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Don’t Look in the Pasture

We got new sheep on Sunday. Two lambs, a black and a white one, and then an old sheep named Sofi. Sofi was Melissa’s pet. All three of these sheep are adorable and very sheep like. They don’t have horns or anything, like our other ones. The new ones are Corriedales. Zanimal wanted to take care of the new sheep, so I didn’t feed them today. I just looked at them over the fence, and decided they looked fine.

After Zanimal got home from school, she immediately went out to feed the new sheep some hay and corn. And then came back with a strange and horrified look on her face.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah, but… there’s some pigs or something dead in the pasture? I don’t really know what they are.”

“Maybe they are half eaten pumpkins?” I said.

“Then why do they have hooves?”

We went out to investigate. And, inside the small pasture where we are keeping Sofi and the two lambs, there were… ugh. Weird looking dead things. Looking up close, I decided they were deformed, hairless lambs that Sofi must have birthed. Sofi watched from a distance. So did Zanimal. The pink things had hoofs, and tails, and they had no hair, but they were just the right shape for lambs, except they had some deformity in the face. It was like their jaw bones were soft as pudding.

Both were clearly dead.

Looking at them, I could so easily see how people in old times believed in witches and strange, terrifying things in the night. And terrifying things in the day the day. I was queasy and I asked if Zanimal was okay.

“Yeah, I just want to go play Minecraft now,” she said.

So, I found a container with a lid. I put them into it. I carried it across the yard, and I started to dig a hole.

It takes an incredibly long time to dig a hole. It’s a pet peeve of mine in movies, how little time it seems to take people to dig a hole. Digging a hole to bury something (or someone) is difficult and time consuming. Sometimes, the ground is so hard that you just can’t dig a hole at all. I would like to see a murder mystery show where the entire program, the person is just desperately trying to dig a hole and failing at it. But I digress…

I dug the hole and them put them into it. I apologized to them.

“I’m so sorry. You just weren’t meant to live in this world.”

Then I covered them with dirt.

I reflected that, if they were just a little bit more deformed, I could have put them in a glass jar and sold them to some perverse curiosity shop, probably in San Francisco.

A petting zoo up the road lets people pay to come and watch sheep be born. Those people who own the petting zoo are insane. So much can go wrong! And when it goes wrong, it goes so, so wrong.

My friend Jane used to have sheep, before the internet. She once had a sheep born with two heads. It lived for a couple of weeks. They fed it with a bottle.

“The only problem,” she said, “was that we didn’t know which head to feed.”

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In the Trunk of My Car

An old friend, Keith, posted this on Facebook. I’m so glad there are pictures. I have thought about this trip a lot, over the years, especially whenever I went to Albuquerque. It was starting to take on a fever-dream like quality. Did it really happen? How could I drive to Albuquerque with three people in my trunk? And then sleep through the balloon launch? Because we were up too late lighting farts on fire in a fifth wheel camper?! How was that even possible ? Must have been a dream. But no, here is photographic proof! It really happened!

Durango to Albuquerque in a two-seater Ford EXP. Two people on the trip aren’t in the picture. I’m the driver. I’m told Alice’s mom (Alice is the one with the curls) got her a car, after she heard she rode all the way to Albuquerque in the trunk of my car. At least it was a hatch back.

That car had a long history of having all my friends stuffed in the trunk. This is when it was new (me and my friends in the back, 1982-ish, Grandpa taking us out to ice cream):

Left to right: Rachel, Nikki, Robyn, “Little Shana,” and me, “Big Shana.”

Grandpa would drive us the whole way across Petaluma to Tuttle Drug, with the trunk open, and we would tap the hatch up with our hands constantly, to keep it from closing on us. We had to be vigilant especially going over bumps and railroad tracks, as it would just close on us. We all did our part except for Little Shana. We decided that Little Shana didn’t have to keep the hatch open, because she was little (thus the name), and her arms weren’t long enough. This must have been where I got the idea that you don’t have to just have two people in the EXP.

On the Albuquerque trip, we had five people, including me. One in the driver seat, one in the passenger seat, and then the three in back laid down with their feet in the trunk, their heads up by us. We must have put pillows under their heads- or maybe we stored our clothes under their heads? I don’t know how we had room for any luggage! It was a weekend trip.

The car was a Ford EXP, which looked like a Mustang, but had the engine of an Escort and only two seats. Over the maybe sixteen months that I owned and drove it, I had countless men explain to me that I did not have an EXP, that there was no such thing, that I clearly had a Mustang. Sometimes, I would be in the act of giving the man a ride home when he would explain this to me.

Ah, the good old days.

Twenty-three years ago next week, I was driving the EXP alone across the Mojave Desert, outside of Joshua Tree. I reached down to get my water bottle, accidentally drove the car briefly off the shoulder, where I hit some sand. On the sand, I lost all traction, going 65 MPH on the two-lane desert highway. It sent me into a spin, and then I rolled the car twice over, landing it upright. I was fine. The EXP was totaled- every part of it crushed together flat, except for where I had been sitting.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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! 


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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 Zurgioch the Last Unicorn

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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.

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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