Star Land

STARLAND by Robert S. Ball | sanguine meander

As part of an online class discussion, I had to stop by Project Gutenberg and look around.

Simultaneously I got pinged with a couple of YouTube videos to check out.

The end result of this combination was that I was listening to Tiny Desk while looking at old books online. I am drawn to books published during La Belle Epoque and Art Deco periods. Perhaps that taste is simple, but I don’t care. It warms me in a weird way.

I’ve seen this art before. My grandmother used to buy old hardcover books at the Value Village when I was growing up. She’d read from day to night sometimes, during those periods I can now identify clearly but back then were simply days I’d have to go buy her cigarettes for her with a note and some extra change for a candy bar. My grandmother had her up moments, her very up moments, and then she had her down ones, her very very down ones. She cycled pretty rapidly.

During the reading times she sat by her bedroom window, bottles of nitroglycerin scattered around on her bedside table. She’d look out the window to the street, chainsmoke her Carlton 120 menthols and read these books. Periodically she would demand something of me and eventually I would remove a stack of books from her bedroom and stack them somewhere else, usually on the stairs going down to the basement. When the stairs got dangerous, the books would move to the basement itself, where I would put them on a huge floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that took up one wall. When that was full, I began stacking them on the floor. My family’s baggage was written on pages.

When she died, my mother had to go several states back home and clean out the house. It is good I did not go. In her old-fashioned penmanship (who has that, anymore?) she’d written a book review in all of them. It is good I did not go. I would live among stacks of musty old books and I would have tried to carry them with me.

My mother remembers more about them than I do. She saw them last. What I  remember is the feel of those books, their burlappy covers and ridged fore edges that looked like my grandmother’s nails, but soft.

I couldn’t talk about the walls those books built until I moved to Star Land.

Here are some of the ones I enjoyed thanks to Project Gutenberg. Content must be considered within the context of the time during which it was published, you’ve been warned:

Star-Land – 1889

Tillicums of the Trail – 1922

Die Hexe von Norderoog – 1908

The Bear Family at Home, and How the Circus Came to Visit Them – 1908, 1923

And here are the Tiny Desk concerts that accompanied this:




Tash Sultana


night blooms

Photo by Fabiano Rodrigues on | petrichor, cyclical release | sanguine meander

here we are again. this cyclical expression of reproductive desire manifests in all sorts of strange ways. i have no desire to be out and about, but i want you to come to me. with me. in me.

my bookshelves and my seed bank are really organized but domesticity has never been my strong point. i am a person of regimen about many things but I often leave the vacuum in the middle of the living room floor. i have three dogs. i walk on land. my feet reflect that. i am grounded, rooted to the earth. I have befriended the soil and sometimes it comes inside. i have a child and a cat and a small population of spiders who reside in busier corners. Together, we keep the home and the ecosystem as balanced as we can, so leave me be, leave me to my motherhood, my books and words and spiders and dirt, plants and animals. these too, provide harvest. i want our love to be an interlude, the stuff of a troubadour’s song. i need to yearn.

there is thunder, such a joy to listen to but even so, where lightning strikes there is often fire. this rain is blessed, extra welcome during this driest time of year, yet the fear strikes, always, and today the sky filled with smoke. It made for spectacular sunsets here while two hours away, 4500 acres of grassland burned and was 0% contained. Here, midnight summer rains left crystal drops on glowing tobacco flowers which exuded the most utterly intoxicating scent (to be present for this was to understand the origins of every cliche that just happened). The tobacco plants are beginning to go to seed. I have saved some and I have scattered others. Even through this long, dark winter there is a future of infinite opportunity, just as long as it all doesn’t burn down. Now we fear the storms.

We cannot learn to fear this wet necessity, the most natural and encouraging delivery of life. Sometimes now, water here rumbles and burns and people scatter. Water, she’s been in our deepest, darkest places, washing off the leftovers and sending them on their way. She has announced her arrival with rolling booms and flashes of light and we have danced in her court. It’s a blessed and ancient ritual. If only it were simply power to respect, but it engages all our senses. Dangerous territory. We don’t always know what kind of magic we really weave when we draw down the moon.

notebooks and panic.

Photo by Tyler Rutherford on Unsplash | sanguine meander

i’ve always been taught that it’s bad form to answer a question with a question, but i don’t know how to do anything else. maybe there’s a yet for that. if i don’t ask them tho, i scramble to write them down, giving them a slightly increased chance of becoming more than a tangent.

they are scattered everywhere in untitled google docs, wordpress drafts and voice recordings on my phone and too many notebooks whose themes i remember when i encounter them. there are pencils everywhere, yes pencils, because they slow me down enough that it’s still legible later. in another few years i will chance upon that turquoise-covered one that says aloha across the front and contains only one thing: a Hawaiian saga that outlined itself as I was walking around an ancient, sacred place and that I had eventually transcribed from a voice recording.

I would probably never write that.

I don’t feel I occupy the place or space to tell that story, but what a fascinating plot it was.

I have been to Hawai’i once. My daughter was four when a class action lawsuit I was part of was finally resolved in my favor. Whoever was overseeing that process fought, for ten years, for the rights of around 2000 people who’d been put in cages, subjected to industrial chemicals, disconnected from necessary medications, deprived of sleep, kept from hygiene practices and shoved into cells with five times the amount of people those cells were designed to hold. Accused of misdemeanor crimes, we were legally supposed to be released after 24 hours. I was released a week later.

Sound familiar?

My experience with the human cage in this instance was several hellish days long, and it’s only thanks to distance and neurofeedback that I can handle observing the level of panic I experienced then to reflect on a fonder moment or two.

When they locked us up, they put trans guys in a cell with anyone else they identified as women. Our cell now had two cute guys in it, one of whom had cigarettes and a cell phone. Daddy had someone in his lap almost always.

We used the cell phone to call Amy Goodman at Democracy Now and after that families and loved ones until it died, and twice a day while we were all still together, Daddy would light a cigarette as we devotees kneeled at his feet, holding it up to our lips in turn.

Still, crowds for me require witchcraft, and after a point, I had little with which to summon magic anymore. I relied on whatever might induce transcendence or catatonia and I lost my shit fairly regularly in between breathing and chants and shoulder rubs and attempts to check out.

It was also the last thing I remember about New York City (door, meet ass). With the panic attacks I lost track of a day and when I got out I had just enough time to run home, take the kind of shower required to wash that off and throw a duffel bag together before getting on a plane to portland, oregon. It would be five years before I returned, briefly and then never again.

Within ten years I would be settled into a small town in far northern California at the base of a sleeping volcano, where it was easy and affordable to raise a kid without paying someone else do it instead and where one day I came home to find a check for several thousand dollars in my mailbox.

I turned the paper over, held it up to the light and then called the number to ask “if this is real and if not this is a really fucked-up thing to do to someone” and then I screamed a little as I read the article in the NY Times about how the city had to pay us all out a total of 18 million dollars and then I went and outfitted my daughter and me with good travel and camping gear that would hopefully last us the next decade or so and then I booked two round trip tickets to Hawaii from Portland and then I paid a lot of rent in advance and a bunch of bills and then it was gone.

I honestly can’t say for sure whether I might have had a different experience if I’d known I’d eventually collect a small windfall for it. Money makes good lube, but the level of anxiety I suffered in a week’s time there was nearly unsustainable for me. when I got out, though, there were hundreds of people in the parking lot who had been coming back and forth for days with healthy food and herbal remedies, help for physical and mental health crises, tobacco, hugs, phones to make phone calls on, flowers, massages, and they all cheered loudly when we were released. They had painted signs. Someone got me a cab ride home with a few other people who lived in my neighborhood and I had a known destination when I left, far removed from it all. 

There are camps now set up just like the system they had us in, but they’re much larger and there are a lot more people and they are in there longer some of them have been separated from their children and crowds of people waiting to help them aren’t circulating outside and no one is waiting to put them in taxis to deliver them to hot showers and airline flights away from trauma. I would lose my fucking mind in one of those camps. I damn near did after four days. These camps are unholy and cannot be justified. 

Trauma can happen quickly and intensely sometimes. It either introduces you to the world of damage or builds on whatever else has not been resolved. Anxiety of that sort is no easy thing no matter when or for how long you experience it. Like trauma, it either transforms you or it adds on to what you already have. There are breaking points. Most of us try to avoid them. We process them with therapy and fetishes and habits good and bad and maybe we look at them on a whole and think about what we’re doing and fill notebooks full of panic or if we don’t we pass them on, since we already have cages at the ready.

suddenly it’s dark out and the day slid by.


Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash | oxygenate | sanguinemeander

i love pain – not necessarily the surface-infliction of it, but the bowel-deep pain that stirs emotions and kind of throws them all together as they start moving their way out. catharsis ache. i used to resort only to orgasm for this until i discovered that this kind of  pain makes orgasms even better. it takes a little longer, but longer and deeper is the point (girth is nice too — if i’m going there, i am definitely a size queen).

other expressions like this: on an evening last week when i was writing,  shit was getting serious and i was there in that zone when a large and strange spider crawled across my lap. i lost myself and everything went flying with a shriek. there was a moment of limbo, my 1940s art deco coffee table with its original glass panes and a chromebook and time stopped but then nothing connected. the little laptop landed in a papa-san chair full of pillows and the spider jumped or fell to the floor and wandered off to a less chaotic part of the living room and then i collected myself and sat back down, lighter.

another once had its place here in this paragraph but i lost it while writing the last.

ah yes, it was that time my car went spinning on the highway. a friend and i, on a day trip from Portland to the Oregon coast, were coming home when i hit a patch of black ice with near-bald tires. the car spun in circles in slow motion and Ben and i looked at each other calmly as if we might be about to die. the car came to a standstill with its ass stuck in a snowdrift and before i could even call AAA, a Mexican guy pulled over in a very large pickup truck and winched us out and we had faced death with the utmost in resolve and acceptance and ten minutes later we were continuing on back to portland and it was like it never happened and it also changed everything.

i breathe more deeply after having suffered a little. the process of catharsis is a birthing process. the end result, that great release, is where our focus lies. it makes it easy to forget how much it can hurt along the way but somewhere in the trying of that, i figured out how embrace the pain. i learned to love it. it became ecstasy.



and just like that, it starts again.

and so it begins, and so it starts again | Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash | sanguine meander

i’m not sure i was ready. the structure is comforting in many ways, but it also means a numbness that comes from knowing what i am supposed to be doing at any given moment of the day while i am awake.

it makes it hard to do dreamwork at night though. sooner or later, one must stop working. sometimes the brain does its best work when it isn’t being observed but even then, it’s hard to simply go to sleep without purpose. i am tired but i must remember my dreams, it seems, in order to make any use of them at all.

but no, not tonight. tonight, have at it, brain, like you’ve got a pocketful of molly and a hot friend at your side.

(who am i kidding though, i haven’t done that shit in years. it was fun the last time I did, though).

there must still be some fun in me somewhere, with or without the help, but until i can find it again, i’ll settle for fiberglass vessels and friends paddling out over an alpine lake until all the tourists crawling all over the beach are less than ants anymore. They are nearly invisible now and we aren’t watching people feed white bread to wild ducks, just staring out across dark blue water, feeling like it’s all still so unadulterated.

when shit gets to be too much to handle it helps to shift my perspective. i’m getting there now, shit is getting to be too much to handle for sure. i am about to ask myself a question i’ve asked myself before. what other choice do i have? and i will consider the myriad ones that arise.

i just need one of those things, those fiberglass vessels. it would be so much easier to find me. i’d be floating away.