Category Archives: life

team meatsack.

technopagan

I like my body. I mean, I like my body, but right now I specifically mean, I enjoy living in my body. The things it can experience. The things it can do. Despite arthritis and the lingering aftereffects of a thyroid disorder and whatever daily exhaustions and limitations come with having a body, I am a savorer of physical life. Firmly on Team Meatsack.

Until I’m cleaning a toilet. One minute of that and I’m all OH GOD we are a mess of leakages and unpleasantness and WHEN IS IT HUMAN 2.0 PLEASE UPLOAD ME ALREADY this is gross surely there is an upgrade.

Anyway, Saturday. Did some chores.

 

farmer’s almanac.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything of substance here. There have been half a dozen potboiler posts bubbling away in my mind and in my drafts folder for the better part of a year, but those never come to anything. If I don’t finish it when I start it, it’s over. As I sit down to write this one, I’ve given myself no out. Phil is sitting on the other end of our weekend Hangouts call, with instructions not to let me finish the weekend without finishing the blog post. So far today, I’ve hung pictures on the walls, rearranged furniture, run an errand, started a laundry and taken a shower. He has asked me four times, “Blog post?” He’s a good partner.  Blog post.

Since mid-March, I’ve been spring cleaning and packing my apartment in NE Portland, in preparation for moving in with a friend a few miles away. She had a spare room. I needed to be paying less rent, and I wanted to break out of a pretty stale work-to-home-to-sleep routine. It’s worked out really happily for both of us. It also happened to coincide with the breakneck busiest time of year for Mavora, where I work. March and April were bumper months for us, and when we’re busy I’m on my feet for long workdays and pushing against the clock all the time to get everything printed and shipped on schedule. For the last 10 weeks, by the time I got home and/or to the weekend, I was pretty much a blank slate. I haven’t made any new jewelry in months, and except for keeping up my daily selfies for my 365 project, I’ve been mostly absent from social media.

During this time, though, there was a world where I’ve been fully present and thriving, hardworking and full of creativity and energy. While I was recovering from daily work and resting my mind being quiet at home, a tiny adorable farmer named Allergy was efficiently conquering every aspect of a place called Stardew Valley.

Summer 13, Year 5

Sparkle Farm, Summer 13, Year 5

I’m a fairly new player of videogames, having only really started playing four years ago. There have been many games that I’ve enjoyed, and a few that I’ve stuck with long enough to feel competent and comfortable. As it turns out, though, I hadn’t yet found my game, the one that hits all the right notes of mechanics, visual world, challenge and reward. Even the sounds are perfect. I had absolutely no idea what could happen when you find that game, but now I know.

Ol One Eye, Spring 21, Year 5

This traveling merchant cart, drawn by a purple fez-wearing pig, is my favorite thing in the entire game.

I have loved playing Stardew Valley so much. I’ve not so much played it as fallen all the way into it. It’s been the exact right thing for me at the exact right time. To begin with, it’s beautiful. It’s a farming/country life RPG, drawn in a retro-looking pixel style, but with tremendous depth and color. It’s the work of one man, Eric Barone, and is entirely created and made by him, from the first line of code to the last note of music. That alone is amazing, and made me want to explore every part of it. Making videogames is complicated, multilayered work, and to create something of this scope and detail by yourself is mind-blowing. The world of Stardew Valley is a place I want to be, listening to the soft chuff-chuff of my footsteps on the ground, walking through drifting cherry tree petals in the spring. Fishing as the shadows of clouds pass over the landscape in the height of summer, and clearing pink and golden foliage from my farmland in fall. The appearance and origin of the game were enough to keep me interested, but the mechanics and goals have also been perfectly appealing to me, and I’ve been completely immersed for two months.

Taking my diamond to town

Urgent diamond business recalls me to town.

The tone of Stardew is a perfect balance between cheerfulness, sadness, and hilarity. It’s essentially a happy game, but it’s tempered with a few moments of genuine seriousness. When the game begins, the scene opens on your grandfather’s deathbed, and he’s telling you that he remembers wonderful days earlier in his life on a farm. As he slips away, he gives you a letter and tells you to open it when you’re at your lowest point. The next scene reveals that you’re an office drone worker for a gigantic corporation called JoJa Co. The camera pans over desk after desk, showing one drooping, dispirited person after another. (An interesting point here, though, is that the developer’s eye for detail has given each of these downtrodden workers their own personality through clothes or cubicle decorations or body language. You only see them that once, but they’re still distinct people. This is a game that’s meticulously well-developed and balanced, and although it has a cartoonish and familiar appearance, it has an incredibly full personality.) Finally the camera reaches your desk, and you slump in discouragement. Then you remember the letter, and open the drawer where you keep it. When you open it, you find that Grandpa has left you the family farm in Stardew Valley, and charged you with keeping the family legacy alive.

Grandpa is pleased Spring 1 Year 3

 

Off you go, you own a farm. It’s a shambolic mess, several acres full of trees and boulders and detritus. It just needs a little care and attention! It’ll be great! Off you go. Off I went, and from the very first morning on Sparkle Farm (of course I called it Sparkle Farm), I was smitten.

Vintner Spring 2 Year 3

 

It was damn hard work, though. Videogame farming shares some exhaustion and some heartbreak with real life farming. In my second year, I could finally afford a few fruit tree saplings. I planted six, only to have two of them struck by lightning and burned to stumps. Welp. (And no insurance options available at Sparkle Farm, either. In a recent update, lightning results have been changed and now just scorch a tree for three days instead of burning it down. That is kinder, but the total loss of the expensive trees to an arbitrary act of weather felt real.) At the beginning, my only goal was to get sprinklers for my crops so that I didn’t have to spend half the day watering them with a watering can that I had to keep refilling. From that one simple goal, I began looking at what I needed to do, and I could see the entire game full of tasks unfold in front of me, filling in little imaginary slots in my head. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a wholecloth picture of what I needed to do, and in what order, right from the beginning of a game. That is due, in main, to the perfect balance that’s built into the game. There is no aspect of play that you can master without needing to achieve competence in other levels to support you along the way. It was enormously satisfying, even in the very early stages, to tick something off that massive flowchart of goals and build the next piece onto it.

New pig Rumptydoolie

I bought a pig.

As my real world home was increasingly chaotic and unrestful, piles of boxes in the corners, and an ever-fresh heap of bags to donate collecting by the door, my farm home was coming together in adorable and rewarding ways. I learned how to mine and I made sprinklers. I got better at fighting monsters, went deeper in the mines, and made better sprinklers. With better sprinklers, I grew more crops. With more crops, I made more money. With more money, I built a coop and a barn and bought livestock. I contributed to town infrastructure and started to make friends with the villagers. I bought flower seeds and did a little landscaping. Hey, if I’m growing flowers, I should probably make some beehives to make honey.

Artisan Harvest 2, Summer 13, Year 5 Artisan Harvest, Summer 13, Year 5

 

From there, I ventured into artisan farming, making goat cheese and wine and pickles. There is nothing more satisfying than collecting entire rows of pickles, jams, wines and cheeses, to the accompaniment of a little popping sound as you pluck each one from its keg or press. As I mastered those tasks, I started to learn cooking, and to bring better gifts to the villagers. As those relationships developed, they unlocked further areas and abilities of the game. And so on and on, ticking things off my master plan, and knocking one achievement after another off the game board.

sparkle-quick

Gourmet Chef, Summer 3, Year 5

Gourmet Chef Achievement: cook every recipe

The only thing I ignored for a long stretch was fishing. There’s a fishing mini game, and it’s staggeringly hard when you first start out. Hard to the point where I failed over and over again and thought, well, I may never even get beginner-level able to do this. I’ll at least leave it until there’s nothing else to do, or until it’s necessary to move forward. Of course, there came a point when it was necessary to master fishing to move forward. It was maddening, and I was so bad at it for so long, but in the end I beat it. I finally caught a fish, and then another, and then a harder one. Eventually, my fishing skills hit the max level, and I caught every fish in the game, including five legendary fish that you can catch only once. I am stupid proud of my fishing achievement. Ask me about my fishing achievement. The eye patch you’ll see Allergy wearing in a couple of these screenshots is earned with that achievement.

The Legend!, Spring 18, Year 5

 

Most of the time, I have a very sensible (for “sensible,” you may also read “lazy”) approach to lists. I’m pretty happy to postpone, reorganize, or abandon as necessary. To-do lists must be flexible, or we make ourselves ill. It’s not often that a goal really gets under my skin in an uncompromising way, but this one did. I had to finish ticking it off or slowly itch myself to death. The day I caught the last legendary fish and saw that whole collection filled in, I felt an actual physical sense of accomplishment. When I was playing Guild Wars 2, and I finally got good at climbing vistas, I felt a similar sense of pride and satisfaction, but this was personal in a way that never was.

Every Fish, Spring 18, Year 5

 

Partly because I’m so impressed with and attracted to the world of Stardew Valley, and partly because of this chaotic and transitional time in my life, mastering the elements of building a home and community in that world has created a response in me that I’ve never felt for any other game. The more accomplished I became, the more determined I was to truly finish the game: to completely cross off every single element. The one exception to this is a social achievement: you have the option to marry one of several townspeople, and to have or adopt two children (same sex marriages are available, and there are no gender restrictions on character appearance – yet another reason to love it). In-game marriage and kids don’t appeal to me, and the kid aspect in particular I find a bit disturbing (they never age past toddler.) I have no interest in pursuing that element of the game. I find the conversations with townspeople fairly natural, if a little repetitive (that in itself is natural in a small town – everybody’s tracks are very well-worn). The ways your relationships with them develop is comfortable and moderately realistic. But adding a courtship element to those rote conversations would make them stop feeling authentic to me. So I enjoyed building my relationships with the townspeople, but I didn’t want to marry any of them. That achievement will have to remain unticked on the master list, but this run-through feels complete without it. (There may be a second run-through with a different character at some point, if I find I’m obsessing over getting every achievement.)

Rawr

Rawr.

For now, though, I’ve nearly completed my list, and it feels like my time in Stardew Valley is winding down. I tumbled through completing five of my last seven achievements this week: catching all the fish, cooking every item, selling every item, crafting every item, and reaching a max friendship level with 8 characters. Those were the ones that felt truly compelling to me, and the last two are longer-play goals that I can continue to chip away at over time. After this week, though, I don’t think I’ll be spending hours at a time on Sparkle Farm anymore. It looks more or less as I want it to, and it has carried me through an exhausted and depleted time in the real world. It gave me joy and organization and peace in chaos, and I am profoundly grateful for every maddening and adorable minute I spent there. I’m proud of my thorough knowledge of something I admire so much, and it’s always going to feel like home every time I walk through the gate.

Full greenhouse, Summer 13, Year 5

Onward now, to the next world, the new home.

NOTES:

If you’re interested in playing Stardew Valley, there are three great resources I’ve relied on throughout (and more being developed every day, but these are the ones I used most often):

The official Stardew Valley Wiki, created and maintained by ConcernedApe and the player community. Really, really helpful and thorough.

The Stardew Planner, which allows you to workshop your full farm space with all available buildings, farming implements and plants.

Stardew.farm, where you can download software that captures a screenshot of your full farm at the end of every game day and saves it to the website. This is new and a bit glitchy (there are some frames missing from the gif Phil made for me because there was an update to the way they posted), but still a really cool tool. If you’re using it, make sure the software is active in your taskbar before you end a day. As long as that’s running, it will grab the screenshots even if the website that displays them is glitching. They’ll turn up there eventually.

radical economist.

Radical Economist Earrings 1

I have a long-time customer who years ago became a proper real life friend. Recently, I posted a new pair of Goblin Charm earrings on Instagram, and she was lamenting the fact that she already had a pair with these sequin bead balls. Ever a sparkle enabler, I said well, I can also get those in black and in copper, so… She was into it, so I sent her some photos of the other colors and some beads I was thinking about ordering. We bounced some ideas around and the sparkle went to our heads and somehow we ended up with a visual cue of Smaug the dragon sitting on top of his hoard of riches. Or, in a perfect world, Benedict Cumberbatch sitting on top of a hoard of jewelry. The dragon idea went perfectly with the scaly sequin beads, so I took it from there.

Radical Economist Earrings 2

A few days into my design process, Phil tweeted something about the dwarves of Middle Earth destabilizing the economy with all their mining and making. He has always had a theory that dragons are pitifully misunderstood creatures who just want to sit peacefully in their pile of gold, but people just will. not. stop. coming in and picking fights. (This theory is nicely supported by a wyvern in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne Valente: “If people show up to a dragon’s mountain yelling about sacrifices and O, YE, FELL BEAST SPARE MY VILLAGE this and GREAT DRAGON, I SHALL MURDER THEE that, well, certainly, a fellow might have a chomp. But you oughtn’t judge any more than you judge a lady for eating the lovely fresh salad that a waiter brings her in a restaurant.”) This segued neatly into my making process, and these earrings became Radical Economist.

radical economist tweets

 

This is often how my process works, particularly with custom orders. An initial exchange of “Hey, I like that, but what if…” turns into a tumble of ideas and influences that sort themselves out into something new. Radical Economist was enormously fun to imagine and to make, and I love having all these elements of other people’s ideas woven into them.

Radical Economist 3

fond farewell.

The Goblin Charms project has been going really well the last couple of weeks. I got the stickers with Phil’s goblin drawings for the packaging. My rubber stamp technique is much improved, and there’s only a small pile of discarded smudged box tops. Best of all, I’ve been incredibly happy with the things I’ve been making. Several Lucite pieces have sold, and all of the glass pieces I’ve made so far except one have been claimed.

For the most part, I’ve not taken more than a couple of photos of these pieces. There’s a piece I made this week, though, that is extra special and I’ve taken dozens of pictures trying to capture it. None of them are exactly right, but I’m out of time to keep trying. The earrings have sold and are on their way to their new owner, with my gratitude and affection.

Velella Earrings 1.47

Velella is made with two rare antique molded glass Art Deco beadcaps, and my last handful of luminous vintage opalescent glass spacers. These beads represent two of my most beloved earlier designs.State Street Earrings 1.24855459

The purple beadcaps were used in a pair of earrings I called State Street. The caps hung from brown steel retaining rings, which were suspended from oxidized sterling silver chain. I had about a dozen pairs of these beauties, and when I was down to my last pair of caps, I squirreled them away for something special.

dream of the fisherman's wife earrings

Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is my favorite pair of earrings I’ve made, ever. They were so, so beautiful, and I’ve have gone on making them forever if I could find the beads. But this is vintage life, and nothing lasts forever. They were a cascade of opalescent beads in a flattened bell shape, hung from a length of darkly oxidized sterling silver chain. Fluttering above the bead cluster were two vintage brass stampings in a curly wave shape. I applied heavy verdigris patina to these to give them an aged, green look. Between the grit of the metal, and the luminous pearly grey of the glass, something utterly magical happened. I loved them.

dream of the fisherman's wife earrings - Nicole Young

When it came time to say goodbye to the last elements of these designs, I gave them the very best send-off I could: I put them together. Velella is a decadent, glowing Art Deco jellyfish, both gritty and delicate. I’m so happy with this design, and I hope her new owner will be, too.

Velella Earrings 2.13

stolen day.

Last Thursday, I got up at the should-be-outlawed hour of 4 a.m. and went downtown to catch a bus. Some of Phil’s family were in Seattle for a few days before shipping out to Alaska on a cruise, and I went up for a whirlwind day of sightseeing and family time. I’ve been to Seattle just twice before, so I don’t know it very well. This time, though, I was playing impromptu host and tour guide, so I did my research and had a fistful of maps and bus schedules.

My weather app said it would be cloudy and drizzly all day, but Seattle saw us coming and decided to be gracious. It was a perfect 70 degrees, brightly sunny and a little windy – an ideal day to spend in a beautiful seaside city. There were two things I for sure, absolutely, wanted to take us to see: Pike Place Market and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum by the Space Needle.

Pike Place Market is a feast for the senses, and shouldn’t be missed. It’s old, it’s packed with people, it’s noisy, it smells of fish, and it’s utterly magical. Stalls with rows and rows of flowers, strange and wonderful produce, enormous glittering seafood in frosty piles of ice, steep and twisting cobblestone alleys, and sudden, glorious views of the ocean. I’m always happy to wander there for hours, and we did. We spent most of the morning soaking up the sights, and wrapped up with a happy hour or so with some local beer and wine at The Alibi Room.

After that, we were off to the Space Needle. Again, I’d seen it before, but I’d never been up to the Observation Deck. This time, we took that trip and soaked up the incredible 360 degree views of the city and the bay. It was a bit windy up there, but completely worth it. It was so clear, and we could see for miles. Beautiful and exhilarating.

The Chihuly Garden was the star of the show, though, without question. Exhibits covered Dale Chihuly’s complete career from early work in woven blankets and freeform glass bowls to his elaborate, twisting contemporary glass sculptures. We all took dozens and dozens of pictures (our phone batteries died early in the afternoon), but no matter how good they are, they can’t entirely capture how alive these sculptures are, and how perfectly attuned to their settings. I’m still dribbling pictures onto Instagram, and will probably continue for weeks. I’m so glad I got to see it.

In the evening, it was back to Pike Place for cups of clam chowder, eaten in contented silence while we watched the boats in the bay. I was on the bus back to Portland by 7:30, and by the time I got to work the next morning it felt like a stolen day in Neverland. Which is a pretty good result for a day’s outing, I’d say.