday I instead rode my bike home, to see what the new commute would be like. It was the perfect day, not too warm, not too bright, but warm enough and bright enough, with a sky full of shifting spring clouds, and afterwards I felt so much better than I had in a long time. Sometimes something as small as taking a bike ride for a few miles can make the whole world seem different.

And that, I think, is why I like Spring and her cousin Autumn so much: they are fleeting and ephemeral and still leave the whole world transformed.


a prelude for april

Spring has arrived limping into the month of April; there is still a chill in the air but it is definitely a spring chill, and if the days are often grey and blustery, it is spring rain and spring wind that makes them so. There are blossoms on the trees, and with the wind the streets and sidewalks are lined with a carpet of fallen petals.

I've been thinking a lot recently about Seattle's relationship with nature. This is a city of trees: even far from the heart of the city, places which in most urban areas would be an endless blight of concrete, there are trees, older and wilder than the ones downtown. And even downtown, where constant foot traffic requires some thought to be given to walkability, the trees and their roots tear up sidewalks, a constant reminder that we exist at the sufferance of Nature and that she could destroy us at her whim. That urban trees are often scarred creatures only makes that reminder all the more stark: these trees have endured the worst that we can throw at them and they will continue to endure. Oh, we can destroy them with axes--so many trees have fallen to sate capitalism's endless need for growth--but they outnumber us. They will outlast us. And can you imagine how beautiful this city will be when humans have gone?

The fantasy series I've been working on, some of the stories of which have appeared on here over the past few years, takes place in a city that I've always imagined as something like Seattle. It is a city on a coast, a trade hub, a city that imagines itself to be at the heart of its own particular idea of progress; it is a city which is glorious and filled with nature and a city which is being consumed by roots and vines. It is spectacular, it is a tragedy waiting to happen. I also realized recently that there is an old story that mine parallels: that of the tower of Babel. It was never a conscious parallel, but it was always a story about a tower that pierces the heavens; it is a tower that granted mankind unprecedented mastery over their world, and a tower that was always destined to fall.

Sometimes I worry that I'm too close to the events I am trying to portray. I stopped with my science fiction stories because the future always seems like it will be even worse than I imagine; and my fantasy story is a chronicle about the end of empires, and some days it seems likely that our own empire will fall before I finish that one.

But the weather is changing. The days are getting longer. And for now, at least, we can be glad to count Spring among our allies.


a prelude for march

I remember as a child at school, the calendar for March was decorated with a lion on one day, a lamb on the next, a cute and literal reference to the old saying that it comes in like one creature and out like another. March is the month when the promise of spring is fulfilled, and when we find out whether the bargain we struck with nature this year was Faustian or not--the saying is not strictly accurate, but it gets at the deeper truth that spring is chaos. Spring is the time when old man Winter's endless battle with Summer resumes: she is still weak and sluggish from her long imprisonment but his strength is waning. And what a terrible thing it can be when powers at their lowest lash out at one another.

This month was a month of bad news and near misses, and I've been mostly avoiding delving into it in an effort to spare my mental health, but if this is to be a faithful chronicle I would be negligent if I didn't at least mention the anti-vax rioters in Canada who have been laying siege to the country, shutting down the borders and occupying the capital; Texas's all-out assault on the lives of LGBT people, specifically trans people; Russia's invasion of Ukraine, giving the sabers of Western politicians some opportunities to be rattled and breeding new life into fearmongering, disinformation, and grifts; and American politicians' decision to lift protections such as mask and vaccine mandates despite every non-compromised health organization in the world begging them not to. But I'm too tired to follow these things as closely as once I would have.

I almost wrote "as closely as I should" there, and I had to stop myself. It is important to take care of yourself; it's been, what, six or seven years of nonstop bad news? We are not built for this much stress. I've known multiple people who have had to take time off work because the stress was so bad it began to affect their physical health. And we hear empty platitudes from our leaders about "these trying times" and we have to watch humans at their worst. It's hard.

I like to think of spring as a month of respite, a reprieve from the cold of winter before we are subjected once again to the heat of summer. Soon the flowers will be in bloom and the city will come alive, and even with everything will still be beautiful. No lingering chill nor gathering storm can ever take that beauty away from us.


a prelude for february

Janus, the god of gateways and transitions, has yielded his grip on the new year, leaving us once again in February, winter's last, best hope. This year, the start of our second month coincides with the start of the Lunar New Year, whose celebrations will usher us into the year of the Tiger. It's my hope that this will offer us a better part than did the god of beginnings and endings; his month was a rough one, by all accounts, but the thing I love about humans is there is always something to celebrate, some reason to wake up and decide that this is a strong day, a hopeful day.

Old man Winter's grip seems, tentatively, to be loosening, but even the last of his strength can be potent enough to bring a city low. I'm never prepared to declare budding Spring the victor in their yearly battle until tempestuous March rolls around, bringing with it its strange storms and sudden surges of vivid life. And so we wait.

Having an end in sight, of course, is dangerous. I remember my father, by nature a teacher and a storyteller if never quite a wordsmith, would caution against what he called "get home-itis" on long journeys. Those last few miles, or minutes, or hours, when the end of the road was finally in sight, are some of the most dangerous, as we let our caution lapse and allow the hope of rest to deceive us into thinking that we are safe now. So it is with February, I think. A warm sunny day, a refreshing breeze, a glimpse of flowers, and maybe we let our guards down, and then that cool breeze becomes a bitter wind, the brightness of the sun becomes a mockery of warmth. And, once again, we are reminded why it is that time is measured in winters.

But our hopes need not be heedless; we can instead allow those last miles before home steel our resolve to return home safely. The end is near, so let us raise our guard one last time--soon we will be able to lay down our burdens and rest. Let us not push on heedless of the danger, or overtax ourselves with eagerness, but march onwards with care and with purpose. The end is near--let's make sure we get there in one piece.

I think a lot, these days, about the twin tyrants Time and Distance, how, when I was young, I would happily drive hundreds of miles on a whim, no planning, no foresight. Those hours and miles meant so little to me then. I am beginning to see now just how precious time is. That's why I honor Janus every month with these little meditations on time and transitions. I have to believe that words can preserve this most sacred of treasures.