Breakfast with the Skulls…

I scurried up to the garden today,

Afraid I’d receive a surprise.

Don’t bother to follow me,

You’ll surely seal your demise.

For every skull that ever I’d drawn will gather there for purpose unknown,

Because today’s the day for pancakes and crumbs, it’s Breakfast with the Skulls.

 For entire lyrics, please click here.

~ To be sung to the tune of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”

It’s not as strange as it sounds, and it ended up to be far more genteel than I’d ever imagined.

The skulls of friends long past, the Guardians of the Garden, decided it was time for a meeting…with me. As soon as I received the invitation, the heart palpitations began. Yes, I had been hanging around Quentin’s estate for the last few months, but my manners are impeccable, aren’t they? I’d either been introduced or introduced myself  to everyone. I never drew portraits without asking permission, and so far, no one had turned me down. Was there rivalry among the skull ranks? Had I spent more time with one or the other? Did they dislike their likenesses? I had tried to explain that I’m not a fine artist. Was it the boxes I’d begun to paint? I got a notion in my head to paint their portraits on boxes. Do they disapprove? I should have asked. Why didn’t I ask?

I realize how this all sounds. None of them had actually given me any reason to think I’d offended or angered any one of them. That doesn’t stop me from making up reasons. Guilty conscience, I suppose.

Turns out they want to make me an honorary member of the Guardian Garden Skulls. At least I hope it’s only “honorary.” I am pleased, of course. I had no idea that they thought this highly of me and I’m touched.

My only concern now is the Swearing-In Ceremony. I have no problem swearing. I can do that from dawn to dusk and barely have to stop to take a breath. It’s the ceremony part that has me anxious. I just hope I get to keep my hair. None of them have any, you see. Hmm…perhaps I should be more concerned about keeping my skin? There really are drawbacks to being the lone human in household filled with immortal (and dangerous) creatures.

In preparation for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, I’m actually painting skull boxes for breakfast and lunch (and sometimes dinner). The idea of being invited to Breakfast with the Skulls wouldn’t leave me in peace (so to speak) and I had to write it down. One of my Demon pals has been calling for me, too. What can I say? It’s Grand Central Weird around here.

Crooked Elf

 There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

~ English Nursery Rhyme, There was a Crooked Man 

There once was a Crooked Elf who went by the name Kwissp E. Ceen. Not crooked in mind or deed, but in the spirit of the Bent, Slightly Twisted and Extremely Strange. He enjoyed many activities: walking crooked miles; finding crooked pennies to spend on smooshed glazed doughnuts or other irregular sweets; cataloging, archiving, and photographing all things crooked, bizarre and outlandish; getting lost in gardens and hothouses; and most especially playing hide-and-go-seek with his honorable friend, the most crooked and fluffy cat, Mimsy Poole.

Being a great appreciator of gardens, of course Kwissp tended to get lost in them. While rambling down some road or another he’d come across someone’s garden or hothouse and would be so enchanted by the sights and scents that he’d forget everything else. It always fell to Mimsy to find and bring him back home in order that he could get her supper and on occasion, a bit of catnap. This arrangement suited both of them. On one such day of rambles, Kwissp happened upon the garden belonging to Quentin the Vampire Botanist. And of course, he had never seen the like!

Magnificent flowers burst out of the ground in such a variety and a multitude of colors that Kwissp eyes crossed with delight. And what interesting flowers these were! Many of them had tiny vampire teeth or tiny vampire claws and some had both. How completely unexpected! How wonderfully, amazingly peculiar! And oh! He spotted a large conservatory. Imagine what might be growing in there! Like cream to pudding, he found himself deliciously drawn to the structure. Though he knew it was horribly impolite, he couldn’t help pressing his face to the glass and peering inside. Luckily Mimsy came to his rescue, for although she did share Kwissp’s admiration for gardens (what better place to take a well-deserved nap than under a lavender bush?), she couldn’t bear to see such an egregious breach of courtesy. Doing her cat best (which is infinitely better than a human’s), she urged him to knock on the owner’s door and gain permission to photograph, document, and classify each wondrous flora.

This could have turned out badly and may have even been the end of Kwissp. Quentin isn’t a social vampire, by any means. At best, he’s a recluse. At worse? Well, at worst let’s just say one should count themselves lucky indeed should they manage to even crawl away (with most body parts intact) from an encounter with Quentin. The only company he enjoys is that of his plants. Anyone or anything else is merely a nuisance…or lunch. Most fortunate for our crooked elf friend, it turned out that Quentin took a liking to him. This might be explained by their mutual affection and respect for plants. However, it didn’t hurt that the elf’s complexion was green as the leaves on the medicinal herb Groomwell. This could also mean that the Vampire Botanist may have devious (are there any other kind?) plans for Kwissp’s future.

I met Kwissp while sitting on a bench daydreaming in Quentin’s garden (I too, am allowed entry. Long story). He startled (nearly) the life out of me popping his little green face out of the orange, pink and golden tangle of some licorice vines (a new experiment of Quentin’s and exceptionally pretty). After I managed to get my heart out of my throat and back into my chest where it belongs, I asked if he minded that I sketch him. “Not a problem,” he says, “just so long as I can continue documenting these plants.” Since this bothered me not in the least, I sketched away. I think I captured his creepily soulful eyes quite well.

Alyce…No Life Here

Alyce reached the top of hill and her tired, gray eyes surveyed the damage. The flames from countless tacbombs were out, but some areas still smoldered. Dirty, black smoke rose upwards, like thousands of tiny snakes, winding their way up to where she stood. A mere day ago the landscape was lush and bountiful, now it was pock marked and deeply gashed. Hundreds of her soldiers, their bodies strewn like rag dolls laid in unnatural positions.

“No life here, not even a flower remains,” she whispered. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“My lady?”

She could sense his desire to come to her side and quickly commanded without turning,

“Stay where you are, Nyles.”

Harold

Being a writer is like being possessed by a strange (is there any other kind?) beast, who can force you to do its bidding at any hour and any place. This Beast doesn’t care if you’re at your day job, in the middle of a dinner party, rock climbing, giving the baby a bath, or even asleep after a way-too-long, punishing day (at the day job). The Beast wakes you up and drags you from your bed with promises of excitement and the possibility of satisfaction. Yeah. Weird, huh? Honestly, honestly the writer has no control over the Beast. Even desperate pleas of tiredness or not-now’s appease it not! 

Why do I call “it” a Beast? What would you call something that drags you out of bed in the proverbial middle of the night? Sue? Kevin? I don’t think so. Actually, I do sometimes call my beast Harold. “Harold” just sounds less intimidating than “Beast.”

Once that Harold (or whatever you call the Beast) grabs you by the throat and forces you down in front of the computer screen, typewriter, pen and paper, you are riveted. You must write whatever Harold tells you to and no breaks are allowed. You are not allowed to eat, answer the phone, clean your kitchen, down an Ibuprofen because your back and neck are killing you from typing away for hours upon hours (even if it is on the same freaking sentence!!!!), or even have a pee. Sometimes, while in the grip of Harold, I find myself forgetting to breathe and suddenly have to gasp for air, as if I were drowning (or being choked). Yay! Whoo-hoo! It is SO way fun being a writer! Sorry, Harold. We humans need to breathe. Not buying it? Look at this way, if I don’t breathe your fun ends. Get it?

Of course, no one else can see this Beast…until you read the writer’s work. Then the Beast is revealed in all its gloriousness (or un-gloriousness, depending). The funny (not really) thing is, there isn’t just one Beast! Oh no. Things couldn’t be that easy, could they? Hell no. Harold is not alone. There are a multitude of Beasts and where Harold leaves off, another is quite happy to take his place. Sadly, sadly the writer’s relationship with the Beast(s) actually begins in fear, runs to excitement, then back to fear and…dependence. It’s all a bit Stockholm Syndrome really. Because you know what happens next? Harold rubs his hands together with glee at this bit! He disappears. Yep. Leaves you hanging. Nasty, bad Harold! So there you are, half way out of a plane, just dangling over the middle of the Sahara (or places much less glamorous, you just never know).

In anguish, you may decide to strike out on your own. Yeah, who needs that freaking Beast anyway? I can do this. Hah! Novice, eh? You can’t go anywhere without the Beast, man. You want to keep it real? Then you have to move with the Beast.

If this all sounds nuts (what? seriously?) then, well it probably IS nuts. But we writers really can’t help it. So read our stuff and have a smidge of pity for us. We may have written this at 7:00 in the morning, after finally dropping off to sleep at 3:00 and left to our Own Devices (sounds totally ominous, doesn’t it?) you begin to jot down this drivel and decide to share it with others and- Crap. Gotta go, Harold is calling…

In My World

In my world rudeness happens only on the bluest of moons.  Courtesy is the very first rule taught in driving. Our elderly are afforded respect and dignity. All animals are treated humanely, because animals are an extension of people. We do not emulate the cruelty found in nature, we rise above it. Honesty is revered, but we always take care to impart truth gently, ensuring that we never deliberately hurt another’s feelings.

We still have mom and pop markets, just around the corner and down the street in our neighborhoods. You always have time to say a kind word or two to anyone you meet. Everyone cares for all the world’s children, not just their own children, although especially their own. A tree is never cut down to make room for a slab of concrete, and progress does not mean getting rid of a park or someone’s home to make way for a parking lot.

It never occurs to anyone to judge another’s worth based on clothes, skin color, sexuality, age, or the amount of money in their wallet. Everyone knows that human beings have boundless creativity and an endless capacity to love. Truly it is only one’s heart that matters. We work together, rather than against, because this really does make the most sense.

Every individual is mindful that others coexist in this world and that we all have the same rights. All of us gratefully, humbly, and with open hearts share whatever it is that we can. We always pay a good deed forward. Physical violence does not exist, because we have evolved past the need to feel “powerful” by shaming or demeaning someone else. True power is never attained by trying to control someone else. True power is always generous and inclusive. There are no wars, because we all know that this is one planet and its care has been entrusted to all of us to tend and pass on to our children.

Of course, it’s not a perfect place this world of mine. We still stumble and fall, skinning a knee here and there. On occasion a harsh word may pass our lips, but we make up quickly and completely. We don’t hold a grudge, because we are all well aware that not a one of us is perfect. Mistakes happen, but we don’t beat up ourselves or others.

As John Lennon once said, “you may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” I believe that there are many of us…in my world. You just have to believe, too.