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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Unless You Are Prepared"
This poem came out of the July 5, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] curiosity and [personal profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "make a list" square in my 7-1-16 card for the Winter Fest in July Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Unless You Are Prepared"


Morning brought Dr. G's safety call,
which he had continued even though
the former warden was gone. Apparently
he'd considered that promise binding
despite the change in situation.

When the screen opened, though,
Shiv found himself facing not just Dr. G
but also a small crowd of Finnlings.

"Hi, Shiv!" chirped Edison.

"Uh ... hi," Shiv said, leaning back.
"Dr. G, what is all this? I thought
this was just a safety call."

"It is, but word has gotten around
about your artwork, and some people
wondered whether you might be up for
some show and tell today," Dr. G said.
Then he gave the kids a stern look.
"We also had a little discussion about
the importance of not pestering people."

"We're sorry if we bothered you,"
Halley said. Drew and Edison nodded.
"We meant to be friendly, not annoying.
I hate it when people won't shut up about
something I don't want to discuss, and I
never want to do that to anyone else."

"It's okay," Shiv said. "You weren't ...
bad, really, it's just I'm not used
to dealing with people so much."

Everyone looked sad. Maybe Shiv
should learn to keep his mouth shut.

"How is everything?" Dr. G said.

"It's fine," Shiv said. "The paperwork
is all on track. Mr. Lincoln is loads
better to work with than Daley was."

"Do you have any recreational art?"
Dr. G said. "I promised that I'd ask,
but you're not obligated to share."

"Yeah, let me just --" Shiv turned to
his desk and shuffled through the pages.

He'd spent some time in the craft room
trying to soothe his jangled nerves from
the stress over the upcoming move.
Oil pastels weren't as good as cremes,
but they were still satisfying to use.

"This one's supposed to be jazz,"
he said, holding up a page with
blue and purple swirls around
flaming triangles. Over that, he
had glued curlicues of black paper.

"I can see that," Drew said
at once. "It has blue notes."

"Uh yeah, that is what I was
thinking," Shiv admitted.

"I like how it's hot and cold
all together," Edison said.

"ECR Boy," Dr. G teased gently.

Shiv just rolled his eyes and
reached for the next picture.
It showed a river and a lake
between low rolling hills patched
with grass and trees, all under
a peaches-and-cream sky.

"This is from a summer camp
I got sent to," he said. "They
used to kick us out of bed
stupid early, but the sunrises
were ... really something."

"Camps can be fun, or they
can be kind of tense," Drew said.

It hadn't been a recreational camp,
more like a boot camp, but Shiv
didn't care to share that part.
It was still pretty though.

"That's beautiful," said Halley.
"All it needs is a house and a person."

"That's a joke about a gender exercise,"
Dr. G explained. "Never mind, Shiv,
your picture is fine just as it is."

"Uh huh," Shiv said, totally lost.
"This last one I drew after I dreamed
about being a salamander who
lived inside a mushroom."

He had drawn it on black paper
with cool blues and greens,
the mushroom house red-violet
with crossbars over the yellow windows.

The salamander's nose just broke
the surface of the water, making ripples.

Edison giggled. "It looks like a cartoon."

"It's very stylized," Graham said.
"The curving lines suggest motion."

"Salamanders are amphibians,"
said Halley. "They can mean
feeling like you have two lives,
or facing a major transformation.
I've drawn them in art class too.
In mythology they're associated
with fire and forges, or in heraldry,
courage that flames cannot consume."

"Okay," Shiv said slowly. "I guess
I am looking at some major changes."

"A lot of us are," Drew said.

"Yeah, that sucks," Shiv sympathized.

"Unless you are prepared for it, change
can be completely overwhelming," said Dr. G.
"Art can help you process what you feel --
or just relax so it doesn't stress you out."

"It did help," Shiv said. "I missed having
the nice creme pastels, but even the oils are
good for blowing off steam in the craft room."

"Hmm," said Dr. G. "We may need to see
about getting you some better supplies
to keep in the cabinet, then."

Shiv flicked the edge of the page,
then glanced at the clock display.

"You're checking the time," Dr. G said,
because the guy noticed everything.
"Don't let us make you late if you
have another engagement waiting."

"I have an appointment with
Dr. Bloch before lunch," Shiv said.

"Then we won't keep you," Dr. G said.
A few cheerful goodbyes later, he
shooed the Finnlings away, then
added, "Shiv, how are you really,
without the peanut gallery watching?"

"Freaking out, but so far it's not
more than I can handle," he said.
"I think the two-day marshmallow test
was worse than this. Of course, I
haven't actually moved yet."

"You'll make it," Dr. G said.
"I have faith in you."

Well, that made one of them.

* * *

Notes:

"Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you'll be forever in the control of things you can't give up."
Andy Law, Creative Company

Promises tie society together. Making and keeping promises are fundamental social skills. Habitually breaking promises is destructive to everyone in the vicinity, and that's what Shiv has grown up with, which is why he doesn't trust people to follow through on anything. He is just starting to realize that, when someone like Dr. G says something, that really is what will happen. So keeping promises is the basis of relationships too, a way that people offer and demonstrate trust. I also came across this reference claiming that exceeding promises has no value. Guess that's another way I'm weird, because I always kept an eye out for authors who could turn things in early, and I definitely appreciate it in my personal life too. It's essential for a functioning meritocracy, because it's one of the main ways of identifying who should get floated higher. I think T-America does more of this. Follow the steps for keeping a promise.

This is Shiv's abstract jazz picture.

Abstract art aims to picture immaterial concepts, as in these examples. There are instructions and exercises for making abstract art.

Jazz music uses blue notes for expression.

There are simple and complex explanations about warm and cool colors. The simple version is that red, orange, and yellow are warm while green, blue, and purple are cool. But there are warmer and cooler tones of each color, and you can mix them accordingly. Color temperature also influences the symbolism in art. So if you put them together, you get high contrast, and Emotionally Complex Response. Here is a lesson on warm and cool colors.

This is Shiv's summer landscape picture.

Landscape art is a way of depicting real or imaginary places. See some samples. This demo shows how to make a landscape painting.

Punishment camps for displeasing youth have their supporters and detractors. As some people have pointed out, the camps often amount to nothing more than legalized abuse, which is sometimes fatal. They may create slight temporary improvement, but often they don't, and they're prone to making matters a great deal worse. A lot of Shiv's surliness and resistance to authority is simply a refusal submit to draconian control methods without fighting back -- and now he has one hell of a lot more to fight back with.

The House-Tree-Person Exercise appears throughout much of psychology. Theoretically it's possible to interpret the elements and learn hidden things about the artist. It relies on the fact that humans share some common ground and therefore imagery; but its inescapable flaw lies in the great variation of cultural associations and individual experiences. In other words, you can't interpret a picture accurately without knowing about the person who drew it. This test has been used to mark transgender tendencies. Here is a slide show about the test.

This is Shiv's mushroom picture.

Symbolic art uses concrete things to represent abstract ones. Browse some symbolic pictures. Learn how to make symbolic art.

There is a spectrum from realism to stylization. Stylized art is simplified or exaggerated, as in these paintings. Here is a simple introduction to drawing stylized cartoons.

Mushrooms appear in magic and folklore, spirituality, heraldry, and many other places. Their symbolism helps in dream interpretation, where they may represent rapid growth or cthonic work.

Salamanders are long wiggly amphibians that can provide inspiration or mystical guidance. In heraldry, they represent indestructible courage, and in dreams they stand for transformation.

Faith is most often regarded as a religious concept, but actually there are many kinds of faith. Among the most important are faith in other people and faith in yourself. Shiv has little of either, but he is beginning to gain some inklings. Learn how to believe in yourself.

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Comments
johnpalmer From: johnpalmer Date: December 1st, 2016 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
That first quote from Andy Law is a good summary of Buddhist thought as I understand it. (That we are controlled by our desires - even good ones.)

Re: faith, I once decided that the "best" faith is the choice to act as if something is true, even when you know you can't be certain of it. Obviously "best" has to be "best for me, in the circumstances in which I imagine using it."

But I take the spirit world on faith. I don't know that it's real. But if I don't treat it as real, I'll never know what it offers or what I can do with it, or have done to me by it. So: do I believe I wander the spirit world, and learn things, and maybe even make changes? No, that's a matter of faith. But because journeying and acting is *useful*, I hold on to my faith, while never forgetting to use the correct tools for the problem.

("The potion to defeat the cold is complex. Summon the spirit of air with the sacrifice of a bird; summon the spirits of the water, and use the power of the earth with carrot and garlic and onion and celery. Summon the spirit of fire to cook the soup, and add noodles or rice if desired near the end. Give the soup to the cold victim, and wish them well.")
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 1st, 2016 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> That first quote from Andy Law is a good summary of Buddhist thought as I understand it. (That we are controlled by our desires - even good ones.) <<

Sooth. If you want to explore desire and nonattachment, watch Turq; or even prompt for this. It's something he learned from his foster parents, and it has seriously helped keep him alive, not just in captivity but also on the streets afterwards. A drawback is that now Turq needs to rebuild a basic set of possessions, and after hitting the "unwant" switch every time a desire has manifested for the last several years, he's having a very hard time recalibrating to a reasonable level. But there's a wonderful bit of backstory about how Dao handled the experience most kids have of pigging out on Halloween candy and then getting sick. Instead of a lecture, Turq got lessons in how to handle desire, moderation, and nonattachment.

>> Re: faith, I once decided that the "best" faith is the choice to act as if something is true, even when you know you can't be certain of it. Obviously "best" has to be "best for me, in the circumstances in which I imagine using it." <<

It's a useful step.

I then follow that with analyzing the results. Some things give feedback -- which may be direct or oblique -- about the accuracy of one's hypothesis. And even in the absence of feedback, one can observe the results of those actions. Then ask, "Which model produces the most accurate predictions? Which model produces the best outcomes?" This has led me to using a number of models which are not fashionable in modern America, but are nevertheless more accurate and/or more beneficial. In some cases there are clear drawbacks to using a more accurate model in a very hostile environment, but I am reluctant to do stupid things just to earn the approval of people I neither like, respect, nor admire.

Perhaps it is different for people who do not incorporate science into their spiritual and belief processes.

>> But I take the spirit world on faith. I don't know that it's real. <<

Yeah, it's harder for people who can't readily get feedback on their beliefs. I am fortunate to have direct experience of the spirit world and many other numinous layers of reality. I don't think it's sane to ignore things that are happening around me, just because they don't happen around everyone. So I've learned to work with them. A drawback of this complex relationship with reality is that today I went looking for my seam ripper only to find that the fairies had absconded with it. 0_o Well, at least my life is never boring.

>> But if I don't treat it as real, I'll never know what it offers or what I can do with it, or have done to me by it. <<

That is true. Openness to spiritual experiences greatly increases the chance of having them. Anyone can be sandbagged by such, but more frequent and more positive encounters are facilitated by preparation.

>> So: do I believe I wander the spirit world, and learn things, and maybe even make changes? No, that's a matter of faith. But because journeying and acting is *useful*, I hold on to my faith, while never forgetting to use the correct tools for the problem.<<

Very sensible.

I think that faith maps along similar lines as trust. There is faith without evidence, faith that a partial pattern is complete somewhere out of view, faith that a robust pattern will continue in its observed course, and faith in an entity or ideal as beneficial. Those are all useful in different ways.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 1st, 2016 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> ("The potion to defeat the cold is complex. Summon the spirit of air with the sacrifice of a bird; summon the spirits of the water, and use the power of the earth with carrot and garlic and onion and celery. Summon the spirit of fire to cook the soup, and add noodles or rice if desired near the end. Give the soup to the cold victim, and wish them well.") <<

This can be addressed in so many ways:

* Simple observation allows one to learn what things help someone get through a cold. Chicken soup is such a thing.

* Those who are into lab science can examine both colds and chicken soup to figure out why chicken soup fights a cold effectively. For example, some popular ingredients such as garlic support the immune system.

* People versed in kitchen witchery may then add that layer of knowledge to their activities, as in magical cooking for healing purposes.

Note that different people have different abilities. One person may excel at observation and derive better results from analyzing subtle patterns. Another may make discoveries through science in a lab, or even in a kitchen. Some people can put magic into their food, with effects noticeable even by nonmagical people. I'm pretty good at kitchen witchery and kitchen-sink science. Frex, my ice cream recipes explain that using frozen-and-thawed fruit is better because this process ruptures cell membranes, releasing more juice to flavor the batter. But I suck at money magic. I've seen other people do it well, I'm just no good at it myself. Nobody's good at everything.
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