Did I Discover White Joe Pye Weed?

The Joe Pye Weed that grows around my neighborhood used to be a kind of dusky purple. Then I had a brief, stupid idea that I would grow it on purpose in my yard and so I bought some from Bates and now the Joe Pye Weed in my neighborhood is a really vibrant purple, like the kind I grew in my yard.

But lately, I have noticed this white flower, which seems very similar to Joe Pye Weed. But the leaves are a little different, so I don’t know. I am, however, excited to see how it takes off in the coming years. Right now, it’s only growing in two places on Lloyd, but Joe Pye Weed, if that’s what it is, really likes my neighborhood.

joe pye1 joe pye2

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

I did almost nothing this weekend. I mean, I did it hard. I basically sat on the couch and played Civilization until I’d crawled so far in my head I had no choice but to crawl back out. The dog and I went for walks. I read some. But basically, I spent the weekend trying to get my brain to shut off.

Which, ha, is terrible, because there will come a time when I spend days trying to get my brain to turn back on, but that’s life.

The kids saw crawdads eating a snake skin. The crows alighted on lamp posts just ahead of me. I delivered the tripping jaguar afghan and it looks perfect in the room it was made to go in. I couldn’t be more pleased.

As I was walking this morning, the mist rose out of the hills in a layer, like someone was lifting a blanket. And it reminded me of “Beyond, Behind, Below,” which, maybe, is not my best story, but it’s the best I’ve ever done saying something true about this place, right here, and how it seems like it could be.

The Tripping Jaguar Dries on My Bed

HOLY SHIT! I want to make ten of these. Maybe not ten. But damn. Damn. Damn.

finished jaguar 1

Here’s the whole thing, laying on towels, drying out.

finished jaguar 2

Here it is up closer. You can see that some of the squares aren’t lying flat, which is probably always going to be a slight issue for the afghan, unless it surprises me in the next few hours.

finished jaguar 3

I think what I really like about it is how the self-striping yarn and the imperfect nature of the squares works together to really make it seem as if all parts are interesting to look at.

finished jaguar 4

Even the back turned out really lovely.

jaguar stripes

But see what I mean? Here’s the exact same yarn, just worked up into rows. And it’s fine, possibly lovely, even. It will make a cheery baby blanket for a winter baby. But it doesn’t quite do it the way the squares do.

A Little Pride

I’m done with the tripping jaguar afghan except for the blocking (and the bragging, of course), which I will do tomorrow. I haven’t spread it completely out, but I feel like it’s amazing.

I took the left over yarn and started a baby blanket for a friend and I must say that one thing that makes me proud is that, though the baby blanket will be lovely–because it’s a lovely yarn–I don’t think it quite has the wow of the tripping jaguar afghan. So, it’s not just the yarn that makes the afghan, it’s also picking the right thing to do with the yarn. And the perfect thing to do with self-striping yarn, it turns out, are squares.

So, good for me!

Sonnyboy and the Apple Butter Incident

We try to warn people that the dog is just not that bright. And, invariably, people think we’re just being mean. Until they hang out with him a while. No, people, we’re just trying to give you fair warning.

This weekend, we had company and the Butcher made pork chops finished with an apple butter glaze (or glaze-ish thing anyway. We’re not fancy.) And at one point, he flung an apple butter glazed piece of pork at the dog and it hit him square in the head and left a large pile of apple butter on him, like a small, messy hat. He didn’t care. He was not fazed in the least by his baptism by apple butter.

Other people tried to just feed him pork, but he couldn’t figure out that, when pork drops to the ground, it’s then there on the ground where one might find it and eat it.

This morning, we saw a news story about a lab who’s been trained to sniff out electrical equipment, who found Subway Jarrod’s thumb drive of child porn (how’s that for a disgusting, strange sentence?). And we both looked over at our dog, clearly thinking that a man who can’t find the pork chop that had once been in your hand and was now on the ground is not finding a thumb drive.

Good thing he’s so sweet.

Devil Dance Blues by Sippie Wallace

I can’t find any online lyrics for this and I think I might need them. Help me, sharper-eared folks!

I had a dream last night and it filled me full of fright.

I had a dream last night. It filled me full of fright.

I dreamed I was in the dancehall where the Devil dance at night.

I saw the sweet Mrs. Devil standing in her home (? Possibly she’s saying “Sweet Mister Devil” but then I don’t know where he’s standing.)

I saw the sweet Mrs. Devil standing in her home

He was out with the Devil band. He was giving a ball. (This whole verse seems like it might be wrong.)

He had on a robe that was that was made of crow(?)

He had on a robe that was made made of bone(?) (It seems unlikely that he was wearing a robe of crow and bone, but my god, I hope so. A Robe of Crow and Bone is the name of a book, I tell you.)

I never seen no Devil look so sweet before.

It was a dream a dream I never had before.

It was a dream a dream I never had before.

I dream we all was dancing and put on a great big show.


I finished piecing the afghan together last night and I’m into the border. I’ll be able to block it this weekend! I’m pleased with both how light it is and how warm. I guess that’s wool for you.

It’s really beautiful. I am pleased. Anyway, pictures when it’s done.

Old Habits

This morning, as I was getting out of my car, absentmindedly thinking about the dream I had and wondering if my subconscious is trying to just plainly tell me that I’m bad in bed, I reached down to push in the knob to turn my headlights off.

I have not owned a car that had headlights like that since I was seventeen. But I still floundered, confused, this morning when my hand didn’t find purchase on that knob. And then spent a moment being confused about just what the fuck my hand was doing.

I sometimes think that my memory works like the veins of coal under Illinois, shallow at the near end, shallow at the far end and too far down to reach in the middle. I have taken painful things and willed them down the hole, so to speak, sent them away. But I know they’ll come back eventually.

I mean, I reached for a thing today I haven’t touched in twenty-four years. And I recently realized I can picture exactly how T.’s blond stubble sparkled in the sunlight again.

I feel weird. Painfully weird. I think that’s a memory as well, come back to me as real as ever.

You can see why people believe in reincarnation. It feels like everything circles round and round in a life. Why would a life not circle round itself?

Paul Heyman and Dreams

The guys are back watching wrestling again, which means I am, kind of, too. I had turned away for a long time because I felt like I was just watching people slowly killing themselves and, potentially, setting themselves up to kill others. Chris Benoit.

I still kind of feel that way.

But man, I love watching Paul Heyman, who doesn’t wrestle. He doesn’t do anything but shoot of his big mouth. And it’s glorious. I feel like you rarely see a man be such a perfect fit for the job he has, but dude is it.

I had a long, drawn-out nightmare about being terrible in bed, but with a partner too polite to say anything. And even typing that sentence makes me laugh. If ever there were a hangup I have about things, it’s being allowed to do them even when I’m terrible at them, everyone knowing I’m terrible, and people being too nice to say so.

Taunt me with something original, subconscious. God.

Sour and Worry

Last night, I got a rejection. I feel like I’m at the point where a rejection feels more like touching the sore spot on your face, rather than getting punched, but it’s still unpleasant. It tastes sour.

On Twitter right now, someone is railing against stories that feature rape and I am sitting here in response, fretting about Ashland, which is, at its heart, a story about American slavery, and thus a story about rape. It is also a story about a kind of abuse there’s not a word for but that lays along those same lines.

I worry a lot about Ashland, mostly about whether I have the chops to pull it off and whether, if I do, anyone will want it.

But, to me, an important theme of the story is the ways in which we talk about American slavery as if it was something terrible white people did to black people a long time ago–“we” did to “them”–where we draw this firm line and push all the burden of reckoning with it off on the victims and their descendants while we assume white people pretty much came out of slavery, the perpetration of slavery, scot-free.

I assume this is a lie. An obvious lie we should all be able to recognize. Slavery was something people did to their own children, to their own nieces and nephews. A man who could sell his own child when he knew what men did to slaves, which he did because he was doing it, that man had to, by definition, be capable of doing anything to his children. So why wouldn’t he?

The heart, or a heart, of Ashland is the horror inherent in the assumption that whiteness is any protection from that kind of evil, how assuming that whiteness will protect you actually makes you an easy victim for the villain. And how that kind of destructive abuse echos on down to us, even now.


I got the potato salad made, but then I went to the state museum with the Butcher, his girlfriend, and her kids, which was much more fun than vacuuming. I did finish the squares on the tripping jaguar afghan and I’ve begun putting them together. I am really, really pleased. It’s really gorgeous and I can’t wait to see it finished.

Can It Happen?!

I need to make potato salad, clean the bathroom, and vacuum. I really want to finish this afghan.

Can it all happen?

I doubt it. I have a lot left of the afghan. But I’m close enough to taste the end.

Yes, I’m tasting my afghan. What of it?

In Which We Go to the Dog Park

I read once that dogs don’t really like the dog park. Supposedly, they find it stressful to have to negotiate a crowd of other dogs. I took today off to read through Ashland one more time before sending it to my readers. The dog stepped on my toes jumping on the couch. There was a loud pop. Then excruciating pain.

The excruciating pain subsided, so I don’t think anything’s broken, but I imagine I’m going to have a hell of a bruise.

So, fuck you, dog, we’re going to the dog park.

But I think it went okay. for the first third of our time there, he completely ignored me. He ran all over. He sniffed a bunch of butts. He pretended he didn’t know his name. He pooped so far under a tree that I could not retrieve it. Sorry about that, people of Donelson. But then they have this very lovely walking trail and he seemed to finally get the hang of me wanting him to walk with me. And so we did. And it was lovely.

But then, the minute another interesting dog caught his eye, he was off, like a shot out of a cannon, paying no attention to anything I was saying. The Butcher has voice command of him. I simply and obviously do not. All I have going for me is that, in the end, he likes to hang out with me. So, after he stepped in all the water containers, he was eager to come home with me.

And now, I’m going to be brave and send the manuscript.

There are No Rules

As an aside, I’ll just say that I only have seven more blocks to go! I’m really excited about piecing this together and seeing how it turns out. And seeing if I have enough yarn to put it together…

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Josh Duggar. Well, no, I’ve been mostly thinking about his wife and wondering if she’s going to be able to overcome her upbringing and do the things that will protect her children from a guy who has touched children before and who lies about his current immoral activities.

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s weird to still be concerned about morality. What I even mean by morality. But I think I mean something like morality being the things we agree to hold each other to that are not harmful to us but help guide us to be kinder and more generous than we might otherwise be. I know I’m using “morality” to mean something very different than what the Duggars do.

But I’m mostly fascinated because it’s interesting to me to see these folks living by a set of rules they would impose, and in fact are working to impose, on the rest of us, under the guise of it being for our own good. And it seems to me that there’s a pretty clear promise, a very attractive promise, that, if you follow these rules, your life will turn out okay. That’s what people are buying into, the idea that there’s some right way to live and, if you can suss out what it is and do it, everything will be okay.

At a point like this, do they just try harder to live the right way? Is there some moment where they might realize that they’ve been doing something wrong? And/or could they realize that the whole premise is a lie? There is no secret path that, if you can discover it and follow it, will guarantee that your life will work for you.

There is only striving and questioning and failing and trying again. That’s why other people try to teach their kids to be curious, critical thinkers, even if it means they’re occasionally bratty monsters. This is why feminism, even if women are often bratty monsters. Because people have to make their own ways in the world and it’s easier if they have some sense of themselves as being capable of it.

The kind of lifestyle the Duggars promote gives an illusion of safety and certainty. But look at Josh’s wife. If she follows the tenets of her religion, her family is not safe and its future is uncertain, because Josh is a terrible leader. And she could sit around hoping that, somehow he figures it all out and becomes a good leader and deserving of the loyalty she believes a wife should show the head of her household, but every day she spends waiting for that to happen is a day her children are at risk.

I don’t think she’ll do the right thing, because the right thing in these circumstances is considered wrong and sinful by her religion and her family (and his), so even seeing it as the right thing or an actual possible thing, would be very difficult for her. But I hope.


I haven’t been able to get on Tiny Cat Pants at work this week. It’s not actually blocked. They claim there’s some server misconfiguration, but I miss blogging at lunch!

Today I realized that, if our orange cat were a person, he’d be able to get his learners permit.

I had lunch with Sara yesterday and I poured out my book so she could tell me it sounded like a plausible book and not something I needed to trash, change my name, and move away over.

I want to write something about John Murrell and I wonder if I have time to do so.

Bah, I’m scattered and unfocused.

It Never Gets Out of Me

I’ve probably talked about this a million times already, but I love this song. I was listening to it yesterday and not only do I love the guitar part which has a little unexpected swinging kick to it, and I love how she’s like, “what you do to me, baby, it never gets out of me.” Whew. It just blows my mind. It sounds like the truth about certain people.

But it also may be the only song I can think of where a mother-in-law is mentioned positively, as someone who might be on the side of the singer.

This is one of the songs I’m most curious about hearing the original women do it live, because there definitely is something about it that, recorded, seems kind of dour, but I wonder about, in a crowd, if people are dancing real close and slyly.

Draft Done

I have a draft of Ashland. I have all kinds of massive, massive insecurities about it. It’s not a real book, because real books don’t tell history that way. If I had enough confidence in my narrator and her voice, I wouldn’t be worried about how she tells history. My narrator doesn’t do enough. It’s stupid. No one will like it. My beta readers will tell me I’ve wasted my time and my dreams are dumb.

Or the worst: that it needs a little *something* but none of them and none of me know what.

So, ha ha ha, obviously, I’m not sending it to them yet. This weekend, I was talking to a friend and I was acknowledging that there’s just all kinds of writerly nonsense that everyone does. Like “fuck you, you’re wrong, and you just don’t appreciate my genius!” when you have asked someone for a critique. Or, like the nonsense in the first paragraph. There’s some stuff that you just have to feel and say and do, but you don’t inflict them on others.

You stomp around your kitchen or you yell them to the dog or you do like I do here and write them out so you can see whether they’re legitimate things or just undermining things that keep you from doing the work. Because, if you want the work to be better, if you want to be a better writer, you have to acknowledge you have all these feelings and that, even, they suck. And then you have to put them aside and send the thing anyway or take the critique to heart and see if it is what your work needed. And your readers, at least at this stage, can’t help you with the difficult work if you’re being a baby.

Think of it this way. Say you were in a library and a large book with stiff pages fell off the shelf and impaled you in the stomach. You run up to your friends and you say, “Help, I have this book stuck inside me!” It’s going to hurt when they help you yank it out, but it must come out and, if you thrash about and knock them in the face, they’re going to back off and tell you to find someone else to help you get the book out.

Same thing. So, I’m thrashing about now and will ask for help in a bit.

So Very Close, So Not Close

I had to lay out the tripping jaguar afghan to motivate myself into believing that it is close and that it will eventually be done. I just have fourteen more squares to do. I think it’s really amazing looking. I’m not blocking the individual squares before I sew them together. I may regret that, but I figure the seams will help pull the squares square in the end. Plus, I have a spot I can dry the afghan–the bed covered in towels. I don’t have a good place to block 63 individual squares. Well, except the bed. But, damn it, I’m not blocking the same square twice!!!

Anyway, I’m pleased with how this is going. It reminds me of some modernist artist’s work, but I can’t place who. I was thinking Klimt but I looked through his gallery and no, that’s definitely not it.

I think my favorite thing about this color scheme is that it looks like the colors metals become as they oxidize. Some scientist is going to look at this and go–copper, iron, brass, etc.

jaguar 14 shy

For Exposure

I finally finished Jason Sizemore’s For Exposure:The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, which I have been trying to read for the past three weeks. But I’ve literally gotten no reading done in my effort to my writing and my afghan done.

Anyway, the book is a really good overview of what it takes to run a small press and I say that as someone who works at a small press in an entirely different context. Especially relevant, I thought, was the discussion about how your successes can jam you up just as much as your failures. The best part about the book is that, as Sizemore’s telling his stories, the people involved in the story are given room for rebuttal. Sometimes it’s just a snarky footnote, but often they get a chance to tell the story you just read from their perspective.

Which means I got to not only read about Sara Harvey being a literal angel, I then got to read her more modest but also funny take on the same story.

Anyway, good times.


I think being a writer is a bit akin to being the coyote in the road runner cartoons. There’s a cliff and you have a catapult, and writing is you getting into that catapult and trying to launch yourself to the top of that cliff. But, since, as a coyote, you don’t know physics, you just have to fling yourself at the cliff face and make adjustments based on where you hit. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Oops, I made it.

Then you walk a little farther forward and there’s another catapult and another cliff. No one can take away from you that you made it this far, but the only way forward is to just do some more time hitting the wall.

I’m almost to the point where the only major revision I have to do to Ashland before sending it to my beta readers is to fix the ending. It was okay that the ending didn’t quite blow me away when it was written. And it was allowed to suck while I was adding stuff that needed to be added, because the additional stuff might suggest something about the shape of the ending. But we’re rapidly coming to the point where the ending can’t just lay there like a tired dog anymore. It’s got to get up, run around, and be terrible and delightful.

I don’t know how to do that. So, I’m preparing, mentally, to throw myself against the rocks again and again.

Oh, Oh

You guys, I love this song so much. Even though it’s not objectively that great. But it makes me happy and the video is adorable.

Some Observations

–Since I only have seventeen more squares to go, I feel like I’m almost at the end of the tripping jaguar afghan. But I can only do two or three squares a night, which means I’m still quite a way from the end of the afghan. I am now in the portion of the afghan I hate. I mean, I hate this afghan. I will love it again the first time I spread the squares all out on my bed and get a sense of what the final thing will look like. And I’ll love it the most when it’s all put together and drying and looks fantastic. But right now, every time I look at it, I’m just like “Seventeen is not that many. Why are you taking so long?!”

–I didn’t get Birdman. I mean, I got it. But, for me, it was like an overly elaborate kite that didn’t ever catch wind. The Butcher loved it. He laughed at parts the rest of us didn’t laugh at. He marveled at things. He was wowed by the ending. The Red-Headed Kid liked it, but the ending pissed him off so much that he went on this rant and then stormed out of the house.

–The Butcher thinks we should get a corgi that we could use to round up Sonnyboy when he runs off to the neighbor’s.