How to Spin A Shawl From Moonlight

A while ago, I wrote about a magic carpet I made, a blanket spun from the midnight sky and legends. I mentioned that I wanted to spin moonlight and make it into a shawl. If I could no longer sit upon the midnight sky, perhaps I could drape myself in moonlight while I wrote. A little signal to my unconscious mind to release itself in a powerful way, packed with symbolism of the moon. A signal to my inner muse.

Occasionally, I will dye and spin wool into a tangible metaphor, something much more than a simple scarf or hat. The entire time I work on it (the blanket took a year), I contemplate a theme I wish to associate with the project. Then, every time I use the item, I remember its creation and subject. It’s a constant reminder of an extended daydream designed to help me achieve my goals.

For instance, once I dyed wool with coffee and made a thinking cap. If I had problems concentrating during finals week in college, I would wear my literal thinking cap to use in a metaphorical way, tricking the subconscious into helping me instead of wandering to and fro. Of course it worked, or I wouldn’t be talking about it. I was about to fail a class unless I passed a test I didn’t understand the material for, and I got a B. I wore the hat, I was answering complicated algebra problems that I didn’t understand, I was showing my work without knowing what I was doing or why, and I got a B.

In other words, it’s magic. Whether or not it is done by tricking the mind.

To those unfamiliar with the symbolism of pagans, understand that we do not study from a sacred book. We study the patterns found in nature, and use those as a metaphor. Our students are encouraged to spend time meditating on the elements and forces of nature, to use them to find wisdom and meaning in their lives. We look into nature as a mirror, our spiritual experiences are viewed as subjective and a reflection of our unconscious, a primal method of understanding our minds and healing our own psychology.

So when I set out to spin a shawl from moonlight, I looked to the moon as an archetype and thought of ways to tie it to my storytelling, telling myself that I would be more easily inspired and my writing would have more depth when I wore the finished project. The fibers in my hand continually set my wandering mind back to my purpose, the way some religions do with beads they hold as they pray or meditate.

All of my wandering thoughts were framed in the light of the moon. Times away from my knitting, as I cooked and cleaned, ran to the store, watched movies with my love, my thoughts were still colored by the day’s contemplation of the moon and how it ties into story.

The moon is the lover of the sun, transforming the sun’s harsh rays into something softer, more gentle. Traditionally, this is seen as the union of man and woman, woman taking in the light of man and transforming it into something new and delivering it to the world. Action and reaction, cause and effect. We see the moon grow round and pregnant, and then shed its gains and wither, and in that we see the life cycle of woman, we even recognize her tides as connected to the moon’s.

The moon controls the movements of the ocean, therefore the moon has dominion over water. Our blood is mostly water, water is life. It nurtures and relieves us, and it is our tears. We feel a connection between the rise and fall of the tides and the rise and fall of emotion in our lives, we feel our hearts fill with emotion like a shivering puddle, rising to overflowing.

Water as the realm of love, holds shadowy depths where we find metaphors for the unknown, the subconscious, madness, and despair. Sometimes we drown in feeling. We swim through emotion in the light of the moon as the tides pull at our heart, calling us into dreams and reveries under the stars.

This is not just the realm of love, it is also the realm of prophesy, predators, and fear. Under the illusions of moonlight, sometimes we sit alone even in the company of others, falling into a quiet madness. Sometimes the madness will not come fast enough, so we encourage it with the help of a little drink, or perhaps a pill, or both. Through madness, drink, or natural sleep and dreams, the moon is often a gateway to other worlds.

We can become lost in the dark, hunted upon, as the world becomes distorted in shadow. But the path of the moon also brings peace, a quiet and gentle reflection, a time of healing and growth. Some are comfortable in the light of the moon, feeling no fear from the shadows. Though perhaps it is delusion, and perhaps sometimes it is the confidence of one who knows they are the largest monster in the forest.

The moon has all of this symbolic wealth and more, a bounty that any writer can enjoy. The path the moon took me down was pleasant. I jotted down many new ideas and polished up old ones; spending time letting my fiction swoon with emotion, letting truths be spoken through shadow, distorted by mists and moonlight.

My results are a little gory. That would be entirely my fault, and is not the fault of the moon. If I started this exercise as a romance writer, I’m sure I wouldn’t have ended up eating beef heart as part of my research in how to cook a human heart. Though that actually is a love story, I promise.

In fact, the whole Valentine’s day thing has done strange things to me in general this year, and I blame the shawl. I can think of no other reason why I would be designing greeting card covers and playing around with dark love sonnets. I’m even seriously toying with the idea of offering a line of Valentine’s Day cards next year. One that might feature a still life I have planned, if I can get my hands on a photogenic enough pig’s heart.

P.S. – The beef heart. Oh, that enthusiastic slab of flesh was so ready and willing to be a perfect metaphor. I now know that if you cook heart without slicing it thin enough, you will end up with a range of words like blackened, charred, or cracking (that pair lovely with the idea of a wounded human heart), and yet when the meat rests it will still weep blood. This heart in particular was cooked twice and still bleed, I had to slice it to cook it a third time. I believe the thing was auditioning to freak out a murderess.

The end results were wonderful, like steak without getting fibers stuck in your teeth, even the wary men of the house tried some and wanted more. The dogs were thrilled. Next time, I’ll slice thinly before throwing in the skillet.

The Instagram Game

Oh look, even though my welcome post was more than “Hi, world”, I have another post for you already. Don’t let this set a precedent, I swear my posting here will likely be sporadic, as working on my first book is the priority. My flash fiction blog will still always post on Tuesdays, but I reserve the right to go on hiatus if the novel looms large.

As the stay-at-home mother of an adventurous and energetic toddler, I can’t wake up and do leisurely morning pages. I can’t even maintain an uninterrupted thought. When you throw a new puppy in to the mix, well… I just find it so hard to believe something has more energy than my baby girl.

I’ve found my ways to adapt, choosing my mental focus with my morning coffee and carrying a notebook with me everywhere helps. I find creative projects that allow me to zone out with an eye on my toddler to get that inner muse to start speaking when she won’t let me write. Some pursuits generate more ideas than others, but when we moved we only brought one car load of things with us, and most of my toys (why did I leave my knitting and coloring books?) are back in the trailer.

Except for the 4k camcorder Mom gave me, and my little camera that was used to chase bugs around the yard. No way they weren’t coming to New York. Photography wasn’t really a pursuit that generated a lot of ideas for my fiction, but it is something that I enjoy.

And then I had a fortunate accident. My toddler decided the above mentioned camera I used for macro shots could fly, but instead it fell two stories and bounced on the cement patio below. So, I was limited to a cell phone and a camcorder that I still barely know how to use, and I’m in a beautiful new home within a stone’s throw to a nature preserve. Cell phone photography. The opposite of my quest to see the world in glorious definition.

I decided to see it in the best way possible. At the time, we didn’t have WiFi yet, so it would be easier to get images on my blog, now I wasn’t feeding them through the computer and Gimp for adjustments. Instead, I could try that Instagram thing all the kids are doing, and simplify my editing process. After all, I’m not a professional photographer, and I wasn’t taking pictures of a lot of interesting subjects. Just tarot cards and local plants or insects so I could see them more easily with my horrible eyes. The eyes that made me laugh when editing and I saw the first sentence of this paragraph.

The process of adding a little mood to the photo was so simple, it began to feel a little like a video game to find and collect bits and pieces of the world around me. Kind of like the simplistic form of photography in one of the Sims games, where you go on vacation and get a camera, then it gives you “collections” you fill by having your sim take photos. In the process, you see the game through their eyes. Thinking of video games while taking pictures, specifically the sims where you play real life, started making connections with my creativity, and a little magic happened.

Next thing I know, that experience led to me being a photographer through my character’s eyes, or through the eyes of a private detective investigating them, or a cop investigating their murder. The muse within me lit up, stopped taking photography so seriously, and started playing. Awesome. So much awesome.

Sometimes my daughter is still so distracting that the experience doesn’t flow that well, but the game is a habit that is a constant reminder for my mind to play with my environment without the need to come up with words and phrases; putting the pressure elsewhere, letting me keep my observation focused on the dreary or haunted in the well-manicured lawns of the new ‘hood, finding the decay even when the neighborhood would rather I didn’t, the twisted heart in the gleaming homes around me.

Because no words are needed, talking to her doesn’t interrupt the train of thought as badly. If words do come, my notebook is always handy so I can record the initial idea and then set it aside.

I saw a pattern emerging. When trying to play with my new camcorder, it is all I’m focused on. I enter a calm, meditative state while enjoying interacting with the natural world in any small way I can. The kind of relaxation I try to work into my writing routine, but it wasn’t producing story ideas or words. I’ve had ideas for video projects that might help me promote my writing, but it wasn’t interacting with the writing process itself.

It was the Instagram game that was stimulating my creativity, enhancing my observation and refining ideas for making images interact with my stories. Like playing in adult coloring books rather than attempting to draw a masterpiece. Also, of course, always with me when my camcorder wasn’t.

It made sense. Photographers talk about telling stories with photos, and writers use photos as prompts to help overcome writer’s block. I’ve browsed a few articles on Instagram, but being new to it, I’ve not run across a lot on using it in creative exercises. Yet, it’s happening in one of those synergistic ways that is just magic. I’m thinking about ways to express the element of air rather than how to improve my camera’s focus, and words expressing air are happening right alongside of it.

Naturally I’ve decided every bit of flash must now have a photo from the game, which means that walks with my baby have turned into something that keeps me focused on my fiction rather than the beauty of small treasures in the flowers and hollows of trees, where nature will trap my attention. It’s a perfect fit for the way I’m living my life right now.

RIP, Craigslist freebie camera, my old and dear friend. You will be missed briefly, and eventually replaced with something cooler.

P.S – If you have a toddler and you stop frequently for pictures or writing, be prepared to reward them for their patience with a park or somewhere else to run around wild for a while, or they will not be happy campers, even if you brought along toys and snacks.

P.P.S. – This shit directly led to a film. Like, newbie film student level film.

I’d embed it, but apparently if you are silly enough to pay for an upgrade, it becomes more difficult to embed a video so enjoy your old-school link.

P.P.P.S. – I am working on self photography, and it’s making me feel a little creepy. Because of who I am, this tells me it’s something I need to do more, and it’s time to put my own image out there.