cereus: Cereus cactus blossom (Cereus)
(this post inspired by this series of posts on my Kemetic blog)

So when we're talking about "representation" in books (and movies and...)

I think that one of the most important types of representation in books for me, personally are desert books.  Even more than trans or disabled characters, for example.

No matter where you are in the United States, the "default paradigm" for stories is very northern temperate forest-based.  Like the whole tolkein and D&D and Arthurian mythos.  And a lot of stuff is built off that mythos.

And you can't just substitute some trees for cactus and have things work either, there's a whole different set of understandings underneath.  For example, the whole idea of Light being purely benevolent and Dark being purely malevolent doesn't work here.  It doesn't map onto reality well at all.  And even the idea of any force being purely malevolent or benevolent starts to become iffy.  Also "purity" is less of a central concept because "pure" things are often not condusive to the flourishing of life and life can use all the help it can get.  Mud isn't always something to wash away, it's something to shelter.

And I think that this stuff is why I latched on to Dune so hard, despite the fact that it is "problematic" as hell and sometimes I want to yell at Frank Herbert through the page..  Because it was also the first book that gave the highest honors to the Kangaroo Rat.

And that is precious.

A (incomplete) list of "Desert Books" -

Bless Me Ultima - Rudolfo Anaya
Territory - Emma Bull
Joshua Tree - Emma Bull (actually a short story)
The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
Dune - Frank Herbert
Song of the Magdalene - Donna Jo Napoli

And I'm coming to think that the Myst series of video games have some of this too.  It's complicated because your adventures take you across many worlds, few of them desert.  But Atrus and Ti'ana both grew up in the desert, more or less.  And a lot of the attitudes and understandings are there.

cereus: Cereus cactus blossom (Cereus)
(Another (personal) version of the Wizards Oath from Young Wizards books by Diane Duane)

In Life/Green's name and For life's Sake
And looking towards the wellspring from which all life springs
I swear to keep the world growing
To turn my leaves always towards Sunfire and Rainstorm
And to transmute them to the stuff of life's need.
To place my roots between hard rock and seedling
And to respect all that grows well in it's own way -
                                                                                          Without harm to others
To look towards growth and life - when it is right to do so
(keeping in mind)
               (the invasive)
                           (The cleansing fire that enriches with ash)
And to respect and love the red land and the black (and all their people)
Looking always towards the wellspring of water that exists within all things
And from which their life extends...

cereus: Hot Spring in Yellowstone with a Rainbow of Microbes (Extremophiles)
Nov 1st is Autistics Speaking Day!

Since I'm not particularly word-based right now and so much of my experience of autism is the world outside of words (and the connections and joys that go with that),  today is going to be a picture day.
This is a celebration in photos:

reflection of sky in a little puddlelizard blending in sand
the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious it is the root of all art and science -einstein

cereus: Ringtail Cat climbing tree (ringtail)
I'm up on the mountain today and this creature walked by:

Boreal Jumping Spider or Phidippus clarus

He's a jumping spider  that usually lives farther north in say - Colorado.  But going up the mountain, you get colder climate, so right now I'm in a mixed pine-fir forest.

He (and it probably is a he based on color) was walking on the asphalt path where people were likely to walk by.
I made sure it got off the beaten path safely using a couple folders.

I found this creature in my house a few months ago.

Jumping spider very fuzzy standing on sand

California Jumping Spider or Phidippus californicus


He's more adapted to the desert.  His colors mimic a velvet ant, a potently venomous wasp, so he'll be left alone.

He turned to look at me the entire time, occasionally looking to either side.

Jumping spiders have very good eyesight and 15-20 minutes of working memory (working memory means how long you can keep a piece of information in your memory to think about it or solve the problem at hand), excellent for a spider, they also turn to investigate anything new that comes into their field of view.  If hunting something significantly larger than them, or a spider, they will circle behind and pounce.  These species also have a "freeze" signal for members of their species, they put up their front legs and the other spider will stop stalking them or trying to mate with them.


Here's another encounter with a jumping spider that warms my heart and makes me and Raven laugh:


cereus: Cereus cactus blossom (Cereus)
This is hopefully going to be the start of a series on the diverse and unusual forms of life in this world. 

Extremophies are life forms that can do very well in unusual or "hostile" situations due to unusual physical set-ups.  Sometimes this means they don't do as well in typical circumstances.  Extremophiles inhabit extreme environments, colonize stony, non-living areas first and lead the way for other life, and sometimes inhabit unusual roles in an ecosystem.


Cereus (also called Night-Blooming Cereus, or Queen-of-the-Night) is a tough small cactus (of the Peniocereus family)  that grows in the Sonoran Desert.   It looks about like a bundle of sticks, but instead of being the typical brown or beige, it's a light gray-green.  They usually grow in the middle of a bush like a creosote making it well-nigh invisible and elusive.
Creosote bush in bloom
Creosote bush in bloom

Cereus plant looking like some slim green sticks with ribs like a cactus
Cereus plant in foreground

It's one of those plants you can have a fun time keeping your eyes peeled for.

But for 2 or 3 nights of the year - it changes entirely.  It puts out white flowers the size of your palm or larger.  They are night-pollinated so the flowers have a definite scent.  The people in my neighborhood would keep an eye on all the known cereus plants near the road, and would take "cereus walks"  where in the evening we would walk around the neighborhood and congregate at whoever's cereus was blooming.  There is always photigraphy and soft voices, discussing the news but in a way that I can only describe as soft, or maybe quiet.  Although it was as much a tone as a lack of loudness.

Cereus in bloom yellow stamens above a disk of waxy white petals

Sphinx moth drinking from flower and hovering like a hummingbird. It has narrow wings and you can see the toungue or proboscis.

These flowers become a important nectar source for sphinx moths and bats.  Symbiosis is incredibly important in the natural world - two organisms each giving something and getting something, but what they are getting is more than what they gave.  In this case nectar (food) for the ability to spread pollen and make the next generation of plants.  The plants and animals have evolved over time to be more suited to eachother.  The cereus bloom is white and strong-smelling to make it easy to spot in the night.  The moths and bats have evolved long tongues to reach down into the flower.  Which in turn, gets longer to make sure they get plenty of pollen on their faces. It's not as pretty or peaceful as it sounds necessarily.

The moths also have a part of their brains that tells them to go to shiny white things which may be why they behave so dangerously around porch lights.

The secret behind all this?  Cereus cacti have a huge tuber underground - about the size of a watermelon where they store water and sugar.  This  is how they make it through the year - waiting for the right season.

(Incidentally,I leaned a lot about managing resources from cereus.  And then promptly dismissed what I learned in order to "pass"/survive.  If you have limited resources or capacity to do certain things, like talk, you don't have to be going at full-capacity all the time, just some of the time really well at the right time.)

Cereus tuber - shaped like a fat carrot
Drawing of cereus root

cereus: Ringtail Cat climbing tree (Default)
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Writer's Block QOTD: What was the last time you cried?

 Actually, it probably was allergies, considering they're flaring up a little. XD

But probably it was the yearning ache and joy of seeing the thunderheads massing on the horizon.  Feeling the chill creosote-scented wind, and then feeling the first drops on your face.  The whole desert aching for that touch and then that touch's fulfillment.
cereus: Ringtail Cat climbing tree (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]I'll elaborate more later but three things:

1. Conserve water whenever possible (in arid areas).  Water in the evening and water smartly.

2. Treat material items as precious: Reuse/recycle whenever possible. Plastic is made out of fossil fuels, which are going to be rare. Metal is pure awesome!  It can have immense strength without shattering - it just bends! Electrically conductive,makes nice wires and sheets, SHINY....

3.  I'm planting a garden, in part for enjoyment, but also to get more foods locally.  Most imprtantly to start figuring out what ways of growing food are right for our area.  I could just go back to the Native American/Spanish days... but if I want to be more modern I have to figure it out myself. :)

cereus: Ringtail Cat climbing tree (Chani)

So much is going right in my life right now.  Raven and I have had the most incredible conversations and we’re very close right now – doors opening that have never been open (at least in words)  I’ve got what’s pretty close to a taste of my dream job in the form of an internship.  I’m (hopefully) going back to college soon. The girl from the bus and I have been hanging out. I am at home with my loved Desert. There’s this bubble of happy that keeps on popping up.  And that in and of itself is a good thing.  A year ago I wouldn’t have felt that, I was too burnt out and used up in the aftermath of trying to make myself work where I couldn’t and trying to appear normal. I’m healing. Not that life is perfect, though.  I'm in a sea of paperwork, and sometimes the adrenalin brings back the old tightness in my lungs and a hint of the burned-out feeling.  but still.

I should write more about it later. But here's a summary.
I spent time before not just scared but also using adrenalin to hotwire my body into "normal" speed via fight or flight.  It worked (pretty much) but the slightest bit of adrenalin became painful (and forget about endorphins) but now I've been rationing it for life and limb purposes and it's receeding.

cereus: Cereus cactus blossom (Cereus)
The first kisses of the sun....
The sun is an enemy, a foil, a teacher.  He gives more than we can ever handle, dries puddles, fosters fire.  the lord of the drought and the wildfire.  He is merciless.

The sun is also a font of life.  All energy has it's primal source in his nuclear power.  He gives too much, the light that feeds us all also dries the water from our skin.  He is generous.  When we band together against him he teaches us generosity.   He is the father of all life.

The light, heat and the crackling burn of ultraviolet rays on my skin blend into one golden thing - that washes over my skin, soothing.  It  envelops my body, erases my boundaries - calls forth an answering fire within me.

The first kisses of the Sun.  Burning me, taking me, healing me.

May 2017



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