Saturday, September 19, 2015

Snapshots: Spring or Fall?

The sky is clear and cerulean, so blue that it seems unreal.

In the field across from my balcony, the ragweed, which I've been blaming for my fatigue and sinus issues these last few days, is almost insultingly yellow.

But the trees and grasses are deep green, lush from the rain that's fallen over the last few weeks. The sun, hot as a beach sun on my skin, is made bearable by a soft breeze.

It's September. But for a certain slant of light and a peculiar--almost cloying--sweetness in the air, it could be April. The year could just as easily be turning toward summer as to the short, cold days of winter.

I'm trying my best to enjoy the pleasure of warm, sunny days while they last. It's not unlike draining a glass of your favorite drink to the dregs, savoring the taste on your lips, sure and yet unsure—as all living things—that you'll be able to have this experience again.

Spring or fall. Favorite seasons or not so favorite seasons. I'm teaching myself to find more pleasure in the small moments.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Strange Intimacies

For a while (seriously, maybe the last year; on and off for longer), I'd been wanting to get my nose pierced. Just your average nostril piercing, something different yet subtle enough for both my personality and my professional path in life (however it turns out).

I went ahead with it a few weeks ago.

We'd gone downtown to scope out a tattoo and piercing shop to do a little research and reconnaissance. So, while we were there, I thought: why not? No time like the present.

All my previous piercings, which only involve my ears, were done (and I cringe at this) by gun. The first set when I was baby; I don't remember it at all. The second set and single-third, when I was 15. This was my first time actually being pierced the proper way: with a needle.

And there is something strangely intimate about paying someone to shove a needle through your flesh, particularly the flesh of your nose. (I imagine it's an even stranger intimacy for something like nipples, labia or penis.) I'm one of those people who carefully cultivates a bubble of personal space; few people are allowed entrance (and some of them only out of medical necessity, see: yearly check ups), so for me there was a definite sense of having my personal bubble invaded. 

But the strange intimacy was worth it. I now have a pretty little faux opal (fauxpal) stud in my nose. It's my marker for getting through my first year of graduate school.

And now, I am anxiously awaiting the end of the healing process so that I can experiment with different jewelry.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Jekyll Island and 400 Year Old Oaks (Or: What I Did on My Summer Vacation)

I had a month off between the spring and summer semesters of grad school. (As I type this, I'm nearing the halfway point of the program!) So my husband I decided to take a little jaunt down to my favorite little island off the coast of south Georgia.

Jekyll Island is one of the Golden Islands of Georgia, a collection of four barrier islands off the coast of the port city of Brunswick.

It is, in many ways, a home away from home. I spent a lot of weekend summer days there as a kid, when we lived two hours west in Valdosta.

I digress. 

The shoreline of a beach, edged with tall trees.
Driftwood Beach
We stayed on the northern end of the island, in a resort next to the aptly named Driftwood Beach, which is the only portion of beach (at that resort) accessible at high tide.

And it is hauntingly lovely.

A tree graveyard.

Time and tide have eroded the soil on this part of the island, baring the gnarled roots of old oaks.

An oak tree, stripped of leaves and bark, laying on its side in the tide.
Gnarled oak in the tide
Battered by wind and rain and tides, eventually the trees topple over, revealing their amazingly intricate root systems and creating some really marvelous atmosphere.

This is the kind of beach I imagine is haunted by the memory of shipwrecks and drowned sailors.

The kind of beach on which pirates take sabbatical.

It's the kind of beach where you might nudge aside a loose piece of driftwood with your bare toe and reveal something inexplicably strange or beautiful.

Perhaps a tiny blue crab staring up at you with a peculiar cleverness about its face.

An oak tree laying on its side on the beach. The roots can be seen sticking out of the water.
Fallen oak on the beach
A doubloon crusted in a hundred years worth of sea mud.

A small white clam that, when opened, spills out more brine than it could conceivably hold, followed by a water logged letter, written in a copperplate hand and a language that doesn't exist.

Or maybe the shell of a moon snail, in all its rainbow finery, looped through a green chain of woven sea grasses.

There's a whole other world in the ocean. Under the ocean.

And the beach itself is a 'tween place. That's an "in between place" in faery lore. A place where you're in two worlds at once. The land and the water.

Who knows what might wash up?

An oak tree, with no leaves or bark, rising up from the water.
Old oak, still standing, amid the rising tide

I could wax poetic about the beach and the ocean for hours. But I won't.

We couldn't spend all day, every day playing in the water. (Well, I could, but....) So, eventually, we tore ourselves away from the tide to spend some time exploring the rest of the island, including the Historic District. 

At some point, I learned that this district is home to the island's oldest oak tree. An (at least) 350 year old majestic thing called The Plantation Oak.

On our second to last day on the island, we went searching for it. After an hour of wandering around, seeing a lot of large trees but none labeled the oldest on the island, we took a break at the island bookstore.

The bookstore is tucked inside what used to be the old infirmary. You enter through a very large and heavy wooden door that slams closed behind you if you're not careful.

There, my husband came across a book about Jekyll, with a mention of the great tree we were hunting. But even the book, with its pictures, was a little vague about the location.

Fortified by cool air and a more obvious place to look, we made our way back to Old Plantation Road. And after stubbornly canvasing the area for fifteen minutes, we found the tree.

(Astonishingly, there is only one sign for this great old tree and it's right near the trunk, tucked away in the thicket of sweeping branches.)

The Plantation Oak is between 350 and 400 years old and 112 feet high. It's trunk is massive and its limbs span the length of several cars put end-to-end. (They would be perfect for lounging. If it weren't for the bugs.)

Large oak with spanish moss and long limbs.

(Top) The Plantation Oak (Bottom)

The thick trunk and branches of an oak, layered with spanish moss.

And since I don't think such a beautiful tree is to be missed, I'll tell you where to find it.

The Plantation Tree is on Old Plantation Road in the Historic District. It's next to the Courtyard at Crane (also called Crane Cottage) in between the cottage and the old foundation of a swimming pool that is guarded by two stone lions.

I spent some minutes with the tree, taking pictures and just generally....communing. It's impressive to find something that old, especially on an island that is occasionally wracked by hurricanes (though I believe the last one to hit hard was in the late 1800s).

The rest of us could only hope for a similar longevity.

Anyway. The finding of the great tree marked the descending point for our beach trip. We spend the next day exploring a few of the nooks and crannies on St. Simon's island, before heading back to our room and then playing in the waves for one last evening.

The top portion of a moon snail shell, bleached white from the sun.
Moon Snail Shell
I brought back more shells than I needed, including a piece of a moon snail that I'd found tucked up against one of the large chunks of driftwood. (It was only on this trip that I learned what a moon snail was. I never expected to find a shell, even a piece of one.)

Also accompanying me home were a good sized whelk shell (found empty at low tide) which still has the scent of mud and sulfurous Georgia water clinging to it, and a smaller, more fragile whelk shell whose occupant had likely been pried out through an impressive hole in the exoskeleton.
A small whelk shell with a hole in the center.
Whelk Shell

And so my seaside adventures came to an end, for another year.  (Or possibly longer, as we may be on the other side of the country next summer and at least 16 hours from a coast).

On a related note, I have to confess.

I think I'm already planning my retirement location. (Not that I think I'll ever actually get to retire, the economy and world being what it is.)

But even if I spend my golden years working from home....I could think of no better place to do it than with the ocean and, maybe, the spectacular Driftwood Beach, just outside my door.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Whats, Whens and Wherefores (Summer Update)

Beach shoreline. Sand is separated from the water by large boulders.
Lonely stretch of beach. Jekyll Island.
Where have I been? What have I been doing? Am I okay?

I am okay.

Mostly, I've been in my office, glued to my desk and desktop. When not there, I have been in the disability service's office glued to that desk, desktop and phone. (And let me say, this is technically my first time working directly with the public - aside from my venture as a student technology assistant when I was an undergrad - and it's been interesting. Fodder for writing, at the least.)

Happily, I have survived my second semester of grad school. In fact, I did a little better than survive, I passed both my classes with high marks and kept my 4.0 GPA and most of my sanity (though it did take a vacation for the last few weeks of class, which probably resulted in a better performance when I had to present....).

While I haven't been blogging much - specifically, blogging fiction much - I have been writing my happy little heart out when I can eek out the time. I am missing participating in writing prompts within some of my favored communities - Studio30 and Story Dam, to name a few.

I hope to join back up with them a bit through the summer. I have two classes this session, but one is only from June 1st to July 2nd, so I am hoping beyond hope that such a schedule will give me a little free time to work with. (Because my second class goes from June 1st to August 8 and the fall semester starts up on August 20th. Yeah. Not much of a break.)

But those are worries for the (not too) far future.

In the more near future, I'm beach bound. And in between playing in the waves and biking the island and maybe doing a little ghost hunting, I hope to work on some short stories and maybe a little more plotting on The Devil's Water (working title). And, perhaps, jump back into the blogging world with another installment of The Work.

See you around the blogosphere.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Things I've Learned from Grad School #3

Make enough copies of your work that anyone looking on would think you have hoarding problems.

Use a second hard drive, an external hard drive, a flash drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive.

Use all of them. Because at least one piece of technology will screw you over at some point in time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Music Mondays: Singular Edition

Unless you live under a rock, you're aware that Leonard Nimoy died this past Friday. He was 83 and had accomplished a great many things in his life (none of which I need to go into here, you can find them covered in news articles).

But being the Trek nerd that I am, Spock was his greatest. So I wanted to take this blog moment to say goodbye to my favorite science officer.

Live long and prosper. Peace and long life. You did. Admirable.

For a little contrast, today's track has some humor.

"Mr. Spock" - Nerf Herder

Saturday, February 28, 2015

[Fiction] The Work, Part 3

Via WikiCommons. Taken by Elia Biraschi. CC Agreement.
Note: This is part three in a series. The first two parts are here:

The Work (Part I)
The Work (Part II)

The Old City was quiet this time of the evening. The streets were vast and empty, cast in sepia-toned shadows by the street lamps.

It was really rather perfect, Eva thought, for someone traveling with an animated, amnesiac corpse. She pulled her car into an empty spot next to the sidewalk and turned off the ignition just as Michael—she really had to stop referring to him as the dead guy—twisted in his seat, seat belt making his scrub top gape and show off the autopsy scar.

“You're sure of this guy,” he said, voice still sounding like he'd done a shot of broken glass.

Eva nodded. “He's good at what he does. With your memories all….” Eva flapped her hand side to side. “He'll be able to see what I can't.” Casting one more look around and seeing no one, she slid out of the car, gestured for Michael to follow.

Jasper Becque lived on the top floor of Palisade Lofts. It was a perilous climb with Michael's less than coordinated limbs, but Eva didn't trust the rickety old elevator not to trap them between floors. (The last thing she needed was to be trapped in a small metal box with a who- knew-how-long-it-had-been-dead dead body. Never mind that it was currently animated, it was still decaying and would soon start to stink. She was already going to have to Febreeze her car, despite driving with the windows down.)

Jasper's door was open when they reached it, the man himself leaning against the frame in short sleeves and jeans, his feet bare. He hadn't changed, had the same easy way of holding himself, the same generous smiling mouth and the strangest eyes she'd ever seen on a person: one, the green of a new spring leaf and the other a deep, warm sard.

“Sight for sore eyes, sweetheart.” He raised one long arm, pulled her into a half hug. “Ain't seen you in a year and here you show up with vivens mortua in tow.”

“I know,” she said. “I'm sorry. We need your help. Because this is something more than just vivens mortua.”

“I had figured.” He turned his eyes to Michael, who stood several feet back, seemingly trying (and failing) to blend with the wall. “You, your memory's lost. Gone patchy?”

“I only get flashes,” Michael whispered.

Jasper nodded as if he'd confirmed something and gestured them inside with a sweep of his arm. “Come on. I'll tell you your memories in no time. And maybe a little more.”

From anyone else, it would've sounded conceited, but from Jasper it was simply a statement of fact.

Eva took a seat in the recliner as Jasper pushed Michael onto the couch, dropped easily onto the coffee table across from it.

“Whatever flashes you remember,” Jasper said, “focus on those. It'll help."

Michael nodded, a roil of silver smoke curling around his head.

Jasper leaned forward, placed his hands on either side of Michael's head, fingertips pressing into the dead man's temples.

If this were a television show, Eva thought, they would be in for something dramatic right about now. Jasper's already strange eyes rolling back in his head until you could see nothing but the whites, a strange glow revealing their mental connection, Michael crying out in pain as his memories, his spirit, was plundered.

There would be something more than these two men—granted one of them was dead, and the other one of the more powerful clairvoyants she'd met—sitting in silence, staring at one another.

It was a few minutes more before Jasper blinked, drew back. “Shit.”

“What is it?” Eva said.

“Well, you were right,” Jasper said, glancing at her. “It's big.” He turned back to Michael. “You, my friend, are wearing the body of a convicted murderer.”

Read Part IV

It only took me months to write the next part to this. The blame falls squarely on grad school. It's hard to get back into the fiction groove when you're writing educational and technical material. It's a different mindset. I just happened to have a moment in between writing proposals and design plans, so I went for it. Gotta keep the muscles in shape.

This is for the (week of Feb 23) Studio30Plus prompt "conceit" and the Light and Shade Challenge for February 25 (the picture at the top of the post). 

It may be a few more months until I see you again. (Thank you for sticking around.) 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Things I've Learned from Grad School #2

That “But I don’t want to do homework!” feeling that’s been with you since you started school applies even when you've chosen (without coercion) to undergo two additional years of formal education.

And trying to pull the “the sooner you finish, the sooner you can go play” line of reasoning with yourself doesn't work anymore.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Things I've Learned From Grad School #1

When you want to sleep, you won't be able to.

You'll stay awake for hours, in bed, listening to your mind whir and whine about all the papers and projects you have to complete.

Doesn't matter if they're due in a few days or at the end of the semester. It doesn't even matter if they've been assigned yet.

Once you're actually given the assignment, you'll want nothing more than to curl up on your couch with a blanket and you'll need to imbibe copious amounts of caffeine to stave off the approaching coma.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Twitter Impersonation. Not the Highest Form of Flattery.

Last Wednesday, for some reason, I decided to Google myself. As you do.

Only this time, instead of Googling my full name, I searched for the initials that I go by in the blog and twittering world: L.M.Leffew.

Lo and behold, what did I find?

A twitter account that has my face. My background image. And my location.

Do I have a twin I never knew about?


What I do have is a Twitter impersonator. And from the looks of it, not a very clever impersonator. Actually, it looks a lot like a bot that is scraping off pieces of other people's statuses. Why or how am I the lucky one who got to be the fresh face of this particular spammy page, I don't know. (At least it's tame.)

For comparison's sake. Here's my Twitter. Robust, fleshed out, lots of tweets. You'll find the link to my Twitter account in the side bar under the bird icon.

And here's the impersonator/spammer. Note the misspelling of the last name in the username, "Lefewf."  The very random tweets. And I have a feeling the followers are largely spam-and-scam accounts, as well.

I've already contacted Twitter and reported the impersonation. Today marks a week since I've done so.

I've been looking for information from other people to see how long Twitter took with their impersonation reports and the timeline is looking anywhere from a week to, possibly, a year. (And several people noted that they never got a response from Twitter. They just checked the impersonator account and found it had been suspended. I guess you do get what you pay for. Yes, that was sarcasm. Well, at least they got the right result.)

So could you do me a favor, those of you out in readerland? Would you mind hopping on over to Twitter and reporting this account as the spam that it is?

Here's the link:

I'm not picky about whether the account gets suspended for spam or impersonation. I just want it gone.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Music Mondays: Angels and Demons Edition

Let me start out this Music Mondays post by stating that for the forseeable future (that is, until about Summer 2016), this blog will be updated very sporadically. And, I hope, with bits of fiction during those sporadic updates.

Grad school takes up a lot of my time. And the time I'm not spending on readings and homework during each semester, I'm spending hanging with those creatures that share my home (one CompSci guy, four cats) or scribbling on various projects, or taking needed mental health breaks which involve playing in other people's sandboxes (video games, fanfiction). So, blogging gets the short end of the stick.

This week's music post is inspired by a collaboration my friend and I are poking at. We're both a bit lost in the miasma of work, life and creative blocks at the moment, but we're trying to do something with - you guessed it - angels and demons. My writing supporting her art and vice versa. (Should we ever gain traction, we'll be sharing the works here and other places online.)

I've been looking for sources of inspiration, some place to garner ideas. Music is an obvious pit stop. (My angelic artbook by Ruth Thompson and my A Field Guide to Demons is next.) So, here we go. As to that last could I not add something from City of Angels (and my 90s music pot)?

Lay Your Hands on Me - The Mission

Locked Out of Heaven - Bastille (Bruno Mars cover)

Falling - Florence + the Machine

Iris - Goo Goo Dolls

All images are copyright to their respective owners and used according to Creative Commons agreements.