Saturday, November 28, 2015


"Death Ritual IV: Svartalfheim" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Saturday 28 November 2015.

Charcoal, sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, holly, western hemlock cones, tempera paint.


The fourth chalk art "death ritual" ties together the various themes that have run through the others.


The bog bodies of prehistoric Denmark that have been recovered from peat bogs as natural mummies were likely victims of ritual sacrifice tied to Germanic paganism or even Norse fertility gods Frey and Freya. Tollund Man (above left) still had a noose around his neck. Grauballe Man (above right) had his throat slit before being thrown into the bog.


The skin of the bog people turns black during natural mummification due to tanning from the various factors that contribute to mummification in the peat bog. The dark skin reminded me of the Svartálfar, the black elves, of the Norse Nine Worlds.


After wandering about a Puget Sound peat bog, West Hylebos Wetlands Park, in order to figure out what type of vegetation grew there, I was ready to start the chalking.


The holly is from the neighbor's holly tree growing into my yard. The alder and western hemlock cones are from tree fall along the Riverwalk Trail. I didn't want to disturb any of the vegetation in the actual peat bog.


I also wanted to leave holly berries on the trees for the birds, so I painted them onto the concrete with a Q-Tip "brush" and red tempera paint. (Plus it was another "connection point" to other "death ritual" pieces, in particular; and to the use of tempera paint in mummification rituals, in general.)


You can view more pictures of "Death Ritual IV" HERE.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Licorice fern at West Hylebos Wetlands Park.


That moment when you realize that you may have become a protagonist in an H.P. Lovecraft story—wandering around a peat bog by yourself looking for a particular type of berry for use in a chalk art "death ritual" that you are becoming somewhat adept at, even though it is an obscure and "arcane" art. Oh, and you know where to find the berry, but not when, and you may very well be too early. And you keep "feeling" something following you about in the bog.


And maybe I did find the berries. I'm not sure if the red berries I found are snowberries that haven't turned white yet, or nightshade berries, or something else. It's likely they are nightshade and then they would have worked well with the "death ritual" art. But, alas, I opted for alder cones and western hemlock cones instead, as well as holly (although that is from home).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


"The black thing in her brain and the dark water on the page were the same thing, a form of knowledge. This is how myths work. They are things, creatures, stories, inhabiting the mind. They cannot be explained and do not explain; they are neither creeds nor allegories. The black was now in the thin child's head and was part of the way she took in every new thing she encountered."

 —pages 147-148, Ragnarök: The End of the Gods  by A.S. Byatt

Sunday, November 22, 2015


"Death Ritual III: Muspelheim" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Sunday 22 November 2015.

Sidewalk chalk, charcoal, chalk pastels, brick, red lava rock, hazelnut leaves, tempera paint.


The Child has been studying mummification in school. So I decided to play along and do a bit of research. While The Child's class has primarily focused on Egyptian mummies, and artificial mummies at that, I've decided to explore both artificial and natural mummies throughout the world and from various cultures.


I've also taken the oftentimes conflicting myths of the Norse and conflated them with some of these other cultures. The former seem well suited to play within some of these other stories and rituals.


The Chinchorro mummies of the Atacama Desert consist of both natural and artificial mummies. The arid climate tended to preserve bodies and then the Chinchorro people eventually started to create artificial mummies and play upon what nature had started.


The Chinchorro would coat faces of the dead in clay, in addition to creating clay masks for the mummies. I took some liberties with the coloring of the masks, especially that of Surtr, in order to capture some of the color palette I imagine filling Muspelheim.


I realized that the branches and leaves in "Death Ritual II: Ginnungagap" were "roots" of the world tree Yggsrasil that appeared in that particular realm of the Nine Worlds in that form. That meant that there needed to be a root of Muspelheim that appeared in this chalk piece. So the fiery leaves, weighted down by red lava rock seemed appropriate.


I also learned that tempera paint was commonly used in many cultures during mummification, so I decided that it should be part of this ritual as it was in "Death Ritual II."


I had a lot of fun making the "chalk mat" that Surtr's mask lies upon.


View more pictures of "Death Ritual III: Muspelheim" HERE.

Friday, November 20, 2015


"Death Ritual II: Ginnungagap" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 20 November 2015.

Sidewalk chalk, homemade sidewalk chalk, charcoal, chalk pastels, black walnut branches, paper leaves, sidewalk chalk paint, tempera paint.


Ginnungagap is the primordial void in Norse mythology. Eventually it filled with ice in which the world was frozen. The "first being," a giant named Ymir, was licked out of the ice by the true first being, a cow named Auðumbla. Or, alternately, Ymir emerged from the ice first and then Auðumbla.

Either way, Ymir was sustained by milk from Auðumbla.


Ymir was a creature of giant size. At some point as other beings are freed from the ice or born of Ymir in strange ways, the gods appear on the scene, whereupon Odin and his two brothers kill Ymir and create the earth and cosmos.


Ymir is "gone" as a being but his body is present in the foundation of all that we know and see of the material world. Auðumbla isn't mentioned again.


The Ymir I drew in chalk is based upon the Qilakitsoq mummies, especially that of a six-month old infant who was freeze-dried by the cold and found atop the adult mummies at the location.

I liked the idea of Ymir as a giant baby, with his head as large or larger than the cow's.


I drew Auðumbla based upon online photos of mummified cows.


The Child's class at school has been studying the cultural notions surrounding mummies, primarily Egyptian. They have also "mummified" apples using ancient techniques as a science experiment. So there have been plenty of discussions about mummies at home recently.


"Death Ritual" felt like the first of its kind as I created it, so it was "natural" to have a death ritual related to beginnings as the next in the series.


I am glad to have Ymir and Auðumbla out of me, as I was starting to dream about them.


It was 34ºF in the carport while I chalked and my hands were like blocks of ice toward the end. I had trouble making my fingers work my pruning shears when cutting the walnut branches and trying to place the paper leaves upon them.


View more pictures of "Death Ritual II: Ginnungagap" HERE.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


"Death Ritual" by Troy's Work Table. Nighttime carport chalking for Wednesday 18 November 2015.

Charcoal, sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, walnut ink.


Lawrence Weschler calls them convergences. The various stories of death rituals that are swirling around me could no longer be ignored, especially after I sketched out a rough draft of this piece in pencil and dreamed about laying it out on concrete.


Studying Flemish and Dutch vanitas paintings of the seventeenth century.

The Child studying mummification in ancient Egypt. The Child reading about mummification in early South American cultures.

A fellow writer talking about experiencing death rituals among the Toraja people of Sulawesi, Indonesia during travels this summer.

The longed for death in battle by Vikings in order to be one of those selected for Valhalla.

Goya's "Los desastres de la guerra" series of etchings and aquatints.


The Wife commented that the figure and chair remind her of an electric chair—another form of death ritual.


It was interesting to add the walnut ink as "blood" beneath the animal heads. There was something ritualistic in its own right about using a turkey baster to apply the ink to the concrete "canvas."


The carrion crow as scavenger and spirit..


The offering of fruits.


View more pictures of "Death Ritual" HERE.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


The rain continues. The river rises. Puyallup. Saturday 14 November 2015.


"So it is a return to blank pages, which is like a new sail: perfect for a strong wind and clear skies."

—from "The Blank Page: Or, The Death of a Novel" by Ada Ludenow, as found at Hagengard Studio

"An interesting thing about self-publishing that I hadn’t considered: sometimes you have to actually reject yourself."

"So I’m done with it. I’ll be focusing on starting over, which is something I want to do in other parts of my life as well. Professionally, personally and artistically I am at a nexus. I know I’m not starting over all from scratch and there are things I’ve learned in the last ten or so years that I will keep with me."

—from "Letting the Light In" by David Mecklenburg, as found at Ontological Property

Any writer would do well to visit and read both of the above blog posts, the first from an author's "alter ego" and Muse, the second from the author himself.

The pieces are about the Janus faces of beginnings and endings (and new beginnings). They are about failure and acceptance. They are about imagination and reimagination. They are about salvage and stories.

I know David well. He is a fellow writer and a fellow artist. He is also, in a way, a mentor to me. I can say that David and I have "grown up together" as writers and he has influenced me and my writing in ways that neither he nor I could have imagined as we swam off together as small fish after a writing workshop a few years ago. There were indeed other fish that swam with us in Les sardines, but David's voice is the one that I relate to the most. And he and I, of those nine fish, are the two who have put the most energy into trying to publish our own work after most of the school had swam off to pursue other things. We have both continued to try and get our work and our writing out into the world for others to read, for others to explore. We have each built small vanity presses, kingdoms of words, and "gone to battle" alongside one another in an attempt to get our works onto the shelves (digital and brick-and-mortar) of bookstores and into the hands of readers.

So, while these pieces are bittersweet, and, in some sense, difficult for me to read, I understand the need to let this novel go and to mine it for the words and phrases and stories that can enjoy new life in other shapes and forms.

The two pieces/posts are brave! (So click the above links and read them!)

They come after much reflection and a willingness to move on, to continue to explore and reinvent, and for that I commend David and Ada on their decision.

And since I seem to find myself in a "Northern"/Norse way once more, I add my own voice in solidarity. Thinking a lot lately of Ragnarök lately, I know that there is a new world that comes after the destruction.

So, here, I reprint the untitled epilogue to my collection of poems, All the Heroes are Dead and Buried, as a tribute to new beginnings, to a new world, as a blessing upon David and Ada and the new work they will create together.

Loki's world
wolf world
jötun world

now gone

cold ice sun
shining upon

a new world
a world of
man and woman

Friday, November 13, 2015


Detail of "Cornucopia" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 13 November 2015.

Charcoal, sidewalk chalk.


Cornucopia. Horn of plenty. Trumpets of war. The four horses of the apocalypse—famine, war, pestilence, death. The monsters of Goya. The void. Strange fruits. The upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving. Unharvested crops rotting in the fields.


There were numerous weird influences on this creature, but the most prominent was its sibling creature, the Autumnal Walker.


And the spots of moisture and dark concrete, as well as the chalk shadows of prior pieces in the background, just add to the texture of the piece's "canvas."


View more pictures of "Cornucopia" HERE.


This morning was gray and gloom once the dark started to fade. Sunrise arrived like a dead salmon on the rising riverbank. So I posted yesterday's sunrise here instead.

North Hill of Puyallup, Washington. Thursday 12 November 2015.

Monday, November 09, 2015


A slice of black walnut tree and a slice of storming sky. Puyallup. Dusk. Sunday 08 November 2015.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Saturday, November 07, 2015


"Men may well be unhappy, atrociously unhappy, but they resist with all their strength the thing that could change their fate: they want children, and children similar to them, in order to dig their own grave and perpetuate the conditions for unhappiness. When you suggest that they accomplish a mutation, advance along another path, you come to expect ferocious rejection."

 —page 185, The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq


Toaster Pastry, an India-Style Red Ale by 21st Amendment Brewery.

19.2 ounce can served in tulip glass.

7.6% alcohol by volume.

The pour is a light ruby red body, almost an intense pink, with a finger-thick tan head.

The nose is “fuzzy” and strawberry. Behind that I smell some graham cracker maltiness and piney resin and floweriness.

The tongue is bitter pine resin, orange peel, strawberry fruit, biscuity malts.

The mouthfeel is medium. The finish is longish—the pine lasting quite some time, and orange peel peeking through here and there, but all of the bitterness slowly and eventually replaced by strawberry. And there is a warming quality from the higher alcohol content.

As it warms, the flavors become more complex and shift about a bit, which is rather welcome.

This is really good stuff. Excellent and inviting. I don’t really see this as being a “toaster pastry” beer, but it contains all the elements that would go into such breakfast fare.

It’s like an amber/red ale meets an IPA and manages to mix and maintain the best of each style.


I paired it with some sea-salted dark chocolate and some Tillamook cheddar cheese. The chocolate was an okay match, but the cheddar was a great pairing. This is a great cheese ale.

Friday, November 06, 2015


"Forerunner (Bring Me the Head of C-3PO)" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 06 November 2015.

Charcoal, sidewalk chalk, homemade sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels.


Sometimes, I'm not quite sure from where particular inspirations come. I kept "seeing" the head of C-3PO, but thinking of the story of Salome demanding the head of John the Baptist as a gift from her (step)father Herod. Anyway, it helps to explain the title.


I'm sure Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens being on the horizon and quickly approaching is another reason that C-3PO is showing up in my mind.


View more pictures of "Forerunner" HERE.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


"Autumnal Walker" by Troy's Work Table. Nighttime carport chalking. Tuesday 03 November 2015.

Charcoal, sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels.


First, I missed chalking last Friday. I was working with kids. And when I got home later in the day, it was raining so much that the carport was mostly flooded.


Second, I liked how chalking at night made the "canvas" in the photograph darker and a bit stormy. It reminds me of Goya's black paintings and I am very fine with such.


Third, I'm not quite sure from whence this creature crawled. I was marveling over some of the changing leaves on trees at my workplace, but I'm not quite sure how they ended married to an animal body modeled after big cats. But, there it is.


View more pictures of "Autumnal Walker" HERE.

Sunday, November 01, 2015


It's been more than seven years since my grandfather died. I stopped by his house today and walked around his yard in the rain.

Many things have changed. The garden is gone. Most of the flowers are also gone. The fir trees that he once sold for Christmas have grown to sizes and shapes that won't work as Christmas trees any longer. The deck in the back has been fixed up and stained again.

But some things are the same. Especially the ducks. They still fly on the side of the barn. Eternal flight. Heading toward the sun.