Category Archives: My Story

Art and The City

The City, Not Long AfterI have had a book stuck in my head for months. I’ve read the book before, at least once. but the more I dig into what exactly I want this blog to become, the more strongly I knew that it was time to re-read it. Unfortunately, my well-loved copy was in a box in my sister’s California basement, 1,200 miles away. At least it was until holiday visiting time. Now that book is sitting on the table beside me, bookmarked 155 pages in. Pages read on yesterday’s return flight home. That book is The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy.

When Danny-Boy was eight years old, he learned that art could change the world.

If Gene Wilder crooning Pure Imagination is the Apocalypse Garden’s theme song, then that line is its mantra. Art can change the world. In my world, art begins with story, and Pat’s is filled with magic and beauty, despite loss and fear and threat. Sure, it may not teach us how to build a crossbow, but it gives us survival skills just as important: community building and creativity, two traits that can serve us all well, be it the end of days, or everyday.

Monday Musings

Today it snowed out of the blue. When I went to work in the morning it was cold, but sunny. Somewhere before sundown the wind started whipping up. Off to the north, the clouds grew dark, though those to the south remained white and fluffy, with patches of blue still visible between.

As the sun began to set the light grew golden. The wind tossed brown leaves around like boats on a choppy sea. That’s when the snow began–corn snow, pellet snow, vermiculite snow, depending on what part of the US you come from. The part I came from had no snow except for one day when I was in sixth grade and they closed the school. Before the next day it was gone.

I wish I had taken a picture of that sky–the gold sky, shimmering beneath brooding dark. It looked like magic, all thick and sparkling, as though walking out the door I would wind up in Bonnydoon. It looked apocalyptic, as though some terrible something had blotted out the sun. My boss said, back home, her original home in Minnesota, that sky would mean tornadoes. Perhaps it really was the work that kept her late, but perhaps she was just reluctant to leave the shop without a cellar to run to.

At the end of my shift I found the sidewalks and doorways filled with snow and my car covered from head to toe, while the streets were uncovered, damp and dark as the sky. I pulled my trusty scraper/brush combo from the trunk of my hatchback and cleared the windshields, letting the engine warm as I did.

I drove slow all the way home. I could see the ice beginning to crystalize on the pavement and knew my tires where pushing bald.

Today’s prepping wins:

  • Having an extra set of gloves in the car to wear when I couldn’t find my good ones
  • Having that multi-use scraper in the trunk so I didn’t have to beg or borrow from the woman one store down
  • Having an extra scarf and other warm clothes in the car, just in case

Today’s prepping fails:

  • Losing my good gloves in the first place
  • Not buying new tires before the snow hit
  • Ignoring for weeks the recall notice on my car because I haven’t had time to get over to the dealership (or even figure out where the dealership is) to get it taken care of

Sometimes the snow sneaks up on you, but given that our first light dusting hit over a week ago, it was well past time to get the car, and especially the tires checked out. As for the wins? Sometimes procrastination is a good thing and I’m happy to have wasted the trunk space for the last 7 months so I could have what I needed today.

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month and I can think of no better way to follow up 31 days of apocalypse blogging than with 30 days of apocalypse novel writing. So to get everyone in the spirit, Here are the first lines of Consequence, my novel in progress.

Last night I dreamed the apocalypse. It wasn’t the first time. Truth be told, I’ve been seeing the end of the world since I was a little kid.

Mostly these dreams, they’re different every time, but there’s one that keeps on coming, over and over again. That’s the one that scares me most.

I plan to continue to post here as much as I can, but with 1700 words due on the novel every day, I might miss a few here and there. But even if I’m not here, believe me, I’m still here, neck deep in the end of days.

The Meaning of Apocalypse

Today at lunch, a friend asked me to define apocalypse. We had been talking about this blog, about an upcoming End of Days-themed art exhibit, and why all sci-fi seems (to him) to be apocalyptic.

To him, apocalypse means the end of everything–the total destruction of the world and everything in it, à la Revelations. For me, sure, it could mean that, but I prefer to take a broader view. In my world, and the world of this blog, I define apocalypse as a catastrophic event. That event could be:

  • Global–a meteor hitting the earth, climate change
  • Regional–the Irish potato famine, the black plague
  • Local–tornado, earthquake, wildfire
  • Personal–losing a loved one, losing your job or your home, learning you have cancer

When my neighbor Ann was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had already metastasized to her bones, she became suddenly interested in apocalypse fiction, perhaps looking for models for how to survive, perhaps looking for ways to handle the worst, perhaps looking for ways to put her illness into perspective. When she asked me for recommendations, I gave her my short list. When she asked me why I love apocalypse fiction so much, my answer was even shorter: hope.

Hope is the foundation of most apocalypse fiction, and perhaps all prepping and survivalism. The belief that there is a chance, and that maybe, with a little work and luck, we can improve that chance. That even if the world does devolve into Mad Max, that somewhere out there lies Tomorrow-morrow Land, where the children will be safe. Somewhere out there lies a place where the sick will be healed.

Perhaps that is what drives us to stock up on staples at the onset of autumn, knowing that cold and flu season isn’t far behind. For my part, I hauled out to Costco on Thursday for discount tinned fish, a 12 pound bag of short grain brown rice, and two 48 count boxes of extra strength Mucinex. Protein, carbs, and medicine–the best bang for my buck. All I need now is a case of chicken broth since Ann isn’t here to bring that to me anymore. The loss of soup when sick isn’t a catastrophe, the loss of Ann, that’s another story.

Small Lessons from Daily Life

Today was a long day. I worked setting up a vendor booth, came home, and then went back to the event. There were, however two notable (and relevant) moments in the day:

  • I learned that my little Chevy hatchback can carry 5 boxed professional-grade sewing machines plus one unboxed long-arm sewing machine and one unboxed portable sewing machine and still have room in the front seat for a passenger, with enough space left over for my emergency roadside bag, a first aid kit, and a few other odds and ends. Even though I did drive the car across country packed with my things, and for many years before that used it to haul cinderblocks, huge bags of compost and soil, and one time, to move 17 plants including two bare-root fruit trees, and several 5 gallon shrubs, but that was a long time ago. Knowing  the carrying capacity of one’s vehicle is a very good idea, and being reminded of just how much mine can hold makes me want to do trial bug-out runs to see how many of my most important possessions I can cram into the trunk and still have enough room in the back seat to get a good night’s sleep. Once I figure that out, I’ll create a list for the back of the door. I’ll also time how long it takes me to get everything from messy room to bags to car.
  • My gentleman friend stopped by and brought me a copy of The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse. Does he get me or what? I’ve already read the first three pages and look forward to reading the rest. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    The Disaster Diaries
    The Disaster Diaries


Once More with Imagination

After one full week of daily posts, I find that I don’t really like the direction this blog is going. But that’s okay. One of the main reasons I decided to undertake this challenge was to find my voice on this topic. I had some pretty strong ideas about how I wanted it to feel, and basically it was not like this. Not so alarmist, more supportive. Not so gloomy, more optimistic. Not so reiterative, more creative. Not so literal, more literary. And I still want that.

I feel the same way about the content. Sure, I think it’s important to reference the current threats and disasters, but since I’m not a scientist or a politician, I don’t really have a lot to add to what’s already out there except my opinion. What I do have to add:

  • Specialized prepping info for single women, small space dwellers, people with health concerns, and artists (including writers, crafters, and musicians)
  • Practical ideas about what skills may save our lives, our sanity, and our souls, and how to acquire them
  • A deep love of fictional apocalypse and dystopian literature, art, and pop culture–one might even call it an obsession–and a calling to find the often very usable wisdom they contain and apply it to the challenges we are living with right now or may encounter in the future
  • A sense of humor about the past and present and optimism about the future

So, what does Willy Wonka have to do with the apocalypse? Since the day I finally decided to start this blog after dreaming it for more than 6 years, that song has been stuck in my head. Yes, it may feel out of context for an apocalypse blog, but within it is the root of what I most want to share. That by using the power of our imaginations, with the help of great literary and artistic minds, we can change our world for the better.

The Apocalypse Garden

Once upon a time, there was a girl who grew up in earthquake country. Despite the fact that her family home was built on bedrock, she grew up just knowing that, any day, the big one could hit and take  everything away.

Now, maybe it was that. Or maybe it was the stories that her father read to her each night, filled with wild rides, and one ring to rule them all, and other battles of good vs. evil. But whatever the reason, she grew up obsessed with tales of the apocalypse.

And as she got older, she learned to store extra food, and how to turn off the water and gas, and stay indoors during lightning storms. In late 1999, she bought extra water and boxes of Duraflame logs in preparation for Y2K. And when she bought a house of her own, she made sure it was seismically up to code.

This house of hers had a huge garden and a second-story window that looked out over the ocean. And when it came time to plant, she didn’t choose flowers. Instead she created an apocalypse garden, where each tree and bush and seed would grow to serve more than one purpose–herbs for cooking and to attract pollinators, cherries for fruit and one day wood, winter and summer squash for food and to shade the delicate roots and stems of newly planted apple and plum. But her favorite was the black bamboo grown in barrels along the back fence. The shoots could be eaten, the stalks could be used to build, and the grove blocked a neighbor’s ugly yard.

That house belongs to some someone else now, and the girl has traded her ocean for the wide skies of New Mexico, but she still carries that garden within her. And in this increasingly uncertain world, those books that inspired her feel less like fiction or fantasy and more like a map for the road ahead.

And So it Begins

Tomorrow starts the 31 Days writing challenge. My first response when I heard about it was, “like I need another project,” but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it could be just what I need. You see, I’ve been struggling with a Big Project–the kind that feels like it could be The One. But the more I got into it, the more difficult it became, and not just wrangling the profusion of ideas. The paralysis increased as I looked closer at what my actual day-to-day might look like, and hit crisis mode when I realized that wasn’t anything near how I wanted to spend my life.

I put that project on hold and in the open space another project that I’ve played with here and there for years began to raise its head. What better way to see if it’s something that could really work than to spend 31 days immersed in its world.

So here I am, with a new blog on a domain I bought back in 2008. Six years is long enough to wait for a place in the light.

Day 1: The Apocalypse Garden
Day 2: State of the Union
Day 3: Never Look Away
Day 3.2: Feature Friday: Pumzi
Day 4: Water, Water, Everywhere
Day 5: Stitching Resilience
Day 6: Connecting Climate and Human Health
Day 7: Disaster News Update: Japan
Day 8: Once More with Imagination
Day 9: Small Lessons from Daily Life
Day 10: Feature Friday: The Sand Storm
Day 11: Hobbyists as Heroes
Day 12: The Benefits of Practice
Day 13: 4000+ Is Not Just a Statistic
Day 14: Risk to National Security
Day 15: Wordless Wednesday
Day 16: Ebola Number Crunching
Day 17: Feature Friday: All That’s Left
Day 18: Thinking About Pandemics
Day 19: Get Rid of Stress in 60 Seconds
Day 20: The Best Weapon
Day 21: This Week’s Apocalypse Update
Day 22: Wordless Wednesday
Day 23: Throwback Thursday: October 23
Day 24: Feature Friday: Ebola and Panic
Day 25: The Meaning of Apocalypse
Day 26: To Sleep, Perchance…
Day 27: Pele Visits Pohoa
Day 28: An Ounce of Prevention
Day 29: Wordless Wednesday
Day 30: Remembering Sandy
Day 31: Feature Friday: Ambition
Day 32: 31 Days Recap