Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Between Sleep and Waking

Between sleep and waking there is a place of half aware, half dream, where the mind weaves the input of the senses with threads of fantasy.

In this place conscious thought and imagination are jumbled jigsaw puzzle pieces haphazardly stuck together to make patchwork pictures that defy explanation outside the nebulous, wobbling incohesion between sleep and waking.

It is easy to get lost there, between sleep and waking.  Days dazed, not quite here, not quite there, scattered everywhere.  What was I doing in this room?  Why did I walk over there?  Why am I holding this dish, this broom, this piece of clothing, this book?  What was I trying to get done just now?  Did I see that, hear that, was it inside my head or out?

Walk through a door and forget, and forgetfulness becomes the wet woolen batting that wraps a body up from head to toe and makes everything heavier, sort of musty, slow, unfocused.  Walk back through the door, trying to remember, only to find that memory is elusive, a wisp within the mist swirling throughout the place between sleep and waking.

Minutes, hours, ebb and flow.  Liquid, undefined, gelatinous, oozing time slips through slack fingers, circles the drain, and is gone before it was ever there, life passing in stilted stop-motion muzziness like some old black and white movie playing on an endless loop between sleep and waking.

Somehow life goes on in tenuous moments pasted together with cobwebs, onion skin thin and brittle and always on the edge of becoming dust in the corners of the place between sleep and waking where it will remain unnoticed, unremembered, unremarked until the errant breezes of thought and consciousness send it swirling away to become motes on a sunbeam.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pandora's Gift


Her name means "all gifts".

She was created as a punishment to men for Prometheus's gift of fire.  She was given to Prometheus's brother Epimetheus to marry, and along with her Zeus sent a locked box which was never to be opened.  Zeus gave the key to Epimetheus to keep, with stern admonishments to never, ever, under any circumstances, open that box.

So of course, Pandora wanted to know what was in there.

Of course she did.

Who wouldn't?

Humans are curious.

We want to know how things tick, and why, and if we can make them tick better, or fix them when they stop ticking.  We poke and tinker and futz and finagle, some by turning to gods and myths and some by turning to science, and we keep after trying to figure things out, down the rabbit hole and damn the consequences, until we have answers...or more questions.

Pandora kept asking Epimetheus to let her open the box.  Zeus kept reminding them not to open it.  Especially when Pandora had a handle on her curiosity, Zeus would whisper to her not to go bothering with that box, now, don't forget.

Eventually Pandora managed to get the box open.  I imagine the lock squealed dire warnings as she turned the key.  I imagine the lid creaked ominously as she lifted it.  I imagine there was darkness, silence, as the lid came to a rest and the contents were finally revealed.

The silence was shattered by the sound of every torment hitherto unknown to humanity cackling, gibbering, howling, shrieking, leaping into flight or clambering over the sides of the box, released from imprisonment and free to wreak their havoc upon the earth.  As they fled, each creature called out its name - war, hunger, hatred, death, fear, sorrow, pestilence, envy, need, and every other negative or unpleasant feeling and experience rushing forth, a box of angry hornets buzzing out to the corners of the world to sting and sting, relentlessly hounding us, our idyllic life suddenly changed in radical ways that we couldn't understand and likely never will.

Poor Pandora.

Reviled for her curiosity, her humanness.  I've noticed that no one ever gets mad at Zeus for being so petty.  He made the box, after all, and filled it up with all of those delightful presents.  He was the one who wouldn't let it rest, wouldn't let Pandora have any peace.

Pandora wept when she realized what she'd done.  She'd unleashed a kind of horror that would never end, could never again be boxed up, contained, again.

As she wept, she heard a whisper.  A soft rustle.  The barest hint of a sound.

It came from the box.

Pandora looked inside, thinking that maybe she could keep at least one terrible thing from escaping.

There, in the back corner, shining brightly in the shadows, was a tiny thing.  Pale, minute, and beautiful, it reached for her.  She lifted it from the box.

Hope, it said.  I am Hope.

I stand and face every dark thing, every shade, every nightmare, every misery, all of the things that drive you to the brink of madness and despair.  I am Hope.


Was it worth it?

Before Pandora opened up that box of curiosities, we didn't know anything about how unhappy we could be.  We didn't hurt each other, take what belonged to others, seek to own or dominate or eradicate.


We also didn't have hope.  Before Pandora, humans led a hopeless existence.

She didn't just curse us with all of those evils.  She gifted us with Hope.

We are the better for it.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


I like grist mills.  I like watching the water turn the wheel, the wheel turn the big metal rod thingies, the cogs and sprockets and whatsits all interlocking and translating the motion of the water into the motion of the great stone wheels that grind, grind, grind, until what was once the dried, tough kernel of some grass-related plant turns into powder useful for all kinds of kitchen alchemy.

I like seeing old millstones used in architecture and gardening, repurposed after the grooves are almost worn smooth.  I sometimes imagine making a patio out of some of those magnificent old stones, filling in between them with smaller stones and sand or planting creeping thyme or some other low-growing herb.

I don't like feeling as if I'm one of those hard shelled grains being ground down on some cosmic millstones, the wheel of time turning, turning, turning as I am worn away to nothing.  I don't like feeling as if I have somehow been bound to one of those old, worn out wheels and dropped into the millpond, left to struggle in vain to reach the surface as I am dragged ever downward into the murky depths.

I feel heavy and worn and useless, and I feel as if I would cry if only I could, but I cannot.

Hello, depression.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tipping Point

When I was a kid, there was a weird little game that, at the time, was enormous fun - Don't Spill the Beans.

Playing was fairly simple - the beans (real ones, back then) were evenly divided among the players, and then each player gingerly placed a bean onto the pot lid.  Eventually enough beans were on the pot lid to cause it to tip over, and whoever made it tip had to collect all the beans.  The player who first offloaded all of their beans, won.

I don't recall if I ever won a game.  I played it at school, probably in kindergarten or first grade, and that seems an awfully long time ago.  The sound of the beans pouring onto the plastic surface underneath was enormously exciting and especially satisfying when it was another player who caused the havoc.

Lately, I've rather felt like that pot, although slightly less goofy, teetering at the tipping point but not quite ready to fall over.  Beans drop in and I wobble, but somehow manage to remain upright.

The thing is, I'd kind of like to turn upside down and dump the whole damned load, let someone else gather it up, tidy away the mess, and start over.

I feel like I'm on emotional gimbals when what I really want is an axle.

Sometimes, one needs to dump the beans (spilling sounds so passive - I like the more aggressive dumping for this), and I just can't seem to manage it.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Lonely House In Carnesville

Lately it seems like I haven't been witching much.  Other things going on, distractions, life tangling me up in its strands.  Yesterday I got to go visit a beautiful old house with Mizz A, and at the same time be a Witch.

It sits not far from the road that winds through the countryside, hills and farms, churches and cows, horses here and there, and giant rolls of hay that look like unripened or lightly toasted marshmallows waiting for the harvest.  It's on 49 acres, much  of the land let to go wild-ish, because that's a lot of land to care for when you're one woman, kids not interested in the place or the work involved. No blame, there, they have lives, but one person with a dicky back cannot wage that kind of battle with nature and her kind of entropy.

It was a plantation, once, and had a post office/store kind of place, and slaves, and then not-slaves, and there's a graveyard somewhere among the weeds.  The chicken house is still standing, and a barn, and one of the slave cabins and a storage kind of barn thing.

The owner called Mizz A because Miss A is part of a paranormal investigations group, and the owner was concerned about some odd goings on in the house.  Concerned enough that she moved out, cleared a little patch of land nearby, and built a new dwelling there.  Maybe it's haunted, or cursed, and maybe living there is a chance she didn't feel like taking any more.

So the old house?  Sits empty.

She loves that house, though, can't let it go just yet.  She has hopes and dreams, hopes and dreams that won't dry up and blow away just because of some...oddities.

Mizz A asked me if I could maybe come with her to visit the place and maybe despook or decursify it.  I like old houses and outbuildings, and figured a day out of the Casa, sans kids, might be a good thing, so I agreed.  We planned our jaunt, and yesterday was the day so off we went.

As soon as we drove up, I loved the place.  You know the kind of place that's home, even when it isn't?  That's quiet and peaceful and maybe a little sleepy?  Friendly and welcoming and a little quirky, like your crazy Aunt Edna with the crooked straw hat that makes you cookies and tells inappropriate stories that make you laugh?  The kind of place that wraps you in a gentle hug and tells you it's okay, you're safe here, and comfortable, and time slows down a littel?  Yeah, that kind of place.

And as soon as we drove up, I knew there was no haunting, no curse.

The house, it's lonely.

(A view of one side of the house, shot from a little table that was waiting in the yard)
It's been empty for a minute.  It used to be full of children, and laughter, and tears; life.  The family that has lived there since forever, the family that used to fill it with noise and motion, the family that steeped its walls with their history, that family didn't want it any more.  No heat.  No AC.  All kinds of updating, restoration, modernizing needed.  No thanks, we have different lives to lead.  No sentiment.  No attachment.  No roots.  They gutted it, sold off everything that once made each room a living space, sold the property, brushed the dust of it from their hands, and left it to its own devices and the whims of its new owner.  

(Roof and chimney, sound and ready to serve)
She saw its bones and felt the lull, the gentle tug of a house that wants to be lived in, and she was caught fast in its spell.  Love me, the house says.  I'm strong, sturdy, I'll weather the storms and keep you safe.  Here, you will have a haven.  Love me.

(Slave quarters, one room with a fireplace, now used as a kind of guest room)
And she does love it.  Every inch.  Every creaky board, every crack in the plaster, aver stone of it.  The house, it knows.  Some of the things she experienced in there, the not-hauntings, not-curse things, were the house trying to welcome her home.  It remembers, and it wants to share that it was a living place, once, and wants to be again.  It wants to welcome her, here, sit on the porch swing and relax with me, be calm, drink tea and let the world go on around us, we're fine right here.

(Oh, this chimney...how I adore this chimney)
You can feel its age.  Smell it.  It was built in a time when air conditioning was the wind, and doors and windows were generous and placed to catch every bit of moving air, let it wander through the house and back out again, carrying the heat with it.

(A barn, still in pretty good shape)
Despite the day being on the hot side, temps around 90F, the house wan't unbearable.  A modern home would feel like an oven, but with doors and windows thrown open, arms spread wide in welcome, high ceilings ready to catch and hold the rising hot air and leave it cooler down below, it wasn't unpleasant.Warm, but not unpleasant.

(The post office/shoppish building, exterior)
We walked around outside, looked at the outbuildings, chatted about the history of the place.  The owner offered us lunch, an unexpected treat of home made tomato sandwiches, sliced and seasoned cucumbers, apples, deviled eggs, radishes.  Chai tea.  We sat and ate and chatted some more, and I told her about the house's loneliness.

(Interior shot from the side door of the post office/whatsis)
She is afraid she will have to sell it.  There's a good bit of work that must be done before it is habitable, and even more to be done to fully restore its splendor.  She has a bad back, and a small bank account, and it's just too much.  Too much, but oh, the heartbreak of having to give it up.  She sees, appreciates, this house and its beautiful bones.

(An old saddle, waiting around)
We are kindred in our love of old houses.  There's something in the way they smell, of wood often polished and plaster, and memories.

(Shelf space...jars...shelf space...ooooh...)
She could do many things with this house.  Live in it, yes, but...

A bed and breakfast?  An event site, perfect for weddings and celebrations, parties, bonfires, music.

A museum, perhaps, or a gallery, or an artist's home.

So many things could be done in such a fine old place.

But you have to get there, don't you?  All it can be right now is a skeleton awaiting flesh, and that kind of flesh requires dollars.

(I wonder how much penny candy this old thing rang up...)
Love it all she may, the owner can't afford it.

(Dear old house)
She might be able to sell some of the land, but not too much, to fund the restoration.  That would be good, because the house doesn't care about the land.  It cares about feeling so empty and alone, and if land has to go in order to live once more, fine.  Make it happen, the house says.

(Front door)
It's not the land that makes the magic, here, although land is living and magical in its own right.  It's this house.  Something I can't quite name, but like the owner, I felt it.  heard it.  A humming, thrumming, in my center.

(Main hall, center through, similar to the house in Little Compton where I spent much of my early life)
As we sat on the lawn and munched our lunches, I felt the happy, tuneless song of the place; happy because people were there, eating, talking, sharing space and time, and even if it wasn't much compared to the past, it was something.  Stay, the house said.  Rest.  Relax.  Enjoy.  It crooned a soothing song, and even the occasional traffic on the road was hardly noticeable though we sat only yards from the pavement.

(The wood...the wood...I love the wood, great big planks of it running along the ceiling)
No curse needed lifting, no vengeful or restless spirit needed sending off.  I gave the owner a blessing I'd written, in Cherokee no less, and offered to do a little blessing but reassured her that there was nothing wrong there.  None of the sad or tragic things that had happened in the history of the place were anything more than life happening.  Nothing evil or angry.  Just a lonely house wishing for a family to fill it.

(The fireplaces all need work, but the chimneys are sound)
We went inside again, in where the feeling of the place was even stronger, the wistful welcome, and I lit some incense, mixed some things up, said a blessing for the house and its human, scattered the mojo mix around, and then played my flute for a bit.

(The kitchen fireplace.  I always wanted a kitchen with a fireplace.)
While Mizz A and the owner went out and chatted on the front steps, I went back inside and shot more photos.  I talked to the place.  Patted the door frames.  Tried to reassure it - someone will come love it, come live in it.  You, the house said.  You come.  I can't, I told it.  No money.  No resources.  No way to do it justice.  Maybe if there's a lottery win...

(The root cellar, currently full of cobwebs and a small water heater.  Yes, I went down there.  It was nifty!)
I felt like weeping.  Some houses are homes, yes, but they aren't alive.  They don't breathe.  They don't remember.  Some houses are just buildings.  No history, nothing and no one tied to them.  

(Chai tea in a chipped cup.)
This dear old place, though, was full of its past and hoping for a future.  One person, 20 people, it doesn't matter as long as there's life within, life without.

(Our hostess prepared a feast!)
I could see, in my mind's eye, what it could be.  Restored, lived in, this room a parlor or music room, center hall the living room, that room a library, those rooms bedrooms.  Dining room full of wooden furniture, kitchen modern but showing respect for the history of the place, maintaining the integrity of its origins in architecture.  Porches with rocking chairs.  Attic made into a finished living space, a staircase added in the front or side hall for access.

(The windows were glazed with old style glass, small ripples giving the world a watery look.)
I could see how I would finish the wood, paint the walls, arrange the kitchen.  I could imagine my family living our lives there, smells of baking, sounds of play, music, wind, fireplaces crackling in winter.

(Fireplace and closets in what would be the master bedroom)
For brief moments here and there, it was so real I could touch it.  The house, offering me possibilities, showing me what could be if only...

(A modern addition, the owner enclosed a bit of porch and added a bathroom - the house had none!)
Alas, I cannot bank if only, nor use it to pay for the artisans needed to do the house justice.  Sorry, house.  Oh, I can love you from a distance and daydream about you, and I certainly will hope that the owner can find a way to bring you back to your glory, but short of a miraculous lottery win, I'm afraid I can't do much more than write about you and wish you the best.

(More of the bathroom and a bit of the space beyond that could be a closet, but right now contains the attic access)
It's funny how old houses draw some of us in.  

(At the back of the center hall, looking at the back door and side hall that leads to the dining room)
The owner told us that when she first saw the place, she wept to leave it.  She drove away crying.  So quickly, she was attached.

(The dining room and the kitchen door as well as a glimpse of the side door that leads to the side porch)
Do you know that feeling?  That feeling of this is the place, this is the one, this is where I belong, and my roots are already sinking deep?

(The kitchen, from the dining room door)
She invited us to come any time, perhaps to have a bonfire.  A drum circle would fit in nicely, there.  A witch could live happily there.  She was relieved to know that the house is not infested with ghostly remnants of the dead, nor cursed.  She was touched that I felt it too, the house's sense of desolation and wish to live again.

(The kitchen and pantry, from the small enclosed porch door)
We agreed that it needed an owner who would love it for that it is, and shared a horror of the idea that anyone could buy it, knock it down, put in tract housing, erase something so fine.

(A nifty plant hanging out in the yard)
I hope something wonderful happens and the owner can keep the Lonely House in Carnesville.  I hope that she can find a way to restore it fully, live in it, enjoy it, and sometimes maybe invite a certain witch and her friend for dinner.

If you know of anyone who'd like to help keep a bit of history alive, who can donate time, talent, or money to put the shine back into it, get in touch with me.  I can repay you in smiles and possibly cookies, and the owner would be most grateful for the assist.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Home Invasion, Casa Style

Greetings from Casa de Crazy!

Things have been, well, crazy around here.

We've had some friends pass through the veil (it hurt, we're mourning, and I'll get into it some other time when their losses - unrelated to each other - are not quite so raw).  I've been getting ready for my annual journeys into the wild north of southern Illinois and then later to Ohio.  I've been wrestling with my psyche.  I've been wrestling with my partnership with Someone.

And now?  I'm wrestling (figuratively, thank goodness) with the local wildlife.

Last evening I was talking with Someone down in the Quiet Room (serving as his quarters for the moment, and that's something else to be discussed another time) when I heard...a noise.  A sort of scritching, scratching, scrabbling noise.  It was in the wall behind the door.  Oh, no, I thought, the ants are in the wall!  Carpenter ants, they come around every now and then, and I have to have them dealt with because they will eat my house frame right out from under me.

I wandered upstairs to the back door and popped out to see if I could see them on the outer wall.  Nope, no ants.  I did see some of these:

"Howdy, neighbor!"
They were tiny, not even the length of my rather short pinky fingernail, and they didn't seem to give a fig about the fact that I hadn't invited them to nest in my siding.  I asked them politely to leave.

"What do you mean, you're evicting me?  But...but..."
They ignored me.  Rude.  I asked them again, with a touch more firmness, and they kept ignoring me.  A third attempt at a stern talking to led to the same result - yellow jackets ignored me and kept on with nesting in my siding.


I warned them that I was calling a bee remover and came back inside.  I found a bee person...well, a general wildlife person...who is local and asked him if he could come by, and he said he could make it in the morning.  I was hoping he could just remove the little darlings, but it turns out that yellow jackets aren't pollinators, get rather sting-y when someone tries to move then, and would require some serious removal or walls for that kind of thing.  If they were honeybees, I'd go the extra mile, but yellow jackets are just pissed off, aggressive stingers with wings.  Wildlife guy (Jason) suggested simply offing them, and after a silent request for forgiveness from the tiny-death-fliers-of-doom, I agreed.  They and their nest in the wall are now no more,

"I shall have my revenge!"

Meanwhile, Jason noticed something else near the Casa.  Very near.  Another house guest I hadn't invited to the party.  He saw this:

And this:

And on the other side of the house, this:

 I told him I'd been seeing that and thought it was from Rodents of Unusual Size scampering about but thinking better of coming in whet the garage cats tried to make their acquaintance.

He told me that the dropping are, in fact, from attic dwelling bats

 (aka Brown Bats).

"Yo, 'ssup?"

I believe I replied with something pithy like "Er..."

Seems the wee darlings have found their way into our attic space and have been happily living rent free up there for quite a while.  Years.  They're beneficial creatures to have around, but not so much actually INSIDE the house.  They're fastidious abut personal cleanliness but not so notorious for keeping their floor clean, and the urine and feces they leave lying about can be a health hazard.  As the Evil Genius has asthma, and I do, too...and as my attic space isn't a toilet...and as I don't care to contract any of the other diseases that bats can carry and share with their host families...I must have them removed.  Not killed, just...evicted.  And then the entire attic may need to be gutted and recombobulated.  Because of course.

I don't even want to talk about the carpenter ants...especially because, despite their name, they never build me any furniture or a new garden shed or anything like that!

Y'all, I love nature.  I strive to live with her, not in opposition to her.  I strive to be a warden to the land I occupy and to help the living things that share it with me.  But...enough is enough.  I don't bother them in their nests or burrows or whatever, and I'd appreciate the same consideration.  I don't want to have to declare war on the local critters, creepies, and crawlies, but I feel pushed to defend my home with vigor and feelings of guilt.

I'm all for "live and let live" whenever possible, but right now it's just not possible.

Look out, home invaders, it's on, now!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Photo found here and copied entirely without permission but not without respect.
For a history of this day, go here. Or here. Or here. In a nutshell, Memorial Day is for remembering the fallen.  Perhaps one day, we won't have any new graves to decorate. Until then, I remember and (as best I can) I honor.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrea

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from flailing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields