Turtle Time: Thoughts On Sustainability, Slowing Down, and Trust

For many years I wore a pendant of a very small turtle carved from a piece of jade that I’d found at an antique store. It was a reminder to myself to slow down and pay attention to the world around me. Eventually I started wearing other things, and then no jewelry at all (too many jobs where I couldn’t wear any and it became a habit I’m working to recover from, being that I can wear whatever the hell I want now), and the turtle ended up in a jewelry box where it sits until I can find a new chain for it.

Turtles are something of a theme that crops up for me pretty regularly. Usually when I’m going too hard and fast and am burning myself hotter than is actually useful. Or healthy. Lately I achieved a new and interesting kind of going too hard…the mental equivalent of frantically spinning tires while the wheels are stuck in the mud. All the effort and burnout, none of the progress to show for it!

Yeah, that’s not useful.

Turtles showed up again. I’m seeing turtles everywhere. I even ended up taking care of a friend’s turtle while he and his fiance were away for a week. Eventually I figured out that it’s because of the aforementioned spinning tires. Of course, knowing that I’m doing it and figuring out what to do about it are two entirely different things.

You see, the mud that I’ve been stuck in is my own work. Social media’s crashing as a useful medium for small artists like myself, but at the same time there aren’t a whole lot of options for the kind of work that I do offline, and trying to figure out how to produce ever faster and more and how the hell am I going to keep up with it and I need to do more with Ko-fi because oh gods people are giving me money and here I am stuck in the mud and and and and….

there I was, lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, having an existential meltdown, and there were turtles in my pareidolia…

Nothing else. Just me, the floor, and the turtles in the ceiling paint.

* * * * * *

The other week I came across two things that shifted the view. A random comment crossing my dash on social media, and book that I’d just started reading got me thinking. The comment was along the lines of how Patreon is basically an adopt-an-artist program and how that often gets twisted into being an artist puppy mill, instead. The book is called “Beyond Sustainability” by Nimue Brown, about how we, as a species, need to slow down and really think about how we engage with the world on every level because we’ve only got the one planet and the environment is coming undone. (Side note, it’s a really good book and I recommend it.)

I got to thinking about the artist puppy mill and how one of my big stressors with Ko-fi is that I’ve been conditioned to the idea that I need to be constantly updating but then get stressed out if I can’t come up with some new bit of art or witty comment or whatever the fuck on cue. I started thinking about how I’m constantly trying to figure out how to make a lot of small art and writing FAST and how to monetize every little thing and how that just ends up with me crashing and burning out, unable to create anything at all, let alone the fact that if I’m spending my time trying to focus on small fast things, I have no time left for anything larger or longer and how that is not remotely sustainable.

I disabled myself because I pushed my brain and body beyond its limits too many times for jobs that didn’t view me as anything more than a piece of machinery, if even that. I’ve had multiple nervous breakdowns, have PTSD, and permanent physical damage that prevents me from being able to work in almost any setting other than my own business, and they are almost entirely because of previous jobs. I *know* better, viscerally. Yet here I’ve been, basically trying to push myself beyond my limits again, because I panicked and forgot (like so many people forget) that things like Ko-fi and Patreon exist, not to be artist puppy mills where the artists push out ever more “content” for consumption like we’re factory assembly machines, but so that a community of people who care about us and our work can help ensure that we have a steady income in a field where a single piece takes weeks or more to produce. It’s supposed to be the safety net, not the meat grinder.

It’s there so that I can spend a month working on a single painting and not have to worry about how I’m going to pay for the cat food or the Disaster Cats’ vet bills. It’s there so that I don’t have to try and find a working brain cell that hasn’t burnt out from a day of being punished for failing to do the work of 3 people by myself before bed, or try to paint when the damaged blood vessels in my left eye are inflamed from staring at a computer monitor for 8 hours and there’s a blank space in the middle of my vision because the swelling is pressing against the optic nerve.

It’s there so that I can work slowly, sustainably, and in a healthy manner while trusting that my community is helping support me, because I am not a factory machine, and my work is something that not only takes time to create, but is also something that suffers for being churned out at frantic, panicked paces.

It’s there because, in a world that demands ever-faster jackrabbits, my work is a collection of turtles sunning themselves on a log and that’s okay. My job is not to try and keep up with the jackrabbits, it’s to sit with the turtles, listen to the stories of the wind in the trees, and share the gossip of the moths with my village.

I’m a little slow on the uptake, sometimes, but deprogramming from a life that taught me that my value is only measured by how much of myself I can sacrifice is a process that sometimes takes a little bit to work through.

Paper Stacks Everywhere

I ate’nt dead.

After a massive bout of combined SAD and finally having the weight of the last couple of years removed from my shoulders setting off a massive pain flare for several weeks, the calendar promptly informed me that the tax deadline was bearing down on me, and a letter informed me that I also was a dumbass and missed a sales tax filing deadline for the studio. (Not one of my finer moments, to be honest, but in my defense, the last two years were A LOT and I’m genuinely surprised that that’s the only ball I dropped, given everything that’s happened.) Cue the need to get my ass in gear, deal with two years’ worth of paper filing (the organizational kind, with paper folders) and data entry as fast as humanly possible.

For a solid week, every available surface of the studio has been covered in stacks of papers, file folders, and the shredder has gotten a workout (there’s no need to hang onto things like old payment stubs from my late father’s vehicle insurance, so into the shredder they go!), which I just finished slogging through about half an hour ago. Just in time, too, as the appointment with the household tax preparer is tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully I found everything I need. On Tuesday I’ll be calling the State tax folks (Monday’s a holiday) to get the business tax situation sorted out and getting that back on track. I’m not particularly worried. I haven’t had any sales and the tax collection people are nowhere near as scary as people make them out to be, so it should be a straightforward thing. I’m more pissed off at myself for dropping that particular ball, since I damned well know better. Oh well, nothing to do but get it taken care of and make sure it NEVER happens again. I’ve still got a few more small things to take care of, but at this point things are at more or less maintenance levels again.


Good thing, too, because Bodach’s eye started getting squinty last night, again, and he’s got a vet appointment for Tuesday morning, assuming it doesn’t clear up before than. Pray to whatever feline-loving gods there may be that we aren’t gearing up for another round of illness around here, because gods, I am so tired.

Needless to say, I’ve gotten exactly NO work of any other kind done while this mess was going on, and I am itching to get my fingers back to work on making nice things again. At least it’s been nice out while I’ve been eyeball deep in paperwork.

Speaking of Bodach, he’s having a meltdown on the other side of the door because I’ve been out of his sight for too long, so I guess it’s time for me to finish up and go snuggle my poor, unloved kitten before he upsets the other two too much.


Taking a break from writing the story I’m working on to announce that I have a logo! Like, a real one! Holy shit! This means I can get cards and mugs and shit made up, and have my invoices and sites with my actual logo instead of a blank space!

Isn’t it gorgeous???

I’ve been working on trying to do a logo for months on my own, but guess what! Just because one is an artist doesn’t mean that one is good at all kinds of art, and graphic design and associated work is just not something I’m good at. So, I decided to do the smart thing and throw money at a professional for it. Because I’m me, I prefer to work with local and/or indie businesses, and after poking around for a while, it turned out that I happen to know someone who fit the bill. Thus, a couple of weeks ago, I messaged RaigeMage Designs about hiring him. Got the final designs today (there’s the round one shown above and a square version, as well), and I really love it. He’s awesome to work with (seriously, he didn’t throttle me for being wildly unhelpful in articulating myself at times, and was able to interpret what I was looking for despite me forgetting where I put my own brain at times, which I think should qualify him for sainthood or something), checks in regularly, and has good rates (possibly lower than he should be asking, but I’m of the opinion that all indie artists undercharge ourselves). Definitely recommend him.

Forward Momentum

Apparently taking a few days to mope around and be melodramatic helped shake some stuff loose in my head. I’ll write something a bit longer in a bit, but for now, well, I figured out what the Smol Monsters are (not knowing was upsetting me and making it hard to draw or paint them). I figured out that I need to draw more trees. I figured out that I need to draw more trees, and Smol Monsters, and BIGGER. Like, a lot bigger.

Yeah, it’s a good start. I also need to practice drawing larger, since I’m used to working much smaller, and I need to get new paper (that’s just a sketchpad, not Serious Paper). Looks like I’ll be heading to the craft store today, too, once I dig the truck out.

Oh, and I officially started working with a graphic designer yesterday to get a logo made so I can do things like get actual cards printed and things. Yes, I’m an artist, but logo work is what I refer to as “outside my scope of practice” (yes, I did used to work in a health care field, how can you tell?), so I’m being smart and paying someone else who has that skill set for it. I am SUPER EXCITING to see what he comes up with!

Right now, though, off to run errands.


“Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 50?”

“Picture your ideal life…what does it look like?”

“What’s your goal for your….everything?”

“What do you mean you didn’t have your entire life planned out in crystalline detail and scheduled to the minute by the time you graduated kindergarten?”

Excuse me, I have to go lie down on the floor and have an existential meltdown; I don’t know if I’m having a second cup of coffee this morning and this failure of basic organizational planning skills may cause calamitous financial and structural ruin. It might also be known to cause cancer in the State of California, and I don’t know if that’s just California specifically or if I need to be concerned about this in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and I’m not caffeinated enough to deal with that level of responsibility this early in the morning.

“Art Is Always Political! Art Is About Passion And Deep Feelings And Grand World-Changing Insights! Anything Less Isn’t Art. (also, don’t expect to get paid for bringing meaning to the world, freeloader, get a real job)”

Can’t art just be for the sake of being? Why does it have to be load-bearing and responsible for the course of the world and all of history? Look, I’m a small, anxious mammal who can barely manage to be the god of my own immediate biosphere. I just want to share the random shiny things my magpie heart thought were neat, not be responsible for saving the world. Or destroying it, either, for that matter, because I guess that’s something else that artists are supposed to do?

“What do you DO?!?”

I…I don’t know? I lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling a lot? I look out the window and watch the wind walk through the trees like a great, unseen being passing by the small, soft animals of the woods, uncaring of schedules or the shifting quicksand of societal expectations, and wish I had wings to fly alongside it, even for just a moment. Sometimes I make pictures with a paste made from water and crushed up rock powder, or string bits of glass or shiny stones together. Sometimes I scratch small tales onto a bit of bark that I found while following a moth down a moonlit road because they made me smile. Sometimes I keep them, and sometimes I leave them lying around for others to find, and hope they make them smile, too. Sometimes someone finds them and takes my offerings and goes on their way. Sometimes they pause and leave a piece of shiny metal or brightly dyed fabric that I can trade to someone else for food. Sometimes they tell others where the offerings are, and they come and see, and maybe also leave a bit of metal or cloth for me to trade for food.

Most of the time, though, I worry that I’m not really an artist because I don’t write Deep Social Commentary and my art isn’t about Big Important Feelings and I forget that I poured a second cup of coffee and now it’s sitting on the counter, cooled to that annoying temperature where it tastes like ashes and now I have to decide if I’m going to make another cup before I go stare at a blank piece of paper and hope that today is one of the days where I can ignore the voices that whisper and gibber in my ear that I’m Not Real Enough and should change my name and run away to be a cashier at a rest stop gas station in the middle of the night with the other ghosts and liminal creatures…

An Ambiguous Mood In Images

While in NH recently, I stopped by my old ocean stomping grounds and took some photos. There’s a story in this series somewhere, though I haven’t quite found it yet. The sound of the waves and the reeds creaking in the sea breeze overlays them, and they, too, are part of the story…

Road Lore: Rattlesack Road

Colored woodcut print of Rattlesack Road

Rattlesack Road cuts through a marsh in northeastern Massachusetts, not far from the coast. Folks who live near it will tell you to stay out of the marsh and to avoid the road that cuts across it between sunset and sunrise. Most won’t say much more than that it’s a bad road, and leave it at that, but if pressed, there are some who will tell you it’s because of old Rattlesack Jack, who the road is named for.

Some say Jack’s a ghost, the spirit of some farmer who died badly out in the marsh. Some say his is a stolen story, reskinned over an older Indigenous tale, or historical recollection twisted out of recognition (not uncommon in New England, sadly). Others say he’s an urban legend told to scare off tourists, since the road serves as a shortcut to a local beach and year-round residents aren’t keen on having every possible road blocked up with traffic. Others still say that he’s something someone brought with them from the Old Country that made itself at home. Personally, I’m inclined toward the last, myself, given how similar the stories are to old Irish or Scottish tales of boggarts and bogles.

Conflicting origins aside, the tales are always the same, and have been for as long as anyone can remember. Local historians have found references to him in journals that date back as far as the old Colonies. Tales of traveling through the marsh after dark and having a horse throw a shoe, or a car breaking down, and hearing sounds like bones being rattled and laughter, or seeing a short, heavy-built man with long, spindly arms and legs watching them from the trees while they changed a flat tire, grinning and shaking a leather bag whose contents made a disturbing rattling sound at them until they hurried away. Even in the days of cellphones and cell towers everywhere, signal’s notoriously hard to come by in the marsh, making it all but impossible to reliably call for assistance if one finds oneself broken down, despite strong connection at either end of the road.

There are also darker tales and a centuries-long record of abandoned horses, wagons, and cars whose owners are rarely found again that’s higher than it should be for a road as out of the way as Rattlesack Road.

The thing with boggarts is that they aren’t always dangerous, generally speaking. Capricious and something to be careful of, sure, but not that much of a threat. However, giving them names? They don’t like that, and that’s when they turn malicious and become dangerous, and that sounds an awful lot like Rattlesack Jack.

(If you liked what you just read, please toss a few coins at your mostly friendly resident word-witch to help keep her little monsters fed!)

This Was Not The Post I’d Planned.

I’d originally planned to write a post about the new year and plans (or rather, vague guidelines, really), and all that, but instead I’m sitting in the waiting room of yet another emergency vet’s office, waiting to find out why Oisín vomited blood earlier this afternoon.

Burn incense to Bast or whatever works for you that my babies will stop getting sick. Not only do I really, really want my babies to be okay, I’m running out of money to pay for it all.

Back Online (sort of)

Well, the last week has been fun. Or no, not really. The massive winter storm that went across the continent on Friday knocked out our power for a few hours, but when it came back on, the internet did not. In theory, a tech will finally be coming out tomorrow to fix it, but we’ll see how that actually goes.

Of course this also happened just after I spent the better part of a week up at the Albatross House and am getting regular text notifications about showings, and generally having data burned like flash paper. Went over my limit a few days ago, which is awesome (she said, tone dripping with sarcasm).

Been needing to upgrade my data plan and phone for the last year, anyway, so now I have a new phone (Samsung S22 Ultra, because rebates and 100x zoom are an excellent pairing), and 5g with almost unlimited data, so I can get some things done now. Slowly, because typing on a phone, but better than nothing.

In celebration, here’s a photo of Púca being ridiculous the yesterday.

This Solstice Morning

The berries on the holly and the last of the summer’s wild cherries are glittering like candied fruit in the pale, thin sunlight this morning. It’s so cold that the frost is still covering everything, like the world has been dusted with powdered sugar, even though sunrise was hours ago. It is a beautiful Solstice morning, and while the afternoon will bring yet another vet appointment (Púca’s eye isn’t healing as well as it should be, even after a second round of treatment), in and around it, there will be soup and fresh bread for dinner, candles lit against the darkness, and stories enjoyed against the longest night.

Bodach is informing me that there will also be endless hours of throwing his favorite bone to chase, starting right now, so I guess I should go obey my furry overlord.