“Attack of the White Clouds”; Chapter Three, Part Two

It would take us a week of steady and swift marching to retrace our steps back to my tribe’s lands. Another week’s walk to maneuver the marshes and find the way to Mara’s hut. There, I was certain we would find something.

For now we retraced our people’s fleeing tracks. They were dispersed, scattered through the rocky plains. Yet as we crested a tall hill, we saw what had become of the forest.

I let out a cry of surprise. H- sucked in his breath in horror. D- cursed. Ch- remained silent, but her skin turned a hue paler, then flushed with anger.

When we had left, the tall forest had been plunged through by the one cloud that had attacked us. Now, it had been ravaged. The great trunks were snapped all throughout and great holes pockmarked what had once been a great canopy.

“They were searching for us,” Ch- said bitterly. “They knew we had rested there, and they hoped to find stragglers.”

I nodded. That meant they may return to find us. Stragglers. Good. If we could pick them off in scouts, or even learn how to defeat them one at a time, that would be a great boon. To learn more of them, we would have to scour these tracks. As horrific as this wreckage was, it was a treasure trove of information waiting to be read.

Now how could I say that to those around me so they understood? I tried with words as we walked. Pictures of discovery came to mind, ideas and stories of what we may discover and how- but none of this was easy to express. The more I tried to speak, the more they grew confused. Even D- was getting frustrated. Ch- peered at my mouth as I sighed.

“Her tongue is normal, why can’t she speak?”

I twirled my staff and grunted in irritation. They couldn’t say I wasn’t trying!

“Look, we just do not understand,” D- said patiently. “How can you say this is good? Look at the carnage-”

“Tracks!” I protested, monosyllables being all I could manage. “Good! Food-” no, no, not food! I’d meant forage! Cursing inwardly, I pressed a hand to my forehead and smacked my palm there lightly. We were nearing the forest and now they needed to understand. In a final desperate attempt, I waved them over to a mud puddle. Ushering them all to stand around, I tried to draw my plan.

“C-c-clou-,”

“Cloud?” Ch- suggested as I drew one. Nodding, I tried for the forest. They understood that. Then I tried to do spots of things, clues! Clues was the word I’d been searching for.

“Clue!” It burst from me. “Clue, clue-” and now I had a hard time stopping it. I did by biting my lip and pointing to all of us, then the forest. “S-s-sea-earch,”

“Search for clues? You want to search the forest?” H- said eagerly.

“Clues for what?” Ch- said excitedly.

I faltered at the monumentous task before me. There was just so much to be said. I sat down in defeat, cradling my head. So much to be said.

“Listen, no, look here,” and Ch- crouched before me. Scowling, I dropped my arms to my sides so they trailed in the dirt listlessly. She held up her hands between us as if in preparation for battle. Or to demand I focus. “There is a language that my people use, used,” and she faltered, biting her lip. “If you could use it, maybe it would help.”

“The problem is not with her tongue,” H- snapped. “Leave her alone.”

Ch- waved at him in dismissal. To me, she continued. “It is used in hunts, for silence. You speak with your hands.” And she motioned hers around her chest. “Here, for the present. There,” a little farther away “for the future. Near for the past.”

I blinked, mind whirling with possibilities. Slowly, i nodded for her to continue. With a face that said she wasn’t sure she ought to be doing this, she began miming gestures. “I,” pointing to herself with one hand, “think,” a flurry beside her head “that you think,” pointing to me before resuming that flurry, “that we,” pointing to all of us in a circular motion “can catch,” she made a snatch and hauling motion akin to hauling in a net from the sea “the white cloud.” and she gestured as if forming a soft fluff above her head.

I nodded, but that didn’t satisfy her. She flopped a hand towards me, all energy gone into dull disenchantment. “Try it now.”

Hesitant, I puffed my hands above my head. White cloud! Catch! I snatched with my hands, then pretended to search the earth.

A huge grin split Ch-‘s face. “The white cloud catches the earth?” Then she turned that grin to the others. “She is talking! Look! She can talk now!”

It was not talking, and she had not understood me at all, but her good humor was contagious in a way. I chuckled, plopping the twigs down that I’d picked up. Ch- held up her hands again, excited. “I’ll teach you some more! More words!”

I nodded, certain that this still would result in me stuttering. It would just be with my hands. I’d look like a bird flapping its wings.

Yet I tried. It made Ch- smile. Finally, in a stutter, I asked her “C-clue?”

Proud as could be, Ch- mimed picking something up and holding it in a revelatory motion. I copied it and she beamed approval.

dusting off my hands, I prepared a sentence. “White cloud,” Ch- read aloud as I signed. “Caught… clue.”

I nodded eagerly, then pointed at all of us. “We,” she added testily.

A sigh erupted from D-, who was sitting nearby with H-. The pair were watching, chins resting on their palms dismally. “She can’t do it,” H- said as if this was tiring for them too. “Can we just move on? We have to gain ground today-”

i shook my head. Words felt nearer now, yet this was easier. I didn’t need to struggle with sounds, and anything that made speech easier was a huge weight off my shoulders. Again, i tried.

“We,” Ch- said, raising her eyebrows. “Catch, clue, of the cloud?”

I nodded, beaming. That was it! Didn’t it make sense? It was so much easier!

And yet they did not think so. They pursed their lips, and Ch- looked defeated. “I don’t understand,” she said while dropping her arms into her lap. As if to make sure I understood she shook her head and listlessly signed that she did not know what I meant.

I tried. Clue! Catch! Clue! Cloud! Clue! We!

No amount of combination seemed to succeed. It seemed beyond their minds that we could find a clue on how to catch the cloud. Ch- guessed everything else under the sun. Until finally-

“We are looking for clues on how to catch the cloud!”

I nearly danced with joy, nodding and holding out my arms in approval. Ch- laughed and jumped up. “I got it I got it! Hey! You two! We are looking for clues on how to catch the clouds!”

The two were impressed, but not exactly happy either. “That only took about two hours,” H- said dryly. “Why didn’t you just let her speak?”

“Are you sure that’s what she means?” D- asked.

I nodded eagerly. D- pursed their lips. “And what would these clues look like?”

Who knew? I held up my arms in the gesture of not knowing that Ch- had taught me.

Ch- translated that too, eager as ever. “She doesn’t know!”

D- heaved a sigh. “So all this, to know that she does not know what she wants us to search for.”

Clues! Clues!

“We are looking for clues,” Ch- said, and that seemed good enough for her. She was puffing in pride, so much that her armor couldn’t seem to stretch any more.

H- and D- smiled pitiably. “Alright,” H- said. “We are looking for clues.”

In the tracks! I motioned for tracks, scooping towards the earth. Ch- gasped. “In the tracks! That’s it! The clues will be in the tracks! That’s why she was so happy about the forest! We have tracks to find clues of it in!”

Yes, yes, yes! I jumped to my feet, urging them to come. That had been surprisingly effortless. Yes it had been long but my mind was not tired. I did not feel like curling up and crying from exhaustion. Rather, I was sparkling with the burst of victory. Urging them up again, I began to walk first towards the forest.

Writing Rant about Autism

Hey everyone! I just wanted to say hi and to let everyone know that I am slowly recuperating from my low. I am no longer bed-confined, but I am still not able to summon the mental strength to exercise. However -> I’m still able to write and draw!

Now first things first, I wanted to say a big thank you to this lovely blogger  who went above and beyond answering my questions about autism. You see, I have very limited experience of autism. When I was young and in my little family/cult time, I heard of autistic relatives who had married into my mothers family as being horrible, incapacitated, and just not trying hard enough. Of their autistic children as being babied. Then, coincidentally, other autistic relatives were given private tutors and taught how to train their minds and won major university scholarships. Either way, they were vilified.

When I was in college, my mother bought me the book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. This book amazed me and I remember wishing that I could write something that unique, something that really opened up a world – in someone’s mind. It was a fun thought, but I never actually thought I’d have an autistic character one day. It just seemed too difficult and beyond my reach.

But then, about two or three years ago, I had this dream. After waking up, I drew the characters, knowing that if I did draw them out, it was a sort of pact with the characters in my dream that I would tell their story. Well, I did begin writing it, but the project was laid aside at exactly 30,000 words. I just didn’t feel inspired to write it any more. Years have passed, and it now has a shoddy title, but ‘The Attack of the White Clouds’ is now my central working piece! Yay me for keeping my promises to otherworldly beings!

Now, again, I’d like to bring the topic back to autism. I didn’t set out to make the main character autistic. She just was… showing strong symptoms? Seemingly incapable of speech no matter how I tried? The point here being -> the character is the way that she is, and I’m no expert in portraying autism. I’ve done pitifully little research and know practically nothing about it. So I really hope that I portray the character well, all while not screwing up a representation of autism.

I would also like to point out that, yes, there will be characters  (I’m looking at you, Ch-) who mistreat the main character due to her condition. This isn’t meant to be upsetting, but rather to make a point about how people can discriminate and vilify those who are autistic.

That being said, I hope you all enjoy the story! Do let me know what you think of it!

“The Attack of the White Clouds” Chapter One, Part Two

When the seer awoke and everyone was roused and leaving the rock, little golden orbs floating out to form buzzing clouds that watched in wonder, I was still clutching the jug to my chest. Only when the Seer reached for it would I let it go.

“This jug,” she gasped as she recognized it, turning it over in her hands. “Where did you find it?”

I pointed, but she did not understand. The red one had to talk, her hand on her hip and speaking as if I could not be expected to. “It appeared by her feet after the white cloud attacked. It was not there before, but we felt no trap in it so we let her keep it. I think it ought to be destroyed.”

The seer was puzzled. Looking from me to the jug she turned it over in her palms. To the red one she spoke, again as if I could not understand. “This was the jug of their chieftain, Mara. She was amongst the first taken,”

“I know that,” the red one said sharply. “I had visited her home on a treaty. And so I heard of her demise and celebrated it. Now, destroy that thing.”

I growled, my fingers curling around my trident. She hissed at me in spite. The Seer stepped between us hastily. “No, no- do not fight! Look around you, how few of us are left. Can you not just get along? See- look- I shall keep this jug, this way it shall be safe.”

I opened my mouth to say that no, it was for me! I had been mulling it over all this time while the others slept and I knew it to be true. Some inner calling had been tugging at me since the very start of all this devastation. Since the first cloud’s arrival I had felt it like a string withing, drawing me along into greater and greater strength. More responsibility. More power to protect those around me. That jug was a sign for me, inextricably linked and-

“J-j-j-j,” was all I managed to say as I tried to express all that. “Ju-”

“Yes, it’s a jug,” the red one sneered.

“Ju–” I tried, then humiliation choked me again. Biting my lip, I turned away. The seer sighed miserably as she followed me.

“Do not worry, I will do all I can to keep it safe.”

I shrugged her off and wished again for Mara, who had always been patient and willing to let me talk. No matter how long, she would let me try and try to form the words clumsily. She would draw pictures in the sand, and taught me how to do them as well so others could understand me easily. When my words did come out she had valued them. Praised me for my opinions. Now I couldn’t seem to speak a single word. No one had patience for me, or time to let me try and speak.

“We are going to continue bearing east,” the leader of the desert tribe was announcing as i stood with my back to the assembly. “We thank those who watched over us in our sleep, and who turned away the eye of the white clouds. But it has seen us, and if we are to continue surviving we must persevere! We must reach the boats before the end of this week!”

i hugged myself. The boats would carry us far, far away. Out into the ocean, where dangerous tides could sweep us away.

It seemed I was thinking this just for a moment, but then Ara {name?], a fellow warrior from my tribe, was tugging at my arm. “It is time to go,” she said gently. “Come, you are sleeping on your feet.”

No, I would have said if I could. I was just thinking for a moment- yet they never understood. Turning, I followed her with growing misery. The day’s treck had begun.

It was a dangerous one. Today we left the covering canopy of the forest and began across rocky plains. If the white caught us here, we would have nowhere to hide. Our glistening fabric and scale-covered skins were easy to spot in every of the colors we came in. For many, this made them cluster together. Red, black, and blue, the crowd became stifling and closely pressed. I elbowed my way sharply out, feeling the skin closing in around me with growing fear. The guards on the outer edge urged me to go back inside.

“You are no longer on watch, you must rest,”

“Yes, be safe within,” they urged, obviously wanting to go back into the safety of the crowd again.

I shook my head and stubbornly stayed outside the edges.

The sun rose, beating hard upon us. The tribe of the desert passed around advice to all others. Many held up their scarves over the heads of those beside them so all could be shielded from the sun. The guards paired off in two’s, helping each other. H- came to stand by my side. His hulking mass along could have shielded me. The end of his scarf was almost enough to wrap as a shirt as he placed it around his head.

We walked on in silence, our steps mismatched as his were so long and mine short by comparison. As the sun began its descent of mid-afternoon, he spoke. “You do not speak much, do you?”

I shook my head swiftly. Why would I?

Adjusting the scarf, he stooped. But the scarf was a ploy so others would not hear. “Come sit with me tonight as we camp. You knew Mara, and you certainly know more about the jug than the seer does. Am I right?”

I eyed him suspiciously, pressing my lips tightly together. Perhaps. But would I tell him? We were all in this together- but I still did not feel like being ridiculed.

He saw the refusal on my face, and straightened with a sigh. “It would be greatly appreciated,” he murmured under his breath. And that was all. No more words passed between us for the rest of the day.

Am I a “Real Priest”?

I’m going to get this question one day or another from a student. So I like to think that I’m one step ahead of the game by preparing my argument before hand.

Let me take a minute to explain a little bit of the bitterness that may seep into this post. I’ve already been told that others in my entourage are a ‘real’ priestess, insinuating that I was not. I’ve already had said ‘real’ priestess declare to her students that not all who claim to be priests are, and that some just take on the title. Was it a jab at me? Probably. I’m a real threatening person, you know, what with giving hugs and leaving smudges of glitter on people. Seriously?

I’m very threatening, I know. Had I been there I would have told her students not to buy those pricey athames, and  would have argued with her that a silver pentacle will not automatically protect a person/solve all energetic problems and NO, one does not haphazardly include blood and angel names into a Wiccan ritual (WHAT THE FUCK BUT I’M NOT EVEN JOKING PEOPLES). Oh, but I don’t know anything, I’m not initiated.

Really? From a crazy person’s perspective, let me argue you this. Who initiated the first crazy person? Huh? No one did. That’s right, insanity is a gods-given gift/burden. What about priesthood? It’s a gods-given gift/burden. What’s similar in these two situations?

Let’s take a diagnostic test. A mentally ill person is not mentally ill because they get a certificate or were born into a certain lineage. We know they’re ill because they exhibit and experience symptoms of mental illness, often to the point of it crippling their life.

What about a priest/ess? Do they get it from an initiation? Well I guess they could certainly get a fancy piece of paper saying that they are, just like one can get a paper saying they’re ill even if they’re not. Will they necessarily exhibit the symptoms of being a leader, an organizer, and a ritual facilitator because of this paper? I don’t think so.

I am going to argue that a priest/ess will be demarcated by exhibiting the symptoms of being chosen by the gods. Just like a mental illness, it can be developed, or it can just happen in a wham-bam. And just like a mental illness, if people get to know you-they know if you got it or not, no matter what the little papers say.

What are the symptoms? I’m going to argue that it will be summed up in integrity, passion for the cause, and good character. This of course will vary from place to place and what-have-you’s, as every situation will need a different kind of voice. But certainly, an initiation doesnot a priest/ess make. A training does not a priest/ess make. Being chosen by the gods is what makes you, in my humble opinion, and that certainly doesn’t mean that one is better or holier. It simply means they’re the priest/ess. It’s a calling, and that’s that in my opinion.

A Disabled Leader? Gasp!

Today,   I was doing great. I worked on a course I plan on giving, compiling materials and sources. Then, unexpectedly, I felt “a little bit down”. Okay, I decided to be an adult about it. I sat down and rested. When that wasn’t working and I kept getting worse, I watched TV. Halfway through my second episode of ‘Grace & Frankie’ I paused the episode and declared to my wife that “this isn’t working”.

So what? Now I’m feeling better, having shaken off the dregs of depression and anxiety to a point. But what’s my point?

Life isn’t all roses. I still struggle. I like to think that I’m all better.Sometimes it feels like I’m normal. Lately I’ve begun to think I won’t need a second service dog. But then… I break down. I face the reality that I still am not able to go grocery shopping alone. I … I face the fact that just showering daily is still a struggle. I mean, I’m not ‘as bad’ as I once was. Instead I’m in this hazy background shade of grey, pastel-ified with reborn happiness and covered in glitter through my sheer desire to survive and bloom.

I’m reading a book on pagan leadership. In there, the authors decry the leaders who go on food stamps. A person should be able to self-sustain, they argue. What, I think, would they think of me? More importantly, what do I think?

I’m one of those people who’s incredibly hard on themselves. I want to think I’m good. I want to think that I won’t need a second service dog. And today, reading that it’s not just me, that there’s others that would probably look down on me as a leader, who would say I should focus on ‘getting a job’ first before doing the small amount of service that I do as a ‘leader’…it was crushing.

It’s also incredibly insensitive (and oh so typically American) to think that we must first self-sustain before leading or even thinking of contributing to society. Let’s take me as an example, because I feel the need to defend myself.

I can’t self-sustain yet. I can’t. But what I can do is spend a few hours a month leading a ritual. I can happily chat with friends and students, offering support (and even doing too much of that can send me into a downward spiral). Can I easily leave the house on a regular basis? No. Am I functional after the exhaustion of leading a small holy-day ritual? No.

But you know what? Disabled people can lead. We so can, because being a leader is not the same as holding a job. A leader is a way of life. It’s offering moral and emotional support, connecting people, coming up with ideas, and sharing the weight. It’s not about doing it all by yourself.

I want to finish by saying that I think I am doing a damn good job at leading (despite my obvious insecurities on the topic). Better yet-my pagans think so. They love the energy of my rituals, and so far those who  study under me love me as a teacher. So don’t take it from me, but take it from them. This disabled person can lead. And if I can, then so damned well can another disabled person. What does that mean? It means we need leaders who can do the job and walk the talk. And sometimes the ones who can do that the best are those who have gone down the rabbit hole and who are fragile. Sometimes it’s not the able-bodied loud mouth who should be leading. Maybe it’s the quiet person.