Author Archives: jillydreadful

Vulnerability: Mid-April Theme


The person who made this image spelled Amy Poehler’s name wrong, but whatevs. I like the quote and it’s a cute picture.

“It is only by letting go of all your defenses that you become invulnerable,” Jessica Macbeth writes.

There may be no better time to write about vulnerability than right now, in April, this very moment, as the land becomes soft and supple again, as seeds start to sprout and roots start to take hold. The process of growth can only be accomplished if the seedling allows itself to trust the ground it was planted in, allows itself to be exposed to sunlight and water, trusting that these elements exist in the world and they’ll find their ways to its growing ground. These are all forms of vulnerability; we can learn a lot from seeds and spouts.

In comics, television, movies, just culture in general in the United States, invulnerability is lauded one of the best powers to have. It appears people, especially women, are supposed to strive to achieve a specific kind of invulnerability in their daily lives. “You’re too sensitive,” is an insult. “Don’t take it personally” or “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

But there is untold power in vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the kind of superpower that we can all learn, and it starts by giving yourself permission.

There is power in giving yourself permission: what would you make if you gave yourself permission? What would your life look like if you did the same? Allowing yourself to dream, and then sharing those dreams, as well as championing them in others is a skill not only do not many people have, but often we’re taught we’re not allowed to dream about certain things. What if you gave yourself permission to dream? What would your dreams look like?

There is power in loving honesty: lots of people pride themselves on being brutally honest. I don’t know why, brutal honesty is just a masquerade for laziness. Loving honesty takes more effort and energy, but, also, can be more true than the brutal kind any day. Often loving honesty comes from a place of tremendous vulnerability, exposing the parts of your soul to someone that you may have hidden even from yourself.

There is power in rebuilding: sometimes we have to tear down old structures before we can properly rebuild them. Stripping ourselves, our souls, our work down to the bare bones and exposing the copper wiring underneath, and letting the world take peek takes a special balance of not worrying about what other people think, but being conscious enough to know what to re-vision about ourselves and our work.

There is power in asking: asking for our needs to be met is an incredible act of vulnerability. And sometimes, the person we’re asking will say no, or will be unable to meet our request. It’s okay to be disappointed. Don’t let that stop you from asking. Preparing for the worst case scenario, expecting the worst from people, steeling yourself against disappointment is a fiction we tell ourselves about why it’s okay that we don’t have deep, soulful connections with ourselves and others. Give yourself permission to ask what needs in your life need to be met and how you can ask others to help you satisfy them.

There is power in loving with wild abandon: love is like fire, it doesn’t diminish when shared, but increases in size. Are you love starved? Lovelorn? War torn? How would your life and your work change if you gave yourself permission to love yourself and the people you’re closest to in complicated ways, without definitions, without constraints? What if you took the leash off your love and let it run freely in the wildflowers, collecting petals and pollen along the way? We’re only on this planet for a short time, a blip on the geological timeline. Do you really want to waste another moment not telling people you love that you love them?

All of these are forms of vulnerability and there’s power in each of them.

So dig down deep into the earth this month, kindred. My wish for you is that you’ll find sprouts of your own.

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When Promethea Spoke: Rebirth

prometheaIf I had a name, it’d be Promethea, and my god-like crime would be in being kind: in strengthening Man in his own mind. And I would become a symbol and a sign, if not the last in a genetic line, of reminding mortals of their fate and force, that they, too, are divine, and not murky streams diverted from one pure source.

And when Zeus should discover my mortal love, he’ll send me vultures, rocks, and chains, attempts to turn my immortality to pain. The constant reminder: his wretched gifts of my love of human wretchedness. Though my entrails will never sate the vultures he will create, his punishments already far too late. For when you fall in love with gods and writers, the fire I stole from Olympus burns that much brighter—the flame of immortality for all to see, through the quires of history.

I burn, I drink, I gather dreams, while everyone tells Promethea to go back to sleep. ‘The pain will be less sharp, if you just lose yourself to the dark.’ But I’m already in a labyrinth, my body humming unheard songs, my desires inventing new desires, until losing is all that’s left before long.

So I will believe in stories, I will believe in fire. I will believe in beings endowed with power to assemble things that have once been broken until there are no more stories to be spoken.

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Star Wolf

Star Wolf & Cosmic Crow by Jilly DreadfulI am a wolf made of swirling galaxies and I am in search of a pack. The constant search for wolves made of similar stuff has been wearisome on my wolf bones. The pads of my wolf feet are dry and cracked from miles of searching in the snow—snow that goes on for infinity in all three dimensions of cubic volume. So it comes as no surprise that the trails I once found have long since grown cold. It comes as no surprise that I have lost the scent of creatures made of the same star stuff as me.

But then there is a crow. He is white as the snow I trudge through, and I can tell he relishes the surprise he causes me by undermining my expectations of what a crow should look like. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a crow to be made of the same density of blackness as myself. The crow enjoys the way he stands out in the murder of other crows—at once, accepted as part of the collective, but, also singular in his peculiar color.

My heart is made of dark matter, and it’s comes with its own gravitational pull, and although the crow is curious about my orbit, he is wary as well. And he should be. I am made of the crushing force of a thousand collapsed suns. What creature could possibly withstand the catastrophic force of a star running out of fuel and condensing into a black hole shaped like a wolf?

It is better to not be curious about such creatures. It is best to make my bed in the snow and sleep and sink into an event horizon of my own making.

But the crow’s curiosity follows me, outweighing his natural impulse of wariness. He makes wide circles at first, creating his own apogean path, giving me time to decide whether I trust the crow to come any closer, giving him time to decide whether he trusts my jaws to be still.

I stay still. I don’t snap my teeth, I don’t even howl, even though the moon is bright and full, and I can feel her yanking on the tides of the planets that swirl inside me. The moon makes me want to run; not in fear, but to run for the joyful crunch of paws on snow, and my particular ability to melt into the night.

When the crow swoops toward me, he conjuncts my heart and flies right through. He isn’t bound by my gravity. He isn’t bound by the orbital path I would’ve expected my dark matter heart to force upon other creatures who dared to venture too close. The diving conjunction gives the crow his own momentum, and he flies the highest I have ever seen a crow fly. So high that the moon is able to lean down and give the crow a kiss, and moonbeams bounce off his back.

Seeing him fly in such a way gives me hope that I, too, can survive as a star wolf, with swirling galaxies, but without a pack to call my own.

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I Grew Up in Gold Mining Country

After fourteen and a half years together, my husband only just realized the other day that the general store where I grew up literally sold gold pans, pick axes, tools, animal feed, various sundries, and livestock (mostly chicks and ducklings and goslings) underneath. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, the nearest city, Placerville, was 45 minutes away. These are pictures I took on a drive to my house chronicling the extreme vast nothingness of Mt. Aukum Road in El Dorado County, Northern California. Trees have lives of their own and are magical here, and the extreme poverty allows structures (mostly barns) to become severely decayed like a watercolor painting. These pictures are from 2008 when I went back for one afternoon after moving away 8 years earlier. Nothing had changed. In fact, businesses had closed down since I had left, so the area, in fact, devolved. This is my California.


by | February 13, 2015 · 10:52 pm

Theme: Blood, August 17th-23rd

This week’s theme: Blood.

It makes me think of:

– lineage

– blood is thicker than water

– family

– obligation

– violence

– Dexter

– crime scenes

– how blood can be wiped up and hidden, but the truth is always still lingering in ultraviolet light

– anger, “blood boiling”

– effort and how we pour our blood into things…

– blood from a stone

– blood money


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Week 15: After Life

I had worked on write-ups for themes. Cyborgs. Candy. Fandom. But I didn’t necessarily like any of them. This is the one that kept lurking over my shoulder–I tried to ignore it. I thought: I’ve got these other ones more polished. I thought: but what about Boston? I thought: why are you always going to the dark places? But Death has been following me and mine lately, what with surgeries and hospitals and actual funerals. I keep having to look him in the eye–for me, Death is this man I used to know once upon a time. And Death necessarily makes me think about the After Life.

Feel free to interpret it how you might. After Life kinda reminded me of the half life of isotopes, which reminded me of radiocarbon dating, which got me to thinking about time. I liked how After Life can be applied to timelines. The poetic implication of a life lived in the aftermath. Plus, I especially enjoy the connotation of haunting as well. And I get really happy when concepts like haunting can be stretched out and redefined.


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Week 06: Ancient, Tree

I grew up in gold mining country. Where men went to the grocery store with shotguns strapped to their backs because in El Dorado County that’s what men did. No one had yards, but there were parcels of land. It was called “property.” Mustn’t wander off the property. Mustn’t trespass onto the neighbor’s property. One day, when I was eleven years old, I told my mother I was going in search of leprechauns. I had found a tree that definitely curved and gnarled into a portal to a fairy realm. But I had read fairy tales. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going that day, so I was afraid to climb inside the tree in case I couldn’t make it back again. I waited until March, because I thought of March as a fairy month.

When I went to search for the tree, I ducked under a barbed wire fence, red and loose with age. I followed the creek bed that had just enough water to gargle with. I saw the tree, set back from the others—enough to blend in, but far back enough to be remembered. As I started up the hill, a man with a mustache rode up fast on his horse—so fast that I hadn’t heard hooves on soft mud. He pointed a shotgun as long as I was tall at me and said to get off his property.

I trespassed onto that land again in June to find the tree. When I crossed the creek, it ate one of my shoes. Swallowed it whole. They were my favorite pair: acid washed with neon splattered drips of paint. I thought maybe it was a fairy test. That if I kept going, I’d be sure to find the portal. But when I rounded the hill, looking for that wide and gnarled tree with a child-sized hole in its belly, it was gone; no stump, not even a hole where its roots had once lived.

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Wildfang: I kind of want to be all of these women and also make out with all of these women.

I just discovered these new designers, Wildfang, and it kind of combines the last two weeks (girls and wild) in an awesome way. Also, the word “wildfang” means “tomboy” in German. (German is such a cool language.)

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Week 05, Wild: The Dearest Creature Chronicles

Dearest Creature

Dearest Creature, No. 4

Dearest Creature,

Memories of you ghost in the wintry air.

Might I be your haunted phonograph?

The grooves of your story are etched into mine;

Would that I could switch the needle elsewhere.


The Cartographer

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Week 04: Girls, Theft

My mother said she wanted to make my last birthday in childhood special, so she drove three small children over a hundred miles to go to Marine World Africa USA. My seventh grade class had just taken a field trip there three months earlier. The concrete habitats so close to concrete freeways made the Pacific Ocean a distant memory. The smallness of the enclosures and the bigness of the mammals inside them made me want to steal something. Because we were straight-A students, we were able to convince ourselves that stealing would be a form of protest. So at a gift kiosk, I took a magnet shaped like an otter. As we walked around the park, it became apparent that her father had never tried to persuade her to keep a lost change purse that contained ten dollars in quarters. It had been my single greatest discovery in third grade. But I knew who the leather coin purse, in the shape of a moccasin, belonged to. The girl with blonde hair had always been mean to me. I remember when she brought the coin purse to class the first time, weeks earlier. She was showing it off to a crowd of our classmates, letting them all touch her new treasure. She had blond hair, was named after a mountain range spelled wrong, and claimed to be a quarter Navajo. I knew all about lies back then. I told kids at school I was born in Japan. I asked if I could hold it, and she grabbed it away from me, as though I was like Frank who didn’t bathe. She also shared her markers with everyone around her, except me, even though I sat immediately behind her. The day she forgot the coin purse, I knew she had ten dollars in quarters inside because she had been gloating about wanting to buy an ice cream at lunch, and I was glad she forgot. It didn’t have her name on it. I could claim it rightfully. It was more money than I had ever been given or earned. When I brought it home, my father made me dump it out and count the quarters. He said I could keep it. He said I’d be stupid to give it back, especially to someone like her. To this day, I am not sure if he was serious or if he was testing me, but the next morning, I gave it back to the girl whose parents had misspelled her name.

After having been able to walk away with the otter magnet in my pocket with no one noticing, I did not feel as vindicated as I thought I would. I had a fantasy of being apprehended and giving a speech about animal rights and how antithetical to the park’s mission of conservation it was to acquire and train wild animals. Being a straight-A student meant certain other straight-laced morals as well, and in the time it took us to take the magnet and walk a circle between the shark experience and beluga whales, my friend became sullen and withdrawn. I felt worse for her than even for myself, for I felt no guilt whatsoever, aside from bringing her in on my plan. I said that stealing a magnet was too small an act of protest, that it hadn’t effected the operations of the park at all, so I might as well put it back. And I did. I even told the cashier I had “accidentally” left with it earlier, and I was thanked instead of questioned.

Returning the magnet didn’t change my friend’s mood, though. She stopped being my friend after that anyway, and I didn’t really want to go back to Marine World Africa USA.

But my mom knew I loved animals. At this time, I wanted to be a veterinarian.

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