Put Out the Fire

I meant to do some book release thing yesterday, but I got on Facebook and noticed my homeland was on fire! 

I was a little kid in San Francisco, and then my parents divorced and my dad remarried. I moved with my dad, my stepmother and my new older sisters to Sonoma County when I was five. I went to high school in Sebastopol. And you know how your Facebook is full of people you went to high school with? Well, mine is, too, and so my FB feed was a really weird mix of people reporting themselves safe, asking after their parents, asking after their lost pets, lamenting their lost home, posting horrific pictures, and then all of my newer, Midwesterern friends weighing in on if people should kneel during the anthem at football games. And something about Mike Pence, pictures of the fall colors in Wisconsin… Surreal.

Posted by a Facebook friend (i.e. someone I forgot about from high school.)

I called my dad. He’s fine. Rumors were flying all day that Sebastopol was on fire, but as far as I can tell, it wasn’t. I video chatted with Zgjenyue (of Avoiding Sex with Frenchmen fame), and she was at her parents’ house in Sebastopol. She lives in Santa Rosa. She showed Zanimal at I all of the falling debris in Sebastopol (which is 5-10 miles west of Santa Rosa). The air looked a dingy yellow in the picture. Everything was covered in soot and ash. She posted a picture on FB of some of the stuff falling from the sky, and then I guess she thought better of it, because it wasn’t there now when I just looked, but there was just burnt up pieces of junk mail flying around. Again, It was surreal.

And then there were the actual fire pictures, which I am sure you can look up yourself. But the worst was that one of the neighborhood in Santa Rosa that was just  completely gone:

and then one of my FB acquaintances had circled a spot and written, “my house.” I can’t even imagine. (Posting the picture without the circle ^^^^.)

It’s a lot to take in, even from afar. I live in the Midwest these days. It’s hard to get information. Are the fires under control, now? I don’t know. Why were there so many fires at once?

My high school gym is a shelter for fire victims:

Photo by Iris Dunkle. (Go Analy!)

It’s pretty surreal to see that place where you had all of those pep rallies and mock elections- we had this crazy convention every year for class president- and now it’s full of cots! My older sisters’ high school, Casa Grande in Petaluma, is also being used as a shelter. Some of the other schools actually have burned.

Take care, Sonoma County.

MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY

For a long time now- a few years, maybe- I’ve been thinking in the back of my mind how cool it would be to send people little notes and pictures, on scraps of paper. Like, if I had infinite resources, I would mail people postcards with tiny instructions. Or a poem. Or a story that made them think about something they never considered before. Something short, and unexpected, something to take a person out of time for a moment, and make that person appreciate that moment. Appreciate this lovely magic that is being alive. Even if it were because of sadness.

There’s a weekly email I get from this man, M. Van Vleet  where he tells little stories and he’s an interesting dude, in general. He’s written books. I can’t describe him. But in any case, he has sent me a few postcards. Each time, it was unexpected. I think once or twice, I entered a contest he had, and won, and the prize was just this silly postcard. One of them was a postcard of an old timey movie poster with a scantily clad lady hanging from a rope and monsters around her, I think. M. Van Vleet wrote me a short, kind message on the other side.

The joy I received from this postcard was completely disproportionate to the thing that it was. I should not have been so excited! But I was. I don’t know why, but if I could guess, I would say it was because I wasn’t expecting it. And because it was mysterious, from someone I sort of know but don’t. Because it was beautiful in a campy, nostalgic way. And maybe most of all, because I could hold it in my hand. It was a human connection that did not involve a screen like the one you are looking at now.

There’s a book I read over and over again as a teenager, that I don’t want to read again now, because I think it would spoil it. The book is, of course, Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse. Why I, as a thirteen-year-old American girl, related so much to a middle-aged man in Germany, I have no idea. I guess it is a credit to the talent of the great Hermann Hesse. I read that book over and over again. What I liked most about it was the magic. Underneath the streets was another place, where Harry didn’t belong, but he went there, anyway. The sign above the door said, “MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY.”

It’s sort of a trick, really. Magic is for everybody. But the sign makes you feel special, like you might be the only one who will be worthy. Or maybe it makes you afraid- will they let you in?

Underneath that, in a reflection, are the words,

“FOR MADMEN ONLY!”

And with those words, Hesse took everyone who’d ever felt they didn’t belong, and he pulled them under his wing. (What kind of wing would he have had? A bat wing? A crow? Perhaps he had wings like a raven. What I wouldn’t give to have a cup of tea with Hermann Hesse.)

Ever since then, I’ve been longing for the day when I am walking down the street, and I find a little door- a door that I have, curiously, never seen before, although I’ve walked this street a million times before, and over the little door is a sign, “MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY.” I’ve been walking and looking for thirty years, and I have never seen the sign.

But I have seen other things.

I have seen other things, but rarely on the internet. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but rarely. All of the magic seems to happen in that IRL space, where our meat bodies meet. Where you hobble out to your mailbox, and you open a letter and see a familiar scrawl. A doodle.  A note from the great beyond.

I have come to believe that we need to add magic to the world. Coloring Inside the Dreams was my attempt at that. I labeled it a coloring book, but it really was a love letter to the nearly lost art of creating magic. (Ironically for sale at Amazon.com.)

I’ve been wanting, for a long time, to do something not so public. Not on the internet. Just sending letters. Notes and pictures. To people like you. I want to write you a little poem, or give you some strange instructions. A dare. Or maybe a story that is from the great beyond. Ethereal. You read it, then maybe you lose it. But you remember it. A glimmer. A reflection on a sidewalk. A sign, over a little door.

MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY

But I always came up against the sad fact of money. Stamps and paper and ink. They cost money. And my time. Darn. But it does, right? That’s just how it is. Everything costs money. Although, not too expensive, actually. Just a little money.

So… I have created a doorway, now. I’ve got a Patreon account. To support magic. (What have we come to? I know. I know.) And there’s a few levels, because I know some people really do like my coloring books, so you can pay a little bit and see what lies beyond the little magic door (receive scraps of paper from me once a month, always including a pen and ink drawing and some writing), or you can pay a bit more and receive the letters plus all of my books, coloring and whatever else, whenever I print them. Two copies: one to color and one to keep. They will be mailed straight to you, no Amazon involved.

Open the door.
Open the door to magic.

I think perhaps one person will sign up, and you will be very special.

Back when I was pretty, then not pretty, then pretty, then not pretty…

When the Zanimal was in preschool and still called Little Z, we used to ride together in the morning. I would take her to preschool, and then go on to work. She went through this phase when she was three or four years old, when she would tell me when I looked pretty, and when I did not look pretty.

“You are pretty today,” she would say.

“Oh, thank you.”

“Why do you say, ‘thank you’?” she asked.

“It’s a nice thing to say.”

“Oh.”

Then, another day, she would say,

“You are not pretty today.”

What?! I was so hurt.

“That’s not a nice thing to say. You shouldn’t say that.”

“Why not say that? It’s just a fact,” she said.

“It’s just a fact that I’m not pretty?!”

“Yes.”

I was so hurt, I couldn’t respond.

But then, the next day, she might say that I was pretty again. And then the next day, not pretty. And so on. I could never convince her to stop saying it out loud when I was “not pretty.” I resigned myself to the fact that I had somehow produced a monster.

Then, after a long time, I started to see a pattern. I had an idea.

“Do you just say that I’m ‘pretty’ when I’m wearing a dress or a skirt, and I’m ‘not pretty’ when I’m not wearing a dress or a skirt?”

She looked at me like I was the biggest idiot in the universe.

“Yes,” she said. “Pretty ladies wear dresses.”

Oh. My. God.

Pretty.
Not pretty.

I think about this experience from time to time. I wonder how many other things I’ve taken personally that weren’t really meant that way at all?

Donkey Day(s?)

Donkey Day is a holiday my Grandma Ruth made up, because she’s awesome that way. Donkey Day is that special time of year when you take all of your donkey figurines out of the closet, and arrange them decoratively around your home! Display them proudly for all of the donkey days. (I don’t remember when donkey days begin or end, so you’ll have to improvise on this. I’m not even sure if it’s one day or a week, ask Grandma.) Then, when donkey days are over, put all of your beautiful donkey figurines back into the drawer, and save them for next year. That’s Donkey Day! 


Zurgioch the Last Unicorn

The Cat and Crow ordered another weird wooly creature sculpture from me. That was a while ago. It was summertime, and impossible to find time to do a large creative project without someone asking, “What are you doing? Why are you doing that? Who is it for? That doesn’t look like a unicorn!” Etc. So now that school has finally gone back into session, I had time to do a new wooly creature for the Cat and Crow.

 

Her name is Zurgioch. I don’t know why. That’s just what she told me. Continue reading →

T-Rex in High Heels

My coloring book fans are goofy! I guess that isn’t surprising. In the Artsy Fartsy Coloring with Shoshanah Marohn group on Facebook, I’m running a contest where the prize is that you get to tell me what to draw! Tina won (there can be more than one winner) and she wanted me to draw a T-Rex in high heels, running from a lady with a flare. (She thought it was stupid how the lady in Jurassic World ran, like, forty miles in high heels, so she wanted me to balance the scales a little.) 


Marilyn was actually the first to win, and she asked me to draw a circus poster for a guy boxing a kangaroo. 

Join the group if you like. I recommend it. You can be a lurker, or a full on coloring artist. I appreciate everyone.

Color Henry David Thoreau with a Wood Trush

from Birds in Beards 2: Dead Poets Edition

Henry David Thoreau by Shoshanah Marohn

Thoreau is kind of a cheat. He wasn’t a poet. I just thought, what a weird beard!

“This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning.”

-Henry David Thoreau, June 1853, writing about a Wood Thrush

Buy the book here. PDF version here

Color Luís Vaz de Camões with a Halcyon

Poet Luís Vaz de Camões

According to my friend Rui Afonso: XVI century… self exiled in military in North Africa due to an unrequited love. Lost his eye but lived to write the Epic poem that tells the story of the Portuguese Discoveries.

Poems don’t translate well, but here is a poem of his in Portuguese (Don’t speak Portuguese? Learn it!):

As Alcióneas aves triste canto
Junto da costa brava levantaram,
Lembrando-se do seu passado pranto,
Que as furiosas águas lhe causaram.
Os delfins namorados entretanto
Lá nas covas marítimas entraram,
Fugindo à tempestade e ventos duros,
Que nem no fundo os deixa estar seguros.

“Os Lusiadas” – Canto VI, Stanza 77
Buy the book here.  PDF version here.