ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the September 6, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] mama_kestrel and Anonymous on Dreamwidth. It also fills the "challenges" square in my 8-1-16 cards for Group Dynamics and Character-building Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by [livejournal.com profile] daisiesrockalot. It belongs to the Dr. Infanta thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem is fluff unto itself, but deals with the aftermath of child molestation in "A Shadow the Length of a Lifetime." Please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Times of Challenge, Moments of Comfort"


Aidan was sitting in his back yard with
Heidi, talking about possible changes
to the landscaping, with Saraphina
in between them playing with blocks
made from sanded tree branches.

A surge of energy made them look up,
and suddenly a paved space between
the keyhole beds of the garden held
a enormous black horse, a little girl,
a plain thin woman, and a man
built not unlike a fireplug.

"Hold her for a minute," Aidan said,
handing Saraphina to Heidi. He regretted
not being able to soothe her startled eep!
but Alicia's flattened mood -- and the waves
of worry pouring off of her Guardians --
warned him of more urgent concerns.

"What happened?" he asked Nanette,
hurrying to meet the small party.

"Alicia had a very rough day
yesterday," Nanette said. "There
was a man in the park who couldn't
keep his hands to himself."

The words came with a silent rush
of images as Nanette offered him
a more discreet and thorough
accounting of the events.

"Is that part of the problem settled?"
he asked quietly, wondering whether
he'd need to rouse further support.

"Well enough," Nanette said. "He's
in no shape to bother anyone else."

Aidan had seen what Alicia could
do when she didn't feel like being
merciful enough to kill an opponent.

Problem solved, at least enough that
Aidan didn't need to worry about it.

"All right," he said. "Come over
and meet our social worker. This
is Heidi Langenberg, she's been
indispensable with Saraphina. Heidi,
these are my friends Alicia, Nanette,
and Lorry. This big fellow --" He patted
the horse's shoulder. "-- is Judd."

"Pleased to meet you," Heidi said.
"If this is a private visit, I can leave --"

"You've already seen us,"
Nanette said evenly, who hadn't
called ahead because the situation
was urgent and they rarely needed to.

Aidan could feel the bright spark
of recognition the moment Heidi
understood who his guests were
and what their presence meant.

"Hard day, huh?" said Heidi.
"How can I help?"

"Winds bless you, Heidi,
I wish I had five more like you,"
Aidan said fervently.

Nanette's power darted past him,
nipping at the edges of Heidi's mind
to determine whether she was safe,
and startling Heidi's superpower
into nervous fireworks.

"Please don't pick at that,
it's fresh," Aidan murmured
as he scooped Nanette's energy
back towards its owner while
simultaneously trying to soothe
Heidi and Saraphina and figure out
how hurt Alicia actually was.

"I swear, Aidan, you're like
a border collie trying to herd
every beast in the barnyard,"
Nanette scolded gently. "Settle.
We're most of us grownups here;
we can work out our differences."

"I really did mean my offers,"
Heidi said. "I can stay and help,
or go, whichever you prefer. I'm
trained in trauma-informed care,
if that makes a difference."

"How good is she, truly?"
Nanette asked, looking at Aidan.

"I would be lost without her,"
he said honestly. "Heidi knows
a great deal about how children grow
and what makes a family healthy or not.
She has done wonders for navigating
Family Services and other resources."

Nanette gave a gusty sigh. "We have
asked around a bit, but frankly, the 'help'
available has been less than helpful. It
is a nuisance when I offer my gifts, and
someone refuses, and then gets upset
when I don't read his mind or know
whatever he's trying to get at."

"I don't like it when people talk down
to me or over me or say mean things
about my family," Alicia grumbled.

"Then we'll make sure not to do that,"
Heidi said firmly. "What makes you
feel better when you're sad?"

"Being with my people," Alicia said,
leaning against Aidan, who smoothed
a hand down the ripples of her hair.
"Being outside, if it's a pretty place."

"Oooh, ticky box!" Heidi said.
"We're two up already."

Alicia didn't actually giggle,
but the bridge of her nose
and the corners of her eyes
crinkled in an almost-smile.

"Do you want some private time
with Aidan? He's good at cheering
people up; he helped me when I
felt sad," Heidi said. "Or we could
do fun or relaxing things."

"Something fun," Alicia said.

Heidi looked around the garden
with its paved paths surrounding beds
full of fragrant herbs and colorful blooms.

"Let's make flower crowns," she said.
"My friends and I used to braid dandelions
and crown each other when I was little."

It was almost like flipping a switch;
Alicia went from glum to animated.

"Oh, not dandelions, they're sticky,"
Alicia said. She skipped to the garden
where Aidan had planted everlastings
for cut flowers and crafts. "Statice and
strawflowers work well. Here's yarrow.
Don't pick the ice flowers, though,
they melt too quickly for crowns."

Tiny deft hands danced among
the flowers, plucking out the ones
with the longest and strongest stems.
She picked yellow tickseed and tidy tips,
California poppies and daisy fleabane.

Heidi joined her and began gathering
farewell-to-spring and deep pink yarrow.
Alicia added some blue-eyed grass and
Spanish lavender to Heidi's bouquet.

Aidan took Saraphina to the side yard
where she could pick as much clover
as she wanted without hurting anything.
They came back with arms full of
Indian clover and bull clover.

Judd was sniffing the white sage.

"Want me to break out some hay?"
Aidan asked. "I have prime alfalfa
and lespedeza, I think you'll like it."

Judd's ears pricked. "Huh,"
he said eagerly, lipping Aidan's shirt.

So Aidan went back to the guest house
that he'd built for Judd, turned on the fixtures,
and stuffed a flake of each hay flavor into
the cotton mesh bag. Finally he hung
the hay net from one of the tall posts that
held hanging plants and bird feeders.

Judd dug into the hay with happy sounds.

Lorry and Nanette had settled into
a pair of rustic wooden chairs
connected by a small table.

Alicia and Heidi had claimed a bench
built from branches with the bark left on.
Flowers made a blanket over their laps,
predominantly yellow and orange for
Alicia, pink and purple for Heidi.

"Here, we brought you some clover,
that should help hold things together,"
Aidan said as he offered them the bundle.

"Yay," Alicia said softly.

She still wasn't back to normal,
wouldn't be for a while, but at least
that awful crimped feeling was fading.

Heidi had managed to make a wobbly
but serviceable garland of flowers.

Alicia was sculpting an actual crown,
complete with a headband surmounted
by complicated peaks and arches.

"Vicki used to weave grass to put
inside hers," Alicia said. "She wanted
it to look like the velvet in the real thing,
but it was always green instead of red.
I never really got the hang of that, but I
did learn how to make the arch thingies."

"Judd play too?" the horse asked,
ambling over to nose at the pile
of flowers spilling off the bench.

"Oh, then we'll be at it for hours,"
Alicia said, rolling her eyes,
but she was smiling.

Judd gave Aidan a solemn wink
on the side she couldn't see.

"I don't have anything better
to do today," Heidi said. "It's
my day off. We were just going
to sit out here and talk gardening."

"I'll get the braiding kit," Aidan said.
He went back to Judd's guest house
and returned with a toolbelt wrapped
around his waist and a bucket of
extra equipment in one hand.

"Do you ladies want to do
the mane or the tail?" he asked.

"Mane, it's wide enough that we can
work at the same time if I'm sitting on
Judd's back," Alicia said, scrambling up.

"That leaves me the tail," Aidan said.
"Saraphina, you get to sort the flowers.
Can you put each color in a pile of its own
so we can find the kind we want to use?"

"Wi," she said, and happily started
to hunt through the mixed heap of blooms.

Heidi turned out to be quick-fingered
and competent, her energy sinking into
a smooth hum of concentration as she
French braided along Judd's crest.

Alicia worked on the withers,
making long braids that trailed
down Judd's shoulder, festooned
with white flowers and a few blues.

Aidan followed her lead, making
a loose net of braids down the tail
and tucking flowers into the junctures.

Nanette brought them a pitcher
of lemonade to share. She and
Lorry had one that probably held
the alcoholic California lemonade.
It made a perfect accompaniment
to the warm breeze and bright sun.

Nanette's mind was still all hinky-prickle
from the incident and whatever attempts
at problem-solving had proven ineffective.

Lorry was preoccupied with stuffing down
his deep-seated desire to find the culprit
and put an end to him, but since Alicia
could have killed him herself if she
had wanted him dead, they would all
try to abide by her choices.

This was Aidan's experience
of the world: times of challenge
followed by moments of comfort.

He could be with his family, with
friends old and new, in a place where
nobody had to hide their abilities or worry
that someone was going to fuss over what
was or was not perceived, where the help
offered and accepted was in fact
both welcome and effective.

He had not expected for Heidi
to fit in so well -- most people didn't --
and yet she did, after all.

One corner of Heidi's awareness
remained intent on something else,
a slow spin of ideas that Aidan couldn't
perceive clearly. He suspected that,
later on, she'd approach the topic of
how to help traumatized children and
offer some useful resources.

For now, though, she talked
Saraphina through the process of
handing them newly-sorted flowers
one at a time to braid into Judd's hair.

The horse's ears slowly drifted
sideways into a lazy vee shape as
he lounged hipshot on the path,
enjoying all of the attention.

Alicia was right. He was
a complete and utter showboat.

Since the work was relaxing,
and it was making Alicia happy,
Aidan didn't mind a bit.

* * *

Notes:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Much of Aidan's back yard is filled with keyhole beds for permaculture. Center left edge, that black box is a compost bin. The bed just below it with random flowers is Saraphina's play garden, where she can put whatever she wants.

Aidan's house borders on agricultural type land, so there's a small patch of pasture that has been put up for hay or grazing, currently reserved for Judd. (Here's an example of a California permaculture pasture with cows.) When you've got houses near fields, on uneven land like you mentioned with the marshy valley, then you wind up with some odd pockets like that. Judd's guest house lies more-or-less between Aidan's yard and the pasture. This type of horse shelter is flexible and easy to customize. The right side is partially walled off, providing space for storage of hay and tack, plumbing for a water trough, lighting, etc. The fixtures are Aidan's best guess of water and lights that Judd can operate with pull-ropes, although probably not perfected yet. This site gives some sketches and discussion for incorporating storage.

Permaculture uses principles and designs inspired by nature to create miniature, highly productive ecosystems that require a minimum of human labor to maintain. You can lay out a whole yard in zones for different intensities of management. I'm not that fancy, and neither is Aidan; I draw directly from nature and he draws more from archaic food forest designs, but both of us absorb what is useful from contemporary permaculture theory. The keyhole garden is a brilliant example of a small-scale permaculture, which can be iterated into a whole garden if desired.

Tree blocks are made from natural branches with the bark left on. You can buy them or make your own. If you make them, they don't cost a dime. Aidan has of course made this set for Saraphina, as her "outdoor" blocks. There's no worry about keeping them "nice" because if they wear out, he can just make more. The same philosophy applies to tree blocks at parks, which are often available in a bucket or bin for free.

Trauma-informed care accounts for the fact that many survivors of sexual abuse or rape don't tell about it, and that they are prone to negative coping strategies. Terramagne-America makes much better use of evidence-based care, and has higher standards of defining best practices. There are tips for therapists dealing with traumatized clients, assessing and treating sexual abuse, and parents or guardians of sexually abused children.

Hay is made from dried plants, typically grasses or legumes.  It's customarily bundled into huge round rolls, or rectangular bales that break down into individual flakes.  (Don't confuse hay flakes with hay pellets.)  Hay comes in many flavors. Alfalfa and lespedeza are two fine choices. The quality of the hay also matters. Notice that Aidan isn't simply thinking in terms of what's cheap or easy to get, but what Judd will like -- just as if selecting salad fixings for a human guest. This fodder is often served in a hay net, which is a very loose web of rope. You can buy one or make your own. It's often cheaper to make your own, especially if your horse tends to destroy hay nets, because cotton rope is cheap by the hank.

Flower crowns may be made in many styles, including fancy peaks. This method uses knots, while others use wire or braids. Check out this list of flower crowns to make. The same varieties chosen for cut flowers or everlastings often make excellent garlands, because they have long sturdy stems and will stay fresh for a while. By the way, Alicia is right: dandelions are popular but sticky. It is better to avoid making crowns from any flower with gooey white sap.

California has many wildflowers, and Aidan favors native plants in his garden, although he has others as well. Featured examples include farewell-to-spring, pink yarrow, blue-eyed grass, Spanish lavender, tickseed, California poppies, tidy tips, daisy fleabane, white sage, white yarrow, mountain phlox, statice, and strawflowers.

The ice flowers in a nearby rock garden are beautiful, but wilt almost instantly after cutting.

Different species of clover may be sown in a large yard or field to create broad swaths of pink, yellow, and white. Bull clover and Indian clover are two species native to California. A big bed of clover lets small children pick as many flowers as they want without hurting anything. Older children may have the discernment to pluck individual flowers carefully from a cutting bed without getting too frustrated.

Aidan makes various types of rustic benches for his garden. This one looks like two chairs joined by a table, while this is a more traditional bench.

Some people enjoy decorating their horses, and some horses adore the attention. Judd's background as a dressage mount and draft horse has given him experience with dressing up, and he loves it. There are many types of braid to use on a horse's mane or tail. Here is an extensive guide. When adding flowers, you can make simple or full decorations of the mane, or add festoons. The tail can also have flowers. Here is a nice wreath. This is all much easier if you have proper braiding supplies. Aidan stocks a deluxe braiding kit with a toolbelt because he knows that Judd finds this relaxing and so do lots of other folks.

Wi -- yes
-- Haitian Kreyol

California Lemonade is customarily made with alcohol. Here is a nonalcoholic recipe for Organic Lemonade.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-21 12:30 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
So Aidan is enough friends with Alicia and crew for Judd to have a guest barn. How'd I... oh, RIGHT. Longevity.

Granny Whammy would flip... and she'd have it coming. Despite her cape politics, Alicia is *very* ethical and demands it of her people. (Lorry's restrained-treecat reaction is both amusing and admirable.)

Heidi is a total trooper ...

... and I'm looking forward to how those two deal with what's between them.

Oh, that's going to be an Issue. Long-lived folk have problems with relationships... but then we don't know what *else* Heidi might have for superpowers, do we?

*whicker*

Date: 2016-12-21 03:45 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
*blows at Judd* *lips at Alicia worriedly*

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-21 05:54 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
So glad to see this. Alicia and all her family/friends needed this, after the fresh trauma on that old old compound hurt.

Lucky that Judd enjoys getting all dressed up!

Alicia on flower crowns (well, probably on many many topics, with this being one) is quite familiar to me. While she has better people-perception and far broader focus than most seven-year-olds who have high levels of specialized knowledge, the way she happily broadcast a big chunk of relevant detail with directions for what to do felt right to me as a former walking-encyclopedia-kid and a teacher. It's great that she is able to distract and self-soothe with the prompting to focus on something that is safe, creative, and that makes her feel like both an expert and a part of a team. Plus it involves rhythmic hand activity, connecting to nature, and healthy touch with a safe nonhuman who is also a family member - score! Loved Heidi's "ticky-box" comment; that kind of positive but level-honest acknowledgement is something kids and other vulnerable people and really anyone who has been hurt likely NEEDS to help redirect negative thoughts/feelings without trying to stomp them flat.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-12-22 04:46 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
>> Being groomed is something that some horses hate, but others adore and find very soothing. Judd is clearly one of the latter. <<

Makes perfect sense. I find dentist visits calming in the right context, and everyone thinks I’m a bit nuts about that, but compare it to getting a manicure (which I loathe) and suddenly some of them are nodding. Hair care is another thing where, depending on the person, the setting, and the specific details, it can be soothing or aggravating. And anyone who has brushed a variety of fur creatures of the same species knows their reactions can be all over the map.

>> Yep, I did that too. :D <<

Still do, in the right contexts. :D

>> I've noticed that this happens a lot with characters who have layers of memories laid down in positive and negative bands. If you can bump them onto a different "channel" then sometimes their emotions will switch too. <<

I think that’s true of a lot of people, not just those of your characters with extended and varied experiences. I think the extent to which emotions in general have ‘inertia’ that carries over even with a context-switch and a new feeling starting — as opposed to a pull towards a certain specific emotional state — is a trait that can be high for some people and low for others. Although it can also change for one individual with sufficient specific changes in brain chemistry (e.g. a new medication; a major shift in interpersonal relationships; or a large change in the type/amount of physical activity they do daily).

>> Horses can be very healing. <<

So I have heard. I *loved* horses when I was younger and probably still would, but I’ve fallen away from direct contact with them. And probably lost relevant skills rather than continuing to upgrade. Cats are a much easier primary focus for nonhuman interaction in an urban setting.

>> They are used in many therapy programs for this reason. <<

Logical. I’ve read about some of them.

>> Drafts are especially good because, on average, they tend to have a very phlegmatic personality. <<

I hadn’t considered that.

It seems like Judd still has some of those traits despite his super-intelligence and his intense emotions on certain topics?

>> >> "ticky-box" comment << <<

>> It also demonstrates that her offer is honest <<

True.

>> by acknowledging that these items are good <<

Which is where the positivity bit comes in, at least in part.

>> checked off the list of things to do <<

I don’t grok people who cannot or don’t want to think of emotions and self-care in terms of lists or steps. I know they exist, I know they function, I acknowledge that their strategies are completely legitimate for them … I just do not comprehend how they brain like that. How do you fix it if you don’t know what’s wrong and what might help? (Yes, verbal-person is verbal; I know that people sometimes *know* things that they cannot put into words, I just... don't do that much.)

>> Validation matters. <<

So much! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-21 06:11 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
In my 40-odd years n California I ran across spiked lemonade a few times, but I don't recall ever hearing it called "California lemonade". Probably something like "French toast" (which is called "pain perdu" in France).

Being older than one looks is occasionally useful, but has its own set of problems. I'm glad that Alicia and Aidan have one another; they can just be themselves without having to worry about anyone else's expectations.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-21 07:03 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] daisiesrockalot
Heidi seems to just be quietly working and moving her way to supernatural levels :D

And then this is all just calming and adorable. And I Just realized that I am among the people who have been underestimating Judd, oops

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-22 03:42 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I was curious as to the aftermath of the Park incident. Glad to see Alicia and her Guardians and Judd reaching out to their friends. It's winter and now I want to make flowercrowns. Drat. -kellyc

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-21 12:58 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Loiosh)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
😆

I luv this!

The way they all pitch in, and how Aidan is prepared for anything, it seems, and how Judd is not just a horse but a person (ref: «what Judd will like -- just as if selecting salad fixings for a human guest»), and how Alicia is recovering and cheers up quickly at the prospect of something fun (which suggests to me that her physiological age governs, or at least contributes to, her emotional lability), and «He had not expected for Heidi / to fit in so well -- most people didn't -- / and yet she did, after all»... So many ways!

What is Heidi's superpower? Whatever it is, I gather that it's a recent development: "Please don't pick at that,it's fresh"

«stuffed a flake of each hay flavor into
the cotton mesh bag»
What's that for? So Judd can sample them both? But they're both in the hay net.

Thoughts

Date: 2016-12-21 02:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I luv this! <<

Yay!

>> The way they all pitch in, and how Aidan is prepared for anything, it seems, <<

He really is.

>> and how Judd is not just a horse but a person (ref: «what Judd will like -- just as if selecting salad fixings for a human guest»), <<

There's a running motif with the animal soups and the shapeshifters, about personhood and personality and how people treat them. So Aidan has no trouble thinking of Judd as a person, and accommodating that -- but Judd really is a horse, he's always been part of human civilization. He won't run around nude like some of the wild animals or ferals prefer to do. Judd feels about his halter exactly the way most humans do about their underwear. It's what marks him as civilized, not a dumb animal. But a wild horse would consider it a mark of slavery. Ah, cultural differences!

>> and how Alicia is recovering and cheers up quickly at the prospect of something fun (which suggests to me that her physiological age governs, or at least contributes to, her emotional lability), <<

True. She has so many experiences, and flits among them all. So while the original damage is never going to heal completely, neither can it dominate her whole personality. The peasant girl making flower crowns is as much a part of Alicia as the abuse or the superpowers of mass destruction.

>> and «He had not expected for Heidi / to fit in so well -- most people didn't -- / and yet she did, after all»... So many ways! <<

Trauma-informed care makes a big difference.




😆

I luv this!

The way they all pitch in, and how Aidan is prepared for anything, it seems, and how Judd is not just a horse but a person (ref: «what Judd will like -- just as if selecting salad fixings for a human guest»), and how Alicia is recovering and cheers up quickly at the prospect of something fun (which suggests to me that her physiological age governs, or at least contributes to, her emotional lability), and «He had not expected for Heidi / to fit in so well -- most people didn't -- / and yet she did, after all»... So many ways!

>> What is Heidi's superpower? Whatever it is, I gather that it's a recent development: "Please don't pick at that,it's fresh" <<

It seems to be some flavor of empathy, and it first showed up in some stories by DW user Dialecticdreamer. One of the things that can activate superpowers in a latent person is being around other people who have superpowers. Some are more prone to that than others, and soul powers or shamanic powers are inclined to shake things loose.

>> «stuffed a flake of each hay flavor into
the cotton mesh bag»
What's that for? So Judd can sample them both? But they're both in the hay net. <<

Yes, so he can enjoy both. Think of it like making a layered salad. Most hay nets seem to hold 2-3 flakes of hay. When you peel one off the bale, it's only a few inches thick, but it fluffs up a bit when you shake it loose. Put two different flavors in the same net and you can see which the horse prefers.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-12-21 03:00 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
ahhhh....

See, this city boy has never lived around horses, so when you said "flake" all I could think of was something roughly like a Corn Flake or maybe a snowflake. But your answer ruled out anything nearly that small, so...
      Google-fu SHAZAM!
(Poof!)
A flake of hay is where it divides off the square bale. Technically, on a 50 pound bale, each flake should weigh 5 pounds and there should be ten of them. However, this is not always the case. So, when you feed by "flakes", be aware they are not all created equally!
Dr. Whom corrects the misquotation.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-12-21 04:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>See, this city boy has never lived around horses, so when you said "flake" all I could think of was something roughly like a Corn Flake or maybe a snowflake.<<

You're thinking of something more like hay pellets:
http://www.thehorse.com/articles/37214/baled-hay-vs-pellets-whats-best-for-my-horse

Anyhow, thanks for the reminder that not everyone is familiar with hay. I have expanded my notes accordingly.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-12-21 04:51 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Bottom to top:

Thanks for adding the clarification.

No, not thinking of hay pellets, because this is the first I've ever heard of them. I was extrapolating from things I'm familiar with that are called "flakes". (No, never mind what some of my so-called friends have said about me.)

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