Moment of Beauty: Cherry Blossom Rain by Jane

Fruit Tree Blooming Season here was a bit tricky – we had lots of gorgeous blooms, of course, but we also had rain. Rain rain rain rain rain and heywhodaguessedit more rain. There would be these glorious intervals of sunshine, but they’d either be gone by the time you dug the camera out or they happened when you were otherwise occupied.

It made taking photos nigh impossible. But oh, the result when you could grab one of those moments and run with it! Jane caught a sun break with her new smartphone: a fleeting instant of breathtaking beauty, preserved with such clarity that you can feel the cool, rainswept breezes from the storm clouds and taste a perfect drop of rain on soft petals.

Image shows a cluster of cherry blossoms covered in raindrops.

“Here’s my picture of the cherry blossoms bursting with raindrops taken with a silly phone!” Image courtesy Jane.

You know, I never thought anything would make me pine for rain again now that we’ve finally had a few days without, but all of a sudden, I wouldn’t mind a few drops of the stuff.

…   …   ……….

You know what, let’s settle for a sprinkler instead.

Amanda’s Facebook Photography Page is Up!

My friend and photographer Amanda Reese created a Facebook page – if you love pretty pictures, go show her some love!

Image is a selfie of Amanda, who has a beautiful bird painted on her face.

Amanda Reese. Image courtesy Amanda Reese.

While you’re there, feel free to demand endless pictures of her adorable tiny new kitten, Chipper.

Image shows me holding a tiny, long-haired black kitten who is getting ready to lick my nose.

Chipper likes noses. Image courtesy Starspider, kitten courtesy Amanda Reese.

There’s never enough kitten!

Image shows Chipper standing on B's shoulder.

She also likes climbing people. Image courtesy Starspider.

There will be some geology later this summer, too – I’m going to take Amanda to photograph the hell out of some prime examples. Although if I go over to her place to pick her up, we may get sucked into a kitten black hole… you’d forgive us if we brought you lots of kitten instead, right?

Sometimes It Works Out Fine

Many of you were there to offer cyber-sympathy during the recent dust-up that plunged me into Emoland. Your support prevented me from becoming a permanent resident there – thank you! But for a while there, it looked like I’d be living life without B. Which led to frequent trips to Emoland, lemme tell ya.

But that situation’s sorted. We finally had the difficult talk a bit ago, wherein he displayed an understanding as to why all this feminism stuff is important, and he’ll trust me going forward, and won’t worry about the battles I choose to pick. Mind you – he’s understood the importance of said battles all along, which is one of the many reasons I like him lots. But he’s now willing to risk some collateral discomfort, and knows we can have equality without sacrificing fun. We’ll trust each other more in the future.

Of course, that talk would have happened a lot earlier if he’d known how to approach the conversation, poor soul. In trying not to pressure him, I think I went a bit too far in the opposite direction. Whoops.

And then we sorted out the other, more mundane, personal issues that had contributed to the bad situation between us. We committed to the necessary changes each of us needed to make in order to do better by each other. Then we purchased an excessive amount of alcohol and watched a very odd vampire flick, followed by a Wonder Woman episode, and it’s been fine since. Better than I expected.

Sometimes, these battles we have to fight for equality cost us close personal friends. But when that happens, the ones worth keeping will work it out with us. And they’ll be there for us in the future.

B’s one of the best. Raise him a round and welcome him to the feminazi ranks.

Image is of two cats hugging. Caption says, "Don't worry. Everything is fine now."

One of the Most Beautiful, Courageous People I Know

I wept reading my heart-sister’s response to yesterday’s post. Happy tears, and sad tears, and hopeful tears, and so-damned-proud-of-you tears.

She’s had a long, hard journey to get here. But I know she’ll find plenty of loving arms to hug her tight.

I love you, my sister. No matter where your path takes you, I always will.

“Child’s Hands Holding White Rose for Peace” by D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr.

Why Is Kink Fun? A Guest post by Greta Christina

Unzip your mind. Sit back, relax with your drink of choice, and read the following with a healthy spirit of inquiry. Many of you won’t even need to do that much – you’re kinky yourownselves, and you’re ready to go dive into the book without advance preparation. Some of you aren’t kinky at all, or haven’t ever discovered more than a mild, currently socially-acceptable kink within yourself (fuzzy handcuffs, eh? Nice!). Some of you have been conditioned to believe kink is sick and horrible and never ever good.

As with many things, you’ve been lied to. And Greta will attempt to explain why this thing you think is no fun at all is actually very fun and healthy and mucho bueno for many folks. Ready? Then go:

 

Why Is Kink Fun?

Guest post by Greta Christina

"Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More" - by our own Greta Christina - is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

“Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” – by our own Greta Christina – is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

Why is kink fun?

Why is it that some people — in very specialized, negotiated, enthusiastically consensual circumstances — find it not just acceptable, but actively and deeply pleasurable, to be controlled, dominated, physically hurt, used, objectified, shamed, humiliated, and/or have their freedom curtailed?

Quick bit of background. I’ve recently published a collection of erotic fiction — mostly kinky — titled “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.” (Currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords — audiobook and paperback are coming soon.) The book has gotten an excellent reception so far, with lots of lovely gushing reviews. But it’s also been received with some bafflement, and in some cases even hostility, from a few readers and people who’ve seen excerpts or read what I’ve written about it… and who don’t understand how it can be healthy to get sexual pleasure from experiences that are so obviously unhealthy and negative and bad. Example: I got this message on Facebook recently, which I’m printing with the senders permission (anonymously at their request):

I am right in the middle of your book “Bending”. As someone who has a very “vanilla” sex drive with no kinks (literally, none.. I’m as bland as they come) I don’t quite see the appeal to feeling shame that comes with BDSM-style punishment and discipline. As someone who’s been shamed in real life by religion in years past, and by friends and family who don’t understand my hobbies and quirks, I find it hard to empathize with how shame can be a turn-on for some people.

I ask this in the most non-judgmental way possible… but, what is the appeal? I’m a little hung up on your book because I don’t understand how humiliation can be erotic. I think the book is very well written but I’m just having a hard time reading through it because there is a stark disconnect between my sexuality and the sexuality of the characters portrayed in your short stories.

Thank you very much for your time. I love the work that you do and look forward to possibly hearing back from you.

I’ve been doing kinky sex for so long, I sometimes forget how incomprehensible it sometimes seems to people who aren’t into it. But I do recognize why this might be hard to understand. In some ways, consensually sadomasochistic sex can almost be defined as sex that eroticizes, and makes pleasurable, experiences that would normally be actively unpleasant, and in some cases even horrific.

What about that feels good?

There’s a limit to how well I’m going to be able to get this across. Sex is such a personal, subjective experience. Explaining why you like any kind of sex that someone else doesn’t — kinky or otherwise — is tricky at best. Try explaining why you like sex with someone of the opposite sex — or the same sex — to someone who really, really doesn’t. It’s like trying to explain what it is that tastes good about broccoli, to someone who totally loathes it. But I’m going to take a stab.

Caveat #1: I’m just talking about myself here. I know that my experiences are shared by many, but I don’t presume to speak for all kinky people. Caveat #2: This is a complicated issue — what’s the phrase the social scientists use? Multi-factorial? — and anything I say to explain this is going to oversimplify pretty much by definition. All that being said, I’m going to take a stab.

For me, much of what it comes down to is intimacy.

The thing about pain is that it gets through. I can be a very well-defended, self-contained person: I don’t let myself get close to people very easily, and it’s hard to just let those walls down and let someone else in. But pain gets through. It’s impossible to ignore. The very intensity of it — the fact that my body is processing the sensation, on some level, as unpleasant — grabs my attention, wakes me the fuck up. If someone is hitting me, I can’t tune out the fact that they’re touching me.

And it isn’t just pain I’m talking about here. In my experience, most forms of sadomasochistic sex have to do with breaking down barriers. Shame and humiliation break down the barriers of dignity and composure. Bondage and domination break down the barriers of self-containment and self-possession. There is an intense intimacy in putting yourself in someone else’s hands, handing over the reins, letting them control what you’re going to be feeling for a while. And again, the very intensity of the experience, the fact that some small part of my brain is screaming, “This is not okay! Get away from this now!”, can — again, in the right circumstances and with the right person — be an intensifier, a magnifier of experience. Including the experience of intimacy, of connection, of being touched by another person.

There’s a lot more going on here, of course. I’ve found that I tend to fantasize about what I don’t have — and when my life is micro-scheduled and overloaded with responsibility, as it so often is, it can feel like a huge burden being lifted to just let go and let someone else be the decider for a couple/ few hours. (You know the cliché of the high-powered business executive seeking out a dominatrix, to relieve him of responsibility for a short while? It’s a cliché for a reason.)

Also, I should point out that kinky people aren’t the only ones who think power is sexy. Humans are hierarchical apes. Get three of us in a room together, and we’ll create a dominance structure. It’s not hugely surprising that many of us would eroticize power. And it’s not hugely surprising that some of us would eroticize power in an overt, explicit way: not simply by being attracted to politicians or moguls, but by being aroused by a person standing over us with a whip.

Then there’s endorphins: the brain’s natural opiates, which kick in as a response to pain, and which under the right circumstances can get us high. And which sexual masochists will tell you about in loving detail, and at great length. If you understand why many athletes experience pain — and pushing through pain to get to the endorphin high — as a pleasurable experience… then you can understand at least part of why sexual masochists experience pain as a pleasurable experience.

And for me at least, there’s a certain hard-wired quality to these experiences that’s fundamentally inexplicable. I have been aware of being kinky for as long as I’ve been aware of being sexual. And I don’t mean since I was eighteen, or since I was thirteen. I mean since I was eight. I have been aware of being kinky for about as long as I’ve been aware of being queer. That isn’t true for every kinky person — but it’s true for a lot of us. I don’t entirely understand this stuff myself: yes, I have intimacy issues, but I think pretty much everyone has intimacy issues, and most people don’t handle those issues by intentionally eroticizing getting beaten and pushed around. Most people probably couldn’t eroticize pain and submission and humiliation, even if they wanted to. (There are people who come to kink later in life, and who nurture a kinky sexuality intentionally — in response to a partner who enjoys it, for instance — but in my experience, most of them had at least a seed of kink to start with.) The way my body processes pain, the way my mind processes power… I can’t entirely explain it, any more than I can explain why I like girls. The clit has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.

But what it mostly comes down to, for me, is intimacy. Kink gets through. It breaks down my walls. I have formidable walls at times… and the intensity of kink sets dynamite underneath them.

I’ve so far been writing about this from the bottom’s perspective: explaining why it feels good to receive pain, to be humiliated, to be controlled. But I’m a switch, and I can tell you that it feels good on the other side as well… and for much the same reasons. Just as it feels good to both penetrate sexually and be penetrated, it feels good to be on both sides of the connection of sadomasochism. It feels good to break down walls, just as it does to have your walls broken. It feels good to touch, with the intensity of pain or power, just as it does to be touched.

If this still doesn’t make sense: There’s an analogy that some of my readers have made in some other conversations about this. Kink is like a rollercoaster, or a horror movie. It can be fun and exciting to subject yourself to otherwise unpleasant emotions — like fear — in a safe, controlled setting. There is a thrill to fear, a rush… and when you can experience that rush with people you trust, in a place where you know you’re safe, it can filter out the unpleasantness, and leave only the thrill.

Ultimately, it may not be possible to really convey what this experience is like. I will probably never understand on a visceral level what it feels like to enjoy broccoli, or what it is that people find pleasurable about that experience. And someone with no interest whatsoever in kink may never understand on a visceral level what it feels like to enjoy getting beaten or shamed or controlled.

And it may not matter that much. As long as you have an intellectual understanding of this stuff; as long as you have an understanding of the basic fact that people do like different sexual things from you, and that this doesn’t make them sick or bad; as long as you understand that there is literally no medical evidence suggesting that kinky people are sick or bad, and in fact plenty of evidence pointing to the conclusion that we’re every bit as healthy and good as everyone else; as long as you understand that no matter what your sexuality is, there is someone in the world who finds it incomprehensible and weird — and as long as you can use that understanding to accept kinky people and treat us with decency — I don’t know that it matters that much whether you can deeply, viscerally grasp what it is about this experience that people get off on.

But getting a glimmer of the visceral experience can help with the intellectual understanding. It may even help people who do have kinky feelings, and who have been shamed into thinking that they’re sick or dangerous or wrong, come to an acceptance of them, and feel more comfortable exploring them.

And anyway, it’s just fun to think about.

“Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

Halp! We Need Kittehs for Evelyn!

Our own Dr. Evelyn had quite a scare recently – some asshole broke in to her flat and stole her laptop. She wasn’t harmed, but she’s considerably shaken up and in need of an infusion of kittehs. Send her your cute kitteh photos asap! You can reach her at geokittehs at gmail dot com. We’ll take them all, the more the merrier. Someday, they may even achieve some fame as Geokittehs!

Misha imitating a boulder in a stream bed.

Misha imitating a boulder in a stream bed.

For Nicole

Lockwood and I went to Avery Park for the geology, but stayed for the rose garden. I’ll have a full bouquet of roses for you sometime in the nearish future, plus one of the best bee photos I’ve ever taken. But for now, I wanted to share one very meaningful rose.

This is Nicole.

Nicole rose cultivar

A lovely Nicole rose at Avery Park, Corvallis, Oregon.

Actually, this is Nicole. We’ve been friends for nearly a decade now, ever since those halcyon days in the Death thread on the Writer forums. Nicole and I were both aspiring-to-be writers then. Now she’s a full-time freelancer, and one of my inspirations: if she can do this as a single mom with two kids, I have no damned excuses.

Nicole rose

The petals look a bit flamenco, don’t they? I love the way they whirl, and their lovely pink tips. It’s one of the only times I’ve actually thought pink looked quite lovely.

She’s one of the strongest people I know; also, one of the kindest. But she can be fierce. She’s beautiful inside and out. She is, in fact, quite a bit like the rose that bears her name.

Cluster of Nicole roses with autumn trees in background.

I didn’t expect roses to be blooming so vigorously so late in the fall, but it’s fantastic. I love these blooms against the autumn leaves in the background.

And so, this Nicole is for Nicole, with love, from her heart sister.

One of Our Best Bloggers Needs You

Greta Christina is one of the writers I respect most in the world. She recently became a full-time freelance writer, and it seems the world has been out to get her ever since. Her father died just a few weeks ago – then she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer early this week. It’s not the worst kind of cancer a person can have, and hopefully was caught early enough so it can be cured with merely major surgery, but it’s going to sideline her for a bit. And this is at the beginning of her freelance career, which means no cushion built up. And this is freelancing we’re talking about – there is no paid sick leave.

So she could use a hand. Do you want to help out? You can donate to her directly, or buy her excellent book, or recommend easy entertainment to keep her from going mad during convalescence. I’m assuming things featuring cute kittehs are priority, but please try to grade things by humor: aww cute should be fine for the first two weeks, gentle giggles for weeks 2-3, ramping up gradually to chuckles and, eventually, when healing has progressed so far, gales of laughter.

And give her love. Lots and lots of love.

Greta Christina’s head, plus kittehs. I think her body is under that pile somewhere, but it’s hard to tell from the photo. Image credit Greta Christina, from 6 Things Cat Owners Dare Not Think About on Catster.

(A note to any religious readers: please respect the fact that Greta is an atheist. Please don’t tell her you’re praying for her, that God has a plan, etc. You’re welcome to believe those things, but we don’t, and don’t find them at all comforting. Thank you for understanding.)

Suzanne’s Citrine

I’m going to be doing a post on a magnificent bit of citrine I’ve currently got joint custody of, but this is not that post. Instead, this is me thinking of citrine and realizing I’ve had a piece sitting in a box by my bed for years, waiting for the right home. It’s one of a pair I picked up at a little shop in downtown Seattle called Raven’s Nest Treasure.

It’s going to Suzanne, who is one of my favorite people in the entire universe, and who doesn’t (yet) have enough pretty rocks lying around. We had some lovely sunshine on Sunday, so I took photos of her new delight. I figured a few of you might enjoy them as well.

Citrine and sky

Isn’t it lovely?

I will confess something to you: I never much liked citrine. I’m not a fan of oranges and yellows. I always passed it by for things like rose and smoky quartz and amethyst. Because it’s orange. Like an orange. I quite like oranges, mind, but have never been a fan of their color.

Citrine against burgundy.

So I always passed right by citrine with nary a glance, until my friend Autumn came to visit. We went to the Burke Museum, and she bolted for the citrine. She adores it.

Citrine on the side, in the sun. Enlarge this and really see the play of color within.

Have you ever had one of those moments when someone makes you see a thing you’ve never liked entirely anew? This was that moment. I saw citrine through her eyes, and it blazed out with all the colors of the sun. It was spectacular, dazzling – still orange, but a brilliant and beautiful orange.

My whole perspective on citrine changed. Justlikethat.

Citrine from a different angle.

So when I was in the Raven’s Nest a bit later, and saw citrine crystals sitting in a dish, I chose out two quite carefully. I wrapped one and kept it in a box, waiting for Autumn. But we lost touch, and it’s not seen the light of day for too long. It’s time to give this one a home. I’ll find Autumn again someday, and I’ll give her its sister. Then I’ll pick up another piece, somewhere, someday, so that there are three bits of citrine connecting three women. Symbols matter. And these are two of my favorite women in the world, with personalities as brilliant and beautiful as the sun, who make me see things in a whole new light.

Love always,

Dana

Lilies for a Friend

2012 is not being kind to kith and kin. Suzanne’s fractured her poor leg and knee. Another friend just sent me rather distressing news. I won’t reveal anything about it until I have her leave, but I figured another installment of flowers was in order. She and Suzanne both could use a little beauty right now.

We’ll have some lovely lilies, accompanied by one of the most beautiful piano pieces I’ve heard lately, “Tip-Toe Dancer” by Karen Marie Garrett.

The lilies are from the North Creek area. This first one reminds me very much of my friend: its near-translucent purple looks delicate, but it’s tough as well as gorgeous.

Purple lily

This white lily is an early spring delight. I love how the little bits of green in its petals give it some pizazz.

White Lily

In the summer, orange lilies bloom nearly everywhere. Sometimes, it’s just a bloom or two on a single stalk; elsewhere, banks of them blaze out. They seem to pick up where the rhododendrons leave off, and leaven the endless green quite admirably.

Orange lilies

These scarlet lilies are from a park near the river. Not a common color, and all the more gorgeous for that.

Scarlet lilies

We’ll finish with flowers found in the blast zone at Mt. St. Helens. They’re a wonderful reminder that no matter how bad the damage, given a bit of time, beauty can return.

Beauty in the Blast Zone

And now, I’d like a word with 2012: stop fucking with my friends, or I will hurt you in the face. Well, I would, if you had a face, which you don’t. You’re not even a you. Bugger. Still, you’re on notice, 2012. Behave.