Recover. Reconstruct. Reclaim.

Well, my dumplings, we’re coming up on the end of the calendar year, and I’m both impatient and terrified for it.  This year has been, well… *gestures wildly at the air*  I will not be sad to see the end of this year, regardless.  The less said about it, the better.

The demise of the year, however, does mean that it is time to start considering what I want to work on in the coming year.  Those who’ve been around for a while know that I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but instead choose a word or three to sketch out a sort of road map to steer by for the year.  This year’s words were, well, honestly I don’t remember.  Everything got nuked from orbit at the beginning and I never really managed to get my feet under me.  At best I’ve managed a shaky holding pattern.  Throwing out an entire life direction and business plan is one hell of a monkey wrench and trying to course correct when half the road is just…gone…is an exercise in madness and chaos mathematics.  As y’all have seen, I’m not particularly great at math and there’s only so many times you can restructure your life from the ground up before you start running out of ideas.

Which brings me to this coming year and what I’m going to choose for a word.

Real talk, for a hot minute I seriously considered saying “Fuck it!” and not bothering, but decided that wasn’t an option and started thinking about it…

…For many years, I’ve dreamed in a house.  It’s always the same house, more or less, which is what makes it stand out.  It’s part old school New England Colonial, part rambling Victorian, part Gothic manor on the moors, with the most amazing attics and furniture (there’s a *gorgeous* hutch of golden tiger maple and blood-red cherry in one of the attics and if I ever find it in real life, I will sell several people’s souls to acquire it).  Until this year, when I randomly walked into one of the most insipid McMansion-style houses ever, and keep finding myself back there instead.

It’s awful.  You go in the front door and it’s like being in an aggressively generic Anywhere type of suburban house with a serviceable kitchen, nondescript living room, and weathered but functional 3-season porch running along one side, but then you try to leave and instead you go into another part of the house and you realize it shares a defining characteristic with the Other House, in that it keeps going indefinitely and you can’t find the door that will let you out.  Only this side is like walking into one of those annoying magazine photos that uses words like “contemporary” and “minimalism” and “classic neutrals”, where the only color is a single, palest pastel blue throw pillow and everything else is in “tasteful shades of eggshell and taupe” and you want to scream from the sheer, soul-killing monotony of it all.

This one is the Split House, and it’s just this side of being a nightmarescape.  Nothing good happens in the Split House; it’s all misfortune and atrophy and elegantly decorated rot.  To make matters worse, there’s a Homeowner somewhere in it, and I spend a lot of time trying to find the fucking door to get out while also having to avoid letting the Homeowner know I’m there, and it is exhausting.

I hate the Split House.  I hate it, and normally I’d want to burn it to the ground and toast marshmallows in it’s flames, but I’m not entirely sure it wouldn’t give me serious digestive troubles if I tried to eat them.

What do my weird-ass dream houses have to do with this year’s words?

I want to go home, back to the Other House, with its ivy-shattered courtyard fountain and carnival glass dishware full of apples and bramble-fruits, where I can open a door and find a library or a forgotten closet of boxes to be explored, where I belong.  I want to find and reclaim the things that I’ve lost that are mine and that are important to me.  I want to reclaim myself again.

So that is what I’m going to be working on this coming year, after too long spent mostly tumbling from crisis to crisis, running from room to room, trying to catch my breath, unable to pause long enough to try and find another way than the door I can’t find.  I’m reclaiming my time, and my brain, and my house, because I’m pretty sure that the Split House is being superimposed over the Other House and the Homeowner is just some asshole trying to gaslight me into thinking that there is no Other House and that I’m trespassing in my own damned dreams.

That is my word: Reclaim.

I’m starting now, because I’ve waited long enough as it is, and time has no meaning anymore, anyway.

What are your plans for the coming year?

The Poppet Witch Speaks: A Song of Mourning

Been a while since I had a chance to sit down and write.  Meant to do it more often than this, but well, autumn is a busy time, what with getting ready for winter and all that.  I’d intended to pick up where I left off last time, but well, the poppets displayed a new behavior the other day, so I suppose I should write that down first.

I was in the workroom, measuring out ingredients for an herbal tonic I keep around for winter colds, when it occurred to me that I’d been hearing a single low tone ringing outside for some time. Setting the measuring things down, I went to the window to see what was going on.

The poppets were in the trees and along the fenceline all on one side of the property, looking fixed down the road, and chiming a single long note together in a chorus.  They’d chime the tone, it would ring unchecked and just as it would start to fade out of hearing, they’d chime again.  The same tone, over and over.  One of the poppets closer to the window saw me watching them, and bowed its head at the tilted angle that signifies sadness for them, before looking back down the road and rejoining the chiming.

I left the window and got my boots.  Something was going on, and I didn’t have a good enough angle to see where they were looking properly.

When I stepped out onto the porch, I could see clear what they were looking at, and understood.

The house down the road is a good ways through the trees, but close enough to be seen from ours.  Usually there was a light on by this time, but that night it was dark and no smoke came from the chimney.  The old man who owned it had passed away earlier that morning, and so there was no one to light the fire or turn on the lamp anymore.  The poppets were mourning their friend, who had been the inspiration behind their chiming voices, in a ritual they were creating just for him.

I bowed my head, and grieved with them.  He’d been a good neighbor, sweet and friendly, easy to laugh, and the windchimes he’d hung on his porch had been what had given me the idea to use the small, poppet-sized chimes to allow the poppets to “speak” and expand their vocabulary beyond clicking and postures.  He’d always been kind to them and sometimes I think he taught them some of the mischief they get into from time to time. We are all going to miss him, though it’s a comfort that he’ll always be remembered wherever my little poppets go.

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This was not the next installment I’d planned for the Poppet Witch’s journal or her poppets.   Really, it wasn’t a post I was planning to write at all, but well, Life happens and sorrows, too.

My next door neighbor, Dan, was the original inspiration for the poppets.  Or rather, the windchimes on his porch were.  I’d hear them ringing softly in the distance at night, when the neighborhood was quiet, and well, one night a small poppet story wandered into the room and it turned into a bit of ambient microfiction and then one thing led to another and here we are.

Dan passed away this past weekend.  As I write this, his family are in his house, working on the next steps to deal with the stupid, mundane details of life and death and what to do with the things we leave behind when we leave the world.

I can’t do anything to help them, but I can write a bit of a world that he helped inspire and make sure that he is remembered in my own small way.

The Poppet Witch Speaks

I promised I’d start writing a bit longer bits about the poppets, so here we are, the first installment of the story, from the Poppet Witch herself.  I hope you like it!

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I’m told that, given recent happenings, I should start writing stuff down a bit more than usual.  Always was bad at it, and leaving a paper trail always seemed a bad idea, but something about “documentation” and “for the love of God, what if something happens to you?!?” and all that, so I guess I’ll give it a shot.  I ain’t gonna promise to be regular about it, though, and fair warning, there’s some things you can’t pay me enough to write down and others that ain’t no one’s business but my own, even if I’m dead before anyone reads it.

Haven’t kept a diary since I was a teenager, and I feel a bit ridiculous trying to do so now, but well, here we are.  Maybe if I pretend I’m writing someone a letter I’ll feel a bit less foolish about the whole thing.  Figure I should start at the beginning so the rest makes some kind of sense, while I’m at it.

Folks have lots of theories about what the poppets are and where they came from.  Souls of lost children, mine or someone else’s, are a particular favorite.  Stolen souls, in general, seem to be popular. Bargains with devils were made, they’re devils themselves, familiar spirits summoned to do mischief, that sort of thing.  Course, they’re all wrong,  but they do amuse me just the same.

No, I think I’m not going to write down what the truth is.  Folks need a little more mystery in their life.  The world’s getting too tame and besides, too much information is bad for you.

I must say, I didn’t expect them to get as advanced as they have been.  That’s been a nice little surprise.

So what are they?  What it says on the tin, more or less. They’re dolls of sticks and twine and scraps of cloth, mostly.  Whatever’s around that works.  Like those little corn husk dolls folks make, just, well….more.  I made the first one when I was out cleaning up the dead wood that’d come down in a storm a while back, and remembered making little dolls from flowers and things in my ma’s garden while I was little.  I wanted to see if I could remember how to do it.  Poor thing was rather rough and didn’t hold together well, but it was alright.  Or it was until the kitten decided it was a toy and it got chewed up and scattered around, at any rate.

Still, I’d like having it around and I wanted to see if I could do better, so I kept practicing and trying new things until I got it right.

Honestly, it was as much of a surprise to me as anyone else when the first one got it into its head to move.  Damned near threw it into the fire before I caught myself.

The thing a lot of folks don’t realize is that witchery is a sort of science.  It’s got different ways of seeing and doing things, but the main difference is what you’re working with, really.  Also the scientists take better notes, from what I hear. A big thing we’ve got in common, though, is neither of us are particularly good at leaving well enough alone when something gets our curiosity up.

That first one was years ago, now, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.  It was just a bit after dark, in late fall.  Day’d been pretty normal…I’d spent most of it dealing with getting the gardens set for winter and sold a few teas and things to the local folks, Himself was off doing his thing, as usual.  I was getting dinner ready, when I noticed that the cats were sitting quietly side by side instead of fighting, staring at something.  Figuring it was either a mouse or a bug, I went to take a look.  It wasn’t a mouse. It was one of the little dolls, standing in the middle of the living room floor, looking back at me.  When it tilted it’s head, I yelled and moved to grab it and toss it into the fireplace.  I stopped because it raised its hands in front of its face, like it was trying to protect itself, and well, it was obviously scared and well, I ain’t a monster.

After shooing the cats out of the room, I sat down on the floor so as not to spook it more than it already was (the poor thing was shaking so much I had a concern that it might actually rattle itself back into a pile of sticks, and that wouldn’t do at all), and started talking to it just like I would any scared critter, and waited to see what it would do.  After a bit, it stopped rattling, took a few halting steps closer, and looked at me like it was expecting me to do something.  So, I did the first thing I thought of.  I held out a hand, and it climbed up, sat down, and wrapped an arm around my thumb, for all the world like it was settling into its favorite chair.

Over the next weeks, it took to following me around, and would climb up onto a nearby shelf or look at me until I picked it up and put it where it pointed me to bring it so it could watch what was going on around the house.  I taught it to make different sounds in certain patterns for important things like “yes”, “no”, “help”, “please”, “thank you”, and all that.   It was a curious little thing, and seemed generally good-natured, though it had moments of oddly intense…staring, isn’t quite the right word, given it’s lack of actual eyes, but it’s close enough.  It would fix it’s attention on you so hard you’d almost swear you could feel it, and you weren’t sure what, exactly, it was thinking.

Not gonna lie, it was a bit unnerving at first, but we had a talk about it and got some ground rules sorted.

One day I found it in the work room, looking at the half-finished bits of others I’d been working on.  Hadn’t touched them since the night it walked itself into the living room, so it was the only one finished at the time.  It looked so sad it hurt to see, and I decided I needed to finish them and see about making it some others of its kind.

That’s a story for another day, though, and I’ve used up enough daylight writing this much for now.

A Crossroads Mystery

The day started off like any normal morning.  I woke up, crawled out from under the pile of snoring cats, staggered out to the kitchen, and started the coffee maker.  Leaning against the counter, waiting for it to brew so I could pour liquid consciousness down my throat and get my brain fully online, I poked blearily at Facebook on my phone.  I know, it’s a terrible idea, but it’s either that or I glare at the coffee slowly dripping into the carafe, and that’s not much better for my temper, to be honest.  As I scrolled, not exactly registering a lot of what was passing by, one image caught my attention.  I stopped scrolling and centered the image on the screen.

It was of a perfectly unremarkable hallway in a generic professional building- white tiles, neutral wall color, insipid landscape paintings, the usual- but in the middle of the floor there was a circle of reddish-brown bark mulch, neatly flattened and carefully shaped, with a large compass-like symbol drawn across it in some sort of yellowish powder.  Huh.  Well, that’s something you don’t see every day.  Weird meme?  I looked at the name of the person who posted it, to try and figure out what I was looking at.  It was my boyfriend’s post, and it wasn’t a meme.  It was a photo he’d taken in the building he was working in, and while it answered the location (the work site he was on was in Boston), it only opened up more questions.  For starters, what the chicken-fried fuck?  I dropped a Supernatural gif in the comments as a placeholder for later, to come back to when I had enough brain to communicate in words.  (The Supernatural fandom has a gif for everything, and it’s remarkably useful, especially pre-caffeination.)

Look, the coffee was still brewing, and I am not at my best mental capacity before I’ve caffeinated.  I wake up about as easily as a bear coming out of hibernation, and am about as personable and coherent.

Something about the symbol was bugging me.  A lot.  It looked really familiar, but I couldn’t pull the information out of my sluggish brain, and it was annoying.  I hate mysteries first thing in the morning.

The coffee finished brewing, finally.  I poured it into a mug and spent several minutes staring blankly out the window while I worked on drinking enough of it to kickstart my brain into a semblance of functionality.  I could feel the inner librarian in my head rifling through the stacks and card catalogues, trying to place the symbol.  It was bugging me that I couldn’t remember it, and would do so until I figured it out.

About halfway through the coffee mug, I remembered why it looked familiar.  The answer still made no sense, though.  Maybe I was mistaken?  Going to my office, I opened my laptop to double-check, and no, I wasn’t mistaken.

What the hell was the veve for Papa Legba, the Vodoun loa of crossroads and doorways, complete with proper ritual placement and components, doing in the middle of the hallway of an office building in Boston?!?

Yeah, this was going to need some looking into…