Category Archives: death

the lure of horror

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I’ve felt the lure of horror stories since I was seven and wrote about a shark biting me in the neck.  I believe that was the same year my cousin Stacey and I made a sheet tent over the television in her basement while our mothers (who were sisters) spent a few hours talking upstairs at my aunt’s kitchen table.  

We promised we wouldn’t watch a scary movie, but my uncle’s collection of VCR tapes had too many enticing titles.  We chose “Return of the Living Dead: 2.”  

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As soon as it was finished, we ran upstairs to confess—not out of shame or guilt—but out of pride for having watched a real horror movie and lived to see the end credits, lived to pull aside the sheet tent, crawl back out into the light of day, and know that there would be no zombies.

My first long piece or prose, written in 8th grade, was called The People in the Lake.  It was a hundred hand-written pages with illustrations, about a town in New Hampshire plagued by lake zombies who basically pull you down into the lake if you swim after dark.  One girl has the power to release the spirits of the people in the lake, but there’s a good guy and an evil guy…and you know the rest of a story like this.  I was thirteen.  I loved the idea of zombies, I loved my vacation cabin on a lake in New Hampshire, and I loved the idea of a good boy that seems bad and a bad boy that seems good.  

I also used to write short plays that my cousin Stacey and her little sister Allison and I would act out with my aunt’s old dresses, costumes, and cabbage patch dolls.  

I’m not sure what happened to me in High School to make me switch from writing horror to writing nearly all poetry or high fantasy.  I got into witchcraft and I fell in love with The Princess Bride and Neverending Story (the book, though the film was great, too), and nature.  

I suppose those were nice diversions from the darkness in the corners of the room and under the bed—darkness that I still filled with monsters, reaching hands, or evil fairies.  

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I’m still in love with horror, still reading Steven King, Anne Rice, and other, less known horror writers like Poppy Z. Brite, from time to time, though I mostly feed my craving through movies.  Cabin in the Woods is one of my favorite horror movies.  I love everything Joss Whedon does, though.  Older horrors I still watch are Jaws and the Halloween movies.  I love The Walking Dead and Dexter, too.  

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There’s a part of me that’s sad I am not writing horror now, and I can see myself gravitating back that way in the future.  What has prompted some new thoughts about horror as a genre has been Kristen Lamb’s blog.  

Horror author Kevin Lucia has been guest blogging on her website, and his words have been truly awesome for me to ponder.  They’ve brought me back to that little girl I was under the sheet tents watching zombies, the teenager who surrounded herself with stuffed animals every night so that the monsters under the bed and the evil fairies in the corners of her room wouldn’t get her while she slept, and the adult who still can’t sleep on the edge of the bed, and who still prefers to swim in any water with a companion (a companion who somehow makes Jaws or the people in the lake or the people in the pool—not get her).

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Read Kevin’s wise words here:

Why is Horror Important—Part One

An excerpt:

“…we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones...”

Why is Horror So Important—Part Two

“Good horror takes characters of depth and exposes them to their worst fears, watching closely how they either rise or fall…which speaks (no, SHOUTS) volumes about us as humans.”

Why Writing Horror Is—SHOULD BE—Hard Part 1

“In the right hands, horror can hold up a very unflattering mirror and show us what we really are: broken, scared creatures flawed and cracked, a species tragically ruled by fear, prejudice, insecurity, pride, anger, selfishness and cruelty.

And in the right hands horror also shows our better selves rising above our flaws.”

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There’s probably going to be a part two for that last post, but I’m too excited about this to wait!

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In conclusion, I resonated with Kevin Lucia’s theories and I was reminded of reading King’s novel Cujo in 7th grade, and spending the last hour of reading in tears.  

Horror isn’t scary because of the monsters, it’s scary because all of these monsters are inside of us already.  

We’re the monsters.  

We’re the heroes, too.  

As humans, we literally can be anything, and sometimes it takes horror to show us the depths that despair or pain can lead us, or the heights we can reach when we are tested.

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love and bombs

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DISCLAIMER:  The following post is a reaction from reading countless Facebook posts and Media online.  I didn’t actually get the chance to have signed or spoken dialogue with people, or to hear any radio shows etc, that would allow me to phrase my words in a more compassionate manner.  One of my best friends has also reminded me that being deaf does cause my access to information to be slightly different than the average person.

I haven’t changed my opinions below exactly, but I would say them differently in hindsight (wouldn’t we all?).  I’d like to just say that I felt the way that I did because of my own personal fears and in reaction to posts from people who are filled with anger and desire to kill after such an event.  I had real fears that the Boston Marathon bombing could potentially start a war if people didn’t keep their heads on straight.

So, I’d like to preface my post with this, instead of deleting it, because I do feel that if you are able to read my words with compassion of your own, that you might see the point I’m trying to make is that we as humans should love each other, not bomb each other, and all bombings are tragic—but each one is also an important time for people to come together and help one another.  I have been really touched by some of the ways that local people are taking that kind of action, and my heart goes out to everyone involved.

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I feel the need to admit here that the bombing at the Boston Marathon did not surprise me and it didn’t fill me with sadness.  I don’t know if it is because I realize there are countless bombs going off, every week, around the world, and to fill myself with sadness every time it happens would certainly make for a depressing life.  Or maybe it is because I’ve seen real poverty in various cities of India and Kenya, from dying dogs to humans suffering from leprosy on the roadsides.  I don’t actually feel desensitized as much as I feel like I understand our society.

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Humans are so intense at times that we confuse ourselves with the outpouring of our rambling thoughts and emotions.  We fear death, we fear each other, we fear ourselves.  I think fear is the culprit here more than anything else.  If we don’t help each other when we are able to, it’s usually because we are afraid of something, whether it is catching someone’s disease or opening ourselves to a stranger, or we are just caught up with self-preservation.

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Something we are missing when we try so hard to protect ourselves is that we are the same as everyone else – not the same, meaning, we aren’t all unique and beautiful and ugly in our own particular ways – but EQUAL.  I see dogs as equal to humans, because I honestly believe that dogs are better humans.  Dogs help remind me to cool my own anger when I’ve been hurt; to turn from pain, and instead of lashing back out against someone, my dogs have reminded me to give them love.

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Love is just as powerful as a bomb, and once more people realize this, maybe there will be less bombs.

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For now, though, I’d like to end this with the post my partner put up on a social networking site (okay, on Facebook…), because what he is saying needs to be thought about and heard beyond “Facebook”, because too many Americans are feeling such outrage, anger, and pain, but honestly, I am sitting here thinking, “Why NOT America?  Why should only places like Iraq, Kenya, India, Thailand, Pakistan, etc, etc, get bombed?”

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Here is the post:

“My heart goes out to the victims from all over the world who were affected by the bombing in Boston, USA. I will continue to think of you, Boston, as well as other cities that have suffered none too distant attacks of this nature. Baquba, Iraq. Jurf Al-Sa, Iraq. Bagdad, Iraq. Khalis, Iraq. Mullazai, Pakistan. Madre Muerta, Columbia. Taloqan, Afghanistan. Yathrib, Iraq. Kirkuk, Iraq. Rural locations in India. Rural locations in Afghanistan. Rural locations in Pakistan. Damascus, Syria. Josefina, Philippines. Landi Kotal, Pakistan. Mubi, Nigeria. Hawija, Iraq. Wajir, Kenya. Loti, Pakistan. Mukalla, Yemen. Taloqan, Afghanistan. Dujail, Iraq. Mogadishu, Somalia.Fallujah, Iraq. Garma, Iraq. Sitamarhi, India. Abu Gharaib, Iraq. Madalla, Nigeria. Jos, Nigeria. Gadaka, Nigeria. Damaturu, Nigeria. Tank, Pakistan. Mussayab, Iraq. Parta, India. Sapele, Nigeria. Peshawar, Pakistan. Tambon Al Yer Weng, Thailand. Karachi, Pakistan. Hangu, Pakistan. Tambon Katong, Thailand. Geedam, India. Mosul, Iraq. Ban Klang, Thailand. Rural locations in Somalia. Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Chandanigahapur, Nepal. Orito, Columbia. Salarzai, Pakistan. Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. Raman, Thailand. Ban Ton Phai, Thailand. Essai, Pakistan. Quetta, Pakistan. Dibis, Iraq. Rural locations in Chile. Jamrud, Pakistan. Tathong, Thailand. Khan Bani Saad, Iraq. Landi Kotal, Pakistan. Boya, Pakistan. Buenos Aires, Argentina. Locations in Senegal, Kenya, Russia, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Indonesia, Greece, Italy, West Bank and Gaza Strip, Mexico, Ivory Coast, Germany, Honduras, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Turkey, Portugal, Congo, Mali, Ecuador, Myanmar, Ukraine, Indonesia, Sudan, Kazakhstan… I wish I could add more to the list, but I only have time to review one and a half months of statistics. Let us always keep those hurt by these heinous acts in our thoughts, and learn to love each other just a little more.”

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I concur with the above and I share it with you, because I haven’t taken the time to research and I cannot myself name all of those places.  But they should be named and lamented along with Boston.  Because the world is much bigger than just America.

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I’ve recently had my first child and many people seem to think I should stay here in my birth country, but I don’t agree.  I don’t plan to stop traveling, or put off traveling, because I want to raise my child knowing places like India and Africa as closely as his birth country.  I want him to know other cultures, other languages, and to return to America and share that knowledge.

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If we feel like we know each other a bit better, I can only hope that loving each other will be easier, too.

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a broken thing

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I was sick this morning, so my partner took our son out somewhere.  I was planning on curling up on the couch and eating breakfast while drinking coffee out of a mug that I got in South India back in 1999.

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The mug was made in Auroville, the International Community where I spent more than a year of my life.   I volunteered there, helping stray dogs in the community and within the neighboring villages.  The woman I worked with, Ann from New Zealand, was like a mother to me.  She taught me how to give homeopathic and other natural medicines to the dogs.  We also fed them leftover food from Auroville’s solar kitchen, and I gave the animals love, because Ann was too busy sometimes to do that.  She also gave rabies shots and treated distemper and other diseases.  I worked with her for months at a time, in 1999, then again in 2001 and 2005.

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In 2005, Ann died of colon cancer while I was there in India with her.  It was one of the most intense and depressing experiences of my life.  The world (and the dogs) lost a beautiful, amazing spirit when it lost her.

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I left Auroville (and India) the day after she died, and since then, I’ve only returned to North India.  I have journeyed to New Zealand twice since Ann’s death, to spend time with her mother and meet her sisters.  I’m so thankful to be able to know them all, and one day, I do hope to publish my story of my time with Ann.

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This morning, I knocked over that mug I’ve drank from every morning I’ve spent in America since 1999.  I cried and screamed.  I shattered a plate, because I needed to break something less important to me.  I played out the experience over and over in my head, trying to understand WHY I broke it, WHY it happened, HOW I could glue it back together.

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It’s just a mug, right?  Sure, it was crafted by an artist’s hands, and it was a beautiful mug, but things break in life.  They shatter.  And sometimes we need that catharsis to remind us of the things, the often intangible things, that are REALLY important.  Like the work I did in India with the dogs, and the love I have for Ann, the love I have for her family.  My mug reminded me of that, but the mug wasn’t a dog.  It wasn’t Ann.

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Sometimes, telling the story of an object we lose can be a way to release that object into space.  Let go.  We’ve all broken something, haven’t we?  If you’d like to comment on this post, I invite you to tell me a story of a broken thing, and what it meant to you (or at least, write the stories of your broken things for yourself, it can be therapeutic, I promise).

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the dog I am haunted by

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My first dog, Willow, was named for my favorite tree and favorite character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I was twenty-one when I adopted him at 8-weeks from the Concord NH SPCA.  He was like a “son” to me, just as important as any human being.  I trained him as my Hearing Dog when he was five, and throughout his life, he helped me to feel less anxious in social situations (where I can’t hear the words around me) and he helped remind me that I feel part-dog way down in my soul.

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Willow was by my side every moment of my adult life, except when I was traveling abroad, and sometimes I took that for granted.  I assumed he would live at least fifteen years, not almost eleven.  I assumed he couldn’t possibly get cancer, or die before my child would be able to remember how wonderfully they connected, that Willow was his brother, not just a dog.

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But last year, he did get cancer, suddenly, and months later, he died in my arms.

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I made photo story books to tell my son Ronan about Willow’s life and their experiences together.  I made collages of Willow photos to hang around our home.  In every room, there is a picture of Willow.  These things are necessary.  They are soothing.  But they don’t make the pain any less.  They don’t bring back the smell of his paws, or the softness of his tongue licking my tears, my lips, my cheeks, or the wisdom in his eyes.

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Willow understood me in a way that no one else has ever understood me.  And now he’s gone, at least physically.  Like our home, No Smoking, Willow has left a great gulf inside me that will never be filled.  In the language of one of my favorite books, The God of Small Things, there is a Willow-shaped-hole in me.  There is a No Smoking-shaped-hole, too.  But these vacancies are inescapable.  As we grow and age, things around us disappear, crumble, and die.  Yet still, we have to go on growing and learning and finding other ways of being happy, other creatures to love.  The holes, the things that haunt us, make us better writers and probably better humans.  I have to think of it that way, or else, I’ll crawl into those holes and just stay depressed.  Sometimes, I do that, but I do my best to turn those holes into tunnels with light at the end.  An opening to crawl back out into the world.  Because there are millions of beautiful things out there, a million ways to love.  But remembering is important, too, even if it makes us despair.  In writing, every emotion, every thought, every desire, is a tool we can use to connect to someone else, to share our sorrows, our ecstasies, and to help others feel less alone in the world the way that Willow made me feel less alone.

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In the vein of sharing my brilliant, beautiful soul-dog and son with you, here are some of my favorite memories of Willow:

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Image       willy-at-snakeden

Balancing Between, an Introduction

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This was the Introduction of my still-in-process poetry collection currently titled: Balancing Between: Deafness, Death, and Other Journeys.  I’ve cut it from the manuscript itself, but it’s a fitting first blog post to introduce you to me, Kristen Ringman:

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As a younger writer, I wrote in the context of dreamed philosophies yearning towards the natural world I felt humans were losing more each day.  Like a proper teenager, I wrote about things I often couldn’t even touch.

Now, as my ears have spent many years deafening, my writing has found its way back to my own body.  I’ve explored sweltering countries like India and Kenya, fallen in love with their red soil, their roads that cut through fields like a scar, and the way I suddenly felt at peace beneath their banana palms or banyan branches.  I’m always more at home in foreign places.  I’ve watched loved ones die of one cancer or another, and whether it was in India or America, the cancer reared its wild head like a lion that knew it would never be tamed.  Humans still stood by, powerless to such bodily invasion, holding words or scraps of tissue in their palms.

These experiences I have swallowed, along with the taste of lovers, mangoes, and hot chai, have all shaped my writing as a form of navigation through the margins of the world.  I’m always caught between cultures, between words read on lips or hands, between my desire to please myself and my desire to please someone else.

Writing is my way of drawing the right lines between myself and other bodies, lines that are as red as the roads in India or Africa, and just as deaf.  Writing the things I have touched.

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